An animal rights activist group suggested that the world's most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, be replaced by a robot for his yearly ceremony to determine whether spring will come early or late. According to WJAC in Pennsylvania, Punxsutawney Phil takes part in a nationally televised ceremony wherein he looks for his shadow upon exiting his underground burrow on Feb. 2. According to tradition, if Phil sees his shadow, it means there will be six more weeks of winter. The ceremony has been held in Punxsutawney, Penn. for over a century. But last week, the president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) wrote a letter asking the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club to allow Phil to retire before last Sunday's ceremony and be replaced by an animatronic stand-in. According to the letter, groundhogs are prey species who are uncomfortable around humans. The letter suggested allowing Phil to return to the wild. Bill Deeley, president of the Groundhog Club, responded to the letter, stating that the club treated Phil well and inviting PETA leaders to come meet the groundhog and see for themselves. The request was denied. Phil reportedly went through with the ceremony and subsequently failed to see his shadow, predicting an early spring.
A YouTuber tricked an inflammatory news commentator into flying to Prague to accept a fake award last week. Insider reports that United Kingdom media personality Katie Hopkins was invited to Prague on behalf of the Capetown Collective for the Freedom of Speech—a fake group invented by YouTuber Josh Pieters. Hopkins is a former columnist and contestant on The Apprentice who has made a number of inflammatory remarks against feminists, homosexuals, people of color, Muslims and other groups. Last week, Twitter suspended her account for violating its anti-hate policy. Pieters, who runs a popular YouTube channel, convinced the outrageous commentator to fly to Prague and accept a lifetime achievement award that purportedly highlighted her efforts to champion free speech. In a video published last week, Pieters documented the hiring of actors and venue setup before presenting the Campaign to Unify the Nation Trophy—the initials of which spell out an offensive word—to Hopkins. Before handing the smiling commentator the trophy, Pieters gave a speech. “We need freedom of speech—from politicians to journalists, campaign groups to creators, YouTubers to you in this room. Without being able to say what we think, without being able to mock other people, without being able to attack people, we are not free … The tide is changing. The intellectual battle against the Woke Brigade is being won. The snowflakes are melting, and Katie Hopkins … should take a great deal of credit. For the ice caps of political correctness are starting to collapse.” While accepting the award to cheers from hired actors, “Campaign to Unify the Nation Trophy” was displayed on a screen behind her, with the first letter of each word greatly enlarged. After receiving the award, Hopkins said, “It's strange to hear nice things being said about yourself.” She then went on to say disparaging remarks about Asians, Muslims, Greta Thunberg and those suffering from epilepsy. “She has freedom of speech, and so have I,” Pieters told reporters. “We just let her dig her own grave.”
A course in “adulting” offered by the University of California Berkeley is so popular that students had to be turned away. Los Angeles Times reports that UC Berkeley is now offering a pass-or-no pass course that teaches students “adulting.” The course focuses on life skills like time management, budgeting, fitness and nutrition and relationships. Each 90-minute session is led by Jenny Zhou and Belle Lau—juniors majoring in molecular and cell biology and integrative biology, respectively—and featuring a guest expert who gives specialized lectures. Zhou and Lau say students have expressed concerns about facing adult life and have questioned why their parents didn't better prepare them for the future. Lau’s mother, Allie Wu, says that parents “don’t trust their kids enough to do things on their own,” adding that “when they’re at home their parents pretty much take care of everything for them.” Lau was less critical of parents. “We don’t want to blame our parents for us being naive or ignorant,” she said. “It’s our responsibility as college students to know that if we’re struggling in some aspect, there are resources out there for us.” According to KTVU in California, the course has become so popular that 200 applicants were turned away this year. There are 80 “adults in training” currently enrolled in the class.
Animal rescuers say an owl thought to be injured was just “too fat to fly.” According to BBC News, a landowner rescued the owl from a ditch and brought it to Suffolk Owl Sanctuary, believing it to be injured. But staff examined the bird and discovered that it hadn't suffered any injuries at all—it was “simply extremely obese” and “unable to fly effectively.” According to staff, the owl weighed 245 grams—a full third heavier than was healthy. The sanctuary said it was “extremely unusual for wild birds to get into this condition naturally.” They believe her high weight could be due to an increase in food availability thanks to a mild winter. After weeks of carefully monitoring her food intake, staff reported that the owl lost between 20 and 30 grams. The owl was released back into the wild.