District Digest: Pandas and Torahs

Vox continues the District Digest; a helpful guide to news from the D.C. area. 

National Zoo scientists determine baby panda’s cause of death

National Zoo Giant Pandas enjoy fallAfter a full necropsy, scientists found that the 6-day-old panda, born Sept. 16, had underdeveloped lungs, which were likely not providing enough oxygen to the liver. Weighing 4 ounces at its death, the panda may have been premature.

“As unfortunate as this was, this baby and studies of this baby post mortem are contributing to our knowledge of panda reproductive science,” Donald Moore, the Zoo’s Associate Director for Animal Sciences, said.

Zookeepers said that Mei Xiang, the mother, had taken care of the cub, and the death was not her fault. No signs of injury or malnutrition were discovered during the necropsy.

“The birth was a surprise because it hadn’t been clear whether Mei Xiang was still fertile,” said the Washington Post.

The mother didn’t appear upset over the loss of the baby, according to the panda keeper Marty Dearie, and her appetite is returning to normal after the pregnancy. She only weighs 20 pounds under her normal weight of 240 pounds.

Shootings change a NE neighborhood

Five people were shot September 5 on New York Avenue and North Capitol Street NE, and a week before two others were shot in the same location. None were fatal, but the shootings have changed the mood of the neighborhood, according to Robert Samuels, writing for the Washington Post.

“I’m scared for my child to go outside and play anymore. They are not doing enough to clean up the drugs,” a local resident said to the Post.

The effects of “the incident,” as the residents call it, are visible in the area developers have been trying to rebrand as “NoMa.” No visitors have been allowed in the 286-unit apartment building near where the shootings occurred. And according to many residents, the streets have emptied out. No one is using the basketball courts, and no children are playing at the apartment’s jungle gym.

What shocked the neighborhood, according to the residents, is that the victims didn’t cause trouble, and were “regular people” just getting groceries at the corner store like the rest of them.

“And since the incident came upon us, it feels like everything’s changed,” Marlon Terrell, a 55-year-old carpenter, said in an interview with the Washington Post. “At this time, you used to see a lot of people on the street.”

Maryland rabbi to be sentenced in Torah scam

wor_torah-8-24-584Menachem Youlous, 50, pleaded guilty in February to wire and mail fraud in connection with the selling of fraudulent Holocaust Torahs and is scheduled to be sentenced in New York on Thursday, according to the Washington Post. Sentencing guidelines call for between four and five years for each of his two counts, which carry a maximum of 20 years.

The rabbi, who once called himself the “Jewish Indiana Jones,” admitted that he defrauded his own nonprofit organization, Save a Torah, Inc., which attempted to rescue Torahs damaged or displaced by the Holocaust. He defrauded more than 50 people of $862,000 between 2004 and 2010.

Youlus also fabricated stories of rescuing sacred Torah scrolls that survived the Holocaust in order to sell them at an inflated value from his Jewish Bookstore of Greater Washington, according to prosecutors. According to the Washington Post, a January 2010 article about these alleged adventures led to a criminal investigation.

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