Airline forced woman to take a pregnancy test before flying to US Territory [updated]

A 25-year-old Japanese woman was about to board a flight from Hong Kong to Saipan when a staff member of Hong Kong Express airlines said she would have to take a pregnancy test, reports Oddity Central. The woman had indicated on a check-in questionnaire that she was not pregnant, but the staff member didn't believe her and told her that she couldn't fly without proving she wasn't pregnant. She took the test and was found to be not pregnant.

Saipan is a United States Territory and U.S. officials are concerned about birth tourism. According to U.S. law, babies born in the United States automatically become U.S. citizens.

From Oddity Central:

The island of Saipan has apparently become a popular destination for foreign women to give birth in, since under US law any child born on one of its territories is automatically granted American citizenship. Being admitted into the North Marian Islands commonwealth is much easier than entering the United States, so it’s not very surprising that 2018 saw more tourists giving birth on Saipan than there are residents on the island.

Hong Kong Express Airways specified that Midori Nishida’s pregnancy test was meant “to help ensure US immigration laws were not being undermined”. The airline has since apologized and suspended the practice of forcing women to take pregnancy tests.

[1/29/2020 6:20pm PT] An important correction from Doug Rand:

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Sex pheromone named after a character in Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" changes mice brains

Darcin is a pheromone found in the urine of male mice. It's used to mark territory and signal mating availability, and was named after the character Mr. Darcy who appears in Jane Austin's Pride and Prejudice. In the new issue of Nature, researchers at Columbia University report on how darcin "takes hold in the brains of female mice, giving cells in the brain's emotion center the power to assess the mouse's sexual readiness and help her select a mate."

From the press release:

Pheromones, such as darcin, are processed somewhat differently. They interact with a second, parallel olfactory system, which exists in animals like mice but not in people.

"Unlike people, mice have essentially two functional noses," said Dr. Demir. "The first nose works like ours: processing scents such as the stinky odor particles found in urine. But a second system, called the vomernasal nose, evolved specifically to perceive pheromones like darcin."

For today's study, the research team, which also included Dr. Hurst, Dr. Beynon and co-senior author Adam Kepecs, PhD, of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, first exposed female mice to darcin-scented urine and monitored their behavior. Nearly all of the female mice showed an immediate attraction to darcin. Then, after about 50 minutes, some females began leaving their own urinary scent markings. They also started to sing, at ultrasonic frequencies too high for the human ear to hear. Both of these behaviors are an indicator of increased sexual drive.

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Coming soon to Japan: a 60-ft walking Gundam robot

Who cares about the Tokyo Olympics, when a 60-foot walking RX-78-2 robot is going to be stomping around nearby Yokohama in October? It will have 24 degrees of motion and will weigh 25 tons, according to New Atlas. It sounds pretty impressive, and the video above makes it seem cool, but Yoshiyuki Tomino, who created Gundam in the late 1970s, has some harsh words for the project: "It's boring. It rubs me the wrong way ... It's just not interesting ... It feels like they're going backwards, trying to reproduce a 40-year-old original."

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Putin has no opinion on proposal to be renamed "Supreme Leader"

The Kremlin says Russian president Putin "has no view" on a proposal to change his title to "Supreme Leader," reports US News and World Report. The title is one of a number being considered by a commission formed after Putin announced his desire to change the Russian constitution. From the article:

"There are... some very curious proposals among those put forward. For instance, they proposed renaming the position of head of state to 'Supreme leader'," Pavel Krasheninnikov, the government commission's co-chair, told the Rossiiskaya Gazeta government newspaper.

When asked about the idea on Wednesday, the Kremlin was non-committal, calling it a "new initiative" and one of various proposals that may or may not be implemented.

"Right now all this is at the discussion stage," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. "President Putin has no view on this."

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A fun simple card trick from The Curiosity Show

I'm glad I subscribed to The Curiosity Show on YouTube. It features segments for 1990s Australian TV for young people, and is full of DIY science demonstrations, brain teasers, tricks, and optical illusions. In this clip, the hosts demonstrate a fun card trick you can make at home.

By the way, if making trick cards interests you, I wrote a book about it a few years ago, called Trick Decks.

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Watch expert has a hard time telling the difference between an Omega Seamaster watch and a knock-off

Someone I know buys fake Rolex watches from a maker who shoots detailed videos of the fake watches and emails them to potential customers. The phonies sell for about $450. I'm not a watch expert nor a watch collector, so I can't vouch for the quality of the knock-offs, but the care that goes into the videos is impressive. Anyway, here's a video in which an expert compares a $4,000 Omega Seamaster Diver 300M with an incredibly impressive knock-off costing 1/10th the price. Only when you zoom way in to see the minute details do the differences become apparent.

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I am bananas for these behind-the-scenes photos of Planet of the Apes

Makeup artist John Chambers' work on Planet of the Apes (1968) is a high point in Hollywood prosthetics. The characters don't look like real apes, but they have an interesting mix of ape and human. Combined with costume designer Morton Haack's outfits, the overall effect is spectacular and unforgettable. I learned that photographer Dennis Stock took a bunch of behind-the-scenes photos during the shooting of the movie, and you can browse them at Magnum Photos.

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Excellent low-cost brush pens for art and calligraphy

Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pens come in a 2-pack for on Amazon. They look like pens, but instead of a nib they have a brush, which allows you to draw lines of varying widths. They’re a lot of fun to use. Read the rest

United Airlines reports "significant decline in demand" for flights to China

United Airlines announced it would be canceling scheduled flights to China beginning in February, citing a "significant decline in demand," reports CNBC.

″We will continue to monitor the situation as it develops and will adjust our schedule as needed,” United said in a statement. United operates about 12 flights a day from the U.S. to mainland China and Hong Kong, and the changes will cut that number by three or four per day. The changes reduce flights to Hong Kong from San Francisco and Newark; to Beijing from Washington Dulles, Newark and Chicago; and Shanghai service from San Francisco, Newark and Chicago.

Meanwhile 20 US airports will soon start screening for coronavirus symptoms, up from five airports currently checking.

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Incredible aerial video of a Bangkok market set up on a railway track

This video of Maeklong Railway Market in Bangkok was shot in time-lapse but it's clear that people have to shake a leg when a train comes chugging through.

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Maeklong Railway Market in Bangkok By @demas . Follow @outofmind #bangkokthailand #railwaystation #foodmarket #trainride #aerialview #transporter

A post shared by OutofMind (@outofmind) on Jan 9, 2020 at 1:23pm PST

From Wikipedia:

The railway became famous for its route through the Maeklong Railway Market, nicknamed (Thai: ตลาดร่มหุบ; RTGS: Talat Rom Hup), meaning the "umbrella pulldown market". It is one of the largest fresh seafood markets in Thailand, and is centred on the Maeklong Railway's track. Whenever a train approaches, the awnings and shop fronts are moved back from the rails, to be replaced once the train has passed.

YouTube has a number of ground level videos of the market. Here's one:

Image: Instragram screengrab

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Smokers do not like cigarettes that have "minutes of life lost" ruler printed on them

In 2016 researchers created a variety of "dissuasive cigarettes" to find out which kind was the biggest turn-off. "A 'minutes of life lost' stick was the most aversive of the stimuli tested," reported the researchers.

From Weird Universe (which has a photo of the cigarettes described below):

One of these cigarettes had a “smoking kills” warning printed directly on it. Two others were unpleasant colors: "slimy green" and "faecal yellow-brown." The fourth was printed with a graphic depicting "15 minutes of life lost."

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Watch: man overjoyed to learn his $345 Rolex is worth $700,000

A man went on Antique Roadshow with a Rolex watch he'd purchased in the 1970s for $345 and never really wore. His reaction to be told it is worth $700,000 made me smile.

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Trump's spiritual advisor says her prayer for a "all satanic pregnancies to miscarry right now" was taken out of context

Paula White, who is in charge of the White House's Faith and Opportunity Initiative, said her recent sermon in which she asked her god to cause "all satanic pregnancies to miscarry right now" was taken out of context, reports CNN.

A video of her January sermon, White can be heard saying, "In the name of Jesus, we command all satanic pregnancies to miscarry right now. We declare that anything that's been conceived in satanic wombs that it'll miscarry, it will not be able to carry forth any plan of destruction, any plan of harm."

White defended her comment on Twitter, saying, "I was praying Eph 6:12 that we wrestle not against flesh and blood. Anything that has been conceived by demonic plans, for it to be cancelled and not prevail in your life... That is- any plans to hurt people. Let's be clear what is really going on... this is a disingenuous attempt to use words out of context for political gain. I will just keep praying!"

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Timelapse video of a fish being devoured by maggots

In the first couple of days of this time-lapse video, we see flies laying eggs on a dead fish. On the third day, maggots erupt and begin to eat the fish, paying special attention to the eye socket. At this time-frame, and without being able to smell the fish, it's not as gross as you might think.

Image: YouTube

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Foam zombie head is for archery practice

Etsy seller Prochopshop makes foam zombie heads for archery practice. They are only $20! I think I'll get one for crossbow pistol practice.


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Espresso is better with fewer beans, more coarsely ground

Going against conventional wisdom, researchers at the University of Portsmouth in the UK say the way to consistently make better espresso is by using fewer beans and grinding them more coarsely, reports Interesting Engineering:

"When beans were ground finely, the particles were so small that in some regions of the bed they clogged up the space where the water should be flowing," Dr. Foster said in a press release announcing the research. "These clogged sections of the bed are wasted because the water cannot flow through them and access that tasty coffee that you want in your cup. If we grind a bit coarser, we can access the whole bed and have a more efficient extraction. It's also cheaper, because when the grind setting is changed, we can use fewer beans and be kinder to the environment. Once we found a way to make shots efficiently, we realised that as well as making coffee shots that stayed reliably the same, we were using less coffee."

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Building collapses, taking demolishing equipment down with it

A building decided not to go down without a fight. It's a textbook example of Resistentialism ("seemingly spiteful behavior manifested by inanimate objects".

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