The day has finally come — I can report that no oil is currently spilling into the Gulf of Mexico from the busted Deep Horizon rig. But, the news doesn’t come without a caveat. Currently, BP has the gusher successfully capped. But, seepage around the pipe and low pressure readings have scientists worried that perhaps keeping the well capped will only lead to a bigger, messier explosion. Great.
Fancy a flight into space? Well Virgin Galactic is one step closer to offering them. Last week, the company tested its spacecraft with a crew for the first time, flying over the Mojave Desert for six hours while remaining tethered to a specially-designed airplane. The company called the outing a success, and said similar flight testing will continue through 2011 before commercial operations start. How do you feel about space tourism? Would you pay the price to go?
Police are searching for a motive in a weekend attack on a party that left 18 people — some of them students — dead. It looks like something out of the typical Mexican organized crime playbook, but police said they cannot link the party organizers or guests to organized crime. This is the third mass slaying this year in the city of Torreon, and certainly doesn’t help dispel the sorts of misconceptions Vijaya talked about in her guest post.
On the brighter side of Mexico news, if you’ve ever had the desire to snorkel with whale sharks — those massive fish that aren’t predatory like great whites — you can do so in the Sea of Cortez, about a three-hour flight south of San Diego, California. Off the coast of the small fishing town of Bahia de los Angeles is one of the few places in the world where whale sharks congregate predictably, usually in late summer and early fall. You can actually swim with the gentle giants. Wouldn’t that be a story to tell?
A conference today in Afghanistan is supposed to lay out the ground rules for handing over security in all 34 provinces to the Afghan government by the end of 2014. The U.S. already has plans to begin its troop drawdown next year, but the results of today’s conference will give war-weary Americans and Europeans a solid date for when they can expect to be out of Afghanistan for good. That is, of course, if everything goes to plan. The Afghan government is currently struggling to make progress toward running the country on its own, despite President Hamid Karzai’s best efforts. Suicide attacks are actually on the rise, and who knows where the country will be four years from now.
Syria’s secular government has decided to ban students and teachers at all universities from wearing the niqab — the full Islamic veil that reveals only a woman’s eyes. Popular head scarves are not affected by the new rule.
There seems to have been a flurry of similar debates lately, in countries across Europe and the Middle-East. France’s lower house of parliament last week approved a ban on the niqab and burqa, and the measure will go to the Senate this fall. Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands are also considering a ban. In Turkey, Muslim head scarves are already a no-no in universities, because they are deemed to undermine modern Turkey’s secular laws. It certainly is an interesting debate — how does a secular government deal with an issue that has such a religious undertone?
A train crash in India killed more than 60 people on Monday, and injured scores more. A moving express train barreled into another stationary express train in the early hours of the morning, crashing so spectacularly that the roof of one car was thrust onto an overpass above the tracks. The passenger cars — reserved for those with the cheapest tickets — were packed to capacity, as is often the case in India. The sad thing is, devastating crashes like this aren’t all that uncommon in India’s sprawling rail system.
The slender loris is not extinct, after all. Researchers in Sri Lanka on Monday confirmed a photograph of the rare primate, which had not been sighted for more than 60 years, leading to the belief that it was extinct. The loris is a small, nocturnal, forest-dwelling primate with orb-like eyes and short limbs. If it’s not at the same time the creepiest and cutest thing I’ve ever seen, I don’t know what is.
Also, as an unnecessary side note, I had a hard time reading about the loris without also thinking of Dr. Seuss’ Lorax — “I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees…”
Some good news for once on the fight against AIDS: For the first time, a vaginal gel has proved capable of blocking the AIDS virus. In a study conducted in South Africa, scientists found that the microbicide ge — spiked with an AIDS drug — cut in a half a woman’s chances of contracting HIV from an infected partner. It’s by no means a cure, but at least it’s a step in the right direction. More studies will need to be done, and the success rate would have to be somewhere around 80 percent before such a product could be approved in the U.S.
Dumb Criminal of the Week
A few weeks back, I mentioned someone trying to smuggle endangered turtles through a Malaysian airport in duffel bags, who got caught when authorities noticed his luggage moving. Well, this week I’ve found someone even stupider. A man arriving in Mexico City from Peru was stopped on Monday and searched after airport authorities noticed a “mysterious bulge” under the man’s T-shirt. When they conducted a body search, they discovered 18 tiny endangered titi monkeys in pouches attached to a girdle he was wearing. The man told police he had been carrying the monkeys in a suitcase, but decided to put them in his girdle “so the X-rays wouldn’t hurt them.” Good job, champ.
Naked News of the Week
(I decided I should just continue the tradition; it seems the AP likes stories about unclothed people as much as I do.)
Apparently in Boulder, Colorado, you are allowed to address the city council wearing nothing but your underwear. They are just now considering changing this rule. But Boulder is no stranger to this sort of debate. In April, the city barred teens and adults from showing their genitals in public (which will probably make annual naked races difficult). They declined to outlaw topless females, however, despite complaints of a woman who gardens in a thong and gloves. I think I should consider moving to Boulder; sounds like a fun place.