Taiwan drought, gas hack, UK hugs, Oz mice plague, “centibutt” sea worm

May 19, 2021 Episode 47

Taiwan needs rain, US gas ransom hack explained, UK trade stiff-upper-lip for hugs, Australia overrun by mice, many-butted worm

Episode Transcript

00.00 OPENING STING – LEELA: “New, new, newsy – Newsy Pooloozi!”




LEELA: Hello and welcome Newsy Pooloozi – a podcast the New York Times likes to call a “variety news show!” I’m your host, Leela Sivasankar Prickitt and, as ever, I’m joined by my producer, sound effects finder and Mama.


MAMA: Howdy, y’all. I’m Lyndee Prickitt.


LEELA: She’s from Texas, “y’allll.”


This week we have a packed episode on Newsy Pooloozi.


Bet you didn’t know that the wonderful island nation of Taiwan was in the middle of a seriously bad drought?


You’ve heard talk of a “dark” and gasey “ransom hack” – but do you really know what it all means?


Despite their legendary “stiff upper lip,” Brits are on a mission… to hug – after spending months locked down.


And as if a global pandemic weren’t bad enough – poor Australia has a plague of mice to deal with.


Finally, forget about centipedes and their many legs… we’ll tell you about a creepy sea creature with many – well, you’ll just have to listen to the “end” of the podcast to get to the “bottom” of this story!


But first it’s time for…


BIG NEWS STORY STING – VARIOUS VOICES: “The big news story of the week!”


MAMA: So, I think a lot of our listeners know of Taiwan – the Asian nation off the coast of mainland China.


LEELA: Hello! We actually have quite a few listeners FROM Taiwan.


MAMA: Actually, that’s very true.


MAMA/LEELA: Hello, Taiwan! We love you!


MAMA: Alright. But what those listeners, who don’t live in Taiwan, might not know is – that the island nation is suffering from its worst drought in 56 years – that’s over half a century.


LEELA: And this comes just as the country, which was doing so well fighting off the coronavirus, goes into its first lockdown.


MAMA: So let’s go over to our Taiwan correspondent, Yuching Liu for more.


LEELA: Yuching, tell us, how is Taiwan coping right now with this awful drought?


YUCHING: Thanks, Leela.


Right now it’s hard to believe that Taiwan is usually a pretty wet country.




We have two monsoon seasons.




And usually our island gets pounded by rain from three or four typhoons, which is what we call hurricanes in Asia.


But not this year.




The monsoons were weak and not a single typhoon came our way!


Now our rivers and lakes are drying up.


And, more worrying, is that our reservoirs – which are artificial or natural lakes that are supposed to be full of back-up water – are now nearly empty.




It’s so bad, that we only get water in our pipes five days a week right now.


So we have to fill up buckets and bottles for those two days, meaning we have to be super careful about how we use it.




But it’s even worse for our farmers, whose crops are dying.


And for our chip manufacturers.




No – not potato chips!


Computer chips.




Did you know Taiwan makes most of the world’s chips, also called microprocessors, which we have in our phones, microwaves and even our cars?


This drought is really tough on chip manufacturers too.


Good thing they’ve learned how to recycle 86 percent of the water they use!


Especially since rainfall in Taiwan has been decreasing steadily – since the 1960s!


The government has been trying just about everything to keep the water flowing.




They’ve drilled more wells, turned ocean water into drinking water, even sprayed chemicals into the sky to produce more rainclouds.


And, yes, there’s even been special religious ceremonies, hoping to inspire the rain to pour down.


Whatever it may be, I’m happy to say it’s forecast to rain. Let’s hope it rains and gives us a good monsoon season!


In Middle City of Taiwan, Taichung, I’m Yuching Liu, reporting for Newsy Pooloozi.


LEELA: Thanks a lot, Yuching. You’ll be pleased to know I’ve done a rain dance for you and your country, too. Let me know if it works. I’m happy to do more.



MAMA: Now to the story that many of you – especially in the US – may have heard talk of in the last few days but not quite understood what was really happening.


LEELA:  Yeah – some pretty wild words were flying around last week: hackers, ransom, DarkSide, pipeline, gasoline crisis – it sounded like a Hollywood movie.


MAMA: I know, right?


LEELA: But, what is ransom anyway?


MAMA: Ah, that’s when someone steals something important from you and won’t give it back UNLESS you pay a big price.


LEELA: Even though it was yours in the first place?!


MAMA: Yep.


LEELA: That’s just wrong!


MAMA: I know. And it gets even trickier when it’s all happening virtually, as in online.


LEELA: A virtual stick-up?


MAMA:  Tricky, right? Well, here to explain more is Madison Smith, from the all Things Madison podcast, who lives in Atlanta, Georgia – right at the center of the story.


LEELA: Two weeks ago it was a cookie crisis in Atlanta – and now this? Whew – things sure are ramping up where you are, Madison!


MADISON: You said it, Leela! It got pretty crazy here last week – with the gas in my dad’s car going lower and lower and lower. We thought we were gonna have to walk everywhere – not!


So here’s what happened.


The company that delivers gas, or petrol, from the processing plants all the way over in Texas and then up the East Coast to New Jersey – is called Colonial Pipeline, which is headquartered here in Georgia.


Well, last week some nasty thieves decided to hold it up for ransom!


Only this time the robbery was all happening virtually by hackers.


So, you know, “hack” actually means to use your strength to cut through something, like “hack your way through the jungle.”




Only hackers use their brains, not their muscles, to cut through the digital jungle and into other people’s computers, where data, or precious information, is kept.




Well, these hackers infiltrated Colonial’s computer network, stealing almost 100 gigabytes of company data.


So Colonial quickly shut-down a lot of its computing systems – just in case the hackers tried to take EVEN MORE data.


And guess what that meant?


The fuel stopped flowing through the pipelines and soon, we were all panicking about not having enough gas.


Colonial Pipeline is said to have paid a ransom of $5 million dollars, so that it could get on with its business.


Though a lot of experts say, paying the ransom only makes the cyber-gangs want to keep stealing data for money.


But here’s the Hollywood twist.


Not only are hackers supposedly from a gang called “DarkSide,” based all the way over in Russia, but  -get this – seems like they’ve just been hacked too!


Talk about karma!


The question is… by whom?


The US government, the Russian government, other hackers or… are they just pretending to be hacked?


I have a feeling this is going to be a big block-buster movie one day, don’t you think, Leela?


In Atlanta, Georgia, I’m Madison Smith, reporting for Newsy Pooloozi!


LEELA: Whoa… Thanks for that report, Madison. I’d totally go see that movie. I just hope hackers, you know, won’t make it go offline, if you know what I mean.




WORLD WRAP STING – LEELA: “What’s that? I’ll tell you what. That’s the halftime bell! Which means… it’s time to hear what’s making news around the rest of the world. Hold on tight, it’s around the world in 80 seconds.”


MAMA: A massive cyclone, or hurricane, batters the West coast of India already killing some 20 people with many fisherman and oil rig workers missing. The Indian navy has mounted a massive air and sea rescue mission to find them


Move over Perseverance – China’s first-ever Mars rover has landed on the red planet. The Zhurong, which is named after the ancient fire god of Chinese mythology, is likely to roll into action this weekend and will spend at least three months conducting hunting for water ice.


A team of US scientists have developed pasta that looks flat and dull but – as it cooks – springs into fancy 3D shapes. As it takes up less space in boxes, the team hopes the new pasta will be easier on the environment.


A 10-year-old refugee who fled Nigeria and lived in a New York City homeless shelter, Tani Adewumi’s, has just achieved a remarkable title for someone his age: chess master.


The chart-topping pop star Ariana Grande confirmed she’s married her long-time boyfriend, Dalton Gomez,  in a secret wedding ceremony with just twenty of her friends.


And drone footage captures the rare moment when two endangered North Atlantic Right Whales appear to be sharing a hug. We’ve got a link to it on our Facebook page.




LEELA: Thanks for that wippity zippity wrap of what’s making headlines around the world.


MAMA: Well, you heard about the whale hug in the Atlantic Ocean in that wrap, yeah?

Well, the UK is opening back up – for hugs and pubs.


LEELA: It’s opening up for hugs? The British?


MAMA: Yes, even the most reserved country on earth is  embracing the most warm and fuzzy social gesture around – hugs.


It all started when the U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson was giving a press conference about what would and wouldn’t be allowed as the lockdown eased up.


Pubs and restaurants will be allowed to welcome customers inside again and even movie theaters and hotels will reopen, but with limited capacity. And groups of up to 30 people can meet outdoors.


Then he was asked if hugging was allowed and said only if it’s done with ‘care and common sense – in other words, “if the risks are very, very low.”


LEELA: Huhhh… There are loads of people I want to hug.


MAMA: Me too…


LEELA: Hey – let’s ask our English correspondents – who they’re gonna hug first?


MAMA: Excellent idea. Maya Bull and Gwen Rose – who’s it gonna be? And what’s so great about hugging anyway?


GWEN: (not transcribed)


MAYA: (not transcribed)


LEELA: Thanks a lot you guys. I can’t wait for that moment to arrive here in India. My list is loooooong.


MAMA: Me too. Now to a story that’s the other end of the spectrum of warm and fuzzy. In fact it’s probably most people’s nightmare.


LEELA: Oh, yeah. If you’re down under in Australia, well… “The mice are coming, the mice are coming!”


MAMA: Seriously! As if a pandemic weren’t bad enough. A plague of rodents is running wild in Australia. The creepy little things are decimating –


LEELA: That’s a fancy word for totally destroying a large portion of.


MAMA: Decimating crops and even biting people!


LEELA: Yuck!


MAMA: I know. Yehhhh! Well, we have a young but fearless correspondent from the state most effected, New South Wales, who has a few more gruesome details.


LEELA: That would be Ash Rehrl. Ash – what are these scurrying, furry pests up to?!


ASH: They have destroyed a LOT of crops.


And they’ve even snuck their way inside those big silos that store grains.


Not only that, in three towns, the mice even managed to get into local hospitals – where they bit patients!




Even supermarkets are getting overrun by the creepy critters.


Some shop owners have captured around 500 mice a night!


I’m Ash Rehrl in New South Wales for Newsy Pooloozi.


LEELA: Oh, boy – imagine being a shop owner and having to clear out 500 mice a night. Yiiiiick! Thanks a lot, Ash. Sure does sound creeeeeepy.


MAMA: Seriously. And they’re getting into people’s houses too. But it’s not just the yick factor. This plague is causing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage. And authorities are now saying super strong poison is the only thing that can stop this plague.


LEELA: Australia sure does have its share of strange animal tales. And speaking of Australia and “tails!”


LEELA: Move over centipedes – a hundred legs is nothing compared with, what I like to call, the “centibutt.”




ODDBALL STING – VARIOUS VOICES: “Step right up, step right up… Have a go at the lucky dip machine… What’s it gonna be today, eh? An oddball, no doubt!”


LEELA: Ball is not the b-word we’re going for today.




LEELA: I want to talk about butts.


MAMA: Ah, Leela, we’re recording, you know.


LEELA: Yeah, I know. But this is news. Off the coast of Australia, in fact. A land – as we just heard – that’s known for its crazy and sometimes creepy creatures.


MAMA: That’s true.


LEELA: Well, hit the music Mama.




LEELA: This is a story about a very special sea worm that spends most of its life living in a sea sponge.


It’s called a Rami-syllis  multi-cau-data.


And, surprisingly, that spectacular name isn’t the most amazing thing about it.


And neither is the fact that it grows not in a single line, like most worms, but branches out – in many, different directions – kinda like a tree.


Now while “branching bodies” are quite common in plants and fungi, in animals it’s practically unheard of, according to the Australian Academy of Science.


Buuuuut, even that’s not the most extraordinary thing about this creature.


MAMA: Oh,  no.


LEELA: Oh, yes. After years of studying these creepy sea creatures, scientists have just discovered that at the end of each of these branches is… a… butt!


MAMA: A butt? Like a bottom?


LEELA: Uh-huh. Or you could say, an  anus, or I should say ani, which is the word for more than one anus. Now, there’s a fab fact if ever you wanted one!


MAMA: Uh-huhhh.


LEELA: With the help of high-resolution scanners, scientist have recently been able to see – in detail – the worms’ internal anatomy. In other words, their insides and, particularly, their guts!


MAMA: OK, then.


LEELA: Buuttt, there’s more behind this story than the worms’  behinds. The weirdness doesn’t stop at multiple butts, oh, no.


MAMA: Really?


LEELA: Get this – when the worms are ready to reproduce, their bottoms can grow eyes and a brain!


MAMA: Oh, brother.


LEELA:  Which then detaches from the rest of the body and swims off to date, mate and die.


MAMA: Are you finished?


LEELA: Oh, no, Mama. Turns out this story with many ani has no real “end.”


MAMA: (coughs uncomfortably!)


LEELA: There’s still a mystery to be solved. When they analyzed all the intestines – you know, where the poo, I mean, waste, is supposed to come out – they were empty!  So, scientists are still trying to get to the bottom of it.


FAB FACTS STING – LEELA: “And it’s time to wrap up the podcast with the top five fab facts heard today. Here goes…”


MAMA: FAB FACT NUMBER 1 – The Asian island nation of Taiwan is experiencing its worst drought in 56 years. Which is odd, since it’s usually quite a wet country that has how many monsoons and typhoons?

Taiwan has two monsoon seasons and usually gets pounded by rain from 3-4 typhoons every year.


LEELA: FAB FACT NUMBER 2 – More worrying is that Taiwan’s reservoirs are nearly empty. What’s a reservoir?

A reservoir is natural lake or human-made lake that is usually full of water to be used if it doesn’t rain enough.


MAMA: FAB FACT NUMBER 3 – Colonial Pipeline, a company that runs gasoline, or fuel, across the Eastern part of the United States, was recently hacked by a cyber gang who held its data up for ransom. What’s ransom?

That’s when someone steals something important from you and won’t give it back until you pay a big price.


LEELA: FAB FACT NUMBER 4 – A plague of rodents is running wild in Australia, decimating farmland, overrunning shops and even biting people. What’s decimated mean?

That’s a fancy word for totally destroying a large portion of something.


MAMA: FAB FACT NUMBER 5 – Also in Australia, scientists have discovered that a marine worm

that branches out into different segments, like a tree, also has an anus or butt, on each of those segments. So what’s the word for more than one anus?

Ani, naturally. (We like to call this worm, the cenit-butt.)


LEELA: And that almost brings us to the end of this episode of Newsy Pooloozi!!!!!


But first we want to say THANK YOU so much for those of you leaving us reviews.


MAMA: This from Blemeric who writes in iTunes US – “News is for kids too. It’s about curiosity – A fun show that helps kids learn about what’s going on in a language they can understand. Help feed their need to learn and connect with what’s happening in the world.”


LEELA: Whew! Thank you!


MAMA: And then another one, from a “Prickitt fan,” who writes: “This gets better every week. Just listened to Newsy Pooloozi – definitely the best part of my day. Was feeling in a funk and it was just so much fun. Thank you, thank you.”


LEELA: No, no – thank you! And Olivia Lily Mitchell writes, “I love this podcast so much!” Whahoo!




If you enjoyed this dip…. in the whirlpool of news and information… then do subscribe to our podcast on…  Apple Podcast, Stitcher, Spotify, Alexa or wherever you get your podcasts.


While you’re at it… Give us a good rating. Or better still, leave us a review and you might be mentioned too.


See you next week in the Newsy Pooloozi!