Captive orca will remain at Miami Seaquarium, court rules

MIAMI — More than three years after activist groups sued Miami Seaquarium over its treatment of the captive orca Lolita, a federal appeals court has rejected their petition to reopen the case.

The suit claimed that Seaquarium was violating the Endangered Species Act by confining the orca. But in a decision filed Tuesday, the three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit determined that while Lolita’s case was “unique” due to her age and the continuing medical care present at the aquarium, there was “no threat of serious harm” sufficient to trigger a violation of the federal animal welfare law. The court also noted that there is “no realistic means for returning to the wild without being harmed.”

Lolita, a Southern Resident Killer Whale thought to be about 51 years old, is the star attraction at Seaquarium, a popular tourist attraction on Virginia Key, where she has lived since her capture off Puget Sound in 1970. At 80 feet by 60 feet and 20 feet deep, her tank is the smallest orca aquarium in the country.

Her endangered status means that any move would require a permit from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. While orcas can live up to 80 years in the wild, the median life expectancy is considered between 38 and 50 years old.

PETA was joined by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Orca Network and its founder Howard Garrett in its initial lawsuit against Miami Seaquarium. In January, the federal appeals court upheld a lower court ruling that Lolita could stay at her home of nearly half a century, and the activist groups petitioned for a panel rehearing in February.

— Miami Herald

Flash floods kill at least 10 people on Mallorca

MADRID — Severe storms have killed at least 10 people and left a trail of damage on the Spanish island of Mallorca, officials said on Wednesday.

Two British tourists were among those killed when devastating torrential rains began deluging the popular island late Tuesday, the Civil Guard said.

Three people were rescued by emergency services on Wednesday afternoon after taking refuge in an old train station.

One child remained missing late Wednesday.

Many roads were impassable, and electricity and water supplies have been affected, especially on the eastern side of island.

The situation was particularly dramatic for the 8,000 residents of the community of Sant Llorenc des Cardassar, about 37 miles from the capital, Palma. Footage showed houses inundated with water and cars swept away as roads turned into rivers.

The two Britons died when the taxi they were in was engulfed in a flash flood on the eastern side of the island. The driver is reportedly still missing.

In Sant Llorenc, the former mayor of the town of Arta, Rafel Gili, 71, died. A woman and an 83-year-old man were surprised by the water in their houses, also in Sant Llorenc. Their bodies were recovered during the night.

More dead were discovered in S’Illot, Arta and Sant Llorenc, the emergency services tweeted.

— dpa

Venezuela draws condemnation over opposition councilman’s death

CARACAS, Venezuela — The sudden death of an opposition councilman has led to international condemnation of the Venezuelan government, which had him under police custody.

The U.S. was the latest to join a chorus of criticism. The White House condemned the administration of President Nicolas Maduro for its treatment of so-called political prisoners and promised to ratchet up pressure for alleged rights abuses. “The Trump Administration will continue to increase pressure on the Maduro regime and its insiders until democracy is restored in Venezuela,” according to a statement on Wednesday.

Councilman Fernando Alban died on Monday while being interrogated by Venezuela’s intelligence police for his alleged role in a foiled August plot to assassinate Maduro with explosive drones. His abrupt death has drawn widespread outcry from regional governments and political opponents who suspect torture or foul play. Venezuelan authorities deny these charges and counter that Alban took his own life during questioning.

Venezuela’s Chief Prosecutor Tarek William Saab labeled claims of torture a “rotten lie” on Wednesday and insisted the prisoner died when “he ran towards a panoramic window” and “threw himself into the void” from the 10th story of the intelligence police headquarters in Caracas.

Already Brazil, the European Union and United Nations rebuked Venezuela’s leftist government over Alban’s death.

— Bloomberg News