Off the Edge of the Map: Russia to Arm World Against Asteroid

Every once in a while (though it seems more frequently in this oft-strange world we live in) a story comes along that, while true, seems to be the work of Hollywood writers.

Case in point: Russia’s battle plan to save earth from an asteroid collision.

In this case – unlike virtually, every single Hollywood movie (…yawn…)- it won’t be the U.S.A. that saves the day. Russian scientists have stepped forward with a (vague) plan to send a spacecraft up to bump the asteroid off course.

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Off the Edge of the Map: Peru’s Fat Killers?

Just when you think the world can’t get any weirder, a story comes along to make you question absolutely everything.

Case in point: Peru’s alleged fat harvesting gang.

In mid-November Peruvian police warned the public of a gang of killers stalking people in the Peruvian jungle for three decades to harvest fat and sell it to the European cosmetics industry. Police named the gang pishtacos – based on traditional folklore of a tall, white male in a big hat who roams the countryside stealing the fat and eyes of unsuspecting travelers. According to the allegations the killers would cut off “victims’ heads, arms and legs, remove the organs, and then suspend the torsos from hooks above candles that warmed the flesh as the fat dripped into tubs below.” Police produced suspects who claimed a gallon of the human fat was worth $60,000. Sounds like something out of a Stephen King novel, right? Uber yucky….

But then the story got worse …. Within a week or two the cops’ allegations began to unravel as medical professionals and local journalists attacked the veracity of the claims.

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Systematic Failure: A Driver’s Education

A South Korean grandmother is celebrating the attainment of a dream. After 950 attempts, the 68-year old finally managed to pass the written exam for a driver’s license.

 It took Cha Sa-soon the better part of 5 years and $4,200 in application fees, but Cha reportedly told Reuters “don’t give up your dream, like me. Be strong and do your best.” Cha, who wants a vehicle so she can better sell vegetables, still has to pass the practical road test before getting an actual license.

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A leader for the times: Maldives President Nasheed

You have to give Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed gold stars for perseverance and creativity. At a time when our planet is in desperate need of creative leaders willing to “think outside the box” to address a host of critical common threats to the human family, Nasheed stands out as a man unwilling to give up in the face of indifference.

Nasheed took 11 of his cabinet ministers out to a coral reef near one of the Maldives islands for the world’s first underwater cabinet meeting last week. Decked out in scuba gear and seated around a horseshoe table amidst the coral, the officials passed around an “SOS” agreement calling for carbon gas emission cuts.

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Systematic Failure: Too many children left behind ….

I have to cringe when I hear or read right-leaning politicians and commentators wax poetic about how the U.S. has the “greatest” system in the world – the best health care, the best education, the best government, etc, etc, etc. It’s not that I don’t support the effort for the U.S. to be the best it can, but to categorize things as the “greatest” or “best” implies that these accolades represent achievements perfected and maintained to a level we need no longer worry our pretty little heads about it.

All one has to do is take a walk down the street – pretty much any street in the country with the exception of perhaps Rodeo Drive – to see that we are a long way away from the best we could be.

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Reasonable health care debate? Thank the Child

Hands down the best thing I’ve encountered said, written, posted or screamed about health care in recent weeks is a letter to President Obama from 12-year old Californian Nick Armitage. (So, ok, his parents probably helped him write it or a teacher put him up to it, but who cares – this kid was able to frame the argument in its most simple form; and any person of conscience can’t argue against it.)

 “Health insurance is not a privilege but a necessity,” says Armitage’s letter, as seen here on the Huffington Post.

 Finding a reasonable way to ensure all Americans have some basic coverage for medical expenses is a laudable goal —  long, long, long overdue.  If we can all agree that Mr. Armitage’s sentiment is sound, then we should be able to find a reasonable solution.

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