Someone tried to sneak 67 giant snails into the U.S.

One of the snails from an air cargo shipment of 67 live snails that arrived at Los Angeles International Airport peeks out of its shell on July 1, 2014.  (AP Photo/USDA, Greg Bartman)

One of the snails from an air cargo shipment of 67 live snails that arrived at Los Angeles International Airport peeks out of its shell on July 1, 2014. (AP Photo/USDA, Greg Bartman)

Inspectors at Los Angeles International Airport seized an unusually slimy package — 67 live giant African snails that are a popular delicacy across West Africa.

The snails — which are prohibited in the U.S. — arrived from Nigeria and were being sent to a person in San Dimas, said Lee Harty, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Customs and Border protection.

The snails were confiscated July 1 and a sample was sent the next day to a federal mollusk specialist in Washington, D.C., who identified them as a prohibited species, Harty said.

The mollusks are among the largest land snails in the world and can grow to be up to 8 inches long. They are native to Africa and can live for up to 10 years.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture incinerated the snails after they were inspected, Harty said. The animals are prohibited in the U.S. because they can carry parasites that are harmful to humans, including one that can lead to meningitis.

The snails are also agricultural pests, said Maveeda Mirza, the CBP program manager for agriculture.

“These snails are seriously harmful to local plants because they will eat any kind of crop they can get to,” Mirza said.

The person the snails were destined for is not expected to face any penalties, Mirza said. She said authorities are investigating why a single person would want so many snails.

By KRYSTA FAURIA of the Associated Press from LOS ANGELES.

A person uses two hands to hold a single snail that was part of an air cargo shipment that arrived at Los Angeles International Airport on July 1, 2014.  (AP Photo/USDA, Greg Bartman)

A person uses two hands to hold a single snail that was part of an air cargo shipment that arrived at Los Angeles International Airport on July 1, 2014. (AP Photo/USDA, Greg Bartman)

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Sailboat freed from Alaska ice

Crewmembers on the Coast Guard Cutter Healy make contact with a mariner aboard his 36-foot sailboat trapped in Arctic ice approximately 40 miles northeast of Barrow, Alaska. The Coast Guard freed the sailboat that was attempting to sail to eastern Canada through the Northwest Passage. (AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard)

Crewmembers on the Coast Guard Cutter Healy make contact with a mariner aboard his 36-foot sailboat trapped in Arctic ice approximately 40 miles northeast of Barrow, Alaska. The Coast Guard freed the sailboat that was attempting to sail to eastern Canada through the Northwest Passage. (AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard)

The U.S. Coast Guard has freed a Canadian sailboat that became trapped in Arctic ice off the north coast of Alaska.

KTUU-TV reports the 36-foot Altan Girl out of Vancouver was attempting to sail to eastern Canada through the Northwest Passage.

It became trapped in ice 40 miles northeast of Barrow, the northernmost city in the United States.

The Coast Guard cutter Healy reached the sailboat, and with the Altan Girl in tow, on Saturday cut a 12-mile path through ice to open water.

The sailboat’s owner says he intends to wait in Barrow for better weather and to restock supplies.

The Healy is on a National Science Foundation-funded research mission in the Arctic. The Coast Guard says the cutter is continuing with its research.

Reported by the ASSOCIATED PRESS from ANCHORAGE, Alaska.

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Was this this biggest bird ever?

The world's largest-ever flying bird, Pelagornis sandersi is shown in this artist rendering. The gigantic bird had an estimated wingspan of around 21 feet, about the height of a giraffe.  (AP Photo/Bruce Museum, Liz Bradford)

The world’s largest-ever flying bird, Pelagornis sandersi is shown in this artist rendering. The gigantic bird had an estimated wingspan of around 21 feet, about the height of a giraffe. (AP Photo/Bruce Museum, Liz Bradford)

When South Carolina construction workers came across the giant, winged fossil at the Charleston airport in 1983, they had to use a backhoe to pull the bird, which lived about 25 million years ago, up from the earth.

But if the bird was actually a brand-new species, researchers faced a big question: Could such a large bird, with a wingspan of 20 to 24 feet, actually get off the ground? After all, the larger the bird, the less likely its wings are able to lift it unaided.

The answer came from Dan Ksepka, paleontologist and science curator at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Conn.

He modeled a probable method of flight for the long-extinct bird, named as a new species this week. If Ksepka’s simulations are correct, Pelagornis sandersi would be the largest airborne bird ever discovered.

The big bird relied on the ocean to keep it aloft. Similar in many ways to a modern-day albatross — although with at least twice the wingspan and very different in appearance, Ksepka said — the bird probably needed a lot of help to fly. It had to run downhill into a head wind, catching the air like a hang glider. Once airborne, it relied on air currents rising from the ocean to keep it gliding.

An incredibly efficient glider, Pelagornis sandersi could probably soar for miles and miles over the sea, swooping down to catch its prey in the waves.

To snap up its meals, the bird used pseudo-teeth — a characteristic that Ksepka found just as fascinating as the bird’s massive wingspan. These teeth, Ksepka said, are not anything like our own.

“They don’t have enamel, they don’t grow in sockets, and they aren’t lost and replaced throughout the creature’s life span,” he said. “Instead, the bone just extends from the jaw.”

There were bigger flying creatures than Pelagornis sandersi. Some of the largest pterodactyls had wingspans of up to 35 feet. But they were flying reptiles, not the dinosaurs that birds descended from.

The previous record holder for largest flying bird, Argentavis magnificens, lived only 6 million years ago and hailed from Argentina. It was probably heavier than the new bird — something researchers know because of the size of their hind legs, which had to support their weight.

He added that while it is not possible to know everything about the ancient creature from one skeleton, he is quite certain about one thing:

“This is pushing the boundary of what we know about avian size, and I’m very confident that the wingspan is the largest we’ve seen in a bird capable of flight.”

Reported by RACHEL FELTMAN of The Washington Post

This undated image provided by the Bruce Museum shows a comparative wingspan line drawing of the world's largest-ever flying bird, Pelagornis sandersi, as identified by Daniel Ksepka, Curator of Science at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Conn. At bottom left is a California condor, and at bottom right is a Royal albatross. The giant bird's skeleton was discovered in 1983 near Charleston, but its first formal description was released Monday, July 7, 2014 by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (AP Photo/Bruce Museum, Liz Bradford)

This undated image provided by the Bruce Museum shows a comparative wingspan line drawing of the world’s largest-ever flying bird, Pelagornis sandersi, as identified by Daniel Ksepka, Curator of Science at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Conn. At bottom left is a California condor, and at bottom right is a Royal albatross. The giant bird’s skeleton was discovered in 1983 near Charleston, but its first formal description was released Monday, July 7, 2014 by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. (AP Photo/Bruce Museum, Liz Bradford)

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Handmade Canoes? Why Not?

Canoe building hobbyist Karl Koch of North Londonderry Township shows one of the many wooden vessels he's made throughout the years. He currently enjoys fishing from this 15-foot red cedar strip canoe he built in 2008. (Lebanon Daily News)

Canoe building hobbyist Karl Koch of North Londonderry Township shows one of the many wooden vessels he’s made throughout the years. He currently enjoys fishing from this 15-foot red cedar strip canoe he built in 2008. (Lebanon Daily News)

Most people who want an item bad enough will break down, go out and buy it. Others, however, simply aren’t wired that way.

Karl Koch, age 75, certainly has a mind and drive of his own, for as long as the task is doable, he prefers to build whatever it is he wants with his own two hands. Take for example the four – soon to be five — wooden canoes the retired schoolteacher has built all by himself, just for fun.

Koch’s first canoe, a heavy canvas-hulled 15-footer, was finished in 1963 and lasted him nearly 50 years before giving it away to a younger man with a stronger back. Koch then built three more wooden crafts since 2005, and he’s currently working on a 14-foot strip canoe, which needs just a few more finishing touches.

“When I graduated from Penn State in 1961, a friend of mine bought an old broken canoe for $5 at a yard sale,” Koch explained. “It had a huge, gaping hole in the bottom, but he went out and fixed that thing and boy was it beautiful.

“For two years, I marveled over my friend’s canoe, until one day I decided I would build my own. So I bought a 35-cent canoe building plan I saw advertised in the Philadelphia Inquirer, and that’s how it all began.”

As Koch sat on a shaded bench outside his family’s North Londonderry Township home the talented handyman recalled the mistakes he made on his first canoe.

“I used a table saw to cut the boards, which wasted lumber. I sanded some spots too thinly, and if I hit a rock, that canvas started taking on water fast,” he explained. “It wasn’t sealed right.”

But over the years Koch solidly patched up the old canoe so it no longer leaked and the boat really handled well.

Canoe Two: Later, he started in on his second project, a watertight plywood bind-and-seal kit canoe, which he gave this one to his niece.

Canoe Three: His next was a strip canoe, Koch said. “They are lighter, more beautiful, and you have more flexibility in building exactly what you want.”

“The whole process takes about 200 hours depending on how hard you want to work at it,” said Koch. “I really wanted a red cedar canoe, and to me, it didn’t matter how long it took, so I just built one.”

But even this third attempt did not completely satisfy the mindset of the always-improving craftsman. He found that he built the gunwales a little too high for his liking, and they caught the wind too much, making the craft a bit tippy. He gave this one to his son and started over again with a few adjustments.

Canoe Four: On his fourth attempt, Koch got it right. The lower-riding 15-footer he now uses is perfect for him to handle, it steers well and is light enough for him to portage to the water using the wooden wheel and axle system he rigged up for easy transport.

It has a self-woven deer rawhide seat, custom-built kayak-style paddles, and it perfectly clears the back of Koch’s little Volkswagen Jetta, which he uniquely uses for transferring his wooden vessel to various local lakes, streams and rivers.

“I fish this one pretty hard, as you can see from the nicks on the Kevlar scratch pads,” said Koch. “It’s muddy and dinged up pretty good, but it looks beautiful when it’s wet, and that’s when it really matters.”

Canoe Five: As for Koch’s fifth canoe in progress, which currently resides in his shop among an assortment of homemade snowshoes, woven milkweed ropes and “hobo-style” camp stoves, it may well be his last stint at canoe building.

“I think this might be my final one, but you never know,” Koch said with a smile. “I’m just a farm kid at heart, and I’d rather work with my hands than watch television. Building stuff is in my blood.”

Reported by TYLER FRANTZ of The (Lebanon) Daily News from NORTH LONDONDERRY TOWNSHIP, Pennsylvania.

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Extra-special effort to deliver order

A little thing like a flooded creek was not enough to keep an Alaska restaurant owner from delivering Thai ribs and fried rice to stranded customers over the weekend.jd-greatbigworld

Anuson “Knott” Poolsawat, owner of Knott’s Take Out in North Pole, forded the swollen waters of Clear Creek to reach two customers stuck along the Richardson Highway, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

Mike Laiti and Brandon Borgens were completing a multi-day drive Saturday night up the Alaska Highway when they called in their order to the restaurant, which was near closing.

As they approached Clear Creek, they learned a sinkhole had developed from heavy rain near the creek. The state Department of Transportation closed the bridge.

Laiti called Poolsawat to cancel their order at the restaurant more than 25 miles away in North Pole.

“I called him and said, ‘Hey man, I can’t make it,’ and he said, ‘Not a problem, I’ll come cross the waters,’” Laiti said. “He called me and said, ‘Should I bring a boat?’”

Poolsawat arrived with takeout boxes containing Thai barbecue ribs and Thai fried rice. Another box held a “dinosaur egg” — a hardboiled egg that’s fried and covered in a sweet sesame sauce.

Poolsawat hiked up his shorts and waded through the creek, holding the takeout boxes over his head. The cold water was hip-deep.

Poolsawat had already done them a favor by staying open late, Laiti said. The delivery was beyond expectations.

“He’d help anybody out. He’s just a really good positive attitude, just a good guy,” said Laiti. “He’s definitely a goofball character and the food he makes is great.”

Reported by the Associated Press from FAIRBANKS, Alaska.

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Science has its say on Bigfoot

In this 2008 photo, a man in an ape costume is seen outside a hotel where a media conference is held announcing the claim that a deceased bigfoot or sasquatch creature has been found in Georgia.  DNA testing has analyzed more than 30 hair samples reportedly left behind by Bigfoot.  (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)

In this 2008 photo, a man in an ape costume is seen outside a hotel where a media conference is held announcing the claim that a deceased bigfoot or sasquatch creature has been found in Georgia. DNA testing has analyzed more than 30 hair samples reportedly left behind by Bigfoot. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File)

DNA testing is taking a bite out of the Bigfoot legend. After scientists analyzed more than 30 hair samples reportedly left behind by Bigfoot and similar mythical beasts like the Himalayan Yeti, they found all of them came from more mundane creatures like bears, wolves, cows and raccoons.

In 2012, researchers at Oxford University and the Lausanne Museum of Zoology issued an open call asking museums, scientists and Bigfoot aficionados to share any samples they thought were from the legendary ape-like creatures.

“I thought there was about a 5 percent chance of finding a sample from a Neanderthal or (a Yeti),” said Bryan Sykes of Oxford University, who led the research, the first peer-reviewed study of Bigfoot, Yeti and other “anomalous primates.”

Sykes and colleagues tested 36 hair samples from Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Russia and the U.S. using DNA sequencing and all of them matched DNA from known animals. Most were from bears, but there were also hairs from a Malaysian tapir, horses, porcupine, deer, sheep, and a human.

While Sykes said they didn’t find any proof of Bigfoot-related creatures, he acknowledged their paper doesn’t prove they don’t exist.

“The fact that none of these samples turned out to be (a Yeti) doesn’t mean the next one won’t,” he said. The scientists did find two samples from ancient polar bears in the Himalayas, who are not known to live there. That suggests there could be a new or hybrid bear species out there, Sykes said.

———

Reported by MARIA CHENG of the Associated Press from LONDON. AP Science Writer Seth Borenstein in Washington contributed to this report.

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World Cup visitors enjoy a look at village life

A man plays the flute in the Tatuyo indigenous community near Manaus, Brazil. Here, the villagers lead a hybrid life, maintaining the ancestral traditions of their assorted tribes while enjoying some of the advantages of urban life. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

A man plays the flute in the Tatuyo indigenous community near Manaus, Brazil. Here, the villagers lead a hybrid life, maintaining the ancestral traditions of their assorted tribes while enjoying some of the advantages of urban life. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

At the sound of an approaching boat, the people of Aldeia Indigena Tatuyo, a small village in Brazil, run out to greet their visitors, feather headdresses bobbing, loincloths and grass skirts rustling. Riding atop two of the women’s heads, baby monkeys grab fistfuls of hair as they clutch on for dear life.

The villagers are far removed from the global spectacle taking place in Manaus, Brazil, one of the World Cup host cities. Here, in the Amazon rainforest, the two worlds meet. People smile at one another and snap souvenir photos.

The community of palm-roofed houses is home to nine families who moved to the riverside plot some 15 years ago from deep inside the rainforest. Their old home was near Brazil’s border with Colombia. The villagers lead a hybrid life, maintaining the ancestral traditions of their assorted tribes while enjoying some of the advantages of urban life.

They hunt wild pigs, deer, the large rodents known as capybaras and other forest animals. They fish in the inky waters of the Rio Negro River and grow some crops. Visits by outsiders provide supplemental income, and they hope that before World Cup play wraps up in Manaus, with Honduras to face Switzerland on Wednesday, some of the international soccer fans will come to glimpse their way of life.

While they normally wear the shorts, T-shirts and flip-flops that are standard fare throughout Brazil, the villagers change into their ceremonial finest to receive tourists. The men and boys don loincloths embellished in the back with bunches of freshly cut leaves and rattling anklets made from hollow seeds. The women and girls wear graceful skirts of dried grass.

Everyone wears graphic face paint that melts with sweat during the aerobic ceremony of chants and rhythmic dances. The celebration is held in the village’s central building, a dark lodge infused with the smell of smoke, and visitors snap away madly with their cameras while the more outgoing join in the dancing, much to the children’s amusement.

Other visitors try to coax the baby monkeys off their owners’ heads and onto their own, with extremely limited success. Sometimes visitors join in the high-adrenaline, co-ed soccer matches that are the afternoon entertainment of choice for the villagers.

After about an hour, the tourists pay a small fee, generally ranging from about $5 to $10 a person, depending on the size of the group, and hop back aboard their boat.

“It’s nice to have visitors,” said Cecilia Godinho, a Guanano tribeswoman whose husband founded the village after accompanying an ailing relative to the hospital in Manaus. “We learn from them and I hope they learn from us, too.”

Reported by JENNY BARCHFIELD of the Associated Press from ALDEIA INDIGENA TATUYO, Brazil

Boys play soccer in the Tatuyo indigenous community near Manaus, Brazil.  (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

Boys play soccer in the Tatuyo indigenous community near Manaus, Brazil. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

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