In 1953, Australia got some accidental tourists from Portugal: millipedes. Black Portuguese millipedes, to be specific, which are known not only for their distinctive black shell, but also for the terrible odor they emit. Since then, the millipedes — aided by the fact that, in Australia, they have no natural predators — have made themselves at home in their adopted country. So much at home, in fact, that they have flourished (often reaching “plague numbers,” some scientists put it). And the worm-like creatures have, in the process, became pests to the country’s human residents.
The latest example of Australia’s thousand-footed pestilence may be one that involves nothing less than the country’s infrastructure. Yes. Earlier this week, 25 miles north of Perth, a train pulling into a station in the town of Clarkson ended up rear-ending a train that was parked at the station. And Australia’s transit authority is blaming the accident on … the millipedes.
The creatures have a tendency to hang out on train tracks, it seems, their shiny-black exoskeletons acting as perfect camouflage. And when a train comes along, they … well, you know. And when there are a lot of millipedes being squished at the same time, that leads to tracks that are much less friction-filled than normal. “The train loses traction and the train has slipped,” explained David Hynes, a spokesman for the Public Transport Authority of Western Australia.
Or, as Australia’s Minibeast Wildlife puts it: “The mush and oils from millions of dead millipedes on the tracks caused the trains to lose traction.”
Read more. [Image: Wikimedia Commons]
Last week, fast-food workers around the United States yet again walked off the job to protest their low pay and demand a wage hike to $15 an hour, about double what many of them earn today. In doing so, they added another symbolic chapter to an eight-month-old campaign of one-day strikes that, so far, has yielded lots of news coverage, but not much in terms of tangible results.
So there’s a certain irony that in Australia, where the minimum wage for full-time adult workers already comes out to about $14.50 an hour, McDonald’s staffers were busy scoring an actual raise. On July 24, the country’s Fair Work Commission approved a new labor agreement between the company and its employees guaranteeing them up to a up to a 15 percent pay increase by 2017.
And here’s the kicker: Many Australian McDonald’s workers were already making more than the minimum to begin with.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
When Pivot, the brand-new U.S. cable channel for millennials, announced Australian series Please Like Me would make its North American debut in August, much was at stake for the dramedy about a 20-year-old’s quarter-life crisis. After four years in development, it had struggled to find a sizeable audience Down Under, where it was rumored that its own network thought it was "too gay" for primetime.
To be fair, there are enough boy-on-boy makeouts and bare butts scattered throughout the show’s six half-hour episodes to deem it considerably edgy. Yet what makes Please Like Me such a refreshing show — and such a refreshing take on LGBT characters — is that it really isn’t “too gay” at all. Rather, it provides a welcome alternative to other shows featuring gay male characters by treating its protagonist not as a token or as a comment on stereotypes, but as a dude who happens to be into other dudes — and that’s just the kind of character American television could use.
Read more. [Image: ABC]
[Images: Chris Hadfield/NASA]
See that deep purple in the middle of this acne-red weather report from Down Under? That right there represents 129.2° F or 54 °C — it’s a brand-new shade that the Australian bureau of meteorology was forced to add to its heat index because their country is, you know, kind of on fire.
[…] To give you an idea of just how uncomfortable this Australian heatwave really is, consider that it’s just past midnight there right now … and it’s 95°F in Sydney.
Read more. [Image: Australia Bureau of Meteorology]
Tobacco companies took a kick-to-the-groin (that’s official legal jargon) in Australia today, when the country’s high court OK’d some of the world’s most grotesque cigarette packages. Logos and branding are out. Plain sleeves and giant, nauseous warning labels are in, as you can see in the illustrations above, which were cooked up last year by the Aussie government.
Read more. [Image: The Australian]
The art: Caravaggio, The Cardsharps, c. 1594. Few subjects have been as popular among painters as have pictures of gambling. Some of the reason is that they have provided artists with opportunities to create dramatic narrative paintings, some more is that they served as popular morality plays.
The news: “Australians: Among the Biggest Gamblers on Earth,” featuring PRI’s The World and reporter Jason Margolis.
The source: Collection of the Kimball Art Museum, Fort Worth.
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