Social conservatives in Texas say they support a lawsuit filed by their state and 10 others challenging federal rules on transgender students’ use of school bathrooms that match their gender identity. LGBT advocates say the federal rules support transgender children’s need for education and safety.
An Indian man obsessed with setting Guinness world records got 366 flags tattooed on his body and had all his teeth removed so he could put nearly 500 drinking straws and more than 50 burning candles in his mouth.
Har Parkash Rishi, who claims to have set more than 20 records, now calls himself Guinness Rishi.
Born in 1942 in a cinema hall in the capital, New Delhi, Rishi first got into the Guinness Book of World Records in 1990 when, with two friends, he rode a scooter for 1,001 hours.
The passion to get his name in the record book led him to perform some bizarre acts, including delivering a pizza from New Delhi to San Francisco and gulping a bottle of tomato ketchup in less than four minutes.
He even got his family involved – his wife Bimla holds a 1991 record for writing the world’s shortest will: “All to Son”.
While it is the tattoos on his body, more than 500 in all, that brought him fame, Rishi, an auto parts manufacturer by profession, says the toughest one was stuffing the straws in his mouth.
“I am the world record holder of 496 straws in my mouth … For that record, I needed space, I had to remove every tooth so that I could put maximum straws in my mouth,” Rishi told Reuters Television before re-enacting the feat on camera.
He is now getting images of global leaders tattooed on his body to add to images of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, U.S. President Barack Obama, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth and Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of India’s independence movement.
(Writing by Aditi Shah; Editing by Douglas Busvine)
Andrew Heineman’s twin brother, Marcus, pulls a cultivator across a different field where they will plant seed corn this year, another alternative they selected when the price of corn started to fall and a new seed corn plant opened up nearby. Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media hide caption
toggle caption Amy Mayer/Harvest Public Media
After several boom years while the rest of the economy struggled, farming is entering its third year on the bust side of the cycle. Major crop prices are low, while expenses like seed, fertilizer and land remain high. And that means farmers have to get creative to succeed.
Modern crop farms in the Corn Belt are sophisticated businesses. So put aside your notions of bucolic red barns surrounded by a few cows. And pull out your best business school vocabulary, because crops are commodities.
“Every individual acre is a unique production facility,” says David Muth. He runs AgSolver, one of many data-driven start-ups promising to make farms more efficient. Muth compares each acre of a farm to a single store in a chain of coffee shops. Some locations are profitable, others not so much. “The question we like to ask is, would we be satisfied if any one of those individual production facilities is operating at a loss?”
Probably not, he says. So what do you do with the coffee shops that are losing money? Any MBA will tell you, you’ve got to do two things: Reduce expenses and stop wasting money.
Let’s start with the second one. This spring, Andrew Heineman planted about 150 acres of oats on his farm in Boone County, Iowa. It’s a crop that hadn’t been seen on his family’s corn and soybean farm in his lifetime. (He is in his mid-20s.) But, he says, he found out this 150-acre plot “was one of our lower-profit farms, so we’re trying to figure out a way to offset some of the stuff from $3 [a bushel] corn.”
Oats are a risky crop for him. But Heineman has lined up several potential buyers, assuming the crop turns out well. And he did the math and ran his idea past Iowa State University Extension agronomist Mark Johnson, who told him that, because there’s so little profit to be made in corn this year, it’s actually a great time to try something new like oats.
Now, back to the other business-school lesson: Cut costs. After land, seed is the biggest expense on a crop farm. Modern seeds are packed with special traits that protect them from insects or fungus or make them herbicide tolerant. When farmers buy seeds, they can specify which of those added traits they want.
Johnson says in the good years, the extra expense acted like cheap insurance against a bad harvest for farmers. But these days, he says, farmers could cut their seed costs in half if they dropped all the traits. Even buying seeds with fewer traits – for example, just herbicide tolerant but not protected against insects — could result in savings of 20 to 25 percent. “That’s still a pretty good chunk of money,” Johnson says. We’re talking thousands or maybe tens of thousands of dollars in savings.
That’s what Ryan Bristle decided to do. He farms about 20 miles southeast of Heineman, and he says “we did reduce some of our traits” – though he wouldn’t specify which ones. He admits it’s “a bit of a gamble.”
He’s also a using website app that Iowa State has developed. He simply plugs in his location, the expected corn price and the cost of fertilizer to find out just how much to use. Bristle will apply less this year because a small bump in the size of his corn crop wouldn’t be enough to pay for the extra fertilizer required. But he’s cautious.
“You don’t want to [reduce your fertilizer use so low] where it’s detrimental to your yield,” Bristle says. “Because at the end of the day, yield is still king, and that’s what’s going to drive your return.”
Here’s one more savings tip: Make do. Bristle is maneuvering a huge red herbicide sprayer. It’s not new: He and his family are repairing rather than replacing equipment. One side benefit of a rough farm economy? Both state and federal officials are seeing increased interest in conservation programs. It’s easier for farmers to stomach taking land out of production when they’re not going to make much money off those acres anyway. Some conservation programs pay farmers to enroll.
This story comes to us from Harvest Public Media, a reporting collaboration focused on food and agriculture.
In the late 1980s, Moby was drawn to what he calls “the dirty mecca” of New York City. As a DJ and electronic musician, he was a staple of the rave scene: massive crowds dancing until dawn, probably under the influence of a substance or two, all moving as one to his songs.
Moby says he never would have predicted his success spilling into the mainstream — but it did with the album Play, a mashup of techno, old blues samples and darkly poetic lyrics. Released in 1999, the record sold millons and spawned hit singles, including what may be the artist’s signature song, “Porcelain.” That’s also the name of his new memoir.
“Porcelain is fragile and white, and I am fragile and white,” he explains with a laugh. “And also, halfway through the book, I go from being a sober Christian to being a very un-sober, non-Christian. And when I relapsed, to be graphic, I did a lot of throwing up into porcelain things.”
That willingness to expose himself in unflattering ways is a hallmark of the book, in which Moby explores how his rise to fame related to an internal search for validation. “Whether it was the early dance scene in New York, or New York itself, or the rave scene, or Christianity, or sobriety, or drunkenness,” he says, he was looking to belong.
Moby spoke with NPR’s David Greene about finding his way from local buzz to international fame, and how the difficulties of his childhood still informs his creative process. Hear their conversation at the audio link, or read on for an edited version.
David Greene: Of all the places to start a memoir about yourself, a successful musician, you decide to start with the memory of you and your mom in a laundromat in Connecticut, back in 1976. You were 10 years old. Take me to that place.
Moby: I grew up in a wealthy suburb, but my mom and I were very poor. We were on food stamps and welfare until I was 18. There was such a stigma of shame around that; I felt it, and my mom felt it. And the book starts with my mom in a laundromat, washing our clothes and also washing the neighbors’ clothes, because sometimes the neighbors would pay us to wash their clothes. Sometimes I would help her wash and fold. But in the beginning of the book, I’m sitting by myself in our beat-up old Chevy Vega, spinning the radio dial while the rain is falling on the roof, and I find this Diana Ross song. And so I heard the song “Love Hangover,” and there was something futuristic about it. It made me think of this urban environment with confident, urbane people who knew exactly what they were doing. And it stood in such sharp relief to the sad, suburban environment I lived in.
You were looking for some kind of escape from being there — outside that laundromat, your mom smoking cigarettes and doing someone else’s laundry?
Yeah. I mean, basically, that was childhood: pretending that I could go to school and not be ashamed of the Salvation Army clothes I was wearing, and looking for anything — whether that was books, or science fiction, or the radio, or music. I remember we had one art book: An ex-boyfriend of my mom’s had given her an Edward Steichen book. And I would go through this book obsessively, because everything in it just seemed interesting and erudite and sophisticated.
And then you find your way to a different world. Remind me how you got your start DJing in Manhattan.
After college, I started DJing a lot and got really involved in the world of hip-hop and house music, but I was DJing at tiny little clubs in Connecticut. One day, I heard about a nightclub that was opening in Manhattan, and I made a demo tape and snuck in on Metro-North, on the train, to go to Manhattan and drop off this demo tape.
Hiding in the bathroom sometimes, right, on that suburban train?
Yeah, I’d hide in the bathroom so I wouldn’t have to pay five dollars. So, I get to this nightclub. No one had told me that when you want a job as a DJ, you don’t give them a demo tape. So I handed the demo tape to the HR people, and they just started laughing at me.
But you went in there just asking, “Do you have a DJ application?” I mean, you were just ready to apply like it was a job in a restaurant or anywhere else.
Yeah, I was standing in line with the busboys, and the bartenders, and the doormen, trying to get a job. I just thought there would be a DJ application that I could fill out. But luckily, I got a job out of it anyway.
You describe life in New York City, and living sometimes in apartments without running water — these scenes that many people who don’t know and love New York would find completely miserable. And then you say at the end, “Life was so perfect.”
In a maybe potentially self-effacing way. I thought, “Okay, if someone reads this book, and either they hate me, or they don’t know who I am and have no interest in me, at least maybe the way New York is depicted in the book, and the way the dance scene is depicted, will be of interest to people.” But living in New York, then, I mean the city was ravaged by — there was an AIDS epidemic, there was a crack epidemic, there were gangs everywhere. It was this bizarrely egalitarian, chaotic environment, and it was so cheap that anyone could live there. So all of my neighbors were artists, writers, musicians. And it just felt like this bizarre, cloistered — almost like a walled, dysfunctional creative city.
You mentioned that you hoped readers would like how you wrote about New York even if they didn’t like you. What does that say about you?
[Laughs] Well, I could put you in touch with my therapist, they could probably answer that pretty well! I think it’s possibly the legacy of growing up as a deeply ashamed poor kid. Even in adulthood when your circumstances change, the core of who you are, and your core assumptions about yourself, largely remain.
The book is so self-deprecating — is that where that comes from? You just feel that that was sort of how you had to be, because you don’t think that highly of yourself?
To a large extent, probably, yes. In fact, the funny thing about that is my book editor actually had me tone down the self-deprecating qualities in the book. I had to be prodded to write about things, and even write about myself, in a positive way.
You write about one night when you were pretty afraid of getting fired. You were working at a club and a big hip-hop star showed up.
Darryl from Run-D.M.C. came in, and I handed him the microphone.
This is a huge deal, that he’s up there with you.
Huge deal! So there’s me, this 23- or 24-year old, long-haired white kid from the suburbs, playing in a house music and hip-hop club to an almost exclusively African-American audience. The first five minutes was great: I played some James Brown records, and freestyled, and the crowd was going crazy. And then, at some point, I played a Run-D.M.C. record. And he got all excited, the crowd got all excited — and I bumped the needle. It went skittering along and created complete dead air, and silence. He threw down the mic and yelled at me and stormed out. And I was just sure that this was the end of my career. But luckily, my boss on this one night didn’t care that I had humiliated myself in front of 500 hip-hop fans.
So you were able to recover and move on?
I was able to recover. I mean, the night ended with an even further debasing moment involving a cockroach. But this was New York in 1989, so, like, things happened.
This book covers so many rough patches when you’re doubting yourself — and it actually ends before your breakthrough album, Play, even comes out. Does that tell us that you’re more comfortable writing about and living in the tough moments, and not so comfortable thinking about your success?
Largely, yes — and I think it’s, again, a product of upbringing. My mom was an amazing painter who never had any success. Some other people in my family were great musicians and great writers, and they never really had much in the way of external success. And so, when I was growing up, I just thought I would spend my entire life maybe teaching community college, making music in my spare time — you know, making music that no one would ever hear.
So, even now, it’s still surprising to me that I can make something, whether it’s a book or a record, and some people are willing to pay attention to it. There’s something very familiar, and almost comforting, about a degree of failure and obscurity. When I’ve had times in my life when I haven’t failed or labored in obscurity, it’s pleasant. But it seems very unfamiliar.
Bison on the prairie below the Grand Teton Mountain Range. Bison migrate in and out of Yellowstone National Park. Matt Anderson Photography/Getty Images hide caption
toggle caption Matt Anderson Photography/Getty Images
The National Park Service (NPS) turns 100 this summer and I’ve been thinking about how all of us might celebrate this milestone.
To get in the mood, I went with my husband this week to the Virginia Air & Space Center to see National Parks Adventure, the new IMAX movie directed by Greg MacGillivray and narrated by Robert Redford. More than 400 sites are located on National Park lands, and the movie notes this, but as expected it favors the big famous parks. (See a 2-minute trailer here).
National Parks Adventure treats us to spectacular sounds as well as sights: in Wyoming, the “molten fury” of Yellowstone’s magma chambers and the “highly developed vocabulary” of the prairie dogs at Devils Tower; in Michigan, the cracking crash of ice displaced by climbers at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore; in Arizona, the roiling foamy rapids encountered by Colorado River rafters in the Grand Canyon.
John Muir’s role early on in helping to protect natural lands — along with Theodore Roosevelt’s — is highlighted, and we hear a voiceover quoting Muir urging us to “get close to nature’s heart” by visiting them.
The best way we can celebrate our parks, of course, is to hike in them or climb or raft or explore history or just sit and soak up nature. I’m counting the weeks until I return in September to Yellowstone and again immerse myself science and nature.
But there’s a second way, too. We can realize what Muir didn’t mean by “get close to nature’s heart.” We can think what narrator Redford does mean when he says, referring to the wildlife in our parks, “These lands are their lands, too.”
We can respect the wildlife in our parks.
Most of us probably know by now about the terrible outcome last week after tourists placed a Yellowstone bison calf in a vehicle, wishing to shelter it from the cold. Once rescued from the tourists, the calf was rejected by the bison herd and began approaching people and cars along the road in ways that the NPS considered to be hazardous. The calf was then killed. (“Euthanasia” isn’t the right word; this wasn’t a good death.)
But do we know the reasons why the calf wasn’t sent to a wildlife rehabilitator or to a sanctuary? I didn’t. When I contacted the NPS public-relations team at Yellowstone to ask, I was sent a press release that says in part:
“Federal and state regulations prohibit the transport of bison out of Yellowstone unless those bison are going to meat processing or scientific research facilities. We are working to establish quarantine facilities for bison so that they can go through the months-long testing protocols for brucellosis and, if negative, be used to start conservation herds elsewhere. However, the use of quarantine for bison hasn’t been approved, nor would a newborn calf that’s unable to care for itself be a good candidate for quarantine.
So, why wouldn’t we try to care for the calf on our own? It may be hard to imagine that Yellowstone does not provide direct care for its animals. What we do provide is a space for animals to live their lives with as little human intervention as possible in today’s world. A bison raised by humans in captivity would probably never be returned to the wild…It’s really important to understand that national parks are very different than animal sanctuaries or zoos.”
There are lessons for all of us here.
The NPS people mean it when they say they’re not a zoo and they’re not a sanctuary.
We see that wild bison are sometimes sent to meat processing plants, but the point I want to make today is that we need to really understand that our own actions can doom animals to dying.
In 2015, the main cause of the 61 grizzly bear deaths in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (which includes lands outside the national park) was human interaction, including hunting and being hit by cars. Scarface, a bear beloved inside Yellowstone National Park, was killed by a hunter outside the park.
Okay, most of us don’t go to wilderness areas to hunt. But we do go to hike, and if wild animals feel threatened and attack hikers in the parks, it’s not unusual for them to be killed in the name of public safety.
Just this week the Washington Post reported that a black bear was killed after a camper in North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountain National Park was mauled by a bear. The “wrong” bear was killed.
I’d love to argue the ethics of these killing policies with the NPS (and probably will), but the fact remains, all of us who visit national parks need to know the reality of the situation.
I don’t mean to compare hikers’ behavior to that of the tourists who put the bison calf in the car, and obviously I’m not suggesting that it’s wrong or thoughtless to hike in national park lands.
But when we venture into nature’s heart, we need to do it with our brains fully engaged.
We can avoid hiking into areas with active bears, especially cubs, and if we do go we can follow recommendations for carrying bear spray (while realizing that bear spray isn’t always effective).
We can refuse to succumb to the “taking selfies” trend that puts us way too close to wild animals.
We can pledge never to crowd close to, feed, or touch any wild animal in the parks.
Achieving these goals would be a major cause for celebration.
Barbara J. King is an anthropology professor at the College of William and Mary. She often writes about human evolution, primate behavior and the cognition and emotion of animals. Barbara’s most recent book on animals is titled How Animals Grieve. You can keep up with what she is thinking on Twitter: @bjkingape.
Georgia O’Keeffe’s 1926 painting The Barns, Lake George, which has been privately owned and rarely displayed, but now joins the collection of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe. © Christie’s Images Limited hide caption
toggle caption © Christie’s Images Limited
Artist Georgia O’Keeffe didn’t spend her entire career painting large, lavish flowers.
The curator of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe, N.M., says that comes as a surprise to many people. Now, the museum has purchased The Barns, Lake George, a rarely-seen 1926 abstract painting that makes the point and helps the institution tell more of her story.
The museum paid $3.3 million for the painting. It depicts structures on a rural retreat used by O’Keeffe and her husband, photographer Alfred Stieglitz, in Lake George, N.Y. The museum’s announcement explains:
“Of the subjects O’Keeffe pursued at Lake George in the 1920s—her most prolific decade—the various barns on the Stieglitz property most directly connect her to the interests of various members of the Stieglitz circle and other American modernists to identify distinctly national subjects.”
The Santa Fe New Mexican reports:
“The museum made the acquisition with funds from the November 2014 sale of several paintings in its collection, including the iconic Jimson Weed/White Flower No. 1, which brought in $44.4 million — the highest auction price in the world for any piece by a female painter.
“O’Keeffe Museum curator Carolyn Kastner said the museum sold Jimson Weed so it could buy more O’Keeffe paintings and diversify its collection.
“The new painting is an example of the artist’s lesser-known interests in abstract composition. ‘It comes as a surprise to many people that she painted many things other than flowers,'” Kastner said.”
“[The Barns, Lake George] came from the estate of Marion ‘Kippy’ Bolton Stroud, the artist and philanthropist who died in 2015.
“Before being shown at the Kunsthaus Zurich in 2003–04, the painting had not been on view since 1954, when it was displayed at the gallery at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. It had previously been included in her 1946 retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.”
The museum’s announcement quotes O’Keeffe as saying her interest in barns stemmed from her upbringing on a farm in Wisconsin.
Education officials in Switzerland say teachers can require students to shake hands, even if the students have religious objections.
Two Muslim boys had refused to shake hands with female teachers at a public school in northern Switzerland.
The school board, or cantonal body, said that schools in Basel Country can charge parents fines of up to $5,000 if their kids do not comply with the custom.
The Swiss news website Swissinfo.ch reports:
“[The education body] acknowledged that forcing pupils to shake hands represented an intrusion into religious freedom, but since this did not involve the central tenets of Islam, this intrusion was proportionate, it judged.
“The committee said the public interest outweighed ‘considerably’ the private interests of the pupils.
“This public interest included equal treatment of men and women, the integration of foreigners and a well-organised school system. In addition, shaking hands was an important social gesture for one’s future career, it concluded in a statement.”
Two Swiss Muslim groups gave different perspectives on the issue. The Islamic Central Council of Switzerland, or ICCS, said the body had overstepped its authority, AFP reports. The wire agency adds:
“The Federation of Islamic Organisations of Switzerland (IOS), considered more moderate than the ICCS, told AFP it had no objection to the practice of handshaking in schools but regretted that authorities had sought a legal ruling to settle the issue.”
Calls to curb Muslim immigration rose in Switzerland after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris in 2015 — “the latest evidence that anti-Islam sentiment is rising in one of Europe’s most tolerant countries,” The Wall Street Journal reported at the time.
In 2009, voters banned the construction of minarets — which appear on or near many mosques — despite opposition from the Swiss government, NPR’s Eleanor Beardsley said.
In 2015, the Independent reported that one region of Switzerland had imposed a ban on wearing burqas in public.
Thirteen-year-old Alex Iyer (left) gives 6-year-old Akash Vukoti a high-five as Akash leaves the stage after misspelling a word in Round 3 of the 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee on Wednesday in National Harbor, Md. Alex Wong/Getty Images hide caption
toggle caption Alex Wong/Getty Images
Six-year-old Akash Vukoti has won our hearts — if not the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
He was the youngest of the 285 contenders in this year’s competition, and even though he misspelled “bacteriolytic” in Round 3, he will not be forgotten.
His hometown paper, the San Angelo Standard-Times in Texas, says Akash has been competing for four years — as in, he started when he was 2. He can also read and write fluently in Telugu and Hindi, according to his profile on the spelling bee website. Reporter Chris Weller of Tech Insider described a Skype interview with Akash this way in March:
“In between fits of throwing himself into the sofa and covering the lens of his iPad (much to his father’s resistance), he delivered strings of complex sentences with minimal effort. He was also immensely polite, repeatedly calling me ‘Mr. Weller’ even after I told him ‘Chris’ was just fine.”
Weller said Akash, who is home-schooled, studies words for at least an hour a day. At the time, Akash insisted he was “not nervous at all” to be in the national spelling competition.
He didn’t go all the way this time, but we’ve got our eye on him for next year.
In Akash’s absence, there are still plenty of young geniuses to root for in Thursday’s semifinals and finals. The finals will be broadcast on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET and live-tweeted here.
And with “chiffon,” Round Three is over! Will these spellers continue on to tomorrow’s Finals? Follow along on Twitter (@ScrippsBee) as we live tweet the announcement of Finalists and find out who will be on ESPN2 tomorrow at 10 a.m. Eastern. #spellingbee
A photo posted by Scripps National Spelling Bee (@scrippsnationalspellingbee) on May 25, 2016 at 3:05pm PDT