Quick Hits: Blankenship conviction, Insect decline, Parkway motorcyclist sues Park Service


Motorcyclist sues National Park Service for 1.7M after crash on Blue Ridge Parkway

After a near fatal accident on the Blue Ridge Parkway, South Carolina resident Dallas Fischer, 57, filed a 1.7 million lawsuit against the National Park Service in September. According to the lawsuit, Fischer claims he was riding his motorcycle on the south end of the Blue Ridge Parkway when he saw a “Bump in Road” sign and almost immediately hit the bump, toppling his motorcycle and breaking ribs and a finger, and puncturing a lung. The lawsuit claims the National Park Service and the Department of the Interior did not properly install adequate traffic signs and failed to maintain safe roadways and adequately warn of unsafe conditions on the road. There are hundreds of motor vehicle accidents on the Blue Ridge Parkway each year. In 2017, 14 of those accidents were fatal.

Department of Justice urges federal court to uphold former coal baron conviction

Lawyers for the U.S. Department of Justice urged the federal court not to overturn the conviction of Don Blankenship, the former CEO of Massey Energy, who served a year in prison and paid a $250,000 fine for conspiring to violate safety and health standards at the Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh County, West Virginia. In April 2010, 29 out of 31 miners at Upper Big Branch were killed in a coal dust explosion. Blankenship hopes to have his conviction overturned, claiming that that there is undisclosed evidence that could have swayed the jury’s verdict in his favor. In a brief filed in the U.S. District Court in Beckley, W.V., the government says that much of the information Blankenship claims was undisclosed was available and used “through alternative means” and that there is “no reasonable probability that the jury would have reached a different verdict.”


Heat waves may be to blame for the decline in insect populations

Insect populations have been dropping worldwide for years with no clear explanation but a new paper in Nature Communications may provide an answer: heat waves. According to research out of England’s University of East Anglia, after enduring a lab-simulated heat wave, the sperm production of male flour beetles dropped by half. Researchers have long known that the sperm quality of mammals can be impacted by heat but before now no one had studied the impact of heat on coldblooded males. Dr. Curt Stager, a professor at Paul Smith’s College in Paul Smiths, New York, told the New York Timesthat he’s not yet convinced climate change is the primary cause of insect decline. “Global-scale insecticide usage is, to me, a more convincing cause for a widespread, across-the-board insect decline,” he said.

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