Humongous Horns: Texas Longhorn From Alabama Sets Guinness World Record

Poncho Via stands on a field of grass in Clay County Alabama at the Green Acres Farm in 2017. The steer currently holds the Guinness World Record for having the longest set of horns ever.

The Pope Family

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The Pope Family

Six-year-old Poncho Via doesn’t reside in the Lone Star State but he set the Guinness World Record for possessing the longest set of horns on any other Texas longhorn ever.

Last month the steer’s horns were measured from tip to tip at 10 feet, 7.4 inches. In comparison, Ponchos’ spread is more than twice the width of a concert grand piano.

Poncho was raised by the Pope family on a small-town farm in Goodwater, Alabama. In 2013, Jeral Pope Sr. reached out to a local veterinarian asking for assistance in finding a pet longhorn ⁠— a fascination that came from a road trip out West, where the elder Pope saw longhorn cattle and decided he had to have one.

Once connected to a rodeo supplier, Pope Sr. purchased 6-month-old Poncho who’s been their “gentle giant” ever since.

Jeral Pope Sr. tends to his pet steer Poncho Via in Clay County Alabama at the Green Acres Farm.

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The Pope Family

Months before Pope Sr. received Poncho, his son Dennis Pope bought himself a longhorn named Moo. Dennis remembers having friendly competition with his dad during the early years of their steers’ lives.

“We would measure each others horns when they were young and ours was always a little ahead of that one,” Dennis told NPR. “Until the horn shape on ours took a big turn up and Poncho’s kept going out straight and it kept growing and growing.”

The Guinness World Records paid the Coosa County celebrity a visit.

Guinness World Records

The Pope family has since kept a close eye on the length of Poncho’s horns, waiting for them to expand long enough to break the record. They even checked previous steers’ measurements to see what they were up against and noticed how much Poncho was growing for his age.

“They were all 9 to 12 to 15-years-old when they were measured for the world record and Poncho’s much younger than that,” he said. “There’s no telling how much he’ll grow. “

However, despite his promising future, Poncho did not meet the records’ standards until days before Guinness verified his length this year.

“I measured him in April and he was not above the world record, he grew a half inch of horn length from April to May,” Dennis said.

Similar to their weight gain, horn growth occurs quickly during their early years, then levels off as they grow older, according to the Texas Longhorn Journal. Although a longhorn is built to manage the length and weight of their rack, the Pope family said the public has expressed some concern regarding Poncho’s horns. Dennis ensures that Poncho is adaptable, smart and has learned exactly where the tips of his horns are.

“He can run through the trees on the farm…he knows where any post is, any obstacle, he just tips his head and goes on. It’s amazing to see him run.” Dennis said.

The steer unseated fellow record-holder and Texas-based longhorn Sato by just over an inch. Pancho will turn 7-years-old on October 3rd.

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Kushner Meets With Bipartisan Architects Of Dreamer Legislation

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., left and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. at a news conference with recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program (DACA) during a 2017 news conference.

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President Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner met privately on Tuesday with the longtime Senate architects of plans to provide citizenship for those brought to the country illegally as children.

The meeting has raised concerns among immigration hardliners that Trump’s immigration policy is being “watered down,” will give Democrats an upper hand and alter the focus of the debate from strictly enforcement to a deal that would include legalization.

Kushner was spotted leaving Sen. Lindsey’s Graham, R-S.C., office Tuesday morning where he also met with Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., where the three discussed Graham’s immigration bill that seeks to change asylum law to help stem the flow of migrants from Central America to the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a Senate GOP official with leadership.

But another person familiar with details of the discussions said that Graham and Durbin want Kushner to support measures that would include protections for those brought to the United States illegally as children, many of whom are currently protected by the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Neither Graham nor the White House responded to questions about the meeting. When asked about the status of talks with Kushner and Graham, Durbin told NPR they were ongoing and that no deal was imminent.

Last month, Kushner unveiled the broad strokes of the new immigration plan to congressional Republicans that included an updated legal immigration system that replaces allowing entry to low-skilled workers with a merit-based system that prioritizes immigrants with special skills. It would also strengthen border security, increase interior enforcement and tighten asylum procedures.

The White House knows that immigration plan is unlikely to go far in Congress where Democrats will be reluctant to support any enforcement proposal that’s not offset with significant legalization of immigrants currently in the United States without authorization to work.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan appeared to give Graham and Durbin’s efforts additional leverage last week when he told the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Graham chairs, that Graham and Durbin proposals would make the border safer.

“We would have a very different situation,” McAleenan said of past legislation put forward by Graham and Durbin that also included stronger border enforcement. “We would have 20,000 additional border patrol agents, we would have technology comprehensively deployed … we would be a lot more secure on the border.”

Graham said at the hearing that he’s willing to work with Democrats to “fix this mess.”

“I am willing to help Central America’s economy. I’m willing to help President Trump build a wall. I’m willing to work on DACA. I am willing to do almost anything and everything to fix this mess but doing nothing is off the table.”

Graham and Durbin have long worked together on bipartisan legislation that would allow young adults to stay in the United States if they came to the country as children, graduated from high school or obtained a GED, and pursued college, military service or at least three years of employment.

The proposal has bipartisan support, but not enough to make it into law. The issue has drawn more scrutiny since Trump took office and later rolled back an Obama-era order protecting many so-called Dreamers from deportation.

The meeting is already raising concerns among conservatives who have long feared that Graham would use his strong relationship with Trump to eventually push for protections for those in the country illegally.

RJ Hauman, the government relations director at FAIR, which advocates for stronger immigration enforcement, called the push a distraction and said the focus needs to remain on securing the U.S. border and tightening asylum rules.

“Creating a path to citizenship for illegal aliens has been Graham and Durbin’s top immigration priority for many years,” Hauman said.

“In March, as our nation’s immigration crisis was spiraling out of control, they decided they would rather provide a new incentive for people to bring or send their kids here illegally by introducing another DREAM Act,” Hauman added. “The notion that they’re huddling up right now in a bipartisan effort to truly stop the crisis is laughable.”

NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis contributed reporting to this story.

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Harvard Rescinds Offer To Parkland Survivor After Discovery Of Racist Comments

Kyle Kashuv, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student and survivor of the school shooting, became a nationally prominent gun-rights advocate while many of his surviving classmates instead organized to advocate for gun control.

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Kyle Kashuv, one of the survivors of the mass school shooting in Parkland, Fla., applied and was accepted into Harvard.

His acceptance, however, was rescinded after Harvard discovered that Kashuv, now 18, used racial slurs in texts, Skype conversations and Google documents when he was 16.

Here’s why people are talking about Kashuv’s case.

A Parkland survivor turned activist

Kashuv’s name first came into the spotlight after he survived the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February 2018. After the shooting, he became a nationally prominent gun-rights advocate while many of his surviving classmates instead organized to advocate for gun control.

What did Kashuv say?

On May 23, the Huffington Post published messages written by Kashuv that contained repeated uses of the n-word, and phrases like, “Kill all the f***ing Jews.” According to the Huffington Post, the screenshots of the text, Skype conversations and Google documents were provided by classmates and a “former friend” of Kashuv.

Kashuv defended himself on Twitter for the comments, saying he used “callous and inflammatory language in an effort to be as extreme and as shocking as possible.” He noted that he was 16 years old when he made the comments, and that the shooting changed his perspective.

“I see the world through different eyes and am embarrassed by the petty, flippant kid represented in those screenshots,” he said on Twitter.

Harvard’s Decision

According to a screenshot posted by Kashuv, William Fitzsimmons, the Dean of Admissions, asked him to provide a “full accounting” of his racist statements and a “written explanation of your actions” in a letter dated May 24.

1/ THREAD: Harvard rescinded my acceptance.

Three months after being admitted to Harvard Class of 2023, Harvard has decided to rescind my admission over texts and comments made nearly two years ago, months prior to the shooting.

I have some thoughts. Here’s what happened.

— Kyle Kashuv (@KyleKashuv) June 17, 2019

Kashuv said on Twitter that he replied with an apology in which he stated, “I bore no racial animus,” but that the context was “a group of adolescents trying to use the worst words and say the most insane things imaginable.” But in a second letter dated June 3, Fitzsimmons said that the admissions committee had voted to rescind his admission, citing “maturity and moral character.”

Colleges have long standing, if rarely used, policies of revoking admissions offers if a student is found to have engaged in questionable conduct. In fact, in 2017 a group of 10 students had their Harvard admissions revoked, also for offensive online posts.

Rachael Dane, a spokesperson for Harvard, told NPR that the university does not comment publicly on the admissions status of individual applicants, and added that the college reserves the right to withdraw an offer of admission under several conditions including, “If an admitted student engages or has engaged in behavior that brings into question their honesty, maturity or moral character.”

Kashuv and Turning Point USA

Before these comments came to light, Kashuv was named an outreach director for the conservative campus group Turning Point USA. According to the Huffington Post, he stepped down when his former classmates threatened to make the messages public.

Turning Point USA has the slogan on its web site “Winning America’s Culture War.” The group maintains something called “Professor Watchlist,” which lists the names and public profiles of hundreds of professors who have expressed personal views such as calling people “racist” on Twitter, or published feminist research. Many of these professors have been doxed — that is, had their identity or address exposed — and harassed, as NPR reported last year.

On stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference last March, President Trump publicly praised conservative activist Hayden Williams, who was punched while volunteering as a campus recruiter for Turning Point USA. The president brought Williams on stage when he talked about issuing an executive order to protect campus free speech.

Jessie Daniels, a professor of sociology at Hunter College who studies racists and white supremacists online, says that the Kashuv incident plays neatly into Turning Point USA’s broader agenda.

“Part of what the far right is doing in every domain is trying to push that line of what’s acceptable,” Daniels said. “The N-word has become one of the skirmishes in this larger war.”

“Harvard is pushing back and saying, nope, that’s not acceptable behavior,” Daniels said.

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For Saudi Military Vehicle Deal, Canada Weighs Jobs And Human Rights

A light armored vehicle is part of a new monument at the Royal Canadian Regiment Museum in London, Ontario. General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada is producing hundreds of LAVs for sale to Saudi Arabia.

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Last year, the Royal Canadian Regiment Museum in London, Ontario, installed a monument for the country’s armed forces who have served in the Afghanistan war. It’s a 25-ton, light armored vehicle, complete with a turret on top.

But these days, LAVs have taken on another sort of symbolism for Canada.

About a mile from the museum, workers with the Canadian division of U.S. defense company General Dynamics Corp. are building the eight-wheeled, amphibious vehicles for Saudi Arabia’s National Guard.

Now the 15 billion Canadian dollar ($11.2 billion) deal is the focal point of a debate in Canada about balancing the country’s respect for human rights with hundreds of well-paying jobs.

In 2014, then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper agreed to have Canada produce the armored vehicles for the Saudis. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has so far kept the deal.

Kevin George, the rector at St. Aidan’s Anglican Church in London, had already been a vocal opponent of the deal because of Saudi Arabia’s poor human rights record. Then came the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen in 2015, which has sharply increased the civilian death toll in the impoverished nation.

George says Canadians have looked on with increasing alarm at the conflict, particularly reports of Saudi planes striking schools and medical facilities, killing thousands of civilians, including children.

“We know what’s happening in Yemen,” he says. “And I think that we’re selling arms to a regime which is doing what it’s doing in Yemen, which is really paramount to war crimes.”

George says it was the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi last October that brought the issue of the armored vehicles to a boil in Canada. U.S. intelligence agencies have assessed that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was involved in the killing of Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. His death prompted calls across Canada to break the contract with Saudi Arabia.

“It is the type of issue that really speaks to … a matter of principle for Canadians,” says Shachi Kurl, the executive director of Angus Reid Institute, a public opinion research foundation. “Is this the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do?”

In October 2018, an Angus Reid poll found just 10% of Canadians wanted to maintain the vehicles deal and allow future weapons sales to Saudi Arabia. “The vast overwhelming majority of Canadians said that we should no longer be selling arms to Saudi Arabia,” Kurl says, but respondents disagreed about whether to honor or cancel the current deal.

In December, Prime Minister Trudeau hinted he may try to kill the deal.

Kevin George, the rector of St. Aidan’s Anglican Church in London, Ontario, is a vocal opponent of Canada’s deal to sell light armored vehicles to Saudi Arabia.

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Jackie Northam/NPR

When NPR asked Canada’s foreign affairs department this month whether the government will continue to honor the agreement, the department said officials were “reviewing export permits to Saudi Arabia and no final decision has been made.”

General Dynamics Land Systems declined an interview, but said in a statement to NPR that the light armored vehicles “contract remains in effect.”

“Were Canada to unilaterally terminate the contract, Canada would incur billions of dollars of liability to General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada,” the company said. “In addition, terminating the contract would have a significant negative impact” on Canada’s workers and defense sector.

The government awarded the contract to General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada after negotiating the deal with the Saudi government five years ago. The company says the terms of the deal are confidential. In September 2018, Canadian broadcaster CBC reported that internal documents about the deal showed the country agreed to deliver 742 light armored vehicles to Saudi Arabia.

Gerry Macartney, the CEO of the London Chamber of Commerce, calls it the “largest export contract in Canadian history.” He says London’s economy would be devastated if it was pulled.

“General Dynamics is one of our larger employers and manufacturers not only in London, but in the region,” he says. “So these are very valued jobs in our community and across the country.”

Over the years, Macartney notes, the London area has seen major companies such as Caterpillar, Ford and Kellogg’s shut their production facilities. London was also hit hard during the recession in 2008.

“A lot of manufacturing jobs left and never came back. It’s taken us this long to get back on our feet, to have a reasonably good economy going forward,” he says. “The last thing we need is another hit like that.”

The company says it directly employs 1,700 highly skilled people in London, and indirectly provides work to more than 12,000 additional people across Canada through more than 500 suppliers. Macartney says there are more than 240 suppliers in London alone for the armored vehicle contract.

One of those is the Rho-Can Machine & Tool Co. Co-owner DJ DeJesus says the company employs about 100 people and counts on General Dynamics for 35% of its business.

“So if the contract goes away, 35% of the people lose their job,” he says. “That would be just horrific.”

DeJesus says it would be misguided to think that Saudi Arabia’s behavior would change if it didn’t have the light armored vehicles manufactured in Canada. “The bottom line is we have countries all over the world lined up to take on this contract the minute we decide we don’t want to do it,” he says.

Royce de Melo, a Middle East security consultant based in the London region, says the contract is to deliver the vehicles to Saudi Arabia.

“They can go to law enforcement, can go to military, can go to border security,” de Melo says. “You can’t control how it’s used at the end of the day.”

De Melo says it would send a bad signal if Canada is seen as not honoring its contract commitments.

But the Rev. George views the issue differently.

“If Canada can’t stand up for what’s right in this case, can they ever be trusted to stand up for what’s right in the next deal?” says the church rector.

In December, protesters gathered at a port in Saint John, New Brunswick, to demonstrate against the armored vehicles being loaded for shipment to Saudi Arabia.

Bryan Smith, with the Oxford Coalition for Social Justice in Woodstock, Ontario, says there could be another option that would satisfy both sides in this debate. He says the Canadian government should find other customers for the armored vehicles, such as the United Nations.

“People here would continue to have good jobs and they would be put to good purposes, such as with peacekeeping troops in Yemen,” he says.

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