Massive swarms of grasshoppers have descended upon Las Vegas this week, and it’s startling some residents.
The winged insects may outnumber the humans in some parts of town, but it’s not something to worry about. The pallid-winged grasshopper is a common desert species, a state entomologist said.
“It appears through history that when we have a wet winter or spring, these things build up often down below Laughlin and even into Arizona,” Jeff Knight, state entomologist with the Nevada Department of Agriculture, said Thursday. “We’ll have flights about this time of the year, migrations, and they’ll move northward.”
Nevada has seen more rain than usual this year. The state has averaged 9.94 inches of rain from January through June, nearly double the average of 5.92 inches, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It’s the third-wettest January to June on record for the state.
For Lyft driver Jessica Palmore, driving through the buggy night along the Strip is startling.
“When I see them, it’s like being in a movie. Never seen nothing like this ever!” Palmore said Friday.
Palmore captured video of the bugs flying above the iconic Luxor Hotel & Casino on Thursday night.
“I know they are harmless, but they make me super itchy seeing them,” she said.
It’s not the first time these flocks of flying insects have swarmed Sin City before.
“We have records clear from the ’60s of it happening, and I have seen it … at least four or five times in my 30-plus years,” Knight said. “There are some special weather conditions that trigger the migration.”
When the grasshopper population gets big, that also triggers the insects to move to a new area, he said.
The bugs are attracted to lights, specifically ultraviolet lights, Knight said. Bright white lights are their common hangout place.
If residents are worried or want to deter the bugs, they can install amber or low-UV lights. The bugs won’t hurt people, though.
“They don’t carry any diseases. They don’t bite,” Knight said. “They’re not even one of the species that we consider a problem. They probably won’t cause much damage in the yard.”
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A 7.1-magnitude earthquake hit Southern California on Friday night — the second one near Ridgecrest in less than two days.
The latest earthquake occurred 11 miles northeast of Ridgecrest, according to the US Geological Survey.
It comes a day after a 6.4-magnitude earthquake centered near Ridgecrest rattled the state Thursday. That earthquake has produced more than 1,400 aftershocks, scientists said.
Multiple fires and injuries have been reported in Ridgecrest — about 150 miles from Los Angeles — after Friday’s earthquake, Kern County spokeswoman Megan Person told CNN. An emergency operations center is being set up in Bakersfield, she said.
In central Los Angeles, Friday’s earthquake felt stronger than the one a day earlier, making buildings rock back and forth forcefully. Donald Castle, who lives in Porterville west of Ridgecrest, said his house shook for between 20 and 25 seconds.
“It was more of a shake than what we had on the Fourth. It lasted longer and was more rolling,” he said.
The shaking was felt all the way in Las Vegas, much like the earthquake a day earlier.
The NBA Summer League game between the New Orleans Pelicans and the New York Knicks in Las Vegas was delayed Friday following reports of the quake. Scoreboards and speakers near the ceiling of the arena shook when the earthquake hit.
Public safety units are being deployed throughout the city ” to ensure safety and inspect infrastructure,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said.
Noted seismologist Lucy Jones said Friday both earthquakes are part of an ongoing sequence, of a “very energetic system.”
Officials are not ruling out that there could be more earthquakes coming.
This is a developing story, please check in for updates.
CNN’s Phil Gast, Braden Goyette, Sheena Jones, Sarah Moon, Steve Almasy and Nicole Chavez contributed to this report.
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Sarah Idan, Miss Iraq, and Adar Gandelsman, Miss Israel, pose for a selfie at a pre-pageant photo shoot in Las Vegas, Nevada.
(CNN)Nearly a month ago, Sarah Idan was in a hand-beaded Swarovski crystal gown representing Iraq in the Miss Universe pageant. It was the first time in 45 years that Iraq had a contestant in the pageant.
“I was on cloud nine, I had been dreaming of that forever,” said Idan, 27, an aspiring singer/songwriter.
But all of that suddenly changed. And it was all over a selfie.
A selfie seen around the world.
Idan and Miss Israel, Adar Gandelsman, took the picture during a pre-pageant photo shoot in Las Vegas.
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“I said ‘let’s take a picture so our people can see we don’t have a problem and we’re actually ambassadors for peace.'”
In the caption, she wrote “Peace and Love from Miss Iraq and Miss Israel.”
Sarah Idan winning the 2016 Miss Iraq USA pageant.
The reaction wasn’t what she expected.
Six days before the pageant, she woke up to threats from the Miss Iraq organization, warning her to take down the photo or she’d be stripped of the title.
Others threatened her life.
She immediately called her family who was living in Iraq.
“My mom was freaking out. I told her ‘Mom, just get out. Get out.’ I told her I’m sorry and asked if she wants me to leave the competition. I was ready to drop out right then.”
Idan says she was also being threatened online because she wore a bikini during one of the preliminary competitions.
But it was the selfie with Miss Israel that had the most serious repercussions. Iraq and Israel don’t have any formal diplomatic relations, so the picture was causing an international outcry.
“When I posted the picture I didn’t think for a second there would be blowback,” Idan says. “I woke up to calls from my family and the Miss Iraq Organization going insane. The death threats I got online were so scary.”
Idan refused to take the photo down.
“The director of the Miss Iraq Organization called me and said they’re getting heat from the ministry. He said I have to take the picture down or they will strip me of my title.”
Dealing with the fallout
A day after she posted the selfie, Idan agreed to put up a second post explaining that she doesn’t support the Israeli government or its policies in the Middle East, and apologized for “anyone who thinks it’s an attack for the Palestinian cause.”
Idan didn’t talk to the media about the controversy so her parents and other family members could quietly leave Iraq.
“People in Iraq recognized my family, they immediately knew who they were. And they were getting death threats.”
Idan, who has dual US and Iraqi citizenship, was trying to get her national ID renewed during the pageant. She needed the ID to get her Iraqi passport renewed.
Before her family fled the country, she said her mother was told at the passport office in Baghdad that Idan would have to reapply for the national ID.
That would require Idan to travel back to Iraq, which she says she’s afraid to do.
Sarah Idan represents Iraq in the 2017 Miss Universe Pageant at The Axis at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino on November 26, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
In the days before the Miss Universe pageant, Idan says she was feeling angry about the fallout from the selfie and being forced to wear a more modest swimsuit in the televised competition.
She says Miss Universe organizers wiped all her bikini photos off the web.
The day of the pageant, she tried to put the drama behind her and focus on representing her country.
“A lot of people have the wrong idea about Iraq, and while we do have extremists, we also have good people,” she says. “Most of the good people go unnoticed.”
She didn’t place in the pageant, and returned home to Los Angeles.
Fear, but no regrets
Today, Idan says she’s still getting death threats on social media over that selfie.
She says she is trying to focus on her career.
But the government of Iraq, she says, has offered no support.
“I’m here trying to paint a good picture about our country and our people, but instead I get a negative response. I have no support whatsoever from the Miss Iraq Organization and our government,” she said.
In a statement to CNN, the Miss Iraq Organization says while the group was supportive of Idan, it didn’t have the funding to provide for all her needs. “In terms of the picture with Miss Israel, we (sic) got a strong attack from the Iraqi street but (sic) we did not say we would strip her title. We told her to clarify what happened.”
Idan said the organization’s statement “is false, I have proof showing they threatened to take my title away if I didn’t remove the picture … They threatened to take my title many times, if (I) didn’t respond to them quick enough, they would threaten to take my title.” Referring to herself and her family, she said the Miss Iraq Organization was “trying to scare us.”
A State Department official said, “we have seen media reports regarding Sarah Idan’s family leaving Iraq. However, due to Privacy Act considerations, it is Department of State policy to not comment on or confirm any individual’s citizenship.”
The Iraqi government has not yet responded to a request for comment from CNN.
In the last week, the controversy reignited when Miss Israel told Israeli TV that Idan’s family was forced to flee their country.
Idan said she wanted to keep a low profile until her family got out of the country. While she said they are safe now, she still worries about what could happen.
“I was crying to my mom and felt like it’s my fault they left, and she said, ‘no, it’s not your fault, we live in a f****d up society.'”
Idan says she has no regrets about posting the photo.
“The government has been scary quiet. And when they’re this quiet, you don’t know what waits for you at home.”
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SAN FRANCISCO — Uber has for years engaged in a worldwide program to deceive the authorities in markets where its low-cost ride-hailing service was being resisted by law enforcement or, in some instances, had been outright banned.
The program, involving a tool called Greyball, uses data collected from the Uber app and other techniques to identify and circumvent officials. Uber used these methods to evade the authorities in cities such as Boston, Paris and Las Vegas, and in countries like Australia, China, Italy and South Korea.
Greyball was part of a broader program called VTOS, short for “violation of terms of service,” which Uber created to root out people it thought were using or targeting its service improperly. The VTOS program, including the Greyball tool, began as early as 2014 and remains in use, predominantly outside the United States. Greyball was approved by Uber’s legal team.
Greyball and the broader VTOS program were described to The New York Times by four current and former Uber employees, who also provided documents. The four spoke on the condition of anonymity because the tools and their use are confidential and because of fear of retaliation by the company.
Uber’s use of Greyball was recorded on video in late 2014, when Erich England, a code enforcement inspector in Portland, Ore., tried to hail an Uber car downtown as part of a sting operation against the company.
At the time, Uber had just started its ride-hailing service in Portland without seeking permission from the city, which later declared the service illegal. To build a case against the company, officers like Mr. England posed as riders, opening the Uber app to hail a car and watching as the miniature vehicles on the screen made their way toward the potential fares.
But unknown to Mr. England and other authorities, some of the digital cars they saw in their Uber apps were never there at all. The Uber drivers they were able to hail also quickly canceled. That was because Uber had tagged Mr. England and his colleagues — essentially Greyballing them as city officials — based on data collected from its app and through other techniques. Uber then served up a fake version of its app that was populated with ghost cars, to evade capture.
At a time when Uber is already under scrutiny for its boundary-pushing workplace culture, the Greyball tool underscores the lengths to which the company will go to win in its business. Uber has long flouted laws and regulations to gain an edge against entrenched transportation providers, a modus operandi that has helped propel the company into more than 70 countries and to a valuation close to $70 billion.
Yet using its app to identify and sidestep authorities in places where regulators said the company was breaking the law goes further in skirting ethical lines — and potentially legal ones, too. Inside Uber, some of those who knew about the VTOS program and how the Greyball tool was being used were troubled by it.
In a statement, Uber said, “This program denies ride requests to users who are violating our terms of service — whether that’s people aiming to physically harm drivers, competitors looking to disrupt our operations, or opponents who collude with officials on secret ‘stings’ meant to entrap drivers.”
Dylan Rivera, a spokesman for the Portland Bureau of Transportation, said in a statement: “We’re very concerned to hear that this practice continued at least into 2015 and affected other cities.
“We take any effort to undermine our efforts to protect the public very seriously,” Mr. Rivera said.
Uber, which lets people hail rides from a smartphone app, operates multiple kinds of services, including a luxury Black Car one in which drivers are commercially licensed. But one Uber service that many regulators have had problems with is the company’s lower-cost service, known as UberX in the United States.
UberX essentially lets people who have passed a cursory background check and vehicle inspection to become an Uber driver quickly. In the past, many cities banned the service and declared it illegal.
That’s because the ability to summon a noncommercial driver — which is how UberX drivers who use their private vehicles are typically categorized — often had no regulations around it. When Uber barreled into new markets, it capitalized on the lack of rules to quickly enlist UberX drivers, who were not commercially licensed, and put them to work before local regulators could prohibit them from doing so.
After authorities caught up, the company and officials generally clashed — Uber has run into legal hurdles with UberX in cities including Austin, Tex., Philadelphia and Tampa, Fla., as well as internationally. Eventually, the two sides came to an agreement, and regulators developed a legal framework for the low-cost service.
That approach has been costly. Law enforcement officials in some cities have impounded or ticketed UberX drivers, with Uber generally picking up those costs on behalf of the drivers. Uber has estimated thousands of dollars in lost revenue for every vehicle impounded and ticket dispensed.
This is where the VTOS program and the use of the Greyball tool came in. When Uber moved into a new city, it appointed a general manager to lead the charge. The manager would try to spot enforcement officers using a set of technologies and techniques.
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One method involved drawing a digital perimeter, or “geofence,” around authorities’ offices on a digital map of the city that Uber monitored. The company watched which people frequently opened and closed the app — a process internally called “eyeballing” — around that location, which signified that the user might be associated with city agencies.
Other techniques included looking at the user’s credit card information and whether that card was tied directly to an institution like a police credit union.
Enforcement officials involved in large-scale sting operations to catch Uber drivers also sometimes bought dozens of cellphones to create different accounts. To circumvent that tactic, Uber employees went to that city’s local electronics stores to look up device numbers of the cheapest mobile phones on sale, which were often the ones bought by city officials, whose budgets were not sizable.
In all, there were at least a dozen or so signifiers in the VTOS program that Uber employees could use to assess whether users were new riders or very likely city officials.
If those clues were not enough to confirm a user’s identity, Uber employees would search social media profiles and other available information online. Once a user was identified as law enforcement, Uber Greyballed him or her, tagging the user with a small piece of code that read Greyball followed by a string of numbers.
When a tagged officer called a car, Uber could scramble a set of ghost cars inside a fake version of the app for that person, or show no cars available at all. If a driver accidentally picked up an officer, Uber occasionally called the driver with instructions to end the ride.
Uber employees said the practices and tools were partly born out of safety measures for drivers in certain countries. In France, Kenya and India, for instance, taxi companies and workers targeted and attacked new Uber drivers.
In those environments, Greyballing started as a way to scramble the locations of UberX drivers to prevent competitors from finding them. Uber said it remained the primary use of the tool today.
But as Uber moved into new markets, its engineers saw that those same techniques and tools could also be used for evading law enforcement. Once the Greyball tool was put in place and tested, Uber engineers created a playbook with a list of tactics and distributed it to general managers in more than a dozen countries across five continents.
At least 50 to 60 people inside Uber knew about Greyball, and some had qualms about whether it was ethical or legal. Greyball was approved by Uber’s legal team, headed by Salle Yoo, the general counsel. Ryan Graves, an early hire who became senior vice president of global operations and a board member, was also aware of the program.
Ms. Yoo and Mr. Graves did not respond to a request for comment.
Outside scholars said they were unsure of the program’s legality. Greyball could be considered a violation of the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, or possibly intentional obstruction of justice, depending on local laws and jurisdictions, said Peter Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University, who also writes for The New York Times.
“With any type of systematic thwarting of the law, you’re flirting with disaster,” Mr. Henning said. “We all take our foot off the gas when we see the police car at the intersection up ahead, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But this goes far beyond avoiding a speed trap.”
To date, Greyballing has been effective. In Portland that day in late 2014, Mr. England, the enforcement officer, did not catch an Uber, according to local reports.
And two weeks after Uber began dispatching drivers in that city, the company reached an agreement with local officials for UberX to be legally available there.
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LAS VEGAS — The first time Ronda Rousey met UFC president Dana White, she asked for a few minutes of his time to make her pitch for creating a women’s division in the UFC.
She was passionate and charismatic. She had a vision for what the sport could do for women and how she could lead the way.
“Fifteen minutes into a 45-minute conversation, I was like, ‘Holy s—, I’m in. If we’re ever going to do it, this is the woman to do so,'” White recalled.
The last time he spoke to Rousey, late Friday night after a brutal first-round knockout loss to Amanda Nunes, White was the one doing all the talking. She barely said a word.
“I must have tears, blood and boogers all over my f—ing jacket. I went in there and hugged her for 45 minutes,” White said. “I told her, ‘I love you so much, and whatever you want to do next, I got your back. You built this. This doesn’t exist without you. You’re the best decision I ever made.'”
Less than five years separated these conversations, and yet everything was different — the world, the sport and, most of all, Ronda Rousey herself.
She wasn’t making the case to fight anymore; White was.
In many ways, Rousey had outgrown a fighter’s life years ago. She talked openly of wanting to get married, have children and start a new life for herself outside of the spotlight. She had movie roles waiting for her. She was signing on for executive producing positions in various other projects. She had made tens of millions of dollars from the UFC, endorsements and other projects. She’d written a bestselling autobiography. She’d become a feminist hero with her message of fierce strength and ambition.
By themselves, none of these things meant she couldn’t still be a champion fighter. But collectively, they meant she didn’t have to be one anymore.
She didn’t have to fight. And for the better part of a year, she’s been trying to find the right reasons to keep doing it.
Was she after revenge or respect?
Was she simply trying to right a wrong after she’d lost to Holly Holm in November 2015?
Maybe it was about legacy and pride. The baddest woman on the planet couldn’t just fold after one loss. She had to try to come back so she could leave with some dignity.
“I want to be able to walk away with my head held high,” Rousey said before the fight. “It’s like a painter looking at what he made and knowing it’s not done yet. You could get away with it. You could sell that painting and it would sell. But you’ll always know it was never as good as it could have been. I don’t want ‘good enough’ to be my legacy.”
Eventually she settled on a mix of pride and revenge. But even the fact that she needed to ask herself why she was fighting spoke volumes.
There’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of opportunities. There’s nothing wrong with wanting more.
That desire to keep pushing and stretching and growing is at the core of her being. It’s part of what made her such a compelling figure to her fans in the first place.
Women are terrible about wanting more, expecting more or demanding more. Rousey went after it and refused to apologize for her ambitions.
She was able to talk that talk because she’d previously always backed it up.
After the loss to Holm though, it was as if she didn’t know how to be if she couldn’t be the invincible superwoman champion. How could she have swagger when she was still so embarrassed at how she’d performed? How could she talk about beating Nunes when she was still beating herself up for losing to Holm?
I walked out of the arena and people were crying, men and women. She has been an amazing role model and amazing partner, an amazing friend.
So she mostly stayed silent before the fight, explaining that there was nothing she could say that would help win the fight in front of her. She would do a few interviews with Ellen DeGeneres and Conan O’Brien and ESPN The Magazine, but she would not participate in the traditional fight-week promotional and media activities.
She was doing things on her terms, not anyone else’s.
That did not sit well. A couple of weeks ago, as I finished a feature story on her comeback attempt, a male colleague said to me, “Boy, I hear she’s just getting worse and worse. She’s storming off the stage in New York. She’s refusing to help promote the fight.”
It was an arresting statement. “Worse and worse?”
In reality, she’d gotten better and better after the loss to Holm. Being out of the spotlight had helped her spirit and psyche.
“I’m just getting my life back,” she said.
But to many men, she was just another woman they didn’t want to be around after she’d fallen apart. There was too much emotion, too much intensity and unpredictability to deal with. So in the great tradition of giving women tranquilizers to help calm their nerves or of women running into the bathroom at work to avoid crying, it was easier to call her broken and bitter than try to understand her.
Rousey’s problem is that it wasn’t just men who had a hard time dealing with her in this state. It was just as uncomfortable for her.
She never truly accepted the loss to Holm. She just tried to compartmentalize it.
But whether it was stubborn competitiveness or residual embarrassment, when she fought Nunes it was as if she’d been frozen in amber from a year ago. She stood in front of her with very little head movement or defense. She got tagged in the face repeatedly with powerful right hands. After 48 seconds of punishment, it was abruptly over.
Rousey stood and leaned against the cage with a sad, defeated look on her face. Nunes came over, grabbed her by the shoulders and paid her respects by saying, “You did so much for this sport.”
The pro-Rousey crowd inside the T-Mobile Arena was stunned and saddened.
“I walked out of the arena and people were crying, men and women,” White said. “She has been an amazing role model and amazing partner, an amazing friend.
“For the millions of people who admire her, she is somebody who is actually worth the admiration. Believe me, there’s a lot of celebrities out there that are popular. I meet them all the time. They are not worth your admiration. They suck. But Ronda Rousey is all of that. She’s incredible.”
White spoke with resignation about Rousey’s future in the sport. This likely is her final fight, though both White and her camp said she’d need some time to make a final decision.
“It’s very rare that people go out on this glorious ride, on top,” he said. “It almost never happens. Either people stick around too long and they get too old or things happened like what happened with Ronda.”
What exactly happened to Ronda these past two fights?
Is she the proverbial goose who finally ran out of golden eggs? Or was this just the inevitable turnover of the fame cycle?
Did she lose confidence in herself once her invincibility was gone? Or did she train the wrong way?
Those are questions she must answer before she decides whether to fight again.
But if this was her last fight, if she has grown out of the fighter’s life, White wanted her to know her legacy was secure.
“None of this happens without Ronda Rousey,” White said. “She built this whole thing.”
Senior writer for ESPN.com
Spent seven years at the Los Angeles Daily News
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