In an emotional statement Friday, the stepfather of the young British soldier who was hacked to death this week on a busy south London street said his son was "our hero."
"Our hearts have been ripped apart from us, everyone is struggling to cope with this tragedy," a grief stricken Ian Rigby said of his son Lee.
The Guardian reports that the stepfather also read the last text message that the 25-year-old soldier sent to his mother:
"Goodnight mum, I hope you had a fantastic day today because you are the most fantastic and one-in-a million mum that anyone could ever wish for. Thank you for supporting me all these years, you're not just my mum you're my best friend. So goodnight, love you loads."
The younger Rigby's widow, Rebecca, broke down in tears during the session with reporters. "I love Lee and always will," she said.
Channel4News has posted video from the family's news conference.
Meanwhile, Britain's Daily Mirror has posted video footage showing some of the moments after police arrived at the scene and were confronted by the two armed men who — claiming they were acting in retaliation for the deaths of Muslims during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — are accused of killing Rigby. The Mirror writes that:
"The brave [officer] first on the scene at the Woolwich beheading comes within inches of death, a dramatic Daily Mirror video shows. The driver, unable to draw her firearm, is saved by a male colleague in the back who fires his machine-gun through his window at a suspect who is charging at her."
The two suspects were wounded and taken into custody. Two other people, as we reported Thursday, were arrested later in the day as police searched for possible accomplices.
The BBC reports that "the U.K.'s security services face a Commons inquiry after it was confirmed the two men arrested over the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby were known to MI5. But Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said it was impossible to control everyone all the time."
Seriously, with E.W. Jackson in Virginia and Anthony Weiner in New York, what more do NPR's Ron Elving and Ken Rudin need for their podcast? OK, maybe throw in the ongoing IRS controversy, Lois Lerner pleading the Fifth Amendment, an immigration deal coming out of Senate Judiciary and a new mayor in Los Angeles.
Take a look at this.
It's a dog drinking water. It's also the answer to a riddle. When you and I take a drink, we can lift a glass, hold it to our mouth, tilt and use gravity to pour the water in. Dogs can't do that. In a pinch, we can kneel down, put our mouth to the surface and suck water up (or, to be polite, use a straw). Dogs can't do that either. They don't have sucking ability.
Yet dogs do drink. Oddly enough, scientists weren't sure how they do it.
Once super high speed cameras became available, we could look more closely, and aiming at this dog, we can see it appears to bend its tongue backwards, like an inverted ladle. It dips down, scoops up some water, using its tongue as a pulley. This was a revelation. Because they are dogs, they drool, miss, splash the water — there's nothing polite about a dog drinking — but we seem to have our answer. They scoop! Dogs turn their tongues into ladles. Beautiful!
But wrong. When scientists looked more closely — when they measured — they found that the "scoop" is a delusion. Yes, as Eyder Peralta here at NPR reported a couple of years ago, and as you can see in this short video, the tongue does bend back, but notice a lot (most?) of the water never reaches the mouth. It just slips back to the bowl.
The tongue, it turns out, is not a ladle, but a sticky whip. A dog will extend — no, that's too polite a word — the dog will thrust its tongue into the water and then whip it back up, very, very fast. A stream of water attaches to and follows the tongue upward (adhesion and cohesion) — but only for a fraction of a second. Then gravity kicks in. The rising stream of water loses its upward momentum, and just as it's about to fall back into the bowl, at exactly the point where gravity is about to win, the dog snaps its mouth shut and swallows. Done. The motions are precise, even mathematical.
Engineers have worked out the equation, and when the math says, "Close Your Mouth!" that's when dogs do it. It's as if dogs understand fluid mechanics, and, in their messy doggie way, I guess they do.
Enough About Dogs. What About Cats?
Which brings us to cats.
Cats, it turns out, do the same thing, but being cats, they do it more carefully, more elegantly, more efficiently. No sloshing for them, no puddles outside the bowl. When MIT professor Roman Stocker (working with Pedro Reis) filmed Cutta Cutta, his own cat, drinking, they saw its tongue dip very gently at the milk — no doggie style tongue thrusting, no gouging — just a delicate lap ...
Cats do this very fast — four laps per second — too fast for us to see without a high speed camera. But now that we can measure what's going on, it appears that cats can take in more liquid with less spillage than dogs in the same unit of time. This suggests cats are more efficient (and therefore more intelligent?) lappers than dogs. (Of course, I am aware that the cat in the MIT study was owned — and maybe even loved — by the scientist doing the study. One could imagine, even in the oh-so-rational Civil & Environmental Engineering Department at MIT, Professor Stocker might have just the teeniest cat-admiring bias. I'm waiting for cat-drinking studies done by dog-owning scientists before I'm completely convinced.)
And Now ... The Champions!
But before we get too excited by cats behaving elegantly, I want to move on to pigeons. Cats, I know, eat pigeons. But I recently met three pigeons, who for my money, would embarrass any cat (and every dog) with their extraordinary drinking skills. These three may be the smartest beverage consumers in the small-animal kingdom.
They live (or lived — this picture was taken four years ago) in Brisbane, Australia, and apparently frequented a shopping mall where there is a water fountain. According to the always fascinating blogger Antranik ("Anto" for short), these pigeons watched humans pushing a lever to release water and figured out how water fountains work. They then took turns.
In this shot you see one pigeon sitting on the lever, weighing it down to release some water. The middle one takes a semi-bath dodging in and out of the water, and the third one, on the left, is taking a drink. Then they switched.
Say what you will about sloppy dogs or elegant cats, these three are the Plato, Aristotle and Socrates of the drinking world. Send them to a diner. I bet they'd soon be sucking on straws.
There's been an explosion followed by the sound of gunfire in Kabul, NPR's Sean Carberry and other journalists report from the Afghan capital.
Reuters reports that the explosion occurred "at about 4 p.m. local time in a downtown district. ... There was no word on any casualties." The BBC says gunfire can be heard near the headquarters of the Afghan intelligence service.
Sean tweeted just after 8:25 a.m. ET (4:55 p.m. in Kabul) that there's "ongoing gunfire near scene of blast in Kabul. Police keeping a perimeter of a couple blocks."
We'll monitor the news from Kabul and update as the story develops.
Update at 9:30 a.m. ET. AUDIO Report From NPR's Correspondent, Including Sound Of Gunfire.
Sean Carberry just spoke with our Newscast Desk. As he was talking about what was happening, more gunfire could be heard:
"It started with a large explosion that has shattered windows for a few blocks away from the site," Sean said. "It's been followed by heavy volleys of gunfire — heavy weapons, light weapons. As you can hear right now there's another volley of fire going on. What is still unclear: They have not been able to determine the targets of the blast — there's a U.N. guest house [and] there are some other offices in the area where this happened."
Representatives of President Bashar Assad's regime have agreed "in principle" to attend an international peace conference aimed at ending more than two years of brutal warfare in Syria, Russia's foreign ministry said Friday.
But NPR's Corey Flintoff reports from Moscow that Russian diplomats also said it's not known just when such talks might start because it's unclear who would speak for the groups who have been fighting to overthrow the regime. Corey notes that "so far, the opposition has been resisting any peace plan that would allow Assad to stay in power, even on an interim basis."
Opposition groups are meeting in Istanbul to choose a new leader.
Still, The New York Times adds that Russian foreign ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich said in a statement that:
"We note with satisfaction that Damascus has confirmed its readiness in principle to participate in an international conference in the interest of the Syrians themselves finding a political path to a settlement of the conflict that has been devastating for the country and the region."
As the Times adds, "Russian Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov and Secretary of State John Kerry had agreed during a meeting in Moscow earlier this month to pull together the peace conference, with Russia responsible for bringing the government of Bashar al-Assad to the table and the Americans focused on securing the participation of the Syrian opposition."
Since anti-Assad protests and fighting began in early 2011, an estimated 80,000 people — many of them civilians — have died in Syria.