Darwin Awards Contenders Foiled By Observant Cafe Customer

Darwin Awards
Four men who could have become strong candidates for this year’s Darwin Awards have been saved by a Good Samaritan who was enjoying some coffee nearby.

The BBC reports that a customer at a cafe in Oxwich Bay, Wales, spotted four men in a dinghy clutching onto a buoy and desperately trying to get the attention of those on shore.

It’s unclear if the men were consciously trying to win the Darwin Awards, given out every year for people who get killed in stupid ways and thus improve the gene pool of our species. Nevertheless, they proved their candidacy by setting out in an inflatable dinghy into worsening weather with no life jackets and no flares. Winds had reached up to force six on the Beaufort Scale by the time they were saved. Force six is just short of a gale, with waves rising up to 13 feet.

The person who spotted them alerted the coast guard, who sent out a lifeboat to save them. If it wasn’t for this observant coffee lover, these wannabe sailors may have replicated the famous “Raft of the Medusa,” being adrift at sea for weeks, slowly expiring from hunger and thirst until desperation led them to gnaw on one another to survive. It would have given a whole new meaning to the term “Welsh rarebit.”

If you must try an alternative diet, try vegetarianism instead. It’s far more benign. Also familiarize yourself with weather conditions before setting out and practice these sea safety guidelines. Now that spring is here and everyone wants to get out in the water, it’s important to know how to play safe.

[Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

The Pacific Ocean: Is It Really True That One-Third Of Young Americans Can’t Find It?

Pacific OceanWhile reading fellow Gadling blogger Chris Owen’s post about a Twitter mix-up between Chechnya and the Czech Republic, I was horrified to read that one-third of young Americans can’t find the Pacific Ocean.

I was horrified, but not surprised. I taught for several years in a community college and no amount of public ignorance surprises me anymore – not after a student handed in a paper stating that Iraq and Afghanistan were cities.

But I’m always suspicious of statistics. It’s a well-known fact that 85 percent of all statistics are wrong, so I emailed Chris and asked for his source, which turned out to be the Around the World geography project. They cite a National Geographic study that found 29 percent of U.S. 18-24 year olds couldn’t find the Pacific Ocean on an unlabeled map.

Looking at the original study, it turns out they got it wrong. “Only” 21 percent of those quizzed couldn’t find the Pacific Ocean. The 2006 study quizzed 510 Americans aged 18-24 on a number of geographic issues. The one that concerns us here was a blank map test to see if the participants could correctly point out certain countries and geographic locations. Boundaries were clearly labeled; they simply needed to match the shape and location with the country or ocean.

The Pacific Ocean wasn’t the only hard-to-find location. A staggering 63 percent couldn’t find Iraq, despite near-constant media coverage. Closer to home, 50 percent couldn’t find New York state. Check out the link to read more disheartening statistics.

I suppose we could blame the educational system, but 48 percent of the participants said they had a geography class sometime between sixth grade and senior year, so I suspect the blame lies with parents for not instilling a desire to learn about the world and the young Americans themselves for not realizing this information could be useful.

When I was discussing this post at the breakfast table my7-year-old scoffed, “I know where the Pacific Ocean is!”

I decided to test him. He correctly pointed out the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, as well as the Mediterranean and Red Seas. I stumped him on the Sea of Azov, though. Can’t let him get too big for his britches.

Of course he enjoys a key advantage – parents who channel his natural childhood curiosity into learning about the world around him and foster an enthusiasm for exploration and discovery.

In other words, we give a shit about his education.

[Image of the Pacific Ocean courtesy NASA]

Pittsburgh restaurant features ‘conflict cuisine’

Most American travelers will never set foot in Iran, but at least now if they make it to Pittsburgh, they can enjoy some of the country’s delicious cuisine. It’s the idea behind a new take-out restaurant called Conflict Kitchen, a new eatery that’s attempting to feature cuisine from countries the United States is in conflict with.

Conflict Kitchen might serve food, but it’s hardly your normal carry-out joint. The project, which was started by artist Jon Rubin, will regularly shift themes to feature a different “conflict country” and promote cross-cultural understanding. The first four months are devoted to a collaboration with Pittsburgh’s Iranian community. In addition to delicious food like the Kubideh Sandwich, Conflict Kitchen also plans to host events, performances and discussion surrounding this much discussed Middle Eastern country. Though there’s been no announcement on the project’s website, chances are good that other “rogue states” like North Korea, Venezuela and Afghanistan will get similar treatment.

The Conflict Kitchen project raises an interesting question. Who are we demonizing when we disagree with a country’s politics? Is it the government of that country? Or is it also the people who live there, many of whom have nothing to do with the policies we dislike? Perhaps by traveling and through projects like Conflict Kitchen we can learn to better differentiate between the two.

Video shows the cause of Newark Airport shutdown – a couple in love

On Sunday, thousands of passengers ended up stuck at Newark airport for several hours, forced to evacuate the terminal, go through security again, and wait for the many flight delays and disruptions that happened as a result.

Some passengers tried to make the best of the situation. Many probably expressed frustration with the TSA employee who allowed a mystery man to walk the wrong way through a security checkpoint. And others may have wondered who the man was who caused them to suffer through the ordeal.

Was he a terrorist checking out the security system? Was he a man who made an Innocent mistake? No, as the just-released video footage of the incident suggests, he was a just a guy in love, looking for a few more minutes with his sweetheart. On the video below, you can see him hanging out by the security desk. He’s asked to move and does so, but when the guard leaves his post just a few seconds later, the guy takes that opportunity to duck under the rope and join his lady friend.

Ah, love. Cute, right? No. Not even a little. As a result of this guy breaking the law, and of the TSA employee’s failure to do his job, thousands of people were needlessly evacuated from the terminal. Time and money were wasted. And a few hundred people probably missed important connections or meetings, or at least had their vacation get off to a really bad start.

This guy wasn’t a terrorist (just an idiot), but the next person who tries and succeeds in getting past security could be. More than just frustrating travelers going through Newark on Sunday, the incident exposed just how insufficient TSA security is. What good are X-ray scanners and full-body pat-downs when a guy can simply breeze past an empty guard desk? It looks like our biggest threat to security may not be underpants bombs, but rather the lax attitudes of some employees within the TSA.

The TSA employee has been placed on administrative leave. The man who slipped past security has not been identified.

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Woman makes bomb threat to delay boss’ plane

At some point, most travelers will either come close to missing a flight, or actually miss it and have to wait for the next one. It’s not a fun situation to be in – praying that you make it, or that your flight is delayed just a few minutes so that you can get on it, and then sitting in the airport for hours if you do miss the plane – but it’s certainly not one that justifies faking a bomb threat.

Yet that’s exactly what one woman is accused of doing in order to help out her boss, who was running late to catch his flight from Miami to Honduras.

Officials at the Miami Airport received a call and an email on Wednesday saying there was a bomb on the American Airlines plane. They searched the plane, but found no bomb, and then traced the email to 31-year old Claudia De La Rosa’s computer. She was arrested and is now being held on $7,500 bail.

During questions, the woman said that she had made her boss run late and, worried that he would miss his plane, she decided to call in the bomb threat. She figured the bomb search would delay the plane long enough for her boss to arrive and get on the flight.

A little lesson for the over-achieving assistants out there: no job is worth getting arrested for and calling in a bomb threat is never a good idea. Just let your boss miss his plane.

[via USA Today]