Like something out of a biblical tale or Slayer song, parts of India and Sri Lanka have been experiencing occasional rainfalls colored mostly red and recurring over several years. Sometimes the coloring is so deep the drops look like blood and can stain clothing.
Since the first modern fall in 2001, several scientists have followed their curiosity to find out what exactly is causing the red rain. Many felt they have come to a conclusion but for every proposed answer more questions seem to emerge.
■ Dust Initially people assumed the red coloring was caused by dust from a desert, volcano or meteor. When samples of the red water were collected in test tubes, whatever was causing the coloration appeared to settle to the bottom. However, further tests showed that although it contained traces of various metals, the substance was organic.
■ Lichen The Center for Earth Science Studies (CESS) is located in Kerala, India, where the 2001 red rain incident occurred, and the Tropical Botanic Garden & Research Centre (TBGRI) examined the red substance further after ruling out an inorganic substance.
Checking with a microscope the TBGRI determined the substance was largely made up of spores from some type of algae or fungus. They took the spores and grew them to determine more clearly what organism they belong to. After cultivating them in a petri dish they were found to be of the Trentepohlia family of algae.
Trentepohlia exists along with fungi and cyanobacteria to make up a particular lichen with a somewhat orange tinge, which is widely found in the Kerala area. The CESS and TBGRI concluded that due to the similar color and prevalence of the lichen, an especially large release of spores is what caused the red rainfall.
■ Loose ends In the conclusion of their report, the CESS also acknowledges unexplained events surrounding the 2001 red rain. First, if the red coloration was caused by algae spores, then what caused them to rise high enough and in such a large quantity to change the color of the rain for about 10 days, and why doesn’t this happen more often?
Also, prior to the red rain several residents reported hearing a loud sound similar but not quite like thunder and unusual lights. The 2001 red rain occurred during monsoon season when thunder storms are rare. These reports are what led many researchers to assume the red coloring was caused by the explosion of a meteor. Yet with a meteor cause ruled out, there’s still the question of what caused the lights and sounds.
■ Alien Lichen? The unanswered questions in the CESS report and studies by others provided the groundwork for some subscribers to panspermia theory. Panspermia is the idea that life on Earth (like any other life bearing planet) was brought from another celestial body via comets. Leading the way in research connecting the red rain with a panspermia event are Godfrey Louis and A. Santhosh Kumar of Mahatma Ghandi University in Kerala.
The two made a compelling case that what occurred prior to the 2001 red rain event was a sonic boom created by a meteor based on witness testimony and the pattern of rainfall. They theorize that the red rain’s cells were carried from that rock and dispersed into the atmosphere where it precipitated in the rain. They also conducted a series of physical and chemical tests to show that the cells could withstand the conditions of space travel and entrance through the Earth’s atmosphere successfully.
However, Louis and Kumar have met controversy with suggestions that the red rain cells have no DNA, but can reproduce even under extreme temperatures – something no life on Earth is capable of. This finding has been refuted by other researchers who claim to have found DNA. The panspermia theory also runs into trouble with the considerable volume of cells dispersed as well as the fact that red rain has fallen at other times in the same general vicinity over the past decade.
Considering the two major theories it would seem more rational to back the idea of a sudden massive release of Earth-based algae spores into the atmosphere. However, both theories aren’t without their holes leaving this phenomenon open for discussion.
The most worrisome part of this red rain is perhaps summed up best by David Darling on his website: “If we find it so hard to establish definitively the nature and origin of such a massive biological fallout in our own planetary backyard, what chance do we have of identifying life remotely in much smaller quantities on Mars or other neighboring worlds?”
Unknown to the 2000 citizens of the town in a fertile valley amid the south-western slopes of NSW, a dark family secret was unravelling.
Now it can be revealed, not only could the case of the Colt family be the nation’s most appalling saga of child abuse, it is among one of the worst accounts of incest ever made public.
The NSW Children’s Court has taken the rare step of publishing its judgment of actions taken to remove children from the Colt family (a court-appointed pseudonym to protect identification of minors).
Four generations of intimate relations among the Colts had taken place in South Australia, Victoria, Western Australia and finally come to NSW.
Moving state to state, possibly to evade detection, the scandal only came to light when authorities were alerted there were children living in the hills who didn’t attend school.
When they turned up on a remote bush block, they uncovered scenes which wouldn’t soon be forgotten.
It was an early winter’s day last year when officers from the NSW Police and Community Services turned up on one of the blocks which lie around 30km out of the town between large established farms and the untamed scrub of old bushranger territory.
They found 40 adults and children living in two filthy caravans, two sheds and tents on an unsewered block with no running water.
Dirt caked the surfaces of stoves and cooking facilities, rotten vegetables lay in a refrigerator and a kangaroo was sleeping on one of the children’s beds.
Exposed electric wires, bags of rubbish and chainsaws lay about.
There were no toilets, showers or baths.
The children were unwashed and wore dirty clothes.
They were shy and made little eye contact.
Few were capable of intelligible speech; almost all had fungal infections in their feet.
Some had oddly-formed features, which scientific tests would later reveal was a result of “homozygosity” or identical gene patterns of both of the children’s parents.
The police and welfare officers were taking in the squalor, the deprivation and the fact some of the children seemed developmentally delayed or cognitively impaired.
What they didn’t realise was the children were the result of intimate relations between brothers and sisters, and uncles and nieces and fathers and daughters. Their family threw back to a set of great-great grandparents who were a brother and sister.
The family compulsion was regenerating itself.
The children were sexually involved with each other and only one, the youngest, a five-year-old girl, had parents who weren’t related.
It was a social time bomb exploding before their eyes.
As one police officer later reportedly told her colleagues, she would never get over it.
Over coming days and weeks, the enormity of what they had uncovered dawned on them.
The five family groups comprised of sisters, Rhonda, 47, Martha, 33, and Betty Colt, 46, who slept every night with her brother, Charlie, and two of Betty’s daughters who each had children who proved to be from unions of related parents.
Not only were the children dirty and unschooled, they had multiple health problems and no concept of hygiene.
His speech was not understandable. He wet and soiled the bed and his learning ability was at kindergarten level.
Martha’s sons Albert, 15, and Jed, 14, were similarly challenged with their speech, personal hygiene and lack of dentistry.
Betty’s 14-year-old son Billy was underweight and not growing properly, had hearing and sight problems, spoke unintelligibly, had an intellectual disability and could barely read or count.
Kimberly Colt, 14, Betty’s grandaughter Raylene, was underweight and unable to clean her teeth, use toilet paper or comb her hair.
She had urgent dental problems, hearing, speech and sight issues and was unable to read or write.
She threatened to cut off a caseworker’s fingers.
Betty’s son Brian, 12, did not understand showering.
He had extensively decayed teeth, and borderline normal hearing.
His eyes were misaligned and he could not read, write, or recognise numbers.
Martha’s nine-year-old daughter Ruth was neglected and malnourished.
She was unable to bathe or dry herself. She did not know how to use a toilet or what toilet paper was.
Her features were dysmorphic. She could not read or write, couldn’t hear well and her speech was fragmented and stunted.
The caseworkers left and returned again two days later, making a further two visits and finally removed 12 children on July 18, 2012.
Back in town, the locals were unaware of what was unfolding.
As one of the townspeople told news.com.au, on occasional visits two women with “about ten children” would pile out of a car with interstate plates, buy something in the shops and then leave.
“They were never clean looking,” the man said, “we always used to make jokes that if you came from that area you’d be inbred.
“But we didn’t really know anything about them except those blocks, they might look like a good deal, [40 hectares] for about $20,000 but there’s nothing out there, no electricity, no water, just scrub.”
Taken into care, the children underwent sessions with psychologists.
The tales they told were harrowing.
Kimberly, 13, reported sexual contact with her uncle, Dwayne, who was nine years old while her aunt, Carmen, 8, watched on.
Sisters Ruth, 7, and Nadia, 9, had sexual touching with their brothers Albert, 15, Jed, 14, and Karl, 12.
On one occasion, three brothers aged 14 years and under tied their sister, 8, and niece, 13, naked to a tree.
The accounts of incestuous underage sex fill pages of court documents.
Clinicians took buccal, or mouth swabs from the children and geneticists deduced five of the Colt children had parents who were “closely related” and another five had parents who were “related”.
Interviews with the parents and other members of the family revealed an astonishing tale.
Betty, Martha and Rhonda’s maternal grandparents had been brother and sister.
Betty had 13 children, some of whom were probably fathered by her father, Tim, and her brother, Charlie.
Martha’s children may also have been fathered by Tim.
Betty’s son, Bobby, and Martha’s children, Albert, Jed, Ruth and Nadia were the result of closely related parents, as were the three children of Betty’s daughter, Tammy, 27, one of whom had died from a rare genetic disease called Zellweger syndrome.
Victorian Police removed Tammy’s remaining two daughters when they found her living in a caravan park and she revealed her younger brother, Derek, 25, had fathered all her children.
In the fallout from the discovery of the Colt Family, some children have been placed with foster families, others are in treatment programs for sexualised behaviour and psychological trauma, and they have some contact with their parents and siblings.
They have made progress with schooling and hygiene.
The mothers have taken varying degrees of responsibility for the neglect, the incest or intra-familial sexual abuse which allegedly took place in the family.
Betty Colt, who has supervised contact with her children, appears to be in denial, and her lawyer has disputed the court’s findings.
The Children’s Court ruled she is not willing “to disentangle herself from her family” and “is incapable of addressing her own traumatic history”.
Police arrested a woman Monday morning after a man reported she stabbed him for not making him breakfast.
Ishmail Swain, 55, of the 100 block of Fredonia, told police that he left Rosie Mae Strait, 39, asleep in bed at about 11 a.m. When Swain returned after 12:30 p.m., Strait started arguing with him for not “fixing her breakfast,” according to a police report.
Swain told police Strait then stabbed him twice in the arm with a screwdriver.
Emergency medical technicians were treating Swain when police arrived. They told police they had wrapped stab wounds to Swain’s right forearm and his right wrist. There was also a scratch to the left side of Swain’s nose, according to police.
The screwdriver was not recovered, according to police.
Police charged Strait with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon causing serious bodily injury. She had also been wanted on two warrants, including one for theft, according to police.
A Marysville man accused of exposing himself repeatedly to residents of a South Seattle block now faces felony charges.
King County prosecutors contend Steven Lee Schmidt’s masturbatory habits plagued residents in the 7000 block of Rainier Avenue South for months.
On numerous occasions, Schmidt, 51, was spotted pants-less and pleasuring himself while behind the wheel of his Chevy Silverado pickup, according to charging papers. Schmidt is alleged to have slowed down as he passed residents and onlookers, one of whom ultimately caught him on camera.
“The defendant is a danger to the community based on the alarming frequency and indiscriminate nature of his offending … which potentially exposes not only adults but minors,” Senior Deputy Prosecutor Carol Spoor said in court papers.
Spoor noted Schmidt was previously convicted of a misdemeanor after exposing himself to a barista in Snohomish County.
According to charging papers, the Seattle flashings were first reported on Aug. 21, when a 54-year-old woman told police a naked, masturbating man had driven by her home.
The woman told Seattle investigators the driver passed her home and then returned an hour later, again naked and rubbing himself. She said he appeared to be looking at a group of children playing nearby.
Speaking with police, the woman’s husband said he’d seen the same driver doing the same thing three or four weeks before.
Another woman told officers she first saw the masturbating driver on May 21. According to charging papers, the 27-year-old woman said the driver passed her home about nine times; she was able to photograph him on several passes.
Like others on the block, she saw him again on Aug. 21; she also photographed his truck. She told police she saw him a third time on Aug. 27; that time, she said the naked man passed her home 15 times.
“She said that she was shocked, disgusted, and felt traumatized,” a Seattle detective said in charging papers.
“It seemed to her that when the male approached the people or children playing he would slow down as if he wanted people to notice him,” he continued.
Reviewing photos of the truck, police identified Schmidt as the offender, the detective told the court. Contacted by police, Schmidt denied exposing himself to anyone.
Schmidt has been charged with two counts of felony indecent exposure. A $15,000 warrant for his arrest has been issued.
Jamie Lynn Bentley, 33, was denied bond Friday by Douglas County Magistrate Court Judge Susan Camp based on charges presented in court.
According to authorities, Bentley fed her baby only two ounces of food every six hours from the time it was born. At the age of six weeks, the baby had lost two pounds from its birth weight. It has since been taken from Bentley and, at eight weeks old, has returned to its birth weight in the hospital.
“DFCS has been involved in this since the beginning,” said Kristi Wilson, with the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office. “There are a lot of allegations of drug abuse with the mother.”
Wilson said Bentley, a mother of eight, was released from the hospital after giving birth because she passed a drug screen for meth, but the test might have come back positive if it had been conducted differently. The baby was taken back to the hospital six weeks later after a DFCS nurse visited the home and weighed it.
The baby was so starved it apparently was eating its own muscle mass.
“They were surprised it was alive,” said Wilson. “We don’t know if there will be any permanent damage to him. (Bentley) was taken out of Scottish Rite. They let her stay there to try and help feed the baby. When they’d come and wake her up the feed the baby she told them she wasn’t feeding that baby every two hours, that drove her crazy and they need to get the (expletive) out of her room. And so she was excused from the hospital, so they took other precautions to feed the baby.”
Camp had seen pictures of the baby, and said they were “terrible.”
“It was skin and bones,” Wilson said. “Certain people have seen the pictures and that’s what it was. They couldn’t even recognize it was a baby in the pictures. The state is adamant that her bond should be denied. Certainly we feel she is a risk of reoffending.”
Bentley’s other children have also been taken from her. She denied the allegations.
“He lost weight so drastically in the last three days,” she said. “His weight came out and he weighed 6 pounds, 3 ounces. I immediately left and called the pediatrician, made the appointment and got $200 for his visit. I had the $200, that’s what I was waiting on was $200 to make that visit.”
Bentley also said she’d spent $25 on baby formula, half of which had been fed to him, and that she could pass a drug test. But Wilson doubted Bentley’s claim.
“We talked to Children’s Healthcare and they said that was not a condition that would come on that quickly,” she said. “They said he’d been in that condition for a quite a while.”
Camp denied bond, saying Bentley is a danger to the victim.
“Looking at those pictures, it looks terrible,” she said. “It looks like you really didn’t care anything about the baby and you were just doing what you wanted to do. I’m not saying that’s right but that’s what it looks like. So what I’m going to do is deny your bond. You may have to take this thing to trial because it looks really bad.”
A man was bitten on the penis by a massive snake while he sat on a public toilet.
Kwabena Nkrumah, 34, was using the toilet in Ghana’s Ashanti Region when the ‘big black snake’ pounced.
He claims it suddenly emerged from below and bit the tip of his manhood leading to a sharp pain.
As reported by ghanaweb.com, Mr Nkrumah’s screams of ‘snake, snake, snake’ led to mass panic with other men fleeing the toilet.
Mr Nkrumah was rushed to hospital after he started shivering and feeling dizzy. He has since been discharged.
He claims that, after being bitten last Wednesday, he looked down to see the large snake about to pounce again, leading to his nearly collapsing.