June 24, 2013

    Photo: prochasson frederic/Shuttestock.

Wallenda Makes Crossing Despite Tribal Objections

Angers Hopi people

Nik Wallenda completed his tightrope walk across the Little Colorado Sunday, a gorge repeatedly referred to as "near the Grand Canyon." What was often left out is that the gorge is on Navajo Nation land and that the nearby Hopi people, who hold the area as a site of sacred importance, strongly objected to the stunt.

The nearby Hopi claim they were never consulted about the walk, despite an agreement between the tribes to honor religious sites. “The Gorge and the Canyon are not about taking lives,” Leigh Kuwanwisiwma, director of the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office, told the news outlet Indian Country Today. “We were told that this guy is not wanting to wear a safety harness. What if he does fall? It’s another cultural dilemma for the Hopi people.”

Wallenda worked with Navajo Nation after the National Park Service refused to grant access to the Grand Canyon. Representatives of the service claimed that events “must not unreasonably impair the park’s atmosphere of peace and tranquility,” noting that stunts “don’t meet that [criteria].”

Wallenda spent more than 10 months seeking clearance to perform on Navajo Nation land, and his team agreed to clean up the remnants of Philippe Petit’s unsuccessful attempt to cross the gorge in 1988 as well as to construct a paved road and parking lot—paid for by NBC—into the previously inaccessible area in return for permission.

“I have been praying for improvements to Little Colorado River Navajo Tribal Park ever since I started,” Navajo Nation Park Manager Helen Webster announced. “It is amazing to know just how many people from throughout the world will be able to catch a glimpse of our beautiful Navajo culture. After they see the video, I hope they will want to visit the Navajo Nation.”


    Photo: McSmit/Wikimedia Commons

JaJa Tests Positive for EPO

Doped for 1998 Tour de France

Samples taken from former French pro cyclist Laurent Jalabert during the 1998 Tour de France have tested positive for EPO. While the tests were carried out in 2004, they were done on anonyous samples. Now, the French Senate has authorized that the names of the cyclists be released to the public.

Jalabert's doping history comes as no surprise. He was part of the ONCE team, led by Manolo Saiz, recently involved in the Operación Puerto investigation. Last year, the rider affectionately known as JaJa said he couldn't firmly deny doping while testifying before the French Senate.

“I can’t firmly say that I’ve never taken anything illegal. I’ve effectively used products when it was necessary, in case of lesions or other injuries," Jalabert testified. "At ONCE, in the evening after the stages, the doctor took care of us, for our recovery, but we didn’t really know what it was. A relationship with doctors based on mutual trust was established, so we didn’t ask questions. We were treated, I’ve never said otherwise. Were we doped? I believe we weren’t … ”

During his career, Jalabert won the Vuelta a Espana as well as the pints classification in all three grand tours.


Nanga Parbat

Nanga Parbat     Photo: Guilhem Vellut/Flickr

Mountaineers Leave Nanga Parbat

Following deadly terrorist attack

Alpinists are leaving Nanga Parbat in Pakistan after a terrorist attack at the mountain's Diamir Face base camp left 10 people dead and more injured.

According to the blog Altitude, at least five parties had cancelled or abandoned their expeditions as of Monday morning, including an international expedition led by Alexandra Dzik that lost a team member, Lithuanian Ernest Marksaitis, in the attack.

Saturday's incident, for which a Taliban faction named Junoodul Hifsa has taken responsibility, hasn't driven every climbing party from Nanga Parbat. According to Planetmountain, as of Sunday, a Romanian team was continuing its expedition on the Rupal Face, located on the other side of the peak.


    Photo: Courtesy of Discovery

Nude Survival Show 'Not Exploitative,' Says Producer

Trying to create authentic experience

When the public received word of the Discovery’s new all-nude reality survival show, Naked and Afraid, many accused the formerly-education-based channel of low-level pandering and exploitation. What other reason could there be for such gratuitous displays of flesh than to compete in a hyper-sexualized TV market?

Salon’s TV writer Willa Paskin sat down with Denise Contis, executive producer of the show—which premiered last night—to ask her just what they were thinking.

On the origins of the show’s primary hook (nudity):

I think what we were always looking to do with the producers was develop the ultimate survival show, and a survival show where our cast of survivalists really had to rely on their body and their brain. What’s the quintessential survival show that allows for that? So really it was just looking and developing that and this is where we went with it.

On whether any of the contestants objected to their bits being on TV:

No, they really embraced the really kind of authentic, pure nature of the survival aspect of the show, and what we all found really interesting was, once they hit the ground, once they’re on location, within minutes, it’s irrelevant to them that they were naked, completely irrelevant, not a plot point. They were in survival mode. Their focus quickly shifted: I need to get food, I need to get water, I need to get shelter.

On whether she considers the nudity to be exploitative:

Well, we didn’t develop the show to be exploitative, ever. We always developed it with our filter being “how do we protect and it make it a pure survival experience?” And to your original question, could we have given them shoes? Yeah. And try to remember, too, each person can bring one item. I mean it’s interesting the items they bring. One person brought goggles, which I find fascinating, because he knew he was going to be by the ocean. Another person, very wisely, brought a very small cup, because they knew they had to boil water. One person brought a machete. What’s interesting is, nobody brought clothes. Nobody brought shoes.

Read the rest of the interview at Salon.


    Photo: TheOwl84/Flickr

Your Dog is Your Baby, Says Science

Study finds very similar behavior

Your baby and your dog may have more in common than the need to move on all fours, says a new study in PLoS One. It seems that both canines and human infants are actually quite similar in how they depend on their overseers, both for food and emotional support.

Lisa Horn of the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, conducted an experiment in which a group of dogs could earn treats by interacting with certain dog toys. The experiment was carried out in several different conditions: One scenario in which the dog owner was absent, one while the owner was present but silent, and one while the owner was present and encouraging.

Horn and her cohorts found that whenever the owner was absent, the dogs became disinterested in working for treats, even when a stranger was present to encourage them.

The team called this the “secure base effect,” the presence of food, shelter, and love that allows a being to feel secure enough to explore even in unfamiliar surroundings. It is, according to Horn, the same psychological connection that exists between humans and their own infants.

"The study provides the first evidence for the similarity between the 'secure base effect' found in dog-owner and child-caregiver relationships," says Horn. "It will be really interesting to try to find out how this behavior evolved in the dogs with direct comparisons."