MY Ady Gil, illegal video games, the famous spilled coffee lawsuit, Operation Cottage, pigeon-guided missile, the Japanese Schindler's list, and bottlenecks in human history

Today, my last day in uniform, we will examine a few articles before I close up my office for good. Since my home computer is on the fritz, it might be a while before I can make another post, hopefully no more than a week. Today's articles include Project Pigeon, Chiune Sugihara, the Toba Event compared to flood myths and proto-human language, the WWII landing against a nonexistent enemy force, Liebeck v. McDonald's Restaurants, Greek Law 3037/2002, and MY Ady Gil.

Chiune Sugihara was a Japanese diplomat who helped several thousand Lithuanian and Polish Jews escape the Holocaust at the height of World War II. Born on the auspicious date of January 1, 1900 in rural Gifu, he graduated university as an English major, learning Russian and German when recruited into the Foreign Ministry. In his twentieth year of service, he became a vice-consul at the Japanese Consulate in Kaunas, mainly to supply intelligence on Soviet and German military movement. When the Soviets took over Lithuania in 1940, most of the numerous Jewish refugees (including many driven out of Poland by the Nazis the previous year) suddenly were desperate for any place to escape to, but Sugihara's instructions were only to permit visas per usual, which qualified only a tiny fraction of wealthier individuals. In spite of his orders, he began issuing visas between July 18 to September 4 to nearly anyone who could afford a ticket on the Trans-Siberian Railway to Japan. As the diplomatic post was closed, he continued to write visas, even throwing the last batch out of a train window into an eager crowd. It's estimated that between six and ten thousand individuals were saved by Sugihara, who wound up serving as a consul in East Europe until held prisoner by the Soviets in Romania in 1944. In 1947, he was downsized, and lived a low-key life until recognized as Righteous among the Nations in 1985, and passed away the next year.
Even though he saved far more lives than Oskar Schindler, his name is virtually unknown (except to astronomers).

Surely most Americans have heard of Liebeck v. McDonald's Restaurants listed as the prime example of frivolous litigation. In this 1994 case, Stella Liebeck, a 79-year-old New Mexican, spilled the contents of a cup of coffee just purchased from a drive-through into her lap in early 1992. Taken to the hospital with third-degree burns, she needed skin grafts and two years of medical treatment. Liebeck asked for twenty grand in medical bills and lost wages, but the restaurant chain offered only $800. Her attorney Reed Morgan then filed suit for gross negligence, citing that the regulation to serve coffee at 180–190 °F (82–88 °C) would burn exposed skin within seconds. Probably the clincher was that McDonald's had received about 700 reports of scalds in the past, and had paid more than half a million dollars in settlements. The jury found that Liebeck was only 20% at fault, and awarded $200k in compensatory damages and $2.7 million in punitive, later reduced to a total of $640,000 (and further reduced in an out-of-court settlement when both parties tried to appeal).

While the Toba catastrophe theory concerns a supervolcanic eruption in Sumatra approximately 70,000 years ago, the main point of interest to me is the population bottleneck in human evolution. Between one and ten thousand breeding pairs of humans survived the event, and are considered the genetic ancestors of all humans alive today. While not quite as dramatic as Mitochondrial Eve and Y-chromosomal Adam, the reason I bring it up is that it seems to be a correlation with events of the Bible. Say what you will about Christianity (and Noah's Ark), it's a fact that most cultures have some kind of flood myth where human population is narrowed a great deal by a divine flood, often with some kind of scientific evidence to suggest that there were indeed floods in many portions of the world. Is it also a coincidence that many linguists believe in the hypothetical Proto-Human language, a monogenesis reminiscent of the tale of the Tower of Babel?

Law 3037/2002, as the name suggests, was legislation passed in 2002. In Greece, illegal gambling was becoming endemic at the time, and public hysteria was fueled by a video recording electronic gambling machines in use. Unfortunately, lawmakers wrote the law too vague, and it essentially outlawed all electronic games, including public video games and internet cafés. Overnight, any sort of arcade was made illegal, and many businesses couldn't survive until clarification legislation was passed.

Records of Operation Cottage tend to dress it up, but essentially, it was a massive cluster-fuck of an invasion. The final operation of the largely underrated Aleutian Islands Campaign, it saw Allied forces landing on Kiska Island on August 15, 1943. Japanese forces had occupied it for a year, but the single reconnaissance flight had planners expecting another bloody battle like the recent one at Attu. The two thousand Japanese forces had been withdrawn quietly two weeks before, and no further was done that would have picked up on that fact. An American infantry division and Canadian brigade landed on the empty isle, and numerous incidents of friendly fire cost 51 dead and about 191 missing, as well as a destroyer that hit a mine and killed 71 sailors. Only four men were killed from enemy traps... a rather dismal death toll of a completely unopposed landing. Admiral Ernest King reported to the secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox, that the only things that remained on the island were dogs and fresh brewed coffee. Knox asked for an explanation and King responded, "The Japanese are very clever. Their dogs can brew coffee."
And pretty much zero strategic value except the psychological impact of occupied American soil.

Project Pigeon was a WWII-era attempt to create a missile guidance system that was unable to be jammed by electronic means. Behaviorist B. F. Skinner proposed that pigeons could be used, under the idea that a bird could recognize its target with operant conditioning and steer the missile by pecking. A lens would be used to project the target on a screen, and course corrections would be made when the screen was tilted to one direction or another. If the target was centered, the pigeon would peck the center and no adjustments would be made, but if the vessel veered, the bird would peck the screen until the target was re-centered. The same War Department people responsible for the atomic bomb and radar contributed about $25,000 to the project, but work with Pelican missiles was cut in 1944 so funding could go to other projects with "more immediate promise of combat application". The Navy tried it again with Project Orcon, but it was cut in 1953 when electronic guidance was proven far more reliable.

Motor Yacht (MY) Ady Gil (formerly Earthrace) is, in my opinion, what the Batmobile would look like in boat form. This speedboat uses a wave-piercing trimaran hull designed to break the world record for circumnavigation, which failed in 2007 after a collision, but proved successful the next year with a total time of just under 61 days. With snorkel intakes for its biodiesel engines in the upper fins, it's submersible and cost about $2.5 million to build. In 2009, it was given to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and renamed to combat Japanese whaling in the sanctuary south of Antarctica. It was given Kevlar reinforcement (purportedly against ice) and a coat of black radar-scattering paint, and used its 50-knot speed to intercept and physically block harpoon ships, tow ropes to foul propellers, and launched foul-smelling packages from a spud gun. In 2010, it was involved in a collision with Shōnan Maru 2, which involved much finger-pointing, and saw Pete Bethune arrested by the Japanese Coast Guard and the Ady Gil damaged beyond repair.
Seriously. Batmobile.
That's all for now. Happy reading!

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