How Did I Miss That? Year of the Camelid; NFL Brains

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Bolivia has introduced a resolution in the United Nations General Assembly to declare the Chinese Year of the Monkey, 2016, to be the International Year of the Camelid. The vote is expected late this month or early next, creating a voting coalition between North Africa and Asia, where the camel does everything for nomadic people that the American bison used to do here, and South America, which owes much indigenous culture to alpacas, vicunas, guanacos, and, of course, llamas.

My picky cousin Ray Sixkiller claimed that the camel was used every way the American bison was used “plus one.” After forcing me to ask about “plus one,” he said with a grin, “When was the last time you saw somebody milk a buffalo?”

He got me. All the buffalo milk products I can find are made from water buffalo milk.

In other animal news, basketball superstar Yao Ming, retired from the Houston Rockets but still a major celebrity in his native China, has taken on the butchery of endangered species at the source of demand for animal parts. Shark fins, elephant tusks, rhino horns—all these flow primarily to markets in China. Yao Ming has used his celebrity in China to get stricter enforcement of anti-trafficking laws and, most important, to change consumer behavior.

A documentary film on Yao Ming’s monumental retirement project, The End of the Wild, is just releasing in North America, but his main impact has been in his home country, where his public service announcements run in prime time. He’s a big man in more ways than one.

Another basketball superstar, LeBron James, made headlines this week when he admitted that he does not allow his two young sons to play football. "It's a safety thing,” he told ESPN. “As a parent you protect your kids as much as possible.”

In an interview with Bloomberg TV, New Yorker writer Malcom Gladwell called football “a moral abomination.” Gladwell asked, “Can you point to another industry in America which, in the course of doing business, maims a third of its employees?”

ESPN also reported, based on the NFL’s own actuaries, that three in 10 players will develop significant “neurocognitive” problems. The report was based on documents filed in the lawsuit players have filed against the NFL. Plaintiffs’ lawyers claim that under the terms of a proposed settlement, players with Parkinson’s disease would get $320,000. Those with Alzheimer’s would get $340,000. Apparently, there are too many seriously injured men for the $675 million in the headlines to go very far.

“Dang,” said Cousin Ray, “now I understand why the NFL owners don’t get upset about Indian children being harmed by the R word. We want them to care what kids think of themselves when their players are losing the ability to think at all?”

Turning once more to how football builds character among the college students headed for the NFL, P.J. Williams, cornerback for the Florida State football team, provided the latest instance of the football discount for bad conduct in Tallahassee, Florida. Williams made an unsafe left turn at 2:37 a.m. that resulted in totaling of two cars and then fled the scene. According to The New York Times, the football discount made hit and run charges go away and left Williams with tickets for an unsafe turn and driving with a suspended license. His license had been suspended for failing to take care of previous tickets. He paid the old tickets, but the Times reported that his license is now suspended for failing to take care of the new tickets.

Moving from metaphorical war to real war, Foreign Policy quoted Abdul Qader Obeidi, Iraq’s former Defense Minister, “the planned spring offensive to retake Mosul and the province of Nineveh, both captured by the Islamic State, is unrealistic because more time is needed to train the Iraqi army.” Cousin Ray asked if we could pay whoever “trained” the “Islamic State”?

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-anointed Caliph of the so-called Islamic State called for “volcanoes of jihad everywhere.” He said nothing about the civilians flocking to his black banners needing “more training.”

BloombergBusinessweek reported that the Islamic State is minting its own currency, dinar and dirham coins similar to those of the historic Caliphate in gold, silver, and copper. “I would have guessed lead,” Cousin Ray deadpanned.

The Washington Post reported the world is coming up on 30 years of “chocolate deficit,” meaning people ate more chocolate than was produced. There’s been drought and a fungus in West Africa and a harvest disrupted by the Ebola outbreak in East Africa and the Chinese are learning to love the food considered sacred by the Aztecs.

Chocolate started in the Americas, but you have to go to number six on the list of world producers to find one in this hemisphere—Brazil, with less than five percent of the world supply. Ecuador, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Peru also export the food of the gods.

In other chocolate news, Belgian chocolatier Isis has changed its name to Libeert to avoid association with terrorists in the Middle East.

The organization that causes a chocolatier to change an established brand beheaded an American aid worker from Indiana this week, overshadowing news that the so-called Islamic State lost the battle for one of its most important war prizes, the refinery complex in the Iraqi city of Baiji.

The New York Times reviewed a restaurant on the other side of Ukraine from where the unpleasantness with Russia is going on, the Masoch Café in Lviv. The establishment is an attempt to capitalize on the birthplace of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, author of Venus in Furs and the man whose name is attached to the sexual practices that might be termed to opposite of those attached to the name of the Marquis de Sade. According to the Times, Sacher-Masoch is not exactly a favorite son of Lviv, a religious and conservative city. I took a peek at TripAdvisor and discovered that the Masoch Café gets 4.5 of 5 stars in customer reviews, although customers wrote more about the free whippings than about the menu.

The Associated Press reported that newly reelected Texas Rep. Ron Reynolds (D) has been found guilty by a Montgomery County jury of six counts of “solicitation of professional employment” aka ambulance chasing. Texas State Representatives are so poorly paid that they are all wealthy, or professionals, or owned by somebody who can offer them a no-show job between biannual legislative sessions. You get what you pay for.

The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles has banned the Polaris Slingshot in Texas, claiming the three-wheeler lacks the necessary trappings of a car but can’t be a motorcycle because it has a seat rather than a saddle.

Texas also heads a small list of states where you cannot buy a Tesla because their business plan of having no franchised dealers is illegal. Colorado banned Tesla belatedly but did not go after the one Tesla store already selling. This means, in Colorado, there are more places you can buy marijuana than places you can buy the car with the highest Consumer Reports ratings.

The Ft. Worth Star-Telegram reported that an iconic retailer headquartered in Ft. Worth is going “all in” this holiday season to either make money after 10 consecutive quarters of losses or head for bankruptcy. This is good news for Radio Shack customers in the market for a video-shooting drone or a make-it-yourself robot kit or a remote control anything. Cousin Ray quickly got lost. “I just needed some batteries for my electric toothbrush.”

M.I.T. Professor David Kaiser published a column in Sunday Review describing an experiment on quantum entanglement that, if successful, “will have constrained various alternative theories as much as physically possible in our universe.” Quantum entanglement, the theory that moving one of paired photons here moves the other photon there in a similar manner instantaneously and no matter how far away there is, is inconsistent with Albert Einstein’s work because something exceeds the speed of light. If it continues to pan out, quantum entanglement would form the theoretical basis for a teleportation device. Cousin Ray’s reaction: “Beam me up, Davy!”

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Karl Stefanovic, an Australian TV anchor, wore the same suit for a year to call attention to the sexism he claimed was heaped upon his female colleagues. While nobody noticed his cheap suit, the Herald reported, “Co-host Lisa Wilkinson still receives regular and unsolicited fashion appraisals.” Stefanovic said his one cheap suit experiment was set off when a tabloid published photos of another colleague, Samantha Armytage, wearing comfortable clothes—for no apparent reason other than to give her a hard time.

“I’m not sure this proves his point,” Cousin Ray commented, “because men’s suits all look the same on TV.” This from a guy who gets interviewed on TV every November commenting on Native American Heritage Month wearing the same ribbon shirt.

In other sartorial news from Down Under, Santa Claus was caught on surveillance video robbing a post office and putting the money in his big red sack. There were apparently no reindeer involved, since the Victoria Police News reported St. Nick escaped in a cream colored Jeep. According to Cousin Ray, “There is no truth to the rumor that the Jeep was named ‘Rudolph.’”