TIME Food & Drink

Sushi Restaurant Owners Plead Guilty to Serving Whale Meat

The Hump Restaurant is seen in Santa Mon
The Hump Restaurant is seen in Santa Monica, California on Wednesday, March 10, 2010. Gabriel Bouys —AFP/Getty Images

After the documentarians behind The Cove got footage of the crime

The owners of a defunct sushi restaurant pled guilty Tuesday to serving whale meat, more than four years after a documentary film crew captured the illicit meal on tape.

Brian Vidor, owner of The Hump restaurant in Santa Monica, California, and his parent company, Typhoon Restaurant Inc., agreed to pay a $27,500 fine for slicing up a serving of Sei whale, an endangered species protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Sushi chefs at the Hump unwittingly served the meat to undercover agents for the the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The scene was captured on film by the documentarians behind The Cove, an Academy Award-winning expose of the dolphin meat trade.

[L.A. Times]

TIME viral

This Cat’s Laser Focus and Determination as He Flicks a Piece a Paper Is Commendable

After a full minute he finally takes a break and just cuddles up with it

This is Paper Cat. All we really know about him is that he’s really into paper — or at least, he’s really into this one specific piece of paper. He flicks at it with the type of curiosity and determination that teachers dream of. His human tries a few times to get him to stop, but he’s all, I have a mission and I will not rest until it is completed.

After about a minute, though, he does rest, cuddling up with the paper and making sure to protect it – probably because he plans to continue his mission in a few minutes.


Our Dog Has Cancer and We’re Not Treating It. Stop Judging Me.

Steve Friess' dog Jack Steve Friess

Steve Friess is a freelance writer.

The sticker shock of giving Jack another year made the discussion almost academic

It took longer than expected to realize something was wrong. Jack has always been so thin that I often soothingly trace the outline of his ribs with my fingers as I fall asleep. But we’d never really worried about it because he always ate as much as he wanted, enjoyed treats galore and remained around a healthy 11 pounds.

So I shrugged when my partner suggested he seemed leaner than usual. When Jack became a bit harder to rouse from naps on my office sofa or his dog bed, I reasoned that cooler weather often made him sluggish. But in late October, after weighing myself on the scale, I picked him up to see the difference. He had whittled to less than 8 pounds.

Three days later, our vet was drawing blood and aspirating lymph nodes that had enlarged under his jowls to the size and shape of Raisinets. Jack was diagnosed with, to quote the email I received with the various results, “Lymphoma, large cell, high-grade type.” Below that was this: “All lymph nodes are prominent. There is a remarkably high mitotic rate.” Translation: Jack has an aggressive cancer coursing throughout his body.

A childhood friend who is now a vet tried to provide hope by urging us to “do the full chemo protocol ASAP!” That could send Jack into remission for “usually 9 to 12 months. However, they can live longer if they have good remission.”

So this was the beginning. My friend did not intend to give us a guilt trip, and neither did our vet when she laid out the same options. But I nonetheless felt shameful as I asked the question that would determine our answer: How much will it cost?

Yes, I was concerned about the impact of chemotherapy on this lovely creature, but all of my research had convinced me that the debilitating nausea and hair loss familiar as side effects in humans don’t usually occur in dogs. In theory, aside from the stress this already nervous little animal would face going in weekly for his drip, it might not be so bad.

But as much as we love our pets, the sticker shock made the rest of the discussion almost academic. The process would cost, at the least, $5,000.

My partner and I are trying to adopt a baby – a human! – and $5,000 gets us about a third of the way there. If that $5,000 could cure the cancer and restore Jack’s full life expectancy, maybe we’d do it. Maybe. It certainly would be a tougher choice. But to buy a year during which we’d be waiting for his lymph nodes to resume their swell? We could endure the end stages either now or later.

We are opting for now, which means we have about 30 days. The end will probably come in time for holidays already shrouded in gloom because of the unexpected loss this year of my mother-in-law. It feels macabrely efficient to ruin just one otherwise festive season rather than string this out and feel this way next year, too.

We’ve received a lot of advice, both solicited and unwelcome, through social media. Nobody comes right out to say it, but the disappointment some express at our decision shows that they question our love for Jack. In an era when people spend big on animal clothes, artisanal foods and medical intervention, and when medical science makes it possible to spend $5,000 so Jack dies slightly later than sooner, there is pressure to go as far as we can.

We’re just too practical for that. Three years ago, Jack was diagnosed with a heart murmur during a routine exam, so we saw a cardiac vet who urged a battery of expensive tests. Armed with advice and courage from vet-author Dr. Nancy Kay’s book Speaking for Spot, I asked about treatment options. Turned out, as the vet reluctantly conceded using jargon I had to repeat back to him in English to be clear, there weren’t any. The murmur would grow gradually louder, then Jack’s heart would fail. Until the end, he’d be unaware and in no distress. When I declined the exams, the vet barely hid his dismay, an exchange that left me with a burble of guilt ever since. Now I feel, strangely, doubly vindicated.

Jack’s cancer, we’re told, is moving wickedly fast. Those Raisinets will soon be grapes, interfering with swallowing, breathing and gastrointestinal functions. There are diet adjustments that might forestall this a bit, and we’re doing that. An oral steroid might slow the cancer, but it also induces incessant peeing. Jack, in normal times, has always told us he needed to go out by trembling. Adding to even more of that anxiety hardly seems wise or humane, so we won’t do that, either. When he’s uncomfortable and there’s nothing palliative left to do, we will end his life.

And, all in all, it has been a lovely little life. We found our dogs whimpering in a cage at the Nevada Humane Society in 2005 with the sign, “Brothers. Must Adopt Together.” The black one was always friendly and cheerful; the brown one was naturally grouchy and suspicious, growling and twisting straight through our first meeting. Their names, Cheech and Chong, didn’t suit them; they would be Black and Jack, my partner decided as we crossed the Las Vegas Strip on our way home.

Their prior owner had trapped them in an apartment bathroom for hours a day before mercifully surrendering them to adoption, so I am the only human either of them has ever fully trusted. Black has mellowed, but Jack still growls if my partner tries to hold my hand when he’s in my lap. Jack is, undeniably, “my” dog; while I half-heartedly scold him for his recalcitrance towards his other owner, I secretly revel in the exclusivity of our little club.

I don’t want to lose Jack. I look at him, still relatively normal, and find it impossible to believe the speed and finality of what is to come. I put aside my book or iPad more often now so I can return his Nancy Reagan gazes, trying to record in my mind the feeling of caressing his silken little ears.

To be a pet owner these days means inevitably exposing one’s self to varying helpings of guilt at every stage. Breeder or shelter? Crate, dogwalker or doggie day care? Treat the disease or let him die?

But I don’t want to feel guilty. We will have enough emotions to contend with. We’re going to brace ourselves and then we will grieve. It’s going to be a crappy time. But we believe this is the right choice. You may not. That’s fine. We won’t judge you, so don’t judge us.

Steve Friess is the co-host of the podcast The Petcast, which will return from hiatus in 2015.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME animals

Scientists Discover Why Mosquitos Love Human Blood

mosquitoes blood sucking
Getty Images

You get mosquito bites because of your smell

Scientists have discovered the reason that mosquitos switched from feeding on animals to humans: the smell of a chemical vapor on human skin.

The chemical, called sulcatone, has a unique scent that mosquitos learned to associate with food, The Independent reports.

“It was a really good evolutionary move,” said Leslie Vosshall of Rockefeller University in New York, who led the study published in the journal Nature, “We provide the ideal lifestyle for mosquitoes. We always have water around for them to breed in, we are hairless and we live in large groups.”

Researchers found that mosquitos that still feed on animals do not respond to the presence of sulcatone, but those that prefer humans are drawn to the scent.

TIME broadway

Rat Gets Starring Role in Broadway Play

Toby was almost snake-food. Now she's a Broadway star

Audiences have fallen in love with a new actor on Broadway. She’s a rat named Toby, and her role in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time has just been expanded.

Toby is the rat kept by the teenager with autism at the center of the show, and while the New York Times reports that some cast members were initially skeptical about performing with a live rat, audiences have responded so positively to Toby that the directors decided to give her a little more freedom onstage. (it is a female rat playing a male character). Now, Toby, who is played by a female rat, gets to leave her carrier at one point during the performance.

“She’s a special rat,” Benjamin Klein, the associate director of the play, told the New York Times.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time opened in October.

TIME Education

Is Your Dog Smarter Than a Five-Year-Old?

Stan Fellerman—Getty Images

New research shows many people consider man's best friend to be more intelligent than human children

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

The closer we are to our dogs, the more intelligent we think they are, according to a recent paper published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior. But that perception isn’t exactly reality.

(MORE: 5 Types of Friends Everyone Should Have)

The paper, written by researchers at Monash University surveyed more than 550 dog owners. In general, they believed their dogs were socially intelligent and capable of learning social and general cognitive skills. The research found one-quarter of dog owners believe their dog to be smarter than most other people. Nearly half of them believe their dog’s mental ability is equal to that of three-to-five-year-old human children, and of those polled, 73 percent consider themselves knowledgeable about dogs.

(MORE: Healthy After-School Snacks for Kids)

It turns out, those beliefs aren’t quite accurate. While some dogs may rival two-year-olds in terms of intelligence, that’s about as high as researchers have seen learning levels go. A typical two-year-old toddler knows 300 words, but Chaser, “The Smartest Dog in the World,” who appeared on 60 Minutes in early October, knows the names of 800 cloth toys and more than 200 plastic toys and balls. Impressive, but not anywhere near the intelligence of a four-year-old, who typically has a 1,000-word vocabulary and can easily put together sentences of four or five words.

(MORE: New Poll Shows Parents Are Really Stressed… And Really Happy)

But just because dogs aren’t as intelligent as humans doesn’t mean that they don’t offer their own unique benefits. Research suggests, for instance, that dog owners may get more exercise than those without canine companions. And walking dogs may lead to more conversation, and therefore more friends in addition to a workout, according to the NIH. Animals are also used for therapy in an effort to relieve pain and stress. And those furry friends can worm their way into our hearts… and cardiovascular health. One study, funded by the NIH, found that people who suffered a heart attack lived longer on average if they owned a dog.

(MORE: The Best (and Worst) Advice From Bosses)

(MORE: How Yoga Helps to Keep Your Brain Healthy)

TIME animals

You Always Knew Your Cat Was Half Wild But Now There’s Genetic Proof

Paula Daniëlse—Getty Images/Flickr RM

That kitty curled up on your lap is only one genetic step away from jungle killer

A new study on house cats has found that our feline companions are actually only semi-domesticated.

People began domesticating cats around 9,000 years ago but DNA researchers from Washington University in St. Louis found that house cats still have many of the same traits as their wild cousins. The fact that cats have retained the ability to hunt and survive effortlessly in the wild just underscores how little impact we humans have had on them.

Wes Warren, an associate professor of genomics at the university, told the Los Angeles Times, “We believe we have created the first preliminary evidence that depicts domestic cats as not that far removed from wildcat populations.”

That’s not to say humans haven’t had any influence on cats. We originally took them into our homes to hunt rodents and rewarded that behavior with food. According to researchers, this lead to eventual changes in a group of stem cells that resulted in more docile (but not fully domesticated) felines and produced colors and fur patterns that humans liked.

“Our results suggest that selection for docility, as a result of becoming accustomed to humans for food rewards, was most likely the major force that altered the first domesticated cat genomes,” researchers wrote.

Read more at the Los Angeles Times.

Read next: Celebrate National Cat Day With the Most Ridiculous Cover in TIME History

TIME animals

Study Shows Bats Jam Each Other’s Sonar to Snatch the Best Prey

Yves Adams—Getty Images

The bats reportedly block each other's frequencies to hinder their hunting ability

The use of sonar by bats for hunting has been well-documented over the years, with the nocturnal winged mammals using ultrasonic clicks to target their prey in a phenomenon called echo-location.

But a new study, published on Friday in the journal Science, reveals that bats also sabotage rivals by jamming each other’s sonar frequencies so that they can grab the most appetizing prey.

“This jamming signal covers all the frequencies used by the other bat, so there’s no available frequency to shift to,” Johns Hopkins University researcher Aaron Corcoran, who co-authored the study, told the New Scientist.

Read more at New Scientist

TIME curiosities

A Squirrel’s Guide to Fashion

Photos chronicling the adventures and sartorial splendor of an orphaned -- and, in 1940s America, a celebrated -- gray squirrel

In the early 1940s, LIFE magazine reported that a Mrs. Mark Bullis of Washington, D.C., had adopted a squirrel “before his eyes were open, when his mother died and left him in a tree” in the Bullis’s back yard. Here, in a series of photos by Nina Leen, LIFE.com chronicles the quiet, rodential adventures and sartorial splendor of Tommy Tucker, the orphaned — and, in 1940s America, the celebrated — squirrel.

“Most squirrels,” LIFE noted (with a striking lack of evidence), “are lively and inquisitive animals who like to do tricks when they have an audience.” They do?

LIFE then went on to observe that the squirrel, dubbed Tommy Tucker by the Bullis family, “is a very subdued little animal who has never had a chance to jump around in a big tree.”

“Mrs. Bullis’ main interest in Tommy,” LIFE continued, “is in dressing him up in 30 specially made costumes. Tommy has a coat and hat for going to market, a silk pleated dress for company, a Red Cross uniform for visiting the hospital.”

“Tommy never seems to complain,” the LIFE article concluded, “although sometimes he bites Mrs. Bullis. Mrs. Bullis never complains about being bitten.”

[Read more about Tommy Tucker in this Washington Post article]

TIME Research

Human Genitals May Have Formed In The Same Way As Limbs

Harvard researchers probe genetic connections between the two

There is a strong correlation between the formation of genitals and limbs, the Boston Globe reports, citing a study conducted by researchers from the Harvard Medical School and published in the journal Nature.

Researchers examined the genetic processes that take place during the development of embryos in various animals, and also performed complex cell-transplant surgeries to see if they could get genitals to grow elsewhere. They partially succeeded — causing genital-like buds to form in a chicken embryo — by using the cells that generally form hind limbs.

Patrick Tschopp, the study’s lead author and a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard, pointed out that babies born with poorly formed limbs often also possess poorly formed genitalia. “We knew there was some sort of genetic link between the two, and this could provide some information about where these genetic links are,” he said.

Read more at the Boston Globe.

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