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Astronomy Picture of the Day


Thursday, August 14, 2008


lobster by Zuan.

Polar bear eaten by shark: who's top predator?


By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent

OSLO (Reuters) - Already threatened by a thaw of ice around the North Pole, the polar bear's title as the top Arctic predator may under challenge from a shark.

Scientists researching how far sharks hunt seals in the Arctic were stunned in June to find part of the jaw of a young polar bear in the stomach of a Greenland shark, a species that favors polar waters.

"We've never heard of this before. We don't know how it got there," Kit Kovacs, of the Norwegian Polar Institute, told Reuters of the 10 cm (4 inch) bone found in a shark off the Norwegian Arctic archipelago of Svalbard.

"We can't say whether or not the shark took a swimming young bear" or ate a carcass, she said. "We don't know how active these sharks are as predators."

Most shark experts contacted said it was likely the bear was dead before the shark found it. Even a young, two- or three-year-old bear would be a ferocious opponent for a Greenland shark, which can grow to up to 7 meters (23 feet) and weigh more than a tonne.

"It sounds like a scavenge," said Steve Campana, head of the Canadian shark research laboratory at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

He said he had not heard of a shark eating a bear before and it was a "million dollar question" for researchers as to whether Greenland sharks attack live bears.

Bits of animals including caribou have been found in Greenland shark stomachs in the past -- scavenged or attacked swimming. Campana said there was even a myth that the sharks could leap out of the water and seize caribou standing on ice.

"There's no possibility a Greenland shark could predate a live adult white bear unless it was injured or seriously ill," said Jeffrey Gallant, co-director of a Canadian-based Greenland shark education and research group.

Sonja Fordham, deputy chair of the shark specialist group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, said more research was needed into the Greenland shark's habits.

"Greenland sharks do seem quite sluggish ... but they have been known to move very quickly when they are eating," she said.

The United States this year listed polar bears as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act because their sea ice habitat is shrinking, apparently due to global warming. A thaw may mean that bears spend more time in the water.

But less chill waters are unlikely to lure other big sharks, except perhaps the porbeagle, to polar regions, Campana said. Most sharks favor much warmer conditions.

Killer whales, however, have been spotted further north in recent years. "Both walruses and polar bears are powerful in the water. Both could handle most potential predators, but not killer whales," Kovacs said.

Gallant said warming was unlikely to help the Greenland shark catch bears.

"The Greenland shark simply cannot afford the risk of injury nor the expenditure of energy required to kill such a large and dangerous animal, with or without the help of global warming," he said. "There is far easier prey to be found."

Kovacs also said: "For polar bears the greater risk is a loss of habitat. These other things will be ancillary."

(Editing by Catherine Evans)

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What If Your Wife Were A Porn Star?

Life with a XXX actress has its perks—hearing about her day isn't one of them.

-By Michael Kaplan
-Photographs by Dana Lixenberg

Rusty, 34, says that when his wife, Mikayla Mendez, started working as a porn star, their sex life improved.

It's a Wednesday night in late May, and Ryder Sky and her husband, Bill, are celebrating their third anniversary. They keep it simple and order in pizza. The next morning, Sky heads to work at a boxy, modern house in the San Fernando Valley, in Los Angeles. Before long, backdropped by a floor-to-ceiling window, she lowers her mouth onto the erect penis of a sideburned actor who calls himself James Deen.

"That's beautiful," says a scruffy-faced director. "Now give me a jawbreaker."

Sky adjusts Deen's penis so that its head causes her left cheek to bubble. "Do you ever do anal?" the director asks her.

Nine hours later, Sky, a 24-year-old porn actress, pretty in a girl-next-door kind of way, returns to the cozy house near Studio City that she shares with Bill, who works as a driver for a talent agency. Inside their neatly organized home, mainstream DVDs are racked near a flat-screen TV and remnants of supper cool in a pot on the stove. Husband and wife are sprawled across the sofa. Bill, in his mid-thirties, muscular and handsome, wears jeans and a pullover; Sky's in plaid pajama pants and a tank top. If it weren't for the handblown glass dildo artfully displayed on their coffee table (Sky's name is etched on the bottom), this would be a standard picture of American domesticity.

Sky and Bill met in 2002 while working together at an independent film-production company. They have a seemingly solid marriage. It's only when Bill thinks too hard about what his wife's been doing in the year since she quit her job as an executive assistant to become a full-time porn star that things get difficult. Occasionally, he can't keep from mulling over the fact that he's home alone while she's getting it on with another man. "Sometimes I think about it when she works late and I'm going to bed," he says. "It's not negative, though. It's more like, eh . . . " He trails off with a what-can-you-do groan.

This is what it's like to be married to a porn star. While you toil away at a conventional job during the week, your wife spends eight hours a day getting plowed by guys with nicknames like Thug of Porn. There are the indelible mental images. There is the awkwardness of explaining to friends and colleagues—let alone to your parents—what she does. And then there's the fact that you don't even get to have sex with her all that often—intercourse is off-limits before a shoot, and afterward she's too tired and sore.

Bill describes his sex life with Sky as vanilla; "We schedule sex," he says. But that bothers him less than his wife's habitually telling colleagues she's "in a relationship" rather than married. "She hardly ever wears her wedding ring, even off-set," Bill says. "Why be ashamed of being married?"

Sky insists that it's not a matter of shame. "I don't want to get typecast as a MILF," she says.

At Bill's last job, a colleague recognized his wife, Ryder Sky, from her movies.

Otherwise sanguine as Bill seems about their arrangement, he shows some discomfort when he explains that his family doesn't know what his wife does for a living and admits that he doesn't go out of his way to tell coworkers about her occupation. At his previous job, a colleague saw a picture of Sky on Bill's desk and recognized her. "He said, 'Hey, that's Ryder Sky,'" Bill says. "I said, 'Yeah, she's my wife.' He said, 'You're a lucky guy.'" This hangs in the air for a beat before he continues. Being a porn star is what Sky wants. She makes good money, she doesn't get bossed around by a suit, and she has time to attend college (majoring in women's studies). He isn't going to stand in her way. "I want her to be happy. And it's a turn-on, in a way. On the downside, though, there are guys having sex with your wife."

But rather than avoid seeing her work, Bill watches Sky's movies religiously and stealthily posts positive sentiments on porn sites, occasionally attacking critics. "I don't look at it as sex," he says. "I look at it as a guy with his dick in my wife, but they're working and it's not emotional. She never orgasms in porn. That's for us. If it happened on the set, it would be a little weird."

Ryan Brown is standing in the doorway of a room at a Motel 6 in Van Nuys, California. The 23-year-old car detailer, in training to be a firefighter, and his just-legal fiancée, Kelly Skyline, are down from Sacramento while she shoots a movie. Inside, arranged around the TV, are a container of body butter, a bag of Runts, and a DVD of Be My Bitch 6 (Skyline's considering a role in 7). Skyline wears low-slung jeans that expose a suntan tattoo of two hearts just above her hip line. Brown (not his real last name), an easygoing, nerdy-looking kid, appears mellow and doting. They're discussing a recent on-the-job injury that Skyline suffered—one that Brown, usually at peace with his fiancée's occupation, found troubling. "I got a text message from her that said 'I've been ripped,'" he recalls. Skyline had been shooting a scene with Billy Glide, a porn star who's nicknamed the Human Wine Bottle, and his oversize penis tore the inside of her vagina.

Brown knew the drill. "Get that text and you know it's no sex for a few days," he says, rolling his eyes. "I constantly made Epsom-salt baths and forced her to get in. It burns the cut but also helps it to heal faster."

Brown and Skyline met a few years ago. She was a student at the high school where Brown was the pole-vaulting coach for the track team. They began dating after she graduated, and he told her that he wanted an open relationship. Skyline agreed. A few months later, trained by Brown's sister-in-law, the porn actress Trina Michaels, Skyline entered an amateur-night contest at a strip club and won. Soon after, she decided to try her hand at the X-rated-movie business. "My feeling was, if she does it, cool," Brown says. "It wasn't a big deal either way. But once you start, you can't undo it." Brown sees it as beneficial to their open relationship. He and Skyline recently had a threesome with a boyhood friend of his (he ranks as a hero among his pals), and she occasionally brings home costars. "Girlfriends of mine call and say that they want to come by for a swim," Skyline says. "I say, 'Yeah, it's okay. You can fuck him.'"

Kenneth Austin says porn actress Charmane Star is the sanest woman he's met in L.A.

Rusty, a 34-year-old bouncer in L.A. married to a porn star named Mikayla Mendez, leads a slightly less charmed domestic existence. It's not so much dealing with his wife's occupational hazards or with the guys at work—"They always ask if it bothers me," Rusty says. "It doesn't"—it's a future of contending with soccer moms. Rusty and Mendez, 28, have a 3-year-old son. This month he'll be starting preschool, and there will inevitably be questions about what his parents do for a living. "I'll play it off," Mendez says vaguely. Rusty, crooking his shaved head, says he'll run interference: "I'll play Mr. Mom. I'll go to school and interact with the parents."

The couple met through friends in 2002. Mendez, a former patients' advocate in the health-care industry, stumbled into porn five years ago after answering a newspaper ad for figure models. She now drives a Mercedes Kompressor and, between acting, stripping, and personal appearances, earns a six-figure income. But she hasn't knitted her porn career into her personal life: She avoids discussing scenes with Rusty.

That policy is more for her own emotional well-being than for Rusty's—he insists that he'd happily talk shop. "Porn has improved our love life—we do it every day and it turns me on that she's with other people," he says, though he admits he has concerns about STDs and expresses relief that Mendez now has a contract with a company that does condom-only movies. "She's an animal, and I am very unusual. What can I say?"

Kenneth Austin, who grew up in Trenton, New Jersey, has no compulsion to talk shop with his girlfriend, eight-year porn veteran Charmane Star—or to see any of her films. For Austin, a clean-cut 32-year-old who works in interactive marketing, the only way for the relationship to work is for the details of Star's professional life to remain walled off from their personal life.

But one drunken night about a year ago, not long after they started dating, that boundary was crossed. "We went with a couple of my girlfriends to hang out in their hotel room," Star says, sitting on the terrace of a Japanese restaurant overlooking the Sunset Strip. "Then this music-producer dude showed up and all of a sudden these girls were running around in their panties." She shrugs. "My friends are porno. That's the way it is."

"I happily left," Austin says. "Those girls were trash."

Having lived in Hollywood for three years, Austin insists that Star, a petite Filipina with an exuberant laugh, is the sanest girl he's met here. He doesn't lie to his friends about what she does, and they've been mostly supportive. "One told me that he erased all her movies from his hard drive," he says. Even his parents have been accepting. Still, Austin looks relieved when the conversation turns to Star's decision last month to stop shooting porn with men and to focus exclusively on women.

She maintains that the switch has nothing to do with Austin. "He's lucky and his timing is good," she says, excusing herself to go to the bathroom. Austin watches her leave. "When she did do it [with guys]," he says, "it was hard for me to deal with. But my attitude is that if you can find a cool girl . . . good for you."

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Nerd Alert!

Nerd Alert! by tsondermann.
Proud to call himself a chip off the old block.

PS If this is wrong, I don't want to be right.