MIKE PESCA, host:
Welcome back to the Bryant Park Project from NPR News, online all the time at npr.org/bryantpark. Traditionally, this is the time when my co-host and I would take a stroll through some of the news from the backend of the paper, except if it's a tabloid, then sports is in the back.
But you know, not earth-shaking, earth-shattering stuff. The fun stuff. Turns out, though, that I'm all alone here. I have no co-host in Production Studio Five at BPP World Headquarters, and I'm calling out. I'm putting up the Bat Signal. Who can help me?
MATT MARTINEZ: I'm here, Mike.
PATRICIA MCKINNEY: Me, too.
MARTINEZ: It's Matt Martinez, senior supervising producer.
MCKINNEY: And Tricia McKinney, editor.
PESCA: Yay! Let's do The Ramble. Did an episode of "Leave it to Beaver" just break out?
MCKINNEY: I think so. All right, I'll start.
PESCA: Go ahead, Lumpy, I mean Trish.
MCKINNEY: The world's oldest known person turns 115. She turned 115 yesterday. Her name is Edna Parker of Shelbyville, Indiana, which - that's my favorite name of a town ever.
PESCA: Sounds like a Shelbyville idea. That's the town they hate on "The Simpsons."
MCKINNEY: Yes, yes. So, anyway, she lived on her family farm until she was 100 years old. There's actually an amazing story about how one of her children found her out in the snow one winter after she turned 100, nearly frozen to death, brought her back inside. She made a full recovery. Now she's 115. Amazing woman.
PESCA: She's a resilient lady.
MCKINNEY: Totally. She's one of 75 people in the world today who have passed their 110th birthday. It's a group called "super-centenarians," and now, of course, everybody wants to study them and see why they live so long.
So, scientists have collected a small blood sample from her to study her DNA. They're looking for longevity enabling genes. So, there you go. Anyway, it does seem to run in her family. She had a sister who lived to 99.
MARTINEZ: Well, she had another sister, too, right, that was 88?
MCKINNEY: Yeah, 88 when she died.
MCKINNEY: She doesn't - you know.
PESCA: I think we need a better name than super-centenarians, like centdescenarians, 110.
MCKINNEY: That's good.
MARTINEZ: Centidescenarians, yeah, yeah.
MCKINNEY: That's good.
MARTINEZ: I would say that.
PESCA: OK, I got one. Twelve mysterious crystal skulls may not be so special after all. Although, in the self-help movement, we tell all the skulls that they're special. But originally the skulls, carved from solid crystal, were purported to come from a pre-Columbian dynasty. Maybe be they were Mayan, maybe Aztec.
According to the law, the skulls hold secrets brought here from the stars. The story is the basis for much excitement in new-age circles, and it has inspired moviemakers for the new "Indiana Jones" flick, but the scriptwriters might not like the most recent news on the skulls. One of the heads is in the possession of a French museum, which had the skull analyzed.
Lo and behold, advanced jewelry-making tools and not-so-advanced tools like the wheel were used to make the head, i.e., not pre-Columbian. Also, stamped on the bottom, "property of the Paramount Studio prop department."
MCKINNEY: I think I saw that episode of "Antiques Roadshow," where they busted that totally...
PESCA: Yeah. This skull is worth 89 cents, and the woman cried and left.
PESCA: Yeah. Matt. What do you got?
MARTINEZ: Well, a crew from the International Space Station have returned to Earth a few hundred miles short of their landing zone. They landed in the Asian steppes of Kazakhstan. NASA commander Peggy Whitson and two other crewmembers had just completed a marathon six-month mission to orbit the Space Station, and if you see pictures online, we'll link through to this, there are pictures of the landing.
It's seared, smoking fields in this huge, giant grassland, and a story reported in USA Today, the chief of Russia's federal space agency called the landing, quote, "nominal." I didn't know "nominal" was a euphemism for "crash landing." But it's...
MCKINNEY: They're OK, right?
MARTINEZ: They're OK. Yes. Everybody's alive and doing quite well.
PESCA: They came from outer space, and that's not - I mean, the last time I flew from Orlando to New York they had to land me in Pittsburgh. As a percentage, I think the space people did much better than U.S. Air that day.
MCKINNEY: Well, I think they were in a capsule, right? It wasn't a shuttle. It was a capsule.
MARTINEZ: They were in a, sort of, these capsules. Sort of these capsule. And it's called the ballistic reentry, and...
MCKINNEY: That's pretty ballistic!
MARTINEZ: And basically, it puts...
PESCA: Now it's called the nominal reentry.
MARTINEZ: It puts more gravity on them than normal - than a normal, like, space-shuttle reentry.
MARTINEZ: So, it's more difficult to control in that sense.
MCKINNEY: Right. And then after six months in space, I imagine they're not feeling so good today.
MARTINEZ: Not feeling so good.
PESCA: I think we can sneak one more in here.
MCKINNEY: Oh, sorry. OK.
PESCA: You've got a cute dog story or something?
MCKINNEY: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, Snickers the dog. If you were worried about Snickers, Snickers is safe. It was a puppy who, like, the first two weeks of its life was on this sailboat, and the boat went adrift for 95 days, so this poor puppy's life didn't start out well. And then they ended up on this island in the South Pacific.
Then a cargo ship returned the people from the boat home, but wouldn't let the dog on board. So, Snickers was left on this island, Fanning Island, about 1,000 miles from Hawaii, and the people there had been taking care of the dog, and the owners were thinking about going back to get Snickers, and they also left their pet bird behind.
But they, you know, I guess they decided not to go back. So, then somebody from Las Vegas heard about Snickers, and decided to adopt him. I think it's a him. Anyway, so now Snickers is on route to Vegas to a new happy life. But of course, the bird is still on Fanning Island because there are way more rules about getting a bird back than - I know, it's crazy, right?
PESCA: I've read that those people didn't even have a word for pet, yet they have strict rules about animal transport?
MCKINNEY: Well, I don't think they have the rules. I think Hawaii has the rules about importing birds.
PESCA: Oh, OK.
MARTINEZ: Yeah. You have to sign a million forms to get in and out of Hawaii.
MCKINNEY: Yeah. So, the macaw...
PESCA: Snickers could screw up the whole ecosystem.
MCKINNEY: The macaw is still there, but the dog is on its way back.
PESCA: Well, that's your Ramble. These stories and more are on our website, npr.org/bryantpark. Thanks, guys.
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