Erstwhile right-wing pundit Stephen Colbert famously introduced us to the concept of Wikiality coming up on ten years ago. On the now-defunct The Colbert Report, he explained that — under the rules of Wikipedia — in order for something to be considered true,
Christian Science Monitor wants to know: Why is ISIS threatening Twitter employees with ‘lions’? Of course, CSM also has the answer:
Supporters of the extremist militant group called for the death of company employees in response to Twitter’s blocking of social media accounts associated with the Islamic State.
That much, I could have guessed. But I clicked on the headline not to find out why ISIS was threatening Twitter employees — after all, does ISIS really need a cause? — but because I was curious: Why lions? And since CSM appears to have been uninterested by that zoological choice, I decided to delve into the question for myself — and now, for you. You’re welcome.
We’re coming up (tomorrow) on the two month anniversary of the People’s Climate March, which was the largest climate gathering in history, and which has been credited by some (OK, by one of its organizers) as laying the groundwork for the recent landmark agreement between China and the United States.
But the parade also left behind another legacy: the need for mountain-trash removal. Predictably, cynics (and some with more nefarious intentions) penned headlines that screamed “People’s Climate March Leaves Trail Of Trash” and gleefully linked to tweets depicting — and commenting on — the mess left behind, like so:
On slow days — the ones with no political scandals, salacious affairs, or bloody coups to report on — “human interest” stories [sometimes] come to dominate the news cycle and, in turn, my newsfeed.
Today proved that this can occasionally happen on fast days, as well.
On a day when over 600 people died in clashes with the Egyptian military, additional details about the NSA spying program leaked, and MLB finally decided to [somewhat] extend instant reply, the two most frequently-posted items I came across on social media were, coincidentally, both about zoos.
I’ll start off with the one from China, because I’m still not entirely sure whether the Onion managed to pull a fast one on the entire world media, Chinese zoo substitutes lion for dog:
With the sun shining and kids at home for the school holidays, many families in the eastern Chinese city of Luohe decided to pay a visit to the city’s zoo this week.
But those hoping to be thrilled by the zoo’s fearsome beasts were left disappointed by a rather tamer set of substitutes.
“One family surnamed Liu took their six-year-old son to the zoo in People’s Park,” reported the local Dahe Daily newspaper.
“On the way, Mrs Liu was teaching her son all the sounds that the different animals make. But when they arrived, her son said the lion was barking like a dog.”
Turns out, that’s no lion — that’s a space station. You can read the whole article above (if you [somehow] aren’t already familiar with the story), but the main takeaway is this: people were outraged — and the Luohe Zoo became the subject of worldwide ridicule — because of a mislabeled animal in a zoo exhibit.
Meanwhile, the second story I’ve seen shared all day comes from this very hemisphere, and concerns an astonishing story of scientific discovery, Adorable new mammal species found ‘in plain sight’: a raccoon-sized critter with teddy bear looks:
You might recognize the little guy you see above as a character from Pocahontas. In case you don’t remember him — and this will be important in a moment — his name is “Miko”. As it happens, Miko is also the Shinto term for “shrine maiden” — and what follows is an account of how Miko the cartoon raccoon is causing a lot of grief for shrine maidens all over Japan.
To fully understand this story, you have to go back to World War II. The roots of Nazi Germany are often traced back to the settlement terms of the Great War, which forced the defeated Central Powers to pay crippling reparations to the victorious Allies. When World War III breaks out, it will be tempting to trace its underlying cause to the damage and humiliation the United States continues to inflict upon the defeated Axis powers of World War II. I’m not talking about the U.S. military bases that still dot Germany and Japan, but about a different kind of invader — raccoons:
[I noticed a lot of people — by this blog’s standards, anyway — reaching this post via the Google nearly a week after the story broke, which means a lot of people have been googling Nadirah Farah Foley. Presumably, potential employers will one day do the same, and also stumble upon this post. This message is really for them. I can’t imagine learning about this story is going to do too much in the way of convincing you to hire Nadirah, though I suppose it’s more about the story than about anything I wrote (this is how I justify contributing to the pile-on), and I can’t keep you from finding what you’re looking for. But the point is this: I don’t know Nadirah (Nadirah Farah?), but I do know she will grow up. I would imagine she already learned her lesson. The internet holds grudges; it never lets you truly declare bankruptcy (unless you mean moral bankruptcy) — especially if your name is sui generis like Nadirah Farah Foley. So don’t be like the internet. Don‘t hold this against her forever. Give her a chance. Maybe what follows will help you see her story in a slightly more-positive light:]
Last Wednesday, I wrote about the DP’s possible motive in publishing the story of Nadirah Farah Foley’s firing from the Penn admissions office (something like but not necessarily) three months after it happened. Today, I want to suggest three reasons she deserves more appreciation:
1. Though Ms. Foley has been maligned for violating the trust of prospective Quakers by publishing choice excerpts of their application essays on Facebook, without her indiscretion, we may have never learned of the applicant circumcised at Penn Hillel, nor the one who overcame his (her?) fear of pooping in the woods. Don’t pretend like reading those accounts didn’t bring at least the hint of a smile to your face. Privacy concerns notwithstanding, I’d say the world is a better place with those stories having seen the light of day. Sort of how the world is a better place with Julian Assange and Bradley Manning.
Sort of like that.
2. It’s always nice to have a reminder that you should think twice before posting anything remotely over the line anywhere online. Just about one year ago, I spent a few months working at the Penn Institute for Urban Research, and occasionally blogged about some of the things I encountered in the course of my employment. I just looked those posts over, and I don’t believe anything I wrote about crossed any lines, violated anyone’s privacy, or revealed any secrets — but still, it was probably a bad idea. If Foley’s Facebook posts — which aren’t even googleable* — got her fired, so could my blog posts. Assuming, of course, anything I put online would be grounds for dismissal. The idea, obviously, is to try to avoid posting those things, in case I needed a reminder.
And we all sometimes need reminders. Just the other day, a friend posted a google map on Facebook from which it was quite easy to decipher his home address. Thanks to my mother, I am more than aware this is a terrible idea. One of her favorite activities is sending me articles about the evils that can befall one who posts too much personal information on Facebook (like Nadirah!). So I knew just what to do: I sent my friend this 2010 CNN article about burglars who mine Facebook posts for personal information like home addresses and daily schedules. All he needed was the reminder, and the post was down within a couple of seconds. So thank you, Nadirah — we can never have too many reminders.
3. We could also always use another reminder that open-ended, inane personal statement/essay questions/cover letters are just about the worst things ever. And I’m not talking about the excerpts Foley shared on Facebook; I’m talking about the first site that pops up when you google her name. That distinction belongs to Princeton’s Department of Classics alumni news page, which includes the following personal narrative [skim only]:
My family recently visited the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia, which boasts a lot of coast, and a little sunshine. Before heading north, my mom read the local newspaper and forwarded a story entitled ‘Brazen’ coyotes snatch toy poodle from B.C. store in broad daylight:
Alaina Russell had just started her shift at her mother’s store, Carola’s Quilt Shop, in Gibsons on Friday when she saw a scrawny, mangy coyote pacing in the parking lot out front.
Russell had brought her toy poodle, Nicky, to work that day and she searched for him, to make sure he was safe. Turning back a moment later, she was horrified to see another coyote sauntering out the front door with her eight-pound, nine-year-old black poodle in its mouth.
‘Coyote bites dog’ is hardly a headline; British Columbia is crawling with coyotes, and one of them attacking a small pet is nothing new:
Urban sightings of the province’s estimated 2,000-3,000 [Editor’s note: the BC Ministry of Environment estimates the number is actually as high as 6,000] coyotes are becoming more common, according to the B.C. SPCA. They typically prefer living in grasslands and at the edge of forests, but will travel for food. Attacks on humans are very rare, but less rare are attacks on smaller animals like pets.
Coyotes have been spotted along the highway, at the gas station, at the grocery store. Customers are bringing tales of other dogs disappearing and there are Missing Cat posters all over town, Russell said. A neighbour told her he saw three coyotes hanging around his yard Friday morning.
“It’s almost like they were casing the joint,” Russell said.
What made the story newsworthy was that the coyote snatched its prey in broad daylight, in front of numerous people, and most significantly, extracted it from inside a building:
The attack on Friday was shocking to the customers and Russell’s mom, and even people on the highway who stopped to stare.
“It goes through our heads again and again, it’s so unbelievable,” said Carola Russell, who owns the store.
So what did the Russell family do, confronted by a coyote population so bold, so unintimidated by human presence, that it thought nothing of entering a building and carrying off a small dog?
They decided to feed it.
Russell and her mom took the day off Sunday, spending it with new rescue dog Dolly, an 11-month-old Shih Tzu the family brought home from the pound on Saturday.
This will certainly end well: