Global Scan

Want to buy toilet paper? In Venezuela, that will require your fingerprints

venezuela shortage.jpg

A customer uses a mobile phone while sitting inside a shopping trolley next to children at a state-run Bicentenario supermarket in Caracas May 2, 2014.

Credit:

Jorge Silva/Reuters

Venezuela is a country that struggles to have even basic necessities in sufficient supply to meet the country's demand.

Government officials blame hoarding and smuggling for the problem, though the country's economic problems go far beyond that. Massive inflation and an exodus of foreign companies have all complicated life for everyday Venezuelans.

But President Nicolas Maduro has a plan — groccery stores will begin fingerprinting all customers, to track if customers are buying more than the government thinks they should. The plan is to implement the new fingerprint-tracking system by the end of the year. According to a government index, more than 25 percent of basic household goods are currently in short supply. Vice looks at the current situation.

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The biggest Ebola threat to the US is probably not international travellers

Experts have circled bushmeat as a likely cause of this most recent outbreak of Ebola in West Africa. Bushmeat is the wild game meat that's popular in Africa for its taste and its price, basically free, but that's banned in the US. Because it's illegal, it's especially prized among African-born Americans, who may pay as much as $100 for six or seven pounds.

As far back as 2007, US health officials have worried illegal bushmeat, with its lax regulation, would bring dangerous diseases into the US. Back then they were worried about SARS, but now, according to a report in Newsweek, they're worried bushmeat may bring Ebola to American shores. From 2009 to 2013, the US officials confiscated more than 69,000 different bushmeat items, ranging from dried bat to smoked monkey. And while the risk of Ebola actually coming here is still exceedingly slim, it's probably more likely to come from luggage in a cargo hold, rather than in passenger seats.

This 'vampire plant' takes more than just nutrients from its host

Scientists at Virginia Tech have made a starting discovery about a vine commonly known as the "vampire plant." In addition to taking water, sugar and other small molecules from its host plant, the plant is also taking the plant's messenger RNA — the bits of genetic code that, for exampls, directs plant growth and controls the plants defenses. In other words, by intercepting the plant's commands, the vampire plant can make sure the plant does what it needs.

But, perhaps more startlingly, that's not all the vampire plant does. It also appears to inject its own mRNA into the plant, allowing it not just to direct the plants own actions but also to truly direct how the plant grows and behaves to its benefit. PRI's Science Friday looked at the surpsing new discovery.

This is probably one of the last places you'd expect to find signs of life

A Russian news report this week had a startling headline: Signs of sea life found on the exterior of the International Space Station. Russian scientists, according to the ITAR-TASS news agency, had discovered plankton and other microscopic organisms on the spacecraft's exterior. ITAR-TASS cited Vladimir Solovyev, the head of the Russian branch of the ISS, for their story.

But NASA officials are waving a big yellow caution flag on the report. They say they've heard nothing about sea life on the space station from their colleagues and are extremely skeptical that any could exist in the first place. According to The Independent, though there have been doubts cast on the ITAR-TASS report, it's not because it's inconceivable that life could exist in space. Even though conditions are harsh — life could exist.

This 'Honest' street performer isn't so honest in his act

His name means "Honesty" in Japanese, but 22-year-old Makoto wants to make his living faking out audiences as a magician. PRI's The World took in his street act in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which he's hoping to turn into a full-time career one he graduates from college. But he also thinks his mind-bending tricks wouldn't have ever happened if he'd grown up in his native Japan.

Makoto was adopted and brought to the US when he was two, but went back every summer to experience the culture. His street performances in Japan may have bombed — Makoto says Japanese don't seem to be into street magic — but he's looking forward to developing his own tricks and taking the magic world by storm.

What we're seeing on social

Weather around the world

Residents of Buenos Aires are expecting a break from the unseasonable warmth this weekend, and a dose of much needed rain as well. Temperatures since Monday have been as much as 20 degrees above the normal temperature of 61 degrees. And Friday should also see the city gettings its first precipitation since July 22 — 31 days without any rain, an unusually long stretch this time of year, according to AccuWeather.

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