Wednesday, March 28, 2007

It's A Rock....With Hair

And It's Worth A Million Dollars

Is it April 1 already? This has got to be fake. In the few minutes I've devoted to trying to verify this story, or the claim that rocks can grow hair, I've found nothing to back up what you see in the photo or can read in the story below.

We'll file this one in : No F..king Way! for now.

From the Epoch Times :
An unusual rock went on display in Beijing. This rock has "hair," almost identical to human hair, growing out of its "head."

The rock is iron gray in color, naturally smooth and rounded, and is similar to a cobblestone.

There is also a very thin layer of scalp tissue connecting the "hair" to the rock. The hair is grey in color and similar to the color of the rock itself. The hair grows quite naturally from the top with the longest strands being about 15 centimeters (6 inches) long. The hair is slightly coarser than human hair.

Only two other hair-growing rocks have been reported in the world; and both are in a Taiwan Museum.

The value of the rock is estimated to be around 10 million Yuan (approximately USD 1.3 million)
Maybe the fact that the 'Rock With Hair' is on display at a Fashion Cafe in Beiijing gives the game away.

Or maybe not.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

'Toadzilla' Caught In "Breeding Frenzy"

It weighs almost a kilo and was described as being "the size of a small dog." This is one of the largest cane toads ever found in Australia. A volunteer group called 'Toadwatch' picked it up during what was described as a cane toad "breeding frenzy" in the Northern Territory.

'Toadwatch' night patrols see groups of locals hunting down the cane toads and destroying them, as they fight a front line war against the invasion.

So far they've had some great successes, and while it may be all but impossible to completely eliminate the toads, the volunteers, including mums and dads and kids armed with torches, plastic bags and heavy gloves, have managed to keep the toads out of a number of pristine environments.

From the Sydney Morning Herald :

The 861-gram monster male is the largest to be caught anywhere in the Northern Territory, according to environmental group FrogWatch.

The warty pest was picked up by local volunteers during a community toad bust at Lee Point last night.

Measuring 20.5cm in length, the colossal male was one of 39 toads caught in the middle of "a breeding frenzy", said FrogWatch coordinator Graeme Sawyer.

He said NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) ToadBusts were finding low numbers of toads in the city, except for Lee Point and the Coastal Reserve.

First released in Queensland, cane toads have since multiplied and marched across Australia, poisoning millions of native animals, including crocodiles in World Heritage-listed Kakadu.

If you're a creature that can poison crocodiles, then you are extremely dangerous.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Pandas Get Porn

A young male panda in a Thai zoo has been put on an "intensive mating course."

Stop laughing, it gets better.

The "course" includes daily viewings of pornographic and a low-carb diet. But it's not working. Six year old Chuang Chuang isn't all that interested in his five year old partner Lin Hui.

There's a couple of obvious problems with this "intensive mating course".

Firstly, even a male panda could be expected to feel uncomfortable watching porn with a bunch of zookeepers and researchers standing around waiting to see how he reacts.

Secondly, this story doesn't specify what kind of 'porn' the panda is being shown.

You are left to presume that it is footage of pandas mating, but does that qualify as porn? Isn't that more like nature footage?

Or did they go out and specifically create 'panda porn' for the pro-mating program? Did it have a slap-bass heavy soundtrack? Were pandas dressed as cheerleaders and football players?

No details.

The final obvious problem comes with this admission from one of the zoo's veterinarians. "We sought expert opinions from China and have been closely monitoring their behaviour."

Maybe the pandas are shy? And just who are these Chinese experts providing opinion on panda porn?

The veterinarian, Kannikar Nimtragul, revealed the panda porn videos were only 15 minutes long.

Fifteen minutes? So they're just straight hardcore then? No lead in? No build up? Maybe Chuang Chuang would like to see some examples of panda seduction, or pawplay (sorry) before he gets aroused enough for some real-life action :
The panda's keepers hope to warm him up before next week, when his partner will be fertile and could be impregnated.

That sounds suspiciously like that poor panda is about to get molested.

"We had to educate Chuang Chuang about how to mate," Ms Kannikar said.

"He showed some interest in the sounds of the video, but not really the footage."

Giant pandas, notorious for their low sex drive, are among the world's most endangered animals.

It's been said before, but it's worth saying again : If pandas don't want to reproduce, maybe it's time to let them die out. Maybe Nature is telling these pandas their time on Planet Earth is over.

Perhaps it's not the porn, or the low-carb diet, or the fact the zookeepers decided to keep the two young pandas isolated from each other in a bizarre attempt to build up desire.

Or maybe the pandas are too freaked out to mate, because they're surrounded by people who can't stop staring at them, who show them porno and do things like this :

Chiang Mai held an elaborate, traditional Chinese wedding for the couple in 2005 in the hope of encouraging them to procreate, and is considering bringing in a snow machine to help recreate a mountainous habitat.

The panda's keepers hope to warm (Chaung Chuang) up before next week, when his partner will be fertile and could be impregnated.
That sounds suspiciously like that poor panda is about to get molested.
$10 Million Damages Awarded In Lawsuit To Kill Of Rumours That Corporate Profits Are Funnelled To Satan

It's now confirmed, at least in the United States and the UK : Satan is not getting rich off Pampers nappies or Pringles chips.

A court in Salt Lake City has ordered four men to cough up more than $12 million in damages to corporate bohemoth Proctor & Gamble for spreading the conspiracy theory that P & G were funnelling profits to The Very Devil Himself.

P & G has been pursuing legal action to kill off the rumours for more than a decade and have lost, acccording to them, hundreds of millions of dollars in sales.

How does such stupidity get started? An agent for a corporate rival has been blamed for starting the rumours in 1994, but P & G first attracted the attention of Satan-hating, Anti-Christ anticipation American Christians in the 1960s when they :

began to take exception to a company logo showing a bearded and horned man surrounded by 13 stars. This was said to be a perversion of the passage in the Book of Revelations that describes "a woman clothed with the sun, and with the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of 12 stars." The stars in the company logo supposedly spelled out 666, the number of the beast.

Despite denying it all, P&G dropped the logo in 1985.
Makes you wonder how many other product boycotts and corporate conspiracy theories began with "agents" from rival companies.
Meet The 'Shuman'

Genetically Modified Sheep Is 15% Human

In ancient Greek mythology they were called 'chimera', animals made up of parts of other animals, and sometimes humans, that occasionally helped great warriors and heros on their quests, but more often featured as monsters, and visions of a nightmare world.

But chimera are mythology no more.

From the UK Daily Mail :
Scientists have created the world's first human-sheep chimera - which has the body of a sheep and half-human organs.

The sheep have 15 per cent human cells and 85 per cent animal cells - and their evolution brings the prospect of animal organs being transplanted into humans one step closer.

Professor Esmail Zanjani, of the University of Nevada, has spent seven years and £5million perfecting the technique, which involves injecting adult human cells into a sheep's foetus.

He has already created a sheep liver which has a large proportion of human cells and eventually hopes to precisely match a sheep to a transplant patient, using their own stem cells to create their own flock of sheep.

The process would involve extracting stem cells from the donor's bone marrow and injecting them into the peritoneum of a sheep's foetus. When the lamb is born, two months later, it would have a liver, heart, lungs and brain that are partly human and available for transplant.

There is certainly a massive worldwide market for such organs. In the UK, thousands die each year for want of replacement organs when their own have become too damaged or old to continue functioning efficiently :

At present 7,168 patients are waiting for an organ transplant in Britain alone, and two thirds of them are expected to die before an organ becomes available.

Scientists know full well the controversy they face trying to move the creation of chimera to grow organs into full production.

...the development is likely to revive criticisms about scientists playing God, with the possibility of silent viruses, which are harmless in animals, being introduced into the human race.

Dr Patrick Dixon, an international lecturer on biological trends, warned: "Many silent viruses could create a biological nightmare in humans. Mutant animal viruses are a real threat, as we have seen with HIV."

The full-blown nightmare scenario? Animal rights activists are afraid of 'cellular fusion' where a human-animal hybrid would be born combining the features man and sheep.


One day, human rights groups and animal rights groups may need to combine their resources to fight for the rights of 'shuman'.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

'Chaos' In Natural World As Global Warming Brings An Early Spring

Warmest Recorded Autumn And Winter In Parts Of Europe For 300 Years

Bears are waking up early, flowers are blooming weeks before they did last year and birds are migrating well ahead of time.

These are just some of the examples cited in this Reuters story (excerpted below) about the 'chaotic' changes in the natural world as spring arrives early in the Northern Hemisphere.

And Global Warming, claims the story, is to blame :

Spring officially starts on Wednesday at 0007 GMT when the sun passes north over the celestial equator but scientists say the biological clocks of animals and plants are running ahead of time, perhaps upset by global warming.

Orange trees, olives and peaches are blooming weeks ahead of schedule in Greece, geese are cutting down on migrations in Canada and the United States and bears have been unable to hibernate in Bulgaria.

Red Admiral butterflies and swallows -- usually a sign of summer after the birds spend the winter in Africa -- have been spotted early in the Netherlands after the warmest Dutch autumn and winter since records starting in 1706.

Winter in the northern hemisphere was the warmest since global records began in the late 19th century, spurred by a warming trend of recent decades and an El Nino warming of the Pacific, according to the U.S. government's weather agency.

And some experts predict that 2007 could eclipse 1998 and 2005 as the warmest on record.

Scientists say that weather is always chaotic but U.N. reports project that extreme events such as droughts, heatwaves and floods are likely to become more frequent because of a warming widely blamed on use of fossil fuels.

All 20 bears in a Bulgarian conservation park are awake after most skipped a hibernation normally lasting until April.

"The bears did not even try to sleep this winter. For the first time it happened to almost all of them," said Anton Paunkov, spokesman of the "Four Paws" foundation.

In Kew Gardens west of London, daffodils, crocuses and snowdrops have been opening early. In Britain, some birds such as chiffchaffs and blackcaps no longer bother to migrate.

Some farmers may benefit from longer growing seasons but many worry that early flowering exposes crops to late frosts or pests. Normal insect pollinators such as bees may not be around when the flowers bloom.

Among benefits, high winter temperatures may have helped keep winter heating bills down, helping limit high oil prices at about $60 a barrel.

Killer, Meat-Eating Frogs Invade San Francisco

"It's like something out of a...horror movie," begins this story from SF Gate.

They ain't kidding. Here's the short version :

....killer frogs take over peaceful pond, then after terrorizing and eating everything alive, start eating each other.

But it's not a horror movie, this is actually happening in Lily Pond, in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.

The amphibians in question are called 'African clawed frogs' and they can grow five inches long. As their name implies, they have sharp claws curving out of their huge back feet.

It's a mystery how these vicious little brutes got into the pond in the first place. But they've wreaked terrible damage on the native frogs, turtles and fish. The fear is the frogs will get out of the pond and into the waterways of San Francisco. It hasn't happened yet. But some believe it will be only a matter of time, unless the killer frogs are wiped out.

"They've eaten everything they can get their mouths around, and now they're eating each other," said Eric Mills of the animal rights group Action for Animals.

There was a plan in 2003 by the California Department of Fish and Game to drain the pond, but this plan was abandoned after community anger over a pike-poisoning incident by the department shortly before the pond draining was supposed to begin.

....park workers have used nets and traps baited with chicken to yank about 2,500 adult frogs out of the pond. The frogs are then sent up to Fish and Game in Yountville, where they are euthanized by a special nerve poison.

But the Terminator toads just keep coming back.

"They are cute, but tough," Mills said. "I saw a heron swoop down and grab one. He had it in his bill for a while, tried to eat it, then just gave up and spit it out."

In fact, about the only thing known to eat the frogs are crocodiles -- but that solution is probably out.

For now, anyway.
Dog 'Adopts' Orphaned Squirrel

I've come across literally hundreds of stories over the years of orphaned or abandoned 'baby' animals being adopted and raised by adults of another species. For all the violence and cruelty of the natural world, there are also many wonderfully 'humane' and kind examples of empathy and compassion.

But this story is something special. A baby squirrel has been adopted by a Maltese terrier named Pitty Pat in Arkansas.

The orphaned squirrel was found by the Wootton family, who fed the squirrel with a bottle for a few days. They left the squirrel alone in a room with the mother dog and her puppies. The next thing they knew Pitty Pat was nursing the squirrel :

....the squirrel has settled in, just like one of Pitty Pat's puppies.

....there's even some sibling rivalry.

The family said they're thinking about what to name the little squirrel, and hope to one day release it back into the wild.

Spiders Get Cuddly

Not all spiders eat other after sex. In fact, new research shows that at least two species of 'whip spider' are downright affectionate towards each other and their siblings. They cuddle, they caress, they nurture their young. Life for 'teenage' whip spiders is, however, more dangerous, and more aggressive.

This report from Live Science explores the touchy-feely side of arachnids :

Social behavior is extremely rare in arachnids, a group of critters typically defined by their aggression, clever hunting methods and even predatory cannibalism.

"This was the best example I had ever seen of friendly behavior in an arachnid," said lead study author Linda Rayor, a Cornell University entomologist.

"I was amazed at how incredibly interactive the groups are," Rayor said. "They are in constant tactile contact with one another. They are constantly exploring one another and interacting with their siblings."

Rayor and her colleagues studied two whip-spider species, dime-sized spiders common in Florida, called Phrynus marginemaculatus, and a much larger species found in forests and caves in Tanzania and Kenya, Damon diadema.

Observed in glass houses, the two arachnid families were often seen engaging in sibling-sibling and mother-baby interactions. In one experiment, the siblings were removed from a familiar cage and placed randomly into a large unfamiliar cage. Within minutes, they gathered back together.

Mothers of both species nurtured their young. Often, the mama whip spider would sit in the middle of her offspring and slowly stroke their bodies and whips with her own feelers.

Whereas amicable behavior continued into adulthood for P. marginemaculatus, teen life was rougher for D. diadema. After these arachnids reached sexual maturity, the scientists found evidence they had outgrown their cuddly behavior: adolescent spiders had missing or injured legs attributable to fighting.

Past studies have focused on the more visible features, such as the adult's courtship displays and fighting behaviors, so scientists had assumed the creatures were solitary and cannibalistic predators.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Snow 'Doughnuts'

It looks like something man-made, but Mike Stanford, the man who spotted, and photographed, this oddity claims it is a natural occurence, though only under the rarest of conditions.

From the Seattle Times :
..snow rollers (as they're also called) form when there is a hard layer on the snow, covered by several more inches of dense snow.

"Then you add a steep slope and a trigger such as a clump of snow falling out of a tree or off of a rock face."

As gravity pulls a clump down, it usually rolls down the hill and collapses, creating (what is also called) a pinwheel. Or it will not roll at all, and come down in an avalanche of snow. But if the snow is the perfect density and temperature, it rolls down leaving a hole in the center...Strong, gusty winds also can be a factor...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Followers Of 'Jesus 2' Get Mark Of The Beast To Show Their Devotion

He claims to be both the Second Coming of Jesus and the Anti-Christ.


Not as confused as some of his followers are. They are lining up to get 666 tattoos to show both their devotion, and faith in the man they believe is the new Messiah :
A few weeks ago, in a tattoo parlor in the hip art deco district of Miami Beach, people were lining up to get "666" tattooed on their bodies, and then smiling through their pain. But these are not devil worshipers. They see themselves as devout followers of Jesus Christ.

But the major difference that separates them from other Christians around the world is that the Jesus Christ they worship is alive and well -- and living in the suburbs of Houston.

These people belong to a new movement devoted to a man who calls himself the Second Coming of Jesus, and also claims the title of Antichrist, which to him is the next incarnation of Jesus on earth, not an evil being.

One follower said, "I just want to make sure (the 666 tattoo is) visible, that everyone knows my life belongs to the man."

Another said, "I want everyone to know I'm one of the antichrists."

The man they follow makes life easy for his true believers. He doesn't see much as being sinful, is big on the entertainment and fun side of being a good Christian and doesn't mind a glass of fine scotch :
"Jesus drank wine because he didn't have Dewar's."
If his ministry ever loses its popularity, he could always go into writing advertising copy.
Stink Of Rotting Fish Kills Five

The stench of dead fish from the hold of a Thai fishing boat was enough to kill five men.

They weren't killed by the smell, however. But it was strong enough to knock them unconscious and into the water where they drowned :
Five Thai fishermen died and two were taken to hospital after inhaling gas released by rotting fish in the hold of a trawler, police said on Tuesday.

They fainted at the smell of the decomposing fish kept in the bottom of the trawler along the Andaman coast of southern Thailand....
Scrubbing Your Toilet To Bring Good Luck

A bathroom cleaning frenzy has broken out across Japan after media hype goes huge over a new book that links an ultra-clean loo to life-changing good luck and fortune :
Don't just wipe the floor, polish it," (a new book) instructs. "It's important to maintain a positive mood while cleaning."

The books are inspired by Buddhist teachings and feng shui, a traditional Chinese belief that people's fortunes are determined by their surroundings.

The idea that a clean toilet can bring good fortune, or even make you more beautiful, has existed in Japan for many years, according to Yuka Soma of Makino Publishing in Tokyo, editor of one of the toilet books.
Baby Tigers, Orangutans Best Mates, For Now

They're two of the world's most endangered species, and in the wild one would be hunting the other, but for one month in an Indonesian zoo nursery, there were no closer friends than two infant Sumatran tigers and two orangutans :

The friendship between 5-month-old female baby primates Nia and Irma, and cubs Dema and Manis, has blossomed at the Taman Safari (Indonesia).

After being abandoned by their mothers shortly after birth, the four play fight, nipping and teasing each other, and cuddling up for a shared nap when they are worn out.

"This is unusual and would never happen in the wild," said zoo keeper Sri Suwarni, bottle-feeding a baby chimp on Wednesday. "Like human babies, they only want to play."

"When the time comes, they will have to be separated. It's sad, but we cant' change their natural behavior...Tigers start eating meat when they are three months old."

Not a lot of faith there in the power of friendships.