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Asher Elbein is a freelance journalist and fiction writer based in Austin. This story originally featured on the Texas Observer.

That was when the kudu made their move, disappearing through the fallen perimeter fences on the ranch’s border. Native to Africa, the kudu is a brown-and-white-striped antelope species with long spiraling horns. The Y.O. Ranch population was ready for life on the lam. By the time ranch hands managed to repair the fences and conduct an animal count, virtually the whole herd—20 of 26 kudu—had escaped.

Exotic game ranches like the Y.O. Ranch have spread throughout Texas since the 1950s, providing hunters with homegrown safaris and passing motorists with glimpses of the surreal. According to Charlie Seale, executive director of the Kerrville-based Exotic Wildlife Association (EWA), 5,000 Texas ranches now contain at least one exotic animal species. Some of these are small operations; others are huge, like South Texas’ King Ranch, which is the state’s largest at 825,000 acres. Together, they host a population of more than 2 million “Texotics” representing 135 species. The result is a roughly $1.3 billion industry that generates more than 14,300 jobs annually, largely in otherwise struggling rural areas.

Dama gazelle at the Y.O. Ranch Headquarters. Scott Ball

The Y.O. Ranch headquarters sits amid the scrubby hills of Kerr County, along highways lined with cattle fences. Driving there on a brisk January morning, I passed a butcher’s board of native roadkill, but also a surprising share of dead axis deer from India. Past the ranch’s gates, Thomson’s gazelle and zebra, both with their young, grazed alongside longhorn cattle in patches of dry forest.

Before Europeans arrived in the 1500s, the rangelands of Texas were grazed largely by bison and pronghorn. Cattlemen who arrived in the mid-1700s mostly pushed those species out by 1878, replacing them with the nation’s first widespread exotic ruminants—animals like cattle, sheep, and goats—and later enclosing the vast pasturelands in fencing. The biggest livestock in Texas are cattle—the animals that gave the Y.O. Ranch its start.

In its heyday in the 1880s, the property was 566,000 acres, driving some 300,000 cattle up to East Coast markets, said the ranch’s tourism director, Debbie Hagebusch. But in the late 1950s, droughts and unstable livestock markets began to hit ranchers like Y.O. owner Charles Schreiner III particularly hard. So in the 1950s, Schreiner began introducing excess animals purchased from the San Antonio Zoo—axis deer, blackbuck, aoudad—for hunting. In 1967, he and other ranchers interested in stocking exotic game formed a group that would eventually become the Exotic Wildlife Association, a trade association and lobbying arm of the business.

A tour truck is tall enough for visitors to be able to feed the giraffes. Scott Ball

The Y.O. Ranch changed hands and tacked “Headquarters” to its name in 2023. Along with free-range hunting on the ranchland, the property maintains two fenced-in paddocks for guided game tours, allowing wildlife tourists to observe 25 species. In January, Hagebusch, a cheery woman with graying blond hair, piled a friend and me into an ATV and drove us out into the tour paddocks, rattling off facts about the creatures we passed.

“The giraffes are like our celebrities,” Hagebusch said, gesturing to the youngest animal. “Especially this one. She’s a little cookie monster.”

Debbie Hagebusch checks in with a giraffe at the Y.O. Ranch Headquarters. Scott Ball

Onward we went through the paddock, through winter grass and sun-dappled stretches of white stone. Here were the herds of little blackbuck from Pakistan, dark males ushering around harems of tawny does, keeping a wary eye out for competitors. There by the fence line were dignified groups of shaggy, oil-furred waterbuck, native to Africa, eyeing a bevy of calves. “In a zoo environment, they have a baby and they call in the news media,” Hagebusch said, pointing to the young. “Here, it’s such a natural thing. They breed just like they do in the wild.”

Out on the open lands of the ranch, various species of deer and antelope wander freely, available in hunting packages that range from $2,850 (four-horned sheep) to $18,350 (kudu). Only around 10 percent of the animals on most ranches are killed by hunters, said Eric White, the ranch manager. Most of the animals targeted by trophy seekers are older, past their prime breeding age. For ranches like the Y.O., hunting—for both natives and exotics—is both a source of revenue and a management tool: It keeps populations in check, makes room for new bloodlines, and keeps a healthy amount of competition among breeding males.

As attitudes toward trophy hunting hardened in the 1990s, zoos stopped selling their overstock to private ranches, forcing the exotic game business to sustain itself through private breeding. Today, ranchers sell to other breeders through auctions; they also trade animals privately, mixing and matching bloodlines with scrupulous care. This can be pricey: A breeder zebra can cost up to $5,500; an addax comes in between $4,500 and $6,500.

Zonkey (left) and zebra roam the ranch. Scott Ball

For hunting to be economically sustainable, however, exotic animals need to be able to survive and reproduce on their own, without year-round feeding or special breeding programs. Since it’s also expensive to keep food out year-round, it’s to the ranchers’ benefit to make sure their animals aren’t having a disproportionate impact on native vegetation and that they aren’t in direct competition with other species. Seale, the EWA director, lays it out this way: If you have a large population of grass grazers, like cattle, you stock animals that browse on leafy vegetation and new growth, like white-tailed deer, greater kudu, and aoudad. If you have a whitetail hunting ranch, you stock grazers like blackbuck and oryx. (In the Hill Country, everything eats the acorn crop.)

As a result of these concerted breeding efforts, some endangered species are now much more common in their Texas enclaves than they are in their native lands. Antelope like the scimitar-horned oryx, addax, and the elfin dama gazelle are all virtually extinct in the wild. All are found on the Y.O. Ranch Headquarters. “When I first got here [in 1986], we were actually sending blackbuck back to Pakistan,” White says. “We’d catch them off the ranch and take them to an Air Force base in San Antonio, and they’d fly them back to try and establish breeding populations in parks out there.”

The conservation aspect of wild game ranching is something the EWA heavily emphasizes. “You give the animal an economic value. You give the rancher a reason to raise that animal and help it flourish,” Seale says. “Probably one of our most important species that we had was the scimitar-horned oryx, which haven’t been seen in the wild in decades. Here in Texas, our last population estimate was 15,000. That’s a result of being allowed to freely trade, buy, and sell these animals.”

Once stocked, the inhabitants of exotic game ranches occupy the same liminal existence as the native species they share land with: simultaneously managed and wild, fending for themselves behind the protected barrier of a rancher’s fence. But those barriers are not impenetrable.

The nilgai, the second-largest antelope in the world, was introduced onto the King Ranch in 1930 by Caesar Kleberg, its conservation-minded owner. By the 1970s, herds were grazing wild along the highways outside South Texas towns.

In the 1980s, the King Ranch began selling both nilgai hunts and nilgai meat, partially for profit and partially to control their numbers. A one-day hunt now costs $900 per hunter, plus a harvest fee of $1,200 for a bull or $500 for a cow, says Weston Koehler, King Ranch wildlife manager. Today, between commercial hunts, ranch management, and the activities of private leases, around 1,000 nilgai are harvested on the King Ranch per year.

The herd that moves through King Ranch land numbers around 15,000, part of a larger South Texas population of an estimated 30,000. Females can have a range of up to 50,000 acres, slipping under cattle fences and wandering through countless adjoining ranches, borderland parks like the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Reserve and the Sabal Palm Sanctuary, and possibly into Mexico. “They occupy every habitat type out here that we have,” Koehler says. “A lot of these ranches around here probably got their nilgai from King Ranch.”

Nilgai mostly get media attention now as potential vectors of diseases like cattle fever, a nasty ailment that the USDA managed to eliminate from the United States in the 1940s, except for a permanent quarantine zone along the Texas-Mexico border. Nilgai’s nomadic habits take them in and out of this zone at will, and unlike white-tailed deer or cattle, which can be easily treated at feeding stations laced with the anti-tick chemical ivermectin, nilgai are far too wary to come to bait. In an effort to deal with the problem, the USDA has carried out a spring cull of the nilgai population in Laguna Atascosa.

The discussion of exotics often defaults to economic concerns like agriculture or hunting. Yet the actual ecological impact of nilgai on the landscape remains a mystery. Game cameras show that the passageways nilgai open up under cattle fences are used by a diverse range of wildlife, says David Hewitt, executive director of the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, which might help populations separated by fences prevent inbreeding. Beyond that, things get sketchy: Could their grazing on grass and brush influence fire frequency? Could their habit of leaving large piles of droppings in certain spots act as a nutrient-rich nursery to dispersed seeds? And it’s not just the nilgai. The long-term ecological implications of the many new herbivore species in Texas have gone largely unstudied.

One school of thought presents exotics as damaging invaders that crowd out native species. Feral hogs—another animal that got a big boost from hunting ranches—have received plenty of press due to booming numbers and the severe agricultural damage they inflict. In West Texas, ongoing efforts to curtail the aoudad population have been partially driven by a desire to prevent competition when reintroducing native desert bighorn sheep, which were exterminated by hunting and disease in the 1960s. And a 1992 Texas Parks and Wildlife publication warned that species like axis deer and blackbuck could out-compete white-tailed deer when confined to plots of only native vegetation and left unhunted.

Fears of competition between natives and exotics are heightened by the fact that rangelands have been shrinking, not growing. Most of the large Texas ranches have been broken up and sold off, their open spaces nibbled away by development. “That’s the problem we have all over the world with wildlife,” says White, the ranch manager. “When I came to work at the Y.O., it was 62,000 acres. We’re 14,000 acres now. … When you start cutting it up, the ecosystems get cut up.”

Llama at the Y.O. Ranch Headquarters. Scott Ball

But these questions are much more complex than the simple dichotomy of “exotic” and “native” suggests, argues Erick Lundgren, a doctoral student who studies novel ecosystems at the University of Technology Sydney. The discourse around so-called invasive species is relatively new and often functions more as a cultural norm than a scientific metric, Lundgren says. If you choose to ignore where animals come from and study only their practical ecology, there’s often no measurable difference between how they live on the landscape. While introduced species can boom and cause ecosystem-wide changes, so, too, can uncontrolled populations of native species like white-tailed deer, which reshape forests by eating away native vegetation. Both can see massive population declines as well. “We tend to understand those changes by natives as part of structural ecological change, like the loss of apex predators or the habitat fragmentation,” Lundgren says. Why not then extend the same grace to exotic animals?

Modern views of natural systems often overlook the fact that ecology and evolution have a much longer clock than we usually think, says John Rowan, a paleontologist at the University of Massachusetts. Twelve thousand years ago, the North American plains and forests held a megadiversity of herbivores—from the extremely large, like elephants and ground sloths, to those resembling animals found on Texas ranches today, such as deer, pronghorn, elk, horses, camels, llamas, and peccaries. “That large herbivores trample and consume vegetation should come as no surprise to anyone that has spent time on safari in an African savanna,” Rowan says. “In fact, virtually all of Earth’s terrestrial ecosystems were filled with megafauna that did the same. Perhaps the presumed novel effects of introduced herbivores aren’t that novel after all.”

The extinctions that rolled through the continent at the end of the ice age killed off the largest animals and rippled out through the ecosystem. But in a new study, Lundgren, Rowan, and colleagues argue that exotics have the capacity to take on many of the ecological roles once held by vanished beasts. Wild horses, extinct in North America after the ice age, likely dug wells and cleared away old grass, possibly making way for deer and other browsers. Now feral burros do the same; so, perhaps, do the zebras on Texas game ranches. Rooting in the soil by feral hogs or by the wart hogs that are now appearing in South Texas turns over the earth, Lundgren says, helping native plants take up more nutrients—just as enormous, extinct peccaries did in the Pleistocene. In these cases, apparently new species are shaping the landscape in older ways.

But the ice age comparison offers only a vague model, Lundgren says. What’s happening in Texas now is entirely unprecedented: No other ecosystem that we know of in Earth’s history has such a massive assemblage of relatively small-bodied hoofed mammals, without anything larger than a cow. For someone interested in evolution, that’s exciting. “The fact that all these species have started to pop up wild in Texas, and there are these crazy amalgam communities, it’s a really dynamic moment in the evolution of a new North American fauna,” Lundgren says. “It’s just awesome.”

For humans, the cultural line between wilderness and captivity begins and ends at the fence. An exotic inside the fence is contained, an ornament or a potential trophy; to many, an exotic outside is an enigma, a nuisance, a potential invader. But to the animals themselves, the fence barely matters. They’re on the same landscape either way, and subject to the same natural processes. When the rheas raise chicks on the Y.O. Ranch Headquarters, red-tailed hawks and other raptors carry them off. Coyotes—clever, adaptable, and opportunistic—kill a large number of young animals and sometimes adults as well.

And coyotes and suburbanites with ready cash aren’t the only hunters out there. One morning on the King Ranch, Koehler was guiding a hunter toward an open flat amid the thick bushes where they hoped to bag a nilgai. Something bellowed in the distance; brush crashed and tree limbs broke. They set up the guns, assuming a herd was about to break cover. Then five nilgai tore across the flat. A young nilgai the size of a white-tailed deer flew in front of the startled hunters; from behind her a mountain lion darted across and lunged up for her neck. “We watched that mountain lion chase that young nilgai for about 300 yards before they got in the thick brush,” Koehler says. “And there’s no telling what happened after that.”

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The Deadliest Animals In America, Ranked

What’s America’s most terrifying animal?

Oh, the possibilities. Perhaps you’ve chosen the grizzly bear, which can charge at its prey as fast as 30 miles per hour. Or the black widow spider, whose female’s venom is more dangerous than that of a rattlesnake. There are plenty of ways to get killed by an animal in America—and plenty of scary species to choose from. But the most dangerous critters might not be the ones you’re ready to scapegoat.

Researchers from Stanford University recently updated a major analysis of animal-related deaths in the U.S. Their results, which were published in March 2023 in the journal Wilderness and Environmental Medicine, use data from a Centers for Disease Control database to dig into every single recorded death caused by an animal—be it by bite, attack, or simply “envenomation,” the fancy word for what happens when you run afoul of a venomous critter.

After getting ahold of the data, the researchers broke it down into some truly hair-raising categories. Contact with scorpions? Check. Being bitten or crushed by a reptile? Sure. (However, people who died from eating poisonous animals were excluded from the analysis—that’s not really the animal’s fault.)

Then, after sorting the data, it was time to drill down into the frequency of deaths. And depending on how you view it, the numbers were either terrifying or heartening.

A total of 1,610 people—4.8 people per 10 million—died of animal-related causes every year between 2008 and 2023. That’s just a teensy fraction of the 2.7 million people who died in, say, 2023—a whopping 84,400 deaths for every 10 million people. Okay, so animal-related deaths are pretty dang rare. And they’re all due to unfortunate human run-ins with dangerous, exotic animals, right?

Wrong. It turns out that “other mammals,” a bucket category covering everything from cows to horses to raccoons, were the most dangerous on the list, causing 1.7 deaths per 10 million people every year. (Other research has shown that most of the deaths in this category involve farm animals like cows and horses.) Hornets, wasps, and bees were slightly less deadly (1.4), and dogs came in next at 0.8.

And the “scarier” animals on the list, like sharks and bears, weren’t really that deadly at all: Marine animals caused fewer than one fatality a year, and crocodiles less than one. Spider deaths were actually down—they decreased from 14 percent of all animal-related deaths in 1950 to 7 percent in 2023. And nonvenomous animals were more dangerous than venomous ones; they represented 57 percent of all deaths to venomous critters’ 43.

Here are the rankings for some of the most (and least) deadly animals:

Other mammals (cows, horses, raccoons and the like)—36 percent

Hornets, wasps, and bees—30 percent

Dog—17 percent

Venomous spiders—3 percent

Venomous snakes and lizards—3 percent

Centipedes and venomous millipedes—0 percent

Crocodile—0 percent

Scorpions—0 percent

Rats—0 percent

72 percent of the people who died at the hands (or, uh, hooves) of a cow, were male. If you’re female, you might want to look around you before gloating. 67 percent of the three deaths attributed to centipedes and venomous millipedes were women.

Sex isn’t the only factor when it comes to animal attacks and accidents. Half of the people who died were between 35 and 64 years of age, and 66 percent of those deaths were because of wasps and hornets. The younger or older the person, the more likely they are to be killed by a nonvenomous animal. And kids four years and younger were four times more likely to die from a dog attack than any other age group except 65+.

The sobering news doesn’t stop there: Your race and your region can increase your likelihood of dying. People who live in the South represented nearly half of the “other mammals” deaths, and nearly 60 percent of deaths from venomous animals, too. All in all, a full 49 percent of every animal-related death took place in the South. And Native American or Alaska Native people died disproportionately from dog bites and “other mammals”—nearly twice the rate of people of other races.

These disparities could be related to things like access to hospitals—a documented lack in rural communities like those in the South. But they also reflect larger national trends. Native American people, for example, live 4.4 years less than the average U.S. population, and have a history of inadequate health care access, poverty, and discrimination.

The report deals with tragedy—it is an accounting of death, after all. But perhaps even more tragic is the fact that so many of the deaths are preventable. Epenephrine delivery devices like EpiPens, for example, are the gold standard when it comes to anaphylaxis caused by bee stings. However, EpiPens are expensive, and some patients report charges as high as $12,000 for a single emergency room visit for a bee sting.

Given that the data in the study comes from death certificates, which are notoriously inaccurate, it’s impossible to tell how much the data reflects reality. And since the study only looks at fatalities, not injuries, it’s not clear how many people come close to death but make it out alive. But overall, the message of the study is surprisingly heartening for an analysis of death. You may be scared of scorpions and bears, but animal interactions rarely turn deadly. And besides: given humans’ ability to wipe out plants, animals, and each other, we’re still one of the most dangerous species in America … and on Earth.

This story was updated on June 7, 2023.

Changing The Replication Factor In Cassandra

Apache Cassandra is a highly scalable, distributed, and fault-tolerant NoSQL database that is widely used for managing large amounts of structured data across multiple commodity servers. One of the key features of Cassandra is its ability to replicate data across multiple nodes in a cluster, providing fault tolerance and high availability. In this article, we will discuss how to change the replication factor of a Cassandra cluster, and the considerations to keep in mind when doing so.

Introduction to Replication Factor

The replication factor in Cassandra refers to the number of copies of each piece of data that are stored across the nodes in a cluster. When a new piece of data is written to a Cassandra cluster, it is automatically replicated to a specified number of nodes, based on the replication factor. For example, if the replication factor is set to 3, each piece of data will be stored on 3 different nodes in the cluster.

The replication factor can be set at the keyspace level, or at the individual table level. This means that you can have different replication factors for different tables in the same keyspace. The replication factor is set when the keyspace is created and can be modified at a later time.

Changing the Replication Factor

There are two main ways to change the replication factor of a Cassandra cluster −

Using the ALTER KEYSPACE statement

The ALTER KEYSPACE statement is used to modify the properties of an existing keyspace, including the replication factor. The syntax for changing the replication factor using the ALTER KEYSPACE statement is as follows −

ALTER KEYSPACE keyspace_name WITH REPLICATION = {'class': 'NetworkTopologyStrategy', 'datacenter1': 3, 'datacenter2': 2};

In this example, the replication factor is being set to 3 for datacenter1 and 2 for datacenter2. This is a way to set different replication factors for different data centers and this is called NetworkTopologyStrategy.

Using the CREATE KEYSPACE statement

You can also change the replication factor of a keyspace by recreating it with a different replication factor. The CREATE KEYSPACE statement is used to create a new keyspace, and it can be used to recreate an existing keyspace with a modified replication factor.

The syntax for recreating a keyspace with a different replication factor is as follows −

CREATE KEYSPACE keyspace_name WITH REPLICATION = {'class': 'SimpleStrategy', 'replication_factor': 3};

In this example, the replication factor is being set to 3. SimpleStrategy is another way to set the replication factor which is the same for all data centers.

Considerations when Changing the Replication Factor

There are a few things to keep in mind when changing the replication factor of a Cassandra cluster −

Increasing the replication factor will increase the amount of storage and network bandwidth required for the cluster.

Decreasing the replication factor will decrease the amount of storage and network bandwidth required for the cluster, but it will also decrease the level of fault tolerance.

Changing the replication factor will require the movement of data within the cluster, which can cause increased write latency and increased load on the cluster.

When changing the replication factor, it is important to make sure that the new replication factor is set correctly, and that the keyspace is properly configured.

When you reduce the replication factor, the existing data on the removed replicas need to be streamed to the remaining replicas. If the cluster is write-heavy during the streaming process, it can cause increased write latency and decreased read performance.

Changing the replication factor should only be done during a maintenance window when the traffic on the cluster is low, to minimize the impact on the performance of the cluster.

NetworkTopologyStrategy can be used when you have multiple data centers and you want different replication factors for different data centers. SimpleStrategy should be used if you have a single data center and the replication factor will be the same for all nodes.

Point to take care of when changing the replication factor in Cassandra

Consistency − Cassandra provides tunable consistency, which allows you to trade-off consistency for availability. Changing the replication factor can have an impact on consistency, as it determines the number of nodes that must acknowledge a write before it is considered successful. When the replication factor is increased, it can improve consistency by acknowledging writes from more nodes. However, increasing the replication factor can also decrease availability by requiring more nodes to be available for writes to succeed.

Node Failure and Data Loss − The replication factor is the key factor in data loss prevention and survival of node failure. When the replication factor is increased, the risk of data loss is reduced as there are more copies of the data stored in different nodes. However, increasing the replication factor can also increase the likelihood of experiencing a split-brain scenario, where different nodes in a cluster have different versions of the same data.

Updating Schema − Changing the replication factor can also have an impact on the schema of a Cassandra cluster. For example, when increasing the replication factor, new columns and tables may need to be added to accommodate the additional replicas. It is important to consider the impact on the schema when changing the replication factor and to update the schema accordingly.

Monitoring − After changing the replication factor, it is important to monitor the cluster to ensure that the new replication factor is working as expected. This includes monitoring metrics such as write latency, read latency, and the number of failed writes. Monitoring can also help identify any issues that may arise as a result of changing the replication factor, such as network congestion or a lack of available disk space.

It’s always important to consider the needs of your specific use case and the potential risks and drawbacks of changing the replication factor. It’s also recommended to do testing and monitoring in a test environment before making any changes in production.


Autonomous Vehicle Landscape 2023: The Leaders Of Self

Self-Driving Car is yet to take a leap from sci-fi to real-world application. With rising debates and discussions at scale regarding the rollout of the


Investment: US$3 billion Note: Waymo makes its own sensors in-house.    


Investment: US$9+ billion Note: A new vehicle has been developed with Honda—a unit purpose-built for autonomous ride-sharing. General Motors went from laggard to being one of the leaders when it bought the company formerly known as Cruise Automation in 2023. The automaker’s own engineers were trying to figure out how to get a self-driving car to make complicated turns when they discovered that Cruise had made more progress retrofitting founder Kyle Vogt’s Audi A4 with an autonomous system. GM paid more than US$1 billion for Cruise and started developing self-driving electric cars. Today, with more than US$9 billion in capital raised from parent GM and partners Honda Motor Co., SoftBank Vision Fund, and T. Rowe Price, Cruise LLC is trying to launch an autonomous ride-hailing service in San Francisco. GM, the majority owner of Cruise, has remained mum on when the service will launch since the company missed its target in December 2023, but executives say they hope it will happen soon. In preparation, Cruise has hundreds of its cars being tested in San Francisco. Vogt, now the company’s chief technical officer, has said that if a car can navigate San Francisco, it can handle any kind of driving. Cruise is using modified versions of GM’s Chevrolet Bolt electric car.    

Argo AI

Investment: US$2.6 billion (VW); US$1 billion (Ford) Note: Deep pockets and wide reach from a pairing of two of the world’s largest automakers. Volkswagen AG and Ford Motor Co. vaulted into the pantheon of self-driving leaders by joining forces in July 2023 to jointly develop autonomous and electric vehicles. VW agreed to contribute US$2.6 billion to Argo AI, Ford’s self-driving partner. That boosted the autonomous startup’s valuation to US$7 billion. The pairing of VW, the world’s largest automaker, with Ford, the sixth-largest, has created a global goliath. Volkswagen could have gone with any number of autonomous players, according to Sam Abuelsamid, principal analyst with Navigant Research. “The fact that they’re willing to put their money behind Argo is a vote of confidence that they think Argo is on the right track,” he said. VW is contributing more than just money. In addition to US$1 billion in cash, the German automaker is folding its Autonomous Intelligent Driving unit into Argo’s operations. That gives Argo an additional 200 engineers, bringing its staff total to more than 900. It also adds a European headquarters in Munich. Argo is run by CEO Bryan Salesky, once a leading figure in Google’s self-driving car project—now known as Waymo—and Pete Rander, previously a founder of Uber’s self-driving program. Salesky has said he intends to begin testing autonomous vehicles in Europe as early as this year. In the U.S., Argo already has Robo-taxi and driverless delivery pilot programs in Miami, Washington, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Austin, Texas, and Palo Alto, Calif.    


Investment: US$700+ million Note: Aurora’s brain trust—its co-founders previously led automated driving development for Alphabet, Tesla, and Uber. Aurora Innovation’s biggest claim to fame may be its rock star cast of automated driving nerds. CEO Chris Urmson started Alphabet Inc.’s self-driving project. Co-founder Sterling Anderson led the team that developed Autopilot for Tesla Inc. And Chief Technology Officer Drew Bagnell is a robotics professor at Carnegie Mellon University who helped found Uber Technologies Inc.’s self-driving center in Pittsburgh. The three-year-old startup also has some big-name investors, including Hyundai Motor Group, chúng tôi Inc., and Sequoia Capital. Aurora is testing its self-driving software on vehicles from several automakers, including Hyundai and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV. But it doesn’t share its intellectual property with them, and it has insisted on remaining a neutral player in the race to autonomy. It rebuffed an acquisition overture from Volkswagen, the world’s largest automaker, in 2023 and later broke off its partnership with the company to maintain its ability to work with multiple carmakers.    


Investment: Undisclosed Note: Bringing together a supplier and a consumer-facing company could be a formidable combination. No one would have imagined a decade ago that a vestige of bankrupt GM would be a player in the self-driving revolution. But Aptiv Plc, the former Delphi Automotive parts unit that split out its powertrain business, is the rare auto supplier that seems to have successfully transformed itself into a serious autonomous vehicle (AV) player. It did so with a string of tech acquisitions to piece together a self-driving system it’s developing with Intel Corp. The largest was self-driving startup Nutonomy, which had been running tests of driverless cars in Boston and Singapore at city speeds. Since buying the company in late 2023, the team has grown from about 120 people to more than 700 in Boston, Singapore, Pittsburgh, Las Vegas, and Shanghai, according to Chief Technology Officer Glen De Vos.

A Different Kind Of Texas Candidate

A Different Kind of Texas Candidate Gina Ortiz Jones (CAS’03, GRS’03) is running for office because of Trump

Gina Ortiz Jones (CAS’03, GRS’03) is trying to turn a US House of Representatives seat blue in the reddest of red states: Texas. Photo by Ana Isabel

If Gina Ortiz Jones beats the Republican incumbent to win the US House of Representative seat in the Texas 23rd district this November, she will be the first woman to represent her district. She will also be the first Filipina American and the first lesbian to hold a US House seat from Texas. The Democrat and former Air Force intelligence officer might also be part of the so-called Blue Wave to tip the balance of power in Washington, D.C., against President Donald Trump.

In fact, it was Trump’s 2023 election, which Jones (CAS’03, GRS’03) calls a “gut check,” that persuaded her to quit her job at the Office of the United States Trade Representative and return home to San Antonio to start her campaign. She won the Democratic primary in March and a runoff in May and will face two-term Republican Representative Will Hurd, a former CIA agent, in the 2023 midterm election.

Ortiz Jones graduated from BU with a bachelor’s degree in East Asian studies and a master’s degree in economics. She served with Air Force intelligence in Iraq and elsewhere from 2003 to 2006, and in a variety of other intelligence positions before joining the trade office in 2023.

Her district, which stretches from San Antonio to the outskirts of El Paso in southwest Texas, traditionally leans Republican, but the seat has been swapped back and forth between the parties for a decade. Trump’s stance on immigration—including separating children of asylum-seekers from their parents—should help Ortiz Jones with the more than two-thirds of voters who identify as Hispanic.

“This is a district that very much mirrors the challenges and opportunities we face as a country,” she says. “It’s a majority-minority district, something the whole country will be by 2040. We talk about the Wall and immigration policy because 40 percent of the US-Mexico border is in this district. A lot of the issues being discussed nationally are playing out in this district.”

Bostonia spoke with Ortiz Jones last week about her Congressional race and some of the issues confronting voters.

Bostonia: Is the United States a country in crisis?

Ortiz Jones: It depends who you talk to. There are some legal experts who would argue we are in a constitutional crisis. I think the election was such a significant emotional event for me because I’ve seen what it looks like in other countries when women and minorities are targeted. I’ve seen what it looks like when a government disregards conflict of interest, and hollows out the middle class, and ultimately their democracy. I’ve also seen what happens when good people don’t stand up and fight back. I am trying to respond by seeking public service again.

How do you respond to things like the separation of immigrant families?

It’s egregious. The pictures we’ve seen! With 40 percent of the border in the district, I think we see this issue just a little bit differently than the rest of the country. But frankly, as Americans, we all know that seeing a young child, a toddler, crying as they’re being held in a cage like an animal—that’s not the right thing to do. It’s so far from American, it’s unbelievable. It’s atrocious. I think we need leaders who are going to speak up and not be silent when this is happening. I look forward to doing that.

I think I also see it differently as a first-generation American myself. My country is special. There are not a lot of other countries where the daughter of someone who came to the country as a domestic helper can run for Congress. That doesn’t just happen. It happens because this country has historically understood that immigrants are the lifeblood of our country, and I think we need representatives who recognize that. When you look back, not only are compassionate immigration policies the right thing to do, but they make economic sense.

You have both intelligence experience and international trade experience. What did you think of Trump’s summit with Kim Jong Un?

It’s concerning on a number of levels. Is it historic that the two met? Yes. But we have no idea what they talked about. It sure does look like a wonderful photo opportunity and not a lot of substance. And what’s not lost on me is that we validated a dictator, someone with a known record of attacking his own people, someone who sent back an American who was tortured and in awful physical shape and died shortly thereafter.

But I don’t only think of the North Korea deal, but of what President Trump did before that at the G7 summit. Frankly, the way he’s treated our allies is just unbelievable. It shows what happens when you don’t know our history, don’t care about our history. We need members of Congress who are going to be a check on these things.

Given your service in intelligence in the Middle East, where do you stand on “enhanced interrogations” and waterboarding, things Trump is talking about bringing back?

Look, torture is against our values and has no place in our national security. That’s how I feel about that.

You came to BU on an ROTC scholarship, so you were bound by the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the military at that time. That meant keeping secrets?

It was actually a very deep secret. I could not be as open as I would have liked, because I needed that scholarship to stay at BU. I knew what I had to do. And when I served in the Air Force, that policy applied to me too. If someone is ready and willing to serve their country, there shouldn’t be any policies—especially policies rooted in bigotry—that would prevent that.

When I think of national security, I don’t just think of Iraq, China, Russia—I think of the pipeline of talent into national security. I don’t think we think about that nearly enough. I think it’s outrageous that someone like President Trump, who’s never served a day in uniform, or anyone else in his administration is intent on crafting these policies that strip away rights from the LGBT community, including serving in our military. I think it’s just egregious, and I look forward to ensuring that it doesn’t happen.

We think of Texas as the reddest of red states. Has it been difficult campaigning there?

I must say Texas can at times get a bad rap. There’s a lot of opportunity here. I am the product of Texas just as much as some of the other people you hear about. We won our primary. I know that being a first-generation American lesbian veteran running for office in Texas is challenging some assumptions, but look, that’s the real Texas. There’s a fierce independence about every Texan. We’re a great state, and I’m looking forward to changing our representation so it reflects that.

Growing up with your mother and sister, was the social safety net important to you?

I know exactly where I came from and how I got here. For a time it was quite difficult, as my mother was working to get back into education, which is what she was trained in academically. There were times when she worked several jobs, and it was hard to make ends meet. Reduced-price school lunch, subsidized housing—I don’t see these as handouts, I see them as critical investments. Those were investments by my country and my community, and I went on to serve my country in and out of uniform for 14 years, and now I’m looking to preserve those opportunities for someone else. That’s why the election was such a gut check—I know exactly how I got here, and I didn’t do it by myself.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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Discord Keeps Changing Input Device

Discord is one of the ever-going platforms with millions of active gamers using it as their default place to communicate. However, this does not stop it from having its share of issues. For example, gamers are fed up with Discord changing the input devices. In this post, we are going to see what you can do if Discord keeps on changing the input devices during a session.

Why does Discord keep changing audio devices?

Users reported that Discord keeps changing audio devices, and this is probably due to the PC detecting HDMI as a new audio device and turning it on when the PC switches on after going into the Power saving mode.  The same situation is applicable to other similar devices like HDMI cables.

Discord keeps changing the Input device error

If Discord keeps changing the Input device, execute the solutions mentioned below to resolve it:

Use the Don’t show me this sign again option

Change the settings in Discord

Disable the second output/input devices

Delete Discord LocalAppdata

Reinstall Discord

Let’s talk about these solutions in detail.

1] Use the Don’t show me this again option

2] Change the settings in Discord

Discord has its own audio detecting procedures due to which even though the default option is set in Windows settings, it becomes invalid and hence the pop-up appears. However, this whole situation is simply avoidable by going to Discord’s settings and selecting the default device. Here’s how to do the same:

Launch Discord and navigate toward its Settings.

Now, go to Voice settings, and select the Input device and Output device from the drop-down menu.

Now launch Discord, and if it prompts you to select the device, proceed to the next solution.

3] Disable the second output/input devices

Next up, we are going to disable other audio resources, however, this is only recommended in cases, where there is no use for the device in question, otherwise re-enabling the second device for different uses will get hectic. Follow the prescribed steps to do the same:

Open Control Panel.

Set View by to Large icons.

In the Playback tab, find the secondary audio device.

4] Delete the Discord LocalAppdata

If disabling the secondary audio device was of no help, perhaps the corrupted app cache and data are the culprit. An improper or messed-up Discord update is particularly the reason behind this situation. Therefore, we are going to delete the Discord LocalAppData. Here’s how it is done:


Finally, select the Delete option.

Fingers crossed that Discord won’t experience any more mishaps.

5] Reinstall Discord

If none of the above solutions resolves this, consider reinstalling the Discord app. Sometimes the incorrect installation of the app is the cause and will be resolved by installing a fresh copy. So, first, uninstall Discord and then reinstall the app and we can manually uninstall Discord from the Settings app.

Read: Fix Discord Error 1105 on Windows PC

Why does Discord keep messing up my audio?

A lot of users complained about experiencing bad audio quality in Discord, and there can be multiple reasons behind this cause. One of the known causes is Discord’s voice sensitivity option, and some users also reported that enabled Echo cancellation is also contributing to the problem. Therefore, we recommend restarting Discord and disabling both voice sensitivity and Echo cancellation. Apart from this, changing voice channel regions also seem to provide relief to the users.

Read: How to improve Discord audio quality on Windows PC.

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