Month: February 2013

Somehow Unsettling

Swiss FlagA moment of silence, please, and not specifically for the bear in question though I don’t object. But there is something perhaps more important than one bear going on here. Agence France-Presse explains, though I can’t quite put my finger on it:

Look, mountains!Switzerland’s only recorded wild bear has been culled after fears that it could pose a threat to humans, the authorities announced on Wednesday.

The male bear, known as “M13”, was shot dead by wildlife rangers on Tuesday, said Adrian Aeschlimann, spokesman for the Federal Office for the Environment.

“The cull was carried out according to the management plan for bears in Switzerland,” he told AFP.

M13 lived in the mountainous Graubuenden region of eastern Switzerland, on the border with Italy, spending spring seasons in the Val Poschiavo.

Discovery News (detail)Look, I realize that Switzerland is all of 16,000 square miles, and no, I don’t really care what that equals if you flatten out the mountains. You have one bear in a country.

Oh, wait. No, you don’t.

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Required Reading

And the award for Best Supporting Moron In An International Tragedy goes to … Immigration and Customs Enforcement:

5 Broken CamerasI quickly texted him back and told him that help was on the way. He wrote back to say Immigration and Customs was holding him, his wife, Soraya, and their 8-year old son (and “star” of the movie) Gibreel in a detention room at LAX. He said they would not believe him when he told them he was an Oscar-nominated director on his way to this Sunday’s Oscars and to the events in LA leading up to the ceremony. He is also a Palestinian. And an olive farmer. Apparently that was too much for Homeland Security to wrap its head around.

And, you know, when Michael Moore shows up to help resolve the situation, the folks at ICE must know, deep in their hearts, that they just picked the wrong Oscar-nominated Palestinian documentary filmmaker to screw with.

A Quote: So Foxed It Foxes FOX

Fox News Channel logoBob Beckel of FOX News’ The Five managed to set a new standard even by his right-wing network’s standards, leaving his co-hosts flummoxed with one of the strangest questions in the history of (ahem!) “journalism”:

“When was the last time you heard about a rape on campus?”

Yes, he really said that.

Perhaps the Best Decision Ever

Here’s one you might not have heard, yet, via Nina Porzucki of PRI’s The World:

PRI's The WorldA Korean Airlines commercial flight was shot down by a Soviet interceptor en route to Seoul from New York City.

And President Ronald Reagan announced his new missile defense program or as some people called it, Star Wars.

This was also the year when a military officer named Stanislav Petrov made the biggest decision of his life and maybe yours.

He was on duty at the Soviet nuclear command center when he saw what appeared to be five American nuclear warheads flash on the screen before him.

According to his system, the missiles were headed for the Soviet Union.

He should have alerted his superiors but instead Petrov did nothing.

Thankfully so, because it turned out to be a false alarm.

Given that this is the third time, at least, that Petrov has been honored for not doing his job, I wonder how it is that the story has evaded my attention for nearly fifteen years. Nonetheless, it’s worth the time to raise a glass to the greatest superhero whose special power is to do nothing the world has ever known.

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The Fury of the Furry

Over at The Onion, they’re probably banging their heads against the wall. It is axiomatic that truth is stranger than fiction because fiction is expected to make sense. Of course, I doubt Twain ever conceived of “The Celebrated Muff-Diving Panda of Washington County”.

Oh, right. Truth. Stranger than fiction.

If the idea of Dick Armey staging an armed coup at the Tea Party PAC’s headquarters seemed strange enough, it pales by comparison to the latest details about the astroturf giant’s troubles. David Corn’s headline for Mother Jones makes it obvious that what follows is, well, unsettling to say the least:

FreedomWorks Made Video of Fake Giant Panda Having Sex With Fake Hillary Clinton

And the detail:

An internal investigation of FreedomWorks—the prominent conservative advocacy group and super-PAC—has focused on president Matt Kibbe’s management of the organization, his use of its resources, and a controversial book deal he signed, according to former FreedomWorks officials who have met with the private lawyers conducting the probe. One potential topic for the inquiry is a promotional video produced last year under the supervision of Adam Brandon, executive vice president of the group and a Kibbe loyalist. The video included a scene in which a female intern wearing a panda suit simulates performing oral sex on Hillary Clinton.

Had enough, yet?

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What It Looks Like When Humor Fails

Or maybe I’m just missing something obvious. Someone, enlighten me, please.

xkcd — Steroids

I mean, some jokes don’t work because the response is obvious, and in this case the first thing to mind is so obvious that it verges on pedantic. So it’s likely I’m missing something.

But what, exactly, is it?
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Nonetheless, many thanks to Randall Munroe, who shares his comics with the world for free, and allows others to distribute them—even if that practice results in occasional criticism. xkcd is an excellent comic, and well worth your time.

An Overdose of Coolness

Chelsea Wald explains yet another cool mammalian surprise:

Photo by Alexander D. M. WilsonSperm whales are fierce squid hunters, but they also have a softer side. In a serendipitous sighting in the North Atlantic, researchers have discovered a group of the cetaceans that seem to have taken in an adult bottlenose dolphin with a spinal malformation, at least temporarily. It may be that both species simply liked the social contact ….

…. Among ocean-dwelling mammals, dolphins are perhaps the most gregarious. They’ve been spotted traveling, foraging, and playing with a wide variety of other animals, including many whales. On the other hand, as far as the authors of the forthcoming paper in Aquatic Mammals know, sperm whales had never been reported cozying up to another species. Specialized deep-water hunters who travel great distances, the whales are more timid than dolphins and harder for people to observe.

Indeed, behavioral ecologists Alexander Wilson and Jens Krause of the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries in Berlin did not expect to find a mixed-species group when they set out to observe sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) some 15 to 20 kilometers off the island of Pico in the Azores in 2011. But when they got there, they found not only a group that included several whale calves, but also an adult male bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus). Over the next 8 days, they observed the dolphin six more times while it nuzzled and rubbed members of the group. The sperm whales seemed to at least tolerate it; at times, they reciprocated. “It really looked like they had accepted the dolphin for whatever reason,” says Wilson, who was snorkeling nearby. “They were being very sociable.”

The dolphin itself was easy enough to recognize for its unusual spinal curvature. While low predation rates in the Azores suggest the interspecies partnership is not for protection, it is possible that the dolphin’s spinal issue caused it some trouble with its own species. “Sometimes some individuals can be picked on,” explained Wilson, suggesting some alienation within its own social group. While the dolphin can keep up with sperm whales, and may eventually play a role in the group’s behavior, the question remains as to what the whales get from the relationship. Cetacean ecologist Mónica Almeida e Silva called the relationship “puzzling”, and behavioral biologist Luke Rendell suggested it’s too early to read deeply into this seemingly unique example of cross-species socialization.

And caution is wise, as there is always a risk of overdosing on this kind of coolness.