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Princess of Monaco Is Expecting Twins. Who Will Be the Heir?

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Wikimedia Commons

In 2002, with the middle-aged Prince Albert II of Monaco still a bachelor without an eligible heir (previous children born out of wedlock didn't count), Monaco's parliament amended the constitution to allow royal power to pass from a reigning prince with no descendants to his siblings. Parliament was worried, it seemed, that the Prince would remain unmarried and never father an heir. He tackled the first item with his 2011 marriage to former Olympic swimmer Charlene Wittstock, and now is about to check off the latter, twice over.

Her Serene Highness Princess Charlene is due to give birth to twins later this month—the first twins in the royal family history—giving Monaco not one but two eligible heirs. But although they'll share a birthday, the babies won't have equal claim to the throne. As would have been the case if Kate Middleton had given birth to twins and not just baby George, succession follows a strict seniority rule: Whichever baby is born first is the heir. The royal family of Monaco differs from the British monarchy on some of the specifics, though.

British Commonwealth leaders passed a law in 2011 that allowed women born into the royal family the same right to the throne as men, so even if the first twin born was a girl, she would still be the heir. Monaco, however, has made no such amendment and still abides by male priority. So if the twins turn out to be a girl first and a boy second, he gets bumped above his sister in the succession line. The Prince and Princess have abstained from finding out the babies' sexes, so it's not known if this will come up.

There's also the issue of cesarean section, should it prove necessary.

"The obstetrician will always deliver first the twin that presents itself first when the uterus is opened at the time of cesarean section," Dr. Patrick O'Brien, spokesman for Britain's Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, told the Associated Press. "We don't decide in advance which twin to deliver first."

Either way, two babies means twice as many gunshots. The palace has already announced that when the twins are born 42 cannon shots will sound, instead of the 21 that would boom for a single baby.

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travel
LaGuardia Airport Is Serving Up Personalized Short Stories to Passengers
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In between purchasing a neck pillow and a bag full of snacks, guests flying out of the Marine Air Terminal at New York City's LaGuardia Airport can now order up an impromptu short story. As Hyperallergic reports, Landing Pages is an art project that connects writers to travelers looking for short fiction written in the time it takes to reach their destination.

The kiosk was set up as part of the ArtPort Residency, a new collaboration between the Queens Council on the Arts and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which sponsors different art projects at the Marine Air Terminal for a few months at a time.

Artists Lexie Smith and Gideon Jacobs set up the inaugural project at the terminal earlier this month. To request a story from Landing Pages, travelers can visit the kiosk and leave their flight number and contact information. While the passenger is in the air, Smith and Jacobs churn out a custom story, in the form of poetry, illustration, or prose, from their airport terminal workspace and send it out in time for it to reach the reader's phone before he or she lands.

The word count depends on the duration of the flight, and the subject matter often touches upon themes of travel and adventure. As Smith and Jacobs continue their residency through June 30, the pieces they complete will be made available at Landingpages.nyc and in hard copy form at the airport kiosk.

Landing Pages isn't the first airport service to offer à la carte short stories. In 2011, a French startup debuted its short story-dispensing vending machine at Paris's Charles de Gaulle Airport. Those stories come in three categories—one-minute, three-minute, and five-minute reads—and are printed out immediately so travelers can read them during their flight.

[h/t Hyperallergic]

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Big Questions
Why Do Cats 'Blep'?
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As pet owners are well aware, cats are inscrutable creatures. They hiss at bare walls. They invite petting and then answer with scratching ingratitude. Their eyes are wandering globes of murky motivations.

Sometimes, you may catch your cat staring off into the abyss with his or her tongue lolling out of their mouth. This cartoonish expression, which is atypical of a cat’s normally regal air, has been identified as a “blep” by internet cat photo connoisseurs. An example:

Cunning as they are, cats probably don’t have the self-awareness to realize how charming this is. So why do cats really blep?

In a piece for Inverse, cat consultant Amy Shojai expressed the belief that a blep could be associated with the Flehmen response, which describes the act of a cat “smelling” their environment with their tongue. As a cat pants with his or her mouth open, pheromones are collected and passed along to the vomeronasal organ on the roof of their mouth. This typically happens when cats want to learn more about other cats or intriguing scents, like your dirty socks.

While the Flehmen response might precede a blep, it is not precisely a blep. That involves the cat’s mouth being closed while the tongue hangs out listlessly.

Ingrid Johnson, a certified cat behavior consultant through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and the owner of Fundamentally Feline, tells Mental Floss that cat bleps may have several other plausible explanations. “It’s likely they don’t feel it or even realize they’re doing it,” she says. “One reason for that might be that they’re on medication that causes relaxation. Something for anxiety or stress or a muscle relaxer would do it.”

A photo of a cat sticking its tongue out
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If the cat isn’t sedated and unfurling their tongue because they’re high, then it’s possible that an anatomic cause is behind a blep: Johnson says she’s seen several cats display their tongues after having teeth extracted for health reasons. “Canine teeth help keep the tongue in place, so this would be a more common behavior for cats missing teeth, particularly on the bottom.”

A blep might even be breed-specific. Persians, which have been bred to have flat faces, might dangle their tongues because they lack the real estate to store it. “I see it a lot with Persians because there’s just no room to tuck it back in,” Johnson says. A cat may also simply have a Gene Simmons-sized tongue that gets caught on their incisors during a grooming session, leading to repeated bleps.

Whatever the origin, bleps are generally no cause for concern unless they’re doing it on a regular basis. That could be sign of an oral problem with their gums or teeth, prompting an evaluation by a veterinarian. Otherwise, a blep can either be admired—or retracted with a gentle prod of the tongue (provided your cat puts up with that kind of nonsense). “They might put up with touching their tongue, or they may bite or swipe at you,” Johnson says. “It depends on the temperament of the cat.” Considering the possible wrath involved, it may be best to let them blep in peace.

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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