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The place where the world comes together in honesty and mirth.
Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Daily Drift

The wonder of it all ...

Some of our readers today have been in:
Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam
Manila, Philippines
Sevastopol, Ukraine
Zagreb, Croatia
Lahore, Pakistan
Makati, Phlippines
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Reykjavik, Iceland
Quetta, Pakistan
Birmingham, England
Tuguegargo, Philippines
Tbilisi, Georgia
Phom Penh, Cambodia
Durban, South Africa
Segamat, Malaysia
Liverpool, England
Peshawar, Pakistan
Sampaloc, Philippines
Skopje, Macedonia
Sofia, Bulgaria
Islamabad, Pakistan
Taytay, Philippines
Medellin, Colombia
Karachi, Pakistan
Medan, Indonesia
Bremen, Germany
Tartu, Estonia
Abbottabad, Pakistan
Warsaw, Poland
Paris, France
Cape Town South Africa
Rawalpindi, Pakistan
Poznan, Poland

 Don't forget to visit our sister blog!

Today in History

1315 Swiss soldiers ambush and slaughter invading Austrians in the battle of Morgarten.
1533 The explorer Francisco Pizarro enters Cuzco, Peru.
1626 The Pilgrim Fathers, who have settled in New Plymouth, buy out their London investors.
1777 The Articles of Confederation, instituting perpetual union of the United States of America, are adopted by Congress.
1805 Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and their party reach the mouth of the Columbia River, completing their trek to the Pacific.
1806 Explorer Zebulon Pike discovers the Colorado Peak that bears his name, despite the fact that he didn't climb it.
1864 Union Major General William T. Sherman's troops set fires that destroy much of Atlanta.
1881 The American Federation of Labor is founded.
1909 M. Metrot takes off in a Voisin biplane from Algiers, making the first manned flight in Africa.
1917 Kerensky flees and Bolsheviks take command in Moscow.
1920 Forty-one nations open the first League of Nations session in Geneva..
1922 It is announced that Dr. Alexis Carrel has discovered white corpuscles.
1930 General strikes and riots paralyze Madrid, Spain.
1937 Eighteen lawsuits are brought against the Tennessee Valley Authority, calling for its dissolution.
1942 An American fleet defeats a Japanese naval force in a clash off Guadalcanal.
1946 The 17th Paris Air Show opens at the Grand Palais des Champs-Elysees. It is the first show of this kind since World War II.
1952 Newark Airport in New Jersey reopens after closing earlier in the year because of an increase in accidents.
1957 Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev asserts Soviet superiority in missiles, challenging the United States to a rocket-range shooting match.
1960 The first submarine with nuclear missiles, USS George Washington, takes to sea from Charleston, South Carolina.
1962 Cuba threatens to down U.S. planes on reconnaissance flights over its territory.
1963 Argentina voids all foreign oil contracts.
1965 In the second day of combat, regiments of the 1st Cavalry Division battle on Landing Zones X-Ray against North Vietnamese forces in the Ia Drang Valley.
1969 A quarter of a million anti-Vietnam War demonstrators march in Washington, D.C.
1976 A Syrian peace force takes control of Beirut, Lebanon.
1984 Baby Fae dies 20 days after receiving a baboon heart transplant in Loma Linda, California.

Non Sequitur


‘Homeless’ planet found wandering through space

A planet that is not orbiting a star, effectively making it homeless, has been discovered by a team of University ...
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Steven Levy on the patent wars

Steven Levy's Wired magazine feature on the cancerous multiplication of patents has all the hallmarks of Levy's work: excellent, eminently readable, human-scale tech reporting that makes important issues comprehensible.
The rise of trolls came as a result of a court system that seemed to favor them every step of the way. The vagueness of the underlying patents, the ridiculous ease with which plaintiffs could file a suit, the high costs defendants faced, and the unthinkable consequences of losing—all created an environment in which trolls were routinely rewarded for filing frivolous suits. But by the late 2000s, courts and the legislature began slowly chipping away at these factors. In 2003 a company called MercExchange successfully sued eBay over the provenance of its Buy It Now button. When eBay appealed, MercExchange took the common step of asking for an injunction against the defendant, which would have barred eBay from using the disputed technology as long as the case remained open. This was intended to prevent firms from profiting unfairly from someone else’s invention. But all too often it further pressured companies to settle quickly so they could go back to business. Courts could be quick to grant such injunctions, but when the issue came before the Supreme Court in 2006, the justices determined that more care should be taken with that drastic step. This precedent made it harder for challengers to threaten a defendant’s entire business.
The Patent Problem

The Real Political Map of America

This map mixes blue and red based on percentages of popular vote.  

The song remains the same ...

What is the “fiscal cliff” everyone keeps talking about?

The fiscal cliff is a big-monied effort to gut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Quick hits again — this is for your reference. There’s so much talk about the “fiscal cliff” that I thought some orientation would be in order.
(1) The actual “cliff” — such as it is — is a supposedly catastrophic set of budget cuts and tax increases. It includes a combo of the expiration of the Bush–Obama Tax Cuts of 2010, the kick-in of the forced “sequester” of budget funds, plus anything else they can cram in, like the extension of the debt ceiling, the deadline for which kicks in some-when in 2013. They (the NeoLibs and MoveCons working together) will make this as complex as possible, so you can enjoy the “win” — pennies from billionaire heaven — and forget the losses — reduction of the safety net forever.
For more on what’s involved in the sequester, see this Yahoo explanation. Ignore the early-paragraph pimping of the badness and scan down for the detail.
(2) The name — The idea of a cliff is something you don’t want to go over. Keep that in mind; the fiscal cliff is a “very bad thing” according to deficit hawks.
(3) The plan — The fiscal cliff was designed by deficit hawks to force big reductions to the federal budget that they thought were needed.
You read me right. Read those last two paragraphs again, (2) and (3). Note the contradiction? Deficit hawks designed the combo of deadlines and sequesters, then want you to run screaming from it. Why would a serious deficit hawk run screaming from forced deficit reduction?
Answer: There are no serious deficit hawks in Washington; just serious safety net killers. The “fiscal cliff” wasn’t designed to force budget changes. It was designed to force scary budget changes as a cover for safety net reductions.
Paul Krugman has also noticed the contradiction and has more. Do click and read. Here’s a taste (my emphasis throughout):
The fiscal cliff poses an interesting problem for self-styled deficit hawks. They’ve been going on and on about how the deficit is a terrible thing; now they’re confronted with the possibility of a large reduction in the deficit, and have to find a way to say that this is a bad thing.
Here’s more from James Fallows, furrowing the same ground:
That the looming debt and deficit crisis is fake is something that, by now, even the most dim member of Congress must know. The combination of hysterical rhetoric, small armies of lobbyists and pundits, and the proliferation of billionaire-backed front groups with names like the “Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget” is not a novelty in Washington. It happens whenever Big Money wants something badly enough.
Big Money has been gunning for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid for decades – since the beginning of Social Security in 1935. The motives are partly financial: As one scholar once put it to me, the payroll tax is the “Mississippi of cash flows.” Anything that diverts part of it into private funds and insurance premiums is a meal ticket for the elite of the predator state.
The “elite of the predator state” — couldn’t have characterized Our Betters any better myself.

Trying to save money?

Ask for crisp new bills at the bank

Consumers will spend more to get rid of worn bills because they evoke feelings of disgust but are more likely ...
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N.C. employers continue passing on health costs to employees

By Karen Garloch

As uncertainty about health reform persists, businesses in North Carolina and across the country continue to shift health insurance costs to employees, a new survey found.
Even though health care costs continue to rise, employers held the growth to 4 percent in 2012, the smallest in 15 years, according to the annual National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans, conducted by Mercer, a human resources consulting firm.
“It might be the calm before the storm,” said Steven Graybill, a senior benefits consultant in Mercer’s Charlotte office. “There’s a lot more changes on the horizon. There’s a lot of uncertainty.
“Health care reform has driven employers to offer more higher deductible plans,” he said. “They are looking to create more affordable options.”
Nationally, 22 percent of employers offer “consumer-driven” health insurance plans with deductibles of $1,000 or more and special accounts that allow employees to save pretax dollars to cover out-of-pocket expenses, Mercer found. In North Carolina, 37 percent of employers offer such a plan.
Graybill attributed the slow-down in this year’s increase to employers’ efforts at shifting costs to employees through higher deductibles, co-pays, coinsurance or premiums, and the use of incentives to keep employees healthy.
“Wellness and disease management programs have created some behavioral change,” Graybill said.
For the third straight year, the Mercer survey showed a sharp increase in employers offering incentives, such as lower premiums or cash payments to employees who try to stay healthy. Penalties include higher premiums for smokers or employees who are obese.
For the first time in years, the survey found that small businesses, with under 500 employees, saw a lower increase in health care costs than larger businesses, which are mostly self-insured.
In 2012, the average total health benefit cost per employee was $10,558 nationally, an increase of 4.1 percent over 2011, down from 6.1 percent over 2010, the survey found.
For large employers, the average cost per employee was $11,003, an increase of 5.4 percent over last year. For smaller employers, the average cost per employee was $9,913, an increase was 2.2 percent.
Historically, small businesses have seen greater increases because they “tend to be at the mercy of the insurance companies,” Graybill said.
“I think health reform…has driven some benefits to small employers,” Graybill said. “But there’s clearly still a cost problem. It’s clearly a challenge.”
While some people believe employers will terminate employee health plans after state-based health exchanges are established under the health reform law, the Mercer survey found that only 7 percent of large employers and 22 percent of small employers say it’s likely they’ll drop coverage.
Julio Portalatin, Mercer’s president, said employers are keenly aware that in 2014, when the Affordable Care Act takes full effect, they’ll be asked to cover more employees.
“They’ve taken bold steps to soften the impact, and it’s paying off already,” he said in a statement. “Critical decisions need to be made by the summer so they can be implemented for 2014 open enrollment.”

Could poor sleep contribute to symptoms of schizophrenia?

Neuroscientists studying the link between poor sleep and schizophrenia have found that irregular sleep patterns and desynchronised brain activity during ...
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The truth be told


‘Coca-Cola’ Model for Delivering Malaria Meds is a Success, Should be Continued

A controversial program that uses the private market to provide affordable malaria treatments to people in Africa has dramatically increased ...
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Is America getting less punitive?

Radley Balko says: "In a new piece for Huffington Post, I look at a number of criminal justice related issues on this year's ballot, including marijuana, Three Strikes, and the recent defeats of several prosecutors who played a role in wrongful convictions. I also chat with a couple longtime criminal justice reform activists about whether the results indicate an electorate less fixated only on punitive approaches to crime and incarceration."
Even if the public mood has shifted, Congress is usually way behind. "There's always an innate caution among politicians about doing anything they perceive as controversial," Sterling says. "They're really sensitive to what cops say. They don't want the police unions opposing them, and no politician wants to pick a fight with a police chief. When I was on Capitol Hill, and this was 20-25 years ago, I had lawmakers tell me that it made perfect sense to them to legalize drugs. But they'd always say, 'You can never quote me on that.' None of them wanted to appear soft on crime, even if it was the right thing to do."

Raleigh lawyer pleads guilty in DWI backdating scheme

Crouch pleads guilty to felonies that could draw 13 years in prison

By Anne Blythe
James Crouch was an aggressive lawyer, but he proved to be a reckless client.

On Tuesday, the 46-year-old Wake County resident pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice charges in a DWI backdating scheme that ended the reign of a popular District Court judge and created a somber mood in a typically collegial courthouse.
As judges, lawyers, family and friends watched, Crouch became a felon and lost his law license the same day.
“It’s an amazing fall from grace for James,” said Joseph B. Cheshire V, the Raleigh attorney who defended him. “It’s been a hard fall that he will acknowledge at the time of his sentencing is one of his own doing.”
Defense attorneys Cheshire, Brad Bannon and Alan Schneider were ready to fight the charges lodged against Crouch in July. But last week, the team discovered that Crouch had altered records from some of the DWI cases at the crux of the allegations, doctoring the documents after he had already been accused of obstruction of justice.
The attorneys had turned over the financial documents to Wake County district attorney, not realizing that their client had altered his law firm files and billing statements for DWI cases already under scrutiny. The changes were intended to hide his practice of charging from $500 to $750 extra to get convictions backdated, a change that often reduced penalties for his clients.
Cheshire and his team confronted Crouch, and he acknowledged altering the records, they said. They informed the district attorney that they had unknowingly provided him with doctored documents. They also notified the State Bar, which oversees North Carolina lawyers.
“When something like that happens, the case is essentially over,” Cheshire said after the plea hearing. “We were preparing for trial, but the world changed last week. It was a stunning week last week, just a heartbreaker.”
Crouch, a lawyer who handled a high volume of traffic and drunken-driving cases in Wake County, rose before the judge as he had many times with clients prepared to enter pleas.
It was Crouch, though, doing the pleading before Judge Paul Ridgeway.
He pleaded guilty to two counts of obstruction of justice, one count of altering documents, a felony, and one count of conspiring with Elizabeth Daniel, his legal aide, to obstruct justice.
The accusations stem from his handling of dozens of DWI cases from May 1, 2008, to April 30, 2012, and a backdating scheme that typically resulted in either the sparing of a license suspension or a shortened time without a license for Crouch’s clients.
Kristin Ruth, a former District Court judge, was pulled into the scheme by unwittingly signing orders for Crouch that she had not read, according to her testimony at a plea hearing last summer.
Ruth, who in 13 years on the bench developed a reputation as being a community-spirited judge who tried to work with defense lawyers to develop options other than jail for defendants, resigned in May. She pleaded guilty in July to failing to discharge the duties of her office, a misdemeanor.
Ruth testified that Crouch, a defense attorney she first got to know in law school, abused her trusting nature. She said Crouch or his paralegal would slip orders into a stack of court documents for her to sign in which she backdated convictions.
“I absolutely trusted James Crouch,” Ruth said at the hearing July 29. “I had no reason not to trust him.”
Crouch, a Winston-Salem native who received an undergraduate degree in economics and political science from East Carolina University, received his law degree from Campbell University in 1992.
For a while, his friends say, he practiced law at N.C. Prisoner Legal Services, then went into practice with Raleigh defense attorney Tommy Manning in 1993. Eventually, Crouch set off on his own. Over the years, he built one of the largest traffic case practices in Wake County. In court, Crouch has a reputation as being a tough and dogged litigator.
On Friday, the State Bar froze the trust accounts of Crouch after his defense team reported the further altering of documents. On Tuesday, Ridgeway read from a plea agreement outlined in a letter from prosecutors.
If Crouch pleaded guilty to all the charges lodged against him in July, crimes that could bring as many as 13 years in prison, prosecutors agreed not to add further criminal charges for the altering of documents.
Crouch agreed to work with the Bar as it further investigated the state of his trust accounts to determine whether he had diverted clients’ funds for personal use. He agreed to surrender his law license, but when that would happen was a topic of discussion at his plea hearing.
Typically lawyers get 30 days to wind down their practices, but prosecutors said Crouch should be disbarred immediately.
“I don’t think he ought to be allowed to practice law any further,” Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby said.
Willoughby said the actions that Crouch pleaded guilty to “strike at the very heart of what we’re doing” as lawyers.
“I just don’t see how we can have him back in the courts plea bargaining,” Willoughby said.
The judge ruled as part of the pre-trial release agreement that Crouch’s license suspension take place immediately, and Katherine Jean, disciplinary counsel for the State Bar, left the Wake County Courthouse shortly after the hearing to follow suit.
Lawyers who have rallied around Crouch since his legal troubles began have agreed to help close out the hundreds of cases he has that are still active.
John McWilliam, a Raleigh lawyer who has supported Crouch and attended the hearing, declined to talk at length about his friend, saying he did not want to jeopardize his case before sentencing.
But he said some of Crouch’s actions could be explained by unwieldy DWI case procedures. Crouch’s other actions, such as the recent altering of his law firm records, were simply “panicking,” McWilliam said.
Crouch, who has declined to comment about his predicament, is to be sentenced the first week of December.

Woman arrested for swinging nun-chucks while driving

A woman was taken to a hospital for mental evaluation after she was seen swinging nun-chucks from the sun-roof of her yellow Mustang.

Bonnie Morris, 46, was arrested after police say she failed to stop for an officer, leading him on a slow-speed chase through Carlsbad, New Mexico. Officer Wayne Atchler saw Morris in her vehicle where she was swinging nun-chucks out the rooftop window.

She failed to stop when he tried to pull her over, leading Atchler on a path through a residential neighborhood. She then sped off toward the Artesia Highway, where she reached a speed around 65 miles per hour, police said.

Sgt. Jason Griffin responded to the call and was able to stop Morris after spike strips were deployed. Morris attempted to resist arrest, but was ultimately taken into custody, police said. Charges are still pending.

Daily Comic Relief

Russia expands treason law, critics fear crackdown

A new law expanding Russia's definition of treason took effect Wednesday — and critics say it's so vague that the government can now brand anyone who dissents as a traitor.
Under the new law, anyone possessing information deemed secret — whether a politician, a journalist, an environmentalist or a union leader — could potentially be jailed for up to 20 years for espionage.
Human rights advocates say the law is part of a widening crackdown on the opposition after President Vladimir Putin began his third presidential term in May.
"It's very broad and it's very dangerous," Rachel Denber, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Europe and Central Asia division, told The Associated Press.
She said it's not clear yet how vigorously Russian authorities will enforce the bill, but says it recreates a "sense of paranoia and suspicion and uneasiness about foreigners."
While the previous law described high treason as espionage or other assistance to a foreign state that damages Russia's external security, the new legislation expands the definition by dropping the word "external." Activities that fall under it include providing help or advice to a foreign state or giving information to an international or foreign organization.
The law, which was drafted by the Federal Security Service, the main KGB successor agency known under its Russian acronym of FSB, also introduced a punishment of up to eight years for simply getting hold of state secrets illegally even if they aren't passed to foreign hands.
The FSB explained in a statement run by the ITAR-Tass news agency that the new clause better protects confidential information.
It said the previous law, which dated back to the 1960s, failed to provide an efficient deterrence against foreign spies.
"Tactics and methods of foreign special services have changed, becoming more subtle and disguised as legitimate actions," the spy agency said. "Claims about a possible twist of spy mania in connection with the law's passage are ungrounded and based exclusively on emotions."
Tamara Morshchakova, a former Constitutional Court judge, told a presidential rights council meeting Monday that the new law is so broad the FSB no longer needs to provide proof that a suspect inflicted actual damage to the nation's security.
"Their goal was simple: We have few traitors, it's difficult to prove their guilt, so it's necessary to expand it," Morshchakova said. "Now they don't have to prove it any more. An opinion of law enforcement agencies would suffice."
Putin, who chaired the meeting, promised to take another look at the treason bill to prevent it from being excessively broad, but it became law despite his pledge.
Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday, in comments carried by Russian news agencies, that Putin's statement indicated his readiness to review the treason law if its implementation reveals "some problems or aspects restricting rights and freedoms."
The revised treason bill first came up in 2008, under then-President Dmitry Medvedev, who quickly shelved the bill after an outburst of public criticism.
Putin, a KGB veteran, has clamped down on his critics following a series of huge street protests in Moscow against his re-election, which he said were staged by Washington in order to weaken Russia. The Kremlin-controlled parliament quickly stamped a series of repressive bills and opposition activists have faced numerous searches and arrests.
"There is an effort to recreate an old sense of fear," Denber said, adding that the new legislation was apparently aimed at discouraging Russians from joining protests. "One of the aims is surely to never have that happen again and to demonize any ... people or organization that might be associated with that."
One of the laws passed this summer required non-governmental organizations in Russia that receive foreign funding and engage in political activity to register as "foreign agents," which aims to destroy their credibility among Russians. One such group is Golos, Russia's only independent vote monitor, which collected evidence of massive violations in recent elections.
And in October, Moscow ended the U.S. Agency for International Development's two decades of work in Russia, saying the agency was using its money to influence Russian elections — a claim the U.S. denied.
Denber said her group already felt a new chill on a recent visit to one of Russia's Siberian provinces while doing a research on health care. Local officials demanded to know who invited them, who paid for the trip and the names of the group's local contacts.
"It was very hard, it was an echo of a different time," she said.

Iceland Name Change?

Iceland's tourism agency launched a contest to rename the country, but the results so far are not likely to appear on a placard at the United Nations. 
 Iceland Name Change?: DNews Nugget

Exploring the Paris Metro’s Eerie Ghost Stations

Quite a few subway stations underneath the City of Lights were closed when trains became bigger, and the city found it easier to build new stations nearby instead of redoing the old stops. Many of these are not accessible to the public, and there are even more of us who cannot get to Paris at all! The next best thing is to see these lost Metro stations through the photographs of French urbex photographers. See more pictures, and read about the abandoned Paris Metro places at Urban Ghosts. More

Mexican state uses tortilla wrapper ads for missing

 A border state in northern Mexico has launched a campaign it hopes will be more effective than photos on milk cartons to help find missing women and children: It's using advertisements on tortilla wrappers.
At least three dozen tortilla shops have joined in the Chihuahua state campaign to print appeals for help on the thin paper wrappers that shopkeepers use to wrap up a pound or two of hot tortillas at a time.
"The disappearances in Juarez have to disappear," the ads read. They are accompanied by photos of "disappeared" people: a woman's bodiless clothing walks down a street appearing to hold a shopping bag; a little girl's shoes and socks stand on a curbside.
The wrappers include a phone number for reporting disappearances or sightings of missing people.
The campaign started this week, and has been welcomed by shopkeepers and customers in the violence-wracked border city of Ciudad Juarez, which is across from El Paso, Texas.
"The truth is a lot of people don't know about the missing young women — we are always the last to find out — so I think the governor had a good idea when he started this campaign to help families find missing people," said the owner of a Ciudad Juarez tortilla shop who did not want her identity revealed for fear of retaliation or extortion from the city's gangs.
Ciudad Juarez was hit by a series of eerily similar kidnap-killings of more than 100 mainly young women beginning in 1993. While those cases have tapered off, killings and disappearances continue.
A customer at the tortilla shop, who also didn't want her identity revealed, said the campaign could help.
"A lot of people don't have any way to watch TV or read the newspapers, they don't see the news, so this way they would at least know who to call or what to do in the case of a disappearance," she said.
Silvia Najera, spokeswoman for the Chihuahua state special prosecutor's office for crimes against women, said a total of 341 women had been officially reported missing since 1995. Of those, 316 have been found either dead or alive, while 25 cases remain open.
Women's rights activist Vicky Caraveo said she believes the women's killings of the 1990s and early 2000s haven't ended. Carveo said women matching the same profile of those earlier victims continue to disappear.

Mayan Bones Reveal Painful End

When the Spanish conquered the Mayans in the 16th century, the Mayans suffered a miserable demise, bones reveal.  
 Mayan Bones Reveal Painful End

Are We Dumber Than Ancient Mayans?

Now that we have the Classic Mayan's example to learn from, along with all sorts of other advanced scientific understanding of human effects on the planet, can we do any better?  
  Are We Dumber Than Ancient Mayans?

On Earth's Cold Edge

At their most hostile, the polar regions remain cold and forbidding.
Photographer Dave Walsh calls them "The Cold Edge" of the planet.

Time to Bring Back New York's Oysters

Oyster reefs once provided New York with protection from storm surges. 
Is it time to bring them back?  
  Time to Bring Back New York's Oysters

What Destroyed the Bats of the Caribbean?

Some 25,000 years ago, bats once dominated the Caribbean. 
Did rising sea levels drive them away?

Leggiest Animal Thrives Near Silicon Valley

Females of this newly found millipede get around on some 750 legs, while the males crawl about on 562 limbs.  

Orangutan's Chemotherapy Treatment for Cancer Ends

Peanut, an 8-year-old orangutan with cancer and one of the star attractions at Miami's Jungle Island, no longer needs chemotherapy, her medical team announced Tuesday.

Reward offered to evict thieving railway station monkeys

Authorities at Chittorgarh railway station in India's northwestern Rajasthan state have offered a cash reward of Rs 20,000 (£230, $365) for anyone who can outsmart about 15 monkeys who have made the railway station their home. The railway station is located about 360 km from state capital Jaipur. The reward was announced as the railway authorities had tried to "evict" the monkeys, but failed. At their wits' end, and with no help from the forest department, the authorities decided to "outsource" the job.
"There were just a couple of monkeys initially. Their mischief on the platform was initially ignored. But then there was quite a proliferation of them. And now, after a few months, we have about 15 monkeys. And they have become quite a nuisance," said an official at the railway station. "There's nothing the monkeys don't want. They don't hesitate to snatch mobile phones from passengers. They snatch food items, bags and other luggage," the harried official said.

Sounding like he was almost a little in awe of the simian troupe, the officer said: "They are an intelligent bunch. It is almost as if they understand announcements on the platforms. Soon as an announcement goes out on the public address system, they appear on the platform ready to snatch what they can find. And the passengers are more interested in boarding the train than dealing with monkeys. Sometimes there are three or four mobile phones at the same time ringing on the station roof."

Railway officials had initially sought the help of the forest department, but even they could not help end the monkey menace. The railway official explained that the cash award will only go to someone who can find a lasting solution to the problem. "He or she would have to ensure that the monkeys are left at such a far away place that they do not return," he said.

Animal Pictures


Mother Black Bear With Spirit Bear Cub (BM)