If you discover an island covered in guano -- old poop -- an 1856 Federal law that's still on the books obliges the US of A to defend your claim to it.
The Guano Act of 1856 dates to an era when old poo was of national interest as a vital source of fertilizer, and it's documented in Kevin Underhill's delightful compendium of weird laws, The Emergency Sasquatch Ordinance (review, excerpt).
In short, the act allowed any citizen to claim an island on behalf of the United States, as long as that island was uninhabited and covered in bird poop.
Did anyone take advantage of that? They sure did. More than 100 islands around the globe were claimed this way, including Midway Island and about 99 islands you’ve never heard of. (This was a bigger deal than you might think, legally, because the precedent led to the whole concept of “unincorporated territories” or “insular areas” over which the U.S. exercises jurisdiction, but in which the Constitution does not fully apply.) The U.S. has given up any claims on most of those, but it still claims a handful and in fact actively opposes at least one claim by another nation (Haiti).
Can you take advantage of the Guano Islands Act today? You sure can. See 48 U.S.C. § 1411-19. In fact, somebody tried to use it as recently as 1997, trying for some reason to claim Navassa Island (the one near Haiti). But in Warren v. United States, the court held that Navassa has “appertained to” the U.S. since 1857, and the U.S. has never given it up. The real question, why anybody in his right mind would want Navassa Island, a waterless hellhole from which all the dung has already been mined, was not addressed.
The Guano Islands Act
(Image: Smelly Penguins, Salim Fadhley, CC-BY-SA)
In 1989, Canadian activist, engineer and thinker Ursula Franklin gave a series of extraordinary lectures on the politics of technology design and deployment called “The Real World of Technology.”
His picks, with Amazon links: Seveneves, by Neal Stephenson How Not to be Wrong, by Jordan Ellenberg The Vital Question, by Nick Lane The Power to Compete, by Ryoichi Mikitani and Hiroshi Mikitani Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Noah Yuval Harari (Gates Notes)
Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s creator-owned comic Sex Criminals is a filthy, hilarious heist story about a couple who discover that they can stop time while orgasming, and keep it frozen until they become horny again — so they use their power to rob banks in order to rescue a library from foreclosure (naturally). The first two series of the comic are collected in Big Hard Sex Criminals, a fabulous hardcover whose plain pink wrapper comes off to make it look like you’re reading a book on DIY pet euthanasia.
Jared Sinclair developed the RSS reader app Unread, which made $10,000 in its first 24 hours on the iOS market. And we’ve all heard the story of Flappy Bird developer Dong Nguyen, whose creation was reportedly earning $50,000 a day at the height of its 2013 explosion. While those are rare examples, they’re also testament to the […]
If you or your company’s IT system are besieged by black hat cyber attacks, an ethical hacker might be all that stands between crippling damage and a company’s long-term prosperity. It’s no wonder that the market for IT security specialists is exploding. Certification is the key – so learn the tenets of ethical hacking and get […]
Your laptop and mobile devices are top of the line…so why are you trotting out that raggedy decades-old suitcase when you go somewhere? Time to up your travel game with a complete 5-piece Herschel Travel Luggage bundle…and we’ll even give it to you for free!Of course, you’ve got to win the Ultimate Herschel Travel Bundle […]