Saturday, March 29, 2008

Scary News Reporting

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area and happen to read the local SF Chronicle Newspaper, add a little horror to your mornings by reading the section titled Earthweek: A Diary of the Planet.

Now I'm a man who gobbles down horror for breakfast. Though as I get older I like gentler non-abusive news stories, but give me a headline that reads Man Attacked by Alligator, Tiger Attack or Severed Finger Found in Chili, and I'm zoned in reading all the details and spilling coffee on the paper while oogling at the picture.

Reading the Chronicle's Earthweek section is a Horror of a different color. As stated, its a diary of the planet's actions in the past 24 hours and the gossip ain't usually good. As a horror junkie I can handle the man-made type horrors; shootings, plane crashes, oil spills, car crashes and building fires are now just common daily news. These horrors fall under the "Shit Happens" column. Violent crime is just that, violence acted upon one human being by another, actions that can be attributed to emotional, economic or social/domestic disturbances.

But you give me a report on the Antarctic's Wilkins Ice Shelf collapse due to climate change or Rio de Janeiro's state confirmed outbreak of dengue fever being spread by mosquitoes and I get that deer caught in the headlights look.

And never mind the usual roarings of Mother nature in the forms of Volcanic rumblings (Kilauea) in Hawaiia or Earthquake Temblors and Tropical Cyclones in the Orient (China & India), there's a new scientific discovery that sends chills down my spine.

Keep in mind that this Earthweek section gives an icon that relates to whatever happening for that paragraph. For example, the diary entry for Antarctic collapse pictures an iceberg, that for Hawaiian volcanic activity pictures a volcano spewing ash/lava, and so on and so forth.

Well, there's this one icon that when you see it you know its bad news. This icon is a simple picture of a Rat in a circle of green. I assumed the diary entry would be a case of plague or something worse. It was worse. With a heading that reads Rodent Tools the following diary entry makes one wonder:

A highly social, intelligent rodent native to the highlands of Chile has been trained to use a tool and understand its function. Researchers at Japan's Riken Brain Science Institute say they trained six adult degu rodents to use a tiny rake to obtain food at a 75 percent success rate. The findings suggest that many animals could use tools, although such ability may be doubtful for fish.

So me being the horror buff that I am immediately envision a degu rodent being trained to use a small caliber handgun to obtain whatever the trainer needs obtained. Sounds a bit far fetched? What about rodents being trained to carry out terrorist acts? Starting to get a bit scary isn't it. Bet you could train a rodent to pull the pin out of the metal pineapple that's been placed ever so strategically. Or maybe saw through an elevator cable. How about nuclear power plants? Now that's a man-made disaster waiting to happen. Nothing like a trained rodent to squeeze in through the nuclear cooling coils and follow some mad man's trained instructions to the letter.

Remember, the initial report did say Rodent Tools. In other words, some foolish human had to provide the tools and training for the rodent to carry out the mission. And the foolish human experimenting with this is a scientist who'll probably end up with a Nobel prize. This the same Nobel prize award named after the man (Alfred Nobel) who invented dynamite without considering man's violent intentions in its future use. Seems anytime man invents something supposedly for the good, sooner or later it ends up being used for something terribly bad.

So should you ever find yourself in a public place or on some form of public transportation , and you happen to see a furry rat squeezing itself underneath a locked door or cabinet, think about the Earthweek Diary Entry with the heading Rodent Tools. Then start being afraid. Be Very Afraid.

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