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Crimes are committed every single day, including murder, theft, and assault. People break into homes and cause countless problems for others. And that’s what we think of when it comes to crimes—people.

But as we’re going to learn, humans aren’t the only culprits. Some of the same crimes for which people have been responsible have also been carried out by animals. Here are 10 of these cases.

10 The Bear Who Stole A Car, Crashed It, And Relieved Itself

Bears have been known to steal food from homes, terrorize towns, and even break in on some occasions. But this story most likely takes the cake.

A family in Colorado woke up at 5:00 AM to find out that a bear had entered their car during the night. While looking for food, the animal got stuck, accidentally released the gear, and crashed the car into their neighbor’s mailbox. Additionally, before leaving, the bear left a thoughtful gift in the form of its own poop.

Thankfully, no one was hurt. However, the car was damaged, leaving the back window completely shattered and its radio and steering wheel practically torn out. The family was certainly extremely surprised by what had happened but mostly took it in good humor.

Nevertheless, the car was crashed and the mailbox practically destroyed. Therefore, the bear had committed damage of property and car theft.[1]

9 The Rooster Who Stabbed Someone

Cockfighting isn’t something to be taken lightly as it’s animal cruelty and illegal in the United States. Yet this incident took place in California and has also claimed a man’s life.

Thirty-five-year-old Jose Luis Ochoa attended an illegal cockfighting event where he was stabbed in the right calf by a rooster with a knife attached to its leg. It’s common for cockfighting roosters to have razor-sharp knives and other objects in fights. However, no one has been murdered or even seriously injured by one, so this shocked people.

The man was taken to a hospital, but it was too late. He died two hours afterward.[2]

8 The Chimp Who Violently Attacked A Young Woman

In November 1973, an experiment titled Project Nim had begun with the birth of a chimpanzee, Nim, who was torn from his mother. Researchers sent him to live with a human family in an attempt to raise Nim the same way as a human child.

The chimp was taught sign language, and everything was going great until an incident when a young female volunteer thought that Nim was trying to give her a hug. But what happened was tragically (and terrifyingly) different.

The chimp lunged toward the woman and proceeded to pierce her mouth using his fangs. As the woman was holding her hand on her bleeding cheek, the young chimp reportedly signaled “I’m sorry” repeatedly in sign language.

While the young woman was okay in the end, this case put a dark twist on the experiment already questioned by some.[3]

7 The Emu Chased By The Police

As anyone from Australia can probably confirm, emus aren’t to be taken lightly, either. However, this one committed a rather funny and innocent crime. After it had escaped from its owner, this 1.2-meter (4 ft) emu was seen running through a town during rush hour, trying to break into homes to avoid getting caught.

The police officers were a little frightened by the bird as it was quite large and fast, not to mention that dealing with birds gone wild wasn’t exactly an everyday occurrence in their jobs.

A woman was asked if she could let the bird into her lounge, but she didn’t believe it to be the best idea. Nonetheless, the emu was successfully caught at 8:00 AM and returned to its owner.[4]

6 Fish-Stealing Sperm Whales

Rather than this being a crime committed by one specific animal, it’s apparently a common occurrence according to Alaskan fishermen. The sperm whales seem to target fishing boats as easy food sources by using an intelligent technique which involves getting the fish off the hooks and swiping them into the water.

This theft has become quite a nuisance to the fishermen, but it’s not likely that it will change anytime soon.[5]

The engine sound of the boat is said to attract the animals, who hunt using sound. They peacefully swim next to the boats, waiting for their moment to strike. They’re certainly clever, so we’d argue that they deserve some snacks.

5 The Unsuccessful Slow Thief

A sloth, generally considered slow and lazy, managed to sneak its way into a closed restaurant. Looking for a quick snack in the night, it cleverly maneuvered through the place at first. However, this slow robber was caught as it fell toward the floor, alerting the cafe’s security after landing.[6]

Although some monkeys have previously been spotted in the restaurant during the day, this still surprised the owner, who found the incident quite funny.

4 The Cat Burglar

Cats are usually considered to be less innocent than their canine counterparts. Still, it’s not normally expected that a cat would have a growing pile of money taken from others.[7]

Sir Whines-A-Lot, the cat in question, has apparently snatched money from people through a small gap in an office door where his owner works. What most likely started as a game of people waving dollar bills at the kitty quickly grew bigger to the surprise of his owner, who decided to donate the money to the homeless.

3 The Evidence-Stealing Crow

Crows are much smarter than some people are aware of. Still, it caught everyone by surprise when a crow named Canuck flew toward the ground to steal a knife, which was crime scene evidence from a Vancouver case that reportedly involved more than 20 police officers.[8]

Canuck turned out to be the pet of someone living nearby. The bird had grown up in the company of humans but had developed quite the mischievous streak of engaging in pranks and humorous behavior. In this case, the crow might have caused more trouble than ever before.

2 The Dog Who Shot His Owner

A man from Iowa spent what started as a normal day playing on the couch with his dog, Balew, before an unfortunate accident occurred. During that playtime, the dog disabled the safety of the man’s gun and then stepped on the trigger, shooting his owner in the leg.

The man later referred to his dog as a “big wuss” to the press, saying that the dog had lain down near him crying because the poor pooch knew he had done something wrong. Thankfully, in the end, everyone was okay.[9]

1 The Monkey Who Kidnapped And Murdered A Child

This might easily be the most serious case on the list. It involves a monkey kidnapping and later murdering a child in India. Reportedly, it has been fairly common for local monkeys to steal food and cause problems, but this was the first time that they took someone.

According to the child’s mother, the newborn was sleeping when the monkey grabbed and carried the boy away. Sadly, the monkey was too fast for the mother to catch. Later, the child was found dead behind the home where the monkey must have dropped him.[10]

Just a hobbyist writer who’s incredibly curious and loves interesting bits of info!


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Keeping up with the news is hard. So hard, in fact, that we’ve decided to save you the hassle by rounding up the most significant, unusual, or just plain old mind-blowing stories each week.

This was the week when the dream of a new, post-Mugabe society finally seemed to die in Zimbabwe. Following last year’s coup, new elections deteriorated into the sort of violence and painful crackdown that the old regime specialized in. More on this sad story below, along with a look at the week’s other great controversies—from 3-D printed gun technologies to the US trial of the year.

10 Zimbabwe’s Elections Ended In A Brutal Crackdown

It was meant to be the moment that Zimbabwe finally stepped out from Robert Mugabe’s long shadow. On Monday, Zimbabweans went to the polls in the first elections in 16 years to feature international observers.

At first, things seemed to be progressing well. The African Union declared the elections mostly free and fair despite some clear media bias. As the results came in, both the ruling Zanu-PF party and the opposition MDC claimed victory but also said that they’d abide by the final count. Sadly, that last part was just wishful thinking.

On Wednesday, Mugabe’s old party, Zanu-PF, were announced as the winners. Immediately, Harare exploded into violence. Opposition protesters flooded the streets, claiming the poll was rigged. The army responded the only way that the army in Zimbabwe ever does at election time: It opened fire. The resulting skirmishes devastated the city center and killed three people.[1]

It wasn’t meant to be this way. The 2018 elections were meant to be the moment that Zimbabwe turned over a new leaf and opened itself up to the outside world. But with the government now vowing to crack down harder, it looks like, sadly, Zimbabwe’s revolutionary dream was only ever that: a dream.

9 A Plan To Release A 3-D Printable Gun Caused Chaos

At the last minute on Tuesday, a federal judge blocked the website DEFCAD.org from going back online. Or at least, the judge tried to. DEFCAD had actually gone live a few hours before it was meant to, resulting in a flurry of panicked headlines. The reason for this? DEFCAD is a website for downloading and 3-D printing your own guns.

If you’re thinking “this is an old story,” you’re right. DEFCAD first went live in 2013. It was taken down after the State Department threatened to prosecute for breaking US firearms export laws, but DEFCAD responded by suing, saying the printing blueprints were protected by the First Amendment. The Trump administration settled with the site in June, allowing it to return online. Until the judge blocked it.[2]

There are fears that DEFCAD will allow criminals to print untraceable firearms or those that can bypass metal detectors. At the moment, printed guns are notoriously unreliable, but that may not be the case in five years. Essentially, the court battle we’re about to see is a fight about what the First and Second Amendments mean in the digital age. The outcome will have far-reaching consequences.

8 The Swedish Crown Jewels Were Stolen In Broad Daylight

If you think all great heists involve Danny Ocean levels of planning and subterfuge, think again. This week, two men pulled off one of the biggest robberies in Swedish history, stealing some of the crown jewels.

Their plan was almost hilariously simple. They walked into a cathedral where the jewels were being displayed, smashed the glass, grabbed the jewels, and rode to the nearest lake on bikes before jumping on jet skis and jetting off into infamy.

The jewels dated from around 1611 and included an orb used at King Karl IX’s funeral. They were as priceless as crown jewels tend to be, which is what makes the ease with which they were stolen so bizarre. There are Walmarts that are harder to steal from than that.

Still, the Swedish police remained oddly upbeat about the whole thing. As the jewels are so distinctive, they’ll be impossible to sell.[3]

7 We Experienced The Longest Lunar Eclipse Of The Century (But Not In America)

For fans of incredible natural phenomena, there was only one story worth caring about in the last seven days. The longest lunar eclipse (aka a “blood Moon”) of the 21st century took place on the night of July 27. It lasted an incredible 1 hour and 45 minutes, during which time the Moon turned an evil red and Mars became brightly visible in the sky. It was like looking upon a scene from the Apocalypse . . . or at least it was if you didn’t live in North America.

The map of the eclipse’s route was like a gigantic middle finger to North America. Nearly every single country on Earth got to witness the blood Moon, with the exception of some Pacific island states, the US, Mexico, Cuba, and Canada.

It’s not all bad news, though. The next total solar eclipse to hit North America is already less than six months away, and that one will hit everywhere but Australia. Until then, North American nature lovers can take some solace from the fact that the skies in the UK and parts of Northern Europe completely clouded over prior to the eclipse.[4]

6 India Stripped Four Million Of Their Citizenship

Assam is a troubled state in India that borders Bangladesh. During the 1971 Bangladesh War of Independence, millions of refugees flooded the place, often lacking basic identification. In 1985, an agreement was signed, allowing those who arrived prior to the war’s start to stay in Assam permanently. Those who arrived as refugees would have to go.

However, the law was never really enforced and Assam has long been a hub for illegal immigration. When Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party came to power, that all changed. An Indian citizenship list was compiled for Assam to decide who could stay and who should be deported. This week, a draft of that list was published. Over four million residents of Assam were missing. The assumption is that they will now be deported.[5]

Aside from effectively declaring four million people illegals, the list was controversial because of perceived anti-Muslim bias. Modi himself said that Hindus who fled Bangladesh after the war started should be allowed to remain, while Muslims would have to leave. This is a big problem for Assam, a tinderbox state with a reputation for ethnic violence. Only six years ago, race riots killed 80 people.

5 Germany Freed Its Only Suspect In A Neo-Nazi Bombing

In July 2000, a bomb exploded at a Dusseldorf station, targeting Jewish immigrants. Twelve people were injured, and a pregnant woman caught in the blast lost her unborn child. It was one of Germany’s most infamous neo-Nazi bombings, thanks to a 17-year investigation that turned up nothing.

It was only last year that anyone was charged. A suspect known as Ralf S was arrested after a former prisoner came forward, saying Ralf had boasted to him about carrying out the bombing when they shared a cell in 2014.

This week, though, the trial of Ralf S collapsed. Although he was recorded claiming responsibility for the attack, too many witnesses backed out at the last moment. Unable to tell if his boasts were genuine or just the work of an egomaniac, the court freed him.[6]

The failure of the case is particularly pertinent in the wake of the recent NSU terrorism trial. In that case—which involved the murder of nine immigrants and a policewoman—German intelligence repeatedly failed to spot warning signs of right-wing terrorism. With another neo-Nazi attack now unsolved, questions are already being raised about the country’s ability to deal with homegrown extremism.

4 A US House Race Transformed Into A Bizarre Argument Over Bigfoot Erotica

File this one under “weird but (unfortunately) true.”

In Virginia, a heated race is currently on for the 5th Congressional District’s House of Representatives seat. This week, that already hot race got one heck of a lot steamier in the worst way possible. Over the weekend, Democratic candidate Leslie Cockburn publicly accused her Republican rival, Denver Riggleman, of being “a devotee of Bigfoot erotica.”

Politicians making up outlandish claims about their rivals is nothing new. There’s a great old story about Lyndon Johnson spreading rumors that one of his opponents liked his hogs just a little too much. What’s different is that Cockburn apparently had some evidence to back up her claim. Riggleman’s Instagram feed included a picture he’d posted of his own head photoshopped onto the body of a Bigfoot with an enormous wang.

While Riggleman really is a Bigfoot fan, he strenuously denies Cockburn’s allegations.[7] Still, the whole thing is something of a sad indictment of the state of US politics. In some countries, candidates argue about issues. In Virginia, they argue about Bigfoot porn.

3 North Korea Finally Returned 55 US War Dead

It was perhaps the biggest PR win yet that President Trump has had from his successful summit with Kim Jong Un in June. Last Friday, North Korea announced that it would be returning the remains of 55 dead US servicemen from the 1950–53 Korean War. On Wednesday, a formal handing-over ceremony took place and the bodies were repatriated.[8] The move was seen as a goodwill gesture by Kim toward continued denuclearization talks.

Impressive as the ceremony was, it was still marred by the usual bouts of weirdness you get with any story involving the DPRK. In this case, it was Pyongyang’s bizarre decision to only return one dog tag alongside the 55 bodies. At least the bodies are likely to belong to Americans. In 2011, North Korea handed over the remains of what it said was a British pilot . . . only for doctors to discover that the bones belonged to a dead animal.

Hopefully, this is another step on the long road toward a nuclear-free Korea, but who can say for sure? Just before the return ceremony, US intelligence indicated that North Korea might be restarting its ICBM program.

2 Armenia Arrested Its Former President

This year has been a whirlwind one for the tiny Caucasus nation of Armenia. In spring, a one-man protest against a presidential power grab ballooned into peaceful mass demonstrations which may have involved a third of the entire population. The president resigned, the government collapsed, and anti-corruption protest leader Nikol Pashinyan was swept into power, all without a single shot being fired.

Now, the effects of Armenia’s velvet revolution are being felt. This week, security services arrested former president Robert Kocharian for orchestrating a crackdown in 2008 that killed 10 people. He is now the third high-ranking member of the previous government to be arrested for the crackdown, indicating that Pashinyan is serious about ending Armenia’s culture of impunity for the rich and powerful.[9]

As with everything in the former Soviet Union, though, the success of this drive depends on Moscow. Russia’s foreign minister has already condemned the arrests, calling them politically motivated. With Pashinyan having sworn to maintain good relations with the Kremlin, it may be that he’s forced to backtrack on these latest moves.

1 Paul Manafort’s Trial Began

One of the interesting things about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation is that he was empowered to prosecute any crimes he uncovered, even ones unrelated to the Russia investigation. And while the Russia investigation itself has yet to bear fruit, Mueller has uncovered a slew of unrelated crimes.

The biggest of these likely involves Paul Manafort, a one-time Trump adviser who is now charged with money laundering, witness tampering, tax evasion, and violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act.[10]

This week, Manafort’s first trial finally began in Virginia. It’s expected to last three weeks, after which Manafort will face another trial on different charges in the District of Columbia. (Usually, trials in separate jurisdictions are rolled into one, but the Sixth Amendment allows a defendant to demand a trial in each area where he is accused of committing crimes. Manafort evidently invoked this right.)

The two trials will be watched closely for evidence of how Mueller’s team intends to go after its targets in later cases. Many are also wondering whether President Trump may pardon his erstwhile adviser, if needed. Sources say that Manafort is banking on the White House freeing him if he’s convicted. Since Trump has yet to signal a decision either way on the matter, this all remains simply guesswork.

Morris M.

Morris is a freelance writer and newly-qualified teacher, still naively hoping to make a difference in his students’ lives. You can send your helpful and less-than-helpful comments to his email, or visit some of the other websites that inexplicably hire him.

Read More: Urban Ghosts


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It is not common for fish to hunt land animals because sea and land creatures are rarely adapted to survive in the other’s territory. Even at that, land animals are likelier to go into the water to hunt sea animals.

However, it sometimes happens in the reverse, with fish coming on land to hunt land animals. Those that do not come on land have developed specialized tactics to catch land animals. Their targets are usually creatures flying above the water or those unfortunate enough to wander too close to the shore.

10 European Wels Catfish

European wels catfish in the Tarn River in Albi, France, have evolved to grab pigeons by the riverbank. Researchers are unsure why the catfish do this as it has not been documented among European wels catfish elsewhere. One theory is that the fish have eaten most of their prey and are short of food, forcing them to look outside the water.

But that does not explain why only medium-sized catfish between 1–1.5 meters (3.3–4.9 ft) in length hunt pigeons. It is suspected that the biggest catfish are too large to swim across the shallow water along the riverbank and the smaller catfish are not strong enough to grab the pigeons.

Another theory is that the biggest catfish, which can reach 3 meters (10 ft) in length, have taken to hunting in the depths of the river, forcing the smaller catfish to find other sources of food. The medium-sized catfish have concentrated on catching pigeons. Once the catfish catch the pigeons, they drag the birds into the water where they are consumed.

Through observation, researchers discovered that European wels catfish make successful kills 28 percent of the time. While this seems small, we should remember that lions have a success rate of just 18 percent despite hunting in groups and having prey that are also land animals. So this record is impressive for a fish hunting a land animal.[1]

9 Archer Fish

In the unforgiving wild, predators and prey will do anything to survive. For unsuspecting flying prey like insects, some predators will hunt them in flight and others will seek them on land. Tree branches hanging over water should have been a safe abode for these insects, but that is not always true. Sometimes, it is even more dangerous than flying over land or water.

The archer fish is an unexpected predator from below. It has evolved to hunt insects hanging on tree branches above the water. The archer fish does not leap to catch its prey but shoots them with a stream of water instead.

The water does not hit the target in a single stream. Rather, the water at the end of the stream is faster than the liquid in front. So it hits the insect at once, sending the poor creature falling into the water where the fish picks it up.[2]

8 Killer Whale

Killer whales (aka orcas) are apex predators that will hunt and eat almost anything they come across. They will readily prey on seals, seabirds, octopuses, turtles, sharks, and even whales.

Even though they live in the water, orcas are not fish. They are mammals in the dolphin family. But we thought their hunting habits made them interesting enough to put on this list anyway.

Orcas do not feed on sea animals alone. They will readily grab birds flying above the water or other land animals wandering along the coastline.

Killer whales will also grab large land animals like moose and deer trying to cross the water. While no one has managed to catch them on video so far, there are stories of killer whales attacking, killing, and eating deer and moose trying to cross the water just off the coast of Alaska.[3]

7 Silver Arowana

The silver arowana is a ferocious hunter found in the waters of South America. It is capable of leaping out of the water to snatch birds, insects, and snakes from overhanging branches. The action is so fast that the prey is already in the mouth of the fish before the victim realizes what is happening. Silver arowanas grow up to 1 meter (3.3 ft) in length and can leap up to 2 meters (6.6 ft) out of the water.

In South America, they are called water monkeys because of this ability. They show a preference for land animals over fish and have been documented eating spiders, beetles, small birds, and snakes.

Silver arowanas are so adapted to hunting prey above the water that they often develop drop eye when they are kept in aquariums. If they have this condition, one or both of their eyes look down and are unable to look up again.

This is caused by their owners giving them food that sinks to the bottom of the aquarium. It also happens when they are fed live fish, especially ones that swim below the silver arowanas.[4]

6 Tiger Shark

Some birds migrate long distances over the sea to breed. But migration can sometimes be confusing, and birds do lose their way. Unlike us, they cannot stop to ask for directions.

So they just continue flying until they become exhausted and fall from the sky. It appears that tiger sharks in the Gulf of Mexico are fully aware of this and have proceeded to take advantage of the confused birds to fill their stomachs.

We used to think that tiger sharks exclusively fed on marine animals and waterbirds until Marcus Drymon, a researcher with Dauphin Island Sea Lab, proved us wrong in 2009. Drymon had just caught a tiger shark off the coast of Alabama when it coughed up feathers.

The feathers did not belong to a waterbird, which made him curious. This prompted a study that led to the dissection of the stomachs of 50 more tiger sharks.[5]

The stomachs of about 25 of these sharks contained the remains (beaks, feathers, and feet) of terrestrial birds like tanagers, woodpeckers, and meadowlarks. Further investigations revealed that the bright lights from offshore oil rigs were disorienting the migratory birds and making them confused, causing them to fall into the water and end their migrations in the bellies of waiting tiger sharks.

5 Eel Catfish

The eel catfish has evolved to leave the water to hunt its prey on land. While it does feed on a marine diet, it also likes beetles, which it will readily leave the water to catch. This is good for the eel catfish because the tasty beetles will not voluntarily visit the water.

When the eel catfish spots a beetle, it leaves the water and wriggles its way through land. Once near the beetle, the catfish raises the front part of its body above the beetle and bends its head downward toward the bug. Using its jaw, the catfish grabs the beetle and takes it back to the water to devour.

The eel catfish is able to do this thanks to its spine, which has evolved perfectly to allow it to bend to catch the beetle.[6]

4 Mudskipper

The mudskipper has that name for good and obvious reasons. It leaves the water to walk on mud by skipping through it. They have adapted so well to hunting insects, worms, and smaller mudskippers on land that they see better on land and will drown if they remain in the water for long. Some species can even travel far away from water, although they often require a moist and swampy environment.[7]

Besides feeding, mudskippers do several other fishy things on land. This includes mating and marking territory, for which they will often fight. Mudskippers can switch between land and water because of their unique ability to breathe through their gills like fish underwater and through their skin, mouth, and throat linings on land.

3 African Tigerfish

Unlike the silver arowana that focuses on insects and birds hanging on tree branches above the water, the African tigerfish concentrates exclusively on hunting barn swallows that fly quickly above the water. The tigerfish is able to achieve this feat thanks to its sleek, 1-meter-long (3.3 ft) body and sharp, fang-like teeth. Interestingly, it is the only freshwater fish known to hunt this way.

The tigerfish has different methods of hunting the birds. One tactic is chasing the bird from the surface of the water before leaping above the water to grab it. Another is to hide underwater and leap out the moment the bird flies past.[8]

Despite reports going as far back as 1940 explaining the tigerfish’s unique hunting method, we only confirmed it recently when a research team from North-West University in Potchefstroom, South Africa, observed a tigerfish leaping out of the water to catch a barn swallow in a lake at Mapungubwe National Park in South Africa.

The team was studying the tigerfish’s habitat and migration routes when they saw one leap out of the water to catch a bird. It happened so fast that they did not quickly realize what had occurred.

2 Snakehead Fish

The snakehead fish is also capable of hunting on land. They are native to Asia but mysteriously ended up as an invasive species in American rivers. They used to be legally imported from Asia to America for food and as pets, so it is suspected that someone might have released them into the river. The Potomac River alone has over 21,000 snakeheads.

These fish have been observed leaving the water to hunt on land. In Australia, they have been seen feeding on waterbirds, rodents, and even snakes. The snakehead fish will leave the water and wriggle their way through land to get their prey, which they swallow in one go.[9]

1 Rainbow Trout

The rainbow trout is a colorful freshwater fish whose body is covered with black spots. It is known for its ability to leap high into the air and its tendency to fight back when caught. This fish has a diverse diet and will readily hunt anything from insects to other small fish and even small land mammals.

We did not know how well the rainbow trout ate small land mammals until sometime in 2013 when a researcher found a rainbow trout with 20 shrews in its stomach. Further research showed that rainbow trout will also feed on voles, mice, or any other small mammals that are in abundance around its water abode. Rainbow trout tend to concentrate on feeding on small land mammals during their prey’s breeding season when they are plentiful.

Researchers are unsure of how the rainbow trout catch these animals but suspect that the trout grab these creatures from the banks when they wander too close to the rivers. Shrews eat a lot and will often wander around rivers or even enter the water to hunt insects. Although they are bad swimmers, they are known for trying to cross very shallow streams, all of which makes them easy prey for the rainbow trout.[10]


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Keeping up with the news is hard. So hard, in fact, that we’ve decided to save you the hassle by rounding up the most significant, unusual, or just plain old mind-blowing stories each week.

The last full week of July was marked by tragedy. An inexplicable shooting in Toronto, a dam collapse in Laos, and a horrific wildfire in Greece all wreaked havoc on humanity. But while sadness was part and parcel of this week’s news, there were more upbeat stories, too—alongside plenty that were just straight-up newsworthy.

10 A Devastating Wildfire Killed Scores In Greece

It was one of the worst wildfires to ever hit Greece. On Monday afternoon, a blaze started in the village of Mati on the edges of Athens. Thanks to the dry conditions, it quickly became an inferno. The coastline, the nearby countryside, and some districts of the capital were engulfed in fast-moving flames. At the time of this writing, over 80 have been confirmed killed, with another 40 still missing.

Among the dead were tourists and children, including one group of 26 charred bodies found clutching each other at a cliff’s edge. They are thought to have been a family. In many ways, it could have been even worse. Extremely close proximity to the sea allowed hundreds of people to escape the fire by running into the ocean.

An investigation has now been opened into the possibility of arson. Greece has a track record of wildfires springing from attempts to clear forest land for new buildings. It could be that the deaths of these 80 people rest on the conscience of a single idiot.[1]

9 A Mass Shooting Caused Grief (And Mystery) In Toronto

On Sunday night, Faisal Hussain took a gun and walked onto busy Danforth Avenue in Toronto. There, he opened fire, killing one teenage girl and one child and wounding 13 others before committing suicide. He left in his wake not only heartbreak, but a horrible mystery.

While many mass shootings appear to be motiveless (we still don’t know why Stephen Paddock killed 58 people in Las Vegas last year), the actions of Hussain seem almost cruelly unfathomable because there are perhaps too many possible motives to count.[2]

He was friends with some Islamic extremists, yet the police say it wasn’t a terrorist attack. He was on the fringes of Toronto’s gang culture, yet the shooting was too random for gang violence. He was mentally ill, yet doctors believe that it was not to a degree that might have triggered a massacre.

Ultimately, we may never know why such bloodshed came to Toronto on Sunday. All we do know is that, for whatever combination of reasons, two people are now dead because of Hussain.

8 We Heard The Shocking Details Of MGM’s Plan To Sue The Vegas Shooting Victims

For centuries to come, this will be the lawsuit that gets trotted out whenever anyone wants to prove that the legal system is screwed beyond hope. At a press conference on Monday, we learned the shocking details of MGM Resorts International’s plan to sue the victims of last year’s Las Vegas shooting. Filed in court last week, MGM’s lawsuit would drag survivors of America’s worst-ever mass shooting through the trauma all over again.[3]

MGM is not seeking money from the victims. Instead, it is seeking to avoid having to pay damages to those who were wounded—some 850 people. MGM contends that the shooting was an act of terrorism. As a result, they believe that they are not liable under a federal act passed after 9/11. This is despite both federal and local authorities saying that the shooter, Stephen Paddock, was not a terrorist.

To call this lawsuit insane would be an understatement. Aside from making MGM look like the bad guys in a Hollywood flick about heartless corporate scumbags, it will ensure that many of the survivors are forced to relive the massacre in court.

7 We May Have Discovered Liquid Water On Mars

This week, a group of Italian scientists published a paper that could well change how we view our solar system. They discovered an underground lake of liquid water on Mars. If confirmed, the finding could represent our best chance for locating alien life in the near future.

Briny water isn’t unheard-of on the Red Planet, but it has previously always been either seasonal or frozen inside chunks of ice. This lake would be unique because it seems to be in a permanently liquid state. A stable source of water is one of the essentials for life (as we know it) to arise.

If the lake is for real, though, getting to it will be a problem. It exists 1.5 kilometers (0.9 mi) below the surface of the Martian south pole, a tall order for exploring.[4]

6 Hackers Stole Data On A Quarter Of Singapore’s Population

It was the eye-watering numbers that really made it headline news. Last Friday, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong declared that a massive cyberattack had hit the country’s biggest health provider, making off with the data of 1.5 million patients—over a quarter of the city-state’s population. While the majority of those targeted only had their most basic details stolen, another 160,000 had details about their prescriptions snatched.

Although the main focus was on the numbers, perhaps the most chilling part was the political nature of the breach. Prime Minister Lee was among those targeted, alongside several other ministers.[5]

Lee claimed that the attack was seemingly carried out with the backing of a nation-state, likely one looking for embarrassing or blackmail-worthy material. With a number of countries recently flexing their hacking muscles on the world stage, identifying the culprit could be even harder than it seems.

5 A Secret Recording Embarrassed The White House

Forget Stormy Daniels. The big sex scandal to hit the White House now goes by the name of Karen McDougal. On Wednesday, a secret recording from 2016 was broadcast on CNN, detailing a conversation between Trump and his then-lawyer, Michael Cohen, about paying hush money to McDougal over a kiss-and-tell she planned to publish in the National Enquirer.

The real story of the tape wasn’t its contents. Although it appears to confirm that Trump had an affair with McDougal, it offers no evidence that he actually broke the law by authorizing hush payments. No, the real story was the tape’s origins. It was released by Cohen.

A longtime lawyer for Trump, Cohen was disgraced during the Stormy Daniels scandal and forced to walk away from the president. Now he appears to have decided to turn on his old boss, and he presumably has the tapes to make Trump’s life very uncomfortable. He’s also hired lawyer Lanny Davis, a Democratic stalwart and Clinton ally who specializes in attacking Republicans.[6]

It seems likely that this tape is just the opening salvo in an upcoming Trump-Cohen war.

4 A Bizarre Scandal Threatened To Bring Down Emmanuel Macron’s Presidency

Whatever you may think of him, French President Emmanuel Macron is usually adept at staying on top of things. Which is part of what makes the huge scandal currently rocking his presidency so bizarre.

On May 1, Macron’s personal bodyguard, Alexandre Benalla, was filmed impersonating a police officer to rough up two rock-throwing protesters. The government was told, and Benalla was given a slap on the wrist. The footage was then made public last week, and people began to ask why Benalla hadn’t been punished properly.

Macron’s response? He fell completely silent for five whole days.[7]

If there’s one thing that Macron likes to do, it’s talk. Endlessly. So his sudden absence made journalists wonder if there was more to the story. They started digging and discovered that Benalla was being paid an inflated salary of €10,000 a month. He also had his own government car with a siren for cutting through traffic and his own key to the house shared by Macron and his wife in northern France. Clearly, something very unusual was up.

Benalla has since been fired, but the scandal is being compared in the Paris press to Watergate. A vote of no-confidence in Macron has been arranged, but don’t expect it to succeed. He will almost certainly survive this scandal. His reputation may not.

3 Colombia’s Ex-President Stepped Down To Face Bribery Charges

For a country with a long track record of impunity for the rich and powerful, it was a bombshell moment. On Tuesday, former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe stepped down from the Senate to face charges of corruption and witness tampering. His summons marked the first time a Colombian court has ever asked an ex-president to testify.

The charges are largely of Uribe’s own making. For years, the former president has been suspected of funding right-wing death squads to carry out atrocities. Those charges are unproven. But when lawmaker Ivan Cepeda tried to open an investigation in 2012, Uribe demanded an investigation into Cepeda.

Colombia’s Supreme Court dismissed the charges against Cepeda. In reviewing the case, however, they found evidence that Uribe had bribed witnesses. Cepeda was cleared, and a case was opened against Uribe.[8]

Now that he’s left the Senate, Uribe’s case will be transferred to the Public Prosecution Service, which critics say will be far easier for the former president to pay off. Yet his resignation still marks a defeat. Uribe was one of the most powerful anti–peace deal voices in Colombia. His exit makes it far less likely that the deal will be undone.

2 A Laos Dam Collapse Killed Scores

At the time of this writing, we still don’t know the true death toll. After a hydroelectric dam failed in Laos on Monday night, it unleashed a torrent of water that obliterated entire rural communities and caused catastrophic flooding even over the border in Cambodia. As of Thursday, the number of the dead stands at 27. But with hundreds of people missing, it is thought that the final toll could be as much as 10 times higher.

In addition to this, 3,000 people are currently trapped by floodwaters and awaiting rescue. Meanwhile, some 6,000 families have been displaced in Laos, with even more displaced in Cambodia. Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith said it could be the worst natural disaster to hit Laos in decades.[9]

However, “natural” may be a stretch. Warnings about the dam had been sounded leading up to the disaster, but it seems that nobody did a damn thing.

1 Pakistan’s Election Descended Into Violence And Scandal

Everyone was braced for it, but still the violence was shocking. Pakistan went to the polls for a general election on Wednesday in the shadow of a suicide bombing on Sunday that killed a candidate for former cricketer Imran Khan’s populist nationalist PTI party.

As the polls opened, a further spate of shooting and bomb attacks killed another 33 people. Crazily, this wasn’t even the most controversial part of the election. That came when the PML-N party claimed that the military had rigged the vote.

This isn’t as wild a claim as it seems. Pakistan’s military is notorious for coups and meddling in civilian politics. However, it’s also a claim clearly designed to help the ruling PML-N ignore results which currently have it in second place behind PTI. In a terse press conference on Thursday, PML-N said it would refuse to step down, adding that every other party running aside from PTI was alleging election interference, too.[10]

If a so-called “soft coup” has indeed taken place, it would mean that this election failed to deliver Pakistan’s second ever civilian transfer of power. Whatever the truth, it now looks certain that Khan will be the next prime minister. His stated plan to turn Pakistan into an “Islamic welfare state” will have repercussions for years to come.

Morris M.

Morris is a freelance writer and newly-qualified teacher, still naively hoping to make a difference in his students’ lives. You can send your helpful and less-than-helpful comments to his email, or visit some of the other websites that inexplicably hire him.

Read More: Urban Ghosts


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With another week gone, let’s wind down and check out some of the stories that made the headlines. Click here to read about all the important goings-on of the world, but otherwise, press on for a dose of the unusual and offbeat.

There were a lot of space-related stories over the last few days. Mars, in particular, had a busy week with news of an underground lake, a dust storm for the ages (more on that below), and efforts to name a new Martian rover. (Yes, they thought of “Rover McRoverface.”) We also check out some bizarre animal behavior, Olympic Games for robots, and footage of the world’s loneliest man.

10 DARPA Plans Olympics For Tiny Robots

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced a new initiative to develop tiny robots that would work in tough environments where large-scale robots are not effective. The new program, dubbed SHort-Range Independent Microrobotic Platforms (SHRIMP), will seek proposals from third parties, and the best bots will compete against each other in a series of “Olympic-themed competitions.”

Founded 60 years ago, DARPA is an agency of the United States Department of Defense. It has staged these kinds of grand challenges before in efforts to advance revolutionary research with military potential. According to SHRIMP program manager Dr. Ronald Polcawich, this time, the goal is to develop tools which could prove useful in disaster relief, emergency search and rescue, prosthetics, and steerable optics.[1] DARPA is planning to invest $32 million across the projects accepted into the SHRIMP program.

The first step is to receive and review proposals for suitable robots. They need to be smaller than a cubic centimeter and weigh less than a gram to qualify. Eventually, the best designs will be built and will compete head-to-head in a series of challenges, including steeplechase, vertical ascent, shot put, weightlifting, and rock piling. The SHRIMP Olympics is currently slated for 2021.

9 Andromeda Cannibalized Our Sibling Galaxy

According to a new study published in Nature Astronomy, scientists believe that there once was another galaxy similar to our Milky Way which was “devoured” by Andromeda two billion years ago.

Both Milky Way and Andromeda are part of an aggregation of galaxies simply called the Local Group. It contains over 50 galaxies, although the aforementioned two are, by far, the largest ones. Research conducted at the University of Michigan (UM) indicates that there once existed a third galaxy of similar dimensions which was cannibalized when it merged with Andromeda.

The fact that Andromeda, also known as Messier 31 or M31, likes to gobble up its galactic neighbors isn’t news. In fact, this is exactly what UM researchers Richard D’Souza and Eric Bell were studying when they made the discovery. They were running computer simulations to try to piece together the mergers that occurred over the eons. In a self-described “eureka” moment, the duo realized that most of the stars found in the faint outer reaches of Andromeda’s “halo” came from a single merger.[2]

Further simulations revealed a few details about the Milky Way’s departed sibling, dubbed M32p. It was at least 20 times bigger than anything our galaxy ever collided with, and it merged with Messier 31 around two billion years ago. Most interestingly, researchers believe that M32, a satellite galaxy currently orbiting Andromeda, is the remnant of the long-lost galaxy, left over after the galactic giant was finished feasting.

8 Amazon Footage Shows Last Surviving Tribesman

Brazilian officials have recently released rare video of an indigenous man living in the Amazon who is believed to be the last surviving member of an uncontacted tribe.

The footage belongs to the country’s National Indian Foundation (Funai) and was actually shot in 2011. The organization hesitated to release it due to not being able to obtain the man’s consent. However, it eventually relented in the hopes that the video will draw attention to the plight of over 100 isolated tribes living in the Amazon whose territory is under threat by loggers, miners, and farmers.

It is believed that the last of the man’s fellow tribesmen were killed in 1995 or 1996, following a run-in with ranchers. Funai has monitored him ever since. They usually keep a safe distance, although they did attempt to make contact in 2005 and were met by a volley of arrows.

Barring that one interaction, the tribesman has been living alone in the jungle for over two decades. The only other image of him is a still from an early-1990s documentary that showed his face partially obscured by foliage. His tracking team refers to him as “the Indian in the hole” due to an unusual pit he dug.[3] Their last sighting was in 2016, but they can tell he is still alive from traces left behind such as footprints, planted fruit, or cut trees.

7 Why Do Crows Have Sex With The Dead?

Considered some of the most intelligent animals on the planet, crows have complex reactions when it comes to their own dead. They will alert other crows to the presence of a body. They will remember and avoid people or places connected to the demise of their brethren. Sometimes, they will even gather around a dead crow and hold a “funeral.” And, on rare occasions, they will have sex with the corpse.

Necrophilia in the animal kingdom is a poorly understood subject, but we have a few tidbits of information regarding the practice by crows, thanks to a new paper published by University of Washington student Kaeli Swift.

Back in 2015, Swift was trying to get footage of a crow “funeral” and was filming a taxidermied bird. To her amazement, another crow arrived, but it began flaring its wings and bobbing its tail up and down, displaying behavior anticipatory of sex. Since then, Swift expanded her study and used an array of taxidermy animals to observe the behavior of hundreds of crows.

Her research presented the cases of 309 breeding pairs of corvids. Twenty-four percent of the birds had some kind of physical interaction with the corpses, while four percent tried to have sex with them.[4] Most attempts at necrophilia were also paired with other aggressive behaviors such as mutilation and dismemberment.

As far as a possible motive goes, Swift believes it has to do with a hormonal frenzy. Her study took place between April and August, bookending the breeding season. Most cases of necrophilia happened in late spring, when crow testosterone is at a high. Other crow researchers think this could be the case but believe another study during winter could prove more conclusive.

6 Martian Dust Storm Might Destroy The Opportunity Rover

While Earth is experiencing a searing heat wave, Mars has its own weather problem—a series of storms created a dust cloud so great that it has almost engulfed the entire planet.

This kind of phenomenon occurs once every six to eight years. It started off as a small-scale storm on May 30, and less than a month later, it had gone global. By now, it has become the strongest dust storm we have ever observed on Mars, and it will last, at least, a couple of months more.

Scientists still don’t know how the storm forms or evolves, so they have every available instrument studying the tempest for clues. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, MAVEN, Curiosity, and the Mars Odyssey are all on the job.

Notable by its absence is the Opportunity rover, which is currently on the surface of the red planet yet has sent no response as of July 18.[5] Because it runs on solar energy, NASA scientists have chosen to suspend scientific activities to preserve the rover’s batteries. They believe the dust layer will act as an insulator which will protect Opportunity from nighttime temperatures it can’t handle but also fear that it will take weeks or even months before such a layer settles. Currently, they estimate it won’t be until September that the dust will clear out enough to enable communication with Opportunity again. Until then, we won’t know if the rover survived the Martian storm.

5 We Opened Another Untouched Tomb

A tomb found in Alexandria garnered a lot of media attention over the past few weeks. It had been untouched for 2,000 years and contained a mysterious black sarcophagus. People let their imaginations run wild, even speculating that it could be the long-lost grave of Alexander the Great. Then we opened it, and the results were underwhelming. A similar discovery went under the radar this week. Archaeologists found an intact grave on the Greek island of Sikinos.

This time, however, opening the tomb didn’t disappoint. The skeleton was intact, her jewelry was still there, and we even know her name thanks to an inscription—Neko.[6] She was a noblewoman buried around 1,800 years ago during the Roman era in the vault of the Episkopi Monument. The structure was later turned into a Byzantine church, but Greek archaeologists now believe that the whole thing was a mausoleum originally built for Neko.

Alongside the skeleton, there were golden rings, wristbands, a necklace, a buckle, vases, and fragments of clothing. Dimitris Athanassoulis, director of the Ephorate of Antiquities of Cyclades, believes the grave managed to elude robbers due to its hidden placement in a blind spot between two walls. Scholars are eager to learn more about Neko and her possible connections to the island of Sikinos.

4 Twiggy Water-Skis Into The Sunset

After almost 40 years in show business, Twiggy the water-skiing squirrel is retiring. The 39-year-old novelty act had its final performance on Sunday during the X Games in Minneapolis.[7]

Some of you might be aware that squirrels don’t live that long. In fact, this is the seventh Twiggy to don a pair of Styrofoam skis and race around a pool at the back of a remote-controlled boat. Her “mom,” Lou Ann Best, raised and trained all of the squirrels. The first one she found as an orphan after Hurricane David in 1979, and she noticed that it liked to ride on people’s shoulders as they swam in the pool.

Twiggy’s popularity led to several appearances in movies and TV shows, including a cameo as Nutty the water-skiing squirrel in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.

Lou Ann has been using the show to teach kids about water safety ever since her husband drowned over two decades ago. But now she plans to retire to a senior community, and Twiggy is coming with her. She is open to selling the business and letting someone else carry the tradition as long as they will continue promoting water safety.

3 A New Scale To Measure Alien Interactions

A team of scientists from the University of St. Andrews and the SETI Institute published a redefined version of the Rio Scale intended to quantify the significance of alien reports.[8]

First devised in 2001, the Rio Scale was mostly used by astronomers to communicate to the public how “excited” they should be following a story potentially involving extraterrestrial phenomenon. The updated version seeks to become more compatible with the world of social media and 24-hour news coverage. Researchers involved are hoping that Rio Scale 2.0 will become somewhat similar to the Richter Scale for earthquakes and will be used automatically whenever there is a story involving possible alien interaction.

The ranking system comes with a Rio Scale Calculator available online, which anyone can use to determine the value of an event. The scale takes into account the likelihood of the event and the reliability of the source but also considers how such an event, even if real, would impact humanity. The final value is a number between 0 (None) and 10 (Extraordinary). Rio Scale 2.0 is awaiting official ratification by the International Academy of Astronautics Permanent Committee.

2 Naturists Versus Crested Larks

An attempt by Belgian naturists to open the country’s second nudist beach was met with opposition by wildlife officials, who complained that their presence and “subsidiary activities” would pose a threat to the crested lark.

At the moment, there is only one nudist beach in Belgium, in Bredene. However, Koen Meulemans, chair of the Belgian Naturism Federation, says that is no longer enough. More and more people in the country are looking for holidays where they can cast off their clothes and go back to nature. The federation has 17 clubs and 8,200 paying members, an increase of 600 from two years ago. A quiet spot near Westende would have made a perfect location for a second nudist beach, as there are no buildings or dykes that look out onto it.

However, officials from the Flemish Agency for Nature and Woodland objected to the proposition due to the effect this would have on the crested lark.[9] Specifically, they worry that sex in the dunes will scare off the locally treasured birds. Meulemans criticized the practice, saying such behavior is not indicative of true naturists, but it does happen.

The initial solution involved the building of a barbed wire fence surrounding the dunes where the larks breed. However, this was shut down by Bredene mayor Steve Vandenberghe, who said that barbed wire would not be a strong deterrent against a man without clothes.

1 Star Proves Einstein Right

One of the processes predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity is called gravitational redshift. When an object approaches something with an incredibly powerful gravitational pull, the light it emits is stretched to longer wavelengths, becoming redder. We have proven the concept with lab experiments but have never actually seen it “in the wild,” until now. Scientists finally made the observation after decades of waiting when a star experienced gravitational redshift as it passed near the black hole at the center of our galaxy.

Astronomers first started tracking the star, dubbed S2, in the early 1990s. Since then, they’ve been patiently waiting for it to complete its elliptical orbit around the black hole, located roughly 26,000 light-years from us.

S2 got as close as it’s ever going to get on May 18 this year. Instruments from all over the world were pointing at it. When it reached its periapsis, the star accelerated to 7,600 kilometers per second (4,700 mi/s), or three percent the speed of light.[10] The results, published in Astronomy & Astrophysics by an international team of scientists, confirmed that light from the star was affected by the gravitational pull of the black hole and experienced a redshift.


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Keeping up with the news is hard. So hard, in fact, that we’ve decided to save you the hassle by rounding up the most significant, unusual, or just plain old mind-blowing stories each week.

This week was the antithesis of its companion exactly one month ago when President Trump made positive headlines around the globe for his summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. His Monday summit with Vladimir Putin in Finland sparked the sort of controversy that is rare even for such a “shoot-from-the-hip” style of president. More on this below along with all the stuff you might have missed while the news was focused on Helsinki.

10 The Trump-Putin Summit Exploded Into Controversy

So, we can probably agree that was a little strange. On Monday, President Trump wrapped up his European tour by holding a summit with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. It was billed in advance as a new page in US-Russia relations—a kind of Eastern European version of Trump’s North Korea summit in June. If the president was hoping to repeat that success, though, he was outta luck. Monday’s meeting became a political nightmare.

The problem arose when Russia’s alleged election meddling was raised. Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats (a Trump pick) has claimed that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. When asked about this, President Trump appeared to side with Moscow by saying:

“I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

The president later claimed that he’d misspoken, accidentally omitting an additional negative (“wouldn’t” instead of “would”). But the damage was done. The summit brought rare negative coverage from Trump-leaning outfits like Fox News and Drudge Report and a bipartisan movement in the Senate to hit Russia with additional sanctions.[1]

9 Britain’s Official Vote Leave Campaign Was Referred To The Police

Oh, look. More instability for Theresa May’s wobbly government. In a week when the UK prime minister lost her second significant vote on Brexit (relating to medicine) and came within just six votes of losing two others, yet another political grenade was lobbed into the process. On Tuesday, the Electoral Commission ended their investigation into the official Vote Leave campaign’s spending during the Brexit referendum. They concluded that the group had broken UK electoral law.

Campaign spending limits in the UK are set relatively low. The commission found that Vote Leave had circumnavigated these by illegally coordinating with BeLeave, the unofficial pro-Brexit campaign. Vote Leave has now been issued a record fine of £61,000 and referred to the police. The Met will investigate whether other offenses were committed during the referendum campaign.

The referral is just the latest in a series of destabilizing Brexit-related problems that May’s government is facing. With no majority in parliament and both pro- and anti-EU rebels within her own party, the prime minister is now also having to deal with an investigation that could undermine the entire vote.[2]

8 We Officially Entered A New Geological Age

Welcome to the Meghalayan Age! You didn’t know it, but you’ve been chilling out here for the last 4,200 years. At least, that’s what the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS)—the official gatekeepers of geological time—have now decided. On Wednesday, the ICS formally approved an idea, first proposed in 2012, to subdivide our Holocene Epoch into three separate chunks. Their ruling will now be applied across most of the world.

Geological ages are applied when something happened in the past that was so big and so global that it left traces in the sediment record across the planet. The Holocene started 11,700 years ago with the end of the last ice age. Now the ICS is saying that Stage 3 of the Holocene—the Meghalayan—began with a period of dramatic droughts that collapsed civilizations across the ancient world.

But wait! Not everything’s so clear-cut. Some geologists are upset with the ICS for accepting the Meghalayan without proving that it was truly global. Additionally, Anthropocene supporters, who claim that the burning of fossil fuels by humans created a new epoch, have criticized the Meghalayan decision for stepping on their turf.[3]

7 Google Was Hit By A Record-Breaking Antitrust Fine

Everyone knew it was coming, but the numbers involved were still eye-opening. This week, Google was hit by a record-breaking antitrust fine by the EU, totaling €4.3 billion ($5.1 billion). Aside from being painful for Google, the fine acted as an ominous potential warning of things to come.

The reason for the fine can be boiled down simply: Over the last few years, the EU has been tightening its regulations on the tech sector and Google’s Android software for mobile devices ran afoul of them. Google ignored repeated warnings to stop forcing manufacturers to install Chrome on their Android devices and to stop blocking the use of “forked” Android devices. Google now has 90 days to fix these issues or face yet more legal trouble from Brussels.

Those are the basic facts. Now for the troubling part. Wired has an excellent article arguing that the divergence between US and EU tech regulations may lead to a Balkanization of the online world.[4] To avoid legal trouble, Google may have to break into two Googles, Amazon into two Amazons, and so on. For businesses and consumers used to trading digitally across borders, this could be hugely damaging.

6 Albania Finally Authorized A Search For Victims Of Its Communist Regime

Between 1944 and 1990, Albania was under one of the most oppressive communist regimes in history. Enver Hoxha’s Stalinist government completely cut the country off from the outside world, set up a vast gulag network, and kept the entire population in a state of emergency for a nuclear attack that never came. Pre-democracy Albania has been compared to North Korea, with all the human rights abuses that implies.

But while most Eastern Bloc nations have tried to come to terms with their communist past, Albania has been remarkably reticent. Thousands of people remain missing, and many of the tens of thousands killed or worked to death by the regime are buried in forgotten mass graves. Hopefully not for much longer. On Wednesday, after years of stalling, the Albanian government finally signed an agreement authorizing a search for the missing and the dead.[5]

The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) will now began tracking down Hoxha’s victims with the aid of an EU fund recently set up for that purpose. Survivors remain cynical that the project will disappear into a vortex of corruption and politicking.

5 Sacha Baron Cohen’s New Show Caused Uproar

In our hyper-connected world, it’s extraordinary to be able to keep anything secret for long, let alone a new show by the guy behind 2006’s smash hit Borat. For that reason alone, the arrival of Sacha Baron Cohen’s Who Is America? on Showtime last Sunday was impressive.

Right up until the last moment, no one knew it even existed. Then suddenly, a teaser dropped, followed by a stream of politicians who’d been hoaxed publicly denouncing the show. Inevitably, all this complaining turned the premiere into a bona fide cultural event.

So, that’s Who Is America?, the cultural phenomenon of the week. But what about Who Is America?, the actual show? That probably depends on whom you talk to. While some outlets praised its absurdity, others utterly panned it.[6]

One of the main complaints was that the show was catnip for liberals, with the longest segment focused on mocking gun rights advocates. (To be fair to Cohen, another sketch mocked “woke” liberals who apologize for being white and straight.) It’ll be interesting to see if the show keeps up its notoriety in the coming weeks.

4 Haiti’s Government Resigned Amid Mass Protests

Two Fridays ago as Brazil played Belgium at the World Cup, the government of Haiti quietly dropped fuel subsidies that had been in place since the devastating 2010 earthquake. Within five minutes of the game ending, barricades were going up all over the country. Port-au-Prince was gridlocked as Haitians took to the streets in the biggest demonstrations in years.

Last Saturday, those demonstrations finally toppled the government. Prime Minister Jack Guy Lafontant resigned, taking his cabinet with him. One of their last acts was to cancel the fuel price rises. The Haitian president will now appoint a new PM.[7]

The protests were notable for being somewhat attributable to the IMF, which authorized a loan to Haiti’s government on the condition that they end the fuel subsidies. But they were also a sign of how fed up the population has become with their government. Over 80 percent of Haitians live on less than $2 a day each, corruption is endemic, and recent elections have been marred by violence and voter suppression. It may well be that we’ll see more mass protests in Haiti soon.

3 Iran Sued The United States In International Court

A couple of months ago, President Trump pulled the US out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. The ramifications are still being felt on the international stage, in some cases in very unexpected ways.

This week’s development was one such example. On Tuesday, Tehran filed a lawsuit against Washington in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague, claiming that the reimposition of sanctions violated a 1955 treaty between the two nations.

The ICJ is the highest court of the United Nations. Unlike the International Criminal Court (ICC), the US is a member of the ICJ and technically bound to abide by its rulings. We say “technically” because the US has occasionally ignored previous rulings and the ICJ has no formal mechanism to punish member states that disobey it.[8]

Still, the Iran lawsuit may not even get to that stage. In the coming months, the ICJ will decide whether to issue a provisional ruling or just drop the case altogether.

2 Israel Enacted A Controversial Jewish Nation-State Law

Early this Thursday, Israel’s Knesset officially passed one of the most controversial laws its members have ever voted on. The “Jewish Nation-State” law defines Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people and an undivided Jerusalem as its capital. The real sticking point, though, was a clause that made Hebrew the official language of Israel. For Israel’s Arab lawmakers, the bill amounted to making them second-class citizens.

After the bill was passed, some Arab lawmakers tore up copies and barraged Benjamin Netanyahu with cries of “racist!” However, it’s worth pointing out that not everyone agrees. The bill doesn’t downgrade Arabic so much as elevate Hebrew. Some Arab-Israelis came out in support of the bill, including some (such as one writer in Haaretz) who usually place themselves against the PM.[9]

It’s worth noting, too, that the version of the bill passed is far less controversial than the one proposed. One earlier version sought to force the Supreme Court to consider Israel’s Jewish character as above its democratic one, while another would have paved the way for segregated religious communities. Both clauses were killed earlier in the week.

1 The US Indicted 12 Russians For Election Meddling

And we’re right back around to Russia again. Last Friday, the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller made a bombshell announcement. Twelve Russian officials had now been indicted in absentia for meddling in the 2016 election. The indictment itself included names, addresses, and details on sophisticated phishing and hacking operations, painting a picture of a well-orchestrated conspiracy at the heart of Russia’s GRU intelligence agency.

Importantly, the indictment did not contain any evidence or allegations of collusion on the part of American citizens. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein also noted that these tactics did not sway the election’s outcome. However, they were still shocking in that they portrayed a concerted Russian effort to undermine American democracy.[10]

The DOJ’s national security unit will now take over the indictments, although it’s extremely unlikely that any of the 12 individuals named will ever face anything beyond US sanctions. Still, with data on half a million voters seemingly stolen, voter software hacked, and local election officials targeted, it’s starting to look like 2018’s midterms could be the next big flashpoint in the great Russian hacking saga.

Morris M.

Morris is a freelance writer and newly-qualified teacher, still naively hoping to make a difference in his students’ lives. You can send your helpful and less-than-helpful comments to his email, or visit some of the other websites that inexplicably hire him.

Read More: Urban Ghosts


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