When I was hiking on a remote island off of Thailand, I ran into a Komodo dragon (it may have been a water monitor, but STILL). These fuckers eat people. (They eat other things, too... but as far as I was concerned at that moment, they only eat people.) Happily I reacted by screaming like a girl, which scared the crap out of the dragon which ran the other direction.
I say that to say this: I still dream about that Komodo dragon, and the following clip from a Japanese game show which depicts a woman tying a slab of meat around her waist and running from a dragon gave me PTSD. How about you? (Extra points to the woman who lured the dragon over to the also-delicious camera crew.)
For years science has been keeping a horrifying secret from us... okay, so maybe they haven't kept it a secret from you, but I didn't know anything about it until now! Anyway, that secret is DEEP SEA SQUIDS. They live deep underwater—the video below was shot at 7,500 feet—but I see no reason for them not to swim up to the top and wrap their insanely long tentacles around me now that they know I'm up here!!! From Deep Sea News (which I will never work for because GAHHHHHH!!):
They are unusual in both that the fins are up to 90% of the length of the body, i.e. the mantle, and the ridiculously long length of the arms. The squid often will hold some of the arms at a 90˚ angles from the side of the body.
Drain the oceans of their water, or by all that's holy, these bastards will strangle you in your sleeeeeeeeep!!!
Look. I've seen enough of these robot development videos to be okay with the fact that they will one day be our overlords, and will almost certainly crush my skull beneath their big metallic feet. I CAN LIVE WITH THAT. What I'm having trouble living with is that scientists are now teaching robots to cheat at "Rock, Paper, Scissors" and... what the fuck??? I have to get my head crushed AND lose at "Rock, Paper, Scissors"??? Here's the BBC report on the robot that wins at "Rock, Paper, Scissors" every stinking time:
It uses high-speed recognition and reaction, rather than prediction.
Technically, the robot cheats because it reacts extremely quickly to what the human hand is doing rather than making a premeditated simultaneous action as the rules state.
Taking just one millisecond (ms) - a thousandth of a second - to recognise what shape the human hand is making, it then chooses a winning move and reacts at high speed.
Now watch the goddamn cheating robot in action!
BOOOOOOOOO, CHEATING ROBOT! BOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!
Oh, and South America, too! Because apparently both places now have the "pacu" fish—a relative of the piranha who delights in feasting on men's testicles. From the hilariously hyperbolic Telegraph:
The freshwater fish, which can grow up to 90 centimetres and weigh up to 25 kilogrammes, has been nicknamed the "ball cutter" for its attacks on the male genitalia.
In areas where pacus proliferate, fishermen have reportedly bled to death after losing their testicles to the fish's crushing jaws.
So why exactly do pacus go for the male testicles? Danish museum fish expert Henrik Carl explains:
"They bite because they're hungry, and testicles sit nicely in their mouth."
HAHAHAHAHAAAA!! OH YES THEY DO. Waitasecond... there's more and... WHAT?!? You're just NOW mentioning this?!?
Found in most rivers in the Amazon and Orinoco basins in South America, they have also been spotted in Papua New Guinea, where it is believed they have been introduced to boost fish stocks. Discoveries have also been reported in several US states; in 2006, officials at one Texas lake reportedly put a $100 bounty on the pacu caught there.
Way to bury the lede, Telegraph! And this is EXACTLY why I wear THIS every time I go swimming. Bon appétit, a-hole fish!
I think these scuba divers take it remarkably well when a whale trying to scoop up a school of fish almost EATS THEM AS WELL. Think about this the next time you're swimming in the ocean.
You know how US Sen. Jeff Merkley has made us proud in recent days? How he's been really offended at all these new intelligence disclosures, championing the public's right to know if they're being surveilled by the government, clamoring for better congressional oversight of these things?
Well, it turns out Merkley snubbed a shot at being let in the loop last year.
According to reports from Buzzfeed (of all places) and Politico, Merkley called a meeting of top intelligence folks on Capitol Hill, who arrived promptly and were ready to brief him and other senators (Sen. Ron Wyden among them) on the legal rationale for PRISM surveillance.
But Merkley had to leave early. He was scheduled to appear on MSNBC's Hardball.
"In this case, Senator Merkley thought the meeting would be on an area that he had already been briefed on, and when conflicts arose he missed the meeting," Spokesman Jamal Raad tells Politico.
This is not to say Merkley's attention on the issue is unappreciated (he's certainly doing his job better than New York Congressman Peter King, who's calling for charges against the journalist who broke the story). After all, the senator was engaged enough in these issues to call the meeting. Just not, apparently, to attend.
(And NO, that's NOT the name of my '90s pop punk band.) Check out this news footage of a supposed UFO flying around Mexico's Popocatepetl volcano. I admit my Spanish is TERRIBLE, but I think this news report is about aliens who come to earth to commit suicide in our volcanoes. HEY ALIENS! Sorry your planet doesn't have progressive "death with dignity" laws—but can you maybe off yourselves on somebody else's planet? SHEESH!
Okay, so I just watched this video? And my PTSD from growing up in tornado alley Alabama just jumped into overdrive. This completely engrossing video was shot by a guy who witnessed the birth of the tornado that ravaged Oklahoma and took dozens of lives. At :50 you see it coming out of the sky, by 2:00 you're crapping your pants and by 3:00 your crap is crapping itself. Say what you will about the man who stuck around to shoot this, but you can't say he isn't brave. The man's son introduced this on Reddit thusly:
He was out that way for work today and just happened to be in the right place at the right time. He was worried it was going to come back at him and was searching for a way to scoot out it's way once he was able to gauge how insanely close it was to him. He hung in there, though. Unbelievable.
Unbelievable is an understatement.
Add your own below!
Look, I understand if you stopped reading all the comments we're still getting on our feature article this week ("The Sanest Arguments Against Fluoridation... And Why They're Still Wrong"), because frankly one's interest begins to wane after the 209th comment accusing us of being "bought off" by big money dental fertilizer arsenic companies. (Ummm... if that's the case... WHERE'S MY MERCEDES???)
However! Now that it's reached 330 comments (WOO-HOO!), a new player has entered the game who goes by the name of Pridge Wessea and is really causing certain people coniptions. Take it away, Pridge!
You're absolutely right Homer - I hate how the discourse on public water is so negative and sarcastic when we are talking about POISON. People look at me like I'm crazy, but there's not a single study out there that shows that water is 100% safe. People die from drinking it all the time. It doesn't have a warning label, so how do you know when drinking it you've had too much?
George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both drank water and now they're dead - what further proof does anyone need?
Oh, and there's much more here. ALSO! Paul Constant made note of this comment thread over at SLOG in Seattle where they've had fluoridated water for years. Their comments about our comments are also pretty priceless.
@14: "But it's not just about hippies (and it's definetly not "Birchers"), the people making the most noise about fluoride are the younger set, the kind of people who believe in homeopathy and that vaccines cause autism. They're well organized and media-savvy."
There's no fucking difference between bircher christians and new-age antivaxers, there's a reason why both take to Scientology and Ron Paul.
—Posted by undead ayn rand
Hmmf! They would say that—they've all been paid off by fluoridated chemical fertilizer poison Desani companies, too! (Consider this unfluoridated water... CHUMMED.)
I'm going to set aside an actual discussion of the pros/cons to adding fluoride to our drinking water because that's what the good people at Clean Water Portland have done. Let's instead look at how they're trying to market their cause.
Cute kid. But that's... not how water works. This is going to come as a huge shock to you, but there's tons of stuff in water that isn't water. Including, but not limited to barium, copper, lead, arsenic (!), and fluoride. Yep. There's fluoride in your water.
The government must be using the fluoride-radio receivers they've planted in your bodies to make you create really amusing straw men on billboards.
What a coincidence. That guy just happened to use your pen to write your slogan!
Look, I'm as worried as the next guy about my kid's teeth turning into Nazis, but the word chemicals makes you sound so silly. Water is a chemical. You don't want fluoridation chemicals in your water chemicals.
I disagree with you. "You're welcome."
MORE AFTER THE JUMP!
Cue the "guess you CAN touch this" quips. Police are announcing they arrested the so-called "Hammer Pants Bandit" on Thursday, after the suspect eluded authorities for months.
According to a fresh release from the Portland Police Bureau, cops arrested 46-year-old Weston Miner Rogers at his residence on SE Aspen Summit Drive, just east of I-205. He's accused of three bank robberies in the Portland region that occurred between October and February.
Here's the thing: I'm appreciative that cops seem to take a certain amount of pride in flashy bandit names. I am. But what's the system here? Where is the overarching logic in these things?
A cursory search of PPB news releases in past several years helps illustrate my point.
"Dopey the Bandit" you may remember from earlier this year. He was connected to a spate of robberies in 2012 and 2013, and he looks literally NOTHING LIKE BELOVED DISNEY DWARF DOPEY. More like a methy, balding LeFou. Also: he (allegedly) pulled off 11 robberies in like two months. He's certainly more industrious than Dopey—obsessed as he is with silliness and mirth—would have been. Explanation from the press release: "Kehm was nicknamed 'Dopey the Bandit' after numerous Portland area robberies." Unhelpful.
There was the "Hipster Bandit," whose moniker's origins are a little more clear: He rode a bike and a witness told police he "looked like a hipster." Fair, and relatively certain to appeal to the sensibilities of a society thirsty to demonize hipsterdom in all its ever-changing faces.
And last summer came the "Bling Bandit," which the PPB didn't even try to justify, though the eventual suspect was helpfully named Ivory.
What's my point? Sometimes the names are helpful descriptors, sometimes they're bewildering, and this time around we're all in for a big disappointment. Because Weston Miner Rogers did not wear hammer pants, friends. He didn't even keep a hammer IN his pants. He (allegedly) kept it in his sleeve, pretending it was a gun.
Bureau Spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson tells the Mercury investigators come up with the names for internal reference and try to at least loosely key in on a description. That used to be solely the province of the feds, but local authorities are stepping in more and more on bank robbery cases.
"Hammer sleeve doesn't sound as catchy as hammer pants," says Simpson, who himself owned a pair in more-innocent times. "Those names are all about being catchy."
There are times in the career of any serious news man that shake one's ability to feel. I'm right there.
Once again, the fine editorial staff at the Mercury has let me write a cover story about a disaster. This new piece—which Steve Humphrey lovingly refers to as "more disaster porn”—looks at what might happen to Oregon’s communications networks when the “Big One” strikes. It also examines what Oregon telecoms are doing, or not, to prepare for a calamity we’re very likely to get any time in the next 50 to 100 years, or—given that we’re overdue for a big quake—maybe even tomorrow.
So what aren’t the telecoms doing for their buildings, which house vital equipment that routes internet and phone traffic—including 911 calls? Quite a bit, it turns out.
This includes not working with state seismic planners, and, as one person in the know told me, updating their equipment to the current quake codes only when it makes economic sense. But as the new story points out, the telecoms’ biggest earthquake liabilities are their seismically vulnerable buildings.
These are buildings that, for the most part, were built mid-century or earlier. They predate the current seismic codes. And it’s unclear what, if any, retrofitting has been done to them. In other words, what we’re talking about is a lot of really new high-tech stuff—including some equipment that’s already up to the current seismic specs—housed in low-tech shells that aren’t expected to perform well in a big quake.
In fact, they might even collapse entirely. And, experts say, it could take years to replace them and get our data-hungry communications networks even close to where they are now.
So why haven’t these buildings been updated, aside from the fact it would presumably cost the telecoms a lot of money? Well, it’s because legally they don’t have to.
According to Oregon building codes, the rule is, if an old building has been used continuously for the same purpose (“occupancy” in the lingo), the building is legally exempt from having to be upgraded to the current building codes, which started taking large earthquakes into consideration only in the 1990s.
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria with the potential to cause untreatable infections pose "a catastrophic threat" to the population, the chief medical officer for Britain warns in a report calling for urgent action worldwide.
Also: "The problem of microbes becoming increasingly resistant to the most powerful drugs should be ranked alongside terrorism and climate change on the list of critical risks." One root of the problem: doctors over-prescribing, and scared patients over-demanding, antibiotics for every little thing.
Meanwhile, the CDC is warning that a new SARS-like virus has popped up in the Middle East.
From Yahoo News:
An asteroid half the size of a football field buzzed Earth in a historic flyby today (Feb. 15), barely missing our planet just hours after a much smaller object exploded above Russia, injuring perhaps 1,000 people.
The 150-foot-wide (45 meters) near-Earth asteroid 2012 DA14 cruised within 17,200 miles (27,000 kilometers) of Earth at 2:24 p.m. EST (1924 GMT) today, coming closer than many communications satellites circling our planet.
Okay, so I guess our plans for tonight are back on. Soooo... what do you want to do? I hear A Good Day to Die Hard is good.
As Denis mentioned in Good Morning News, Russia had some little visitors yesterday—meteorites that exploded over the Urals in Russia, damaging 300 buildings and injuring 900 people (mostly via broken glass). Here's an awesome news report from Russia Today in which the (fairly flippant) Brit host and his not-exactly-a-scientist-but-she's-cute "expert" reporter describe what happened and—here's the important part—show TONS of sweet video. And while I realize these meteorites were definitely trying to kill us, they're still kind of... beautiful? WATCH.
Okay, even though this blog post was tagged "PANIC!"—do not PANIC! The authorities have this situation completely under control, and the best thing you can do at this point is to stay inside your homes and await further instructions. For those just joining us, a panda bear with telekinetic powers has been spotted wandering the streets doing horrible things... WITH HIS BRAIN. Watch.
Again, DO NOT PANIC. Stay tuned to Blogtown for the latest on this developing story.
Grist has a long post up about how the ocean off the shore of the Pacific Northwest is becoming deadly:
It is ironic that despite relatively progressive clean energy policies the West Coast is paying an unusually high price for global carbon emissions. Ocean water off the Pacific coast has absorbed so much carbon that it is becoming acidic enough to melt the shells of sea creatures. Our national and global addiction to fossil fuel and unwillingness to seriously reduce carbon emissions is taking its toll, right here, in real time, with profound implications for the Pacific Ocean.
The oceans act like a massive sponge soaking up airborne carbon. As carbon dissolves in the ocean it forms carbonic acid. Once acidity becomes high enough the shells literally dissolve.
Due to a uniquely structured coastline and system of currents, deep, older water surfaces along the Pacific coast. This older water has been soaking up carbon for a relatively long period of time and therefore is unusually acidic.
The first economic casualty of ocean acidification is the multi-million dollar West Coast shellfish industry. Acidity levels are already high enough to hinder oyster larvae in forming shells. Some hatchery businesses have moved to Hawaii. Others are installing expensive monitoring equipment and shutting down operations when acidity is too high.
Are you from Miami? CONGRATULATIONS! Here is a very... unusual... public service announcement reminding everyone that it's somewhat colder in Portland and northern Florida than it is in Miami. GIRLS WHO WALK AROUND IN MINI-SKIRTS AND NO SLEEVES DOWNTOWN ON A SATURDAY NIGHT: Are you hearing me? Watch this video. IT'S COLD, YOU IDIOTS.
The U.S. Transportation Security Administration will remove airport body scanners that privacy advocates likened to strip searches after OSI Systems Inc. (OSIS) couldn’t write software to make passenger images less revealing...
The agency removed 76 of the machines from busier U.S. airports last year. It will now get rid of the remaining 174 Rapiscan machines, with the company absorbing the cost, said Karen Shelton Waters, the agency’s assistant administrator for acquisitions.
The scanner-manufacturing company couldn't meet a congressional requirement to make the images more generic—which would presumably have shown everything except details of your swimsuit area. Working for TSA just isn't what it used to be. (Via Gizmodo.)
As Cara succinctly put it in Saturday's Good Morning, News!, "don't inadvertently cause the death an old person or a kid."
Or, per the New Yorker:
...Even if you think you are invincible, your elderly neighbors and infant children are not. People with weakened immune systems-those undergoing cancer treatments, for example-are not. Your parents and grandparents are not. The flu vaccine is not perfect, but it's what we have. It's available at drug-store chains and malls, big-box superstores and, naturally, at your doctor's office. Get one today.
Plug your zip code into this site, and it'll tell you where to find a vaccine. Call first, 'cause Portland pharmacies and clinics are running low.
Just a friendly reminder that the world is ending tomorrow, Friday, Dec 21, and it might be a good idea to get your affairs in order. That's what we're doing today at the Mercury—right after our holiday white elephant gift exchange. (Does anybody have the exact time the world ends tomorrow? I'd like to get in a quick workout beforehand.)
Anyway, if the end of the world slipped your mind, no worries. You can quickly read this week's Mercury Guide to the Mayan Apocalypse, which is specifically designed for all you last minute apocalypsers. Such as...
The End of Times: Cheers and Jeers
Here Are Some Things I've Been Wanting to Tell You
A Non-Survivor's Guide to the Apocalypse (this one is specifically directed at YOU)
A Last Minute Bucket List
And of course...
The Mercury's Word Search of Eternal Strife and Never Ending Frustration to Celebrate the Upcoming Banal Everyday Armageddon that Will be Our Undoing
I hope these articles will be of some help and solace... but if they're not? It's not like you're gonna be able to complain about it. See ya when I see ya.
Backspace—Old Town's beloved gallery/coffee shop/music venue/community center—is facing a January 1 eviction deadline, owner Eric Robison says, after his landlords told him he had two weeks to pay up on his overdue rent or make way for an unidentified new tenant.
Robison's only way out? He's asking the people who hold Backspace dear to help him come up with close to $10,000—enough to catch up on the lapsed rent payment he's been carrying over every month for the past year and also clear thousands in late fees. Otherwise, the venue's December 31 bash, headlined by Lost Lander, will also be a goodbye party.
"We're scrambling the troops," Robison says. "Let's keep this going."
Already, after an impromptu event last night, Portland Poetry Slam, which regularly holds down the place on Sundays, raised something like $900. Robison's working up an IndieGogo campaign (UPDATED WITH THE LINK), helped along by gifts from bands including the Thermals and Starfucker. And the next two Sundays, on the 23rd and 30th, will be given over to fundraising concerts, with lineups still to be determined.
"I don't know who he can get to take this large space, but I guess he finally found someone. He won't tell me who it is," Robison says of one of his landlords, Old Town developer David Gold. "I can't totally blame him. I am late. But he didn't need to add another $3,000 in late fees."
Robison, who made a splash 10 years ago when he opened the venue in an Old Town more feral than the one we have now, also says he was told, if he found the money, that his lease was "good for another year." He's not holding his breath for an extension after that, he says, after going back and forth with his landlords over several rent and fee increases since 2007.
Peanut butter recall, now expanded! (Somehow we missed this so far?)
Brand names included in the recall are Archer Farms, Earth Balance, Fresh & Easy, Heinen's, Joseph's, Natural Value, Naturally More, Open Nature, Peanut Power Butter, Serious Food, Snaclite Power, Sprouts Farmers Market, Sprout's, Sunland and Dogsbutter. Two additional Trader Joe's products are also included in the expanded recall—Trader Joe's Valencia Peanut Butter with Roasted Flaxseeds and Trader Joe's Almond Butter with Roasted Flaxseeds.
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