Nature's Nightmares

A real-life nightmare: Watch a giant snake kill a crocodile and swallow it whole

March 3, 2014

In a video that could double as an insane creature feature on SyFy, a water python in Queensland, Australia, was caught on camera battling a crocodile. The five-hour struggle ended with the 10-foot snake killing the crocodile and swallowing it whole. "It was amazing," witness Tiffany Corlis told the BBC. "We saw the snake fighting with the crocodile — it would roll the crocodile around to get a better grip, and coil its body around the crocodile's legs to hold it tight."

Corlis said it took the snake about 15 minutes to chow down on the croc after the battle, and the snake was "definitely very full" when it finished. Since the giant reptiles typically take about three weeks to fully digest large prey, it's safe to say the snake probably won't go hungry for awhile. --Samantha Rollins

Ebola

WHO: New weekly Ebola cases drop below 100, shifting fight from contain to destroy

5:08am ET
John Moore/Getty Images

The global fight against West Africa's Ebola pandemic is entering the cleanup phase, the World Health Organization said on Thursday. Last week, only 99 confirmed new Ebola cases were reported worldwide, the first time the number of new infections dipped below 100 since last June, the WHO said. That means, the U.N. agency explained in a statement, that "the response to the EVD (Ebola virus disease) epidemic has now moved to a second phase, as the focus shifts from slowing transmission to ending the epidemic."

Smart takes

Kristen Schaal mansplains subway 'manspreading' to an uncomfortable Jon Stewart

4:42am ET

New York City's subway authority has recently tried to crack down on "manspreading," or the practice of occupying two seats by spreading your legs apart. But "what seems like a simple question of manners, taking up two seats when you could take up one, has somehow opened a new front in the culture war," Jon Stewart observed on Thursday night's Daily Show. He brought on Senior Women's Issue Correspondent Kristen Schaal to explain why the male backlash against the manspreading crackdown is misguided.

Schaal sides with the men. "The subway is the only place men have left — we have literally driven you underground to find that last inch of ball space," she said, feigning concern. "As a woman who has struggled her entire life to keep her knees together, I am your ally." Things got a little uncomfortable when Schaal insisted on giving a rousing pep talk directly to Stewart's testicles, and when she suggested her new male allies bare "a little ball cleavage" to "show us what you're fighting for." In other words, vintage Schaal. If that's your cup of tea, watch below. —Peter Weber

iLithuania?

This BBC video puts Apple's massive, crazy profits in perspective

3:56am ET

Apple reported incredible quarterly earnings this week, netting $18 billion largely on the back of robust iPhone sales. If you earned $40,000 a year, how long would it take you to earn what Apple did in three months? How many times over could Apple buy Lithuania (iLithuania, anyone)? The BBC tackles these questions and more in the video below, trying to make sense of Apple's recent success. Watch and wonder. —Peter Weber

needs more Hingle McCringleberry

Key & Peele return with a timely spoof of football player names

2:36am ET

Key & Peele are back with yet another East-West Bowl sketch featuring fictional football players with outrageous names, and they are as over-the-top as ever (Stumptavian Roboclick, Swordless Mimeclown, and Triple Parakeet-Shoes are among the tamer ones). For this third installment, however, we're also treated to cameos from actual players with unique monikers — hey there, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and D'Brickashaw Ferguson — showing that they're pretty good sports off the field, too. —Catherine Garcia

Beauty and the beasts

Watch the latest beauty craze: Live snail facials

2:16am ET

For just $30 (plus airfare to Thailand) you can partake in the future of beauty regimens, now. The treatment features live snails making slime trails across your face — and according to The Associated Press' Denis D. Gray, it's actually pretty relaxing. The live-snail facial started in Tokyo in 2013, and has spread to London and spas in China, but helix aspera muller glycoconjugates — snail mucus — has been used for skin treatments since ancient Greece, Gray says.

The duo who run the spa in Chiang Mai, Thailand, that Gray visited are from France. "We take care of the snails as if they were our family, our babies," says one partner, Luc Champeyroux. "You can see they look very good." And if the thought of having snails crawl on your face, spreading their mucus and grazing with their 14,000 microscopic teeth sounds unpleasant, Gray offers this verdict: "If truth be told, I sort of missed my harmless, sensuous sextet when they were dislodged." To see the snails in action, watch the AP video below. —Peter Weber

on trial

In court, heroin dealer explains what it was like to sell on Silk Road

2:03am ET
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

On Wednesday, a heroin dealer shared with jurors in a Manhattan federal court what his experience was like selling on Silk Road, the anonymous online marketplace.

Michael Duch, 40, was a witness at the criminal trial of Ross Ulbricht, who allegedly ran Silk Road using the pseudonym Dread Pirate Roberts. Duch said he first started selling in April 2013 because he needed money for his own $2,000 to $3,000 a week heroin addiction, USA Today reports. He signed up using the name Deezletime, and was soon shipping heroin across the United States.

Duch said he would buy his supply from a street dealer in New Jersey, then double the price and sell it online as "East Coast style heroin," making $345.69 for each brick, or 50 small bags. Because so many customers wanted their packages quickly to avoid becoming "dopesick," he offered same-day shipping, following Silk Road instructions to wrap the product in moisture-barrier packets inside of plain mailing containers. 
Duch was paid in Bitcoin, the electronic currency used on Silk Road, and most of his money was going to his addiction or back into the business.

While trying to ship 25 packages of heroin at a post office in October 2013, Duch was arrested, the same month Ulbricht was nabbed in San Francisco. He agreed to cooperate with authorities right away, and said during his testimony that the whole thing seemed like a surefire way to make money and keep up his drug habit. "I saw the relative ease that came with it," he said. "There was a perceived level of safety and anonymity. I felt I could get away with it."

Negotiations not love songs

Raul Castro demands the U.S. return Guantanamo Bay before ties restored

1:23am ET
Diego Azubel - Pool/Getty Images

Well, this could complicate the U.S.-Cuban diplomatic thaw: On Wednesday, Cuban President Raúl Castro publicly issued some new demands before the two countries normalize bilateral relations. Among them: Ending the U.S. trade embargo, agreeing to "give back the territory illegally occupied by the Guantanamo naval base," and paying Cuba hundreds of millions of dollars as "just compensation to our people for the human and economic damage that they're suffered" from the embargo.

Castro's demands, made in a speech at a Community of Latin American and Caribbean States summit in Costa Rica, aren't likely to be met — especially the "just compensation" one and the return of Gitmo, which the U.S. has leased from Cuba since 1903.

But that doesn't mean the high-level talks to restore diplomatic and economic ties is doomed, recent U.S. Interests Section chief in Havana John Caulfield tells The Associated Press. In fact, it may signal that Castro is feeling the heat. Cubans have a "huge expectation of change" since Castro and President Obama announced their historic rapprochement plan in December, he said. And "the more the Cubans feel obligated to defend the status quo and to say that's nothing going to change, the more pressure it indicates to me is on them to make these changes."

nature

Extremely rare red fox makes an appearance at Yosemite

12:45am ET

For the first time in a century, the Sierra Nevada red fox was spotted in Yosemite National Park.

The rare animal — there are less than 50 in North America — was photographed by motion-sensitive cameras on Dec. 13 and Jan. 4, and Yosemite officials are now trying to figure out if the same fox was spotted twice. "The chance of running into them is very unusual," park spokeswoman Kari Cobb told the Los Angeles Times.

The red fox is one of 14 mammals protected by the state of California, and since sightings are so rare, not much is known about the animal beyond the fact that it's shy and burrows in soil and logs at 6,000 feet elevation. This is the first time one has been seen at the park since 1915, and Cobb is taking that as a good sign, thinking it might mean they will be able to "make a comeback."

Things that make you go hmmm

Rachel Maddow questions America's 'creepy, totally dependent relationship' with Saudi Arabia

12:17am ET

The roster of American officials, from President Obama on down, who went to Saudi King Abdullah's funeral is astounding, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow told David Letterman on Wednesday night's Late Show. Letterman, wading into foreign policy, noted that America's relationship with Saudi Arabia is confusing: "They know we don't like them, and we know they don't like us, but we pretend we're best buddies."

"It's a very awkward thing," Maddow agreed, citing a public beheading the day before Obama arrived and the fact that Saudi women aren't allowed to drive. "And we never bring up these things, because we've got this creepy, totally dependent relationship with them, that we just agree to not discuss." Next up on Letterman, how to best handle post-Soviet Russia? —Peter Weber

vandals ruin everything

Access restricted at famous New Orleans cemetery due to vandalism

January 28, 2015
Facebook.com/StLouisCemetery1

Want to get into St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 in New Orleans? Unless you're with an official escort, have ties to someone buried there, or are a member of the spirit world, the oldest cemetery in the city is off limits.

Vandals have long targeted the above-ground plots at St. Louis Cemetery No. 1, which dates back to the 1700s and is owned by the Archdiocese of New Orleans. But lately, more and more people have been defacing the cemetery's most famous attraction, the tomb of voodoo queen Marie Laveau. Last year, someone came after hours and painted the tomb pink, and while it's been a longstanding tradition to mark Xs on the grave for good luck, over the past few months the practice has picked up dramatically.

"It became apparent that we needed to take some action to protect the sanctity of the space, as well as the historic nature of the cemetery," Sarah McDonald, spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, told Reuters. Starting in March, tour operators will have to register with the archdiocese and pay $40 for one visit or $4,500 for an annual pass, and visitors will have to go through them to get past the gates. The money brought in will go toward paying for more security.

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