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Giving 419s an Iraqi Flavor

Gelf recently received an email from a Major Ralph Harland of the UN peacekeeping force in Iraq asking for assistance in the transfer of funds across international borders. This was a bit suspicious, because Gelf is unacquainted with such an individual. We're also pretty sure—unless some secretive accord was recently struck—that there is no UN peacekeeping force in Iraq.


Climbing High but Flying Higher

An assault on a bogus world record is happening in late May, sponsored by Motorola. Mountaineer Rod Baber will attempt to climb Mt. Everest (which has been done thousands of times) and then make what this BBC article (or is it a press release?) terms "the world's highest phone call." Which would all be well and good, except that plenty of people have made higher phone calls, including my mother.


The Bates Primate Motel

Chimps in Senegal were seen thrusting modified branches into hollow tree limbs in what was probably an attempt to kill their nocturnal primate cousin, the bush baby, for later eating. This is the latest in a long line of discoveries about chimp behaviors that were previously thought to be unique to humans. And while this particular version of tool making and usage isn't very different from the termite fishing (i.e. sticking stripped branches into termite mounds) that has been known about for decades, the fact that the action is violent, the prey is vertebrate, and the tool is spear-like has inspired tons of media attention. And when the media discusses non-human primates, ridiculous analogies are the norm.


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Off-Key Primate Coverage? It's a Gibbon.

Gibbons, part of the so-called lesser apes, can rearrange the syllables in their mating duets to form alarm calls. If "bap-bap-be-bop" tells the world that they are in love, then "bap-be-bap-bop" says that they see something scary. (Actual gibbons sound less like scat singers and more like this.) This discovery is paper-worthy because it may mean that gibbons are the first non-human ape to use what are known as functionally-referential calls; vastly simplified, it suggests they possess a basic form of syntax. But if you look at the coverage of this discovery in the press, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the major finding was that gibbons sing when they are scared.


Really Perverted Justice

Another bizarre side effect from our nation's misguided anti-pervert campaign: This week, former Kaufman County, Texas, District Attorney Louis Conradt shot himself after and NBC tried to entrap him for soliciting, online, someone posing as a 13-year-old boy (Associated Press). A couple of months ago, Gelf came down hard on such sensationalist pervert vigilantism, and specifically noted that Dateline NBC's "To Catch a Predator" and sites like Perverted Justice were causing more problems than they were fixing. Now, a legally innocent man is dead.


Macaque Attack

In New Delhi, habituated macaques are running wild in the streets, stealing food from vendors and harassing passersby. In order to deal with the rambunctious monkeys, government workers have tried everything from sterilizing them to trapping and moving them far away. (India's religious and social mores, it seems, prevent strategic culling.) But the potential solution that has received the most ink in the press is bringing in langurs—big monkeys that seem to scare the crap out of their smaller simian counterparts—to send the macaques packing.


Hacking Kevin Mitnick

Kevin Mitnick, the famous hacker who spent five years in jail after breaking into the systems of several tech companies, had a few of his own websites defaced by hackers over the past few days. On each site, the homepage was replaced with a sprawling missive about the lameness of hacking, sex with Mitnick's grandmother, and shoutouts to friends, all sprinkled liberally with "fucks." Also, there's a picture of Mitnick with a crude penis drawn onto his forehead and cum on his hands and mouth. (You can see a screengrab of the page here.) Funny and newsworthy, but how should a reputable tech news site cover the incident?


First the Tattoo. Then the Film.

Jim Dozier loved the idea of Snakes on a Plane so much that he got a huge, multicolored tattoo of the film's logo before he ever saw the film itself. Yesterday, he watched the movie for the first time. Gelf caught up with Doz to ask him if SoaP deserved the hype—and the ink.


Net Neutrality Rocks. "Net Neutrality" Sucks

Has anyone, aside from the Swiss, ever stood up for his or her neutrality? No one ever says, "I feel very strongly about neutrality," because, well, neutrality is inherently neutral and is not something people tend to get worked up about. Perhaps that's why, even though Google, Microsoft, the Christian Coalition, and have all spoken out in favor of "network neutrality," most people still don't have a clue, let alone a care, that—courtesy of some bills making their way through Congress—the beloved internet may soon undergo some drastic and terrible changes. Language is a powerful tool.

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