Thursday, August 28, 2008

More Proof That Dolphins are Bad Ass

Silver fog blanketed California's Monterey Bay on a late August morning last year. For Todd Endris, it was a perfect end-of-summer day for surfing. The lanky 24-year-old aquarium technician zipped into his wet suit and headed to Marina State Beach, two miles from his apartment. As he waded into the surf, a pod of dolphins played in the waves just ahead of him. Other than a few dedicated surfers, the dolphins were the only creatures visible in the bay. Endris paddled strenuously and caught a wave in, then headed out to find another.

Resting on his board 75 yards from shore, he turned to watch his friend Brian Simpson glide under the curve of a near-perfect wave. Suddenly Endris was hit from below and catapulted 15 feet in the air. Landing headfirst in the water, he felt his pulse quicken. He knew only one thing could slam him with such force. Frantically paddling to the surface, he yanked at the surfboard, attached to his ankle by a leash, climbed on, and pointed it toward shore. But within seconds he was hit again. An enormous great white shark had him in its jaws, its teeth dug into his back.

The vast aquatic wilderness known as the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary stretches from Marin County, north of San Francisco, to the rugged Cambria coastline south of Big Sur, encompassing 5,322 square miles of ocean. One of the most diverse protected ecosystems in the world, it includes the Red Triangle, an area that earned its ghoulish nickname for its history of shark attacks, particularly in the period from late August through November, when great whites come to feed on young seals and sea lions. Almost every surfer who visits California's wild coastline has heard the horror stories: In 1981 a surfer was found just before Christmas south of Monterey, his body bearing bite marks from a great white; in 2004 an abalone diver was killed by a great white near Fort Bragg; and in 2006 a 43-year-old surfer was dragged underwater by a great white off a beach in Marin County -- and escaped without serious injury when the shark spit him out. Just last April, a 66-year-old man died after being attacked by a great white while swimming far south of the Red Triangle, in waters north of San Diego. "It's always in the back of your mind -- you know they're out there," says Endris.

Shark-human encounters make headlines, but they're rare; fewer than 50 people were attacked in the Red Triangle between 1959 and 2007. Humans may be mistaken for prey, but some experts say that great whites just don't care much what they eat. "Anybody who surfs or dives where seals and sea lions are prevalent could be asking for trouble," says George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File in Gainesville, Florida, a group that tracks shark incidents worldwide. "You wouldn't walk through a herd of antelope on the Serengeti, knowing you could be attacked by a lion."

Despite the warnings, Endris routinely surfed in such waters. From the time he was a toddler in San Jose, he'd looked forward to weekend excursions to the beach with his parents and older sister, Julie. As soon as he was big enough to straddle a board, he took up surfing. More than once over the years, he'd been called out of the water when someone thought they'd seen a shark. "But it wasn't something I dwelled on," Endris says. "As a surfer, if you did that, you'd never go into the ocean."

In Monterey Bay that August morning, the great white dragged Endris below the surface. Attempting to force the shark to release him, the surfer slugged it on the snout over and over. "It was like punching a Chevy Suburban covered with sandpaper," he says. "I was getting nowhere."

The 16-foot shark had clamped down on his back with three rows of razor-sharp teeth. Endris felt no pain, only a tremendous pressure as the shark dipped him beneath the roiling water and shook him back and forth in its powerful jaws.

A few feet away, Joe Jansen, a 25-year-old college student from Marina, was relaxing on his board when he heard a loud splash. Glancing over his shoulder, he spotted a gray creature rising 12 feet out of the water with Endris and a blue surfboard in its mouth. At first, Jansen thought the creature was a whale, "the biggest thing I'd ever seen." Then he heard Endris scream. "My immediate thought was to get the hell out of there," he says. He paddled as fast as he could toward shore, looking back every few seconds. When he made eye contact with Endris, he paused. "Help me!" yelled Endris, disappearing beneath the water again. The shark now had the surfer by the right thigh and appeared to be trying to swallow his leg whole.

Another 20 feet beyond the chaos, Wes Williams, a 33-year-old Cambria bar owner, stared from his surfboard in disbelief. Six bottlenose dolphins were leaping in and out of the water, stirring up whitecaps. When Williams saw Endris surface, he believed the dolphins were attacking him. "He was shouting like he was being electrocuted," he says. "I thought, What did this guy do to piss off the dolphins?"

Williams watched as the dolphin pod circled Endris, slapping their flukes in agitation. It was then that he saw the bright red ring of Endris's blood staining the water.

With a burst of adrenaline, Endris thrust his head above the surface, gasping for air. The great white still had a hold on his upper thigh. "I figured my leg was gone," Endris says, "but I couldn't think about that right then." He used all his strength to kick the shark repeatedly in the face with his free leg. The great white shot out of the water, thrashing Endris like a wet towel. The surfer swung his fists, hoping he'd get lucky and hit an eye. "Let me go!" he shouted. "Get outta here! Somebody, help me!"

He barely noticed the dolphins leaping over his head. Suddenly the shark released him. Fighting to stay afloat, Endris thought he saw the dolphins form a protective wall between him and the great white.

Scientists Learn How Nemo Finds His Way Home

How does the orange clownfish — aka Nemo from the movie "Finding Nemo" — really find its way home?

It turns out the colorful saltwater fish can sniff for leaves that fall into the sea from rainforests growing on the islands near their coral reef homes.

After clownfish hatch from their eggs, they spend 10 to 12 days in the open sea, likely carried out by prevailing currents. But they then often return to the near-shore reefs where they were born. How these young fish know where to swim back to has been a mystery.

To find out, scientists investigated coral reefs surrounding offshore islands in Papua New Guinea in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. There, orange clownfish (Amphiprion percula) and the sea anemones they inhabit are especially abundant in shallow water beneath overhanging rainforest vegetation.

The researchers dove down to gather young clownfish that had recently returned to the reefs.

"The clownfish like to protect their anemones, so if you startle the anemones, the clownfish come right out, and you can really get them quickly," said researcher Danielle Dixson, a marine biologist at James Cook University in Townsville, Australia.

The fish were then brought to a lab on a boat and tested with streams of seawater containing different scents — say, from a bucket holding a sea anemone or leaves from island rainforests. The clownfish strongly preferred swimming toward flows scented with leaves and sea anemones compared to other scents.

"No one ever predicted that clownfish would be attracted to the scent of leaves. I just figured they might like beach water." Dixson said. "I saw the islands had heavy vegetation, and I said, 'Let's give it a shot.'"

The scientists also tested clownfish that were born and raised in an aquarium, and had never lived on the reefs or the open sea. These were strongly attracted to the scents of leaves and anemones as well, suggesting these preferences are innate.

"This shows that you can't separate the marine and terrestrial environments — you have to consider them working together," Dixson said. "I would really like to see if this is happening in other fish."

These new findings also suggest "that you can't protect reefs without protecting the surface," Dixson said. "It's really easy to speculate that without the leaves, clownfish might not be able to find their homes."

It remains to be seen just how far out clownfish can detect the scent of rainforests. "Off any island, there'll be eddies and currents that pull leaves out a fair ways from islands," Dixson said.

The World's Most Wanted White-Collar Fugitives

It didn't take long for the feds to get their hands on Samuel Israel III after he faked his death on the Bear Mountain Bridge just north of New York City. Israel, a former hedge fund manager sentenced to 20 years in prison for defrauding $400 million from investors, just walked into a Southwick, Mass., police station in July after a month on the run. Other white-collar thieves have proved much harder to catch.

White-collar crime is serious business, and some fraudsters are able to elude facing the consequences of their actions. Commodities trader Marc Rich fled the U.S. for Switzerland in the 1980s to avoid tax evasion charges and an allegation of illegally doing business with Iran. He will never be brought to justice after securing a pardon from President Bill Clinton.

Robert Vesco bounced around Latin America for more than 30 years, managing to evade, among other things, U.S. securities charges for stealing $200 million. He did get imprisoned in Cuba in 1996 and is believed to have died there last year.

Now a new breed of financial fugitives is on the run, epitomized by Jacob "Kobi" Alexander, the stock scammer who is currently living well in Namibia. Many white-collar fugitives, like Russian Boris Berezovsky, are controversial because the charges against them are believed by some to be driven more by politics than anything else. Either way, financial fugitives can live free and prosper if they are smart, like Ghaith Pharaon, the wealthy Saudi wanted by the FBI for 17 years.

"These individuals show high intelligence and tend to put together very complex schemes," says Sharon Ormsby, the Federal Bureau of Investigations' financial crimes section chief. "They understand international markets--some have multiple passports--and are familiar with the laws."

Pharaon was indicted for fraud charges by the U.S. government in 1991 for his alleged role in the mammoth collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International. A large shareholder of BCCI, Pharaon was accused of being a frontman for unlawful purchases of American banks. The Federal Reserve fined Pharaon $37 million for his role in secretly taking over banks, and the Harvard University graduate lost his legal challenge of that fine.

Still, Pharaon has had little trouble operating his business empire, which includes a luxury resort hotel in Jordan and the Attock Group, made up of refinery and cement companies in Pakistan. Attock Refinery was even able to snag an $80 million contract from the U.S. government, ABC News reported in June.

The members of our list of white-collar fugitives have followed different paths. Chinese financial fugitives have made a bee-line for Canada, taking advantage of liberal entry rules and refugee laws. Lai Changxing is wanted in China for allegedly masterminding a $6 billion fraud, while Chinese banker Gao Shan is on the hook for allegedly embezzling $150 million. Both men are living relatively unencumbered lives in the Vancouver area.

London also seems to be a destination of choice; it's currently home to Berezovsky and former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who recently fled to avoid accusations of financial crimes back home. American telemarketing scammer James Eberhart is just sailing round the world in his boat. consulted with law enforcement agencies to identify the top 10 most wanted white-collar fugitives, who are listed in no significant order.

Distinguishing white-collar criminals from organized criminals remains challenging 69 years after sociologist Edwin Sutherland coined the term "white-collar crime." But we tried to stick to Sutherland's definition of "a crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation." All of the top 10 white-collar fugitives are criminally indicted, convicted or have arrest warrants outstanding--and are wanted by a national government.

America Needs To Have A Superficial Conversation About Race

The people of America need to put aside their differences and come together on common ground. Especially at this crucial moment in our history. How better, I ask, to achieve this goal than to engage in an inconclusive, protracted, ignorant, and superficial examination of the issue of race?

The time for vagueness is now.

Over the past 20 years, our country has become intensely polarized. The gap between rich and poor has grown ever more vast. Voters on both sides are desperate for alternatives. If we ever hope to move into a new era of enlightened multicultural exchange, we must foster, on a national scale, a second-grade-level look into the most painful and difficult issue in America's cultural history.

Black, white, yellow, green, or brown— we can all be callously summed up in a trite statement of unity.

Like it or not, the U.S. needs a stupid conversation on the issue of race relations. Perhaps more importantly, we need this stupid dialogue to be couched in the most self-righteous, know-it-all attitudes on the part of those involved, as if they have no idea whatsoever of how much more complicated the issue is, and how little their one-dimensional approach to it brings to the table.

It's our duty to put aside the complexities of cross-cultural communication and focus on the first idea that comes to mind. Then, after we've wasted 20 minutes discussing whether the term black is offensive, we can repeat the first idea over and over until we have alienated all listeners who did not already agree with us at the beginning.

Is that so very hard?

I'm talking about ill-informed citation of unconfirmed statistics on affirmative action programs. I'm talking about patronizing notions of ethnic identity. I'm talking about multisyllabic, intellectual-sounding terms like "victimization" and "social responsibility" and "self-actualization."

The time has come to start saying foolish, foolish things about the O.J. trial once again.

It's been too long since we sat down and shared long-discredited arguments about welfare mothers eating steak with each other. Terms like "reverse discrimination" should be put back in the spotlight. And while we're being open and honest, why not trot out that old chestnut about the unfairness of black-only usage of "the N-word."

I dare one of our presidential candidates to blanket the media with buzzwords like "Americanism," without ever examining the underlying implications of what they might mean. That would be the day.

Liberals and conservatives alike, hear my plea: We can all say incredibly silly things about who does or does not have the "right" to "act" either black or white, or both.

The Information Age has opened the gates to free and unfettered communication. If we take advantage of that incredible opportunity and technology, we could, in theory, get every single political comment posted on the Internet to relate an embarrassingly simple-minded opinion on some aspect of race in America. We could have every political video clip greeted with literally hundreds of foolish and inane comments from citizens who appear never to have thought about the issue of race beyond their first na├»ve presumptions, or caricatures they've seen in the media. We could generate blogs—not just hundreds, not just thousands, but hundreds of thousands of blogs—all saying one version or other of the same basic three to five ill-informed viewpoints on this nuanced cultural issue.

Imagine it, if you can!

Since the civil rights movement, race has been our nation's "dirty little secret"—an ugly, shameful reality swept under the rug of polite discourse, emerging only in isolated, angry outbursts about airport profiling, police brutality cases, and gangsta rap. Let's take that issue out from under the rug—keeping that initial phase of ignorance, lack of mutual understanding, and fear—and make sure it dominates American politics for the next century.

Only by opening an embarrassingly one- dimensional dialogue on the most simple and wholly ignorant level can we ensure that we, as a nation, never get down to the deeper issues about race and identity that truly threaten to tear this country apart.

Original here