Wednesday, August 24, 2016

SEAL Escapes Being Eaten by ORCAS by Jumping onto Boat

The natural world can be quite unforgiving, with animals killing or being killed for survival and food, and there always being a “bigger fish” (though all would fall eventually to parasites and decomposers). So just off the cause of Vancouver Island this Tuesday August 23, when a whale watching group saw the pod of orcas killer whales, that is – moving to hunt down a seal in their midst, they could not in good conscience interrupt nature at work.

At least that was the reality of it, until the would-be prey decided to take matters into its own flippers and exploit the presence of the whale watchers’ boat. In essence, the little critter just saved itself in a remarkable way, and it was all on video.

CBC reports that the incident took place during a whale watching tour led by Nick Templeman of Campbell River Whale and Bear Excursions in British Columbia, Canada. He had just taken a group of tourists on a whale watching trip to a spot off Vancouver Island frequented by orca, and has been taking videos of the pod of whales they found at the site for about half an hour, when he noticed the animals starting to move aggressively.

Templeman knew that the killer whales have found food, and he was able to identify it immediately as a seal, favored eating by orcas. As he tells CBC, "This seal was tossed around a few times and taken under quite a bit before seeking refuge among the boats in the area,” said boats being the gathering of whale watchers around them.

To interrupt the orca’s hunt would have been seen as damaging to the natural process, so the group did nothing but observed. Then the beleaguered animal saw a ray of hope. Says Templeman, “Once he got a look at the boat, he made a straight beeline for us.”

Video footage was gotten by the group of the frightened yet plucky seal scrambling around the outboard motors of the CRWBE tour boat, until finally making it on board. Also caught on camera were several orcas briefly surfacing next to the vessel; apparently they had been in pursuit of the little seal and were puzzled as to where it had suddenly gone.

The Campbell River tour group was treated to the sight of the orcas circling their boat in search of the food that got away. As for the seal, it tried to get back into the water only to jump right back after a few seconds to avoid the killer whales. Templeman noted that the pod they have been observing was made up of three to four family groups, explaining the extreme nature of the hunt.

Not that it mattered. After 30 minutes the orcas gave up and swam away. The seal followed suit a few minutes later.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

ITALY Hit by 6.2 Magnitude EARTHQUAKE

Central Italy was devastated early in the morning of Wednesday August 24 by an earthquake clocking at magnitude 6.2 of the Faenza-Michelini scale, according to the US Geological Survey. At least two people have been reported killed, with many others trapped in collapsed buildings and other extensive property damage.

According to The Guardian, the tremors started at about 3:36 AM local time, with the epicenter located about 10 kilometers southeast of the town of Norcia. The quake was reported to be shallow and was felt by observers as far as Rome 170 kilometers away, where local paper La Reppublica reported buildings rocking, furniture rattling, and overhead lights swaying for about 20 seconds.

The mountain town of Amatrice southeast of the epicenter was shaken to its foundations. Its mayor Sergio Perozzi described residents underneath the rubble of their homes and a landslide that cut off all access roads to and from the town center, along with a bridge that is closed to collapse. As he tells state-run RAI radio station, the town “isn’t there anymore”.

In comparison to the USGS reading, European Mediterranean Seismological Centre registered the earthquake’s magnitude at 6.1 and its epicenter closer to Rieti, northeast of Rome.

Other towns believed to have borne the brunt of the temblors were Accumoli, Posta and Arquata del Toronto. The Italian news agency ANSA also reported damaged buildings in Norcia’s neighboring town of Asoli Piceno, while a mountaineering and hiking retreat on Gran Sasso mountain reported on Facebook of a large rock collapsing near their location. So far a more comprehensive damage report has yet to be given, but the Civil Protection Agency and fire departments have deployed helicopters to the quake zone to make a visual assessment.

One the ground, people were awakened and scared out of their wits by the shaking. In Montepulciano, American tourist Michael Gilroy from California described the sensation of his bed being “on rollers”, spurring him and his girlfriend to flee their hotel room and congregate with other guests in an open area. Lina Mercantini in Umbria had similar things to say about her bed, calling the earthquake “strong” to Reuters.

Just about an hour after the main tremor, a 5.5 magnitude aftershock arrived, reckoned by the USGS to have originated only 4 kilometers northeast from Norcia, closer to the town than the original quake.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Matteo Renzi made assurances that the government was keeping in touch with all agencies involved in order to monitor the situation as it unfolds.

Italy has been visited by powerful earthquakes in the past few years. In 2009 a temblor hit the city of L’Aquila killing around 300, and several dozens died in a double whammy of quakes in 2012.

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“BATMAN: Return of the CAPED CRUSADERS" To Bring Back 1966 Series Nostalgia

Let’s face it, the most popular DC superhero character (and arguably the most popular in all superhero comics) in this day and age – and maybe several years back – is Batman. Who wouldn’t be taken in by the concept of a non-superhuman but well-trained man in a cowl and high tech gadgets going one-man army on the evildoers of a ridiculously crime-ridden city?

It’s also well known that Batman as fans of the present day knows is a shadowy brooding figure, and an integral part of how contemporary superhero comics tend to come off more as a dark mirror of our world. At least that’s how he’s been stereotyped by dozens of thematically similar films, cartoon series, video games, and direct-to- video animation.

After the recent DTV animated movie that adapted the award-winning but dark “Killing Joke” story from the comics, Warner Brothers Animation has decided to take a step back and dial the dourness all the way to…the 1960’s when the ABC network aired a live-action adaptation of the Batman comics. Here he was not the Dark Knight of the late 20 th Century onwards, but the heroic Caped Crusader who fought alongside his sidekick Robin the Boy Wonder against Gotham City’s kooky criminals in flashy fight scenes punctuated by exploding onomatopoeia word balloons.

Supremely portrayed in all by Adam West and Burt Ward, the “Dynamic Duo” propelled the series to heights of popularity when it aired, and despite some gripes on the perceived corniness is remembered fondly to this day. And that nostalgia for the days of a non-depressing Batman is what WB/DC is tapping into for their latest DTV release, “Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders”.

Comic Book Resources and other websites this week have released new information on the film, after a little teaser last August 17 on Entertainment Weekly. This includes the box art and an extended trailer, in all their hammy goodness. West and Ward reprise their roles as Batman and Robin and, despite signs of aging in the former’s distinctive voice the trailer showcases an effective performance from both. Also returning is Julie Newmar to voice her famous role is the series as the season 1 and 2 Catwoman, though we don’t get to hear her speak (yet).

The synopsis is also a real gasser: We get the “Holy unholy alliance, Batman!” (thank you, Robinof Gotham’s biggest villains in Joker, Penguin, Riddler and Catwoman working together, and they have a fiendish plot that could see our heroes going all the way into outer space to stop them, and that it somehow involves a Replicator Ray.

Good versus evil? Good versus good? How about evil versus evil? I’m already sold, and as I wait for October 11 (digital release) and November 1 (home video release) I hum the old classic opening theme, “Na-na- na-na- na-na- na-na…BATMAAAN!”

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Winds Blow River Party Goers from US to CANADA

What started out as a fluvial revelry that was part of a yearly celebration ended up turning into a minor embarrassing incident between the US and Canada, as over a thousand American merrymakers on the St. Clair River between found themselves blown by vigorous winds onto Canadian territory, where they were rescued and promptly deported by the Coast Guard.

NBC reports that the event happened during the Annual Port Huron “Float Down the River” festivities. The main part of the celebration was at the city of Port Huron’s river waterfront on the St. Clair, which flows from Lake Huron to Lake St. Clair and separates Michigan State from Ontario Province.

Partygoers, many of whom were in swimwear, were enjoying the get-together on board dinghies, rubber rafts and inner tubes, thinking of nothing but a good time on the water.

And then the wind started picking up all of a sudden, causing a gathering of little pleasure craft to drift away from Port Huron. Out in the middle of the St. Clair the revelers were hit by a sudden deluge of rain even as they were carried further away by gusts going up to 35 miles per hour, according to Environment Canada. Before they knew it, 1,500 of the celebrators had arrived in Sarnia, Ontario. And they had no papers on them.

Sarnia Police Const. John Sottosanti said of the Americans’ “illegal” border crossing: “They were pushed over pretty quickly, and because they had no control over these dinghies and the wind was basically directing them and the current, they ended up over here.”

As soon as it became clear what was happening, a joint effort by the Sarnia Police, the Canadian Coast Guard on the Great Lakes and the Canadian Red Cross swept into action. Rescue boats began picking up the revelers as their rafts and inner tubes began running out of air. But they were not all too pleased about it, as the Port Huron Float is an illegal and unauthorized celebration that has gone on every year for three decades. The Coast Guard even declared waters on the Canadian side to be closed to any “floaters” during the course of the event.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada spokeswoman Carol Launderville remarked, “The Canadian Coast Guard and all partners worked very hard to ensure public safety and to assist those in immediate danger throughout this unsanctioned event." Canadian Coast Guard Search & Rescue Superintendent Peter Garapick added, “There were people in places you'd never think something would float, but there were Americans everywhere.”

He even noted that some of the Americans upon realizing that they have entered Canada illegally, made the foolish decision to swim back across the river, and had to be dissuaded by the rescuers. Once plucked out of the water, the illegals were packed into buses for the trip back to the US, with a police escort.

Despite the bad press, the Port Huron Float Down organizers expressed their gratitude to the Canadian authorities for their good turn on the event’s Facebook page, calling them “amazing neighbors.”

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The REWARDS of Being an OLYMPIAN Today

Supposedly an Olympic athlete should be an amateur, in the sense that aside from the tokens of recognition accorded him by the Games’ organizers, he should not have to receive anything else for his deeds. That just isn’t feasible anymore. Even in the 1948 London Olympics, when Fanny “Flying Housewife” Blankers-Koen of the Netherlands won four track and field gold medals, she received a reward in kind from the grateful city of Amsterdam: a new bicycle.

Today that seems like poor compensation. In comparison another Dutchwoman, Dafne Schippers, sees generous cash rewards and product sponsorships at the end of a medal-winning performance in Rio. Almost every Olympian has that in store from their home country’s national Olympic committee or association, not to mention private businesses too.

In a feature story by CNN, there are some countries which are ready and willing to shower any Olympic medalists in their delegations with the most generous incentives and prizes. Quite notably, the smaller a nation, the more likely they will shell out some oodles of cash to any sportsman who can bring home an Olympic medal or two.

A graph by CNN shows that the largest monetary reward by a country for a gold-winning Olympian…comes from a place that is not even a country by strict definition. This is Taiwan, known in the Olympic Games as “Chinese Taipei” in upholding the “One China Policy” with the People’s Republic of China. The Taiwan Olympic Committee and Ministry of Education has put together a swanky prize package for their gold-medalist lady weight-lifter Hsu Shu-ching, to the nice tune of $952,000. Running in second place for generosity is the island nation of Singapore, which presented Joseph Schooling with a $746,000 cash reward for his gold from the Men’s 100-meter butterfly final.

The trend continues in Asian countries for the rest of the top five, with Indonesia ($382,000) in third, Thailand ($290,000) in fourth, and Malaysia ($251,000) in fifth. Sixth place jumps to the New  World with host nation Brazil offering $250,000 to gold medalists from their home soil.

All this is quite surprising considering the sports superpowers have cash rewards that just pale in comparison. Speaking of China, they only offer $36,000 for each Olympic gold medalist from Rio. The US Olympic Committee will dole out $25,000 a pop, and that value is taxable. But that pales in comparison to the UK, which goes by “Great Britain” at the Games. Their 50 gold medalists from the recently- concluded Olympics will not get a penny from either their NOC or the government, as it’s supposed to be understood that they competed in the Games for both the glory of their country and their sincere love of their sports.

Then again, some rewards are not in the form of money. Notable in-kind prizes can range from a new apartment or land, having public structures named after a lucky medalist…or when in Belarus, the offer of a processed meat company for a lifetime supply of sausages.

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