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Watercooler Ammo: Is Karr the killer?

Remember how we said that August 16 was an excellent day for arresting murderers?

We swear, we didn't have any inside information.

Although, now that we look at the facts, we should have known something was up three years ago, when two judges declared that JonBenet Ramsey was probably killed by an intruder, and -- more significantly, perhaps -- scientists sequenced crime-scene DNA belonging to an "unknown male."

Now investigators have to figure out whether John Mark Karr's confession to Thai officials is real, or whether he's a sicko of a different kind -- a pedophile who became so obsessed with the case that he wanted to be a part of it. So far, here's what we can turn up to suggest that Karr is faking:

  • His ex-wife, Laura, told a TV reporter that she spent the entire 1996 Christmas season with her then-husband at home in Alabama. (JonBenet was killed the day after Christmas.) She also said that Karr was obsessed with the case and had researched it intensively, which could be evidence either way.
  • Karr also may have spent time that Christmas with his brother, who was living in Georgia at the time. JonBenet, of course, was killed in Boulder, Colorado.
  • Some details from the murder scene suggest the killer had inside information on the family. (For instance, the ransom note -- which we've posted after the jump -- demands $118,000, which is roughly the amount of John Ramsey's Christmas bonus from that year.) It's unclear how, or even if, Karr knew the Ramseys.

Picture 12.pngOn the other hand, if Karr does turn out to be the "Real Killer," investigators have two ways of proving it -- a DNA match, or, according to this article, seeing just how much their suspect knows:

"There are a lot of facts about her actual death that the public does not know," [author Lawrence] Schiller said. "If he did confess to some facts of the murder, to reveal those facts of the case, that would finish the puzzle." Among the facts he said were not generally known was the murder weapon and what the killer did with it.

They'll probably also want to see if Karr's handwriting resembles the garbled ransom note left at the scene. After the jump, we've reprinted it -- or you can check out the Smoking Gun's collection of case documents, a huge story from the Observer about detectives trying to crack the case (written just two months ago), and Karr's genuinely creepy teaching resume.

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Animals
Why Tiny 'Hedgehog Highways' Are Popping Up Around London
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Hedgehogs as pets have gained popularity in recent years, but in many parts of the world, they're still wild animals. That includes London, where close to a million of the creatures roam streets, parks, and gardens, seeking out wood and vegetation to take refuge in. Now, Atlas Obscura reports that animal activists are transforming the city into a more hospitable environment for hedgehogs.

Barnes Hedgehogs, a group founded by Michel Birkenwald in the London neighborhood of Barnes four years ago, is responsible for drilling tiny "hedgehog highways" through walls around London. The passages are just wide enough for the animals to climb through, making it easier for them to travel from one green space to the next.

London's wild hedgehog population has seen a sharp decline in recent decades. Though it's hard to pin down accurate numbers for the elusive animals, surveys have shown that the British population has dwindled by tens of millions since the 1950s. This is due to factors like human development and habitat destruction by farmers who aren't fond of the unattractive shrubs, hedges, and dead wood that hedgehogs use as their homes.

When such environments are left to grow, they can still be hard for hedgehogs to access. Carving hedgehog highways through the stone partitions and wooden fences bordering parks and gardens is one way Barnes Hedgehogs is making life in the big city a little easier for its most prickly residents.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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Big Questions
Where Should You Place the Apostrophe in President's Day?
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Happy Presidents’ Day! Or is it President’s Day? Or Presidents Day? What you call the national holiday depends on where you are, who you’re honoring, and how you think we’re celebrating.

Saying "President’s Day" infers that the day belongs to a singular president, such as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays are the basis for the holiday. On the other hand, referring to it as "Presidents’ Day" means that the day belongs to all of the presidents—that it’s their day collectively. Finally, calling the day "Presidents Day"—plural with no apostrophe—would indicate that we’re honoring all POTUSes past and present (yes, even Andrew Johnson), but that no one president actually owns the day.

You would think that in the nearly 140 years since "Washington’s Birthday" was declared a holiday in 1879, someone would have officially declared a way to spell the day. But in fact, even the White House itself hasn’t chosen a single variation for its style guide. They spelled it “President’s Day” here and “Presidents’ Day” here.


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Maybe that indecision comes from the fact that Presidents Day isn’t even a federal holiday. The federal holiday is technically still called “Washington’s Birthday,” and states can choose to call it whatever they want. Some states, like Iowa, don’t officially acknowledge the day at all. And the location of the punctuation mark is a moot point when individual states choose to call it something else entirely, like “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day” in Arkansas, or “Birthdays of George Washington/Thomas Jefferson” in Alabama. (Alabama loves to split birthday celebrations, by the way; the third Monday in January celebrates both Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert E. Lee.)

You can look to official grammar sources to declare the right way, but even they don’t agree. The AP Stylebook prefers “Presidents Day,” while Chicago Style uses “Presidents’ Day.”

The bottom line: There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. Go with what feels right. And even then, if you’re in one of those states that has chosen to spell it “President’s Day”—Washington, for example—and you use one of the grammar book stylings instead, you’re still technically wrong.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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