TIME animals

Say Hello to the Adorable Set of Rare Red Panda Twins Born in New Zealand

We're warning you, though: they're alarmingly cute

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One month ago, New Zealand’s Auckland Zoo got a whole lot cuter with the birth of a pair of Nepalese red pandas. Along with offering cuteness, though, the cubs also offer hope for a species threatened by habitat loss and illegal poaching. The twins are considered a valuable addition to the international breeding program for this species.

Visitors to the zoo can see the cubs’ parents and their older brother, but will have to wait until March to sneak a peek at the twins themselves.

Here are some photos of the twins being precious:

Red Panda Twins

Auckland Zoo
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Auckland Zoo
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Auckland Zoo
TIME animals

Eight Animals Who Predicted A Super Bowl Winner

A manatee named Buffett has his money on the Broncos. Mote Marine Laboratory

A clairvoyant canine, a soothsaying seal and a psychic porcupine give their forecasts

Who will reign supreme at this year’s Super Bowl, the Seattle Seahawks or the Denver Broncos? Sure, you could look at things like team statistics and try to sound smart with some fancy analysis, but it’s way more fun to to rely on clairvoyant animals who’ve offered up their predictions. Here’s a look at eight animals who’ve shared their visions — and a running tally of their picks.

1. An ape

For the past six years, a Utah ape named Eli has correctly envisioned who will win the Super Bowl. This year, he made his decision with confidence by swiftly knocking over a helmet bearing the Seahawks logo.

Seahawks: 1; Broncos: 0

2. A porcupine

Teddy the porcupine is known for being cute and also for correctly predicting the Super Bowl champions for the past two years. This time around, Teddy says Seattle all the way.

Seahawks: 2; Broncos: 0

3. Puppies

Jimmy Fallon decided to ask some cuddly canines to cast their predictions on Late Night. He placed two bowls of food — one representing each team — on the ground, and two of the pups lunged toward the Broncos bowl. (The others refused to make a prediction either way.)

Seahawks: 2, Broncos: 1

4. A manatee

A “clairvoyant” manatee named Buffett, who has correctly predicted the winner for the past six years, has spoken again. He’s been trained to swim toward one of two targets marked with either team’s logo. This year, he went straight for Denver.

Seahawks: 2; Broncos: 2

5. A seal

An aquarium in Connecticut enlisted the help of a harbor seal named Orange to predict the winner. The staff threw two footballs, each tied with either team’s colors, into her tank and waited for her to retrieve one as her pick. Two out of three times, she went with the Broncos.

Seahawks: 2; Broncos: 3

6. A panda

At the Memphis Zoo, a very adorable panda was placed beneath a Broncos flag and a Seahawks flag. He quickly chose Denver’s blue and orange standard, and then proceeded to roll around wrapped up in the flag, so he seems especially confident.

Seahawks: 2; Broncos 4

7. An octopus

An oracular octopus named Pepper has gazed into his crystal ball. He was given two helmets and, after pondering for 45 minutes, eventually settled on the one representing Denver.

Seahawks: 2; Broncos 5

8. A bunny

Fred the Psychic Bunny, born in Los Angeles and rescued at an animal shelter, began playing with tarot cards when he was six months old. He used a special set of cards to make his Super Bowl prediction, opting for the Seahawks. However, we should note that he incorrectly chose the 49ers last year.

Final tally: Seahawks: 3; Broncos 5

So there you have it. Based on this very scientific methodology, the Broncos are in it to win it. But remember: anything can happen.

TIME animals

RIP Colonel Meow, World’s Furriest Cat, Dead at 2

Guinness World Record holder for cat with the longest fur will be sorely missed by his minions

Colonel Meow, the Guinness World Record holder for cat with the longest fur, died Wednesday, and the Internet is paw-sitively heartbroken. He was 2 years old.

While the cause of death is unknown, the Himalayan-Persian mix reportedly suffered heart problems in November. His YouTube channel posted this mew-ving tribute:

Fans wept when they heard the news and wished him “Catspeed,” according to his Facebook page — which boasts more than 355,000 “likes.” Internet celebrity cats have extended their condolences; in a statement to Mashable, Lil Bub hailed him as one of the most “impressive and regal living creatures” she had ever met, while Grumpy Cat declared a “grumpy day”:

Born in 2011, Colonel Meow was rescued by the Seattle Himalayan and Persian Society and adopted at Petco by his owner, “Master” Anne Marie Avey. He became an Internet sensation in fall 2012 after his Facebook page and Twitter hashtag “#spreadthefrown” went viral, thanks in part to publicity from The Daily What, an Internet memes website.

Between his long fur and his long face, he was known as the world’s angriest cat and was imagined to be a fierce leader on a quest for world domination. His fans are called “minions.” In fact, during a visit to BuzzFeed, he immediately assumed control of the office and appointed himself CEO.

But his celebrity peaked in August 2013, when he was awarded the Guinness World Record for cat with longest fur, which measures about nine inches and is brushed up to three times a day.

During his two years of life, Colonel Meow enjoyed walks on a leash, drinking scotch (especially Johnnie Walker Black Label), trolling other Internet celebrity animals, staring at things until he fell asleep, and having his butt scratched.

TIME Religion

Pope Francis Blesses Porn Star’s Parrot

Pope Francis holds a parrot shown by a pilgrim as he arrives for his general audience at St Peter's square on January 29, 2014 at the Vatican.
Pope Francis holds a parrot shown by a pilgrim as he arrives for his general audience at St Peter's square on January 29, 2014 at the Vatican. Osservatore Romano—AFP—Getty Images

Green parrot was named Amore, or Italian for "Love"

Among the newest recipients of Pope Francis’ good will is the parrot of a male stripper-turned-erotic film actor, the ANSA news agency reported this week.

The pet of Francesco Lombardi, named Amore, or “Love,” was passed to the Pope as he rode around St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday. The crowd watched as he leaned from the pope-mobile to hold the bird on his finger and bless it. Later, Lombardi told ANSA that Amore said “Papa” during the encounter, mocking the people’s chant.

“It was fun,” said Lombardi. “A sort of mixing of the holy and the profane.”

He added that he was at the Square with his wife and two daughters specifically to attend the Pope’s general audience: “Pope Francis, who I am in love with, called it ‘a beautiful gift from God.’”

[ANSA]

TIME Advertising

The Only Thing That Makes Budweiser’s ‘Puppy Love’ Super Bowl Ad Better Is Adding Ginuwine’s ‘Pony’

In which the puppy gets a little saucy

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Upon seeing Budweiser’s brilliantly heartwarming Super Bowl ad “Puppy Love,” you might have thought: A 10-week-old puppy building a true friendship with a Clydesdale horse? They aren’t even the same species! It can’t get any better than this.

Well, some evil genius found a way to make it better: Play the absurdly adorable ad over the soundtrack of Ginuwine’s “Pony.” The result is excellent.

Things are about to get a lot saucier, and we like it.

Here’s the original spot:

TIME animals

ALERT: CATNADO

Kyle Chayka

This is not a drill.

In the southern United Kingdom a few days ago, there was a real, live catnado—a tornado filled with kittens instead of, you know, sharks. Seriously.

According to the Belfast Telegraph stable-owner Shirley Blay described a “mini tornado” that lifted up a shed her granddaughter was inside. After destroying the shed, the tornado went on to suck up four feral cats in the yard. “They just went round like a big paper bag,” Blay said. (A rough rendering of the catastrophic event created by TIME is at right.)

This is clear evidence of the world’s first catnado. Fortunately, no one was killed in the resulting whir of fur, claws, and teeth, unlike the shark version. We’re still waiting on an octonado full of octopi, a sluggish slothnado, and a dogenado full of semi-literate Internet memes.

TIME Agriculture

New Report Says FDA Allowed ‘High Risk’ Antibiotics to Be Used on Farm Animals

Experts worry that the overuse of antibiotics on livestock is leading to resistant-strains of bacteria Elyse Butler via Getty Images

Antibiotic resistance claims 23,000 lives a year in the U.S.—and the overuse of antibiotics in livestock plays a role. Is the FDA doing all it can to protect Americans?

A stark fact: around 80% of the antibiotics by weight used in the U.S. are given not to sick human beings, but to farm animals. And for the most part, these drugs aren’t prescribed by veterinarians to save ill pigs or chickens, but instead are administered to animals in low doses in their food and water, for the purpose of growth promotion—the drugs seem to help livestock pack on weight—and prophylactially, to help them survive the packed conditions of a modern factory farm.

That the heavy use of antibiotics on farm animals in the U.S. can pose a real health threat to human beings—by inadvertently promoting the growth and spread of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria—is something that nearly every expert outside the food and drug industries agrees on. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 2 million Americans are sickened and 23,000 die each year thanks to antibiotic-resistant infections, and while some of that is due to the overprescription of antibiotics to human beings, use and abuse of the drugs in meat production plays a significant role as well, but it’s one that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has long been reluctant to crack down on.

Now a new report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) underscores just how lacking the FDA’s regulation of antibiotics in farm animals has been. Using FDA documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the NRDC found that the agency allowed 30 potentially harmful antibiotics—18 rated as “high risk” by the FDA itself—to remain on the market for use as additives in livestock feed and water. Despite internal FDA reviews that raised questions about the risks posed by the drugs, the additives still remain approved and many of the drugs are still on the market for food production. “The FDA knew the risks, but they still haven’t done anything to revoke the approval of these drugs,” says Avinash Kar, an attorney for the NRDC and the co-author of the new report.

(MORE: Farm Drugs: The FDA Moves to Restrict (Somewhat) the Use of Antibiotics in Livestock)

The FDA has been looking at antibiotics in farm animals since 1970, when the agency convened a joint task force of experts that eventually found that the nontherapeutic use of antibiotics in livestock—meaning for growth promotion or for prophylactic use on healthy animals—could lead to resistant strains of bacteria that could threaten human health. In 1973, the FDA adopted regulations that required drug manufacturers to prove the safety of antibiotics used in animal feed and water. In 1977 the FDA found that the use penicillin and tetracyclines—two classes of antibiotics that are widely used to treat humans—in animal feed was unsafe, and proposed to withdraw approval of the drug classes. But according to NRDC’s findings, the agency never followed through.

In 2001, prompted by legislation that set aside money for the agency to look at antibiotics, FDA experts began reviewing livestock feed additives already in use that contained penicillin or tetracyclines. The additives—30 altogether—were reviewed according to two sets of criteria: the 1973 safety regulations, and 2003 guidelines meant to evaluate the safety of any new animal antibiotic drugs. (The 2003 guidelines gauged the risk of antibiotics in feed leading to resistant strains of bacteria, as well as the chance those strains can reach people and damage human health. The antibiotics would then be classified as low, medium or high risk.) The internal FDA documents unearthed by the NRDC show that agency experts found that 26 of the 30 additives had never even met the initial 1973 safety criteria. The agency also found that 18 of the 30 additives posed a “high risk” of exposing human beings to antibiotic-resistant bacteria through the food chain, according to the criteria set out by the 2003 guidelines.

(MORE: Talking Meat and Antibiotics)

For the 12 remaining additives, manufacturers hadn’t even supplied the FDA with sufficient evidence for the agency to determine the health risk they might pose to human beings. According to the NRDC, none of the 30 antibiotic feed additives in question could be approved today under the current guidelines. Because the FDA does not disclose sales of specific animal drugs, it’s impossible to know how widely those additives are still being used in animal feed. But the NRDC found evidence that at least nine of the additives are still being marketed today, and 28 of the drugs apparently still remain approved for use. The remaining two were withdrawn voluntarily from the market.

While the food industry says that restricting antibiotics in livestock would lead to sicker animals and more expensive meat, it is possible to have a major meat producing industry without the dangerous use of antibiotics for growth promotion. The European Union has banned all antibiotic growth promoters in animal feed, and Denmark—which produces about as many hogs as Iowa even though the Scandinavian country is more than three times smaller than the Hawkeye State—has banned all prophylactic uses of antibiotics in animals. But while a few food companies in the U.S. like Chipotle have touted their drug-free meat, millions of pounds of antibiotics are still being used on farms. There are a pair of bills in Congress that would curb antibiotic use in animals—the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA) in the House and the Preventing Antibiotic Resistance Act (PARA)—but neither are likely to pass.

That leaves the FDA, which has in recent years begun to move gently on antibiotics in animal feed. Last month the agency released guidelines that ask drug manufacturers to change their labels voluntarily so that farmers would no longer be able to use the drugs for growth promotion, and instead would need a veterinarian’s prescription to use the drugs for therapeutic purposes, rather than simply allowing them to be bought over the counter. The FDA has said that voluntary guidelines will lead to faster changes in antibiotic use, largely because tougher rules could face time-consuming legal challenges from the food industry. And the agency says that once the labels on drugs have been changed, it would be illegal for the additives to be used for growth promotion—and the FDA has claimed it would take action against companies that failed to comply.

In response to the NRDC report, Siobhan DeLancey of the FDA’s Veterinary Medicine team noted that two major drug companies have expressed support for the agency’s new guidelines, which she said are informed by the FDA’s earlier scientific review of those 30 additives. She added that the FDA expects to fully implement its strategy to phase out all medically important antimicrobials—including the penicillins and tetracyclines called out by the NRDC—within three years:

The FDA is confident that its current strategy to protect the effectiveness of medically important antimicrobials, including penicillins and tetracyclines, is the most efficient and effective way to change the use of these products in animal agriculture. We note that our strategy also does not limit our authority to take future regulatory action.

But consumer and environmental groups are doubtful that much will change without a legal mandate. “The FDA has the authority to move independently on this,” says Kar. “It seems to me the FDA is using the specter of time and resources to justify a voluntary approach.” Until that changes, neither will our other drug problem.

(MORE: Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food)

TIME

90 Farting Cows Start Fire in Germany

Getty Images

So if you catch them singing "We Didn't Start the Fire," know that they are lying.

Farts are the funniest thing in the world, Louis C.K. once told Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. “You don’t have to be smart to laugh at farts,” he said, “but you’d have to be stupid not to.”

So that makes us feel a bit better about laughing at the fact that a group of 90 cows started a fire with their farts at a German dairy farm. According to Reuters, methane gas emitted from the flatulent animals exploded in one of the farm’s sheds, damaging the structure’s roof.

The only reason we actually feel bad about laughing is that one of the cows was injured and had to be treated for burns. So, we feel bad about that, but we don’t feel bad laughing about the fact that farts started a fire. We assume Louis C.K. would be laughing too.

TIME animals

Here’s An Inside Look at Japan’s Best Cat Cafes

This brilliant concept is coming to San Francisco soon.

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Cat cafes — establishments that allow you to make feline friends while you enjoy your coffee — already exist in Paris and Japan, and as NewsFeed reported today, the concept will soon hit San Francisco. The trend has been slow to catch on in the U.S., mostly due to strict health codes that prohibit the presence of animals in restaurants. But the team behind the upcoming California cafe — obviously named KitTea — plans to make it work by running two separate operations: a tea house and a “cat sanctuary.” If you’re curious what this concept is really like, a Canadian student studying in Japan created a video tour of a few of the country’s best cat cafes. She says these establishments are “probably one of the coolest things about living in Japan.” This confirms that it’s time for Americans to just let animals start hanging out in our cafes and restaurants all the time. Health codes are kind of bogus anyway, right?

TIME American Cities

Let New York City’s Horses Work, Too!

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USA, New York City, Horsedrawn carriage in Central Park Getty Images/SuperStock RM—Getty Images/SuperStock RM

There's nothing wrong with giving animals jobs and putting them to work—a privilege for which many Americans would be grateful.

I share at least one thing with the people who want to get rid of carriage horses in New York City: I love animals. (Except rats, and I still wouldn’t want them to suffer.) I’ve given money to the ASPCA in memory of a dog. I’ve taken a duck bitten by a dog to a somewhat astonished vet. And horses have been in my life since I started riding as a young girl. Riding is collaboration between man and horse, and you quickly learn that it’s impossible to get a 2,000-pound animal to jump six-foot fences unless it wants to.

While I’ve never taken a carriage ride in Manhattan’s Central Park, I’ve petted the sweet-smelling horses as they stand lined up, noses in their feedbags, while sparrows jump about them on the prowl for loose grain. Tourists snap pictures of the hansom cabs and the drivers in top hats, and the atmosphere is one of romantic obsolescence.

So I was upset when New York’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, made his first order of business to go after these carriages. “We are going to quickly and aggressively move to make horse carriages no longer a part of the landscape in New York City,” he promised in a news conference after his election. “They are not humane.”

Perhaps de Blasio believes that all horses should be roaming the plains in freedom as “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West,” as described by the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. Or perhaps, as a number of people have suggested, de Blasio was influenced by campaign contributions from developers with an eye on the stables. Whatever the case, the mayor is not only destroying the livelihood of 300 of the working citizens he claims to be in office to help. He is also pushing a policy to which even the horses themselves might object.

To be sure, the city environment is not ideal for horses—or, for that matter, humans. Evolution has not designed any species to walk on hard asphalt, to compete for space with cars and trucks, or to breathe in polluted city air. But, as Dean W. Richardson, a professor of surgery and chief of large animal surgery at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, recently wrote in The New York Times, “horses have been a domesticated species for a very long time and adapt surprisingly well if they are given appropriate care.”

The life of a New York City carriage horse is actually not bad. Unlike the mustang, it doesn’t have to find food or water, nor must it avoid the wrath of ranchers or flee federal roundups—from which many horses are possibly being sent to the slaughterhouse, in spite of laws of prevent it.

Also, unlike millions of Americans, carriage horses have a job, one with enviable privileges. How many Americans are guaranteed a workday lasting no more than nine hours, with compulsory time off when the Fahrenheit temperature falls below 18 degrees or rises above 90 degrees? How many of us are legally entitled to a small dwelling, equipped with soft padding on the floor, running water, and a healthy diet, all under the supervision of a medical professional appointed to safeguard our interests? And how many of us get five weeks of mandatory vacation?

I bet Manhattan’s pedicab drivers look with envy at the benefits that the city’s horses take for granted.

Some people say horses are obsolete. “It’s the year 2014,” Allie Feldman of NYCLASS (New Yorkers for Clean Livable and Safe Streets) told MSNBC. “There’s no reason to have a horse drag a tourist around the city anymore. There are so many things to do in New York City without putting an animal at risk. New York City is better than this.”

True, this is 2014, and the city does not need horse-drawn carriages. Nor does Rockefeller Center need an ice-skating rink or a Christmas tree. Nor does Britain need the royal family. But think how much poorer the cityscape would be without this tradition, which dates back to 1858.

Some people say horses are dangerous. “These sensitive animals become unwitting weapons who can kill or injure themselves or passers-by,” writes Elizabeth Forel of Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages For New York City Animals. Yes, horses can be dangerous, if improperly controlled. But horses have not caused a single human fatality in New York City.

Even if the horse-drawn carriage were banned, what would happen to the horses? According to the mayor, they would go to “sanctuaries.” But, unless they get to run around in pastures all day long, horses, like humans, want to have a job. When they are deprived of a daily work routine, they get bored and develop any number of number of disorders, including cribbing, pawing, weaving, blanket-chewing, head-bobbing, and other repetitive actions.

The horse is a beast of burden, however harsh that may sound, and without its burden—as a draft horse, racehorse, show jumper, dressage artist, circus performer, or pony-ride pony—it serves no obvious purpose in the modern world. Unlike dogs, whose lives now imitate those of humans to a frightening degree, horses are too big to jump into bed with you, and they don’t take well to the latest fashions in rainwear. Horses will never be house pets. Still, if permitted, they can remain valued equine companions to their owners and indispensable partners to carriage drivers. And, if the mayor remains incapable of getting the streets plowed during snowstorms, a saddled-up horse can offer good transportation, too.

This article first appeared at Zocalo Public Square.

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