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Orangutans learning to use iPads Add to ...

Apps for apes

“Orangutans, it turns out, love the iPad and its games just as much as some humans do,” MSNBC.com reports. “A budding program at the Milwaukee County Zoo is working to place iPads into the giant, gentle palms of their orangutans. Two of the zoo’s orangutans already look forward to weekly sessions with an iPad. They even have favourite apps, shows and games, but they haven’t yet been given free rein with the Apple device because keepers worry they might get frustrated and simply snap one in half. … It started as an April Fool’s joke, Scott Engel, the iPad enrichment co-ordinator at the zoo, [says] ‘A friend of a friend who is a gorilla keeper at the zoo was half-joking about getting an iPad to use with gorillas after seeing a story in the U.K. Sun,’ he said. While the Sun’s story was an April Fool’s Day joke, Engel thought, ‘Why not?’ So he contacted Milwaukee County Zoo to float the idea of using his old iPad to work with orangutans.”

Reversing evolution

“Scientists have rewound 65 million years of evolutionary history by tweaking chicken DNA to create embryos that grow alligator-like snouts rather than beaks,” The Telegraph reports. “Chickens and other birds are thought to have descended from dinosaurs through a series of genetic changes. But by altering the DNA of chicken embryos in the early stages of their development, scientists are able to undo the progress made by evolution and give them qualities they lost millions of years ago. Ethical regulations prevent the eggs from being hatched but Arkhat Abzhanov, an evolutionary biologist based at Harvard University, … said he hopes one day to complete his work by turning chickens into Maniraptora, small dinosaurs believed to have spawned 10,000 species of birds.”

Don’t mess with monks

“A group of Franciscan friars, furious at the theft of bibles from their church in Florence, have taken the unusual step of praying for the thief to be struck down by diarrhea,” The Guardian says. “Friars at the 15th-century church of San Salvatore al Monte, which was a favourite of Michelangelo, were irritated when a rare and expensive Bible disappeared from the lectern, and they flew off the handle when a replacement Bible donated by a worshipper also went missing and within a few hours. In a note, pinned up in full view of worshippers, the friars say they hope the thief sees the error of his ways. But in case he does not, they add: ‘We pray to God that the thief is struck by a strong bout of [diarrhea]’ ”


“Tired of the old system of state and institutional funding, many wanting to push a creative project or a pet cause are turning to crowdfunding,” Miller-McCune reports. “… Asking for public donations to get a project off the ground is not a new idea. Even Beethoven presold concert tickets to raise funds for his new compositions. But these days, ‘crowdfunding’ – going to the Internet to ask the public for small financial contributions to support projects – has infiltrated the arts scene and is extending to various causes and charities on a global level. Everything from music videos and books to disaster relief, community outreach, citizen journalism and small startup companies are being funded by creating a campaign on one of several online crowdfunding platforms. Some have even created campaigns to raise money for a root canal or personal travel.”

Oversleeping for charity

“Giving has become increasingly effortless with text-to-donate and other click-of-a-button tools, but a new app has made donating even simpler. So simple that you can do it in your sleep,” The Huffington Post says. “The alarm clock iPhone app, Snooze, allows you to pledge 25 cents to a non-profit in the LetGive network, just by hitting the button that lets you clock in extra minutes of sleep. … The foolproof app lets you rest easy while it keeps tabs on your snoozes. Twice a month, you just have to choose where to donate them.”

Jailhouse cats

“A Nebraska jail has adopted two cats from a local animal shelter, and the sheriff says they’re helping lower tensions,” Associated Press reports. “Sheriff Jerome Kramer in Lincoln County decided to have his jail adopt Nemo and Sarge from a local animal shelter after inmates began volunteering there. … Jail officials put Nemo in the work release cell block. Sarge moved to the minimum security area. The cats have been a hit. Kramer said inmates eagerly await their turn to take care of the animals. Inmate Guy Meyers said the cats ‘bring out the soft part in you, just like your kids do.’ ”

Cemetery snake

“A six-foot boa constrictor that crashed a [Pennsylvania]funeral a few months ago has been nursed back to health and is ready to be adopted,” Associated Press says. “Forgotten Friend Reptile Sanctuary tells The Patriot-News of Harrisburg that the snake, Cocoa, is now healthy enough for a new home. Animal welfare workers took Cocoa into custody in May after people attending a memorial service at Hershey Cemetery spotted her. Police believe Cocoa’s owner dumped the snake after being unable to care for her.”

Thought du jour

“You might not be able to change the world, but at least you can embarrass the guilty.”

- Jessica Mitford (1917-96), English writer and political campaigner

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