Photo: Bettman/Getty Images

Koko, the western lowland gorilla who amazed with her vocabulary and communication skills, died in her sleep Wednesday at the age of 46 at The Gorilla Foundation in San Francisco.

Why it matters: Koko, chosen for a psychology research project when she was just one year old, shattered perceptions of language abilities for non-human primates.

Dr. Penny Patterson, who initially chose Koko for her experiment, worked with the gorilla from the time she was selected. Per The Gorilla Foundation, Patterson sought to discover whether a primate taught sign language from a young age would develop to use language.

The impact: Koko's social skills made headlines throughout her life, giving a voice to non-human emotion and speaking to the cognitive abilities of primates.

  • Koko eventually could communicate more than 1,000 signs.
  • In 1983, Koko asked for a cat, and developed an affectionate relationship with it, mourning its death, per a contemporary report from the Los Angeles Times.
  • She famously met actor Robin Williams in 2001, and delighted both Williams and fans by trying on his glasses and seemed to remember him from a movie.
  • When she demonstrated she had learned to play the recorder in 2012, she shocked scientists who believed that primates could not regulate their breath, per NPR.

The catch: There have been questions surrounding the ethics of keeping a primate in captivity for her entire life, per organizations like PETA, and Patterson herself said she hoped the experiment wouldn't be duplicated because of how unnatural Koko's living circumstances were.

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a floor speech Monday that the chamber has "more than sufficient time" to confirm a replacement for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg before the election, and accused Democrats of preparing "an even more appalling sequel" to the fight over Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation.

Why it matters: Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has said "nothing is off the table next year" if Republicans push ahead with the confirmation vote before November, vowing alongside Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) to use "every procedural tool available to us to ensure that we buy ourselves the time necessary."

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

House Democrats on Monday released their proposal for short-term legislation to fund the government through December 11.

Why it matters: This is Congress' chief legislative focus before the election. They must pass a continuing resolution (CR) before midnight on Oct. 1 to avoid a government shutdown — something both Hill leaders and the White House have claimed is off the table.