The Steodata nobilis is commonly called the “False Black Widow.”
Creepy crawlies, in the form of a venomous spider infestation, has forced a school in Britain to close a week before Halloween.
The Dean Academy, a secondary school in southwest England’s Gloucestershire, said it was closing Wednesday to get rid of the false widow spiders. The spiders are commonly mistaken for their relative, the black widow spider, whose bite can be fatal.
The school said no one has been bitten by the spider but local health authorities have advised it to close for the day to deal with the infestation.
Experts say the Steodata nobilis, a species of the false widow, are becoming more common in the U.K. and are the most dangerous of the 12 species of biting spiders known in Britain.
But they stress that spider bites are rare in Britain, and in most cases the symptoms are mild. The spider’s bite may sting, swell up or cause discomfort like a wasp sting, but has not been known to cause deaths.
“They’re not aggressive spiders, they don’t seek out humans,” said David Lalloo, a professor at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.
“Most people won’t get much of a reaction. Some people may feel a bit unwell for a day or two, but that’s very rare,” he said.
Ecology professor Ricardo Freitas catches a broad-snouted caiman to examine, then release back into the water channel in the affluent Recreio dos Bandeirantes suburb of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
Oh, the glories of Rio that await spectators and athletes at the 2016 Olympics: Those beaches, that music, the dramatic mountains. And then there are a few thousand alligator-like creatures slithering through sewage-like lagoons.
Some 5,000 to 6,000 broad-snouted caimans live in fetid lagoon systems of western Rio de Janeiro, conservationists say, and there’s a chance that visitors could have an encounter with one, though experts hasten to add that the caimans, smaller and less aggressive than alligators or crocodiles, are not considered a threat to humans.
Some of the animals have already taken refuge in ponds being built inside the Olympic golf course, which abuts a once pristine mangrove-filled lagoon that’s now thick with tons of raw sewage pumped from nearby high-end condominiums.
In fact, with two decades of anarchic growth decimating natural habitats, the hardy caimans have become an increasingly common sight in the urban heart of western Rio, drawn in part by the scraps tossed to them by humans.
Olympics: The district is the main hub for 2016 Games and site of the Olympic village, though most events will take place in indoor facilities. One exception is the golf course, where some caimans have taken up residence in lakes. Wildlife on golf courses isn’t uncommon, with alligators spotted on greens in Florida and kangaroos bounding around courses in Australia.
Conservationists say Olympic organizers are beginning to examine what to do about the reptiles on the still-unfinished golf course.
The caimans congregate in a canal in the affluent Recreio dos Bandeirantes suburb that’s sandwiched between two busy thoroughfares. Beach-bound mothers with toddlers in strollers, neighbors out to walk the dog and pizza delivery boys pause on a narrow wooden footbridge over the canal to observe the caimans, whose brown color camouflages them in the brackish, sulfuric waters.
Survival: With few fish surviving in the polluted waters, caiman increasingly rely on handouts from humans, which can range from raw chicken to crackers, sometimes still in their plastic packages. They also feed on birds and the sewer rats that emerge from the culverts.
“Caimans are like tanks, a very old species with a remarkable capacity for renovation that allows them to survive under extreme conditions where others couldn’t,” said Ricardo Freitas, an ecology professor who runs the Instituto Jacare, or the Caiman Institute, which aims to protect the reptiles. “But the fact of the matter is that their days are numbered if things don’t change drastically.”
With a population that’s 85 percent male, a serious demographic problem is looming for Rio’s caimans, said Freitas, who suspects that the uncontrolled release of raw sewage is behind the gender imbalance. Organic matter raises water warmer and among caimans, high temperatures during a certain stage of incubation result in male offspring.
While a few caimans wander from the canal, sometimes getting hit by cars, Freitas said he is aware of only one other person attacked by a caiman, a fisherman who was superficially bitten after he stepped on one.
Freitas himself has grabbed and tagged 400 of the reptiles over the past decade. He wades into the toxic sludge, slips a metal lasso around their heads and taps expertly on their snapping jaws until he’s able to tape them shut. While local caimans average about 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) long and weigh about 10 kilograms (22 pounds), older males can be up to twice as long and much heavier. Still, Freitas has been known to dive into the water to catch some with his bare hands.
“I was only bitten once, on the hand,” he said. “It was fine, although it got super infected because of the state of the water.”
Reported by JENNY BARCHFIELD of the Associated Press from RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil.
Brazilian caimans average about 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) long and weigh about 10 kilograms (22 pounds), older males can be up to twice as long and much heavier. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
From right, Trinidad’s Richard Thompson, Jamaica’s Asafa Powell, United States’ Tyson Gay, Jamaica’s Yohan Blake, United States’ Justin Gatlin, Jamaica’s Usain Bolt, United State’s Ryan Bailey, and Netherlands’ Churandy Martina start in the men’s 100-meters final during the athletics in the Olympic Stadium at the 2012 Summer Olympics, London, Sunday, Aug. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Who wants to play like a GOAT?
This week I thought we would look for GOATs.
What’s a GOAT? Sometimes people call the player who messes up to lose the game the goat.
But the GOAT that I mean is the Greatest of All Time: G-O-A-T. So let’s find athletes competing these days who are the Greatest of All Time at what they do.
New York Yankees relief pitcher Mariano Rivera (42) walks off the field after a presentation before the New York Yankees baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays, Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Consider New York Yankees relief pitcher Mariano Rivera. The 43-year-old right-hander has announced he will retire after this season. Most baseball fans would agree that Super Mariano is the greatest relief pitcher of all time. Even Boston Red Sox fans would say that Rivera, with more than 650 saves and an incredible postseason record, is a GOAT.
Soccer star Abby Wambach this year set a record for the most career goals scored in international matches by either a man or a woman. Does that make Wambach the greatest soccer player of all time? Probably not. Other players have better skills. But the always-hustling Wambach is a GOAT when it comes to finding the back of the net and scoring goals.
Anyone who has a world record in the timed events in track and field or swimming can claim to be a GOAT. After all, no one has swum the 800- or 1500-meter freestyle faster than Katie Ledecky from Bethesda, Md.
But I think that to be a real GOAT in those sports, you have to have set a number of records and have won several world championships or Olympic medals. So in swimming, Michael Phelps is a GOAT, with 18 Olympic gold medals and a zillion records.
Phelps is retired from swimming, so let’s look for a GOAT who is still dominating his or her sport.
Usain “Lightning” Bolt is a GOAT. The Jamaican sprinter won the gold medals in the 100-meter, 200-meter and 4-x-100-meter relay races at the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics. He won those races again at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow. Bolt also owns the world record in the 100 and 200 meters.
It’s harder to agree on who is a GOAT in other sports. After Serena Williams won the U.S. Open tennis tournament for her 17th major singles title, some people were saying she was the GOAT in women’s tennis. Still, some tennis experts say tennis great Steffi Graf, who won 22 majors between 1987 and 1999, is a GOAT.
I know Michael Jordan has more National Basketball Association titles, but I think LeBron James is the greatest all-around basketball player ever. To me, James is a GOAT.
You see, this time it’s good to be the GOAT. In fact, it’s great.
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Reported by FRED BOWEN of The Washington Post. Bowen is the author of 19 sports books for kids, and will be speaking Sept. 21 at the National Book Festival in Washington.
J.D. Megchelsen poses next to his giant pumpkin in the Halbouty area of Nikiski, Alaska. J.D. Megchelsen holds the record for giant pumpkins in Alaska, and knew he had a candidate this year to beat the record of 1,287 pounds set in 2011 – but when it was removed, the big pumpkin revealed a big disappointment: a thumb-size hole that will make it ineligible for the competition at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer. (AP Photo/Peninsula Clarion, Greg Skinner)
J.D. Megchelsen holds the record for giant pumpkins in Alaska, and the Nikiski gardener knew he had a candidate this year to beat the record of 1,287 pounds set in 2011.
But when a boom truck gently lifted the behemoth on Monday with rigging and a sling, the big pumpkin revealed a big disappointment: a thumb-size hole that will make it ineligible for the competition at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer.
A crane lifts a giant pumpkin grown by J.D. Megchelsen and guided by Ryan K. Hall, left, to a flatbed truck. (AP Photo/Peninsula Clarion, Greg Skinner)
“It’s not going to count,” Megchelsen told the Peninsula Clarion (http://bit.ly/1dkIEWX). “It’s a bummer, but it’s the rules.”
Entries must be free of rot, chemical residue and serious soft spots. They can’t have holes or cracks that reach the pumpkin cavity.
A scale on the crane indicated the big pumpkin weighed 1,500 pounds, but Megchelsen estimates the state competition scale would have registered closer to 1,420 pounds.
“It’s just killing him,” said Pam Elkins, Megchelsen’s sister-in-law. “He eats, sleeps and dreams pumpkins. All he does is pumpkins.”
Megchelsen began to pursue the record in 2002. He set the record in 2004 with a 700-pounder. A year later, he grew a 942-pound pumpkin, and in 2006 he grew the first Alaska pumpkin to exceed 1,000 pounds. The current record followed in 2011.
Two years ago, Megchelsen said, he had a disqualifying hole in another of his giants. It might have surpassed the record if it had kept growing, he said.
His 2013 pumpkin probably grew too fast when it opened a hole in a “rib valley,” he said. During the height of a growth spurt in the warmest part of the summer, Megchelsen said, he was feeding the pumpkin up to 300 gallons of water a day.
The hole likely opened the first week of August when the fruit hit its peak growth spurt of 41 pounds in 24 hours. That happened two days in a row, he said.
When the pumpkin was hand-pollinated June 5, it was the size of a cherry tomato.
Megchelsen still plans to take his pumpkin to Palmer for weigh-in day. He’s not likely to leave it there on display, he said.
Garden gnomes are statues people place in their lawns. Usually they wear red hats, but they also seem to like hats with sports logos too. (Photo by Jens-Ulrich Koch/ddp)
They’ve been sneaking into our lawns for decades now, and at last Kid Scoop is finally reporting on it: We’re talking about the invasion of the gnomes! You’ve seen them — you know, the little guys with the pointy red hats.
One of the most famous images from author Wil Huygen’s and illustrator Rien Poortvliet’s “The Secret Book of Gnomes” shows two views of a typical gnome.
After that, they had an animated movie, a cartoon series, and just kept growing more famous.
More recently, gnomes were used in the Harry Potter series, where they were considered to be indestructible pests that were impossible to get rid of — even for wizards.
But before that book, just what were people calling a gnome? The mythological beings are usually described as a very small human-like creature that lives in an underground burrow. Most of the time, gnomes are nice to humans but they can also be troublesome if they’re annoyed by something a human does.
While modern culture suggests that all gnomes wear pointy red hats, traditional gnomes usually wore clothes similar to those worn by humans in the area where they lived.
Want to learn more about gnomes? Try these videos.
This trailer, for a Finland-produced TV series, shows another gnome trait: Their skill at building machines. http://youtu.be/6zhi_jZSolY
What is Kid Scoop? It’s a special page that appears every Monday in The York Dispatch and other local newspapers. Aside from its main feature and the Writing Corner, it includes games, puzzles and jokes.
Get your copy of Kid Scoop in today’s edition of The York Dispatch, and be sure to assemble your own Write On! entry and submit it to NIE@ync.com. We’ll run every entry here!
Of course, you can submit those entries, and anything else you want, for publication here on the Junior Dispatch. Send your JD items to email@example.com. Learn about what you can submit here.
This weekend marks the 60th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice, the day an agreement was signed to end the fighting in the peninsula now divided into North and South Korea. On Saturday, men and women who fought in Korea will be honored in Washington. But the day before, another kind of leatherneck will be honored: a little red horse.
Sgt. Reckless, the horse, is led by a U.S. Marine during the Korean War in the 1950s.
Her name was Sgt. Reckless, and the Marines “drafted“ her to pack ammunition to the battlefield and carry the wounded back to safety. But here’s the thing: She did it on her own. She kept climbing those jagged hills even after she was wounded.
The soldiers came to love her so much that they brought her home from Korea after the war to live at Camp Pendleton in California. On Friday, “Operation Reckless“ at the National Museum of the Marine Corps at the Quantico (Va.) military base will feature the unveiling of a life-size statue of Sgt. Reckless, a real war horse.
“She was one of them, and that’s why they’re honoring her,“ said Robin Hutton, of Ventura, Calif., who has written a book on the mare, “Sgt Reckless: America’s Warhorse,“ to be published this year. “She wasn’t a horse; she was a Marine.“
You might think that Sergeant Reckless was the inspiration for last year’s “War Horse“ movie. But that was based on a children’s fiction book about an English farm horse on the front lines of World War I.
The story of Sgt. Reckless is just as epic, and all true. Lt. Col. Andrew Geer, a Marine who served alongside Reckless, became her first biographer. As he wrote in “Reckless: Pride of the Marines“: “Some war stories become dated, but in the case of Reckless, there was no such worry. Her story is as timeless as that of Black Beauty.“
She was stabled at a Seoul racetrack when the Korean War broke out in 1950. Known then as Flame, she helped her owners flee to the countryside. Geer wrote that Flame was sold to the Marines to help the family pay medical bills. She was renamed in honor of the Recoilless Rifle Platoon of the 5th Marines, her new home. (The mobile recoilless rifle was so powerful, and sometimes unpredictable, that it too was nicknamed “reckless.“)
Reckless the horse was a quick study. She learned to step over communication wires, lie down on command and kneel. Her main caretaker, Sgt. Joseph Latham, said, “Tell her what you want and let her look the situation over and she’ll do it, if she’s with someone she trusts.“ At the same time, Sgt. Reckless began to endear herself to her platoon, Geer wrote. She was lavished with attention. On cold nights, she could be found dozing by the stove-heater in Latham’s tent. Her appetite was legendary, too. She devoured carrots and apples, but also loved candy bars, Wheaties and Coca-Cola.
Sgt. Reckless’ story was captured in the book “Reckless.”
But when the going got tough, Sgt. Reckless did, too. After Marines led her a few times up and down to battle stations, she remembered the way and traveled the route by herself. During one battle in March 1953, she made 51 trips from an ammunition supply depot to the front line, carrying more than 9,000 pounds of explosives.
“As long as I live, I will never forget that image of Reckless against the skyline, her silhouette in the flare lights,“ said Harold Wadley, now 79, by phone from his ranch in St. Maries, Idaho. “It was just unbelievable, in all that intense fire, in the middle of this chaos. I said, ’Dadgum, that’s that mare!’ “
Wadley will be among the Korean War veterans who served with Sgt. Reckless attending the dedication. The event will represent a goal achieved for Hutton, who commissioned the statue and hopes to install a replica at Camp Pendleton. “I’d like to see statues of this little horse everywhere,“ she said. “What she did was amazing.“
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The dedication ceremony for the statue will be held Friday from 12:45 to 3 p.m. at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Va. For more information, your parents can visit www.koreanwar60.com or www.sgtreckless.com.
Scouts at the National Boy Scout Jamboree in Mount Hope, W.Va., are participating an experiment on how contagions spread — in the form of a zombie-themed “virus” attack. (AP Photo/The Register-Herald, Rick Barbero)
Pssssst. Hey, Scout. Tag! You’re a zombie!
Boy Scouts at the organization’s National Jamboree are turning each other into virtual creepy crawlies by the thousands this week.
It’s part of an educational game Virginia Tech researchers designed to show how disease spreads.
The Virus Tracker combines technology with the age-old game of tag. At the 10-day Jamboree, Scouts can earn points by “infecting” other players through a “virus” on bar-coded labels that are attached to their Scout IDs. Codes can be activated at scanning stations or by smartphones that have downloaded the Virus Tracker app. Individuals and troops that amass the most points each day win.
The goal is to stay human.
Colin Slavin, 15, whose Scout troop is based in Germantown Hills, Ill., called the chance to turn other Scouts into zombies “really cool.”
Players can sign up when they visit the technology area at the Jamboree where Scouts also learn about robotics, engineering, computer science and mobile communications.
One zombie: Slavin heard about the virus program from other Scouts and had to try it for himself Thursday.
After filling out a brief computer survey, he tagged four other people before his brief rampage was stopped by an approaching thunderstorm, which forced officials to shut down the system.
“It was real easy,” Slavin said. “It’s like, ‘Yep, you’re infected. I got you. I win.’ It’s just like a large, incredibly different (game of) tag.”
Learning: Kristy Collins, Virginia Bioinformatics Institute’s education program manager, said about 3,000 of the estimated 30,000 Scouts at the Jamboree have participated so far. The labels are waterproof, enabling Scouts to participate even when they’re doing other activities, such as rafting or learning how to SCUBA dive.
Researchers are using data collected at the Jamboree to create an “infection tree” to show how individual Scouts spread the zombie virus within their population. The data will show how diseases such as the flu can become pandemics.
At times, “vaccines” are sent out through the system to turn the zombies human again if the Scouts answer an epidemiology question correctly. The Virus Tracker keeps count of things such as the number of infected and inoculated participants. Scouts without access to smartphones can still register by computer at the tent and distribute labels to other Scouts, thereby “infecting” them with the “virus.”
“The first thing everybody says is ‘is it real?’” Collins said. “And we say, no it’s not real. We’re not giving you the flu. We kind of laugh about that.”
The Scouts are then invited to help spread the zombie virus.
“And then they’re like, ‘yeah, man, I really do!” Collins said.
Virus tracker: http://virustracker.vbi.vt.edu
Virginia Biometrics Institute: https://www.vbi.vt.edu/
Reported by JOHN RABY of the Associated Press from CHARLESTON, W.Va.
Scientists have unearthed a remnant of an encounter between a Tyrannosaurus rex and a creature that got away, providing strong new evidence that the famous dinosaur hunted for food. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
The fearsome bite of a hungry Tyrannosaurus rex left behind new evidence that the famous beast hunted for food and wasn’t just a scavenger.
Researchers found a part of a T. rex tooth wedged between two tailbones of a duckbill dinosaur unearthed in South Dakota. The tooth was partially enclosed by regrown bone, meaning the smaller duckbill dino had escaped from the T. rex and lived a long time after the wound was inflicted.
Since the duckbill was alive and not just a carcass when it met the T. rex, the fossil provides new evidence that T. rex hunted live animals, researchers say.
The fossil, from around 67 million years ago, indicates the T. rex bit the duckbill from behind and “intended to take it for a meal,” said David Burnham of the University of Kansas.
It’s not clear whether there was a chase involved, he said.
Experts who didn’t participate in the study said there was already ample evidence that T. rex went after live animals as well as scavenging carcasses. It brought a bone-shattering bite and teeth up to a foot long to each task.
The new fossil is the first to include a T. rex tooth embedded in the bones of its prey, giving “extremely strong physical evidence that the attacker was a tyrannosaur,” said Thomas Holtz, Jr., of the University of Maryland.
Researchers Robert A. DePalma II, left, and David A. Burnham show a Tyrannosaurus rex tooth crown embedded between the vertebrae of a hadrosaur and surrounded by bone overgrowth. (AP Photo/David A. Burnham)
You might think a T. rex would take down anything in sight, but Jack Horner of Montana State University said it apparently preyed on the weak, the sick and the young instead.
It makes sense that T. rex also scavenged, said Kenneth Carpenter, curator of paleontology at the Utah State University East Prehistoric Museum.
“If there’s a free meal, why not?” he asked. But decay can make carcasses toxic after a while, he said, and “at that point, T. rex is going to have no choice but to hunt.”
Benjamin Price doesn’t remember the first movie he ever saw. Was it “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa,” about a dance-loving lion named Alex, or was it “Kung Fu Panda” about a panda named Po, whose life dream is to become a kung fu master? Benjamin was only 2 at the time! But watching that first movie planted such a seed in Benjamin that today, as a 7-year-old, he has developed a love of movies that goes beyond that of most kids.
“I want to see that. I want to see that,” Benjamin said recently at a showing of “Epic,” the story of a girl who shrinks and discovers a new world in the forest. He was pointing to several posters in the theater lobby, such as the one for “Turbo,” about a snail that dreams of competing in the Indy 500, and “Monsters University,” the prequel (the story takes place before the first movie, “Monsters, Inc.”) about Sulley and Mike in scare school.
A New Mexico city commission agreed to allow a film studio to search a landfill where old, terrible Atari games are rumored to be buried.
Thousands of copies of the Atari 2600 video game cartridge of “E.T. — The Extra-Terrestrial” are thought to be buried in New Mexico.
Leaders of the town of Alamogordo decided they will allow Fuel Industries to search the landfill for old, discarded video game cartridges, according to The Alamogordo Daily News.
The search is primarily after one cartridge, the “E.T. — The Extra-Terrestrial” video game, which is considered by gamers to be the worst video game of all time. The Atari gaming company paid tens of millions of dollars to produce the game in hopes of making even more money. The problems came when the game sold poorly and the company suffered so much that the video game market was nearly destroyed.
Despite being branded a colossal dud, the game has since developed a huge fan following, especially when rumors began swirling that copies of the game were buried in a New Mexico landfill in 1983. And not just a few copies — but nine full tractor-trailers.
Since then, the rumored Atari graveyard has been a fascination of some who consider the commercial flop a key part of video game history.
Alamogordo Commissioner Jason Baldwin says he played the “Extra-Terrestrial” game and it was horrible. There are listings for the game on eBay that run from under a dollar to more than $30.
Fuel Industries, a multimedia company, has been given six months to search the landfill. The company hopes to document the search.
Reported by The Associated Press from ALAMOGORDO, N.M. Information from: Alamogordo Daily News, http://www.alamogordonews.com
Rudi Saldia and his cat Mary Jane are often seen buzzing around Philadelphia on his bicycle. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Saldia often buzzes around Philadelphia with his year-old feline Mary Jane perched on his shoulder. Their urban adventures have turned heads on the street and garnered big hits on YouTube.
The 26-year-old bike courier didn’t intend to become Internet-famous. He originally shot footage of the outings only to prove to his mom that he was taking Mary Jane — nicknamed MJ — for a spin.
“She said, ‘No way! You’re not taking your cat out for the ride,’ which is the reaction I still get even after people see this video,” Saldia said.
Saldia used a GoPro sports camera mounted on his bike to capture images of him and MJ, a brown and black tabby with bright yellow eyes. She seems to take the trips in stride, even nuzzling her owner as he pedals, though she gets a bit spooked by sirens and buses.
“She enjoys seeing everything and having the wind blow in her ears, especially being an indoors cat. This is really her only time outside,” he said. “On the shoulder, she loves it. She’s in total zen mode.”
The first video, which he posted last October, has more than 1.2 million views on YouTube. GoPro spokeswoman AnneMarie Hennes said she saw it earlier this year and was blown away. She immediately reached out to Saldia to get permission to use the footage in a camera ad, which was posted online last month.
“It’s just unique and he did a really good job shooting it,” said Hennes. “We hooked him up with some cameras so he can make more cool MJ content.”
Saldia, who also belongs to long-distance riding club, said he began taking out MJ when she was 2 months old, at first just along his quiet street in downtown Philadelphia. The rides eventually went farther, with positive reactions from both MJ and passers-by.
“People are thrilled to see the guy with the cat ride his bike down the street,” Saldia said.
But online commenters have been less kind, questioning whether the unharnessed cat is safe. Saldia noted he is equally vulnerable while riding in the city and takes necessary precautions.
“I’m very confident that the cat would be better off in an accident than I would be, so I’m not worried about taking her out,” he said.
Saldia’s mom said although she didn’t believe her son at first, she now thinks the tandem rides are “kind of cool.”
“He enjoys it, the cat loves to be with him (and) it’s better than being home alone,” said Sarah Saldia, of Sewell, N.J. “I don’t think they’re hurting anybody.”
Reported by KATHY MATHESON of the Associated Press from PHILADELPHIA, Pa. Follow her at http://www.twitter.com/kmatheson.
Bicyclist Rudi Saldia and his cat Mary Jane pose for a portrait during an interview with the Associated Press in Philadelphia. Saldia often buzzes around Philadelphia with his year-old feline Mary Jane perched on his shoulder. Their urban adventures have turned heads on the street and garnered big hits on YouTube. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
The colorful handmade giraffes, elephants and warthogs made in a Nairobi workshop were once only dirty pieces of rubber cruising the Indian Ocean’s currents.
Kenya’s Ocean Sole, a sandal recycling company, is cleaning the East African country’s beaches of used, washed-up flip-flops and other sandals.
About 45 workers in Nairobi make 100 different products from the discarded flip-flops. In 2008, the company shipped an 18-foot giraffe to Rome for display during a fashion week.
Company founder Julie Church says the goal of her company is to create products that people want to buy, then make them interested in the back-story.
Workers wash the flip-flops, many of which show signs of multiple repairs. Artisans then glue together the various colors, carve the products, sand and rewash them.
Church said she first noticed Kenyan children turning flip-flops into toy boats around 1999, when she worked as a marine scientist for WWF and the Kenya Wildlife Service on Kenya’s coast near the border with Somalia.
Turtles hatching on the beach had to fight their way through the debris on beaches to get to the ocean, Church said, and a plan to clean up the debris and create artistic and useful items gained momentum. WWF ordered 15,000 key rings, and her eco-friendly project took off.
The company aims to sell 70 percent of its products outside Kenya. It has distributors in the United States, Europe and new inquiries from Japan. Its biggest purchasers are zoos and aquariums.
One of Church’s employees is Dan Wambui, who said he enjoys interacting with visitors who come to the Nairobi workshop.
“They come from far … when they see what we are doing we see them really happy and they are appreciating. We feel internationally recognized and we feel happy about it,” Wambui said.
Reported by JOE MWIHIA of the Associated Press from NAIROBI, Kenya.
Carver Jackson Mbatha, 40, poses next to a an unfinished large toy giraffe he is making from pieces of discarded flip-flops, in front of a painted workshop wall at the Ocean Sole flip-flop recycling company in Nairobi, Kenya. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Company owner and marine conservationist Julie Church poses for a photograph on a pile of pieces of discarded flip-flops used in a children’s play area at the Ocean Sole flip-flop recycling company in Nairobi, Kenya. The company is cleaning the East African country’s beaches of used, washed-up flip-flops and the dirty pieces of rubber that were once cruising the Indian Ocean’s currents are now being turned into colorful handmade giraffes, elephants and other toy animals. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Marist College rowing team members stand by a giant head made of Styrofoam and fiberglass found floating in the Hudson River in New York. (AP Photo/Marist College,Tyler Sawyer, HO)
Anyone lose a giant head made of Styrofoam and fiberglass?
That’s what officials at an upstate New York college are asking after the men’s rowing team found the unusual object floating in the Hudson River.
Officials at Marist College in Poughkeepsie say the team was practicing last week when the coach spotted a large object floating near the river’s west bank. He hooked a rope to it and towed it to the team’s dock on the east bank.
The object turned out to be a 7-foot-tall replica of a man’s head made with Styrofoam and fiberglass. The head has the appearance of a Greek or Roman-style statue.
College officials believe it’s a theater prop, but so far no one has come forward to claim the giant head.
Reported by the Associated Press from POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y.
A giant head made of Styrofoam and fiberglass was found floating in the Hudson River in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. (AP Photo/Marist College, Matthew Lavin, HO)
A unicycle team coach from Virginia has three rules for riders: (1) eyes forward, (2) back straight and (3) keep your bottom on the seat. Photo by SoapBeard via Flickr.com.
Every Wednesday night at a gym in Warrenton, Va., 23 kids, ages 9 to 16, gather to practice. But they don’t have a basketball. They’re not making layups or running sprints. They’re doing something a lot more unusual than that.
They’re riding unicycles, which are bikes with one wheel and no handlebars. (“Uni” means one.)
“Ride in a line and then split off,” shouted Linda McLaughlin, who coaches the group, called the UniStars Unicycle Showtroupe, at a recent practice as the kids made two lines and then rode the length of the gym.
The group performs at about a dozen events a year, including parades and charity events.
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Riding a unicycle, like riding a two-wheel bike, is all about “balance, confidence and determination,” said Michelle Carrico, who helps coach the UniStars. New riders use the gym wall for balance. First they face the wall and sit on the unicycle with the palms of their hands on the wall. Then they ride alongside the wall, using it to help them stay on the cycle. Once they master that, the riders start pushing away from the wall and learning how to turn by using their hips to steer.
“I wasn’t that good at first,” said Virginia Lawrence, 12, who has been cycling for about six years. “But then I just got better.”
Carrico’s three rules for the unicyclists are eyes forward, back straight and keep your bottom on the seat.
“It was frustrating at first because everyone else made it look so easy,” said Gabby Macari, 13, has been riding for four years.
Matt McLaughlin, 9, is the youngest rider in the group. He started riding a couple of years ago. His older sister, Abby, helped start the UniStars with Linda, her mom and coach, in 2005 when she was 11 years old. “I thought it was cool, so I wanted to ride,” said Matt. He mounts — or gets on the cycle — by putting the seat between his legs and then stepping on one of the pedals. “I caught on quicker than a lot of people,” he said. “I never got frustrated.” It took him only a couple days to learn, he said. (Wow!)
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When the group rides makes appearances, they ride in circles, in lines, in figure eights and even in what they call a pinwheel, which is when two groups of cyclists form “X” shapes and the rest of the team makes a big circle around them.
“I don’t really get nervous,” said Matt, who will ride in his second Cherry Blossom parade this weekend. “It’s an awesome feeling. I just like being in front of crowds.”
This is Gabby Macari’s first time in the Cherry Blossom Parade. “I’m really excited to be able to do something so big and known,” she said. “I’m always nervous, but you kind of get over it when you’re having so much fun.”
Reported by MOIRA E. McLAUGHLIN of the The Washington Post.
Riding a unicycle, like riding a two-wheel bike, is all about “balance, confidence and determination,” said a coach from Virginia. (Photo by Redjar via Flickr.com)
In a city of boundless bling, Dubai police also are in hot pursuit after adding a nearly $550,000 Lamborghini to its fleet.
The sports car, painted in green-and-white colors of the Dubai force, will not likely be roaring after law breakers. Instead, it will be mostly dispatched to tourist areas to show — in the words of deputy police director, Gen. Khamis Matter al-Muzaina — “how classy Dubai is.”
Local media reports Thursday say the Italian-made Lamborghini Aventador is the crown jewel of a wider upgrade in Dubai police wheels. The force also is adding some American muscle car Camaros.
Dubai seeks to show it has rebounded from its debt crisis with brash plans that include the world’s largest Ferris wheel and a satellite city named after the city-state’s ruler.
Reported by the Associated Press from DUBAI, United Arab Emirates
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