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When will esports join the Olympics?

In what could be the next big Olympic sport, participants often don’t break a sweat. They don’t even get up from their chairs.

Organized competitive video-gaming, also known as esports, wasn’t a blip on the radar until the 2010s. This year, the industry will attract nearly 500 million viewers and generate more than $1 billion in revenue. Naturally, the International Olympic Committe (IOC) has its eyes on it.

Several hurdles prevent the IOC from officially sanctioning esports as an event. They have no global governing body, which the IOC requires for approval. And many of the world’s most popular esports games, like League of Legends and Counterstrike, are violent, and thus infringe upon the purported Olympic values of friendship and respect. Other sports-adjacent games like chess—which has far fewer obstacles than esports—have struggled to gain acceptance among the Olympic gatekeepers as well.

The other roadblock? Esports don’t need the Olympics for legitimacy. They’re already huge (and getting huger) without it.

Look to 2028, and beyond

Still, it could happen. Esports players may not be athletes in the traditional sense, but many do train like they are. And their craft undoubtedly involves hand-eye coordination, dexterity, teamwork, and mental endurance.

The IOC lended its support this year to the first-ever “Olympic Virtual Series,” a group of esports events in the run-up to the Tokyo games. The IOC said 2024 is “premature” to include esports, but the door is open for 2028, when the games will be hosted in Los Angeles. Casey Wasserman, the head of LA’s Olympic committee, is an esports supporter.

The truth is that neither side needs the other—yet. If esports do join the Olympics in our lifetimes, it will be because of money. The IOC makes a lot of it, but should that ever run dry, it knows where to go to get an influx of cash.

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Swimming is the best aerobic exercise for your brain

It’s no secret that aerobic exercise can help stave off some of the ravages of aging. But a growing body of research suggests that swimming might provide a unique boost to brain health.

Regular swimming has been shown to improve memory, cognitive function, immune response, and mood. Swimming may also help repair damage from stress and forge new neural connections in the brain.

But scientists are still trying to unravel how and why swimming, in particular, produces these brain-enhancing effects.

As a neurobiologist trained in brain physiology, a fitness enthusiast and a mom, I spend hours at the local pool during the summer. It’s not unusual to see children gleefully splashing and swimming while their parents sunbathe at a distance – and I’ve been one of those parents observing from the poolside plenty of times. But if more adults recognized the cognitive and mental health benefits of swimming, they might be more inclined to jump in the pool alongside their kids.

New and improved brain cells and connections

Until the 1960s, scientists believed that the number of neurons and synaptic connections in the human brain were finite and that, once damaged, these brain cells could not be replaced. But that idea was debunked as researchers began to see ample evidence for the birth of neurons, or neurogenesis, in adult brains of humans and other animals.

Now, there is clear evidence that aerobic exercise can contribute to neurogenesis and play a key role in helping to reverse or repair damage to neurons and their connections in both mammals and fish.

Research shows that one of the key ways these changes occur in response to exercise is through increased levels of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor. The neural plasticity, or ability of the brain to change, that this protein stimulates has been shown to boost cognitive function, including learning and memory.

Studies in people have found a strong relationship between concentrations of brain-derived neurotrophic factor circulating in the brain and an increase in the size of the hippocampus, the brain region responsible for learning and memory. Increased levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor have also been shown to sharpen cognitive performance and to help reduce anxiety and depression. In contrast, researchers have observed mood disorders in patients with lower concentrations of brain-derived neurotrophic factor.

Aerobic exercise also promotes the release of specific chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. One of these is serotonin, which – when present at increased levels – is known to reduce depression and anxiety and improve mood.

In studies in fish, scientists have observed changes in genes responsible for increasing brain-derived neurotrophic factor levels as well as enhanced development of the dendritic spines – protrusions on the dendrites, or elongated portions of nerve cells – after eight weeks of exercise compared with controls. This complements studies in mammals where brain-derived neurotrophic factor is known to increase neuronal spine density. These changes have been shown to contribute to improved memory, mood and enhanced cognition in mammals. The greater spine density helps neurons build new connections and send more signals to other nerve cells. With the repetition of signals, connections can become stronger.

But what’s special about swimming?

Researchers don’t yet know what swimming’s secret sauce might be. But they’re getting closer to understanding it.

Swimming has long been recognized for its cardiovascular benefits. Because swimming involves all of the major muscle groups, the heart has to work hard, which increases blood flow throughout the body. This leads to the creation of new blood vessels, a process called angiogenesis. The greater blood flow can also lead to a large release of endorphins – hormones that act as a natural pain reducer throughout the body. This surge brings about the sense of euphoria that often follows exercise.

Most of the research to understand how swimming affects the brain has been done in rats. Rats are a good lab model because of their genetic and anatomic similarity to humans.

In one study in rats, swimming was shown to stimulate brain pathways that suppress inflammation in the hippocampus and inhibit apoptosis, or cell death. The study also showed that swimming can help support neuron survival and reduce the cognitive impacts of aging. Although researchers do not yet have a way to visualize apoptosis and neuronal survival in people, they do observe similar cognitive outcomes.

One of the more enticing questions is how, specifically, swimming enhances short- and long-term memory. To pinpoint how long the beneficial effects may last, researchers trained rats to swim for 60 minutes daily for five days per week. The team then tested the rats’ memory by having them swim through a radial arm water maze containing six arms, including one with a hidden platform.

Rats got six attempts to swim freely and find the hidden platform. After just seven days of swim training, researchers saw improvements in both short- and long-term memories, based on a reduction in the errors rats made each day. The researchers suggested that this boost in cognitive function could provide a basis for using swimming as a way to repair learning and memory damage caused by neuropsychiatric diseases in humans.

Although the leap from studies in rats to humans is substantial, research in people is producing similar results that suggest a clear cognitive benefit from swimming across all ages. For instance, in one study looking at the impact of swimming on mental acuity in the elderly, researchers concluded that swimmers had improved mental speed and attention compared with nonswimmers. However, this study is limited in its research design, since participants were not randomized and thus those who were swimmers prior to the study may have had an unfair edge.

Another study compared cognition between land-based athletes and swimmers in the young adult age range. While water immersion itself did not make a difference, the researchers found that 20 minutes of moderate-intensity breaststroke swimming improved cognitive function in both groups.

Kids get a boost from swimming too

The brain-enhancing benefits from swimming appear to also boost learning in children.

Another research group recently looked at the link between physical activity and how children learn new vocabulary words. Researchers taught children age 6-12 the names of unfamiliar objects. Then they tested their accuracy at recognizing those words after doing three activities: coloring (resting activity), swimming (aerobic activity) and a CrossFit-like exercise (anaerobic activity) for three minutes.

They found that children’s accuracy was much higher for words learned following swimming compared with coloring and CrossFit, which resulted in the same level of recall. This shows a clear cognitive benefit from swimming versus anaerobic exercise, though the study does not compare swimming with other aerobic exercises. These findings imply that swimming for even short periods of time is highly beneficial to young, developing brains.

The details of the time or laps required, the style of swim and what cognitive adaptations and pathways are activated by swimming are still being worked out. But neuroscientists are getting much closer to putting all the clues together.

For centuries, people have been in search of a fountain of youth. Swimming just might be the closest we can get.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Bob Dylan Wins Lawsuit Filed by Desire Co-Writer’s Estate

Bob Dylan Wins Lawsuit Filed by Desire Co-Writer’s Estate

A New York judge ruled that “(Jacques) Levy’s compensation rights are defined and expressly limited by the terms of the Agreement.”
Bob Dylan performs in Hyde Park, London, July 2019. (Photo by Matthew Baker/Getty Images)

Bob Dylan has won a judgement in the lawsuit filed by the estate for Jacques Levy in January that had claimed ownership over 35 percent of the songs Levy and Dylan wrote together. In documents viewed by Pitchfork, Judge Barry Ostrager of the Supreme Court of New York ruled that the agreement signed between Dylan and Levy in 1975 made it clear that Levy did not have ownership of the material, and that “Levy’s compensation rights are defined and expressly limited by the terms of the Agreement.” Dylan’s attorney Orin Snyder said in a statement that they were “pleased” with the decision. 

Levy, co-wrote songs from Dylan’s 1976 album Desire (including “Hurricane” and “Isis”). The lawsuit was seeking $7.25 million. Dylan sold the music publishing rights of his entire songwriting catalog to Universal Music Publishing in December 2020, reportedly for more than $300 million. Levy’s widow Claudia then filed the lawsuit the next month, asserting that the estate was entitled to a portion of Dylan’s profits from the sale of the 10 songs in the catalog Jacques Levy helped write. At the time the suit was filed, Snyder said in a statement that the “lawsuit is a sad attempt to unfairly profit off of the recent catalog sale.” 

Dylan recently announced the 16th volume of his long-running Bootleg Series called Springtime in New York, focusing on Dylan’s work from 1980 to 1985. Earlier this month, he streamed Shadow Kingdom, featuring “renditions of songs from his extensive and renowned body of work created especially for this event.” The Bob Dylan Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma—containing more than 100,000 artifacts spanning Dylan’s career—will open in May 2022

Read “Bob Dylan Recasts His Old Selves in Ghostly Concert Film Shadow Kingdom” on the Pitch.

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Day Around the Bay: SF Police Looking for Truck in Western Addition Hit-and-Run

  • San Francisco police are on the hunt for a box truck that struck and injured a man in the Western Addition late Thursday night. The collision was reported around 11:35 p.m. in the 1200 block of Turk Street, leaving a 41-year-old victim being taken to a nearby hospital; their injuries are not considered life-threatening, according to police. [KPIX]
  • It’s been months now since most Californians became eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine—yet these zip codes in Solano and Alameda still have vaccination rates as low as 40%. [ABC7]
  • Despite the current surge in COVID-19 cases, many Bay Area school officials are still adamant that in-class learning will be safe come this fall. [KRON4]
  • Uber and Lyft have also delayed their return to in-office work amid the current pandemic landscape. [Chronicle]
  • At least 43 trees could be cut down in San Jose… just to make way for two digital billboards. [Hoodline]
  • There is a temporary library in the Mission District in the works (but TBD on where it will exactly land). [Mission Local]
  • Disney has joined the likes of other large companies now requiring nonunion employees in the United States to be fully vaccinated before returning to in-person work. [NBC News]
  • From amusement parks to open spaces, here’s how to get the most out of a day trip to Santa Clara. [Hoodline]
  • With much of corporate America mandating vaccines, the idea of a national one is gaining traction—and acceptance. [New York Times]
  • Here’s how families across the country are using the Child Tax Credit: They’re paying off debts, buying food, and bettering their financial situations. [Associated Press]

Top photo: Courtesy of Getty Images/DianeBentleyRaymond

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Census: 1 in 5 dorms, prisons had no data at end of US count

By the end of the U.S. head count last year, the Census Bureau had no data for almost a fifth of the nation’s occupied college dorms, nursing homes and prisons, requiring the statistical agency to make eleventh-hour calls to facilities in an effort to collect information or use a last-resort statistical method to fill in gaps.

Residents of 43,000 of the 227,000 occupied dorms, prisons, military barracks, homeless shelters, group homes and nursing homes remained uncounted as late as December, according to new documents and slide presentations released recently by the Census Bureau in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by a Republican redistricting advocacy group.

The documents hint at the scope of the challenges the bureau faced in conducting the massive count in the midst of a global pandemic, an effort made more difficult by wildfires, hurricanes and attempts by the Trump administration to interfere with the census.

The facilities — known collectively to the bureau as group quarters — were among the most difficult places to count people during the 2020 census because the pandemic forced colleges to shutter dorms and send students home, and nursing homes and other facilities restricted access in an effort to protect vulnerable residents from the virus.

Bureau officials are confident that they have since filled in the gaps using a statistical method they consider reliable, though they acknowledge that the challenge was formidable.

Census Bureau official Barbara LoPresti said recently that data collected from group quarters accounted for a large share of irregularities the statistical agency encountered but the data processing “has not shown any critical errors in data collection that we could not fix.”

“Anomalies in processing aren’t errors, but they can turn into errors if we don’t evaluate them and fix them,” LoPresti told a virtual meeting of outside experts who are evaluating the quality of the 2020 census data. “Our quality (check) process was therefore working.”

Fixing irregularities, though, forced the Census Bureau to delay the release of numbers used for divvying up congressional seats among states in a process known as apportionment. It also pushed back by five months the release of redistricting data used for redrawing congressional and legislative districts.

Though people living in group quarters account for a small share of the overall population — under 3% of the 331 million people living in the U.S. — any inaccurate information can have a big impact on college towns or areas with a large prison population or a military base. That in turn can diminish representation in Congress and the amount of federal funding they are eligible to receive.

“Individual group quarters can be huge in some areas,” Connie Citro, a senior scholar at the Committee on National Statistics, said during the virtual meeting of outside experts.

The Republican advocacy group, Fair Lines America Foundation, sued the Census Bureau for information about how the group quarters count was conducted, saying it’s concerned about its accuracy and wants to make sure anomalies didn’t affect the state population figures used for apportionment. The apportionment numbers were released by the Census Bureau in April, and the redistricting numbers used for drawing congressional and legislative districts are being made public next month.

The group quarters count is under added scrutiny this census because the Census Bureau, for the first time, decided in the middle of crunching numbers to use a last-resort statistical technique called imputation to fill in the data gaps for the dorms, nursing homes and prisons. The method has been used for some time to fill in missing information on individual households.

“If the Census Bureau is permitted to conduct these sorts of methodology changes and implementations behind closed doors … electoral chaos may result from the states’ reliance on potentially defective numbers in conducting redistricting,” Fair Lines said in court papers.

In addition to the 43,000 group quarter addresses that lacked data last December, another 3,500 addresses had counts that were implausible because they were listed as having zero people or were way too high, suggesting there were duplicates. Statisticians removed duplicates, such as college students who were counted at both their dorms and parents’ homes, the documents said.

If they didn’t have any information about residents in a dorm, nursing home or prison, Census Bureau statisticians applied information they already knew about the facility, either from previous surveys, earlier contacts or administrative records, to arrive at the count.

After imputation and duplicate removal, the revised numbers appeared to artificially inflate the count for group quarters by 444,000 people. Instead of an expected 8.1 million residents living in group quarters, there were almost 8.6 million people. The group quarters count in the revised data was noticeably higher for California, New York, Florida and Washington state, the documents and slide presentations showed.

The Census Bureau said in a statement that the numbers in the documents weren’t the final figures and that the 444,000-person difference was addressed in later numbers-crunching. The statistical agency didn’t say what the final figures were or provide details about how the difference was handled.

“The Census Bureau made several improvements to its methodology after the date these slides were created,” the statement said.

___

Follow Mike Schneider on Twitter at h ttps://twitter.com/MikeSchneiderAP

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Georgia Cops Arrest Black Man After Answering Mental Health Call. One Cop Sicks Police Dog on Him for Seemingly No Reason

It’s an odd scene because Moya really doesn’t appear to be resisting officers much. Officers can be seen leading him away when he suddenly goes to the ground and as officers appear to struggle with him, an officer with a canine allowed the dog to attack Moya for seemingly no reason whatsoever.

“He couldn’t move, he couldn’t kick. He couldn’t fight the dog off. He had to lay there while the dog ripped him apart,” attorney L. Chris Stewart told WSB-TV.

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Stewart also told AJC that “Mr. Moya was having a mental health crisis,” and that “This was non-violent, nothing crazy, but his wife felt that an ambulance needed to check him out. They called for help, and instead, a K-9 unit shows up.

“For whatever reason, they tried to handcuff him and detain him even though he was on his own property and hadn’t done anything,” he continued. “They slam him to the ground, which is excessive use of force. Then, out of nowhere, the K-9 officer brings the dog over and lets him loose on Mr. Moya while he’s cuffed on the ground.”

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Video taken of Moya’s arm and posted online shows the severity of his injuries. (Warning: It’s graphic.)

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After being taken to the hospital and treated for his wounds, Moya was charged with one felony count of obstruction and booked into the Fulton County Jail. According to AJC, his attorneys are demanding that charge be dropped.

According to WSB-TV, they are also demanding that all of the officers involved be fired and that an investigation into the incident be launched. A spokesperson for Alpharetta police said an investigation is underway.

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“At this time, no complaint has been filed in relation to this matter, however per our policies, a use-of-force investigation is being conducted in this matter, as is performed for any instance of a use-of-force incident by one of our officers,” Officer Jeffrey Ross said in an emailed statement.

So, there are plenty of questions here.

Why was Moya arrested in the first place if the call was about a mental health crisis and his only charge stems from him allegedly obstructing police from arresting him?

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Why were so many damn cops called to the scene for this? Why were cops, as opposed to mental health professionals, called at all?

And why the hell was there a canine unit present?

From AJC:

“Obviously, when someone calls in about a mental health crisis, a K-9 unit should not be the one that responds to it,” said attorney Madeleine Simmons, who is also representing Moya. “There’s a breakdown there in the training and the processes and policies that they have in this police department.”

Alpharetta’s K-9 policy says the dogs’ handlers “may only use that degree of force reasonable and necessary to apprehend or secure a suspect.”

That policy also instructs the department’s handlers to “exhaust all reasonable means to effect an apprehension without incurring a canine bite.” In addition, department policy requires officers to intervene if they witness an “improper use of force,” records show.

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It seems like a clear-cut case of police brutality, but as we all know, finding justice for Black people tends to be an uphill battle in situations like these.

And, once again, I just have to say…

If you love me and you see me struggling with a mental health crisis, please do not call the police.

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‘Botched’: Arizona GOP’s ballot count ends, troubles persist

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Republicans’ partisan review of the 2020 election results got off to a rocky start when their contractors broke rules for counting ballots and election experts warned the work was dangerous for democracy.

When the auditors stopped the counting and returned the ballots this week, it hadn’t gotten better. In the last week alone, the only audit leader with substantial election experience was locked out of the building, went on the radio to say he was quitting, then reversed course hours later. The review’s Twitter accounts were suspended for breaking the rules. A conservative Republican senator withdrew her support, calling the process “botched.” And the lead auditor confirmed what was long suspected: that his work was almost entirely paid for by supporters of Donald Trump who were active in the former president’s movement to spread false narratives of fraud.

All this came nearly 100 days into a process that was supposed to take “about 60 days,” according to the Senate Republicans who launched it. And it’s not over yet. Contractors are now producing a report on the findings that could take weeks or more to write.

The turmoil casts even more doubt on the conclusions of what backers describe as a “forensic audit” but what experts and critics say is a deeply flawed, partisan process.

“Not even a shred of being salvaged at this point,” said Sen. Paul Boyer, the first Republican state senator to publicly come out against the audit in May. “They’ve botched it at so many points along the way that it’s irrecoverable.”

Boyer’s opposition became less lonely last weekend when another Republican, Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, one of the Legislature’s strongest advocates for stricter voting laws, agreed that “the Trump audit” was “botched.” Along with all 14 Democrats, a majority of the Senate, which commissioned the audit, is now against it.

“I wanted to review our election processes and see what, if anything, could be improved,” Ugenti-Rita wrote on Twitter. “Sadly, it’s now become clear that the audit has been botched.”

The review includes a hand count of ballots, the analysis of voter data and a review of ballot-counting machines. It’s being led by Cyber Ninjas, a software security consultant with no election experience before Trump began trying to overturn the 2020 results. Its owner, Doug Logan, has supported the movement to spread false conspiracies about the vote count in battleground states.

On Wednesday night, Logan ended months of silence about who was paying him when he said a whopping $5.7 million had been contributed by political groups run by prominent Trump supporters including Michael Flynn, Sidney Powell, Patrick Byrne and correspondents from One America News Network. The figure dwarfs the $150,000 to be paid by the Senate.

Logan has said he was approaching the review objectively and his own views are irrelevant. Still, Logan appeared in “The Deep Rig,” a conspiratorial film claiming the election was stolen from Trump. The filmmakers were given access to restricted areas of the ballot-counting operation, including the secure area where ballots were stored.

The review’s integrity took another hit when former Secretary of State Ken Bennett, a Republican whose experience in elections lent credibility to the operation, found himself locked out of the building where the audit was underway because he’d given outside election experts data without authorization, he said.

Bennett told a conservative talk-radio host that he was quitting because he was expected to rubber-stamp the findings. Later the same day, he said he was not quitting after all. Senate President Karen Fann, a Republican, agreed Bennett “will have full access to all audit work spaces, procedures, and data.”

When the Cyber Ninjas’ hand count of ballots didn’t match the county’s official tally, a third count was ordered, this time using paper-counting machines to tally the number of ballots but not the winning candidates. The findings have not been released.

Meanwhile, the timeline for a final report, most recently expected in late July, has continued slipping.

Supporters of the effort blame stonewalling by Maricopa County. The county’s Republican leaders refuse to cooperate, saying “competent auditors” have everything they would need to fully review the vote count.

“It is unfortunate that the county has been recalcitrant,” Republican Sen. Warren Petersen, chair of the Judiciary Committee that issued subpoenas, said recently. “That doesn’t breed trust. It slows things down. It makes things difficult.”

Twitter this week suspended audit-related accounts, including the Arizona review’s official account and several others seeking similar reviews in other states. A Twitter spokesperson said the accounts were suspended “for violating the Twitter rules on platform manipulation and spam.”

The U.S. Justice Department has weighed in, warning any state that is looking to conduct an Arizona-style review that they will need to follow federal law that requires officials to retain and preserve election records, including ballot and ballot materials, for 22 months.

Earlier, Justice Department officials had alerted Arizona officials of the federal requirement. At this point, the Justice Department has not taken any public action beyond the letter. A Justice Department spokesperson this week declined to comment further.

“It’s being purported as though this effort is going to build confidence in our elections, when we know that that is not the motivation behind any of this,” said Tammy Patrick, a senior adviser at the Democracy Fund and a former Maricopa County elections official. “Because if that was the case, then they would tell the truth.”

The operation got off to a rocky start on day one. A journalist pointed out that workers were using blue pens in violation of a fundamental rule of election administration. Blue and black pens are strictly prohibited near ballots because those are the colors voters are told to use, creating the potential for workers to manipulate the count.

Days later, a former Republican state lawmaker who lost his reelection bid — and who would have been a Trump elector to the Electoral College had Trump won — was among the workers counting ballots. The auditors chased conspiracy theories, for a time shining ultraviolet lights to look for watermarks on ballots and taking high-resolution photographs to look for evidence, such as bamboo fibers in the paper, that fraudulent ballots from Asia were slipped into the stack.

“The audit process and its eventual results may be utilized to undermine popular confidence in our electoral system nationwide, thereby enabling the disenfranchisement of millions of Americans,” said Ralph Neas, a civil rights attorney and advocate who wrote a report on the audit’s flaws for The Century Foundation. “These are existential threats to our democracy and they have to be stopped in their tracks.”

___

Associated Press writer Christina A. Cassidy in Atlanta contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Kanye West Announces Second Donda Album Release Event

Kanye West Announces Second Donda Album Release Event

West will play his new album at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Thursday, August 5
Kanye West at the ‘DONDA by Kanye West’ listening event at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on July 22, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Universal Music Group)

Kanye West has announced the release event for his forthcoming album Donda. It’s scheduled for Thursday, August 6 at 9pm EST at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Tickets go on sale Monday, August 2 at 10am EST. Demna Gvasalia is credited as creative director.

Earlier this week, West is moved the release of his long-awaited new album to August 6. Donda had been slated to come out on Friday, July 23, via G.O.O.D. Music and Def Jam Recordings. He premiered the album at a listening event at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on July 22. The event streamed on Apple Music, reportedly breaking the Apple Music Global Livestream. West has been posting on social media from the stadium since the event, appearing to be working on the album from makeshift living quarters. 

Read “What Does Kanye Actually Gain (or Lose) From Sharing His Record Contracts?” on the Pitch.

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Biologist: Typical for Southern Residents to spend early summer elsewhere

The last few months have been marked by a noticeable disappearance of Southern Residents in the Puget Sound and San Juan Islands.

For more than 100 days — up until a brief sighting this week in the San Juans — the J-pod of orcas was not seen in the area.

But Dr. Michael Weiss, a biologist at the Center for Whale Research in Friday Harbor, says this is not as drastic as it sounds — it actually follows the whales’ more recent movements.

“This is pretty typical for their pattern for the last few years, really,” he said. “You don’t really start seeing Southern Residents in the Salish Sea until late July or maybe even into August.”

New orca calf inspires hope that Puget Sound orcas could be recovering

Over the past few years, the orcas haven’t spent much time in the sound during this time of year because of the lack of salmon coming out of the Fraser River in Lower British Columbia. The whales, whose numbers have been dwindling in recent decades due to starvation, have had to go elsewhere to find the salmon they need to survive.

“The salmon supply within the Salish Sea, at least in early summer and late spring, has kind of crashed. Those stocks in the Fraser River have really declined,” Weiss said. “They’re spending a lot more time during that part of the year on the outer coast of Vancouver Island.”

On the outer coast of Vancouver Island, the supply of Chinook — the orcas’ favorite dish — is more bountiful.

Scientists didn’t get too close of a look when all three pods of orcas were spotted this week, so Weiss said they need more time to assess the whales’ health before giving a very accurate report of how they are doing.

“The general sense was that most of them looked fine,” Weiss said. “We did see one of the newest calves, L-125, we have photos of her. And she looks alright. She’s around, she’s with her mom, and she looks normal.”

One of the ways scientists measure how well a pod is doing is by how the newest babies are faring. The first year of an orca’s life generally has a high mortality rate; in 2018, J35, or Talequah, lost her baby just after its birth, and carried its body with her for weeks. A healthy new calf, however, may indicate that the Southern Residents are finding enough to eat in their new choice of Canadian waters.

The hope is that as the summer goes on, they will start showing up more frequently, as has happened in recent years.

“I suspect that by mid-August and through September, we’ll have fairly regular appearances,” Weiss said.

Helping the orcas out are the feds. The National Marine Fisheries Service has added nearly 16,000 square miles of orca habitat along the West Coast to fall under its umbrella of critical habitat protection.

This protected coastline stretches from the Canadian border all the way down to Point Sur in California, covering areas where the orcas are known to find salmon — such as the mouths of rivers where salmon migrate.

In total, more than 18,000 square miles of habitat will be legally protected.