Mossad took out Nazi collaborator 50 years ago

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In the 1950s and ‘60s one of the tasks of the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, was to track down high-level Nazis and Nazi collaborators who had eluded justice. The Mossad’s best-known success, of course, was the capture of Adolf Eichmann, one of the major architects of the Holocaust, in Argentina in 1960 and whisking him back to Israel, where he stood trial.

Less well known is the case of Herberts Cukurs, a noted Latvian who gained fame in the 1930 for his aviation skills, but who went on to aid the Germans in the efforts to rid the Baltic region of Jews and earned the nickname the Butcher of Riga.

Fifty years ago, Cukurs was killed outside of Montevideo, Uruguay, by Mossad agents for his role in the deaths of tens of thousands of Jews during World War II.

Cukurs, born in 1900, was the Latvian equivalent of Charles Lindbergh. He was acclaimed for long-distance solo flights, flying from Latvia to Gambia and Latvia to Japan during the 1930s.

He also constructed at least three aircraft of his own design, one of which he took on a 24,000-mile tour that included visits to Japan, China, India and Russia.

However, Cukurs had a much darker side that came out with the advent of World War II.

Just before war erupted in 1939, the Germans and Soviets had secretly divided up Europe. The Baltic states were to fall under Soviet hegemony.

When the Nazis turned on the Soviet Union in June 1941, Cukurs and many other Latvians saw an opportunity to throw off the Soviet yoke and were only too eager to work with Germans, no matter what the task.

The Germans quickly invaded and occupied Latvia, and Cukurs became a member of the notorious Arajs Kommando, or the Latvian Auxiliary Police, which answered to the intelligence arm of the Nazi SS. The Arajs Kommando was one of the more notorious killing units during the Holocaust and was responsible for many war crimes in Latvia.

Cukurs volunteered to serve as deputy commander of the Arajs Kommando, which actively participated in the murder of at least 30,000 Jews in Latvia and many thousands more in neighboring Belarus.

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Brazilian surfer catches, rides 100-foot wave

Carlos Burle rides 100 foot wave

A Brazilian surfer, taking advantage of conditions created by a violent storm that ravaged Europe, caught and rode a wave estimated to have been a staggering 100 feet high earlier this week.

Carlos Burle, 45, took on the monster swell Monday at Praia do Norte, near the fishing village of Nazare, Portugal.

It is believed to be the biggest wave ever ridden, and easily tops the previous record, a 78-foot wave ridden by Hawaiian Garrett McNamara at the same location in 2011.

The day had plenty of excitement: Earlier Burle was surfing with fellow Brazilian Maya Gabeira when she was knocked unconscious by the strong waves and nearly drowned.

Gabeira was dragged onto shore and given medical attention on the beach before being taken to hospital. She sustained a broken ankle, according to The Telegraph.

“It was luck. We never know when we will be catching the wave. I still hadn’t surfed any wave and everyone had already had their rides. Maya almost died,” Burle told Surfer Today. “For me, it was a big adrenaline moment to get back there after what happened.”

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Where not to get a vacation timeshare

golden lancehead

Thirty miles off the coast of Brazil and less than 100 miles from São Paulo, one of the world’s largest and most congested cities, lies a 110-acre subtropical island called Ilha de Queimada Grande. Sounds perfect for an idyllic retreat, right?

No, not in this case. Ilha de Queimada Grande has a population of exactly zero. That would be because the Brazilian Navy prohibits anyone from landing on the island.

Even fans of limited government would have to agree that the reason is a good one: Ilha de Queimada Grande is literally infested with one of most venomous species of snakes known to man, the golden lancehead.

How infested, you ask? To the tune of one golden lancehead per square meter. For those of you who struggle with the metric system, that’s roughly one bad snake every 3-1/2 feet.

Some researchers have estimated that as many as five golden lancehead per square meter can be found on Ilha de Queimada Grande, according to Atlas Obscura. (The island, also known colloquially in English as Snake Island, is covered with jungle, hence the high density as the vipers  inhabit trees and the island floor.)

The lancehead genus of snakes is responsible for 90 percent of Brazilian snakebite-related fatalities.

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Cotton prices drops as projections rise

Global cotton production for the coming year is expected to drop 4 percent, according to estimates by the US Department of Agriculture.

The projected decline is attributed to a significant reduction in Brazil, where the crop for the 2012-13 year is expected to fall by fully one-third.

Record soybean and corn prices, disease outbreak and erratic precipitation are expected to lower the crop in the central Brazilian states of Bahia and Mato Grosso, which together account for more than 80 percent of Brazil’s total annual cotton production, according to Southeast Farm Press.

In the US, production is expected to be slightly more than 17 million bales, which represents a 2 percent increase from the previous month’s USDA estimate and is 11 percent higher than the previous year’s crop, the publication added.

Worldwide, 2012-13 cotton production is estimated at nearly 120 million bales.

Global cotton stocks are expected to be significantly higher this year than last, the USDA also reported.

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Pet tortoise found alive after 30 years in room

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Talk about an atypical missing pet story. Media outlets are reporting that a family in Rio de Janeiro last week found their pet tortoise in a store room in their house – more than 30 years after it went missing.

The red-footed tortoise, named Manuela, disappeared in 1982 and despite a lengthy search could not be found. Her owners, the Almeida family, figured she had crawled off after builders working on the house left the front door open, according to The Telegraph.

But when the family patriarch, Leonel, died earlier this month, the Almeida children began clearing out a second-floor room in the house, an area he had filled with broken electrical items and always kept locked.

Leonel’s son Leandro found Manuela alive inside a box containing an old record player.

“I put the box on the pavement for the rubbish men to collect, and a neighbor said, ‘you’re not throwing out the tortoise as well are you?’” Leandro Almeida told Brazil’s Globo G1 website.

“I looked and saw her,” Leonel added. “At that moment I turned white, I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing.”

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