Trump Takes On Amazon Again, Urging Much More in Postage Fees

President Donald Trump said the U.S. Postal Service should charge Amazon.com Inc. more to deliver packages, the latest in a series of public criticisms of the online retailer and its billionaire founder.

The post office “should be charging MUCH MORE” for package delivery, the president tweeted Friday from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, where he’s spending the holidays.

“Why is the United States Post Office, which is losing many billions of dollars a year, while charging Amazon and others so little to deliver their packages, making Amazon richer and the Post Office dumber and poorer?” Trump told his 45 million followers.

Trump regularly criticizes Amazon and its chief executive officer, Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post newspaper and is currently the world’s richest man. In August, Trump accused the company of causing “great damage to tax paying retailers,” even though the internet giant began collecting sales tax on products it sells directly in April.

As with prior missives targeting the company, Trump’s message appeared to concern investors. Amazon’s stock had gained the past three days, but dropped 0.6 percent to $1,178.68 at 12:41 p.m. in New York.

A sudden increase in postal service rates would cost Amazon about $2.6 billion a year, according to an April report by Citigroup. That report predicted United Parcel Service Inc. and FedEx Corp. would also raise rates in response to a postal service hike.

Amazon didn’t respond to requests for comment.

‘Last Mile’

Amazon regularly uses the Postal Service to complete what’s called the “last mile” of delivery, with letter carriers dropping off packages at some 150 million residences and businesses daily. It has a network of more than 20 “sort centers” where customer packages are sorted by zip code, stacked on pallets and delivered to post offices for the final leg of delivery.

While full details of the agreement between Amazon and the Postal Service are unknown — the mail service is independently operated and strikes confidential deals with retailers — David Vernon, an analyst at Bernstein Research who tracks the shipping industry, estimated in 2015 that the USPS handled 40 percent of Amazon’s volume the previous year. He estimated at the time that Amazon pays the Postal Service $2 per package, which is about half what it would pay UPS or FedEx.

Both shippers were up less than 1 percent Friday. Higher postal service rates would benefit private carriers by making their rates more competitive.

But the postal service’s losses have little to do with Amazon and more to do with its large health-care obligations and the dwindling use of first-class mail. USPS charges some of the world’s lowest stamp prices.

The president’s tweet also assumes that Amazon would be forced to pay if the Postal Service increased its rates for packages. But Amazon has been setting up its own shipping operations in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world to minimize costs.

For more on Trump’s Twitter storms, check out this podcast:

 

$62 Billion Loss

The Postal Service reported a net loss of $2.1 billion in the third quarter of 2017 and has $15 billion in outstanding debt. The service has lost $62 billion over the last decade.

USPS’s chief financial officer, Joseph Corbett, wrote in a post for PostalReporter.com in August that the service is required by law to charge retailers at least enough to cover its delivery costs.

“The reason we continue to attract e-commerce customers and business partners is because our customers see the value of our predictable service, enhanced visibility, and competitive pricing,” he wrote.

He said Congress should pass provisions of legislation introduced last year by former Representative Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, that would allow the postal service to raise some rates and discontinue direct delivery to business customers’ doors.

Amazon is experimenting with a new delivery service of its own that is expected to see a broader roll-out in the coming year. Under the program, Amazon would oversee the pickup of packages from warehouses of third-party merchants and delivery to home addresses.

Despite the occasional anti-Amazon tweet, Trump is unlikely to target Amazon with any action because the company is creating jobs by building new warehouses around the country. It’s also expected to generate 50,000 new positions with its second headquarters, said James Cakmak, analyst at Monness Crespi Hardt & Co.

“The interests of Amazon and the administration are largely aligned – even factoring the dislocation to retail – given the positive headline potential around new job creation with fulfillment centers and HQ2,” he said.

    Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-12-29/trump-says-u-s-post-office-should-charge-amazon-much-more

    Gun-Toting Zoo Owners in Showdown With PETA and the Feds Over Baby Tigers

    One day in October, Randy Stearns walked out to a Florida campfire, dressed in a fringed leather top like a modern-day Davy Crockett. Hello, friends, Randy the Tiger Man, the animal trainer greeted the camera, which was set between a teepee and totem pole out in the woods near his familys Dade City zoo.

    You cant believe a damn thing you see on the news, the 34-year-old declared in the filmed fireside chat posted on Facebook. Just look at me. Im the newest Charlie Sheen. Every time you go on, theres something on about us, the park

    Then Stearns took aim at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)a constant topic in The Tiger Mans online videos. Kind of like Rambo, they drew first blood, Stearns said. We had to go out there, defend ourselves.

    Just two months before, the wannabe Jack Hanna stood guard at the zoos gates with a holstered weapon, joining supporters flaunting neon PETA Kills T-shirts. They were protesting, and allegedly delaying, a court-ordered inspection of the private, unaccredited zoos collection of adult and baby tigers.

    Stearns and his parents run Dade Citys Wild Things (DCWT), a 22-acre zoo about 44 miles northeast of Tampa. The attraction has more than 300 animals: jaguars, lions, bears, lemurs, macaques, porcupines, bearded dragons, and other reptiles.

    But its known for baby tigers, deployed for photo-ops and swim sessions in the zoos chlorinated pool. In years past, the cubs appeared on Good Morning America and Fox & Friends for the seemingly adorable gimmick.

    Yet behind the footage, theres allegedly a darker side to the tiger business, according to animal-welfare advocatesone that prematurely rips cubs away from their mothers and forces them into stressful encounters with humans for profit.

    According to PETA, Dade Citys Wild Things is contributing to a captive tiger overpopulation crisis by continually breeding them for photo-ops and ticket sales. Once cubs grow too large for customer interactions, theyre left to languish for the rest of their days in cages, or sold off to other roadside attractions and collectors of exotic animals, PETA says.

    The big cats are at the center of separate lawsuits brought by PETA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which respectively allege the zoo violated the Endangered Species Act and the Animal Welfare Act over its handling of the tigers.

    The zoo also faces a state lawsuit for allegedly accepting donations while not registered as a nonprofit. Floridas Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services claims the zoo used hundreds of thousands in charity funds to foot the bills for Randy Stearns nuptials and the bankruptcy payments of his mother, Kathy.

    Meanwhile, Randy Stearns is battling criminal charges in Missouri, where hes accused of exposing himself to five girls at a hotel in June 2016. Stearns, who was in town for a conference, allegedly exposed his genitals to one victim as she left an elevator and headed to her room, an indictment states.

    Stearns followed the girl and flashed her through the zipper of his pants, the indictment states. A spokeswoman for the St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorneys Office said Stearns pleaded not guilty to the charges, which include six counts of sexual misconduct involving a child less than 15 years of age.

    His next court appearance is Jan. 2, records show. Stearns defense attorney declined to comment on the charges.

    When reached by The Daily Beast, DCWT declined to comment on any of the three lawsuits targeting the zoo, or on Randy Stearns pending criminal charges. Our attorney has advised us to not talk about it, one staffer said over the phone. Emails left for Kathy Stearns and Randy Stearns were not returned. The familys attorney, William Cook, declined to comment.

    Still, DCWT hasnt been shy in social-media posts. In one August Facebook video (titled Daily Update : Truth), Kenneth Stearns boasts about making PETA kills signs, which he vowed to post at other zoos and along the highways.

    Them five terrorists that come in here, yeah, their pictures is gonna be on there, too well make em famous, said Stearns, apparently referring to a showdown between the zoo and PETA inspectors the week before.

    Thats what they do to us, aint it? You know, they dont know this is a two-way street, yall. Everything they do to us, we gonna do to them, except we gonna do legal stuff, continues the 58-year-old Stearns.

    Gods going to take care of us. He always does, always has and always will this time, he said. Dont mean its easy.

    PETA requested, and a judge granted, a site inspection to observe the tigers and the zoos treatment of them, saying the visit by a team of experts was necessary and permissible because the animals behavior and physical condition are central to the claims at issue in this lawsuit.

    But the animal park shipped off about two dozen tigers in the weeks before an inspection could be conducted.

    When that court-ordered site visit came due in early August, the Stearns family and 20 supporters kept federal marshals at the zoo gates for 30 minutes, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

    Kenneth and Randy Stearns were armed, touching their holsters and posturing, following us every step of the way, Jenni James, counsel for the PETA Foundation, told the Times.

    James told The Daily Beast that protesters blocked the driveway and heckled and hurled epithets at PETAs inspectors. Kenneth Stearns fumbled with his holster and leaned against one of the smallest tiger enclosures to block photographs, James said.

    They know they aint got nothing. With no tigers, how they gonna prove tiger abuse? You know? There aint no abuse.
    Kenneth Stearns, in a Facebook video

    One supporter even mocked the empty cages, yelling, Get some shots of the tigers, guys. Oh, wait. Theres none here.

    The zoo posted video from the inspection on YouTube, under the heading, Terrorist Group PETA violating a court order during an inspection #1. (In response to the title, James said, I dont know what laws they think we broke frankly.)

    Days after the inspection, Kenneth Stearns told fans in a Facebook video, They know they aint got nothing. With no tigers, how they gonna prove tiger abuse? You know? There aint no abuse.

    Cops accompanied PETA because Kathy Stearns stopped them from conducting a prior inspection on July 20. When the inspection team arrived, they found a crude homemade wooden sign at the front gate that said, Closed due to PETA terrorist death threat.

    Indeed, seemingly to avoid the survey, Kathy Stearns and her hubby, Kenneth, shipped 19 tigers to Oklahoma in a livestock trailer without air conditioning, according to the PETA lawsuit. In affidavits, witnesses claimed the tigers, some of which were pregnant, didnt have food or water. Three baby tigers were born and died during the 18-hour, 1,200-mile journey, PETA says.

    The Stearns clan transported their big catsquickly and without regard to the animals safetyin a bid to defy PETA and the federal judge who had scheduled an inspection of the tigers at the facility, PETA alleges.

    When one white tiger arrived at The Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma, it was so thirsty it began drinking out of a dirty puddle, a Facebook video showed. Joe Maldonado, president of the Wynnewood park and a Libertarian candidate for governor, posted Facebook Live videos of the tigers, the burial of the cubs, and staffers administering anesthesia by sticking poles through holes in the trailer.

    In the footage, a Wynnewood staffer zoomed in on the dead tigers and said, Kathy, all I can say is, Im sorry dear, couldnt get to em on time. At another point in the video, the man says, Somebody had some problems, had to get rid of all their tigers.

    Four other cats were sent to Endangered Animal Rescue Sanctuary (EARS) in Citra, Florida, about 84 miles north of Dade City.

    The sanctuarys owner, Gail Bowen, said DCWT delivered two white tigers named Remington and Luna on July 13. Kenneth Stearns transported the animals in a fifth-wheel trailer, Bowen said in an affidavit in PETAs case.

    Stearns told Bowen hed eventually collect the tigers and mentioned signing a contract, but no such document was provided, the affidavit says.

    Two days later, Stearns appeared at EARS with a pair of orange tigers, Rory and Rajah, in the same vehicle. Behind them was another trailer with the 19 tigers, who were all without water and appeared very hot, Bowen said.

    I was profusely sweating just standing in [the] shade because it was hot as blazes, Bowen said, adding that she hosed down the tigers and gave them water to drink. According to Bowen, Stearns crew was in a hurry and left after 20 minutes.

    Bowen caught up with Kathy and Kenneth Stearns on Aug. 2. During the meeting, Kathy Stearns told Bowen that PETA had sued her, and that she moved the tigers because she wanted to get them out before an inspection occurred, according to the affidavit.

    Kathy Stearns then allegedly informed Bowen that she wanted the white tigers back so she could breed them. She said that she was looking to get them back in about one year, Bowen said in the affidavit.I do not believe DCWT should breed tigers to simply exploit tiger cubs in public encounters, and I did not tell either Kathy or Kenny Stearns that I would agree to return the two white tigers to DCWT, Bowen concluded.

    Meanwhile, Deborah Warrick, the founder of the nonprofit St. Augustine Wild Reserve, said an associate of Kathy Stearns contacted her to see if shed accept two 7-year-old brother tigers from the Dade City zoo. In an affidavit in PETAs case, Warrick said she spoke to Stearns on July 14 and asked how many cats needed a home. Stearns, according to Warrick, was evasive but said a lot. Warwick built a new enclosure for the brothers and awaited their arrival, only to discover theyd instead gone to EARS. She called Bowen, the owner of EARS and a personal friend.

    Bowen cried and told Warrick that she was very disturbed by DCWTs decision to transport 19 tigers to Oklahoma in a cattle trailer, Warrick said.

    According to the affidavit, Bowen said Kenneth Stearns was among the crew transporting the tigers, which were foaming at the mouth and urinating on each other in the trailer.

    A 24th tiger, a baby named Shiva who grew too big for public swims, was sent to another Florida zoo called Hernando Primate, James said. William Cook, an attorney for Kathy Stearns, told PETA counsel in a July 19 email that Shiva has grown too large for swims and she has been placed since DCWT is done with her.

    PETA has argued DCWT should be held in contempt for violating the court order for an inspection.

    The tigers are the evidence in our lawsuit, and the evidence is gone, James said.

    Fighting Tooth and Claw

    In the 2012 Good Morning America segment, reporter Matt Gutman hopped into the water to take a dip with Tony the Tiger.

    The 6-week-old cat hissed and paddled away from Gutman, then climbed on top of him, apparently in an attempt to escape. ABC anchor Amy Robach joked in a voiceover that Tony doesnt look like he wants to be in the pool, and Lara Spencer chimed in, That wasnt a happy growl.

    Randy Stearns joined Gutman in the pool with an older, calmer 30-pound cat named Tarzan. In the backdrop, Tony was pushed back into the water after climbing to land.

    Tony the Tiger was featured in another 2012 video by Barcroft TV, swimming alongside a 5-year-old girl wearing water wings. He has a pretty good temperament, he loves attention, hes been raised around people, Randy Stearns said in the video.

    I would love having my own baby tiger to swim with, the girl said, in a clip thats spilling over with cuteness.

    The family-friendly publicity is a far cry from the zoos current affairs, with the three ongoing lawsuits and the criminal case against Randy Stearns.

    Last month, the 19 Dade City tigers secretly shipped to Oklahoma were placed at a 720-acre wildlife sanctuary outside Boulder, Colorado.

    A federal judge approved an agreement between PETA and the Wynnewood zoo to send the cats to The Wild Animal Sanctuary, where about 84 tigers roam free after being rescued from roadside zoos or surrendered by their owners.

    Americas captive tigers outnumber their wild, endangered counterparts. Experts estimate as many as 10,000 captive tigers are in the United States alone.

    According to PETAs lawsuit, the wild tiger population is at an all-time low, with just 3,200 of the apex predators in the world today.

    But big cat sanctuaries are bursting at the seams with tigers rescued from unaccredited zoos and private owners, the complaint states.

    DCWT plays a large role in the captive-tiger overpopulation crisis as one of a relatively few exhibitors who are breeding cubs for public encounters and fueling the overpopulation problem, PETA said in court papers.

    The zoo sells many of the tiger cubs it regularly breeds to other exhibitors for use in public encounters and to so-called backyard breeders, the complaint alleges, adding that Kathy Stearns has a waitlist for tiger cubs, and that the cats can go for $4,000 each.

    PETA filed its federal lawsuit in October 2016, alleging that the cub swimming program at Dade Citys Wild Things violates the Endangered Species Act.

    The suit came after a PETA probe in 2015 and 2016, when an eyewitness worked and volunteered at the zoo to document what the group claims is abusive handling of distressed and sickly animals.

    Photograph and video footage reveal the zoos true stripes as a tiger cub breeding mill, PETA claims. One clip shows Ariel, a cub who couldnt hold her head straight and appeared to suffer from a spinal deformity or neurological disease. According to PETA, the tiger was forced to swim repeatedly and for a 10-minute stretch where she struggled to keep her head above the water. Other footage showed two cubs being taken from their mother hours after they were born. A dead newborn was left on the ground before eventually being bagged and tossed in the trash, PETA claims.

    In response to the 2016 lawsuit, DCWT filed a counterclaim one month later, alleging fraud and tortious interference with business and contractual relationships over the undercover job.

    PETAs lawsuit alleges that DCWTs practices violate federal law by distressing the tigers, causing them pain and discomfort, and risking illness and injury.

    DCWT trainers often begin introducing the cubs for public play sessions when they are less than 4 weeks old, and the zoo utilized at least one cub when she was only 2 weeks old, the complaint states.

    The zoo charges $39.99 for a 10-minute group encounter with baby tigers. During these sessions, as many as two dozen visitors are permitted to pet, play with, hold, or kiss the cubs.

    Guests who prefer one-on-one sessions pay $299 per couple. The tiger swims are $300 per person or $1,000 for a family of four. According to the zoos website, the 30-minute encounters are in and out of the pool.

    These encounters stop when the cubs are about 6 months old. To ensure a constant supply of cubs for use in its lucrative public encounters, [the zoo] breeds and purchases tiger cubs, the lawsuit states.

    PETA has also accused DCWT of obtaining a one-week-old white tiger from an Oklahoma facility and leaving the mother behind. And the zoo separated at least three cubs from their mothers within days of birth in order to ship them to for-profit ventures, including an Ohio amusement park, court papers allege.

    Prematurely separating the cubs from their mothers causes psychological and physical injuries, and stops them from engaging in species-typical behaviors, the lawsuit says. (In the wild, tiger cubs are not weaned until approximately six months old and remain with their mothers for nearly two years, PETA says.)

    Cubs open their eyes for the first time six to 12 days after birth, and they have difficulty thermoregulating until they are several weeks old, the suit states. Mothers milk is crucial, because it has antibodies cubs immune systems lack; cubs dont make their own antibodies until theyre 8 weeks old.

    The Association of Zoos and Aquariums advises against hand-rearing tiger cubs, stating that it should only be done in emergencies, such as when parent-rearing is not possible due to maternal neglect or health reasons.

    PETAs lawsuit says studies suggest that forcing animals to interact with audiencesas the Dade City zoos cubs do almost dailycauses them greater distress than if they were simply on display.

    In July 2015, the USDA filed a lawsuit against the zoo over the same swim program, saying it violated the Animal Welfare Act.

    In February of this year, a judge ruled that the swims violated regulations stating that young animals shall not be exposed to rough or excessive public handling or exhibited for periods of time which would be detrimental to their health or well-being.

    The judge ordered the zoo to cease and desist the program, and leveled a $21,000 civil penalty and 60-day suspension of its exhibitors license. DCWT appealed this ruling, saying the swims are beneficial to both tigers and people. (A decision is pending.)

    Kathy Stearns developed the swim program with veterinarians over several years as part of its tiger training program as a means to acclimate captive bred tigers to the presence of humans and to build a greater bond with the public in the animal world, zoo attorney William Cook wrote in court papers.

    Stearns claims to limit the swims to three per day and says the cubs dont swim for more than a few minutes total. She said trainers check the tigers each morning, and that theyre checked again before swims, the appeal states.

    You cant make it swim. I mean, its going to do what its going to do. Its never going to follow your pattern, Stearns testified at a hearing held in June 2016.

    But the PETA lawsuit claims that, despite previous USDA citations, the zoo continued to prevent distressed cubs from leaving the swimming pool by dragging them on leashes, grabbing their tails, pulling them by the feet, and holding the skin of their necks.

    DCWT often schedules back-to-back encounters, forcing the tiger cubs to interact with numerous people over the course of a day, the complaint alleges.

    In a single day, zoo staff allegedly used the same tiger cub in at least two private encounters, two or more group encounters, and swim sessions with 17 guests, the lawsuit says.

    During these encounters, the tigers often cry, growl, attempt to break free, and use body postures experts recognize as stress, court papers state.

    PETA says witnesses saw staff restraining one desperate cub by pulling its leash and holding onto the base of its tail. The worker repeatedly pushed the cub down as it tried to climb on her to escape the pool, the complaint alleges.

    In another session, an employee allegedly voiced concern that the same cub was getting too tired to play, but the tiger was kept in the pool and was panting audibly.

    On a third occasion, Kathy Stearns tossed a flotation device into the water for a cub to play with, but the tiger swam away. When the animal escaped the pool, Kathy told a worker to just dump [the cubs] ass in the water, the lawsuit says.

    PETA claims employees press the cubs to the ground by their sides or collars so guests can pet them during private and group encounters. Staff was also allegedly instructed to pinch their ears and noses to keep them in line.

    They begin a lifetime of cruelty for these animals, PETA attorney Jenni James told The Daily Beast. Theyre taken days or hours after their birth, manhandled by humans, then put in a pool from which they cannot escape.

    When they get too large, theyre discarded to cages. If theyre female, theyre forced into breeding for more tiger cubs, she said.

    PETA has asked a federal judge to hold DCWT in contempt for shipping its tigers to Oklahoma, and has asked for a default judgment in its favor.

    The Stearns family acts like theyre above the law, but its catching up to them, James said.

    Money Trail

    In October, the state of Florida also sued the Stearns, claiming they collected donations for their menagerie but instead used them for personal expenses including Randy Stearns wedding and Kathy Stearns bankruptcy.

    The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services says that Kathy and Kenneth Stearns registered Stearns Zoological Rescue and Rehab Center as a nonprofit in 2007. The firms registration expired in July 2016.

    When Stearns Zoological attempted to register in February 2017, the agency asked for additional documents. The nonprofit withdrew its application one month later.

    According to the lawsuit, Stearns Zoological was fined $500 for soliciting donations in September 2016 without being registered with the department. The company was also ordered to cease and desist from seeking contributions.

    Despite the order, Stearns Zoological continued to seek cash through Dade Citys Wild Things, which was never registered as a charitable organization. (Stearns Zoological was tax exempt until May 2013, when the IRS revoked its status for failure to file a form 990 for three consecutive years, the lawsuit says.)

    DCWT continued to solicit donations on its website, which falsely stated donations were tax-deductible, until at least March 2017.

    We receive no state or federal funding. We survive strictly on the generosity of animal lovers like yourself who understand the importance of providing for these animals, the website said regarding its Endangered Species Conservation Fund.

    Still, an analysis showed that $211,659 from the nonprofits coffers was transferred to an account for the familys peat business, from March 2016 to February 2017.

    Kathy Stearns filed for personal bankruptcy in 2013 and was required to make monthly payments to a trustee. In February 2016, her bankruptcy case was dismissed for delinquency in payments. One month later, she filed a motion to reconsider the dismissal.

    Days later, $17,500 was transferred to the turf business from DCWT, court papers allege. On the same day, a cashiers check was drawn from the peat company and made to the bankruptcy trustee. Soon after, a second cashiers check for $6,693 was made to the trustee from the same account.

    Non-profit funds were intentionally transferred to the [turf account] so that they could be used to pay the delinquent personal bankruptcy payments of Kathryn Stearns, the state of Florida said in court papers.

    In the meantime, Randy Stearns got hitched at Dade Citys Wild Things in March 2016. Nearly $10,000 of the nonprofits money went to the wedding, the lawsuit claims. The peat account listed a number of wedding expenses, including $3,229 total for catering, $1,544 for floral arrangements, and $1,492 for photography.

    Despite Kathryn Stearns claims to the contrary, Defendants have held Stearns Zoological and DCWT out to the public as a not-for-profit entity and as a charity, the complaint states.

    In a Sept. 12, 2017, video posted on DCWTs Facebook page, Kathy Stearns continued soliciting donations. She discussed the zoos financial problems and pleaded, I really need you guys to step it up a little bit. A dollar even helps please.

    Its not the first time Kathy Stearns has faced trouble from Florida agencies.

    In August 2011, she pled no contest to obtaining property or services using worthless checks. State law prohibits charities from allowing any of its officers or employees who plead guilty or no contest in the last 10 years to any crime involving fraud, theft, larceny, and the like to solicit contributions.

    When Stearns Zoological filed an application for nonprofit registration with the state in December 2011, Kathy Stearns falsely stated no such plea existed, the lawsuit says.

    The department became aware of the plea in May 2012. Three months later, the agency canceled Stearns Zoologicals registration and ordered the firm to cease and desist from collecting donations in the state of Florida.

    In October 2012, the zoo filed a new application stating Kathy Stearns would not handle contributions. The request was eventually granted, after the nonprofit said Stearns would not have access to the funds.

    Despite this, Kathy Stearns has continuously been involved in the solicitation of contributions and has had access to said funds, the complaint states.

    Indeed, shes listed as an authorized signer on the nonprofits accounts, and shes the primary person for withdrawing funds, signing checks, or otherwise handling the donations, according to the lawsuit.

    The department has asked a judge to order the Stearns to pay fines, and to permanently ban them from soliciting donations in Florida.

    In court papers, the Stearns family denied their business account received their nonprofits funds. Soliciting contributions and depositing contributions into an account is not wrongful conduct, their lawyer wrote in court papers. The attorney declined to comment.

    But the show has gone on at Dade Citys Wild Things. Kathy Stearns introduced her newest baby tiger, Noah, on Facebook last month, writing that he was available for encounters starting Nov. 28.

    Noah was featured at Pasta with a Purpose, an event scheduled for Oct. 7 and that originally was billed as a benefit for DCWT with a silent auction and raffle. DCWT postponed the dinner, which was listed in the states lawsuit.

    A Dec. 16 dinner for DCWT was $25 per ticket but didnt mention a charitable affair. Thank you for your patience on our reschedule date, DCWT wrote on its Facebook event page. We have been waiting for our newest arrival Noah to make sure he was available for the Pasta Dinner.

    The next day, supporters posted photos of the event, including one of a woman bottle-feeding Noah in a little cage strewn with toys.

    One attendee wrote, We had a great time and well see you at the next fundraiser! ….and I am quite sure before that, too!

    Read more: https://www.thedailybeast.com/gun-toting-zoo-owners-in-showdown-with-peta-and-the-feds-over-baby-tigers

    U.S. Growth at Above-Forecast 3% on Consumers and Businesses

    The U.S. economy expanded at a faster pace than forecast in the third quarter, indicating resilient demand from consumers and businesses even with the hit from hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Commerce Department data showed Friday.

    Key Takeaways

    While GDP grew more than anticipated, analysts look to another key measure to assess the true health of the economy. Final sales to domestic purchasers, which strip out trade and inventories — the two most volatile components of the GDP calculation — climbed 1.8 percent, the slowest since early 2016, after rising 2.7 percent in prior quarter.

    The fallout from the hurricanes was mixed, probably depressing some figures while lifting others. The storms inflicted extensive damage on parts of Texas and Florida, though the effect is likely to be transitory as economic activity is expected to rebound amid rebuilding efforts.

    Consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy, added 1.6 percentage point to growth last quarter. That was driven by motor vehicles, as Americans replaced cars damaged by the storms, while services spending slowed to the weakest pace since 2013. Even so, a steady job market, contained inflation and low borrowing costs are expected to provide the wherewithal for households to sustain their spending.

    The first reading of GDP, the value of all goods and services produced, also showed continued strength in business investment, indicating growth is broadening out to more sources beyond household consumption. Companies are upbeat about the outlook and overseas markets are improving, which may help boost exports and contain the trade deficit.

    At the same time, the details of business investment showed a mixed picture. The decline in investment in structures probably reflects the hit from Hurricane Harvey, especially on oil and gas drilling.

    Residential investment remained a weak spot. Builders are up against a shortage of qualified labor and ready-to-build lots at the same time sales are being held back by a shortage of available properties that’s driving up prices.

    Price data in the GDP report showed inflation picked up while still lagging behind the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent goal. Excluding food and energy, the Fed’s preferred price index — which is tied to personal spending — rose at a 1.3 percent annualized rate last quarter, following a 0.9 percent gain.

    Fed policy makers can point to evidence that growth is steady enough to allow them to keep raising interest rates, with investors expecting a quarter-point increase in December.

    While the economy is probably on solid footing in the ninth year of this expansion, the central bank and many economists expect GDP growth to slow beyond 2018, moving closer to 2 percent rather than the sustained 3 percent pace that the Trump administration says will happen if its tax plan is enacted.

    Economist Views

    “It’s hard to confidently discern the hurricane effects in this report, but the economy seems to be on pretty solid ground,” said Michael Feroli, chief U.S. economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in New York. “The details are reasonably solid. Consumers stepped down a little from the second quarter but their spending still expanded at a decent pace.”

    The gain in equipment investment shows “businesses may be getting a little more confident about the expansion, both here in the U.S. and abroad,” he said. Overall, the report “probably gives a little more confidence to the Fed to hike rates before year-end, but I don’t think it’s a game-changer.”

    Other Details

    • Nonresidential investment — which includes spending on equipment, structures and intellectual property — increased 3.9 percent and added 0.49 percentage point to growth
    • Equipment investment jumped 8.6 percent for a fourth quarter of growth, longest streak since 2014
    • Residential investment fell at a 6 percent rate after 7.3 percent drop, worst two-quarter performance since 2010
    • Net exports added 0.41 percentage point to growth as exports rose, imports fell; inventories added 0.73 point, most since 2016
    • Government spending fell at a 0.1 percent rate; the figures reflected 1.1 percent in federal spending, driven by defense, while state and local outlays dropped 0.9 percent
    • After-tax incomes adjusted for inflation increased at a 0.6 percent annual pace, down from the previous quarter’s 3.3 percent; saving rate fell to 3.4 percent from 3.8 percent
    • GDP report is the first of three estimates for the quarter; the other two are due in November and December as more data become available

      Highlights of Third-Quarter GDP (First Estimate)

      • Gross domestic product grew at a 3% annualized rate (est. 2.6%) following a 3.1% gain in 2Q, best back-to-back quarters since 2014
      • Consumer spending, biggest part of the economy, grew 2.4% (est. 2.1%) after 3.3% in 2Q
      • Business fixed investment rose 1.5%, adding 0.25 ppt to growth; spending on nonresidential structures fell, equipment and intellectual property gained, residential dropped
      • Trade, inventories added a combined 1.14 ppt to growth
      • Commerce Dept. said it can’t estimate hurricanes’ impact on GDP; disaster losses on fixed assets, private and public, totaled about $131.4b

      Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-27/u-s-growth-at-above-forecast-3-on-consumer-business-spending

      Florida sinkhole that swallowed two homes is growing, officials say

      Two more houses condemned as edge of large sinkhole collapses, pausing clean-up attempt at now 260ft-wide water-filled hole

      Officials in Florida said on Saturday a large sinkhole that swallowed two homes last month is growing.

      Pasco County officials said in a news conference that a large chunk of the edge of the hole had collapsed. Two more homes in Land OLakes, a Tampa suburb, were condemned.

      The sinkhole, which opened up on 14 July, destroyed two homes and forced the evacuation of nine people. Five homeowners were allowed to return two days later. Not all did, fearing more problems with the massive pit outside their homes.

      The hole is now about 260ft (79m) wide at its widest point. Officials are not sure what caused the destabilization, but think seismic vibrations from trucks and construction equipment around the hole could be to blame.

      Kevin Guthrie, assistant county administrator of public safety in Pasco, said widening was expected with increased activity and there was no reason to believe the hole was active.

      Dump trucks were scheduled to bring in boulders on Saturday, to try to stabilize one side of the sinkhole so a small barge could be brought in. Authorities hoped to create a boat ramp to enable work from the barge, which would float on water in the sinkhole.

      The Tampa Bay Times reported that in resuming sinkhole clean-up, contractors had begun dumping truckloads of crushed limestone and boulders into the hole in an attempt to stabilize one side.

      Guthrie said that when cleaning a sinkhole, the top priority is to be deliberate and methodical and to ensure no one gets hurt. If we have to slow down, we slow down, he said. Speed is not of the essence here.

      The clean-up would take two to three weeks, he said, barring any more problems with the edges of the hole.

      The Pasco County Commission awarded Ceres Environmental Services a $640,000 contract early last week to clean the sinkhole. Contractors began picking debris off the surface on Thursday before having to halt on Friday.

      Officials were also still waiting on results from the state department of health after testing area wells for contamination.

      Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/05/florida-sinkhole-swallowed-two-homes-growing

      Scientists reveal how the T. rex could crush bones with its terrifying teeth

      The T. rex was crushing it — bones that is.
      Image: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

      The Tyrannosaurus rex wasn’t one to waste its food. With the help of its powerful jaw, the dinosaur king ripped apart and gobbled up its prey’s bones, in addition to any juicier bits.

      The T. rex could chow down with nearly 8,000 pounds of force, equal to the weight of three small cars, scientists found in a new study published Wednesday in the journal Scientific Reports.

      That’s more than double the bite force of the largest living crocodile, which is the bite force champion of the modern era.

      That’s not all. The tips of the T. rex’s long conical teeth could generate a whopping 431,000 pounds per square inch of bone-crushing tooth pressure, according to the study.

      T. rex jaw muscles that helped it generate 8,000-pound bite forces.

      Image: florida state university

      In other words, a bite from a T. rex could shatter bones like a “.45-caliber bullet with a mushroom head,” paleontologist Gregory Erickson, the study’s co-author and a curator at Florida State University’s Biological Science Museum, told the Washington Post.

      Scientists have long known that the T. rex could eat bones, as shown by fragments found in fossilized dinosaur dung. But they didn’t exactly know how. While this bone-pulverizing ability is seen in living meat-eating mammals like wolves and hyenas, it’s unusual for reptiles, which don’t have the teeth needed to strip prey down to the marrow.

      The T. rex’s terrifying teeth gave it a major advantage over other prehistoric reptiles.

      “It was this bone-crunching acumen that helped T. rex to more fully exploit the carcasses of large horned-dinosaurs and duck-billed hadrosaurids whose bones, rich in mineral salts and marrow, were unavailable to smaller, less equipped carnivorous dinosaurs, Paul Gignac, a study co-author and an assistant professor at Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences, said in a press release.

      Triceratops pelvis bearing nearly 80 T. rex bite marks.

      Image: florida state university

      For the study, Gignac and Erickson modeled and tested how the jaw muscles of living crocodiles, which are close relatives of dinosaurs, contributed to their bite force. They next compared the results with those of birds the modern-day dinosaur and produced a model for the T. rex.

      But bite force alone didn’t explain how the T. rex could puncture or smash through bones. Their teeth also played an important role.

      “It is like assuming a 600-horsepower engine guarantees speed,” Erickson said in a press release. “In a Ferrari, sure, but not for a dump truck.”

      The two paleontologists sought to understand how the ancient reptile’s bite force was transmitted through the teeth, a measurement they called tooth pressure. They did so by calculating the pressure exerted on bones caught between the dinosaur’s teeth.

      The authors said their study is the first to examine the pressure exerted by dinosaur tooth formations.

      Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/05/17/t-rex-terrifying-teeth-bones/