Fortean / Oddball News: Nepal Wild Man, Weird Theme Parks and USAF Nuke Snafu

'Indiana Jones' and the Wild Man of Nepal

sify - Kathmandu, Oct 25 (IANS) As mysterious and as much sought-after as UFOs, the Yeti - also known as the Abominable Snowman, Migoi and Bigfoot - is not a myth or a hermit in the wilderness.

It exists in virginal forests untrodden by man, living on tree barks, frogs and even 'brains' of animals.

Immensely powerful, it can kill several yaks with a rock and when lonely, wistfully eyes the mountain women grazing their herds near the forest, toying with the idea of capturing one for company.

It has a strong sense of smell, is afraid of the fire and lives in caves.

The hairy ape man that has captured the imagination of people down the ages comes alive vividly once again as another 'Indiana Jones' hits the Yeti trail in Nepal with his new book, 'Yetis, Sasquatch and Hairy Giants'.

'I must be frank and say that I haven't come across a Yeti as yet though I went on several Yeti expeditions,' says a candid David Hatcher Childress, the 54-year-old explorer whose nearly 20 books on his exotic wanderings have made his fans bestow the title 'Indiana Jones' on him.

'However, I firmly believe they exist.'

The American archaeologist, who first came to Nepal in 1976 at the age of 19, has been to Mongolia, China, Bhutan, Sikkim and places in Canada where sightings of the mysterious creature were reported. His new book, published by Kathmandu's Adventure Pilgrims Trekking and launched in the capital Saturday, puts together a wealth of anecdotes, reports and photographs about the Yeti.

'One of the earliest reported sightings was in 1921 when a British expedition went on a reconnaissance of Mt Everest,' says Childress, on the eve of a trekking expedition in Nepal.

'They saw a group of shaggy creatures crossing the glacier and asked their Sherpa guides what they were. The guides answered it was the Mehteh Kangmi, meaning the Big Ape. When the expedition telegrammed their discovery, the message became garbled and people thought it was 'Metch' or wretched. And that's how the Abominable Snowman expression came into being.'

Childress also says the Yeti could be the inspiration for King Kong, the gigantic primordial beast made famous by the eponymous Hollywood film of 1933 directed by Peter Jackson.

'Kong could have been derived from Kangmi,' he says.

Three countries are most passionate about the Yeti, according to him - the US, Canada, where it is called the Bigfoot or Sasquatch, and Nepal.

However, the home of the Yeti is most likely to be in the mountains of Bhutan, Sikkim and the base of the Makalu peak in Nepal as well as Mt Kanchenjunga.

Two years before his first visit to Nepal, the world, he says, was rocked by reports about a Yeti incident in Nepal.

In July 1974, a Sherpa woman who had gone to the forests in Solukhumbu in northern Nepal to graze her herd of yaks reportedly came across the Yeti, an immense beast that struck the yaks on the neck with a rock and killed them.

It then reportedly split their skulls open and ate their brains, causing the woman to fall in a faint.

'When she recovered, she couldn't talk for several days due to the shock,' Childress says. 'That's how powerful the yeti is. It can tear a man from limb to limb. However, it prefers to avoid men.'

Two famed explorers hit the Yeti trail in Nepal much before Childress: the first man atop the Everest, Sir Edmund Hillary, who was part of a Yeti expedition in 1960 but discovered the Yeti skull to be that of a monkey, and Austrian climber Reinhold Messner, whose 1999 book, 'My quest for the Yeti', made him the target of ridicule.

Both later became disillusioned and concluded the Yeti did not exist.

In 2007, an American television channel specialising in extraordinary creatures came to look for the Yeti in Nepal.

Though they didn't find their elusive quarry, the crew returned content with casts made of unusually big footprints they had found.

Childress has already begun work on a second Yeti book. This one, he says, will focus on the Yeti in Nepal.

'Even now, scientists are working in Bhutan, trying to find more evidence and new hair samples that will prove the Yeti exists,' he says.

'The Yeti is real, not a myth or a bear or a wild man.'


World's Weirdest Theme Parks

MSNBC - Mickey has one. Dolly Parton has one. Heck, even the Budweiser Clydesdales have theirs. So it should come as no surprise that Jesus has a theme park, too, right?

The Holy Land Experience may be in Orlando, but Disney World it’s not; thousands visit the park–cum–living museum annually to witness reenactments of the Passion of Christ, the Last Supper, and the Virgin Birth—all set to music. Weird, you say? Not according to the faithful.

Whatever your interest or taste for fun, chances are there’s a theme park created with you in mind. And Holy Land aside, many of the odder options are located overseas.

From re-created 19th-century Dickensian towns to an imagination of Buddhist heaven, offbeat theme parks offer insights into culture rarely found from hobnobbing with life-size characters or riding a run-of-the-mill Ferris wheel.

“Even if you’re seeking out the strange and delicious, theme parks always hold the potential for unique and memorable experiences,” says Gene Jeffers, the executive director of Themed Entertainment Association (TEA), an international organization that represents park creators.

If you’ve hit up all the SeaWorlds and Wisconsin Dells of the globe, why not take a trip to a make-believe town populated by little people?

According to TEA, Asia has the fastest-growing theme-park market—with 77.6 million visitors for Asia’s top 15 parks alone. One of the region’s biggest recent openings was the 2009 blockbuster debut of Dwarf Empire, a hilltop park in southern China devoted to—and almost entirely staffed by—people under four feet tall.

The park also gained worldwide media coverage for employing many of the country’s height-challenged, who traditionally have had a hard time finding work. Thanks to the park, many of China’s dwarves are now gainfully employed as everything from janitors to crown-wearing empresses.

Thrill-seeking families might prefer a rendezvous down under with some of the planet’s most majestic (and ferocious) creatures—crocodiles. At Crocosaurus Cove in Darwin, Australia, park-goers can see the reptiles up close in the Cage of Death, or choose to tease and taunt baby crocs the old-fashioned way—with bait.

So forget the roller coasters, magic castles, and fuzzy rodents, and tour our list of the world’s strangest theme parks—it’s a different kind of small world, after all.


High School Cheerleader Kicked Off Squad for Refusal to Cheer for Her Rapist

womensrights - Rah, rah, sis boom bah: Silsbee High School in Texas wants their cheerleaders smiling, energetic, and willing to cheer for their rapists by name. Go team!

H.S., a Silsbee student, reported being raped in 2008 by Rakheem Bolton, a fellow student and athletic star, with the help of two of his friends. In the end, Bolton recently ended up getting off without serving any jail time by pleading guilty to a lesser assault charge, spending two years on probation, doing community service, paying a fine, and attending anger management courses. Hardly seems like an adequate punishment, but it's unfortunately not uncommon for attackers to bargain down their charges. What really gets the blood boiling is how the students' high school treated the victim when the rape charge was levied.

Bolton was set to be on the school's varsity basketball team, and they couldn't risk losing by barring him from playing for a silly thing like a rape charge. That could impact their chances at winning. Who cares about the traumatic impact it would have an a cheerleader who needed to vocally support a team including her rapist?

But H.S. fulfilled her role as a cheerleader, participating in all the cheers for the team as a group. She simply refused to shout the first name of the man who assaulted her when he stood up alone to make free throws. It seems like she was being more than accommodating, when an student athlete facing trial on rape charges most likely should have been suspended from the team, even if his presence wasn't a source of immediate distress to his victim in her position as cheerleader. In a display of extreme disrespect for a rape survivor and disregard for her well-being, school officials insisted that H.S. had to scream "Rakheem" with the rest of the cheerleaders, or she'd be kicked off the squad.

Not only that, Caroline Heldman reports on Ms. Magazine's blog that school officials pushed H.S. "to keep a low profile, such as avoiding the school cafeteria and not taking part in homecoming activities." As though she should somehow be ashamed for having been raped and brought charges against her attacker. Where exactly was she supposed to eat so as to not cause discomfort to the star athlete? H.S. also refused to take this offensive "advice."

H.S. sued her school district for removing her from the cheerleading squad. In an absurd court ruling, the 5th U.S. Circuit of Appeals decided to uphold the school's decision, claiming that a cheerleader was but a "mouthpiece" for a school to use to "disseminate speech — namely, support for its athletic teams." Her silence apparently "constituted substantial interference with the work of the school because, as a cheerleader, H.S. was at the basketball game for the purpose of cheering, a position she undertook voluntarily." Well, I'm sure H.S. never expected to be "volunteering" to cheer for someone who had assaulted her. And the idea that just being silent during Bolton's free throws, a barely noticeable act, was "substantial interference with the work of the school" — um, we're talking extracurricular sports, not classroom disruption — makes little sense.


USAF Concurs Loss of Some Communication With Nukes

CNN - The Air Force lost partial communications with 50 nuclear missiles for almost an hour last weekend, an Air Force spokesman said Tuesday.

The problem, characterized as a "single hardware issue," affected more than 10 percent of the country's ICBM arsenal on Saturday morning, according to Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Wesley Miller IV.

Because of redundant systems, at no time was the Air Force unable to monitor, communicate with or, if need be, launch the intercontinental ballistic missiles on the president's command, several military officials said.

"Any time the president wanted to fire those missiles, he could have," a senior defense official said. At no time was the public in jeopardy, according to another military official.

The Minuteman III ICBMs are multiple warhead missiles that are controlled from Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming but are in missile silos spread out over a wide area around the base.

After the problem was detected, each silo was inspected by base personnel to make certain all 50 missiles were safe and secure.

The exact nature of the problem is still under investigation.

"The specific cause for the disruption is currently being analyzed on site by engineers from the ICBM systems program office," according to an Air Force statement.

A senior defense official said it was an underground cable that got disrupted.

The United States currently has 450 Minutemen III ICBMs. While the squadron of 50 that had problems Saturday represents 11 percent of America's ICBM arsenal, the United States also has bomber-based and sea-based nuclear weapons.

The Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Norton Schwartz, informed Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, about the problem during the weekend.

Mullen made sure Secretary of Defense Robert Gates was informed. President Obama was briefed on the issue on Tuesday morning, according to a report in Atlantic Monthly.

Gates takes nuclear weapon security very seriously. In 2008, Gates took the unprecedented step of firing both the Air Force secretary and the Air Force chief of staff because of two highly publicized mistakes involving Air Force nuclear weapons.

First there was the embarrassing revelation in August 2007 that a B-52 bomber took off from North Dakota with six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles that no one knew were live weapons until after the plane landed in Louisiana.

Then came word that the Air Force mistakenly shipped fuses that are used in nuclear weapons to Taiwan in 2006 in crates believed to contain helicopter batteries.


Treasure Trove of 50-Million-Year-Old Insects in Amber Found

wired - A collection of amber deposits unearthed in northwest India has opened a spectacular window into insect life some 50 million years ago.

At that time, what’s now the Asian subcontinent had just crashed into mainland Asia — about 100 million years after breaking off the coast of east Africa. During its long isolated float, life on that giant island had time to evolve into strange new forms.

That’s what’s researchers expected, anyway, but not what they found in the amber, described October 26 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Instead, the insects resemble what’s seen in amber deposits from continental landmasses of the time. (Amber is the geological name for fossilized tree resin, which often preserves insects that get stuck in it.) The findings suggest an unexpected transfer of insects, perhaps across chains of volcanic islands.

Although the new amber didn’t yield bizarre new species, it’s still loaded with fossil treasures. More than 700 insect species representing 55 families of insects have been identified inside. Among them are ancient bees, termites and ants — highly social insects that form some of the world’s most complex societies.

In the years to come, scientists will compare these ancient specimens to modern forms and develop a deeper understanding of how these creatures have evolved. Until they do, the bugs are plenty amazing to look at.


Dinosaurs and the American Civil War...LOL

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