David Randall: Breathe a sigh of relief – aliens aren't heading our way just yet

Four corners of the world

Share
Related Topics

* The vapour trail over Californian seas – identified by various savants of the internet as anything from a US missile to signs of an incipient alien invasion of Earth – has now been definitively pinned down. US Blogger Liem Bahneman has studied civilian aircraft flight paths, and proved beyond any reasonable doubt that the trail belongs to United Parcel Service flight 902, from Hawaii. He even found CCTV images of the same flight the day previously, and they match, almost exactly, the "mysterious" trail that caused so much commotion in conspiracist circles.

* The week's big tale from the world of spookery was that the man in charge of Russian intelligence's sleeper operation in America, one Colonel Shcherbakov, did a bunk just days before the arrest of 10 agents in July. These, of course, included the photogenic Anna Chapman, above, now reportedly combining work in a bank with posing for magazines. The assumption is that the colonel betrayed the US sleepers, and then did a runner. This is not necessarily so – the Americans had some of the sleepers under surveillance as long ago as the 1990s. Thus, the colonel – presuming he actually exists – may have been working for the US for more than a decade, or he was turned after they were rumbled and the Americans – knowing the arrests would point a big fat Kremlin finger at him – advised Shcherbakov to make himself scarce. One real puzzle remains – given that he went on the lam several days before the arrests, why did the Russians not warn their sleepers? All grist to the theory that most spookery is a cops and robbers game played by licensed overgrown adolescents.

* What – after drugs and weapons – are the world's third most valuable illicitly traded goods? Trafficked people? Alcohol? Technology? No, it's wildlife products, an illegal business worth more than £6bn a year, according to the World Bank. Interesting though it is that precise amounts can be put on such activities, their real cost is not money, but endangered animals. And last week, Traffic International, which monitors wildlife crime, reported on the terrible price exacted by just one segment of this "business". In the past decade, between 1,069 and 1,220 tigers – more than one-quarter of the entire world population, were killed to supply this demand.

The report dipped a tentative toe in the real problem: the market for tiger parts, especially in China and South-east Asia. They are used a lot in Chinese medicine, whose practitioners claim, without a shred of evidence, that ailments from scabies to rheumatism can be cured using them. There is also a lively trade in claws, teeth and skins. A survey earlier this year found that 59 out of 134 jewellery and antique shops in Singapore visited by a research group sold tiger parts. If the people of China, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Japan ceased to believe in such cruel and obviously quack remedies, the world's tigers would be saved. It really is as simple as that.

* Good news for time-poor folk wanting to pep up their love lives: the world's first drive-through sex shop has opened in Alabama. There are three lanes, and, to help you smuggle those vital novelties into the house without the neighbours seeing, your purchases are handed to you in plain brown bags. Further inquiries establish that it is still, technically, illegal to buy items designed for the "stimulation of human genital organs" in the state of Alabama, unless you can prove these aids are for "a bona fide medical, scientific, educational, legislative, judicial, or law enforcement purpose". To comply, purchasers should fill out a form specifying the health-related reason for their nipple ring, dildo or blow-up doll. Mercifully for Alabama funsters, the law is rarely enforced.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY - An outstanding high level opportunity...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Should parents be allowed to take pictures at nativity plays?  

Ghosts of Christmas past: What effect could posting pictures of nativity plays have on the next generation?

Ellen E Jones
The first Christmas card: in 1843 the inventor Sir Henry Cole commissioned the artist John Callcott Horsley to draw a card for him to send to family and friends  

Hold your temperance: New life for the first Christmas card

Simmy Richman
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick