Police discover over 10,000 endangered tortoises jammed into one small house

An overwhelming stench of poop and urine led authorities to check out what was going on in an unassuming two-story house in Toliara, Madagascar. When they opened the front door, they were shocked to find the house full of endangered tortoises--10,068, to be exact. According to Soary Randrianjafizanaka, a representative from Madagascar's environmental protection agency, so many of the poor little critters were jammed into the house that they literally had no room to move.

From National Geographic:

In total the house contained 9,888 live radiated tortoises, a rare species found only in Madagascar—and 180 dead ones. Randrianjafizanaka helped count them as rescuers loaded them onto six trucks that made several trips to Le Village Des Tortues (Turtle Village in French), a private wildlife rehabilitation facility in Ifaty, 18 miles north of Toliara. It took until early the following morning to transfer all the tortoises to the rescue center.

The majority of the turtles taken to the rehabilitation facility are doing well, now that they've been cleaned up, moved into more suitable quarters, and provided with veterinary care. Unfortunately, close to 600 of the turtles have died since being removed from the house, due to dehydration or infection--the result of their long neglect.

With a shrinking population of around three million of the reptiles, the trade of radiated turtles, each of which can have shells up to 16 inches across and weigh as much as 35 pounds, is illegal in 182 countries. That makes the turtles an attractive product for blackmarket traders operating out of Madagascar, to export to shady buyers around the world. Read the rest

Why Indonesia's Bajau people can stay submerged under water longer than you or me

This is amazing.

Read the rest

Weekend Tunes: Dread Zeppelin

Raggae-scorched Led Zeppelin covers churned out by a tight band fronted by an Elvis Presley impersonator? Yes, there is a God, and Dread Zeppelin is proof that she loves us.

These guys were the musical snow leopard of my early teenage years: on rare occasions, I'd catch the tail end of one of their videos on Much Music or a piece of a song on college radio. It was years before I learned who they were or bought one of their CDs. Scoff if you will, but at its height, the band was so damn good at what it did that Robert Plant kept their music in his car.

On this 4.20, or as Xeni calls it, amateur day, they are my gift to you. Read the rest

A new podcast hopes to solve an infamous unsolved death in Norway's Isdalen Valley

In November, 1970, just outside the Norwegian town of Bergen, two kids found the partially burnt remains of a woman's body. Surrounding the woman's remains were a number of objects: some bottles of water, a rubber boot and a burnt newspaper. All of the labels had been removed from the woman's clothing. Why the woman – known in Norway as the Isdal Woman, named for the remote valley that she was found in – died or who she was has been a mystery for close to 50 years.

Norwegian journalist Marit Higraff and BBC documentary maker Neil McCarthy are working to shed light on the Isdal Woman's very, very cold case. Working together, they've produced a new podcast called Death in Ice Valley. The first episode is available to download or stream, right now.

During the course of the podcast, Higraff and McCarthy will talk to those that investigated the crime back in the day, as well as forensic experts and anyone else they feel might propel them towards the answer of who the Isdal Woman was and why she died. But they're not stopping there. Listeners of the podcast are invited to talk to one another and the podcast's producers about the case on social media, in the hope that a breakthrough for the case could be crowdsourced.

I listened to the first episode yesterday. It starts slow, as many BBC radio productions often do. But the questions that the pair of journalists raise surrounding the Isdal Woman's death and what they uncovered, even in the first episode, has compelled me to continue with the series to see how things turn out. Read the rest

Scientologists were all up in Neopet's business

Since its launch in 1999, Neopets has enjoyed a pretty colorful history. The game offers users the ability to create a virtual pet to take on adventures and, using virtual and real-world currency, feed and trick out their digital pets with swag, homes and other online sundries. It was originally aimed at kids, but grew a cult-following of oldsters, too.

Oh, and it used to be run by Scientologists.

According to The Outline, the company that originally owned the Neopets brand employed business practices deeply rooted in Scientology. Up until the point where NeoPets was sold to Viacom in 2005, Neopet's CEO and practicing Scientologist Doug Dohring rocked L. Ron Hubbard’s Org Board business model in order to keep things running smoothly – provided you considered turning your employees against one another smooth.

From The Outline:

The information currently made public about Org Board is vague — introductory workshops are required to learn more about it. The business model contains seven divisions: Communications, Dissemination (sales/marketing), Treasury, Production, Qualifications (quality control), Public (public relations), and, most important to the system, Executive. The symbiotic divisions are arranged to create a “cycle of production” that parallels the church’s “cycle of action,” which Scientology.org describes as “revealing what underlies the continuous cycle of creation, survival and destruction—a cycle that seems inevitable in life, but which is only an apparency.” It is also made up of seven stages.

As part of putting Org Board into play, employees are called upon to spy on the work practices of other employees. Read the rest

Mostly naked man plays Nokia ringtone on the accordion so that you don't have to

He's doing God's work. Which God that might be, however, is open for debate. Read the rest

ICE agents remove legal foreign worker from farm, threaten farmer when questioned about having a warrant

I don't want to alarm anyone, but it sounds like maybe some ICE agents are, I dunno, a shower of bastards.

According to Syracuse.com, New York state dairy farmer John Collins was doing his thing when he heard screaming. When he ran out to see what was happening, he found that his hired hand, Marcial de Leon Aguilar, was being pinned to the side of his farm's milk house by armed men. Aguilar is from Guatemala, and had all of the paperwork required to work in the United States. He'd been employed by Collins for just under a year.

When Collins confronted the armed men about what they were doing with his employee, they stated that they were ICE agents. As the goons slapped a set of handcuffs on Aguilar, Collins demanded to see the warrant that allowed ICE to come on to his property. You'll be shocked to know, I'm sure, that the agents stated that they had none.

It gets better. As the agents dragged Aguilar across the road to their waiting vehicle, Collins continued to demand that they produce paperwork on why they were taking his employee or show the authority that allowed them onto his land. As he did so, he began filming the exchange with his smartphone. Collins alleges that, at this point, one the agents grabbed the phone out of his hand, handcuffed him and threatened to arrest him for hindering a federal investigation. In the end, Collins was released, but Aguilar was carted away. Read the rest

Zimbabwe's nurses went on strike this week and got fired by the government as a result

On Monday in Zimbabwe, thousands of nurses went on strike, demanding better salaries. The strike came hot on the heels of the country's doctors returning from their own weeks-long strike, which took place for similar reasons. With no nurses standing by to assist doctors or to see patients, hospitals in the African country have been forced to turn away people looking for care. Instead of negotiating with the nurses or passing legislation that would send them back to work, Zimbabwe’s vice-president, Constantino Chiwenga, apparently decided to fire them all.

Because doing that always calms things down in a country that's facing growing labor unrest.

According to The Guardian, vice-president Chiwenga believes that the strike actions undertaken by the country's doctors and nursing staff are politically motivated and stated that his "...Government has decided in the interest of patients and of saving lives to discharge all the striking nurses with immediate effect." Yep – ensuring that healthcare professions are never allowed to return to their jobs of you know, saving lives, is definitely gonna be in the best interest of any patients they might have treated.

Chiwenga called the strike “deplorable and reprehensible," citing the fact that the government had released £12m to boost their pay and allowances. There's no word, however, on how much this amount would increase the state of each nurse's wages, or when the money would actually come into use.

But don't worry Zimbabwe, there's good news! The government plans on hiring any unemployed or retired nurses that it can find to fill in the massive hole that your government just created in your country's healthcare system. Read the rest

Justin Trudeau's political party wants to decriminalize ALL THE DRUGS

In Canada, we're just months away from seeing the nationwide decriminalization of marijuana. There's still a ton of legislative junk to work out: the provinces and our Federal government, as well as a whack of NGOs still bickering over important points like how the cops should identify or handle impaired driving, how to use the tax money legalized cannabis will generate, and where – just as with cigarettes – it'll be cool to smoke the stuff. I know it'll all get squared away and, despite the fact that I've no taste for the stuff myself, I think that legalizing the drug will likely leave the country better off than it was when it was illegal.

According to The Guardian, The Liberal Party of Canada, of which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau belongs to, is looking to table legislation that could decriminalize other illegal drugs as well. The Liberals will be discussing whether or not they'll adopt decriminalization as a party policy at a meeting on the country's east coast this week.

The decriminalization of hard drugs like heroin and crack cocaine can go a long way towards harm reduction among addicts, decrease the spread of infectious disease and take a serious chunk of profits out of the black market. As The Guardian points out, "... Portugal has seen dramatic drops in overdose deaths, HIV infection rates and drug-related crimes, while the number of drug users seeking treatment has increased."

In Canada, we've been practicing harm reduction around narcotics use for years. Read the rest

Stolen Department of Revenue hard drives used for storing Xbox games

A few weeks back, a number of external hard drives full of state taxpayer information were poached from the offices of Florida's Department of Revenue. Why these drives full of sensitive data were left out in the open where anyone could walk with one is a question I'm betting there's a really entertaining answer to. Maybe we'll get to hear it someday. In the meantime, here we go: the drives have been recovered and the criminal mastermind behind the theft was a janitor that wanted more storage in which to download Xbox games.

According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Florida man (of course) Andru Rae’sion Reed was cleaning the offices of the Florida Department of Revenue when he saw the hard drives and decided to take it upon himself to liberate them from the day-to-day drudgery of storing a whack of taxpayer information. As he took them to their new forever home, Reed promised the hard drives that they could spend their days chewing on game files while they were attached to his Xbox.

On March 30, FDLE agents dropped by Reed's home to see how he was doing and see if he, I don't know, knew anything about the missing hard drives. Reed came clean on the fact that he did indeed have the drives, stating that he had no idea of what was on them. From what the FDLE has to say, it doesn't look like any of the taxpayer information on the drives was shared by Reed, but they're going to do a little more digital digging, just to make sure. Read the rest

Native American Tribe to DHS: Keep your dumb border wall off our land

In 1853, the U.S. Government bought a 29,670 square mile chunk of dirt in a deal that, as history buffs will tell you, ended up being called the Gadsden Purchase. It was a dick move: purchasing the land meant bisecting the territory of the area's indigenous Tohono O’odham Nation. This left half of the Tohono O’odham in Mexico and the other half in the United States. Today, the Tohono O’odham are a federally recognized tribe, with somewhere around 34,000 members. This number includes around 2,000 Tohono O’odham who live in Mexico. It's not uncommon for the tribe to cooperate with Homeland Security where protecting the border is concerned. But guess what? A tribe that had their lands split up by the Federal government once isn't crazy about having it done again.

According to Splinter, the Tohono O’odham Nation controls the second largest land base in the United States. This includes a full 75 miles of the U.S./Mexico border. Given that members of their tribe live on both sides of the border, they're less than chuffed with the notion of allowing the National Guard onto their lands to surveil their territory or to allow a border wall to be built on their property. The reasons for their objections are sound: Having a wall thrown up in the middle of their land would keep members of their tribe from easily traveling to participate in culturally important events on their own frigging land.

From Splinter:

Tohono O’odham chairman Edward D.

Read the rest

Ancient bad ass had knife for a hand

So, there's this skeleton that archaeologists discovered in Italy during the mid-1990s. They reckon the man, who became the skeleton, was alive somewhere between the sixth and eighth century. Those were hard times. Life was short and seldom sweet. In the case of our man the skeleton, somewhere along the line, he lost his hand. Archaeologists say that it was taken off with a single blow. Maybe it was because he was involved in a war or being punished for a crime. It could have been removed for medical reasons. Anyway, BOOM, gone. It's amazing, in an era where antibiotics didn't exist, that someone would survive an amputation. Sure, it happened but it was rare. The recovery process must have been terrible. But did our pal from so long ago allow the lose of a hand and acquisition of a new stump get him down? Hell no. He did what I'd like to believe anyone of you reading this would do: HE REPLACED HIS LOST HAND WITH A FRIGGING KNIFE BLADE.

According to a paper published in the Journal of Antrological Sciences by Ileana Micarelli, Robert Paine, Caterina Giostra, Mary Anne Tafuri, Antonio Profico, Marco Boggioni, Fabio Di Vincenzo, Danilo Massani, Andrea Papini and Giorgio Manzi (something something Too Many Cooks.) Once the Middle Ages bad ass healed up, he found a way to lash a knife blade to his stump using a leather mount that he tied in place with his teeth. The paper makes for pretty dense reading, but Gizmodo's George Dvorsky does a great job of digging into it:

Further analysis of the man’s bones points to the use of a prosthesis.

Read the rest

Hazmat Modine's new album is killer but they need your help to finish it

It's hard to sort Hazmat Modine into a neat musical category. They play the blues, but it's not like anything you've likely heard anywhere else. A lot of folks consider the tunes that the New York City musical collective churn out to be "world music." I think that's just a lazy way of saying that they do a little bit of everything. If you've heard the band's music in person or on any their albums, you'll know that they handle their kitchen sink of influences amazingly well: their work incorporates the best elements of African, Eastern European, Caribbean and American musical traditions: blues, reggae, jazz and Mongolian throat singing, they do it all. The result is a wash of emotional, often joyous sound that's hard not to like.

The band's finished work on their fourth album, Box of Breathe. Well, it's mostly finished. The tracks have been recorded (I've heard them and they're fabulous!) but they still need to be mixed. Musicians and production personnel need to be paid. The album, in its physical form, still needs to be pressed. All this is expensive and, as good as Hazmat Modine is, their music isn't the sort of thing that you're likely to hear on top 10 radio these days. As such, the band has turned to crowdfunding in an effort to offset some of the expenses of getting their latest work out to where folks can hear it.

Of course, there are fabulous prizes to be had. You know the game: depending on how much you're willing to throw at the project, you'll be able to enjoy perks like historic post cards picturing old New York City, a copy of their new album, the band's complete catalog, or even a private house concert. Read the rest

Man gets swallowed by hippo and lives to talk about it

Ok, show of hands: who here's been eaten by a hippo? Anyone? No? Then you'll want to keep reading, because Chris Broughton has and his story is frigging horrific.

While he was in his twenties, Broughton ran a business that saw him guiding tourists down the Zambezi river, near Africa's Victoria Falls. During the years that he worked this gig, Broughton had made it a habit to avoid a particularly grumpy male hippo while he and his clients were out on the water. Hippos, you see, are wicked territorial. The beast had launched a couple of half-assed attacked against him and his customers in the past. No damage was done, but it was enough to make him wary of pissing the hippo off.

On one occasion, Broughton took a group of tourists out on the water along with three apprentice guides that he was showing the ropes to. One of the apprentices was attacked by the hippo, flinging him into the air. Broughton ordered the other two guides to get the tourists to safety while he went after his apprentice. What happened next, told in Broughton's own words, is absolutely insane.

From The Guardian:

I reached over to grab his outstretched hand but as our fingers were about to touch, I was engulfed in darkness. There was no transition at all, no sense of approaching danger. It was as if I had suddenly gone blind and deaf.

I was aware that my legs were surrounded by water, but my top half was almost dry.

Read the rest

Friday Tunes: The Cramps

The Cramps got together in the same year I was born. I didn't discover them until I was 15 years old: the kindly middle-aged punk who ran a record shop in my hometown told me to check them out or he'd lay a whooping on me. I've never been so happy to have been afraid for my life: their love of trashy 1950's pulp culture, pinups and catchy surf guitar licks never fails to make me happy. Also, the band's guitarist, Poison Ivy, had some of the best damn hair in the history of music. I'll fight you on that.

The Cramps played, in one form or another, until the band's lead singer, Lux Interior, died of heart failure in 2009.

From the New York Times:

In 1979 the Cramps were guest D.J.’s on WPIX-FM in New York, spinning records by Wanda Jackson, the Electric Prunes, Herbie Duncan and other vintage rockabilly and garage acts. Lux Interior was asked by one of the station personalities about the music.

Taken aback by the question, he replied: “Rock ’n’ roll has absolutely nothing to do with music. It’s much more than music. Rock ’n’ roll is who you are. You can’t call the Cramps music. It’s noise, rockin’ noise.”

Naked Girl Falling Down the Stairs is from their self-produced album, Flamejob, released in 1994. It was the first record of theirs I bought. I had the chorus from the song stuck in my head for weeks. At school, in bed at night. Read the rest

Mystery of The Giant's Causeway in Ireland has been unlocked

Time for a bit of folklore.

Benandonner was a giant from Scotland. He was something of a tool and constantly threatened to lay a beating on Ireland.

Fionn mac Cumhaill was a giant too. He resided in Ireland. Fionn wasn't down with Benandonner's wanting to put a hurt on his homeplace. In fact, Fionn was so bent out of shape about it that he decided to rip up chunks of County Atrim and throw them into the sea in order to build a causeway to Scotland. The causeway would make it possible for Fionn to travel and beat Benandonner's ass.

With the Giant's Causeway built, Fionn stomped off to Scotland to get down with his island's adversary. He didn't stay long though: Upon reaching Scottish soil, Fionn discovered that Benandonner was frigging huge – like, giant, even for a giant. Afraid of having his ass handed to him, Fionn hightailed it back to Ireland. When the larger giant heard that Fionn had come to Scotland to fight him, but turned coward at the last moment, he set out for Ireland across the causeway to lay a curb stomping on poor Fionn.

Seeing that her husband was in trouble, again, Fionn's wife, Oonagh, bundled her husband up in swaddling clothes, disguising him as a baby. Benandonner came upon Oonagh and saw the enormous baby. He freaked out: if Fionn's child is that big, even as a toddler, Fionn himself must be HUGE. Benandonner crossed the causeway once more, back to Scotland and safety. Read the rest

No more hotel room meetings for Screen Actors Guild members

In an effort to save its members from being exploited, sexually assaulted or be otherwise forced to spend time with human turds in a private setting, the Screen Actors Guild has put the kibosh on holding meetings in "high-risk" locations.

According to The Guardian, the Screen Actor's Guild, which functions as a labor union for actors who appear on TV and in movies, has laid down the law, declaring that it's no longer cool for movie executives to set up meetings with actors in private locales such as hotel rooms or at someone's home address. Moving forward, if you want to yap with a member of SAG, it's gotta be in a workplace setting. The new measure comes as a result of handsy pricks like Harvey Weinstein and other high-powered executives in the entertainment business taking advantage of their position and the protection that Hollywood's elite formerly afforded them when it came to their sexual transgressions.

According to The Guardian, since accusations were first leveled against Weinstein this past October, SAG representatives have been hearing an average of five reports of sexual misconduct from its members, per day.

As a tech journalist, I'm sometimes brought to a hotel room by PR types from small to mid-sized firms to see a new product that they're representing. It usually happens during a trade show as the larger meeting rooms at convention centers and hotels are typically spoken for by large companies. I can't recall a single time that I've ever entered a hotel room, for work, where there weren't at least three or four people in the room with me. Read the rest

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