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Dozens of two-pound giant African snails seized at Los Angeles airport

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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – U.S. customs inspectors at Los Angeles International Airport seized a shipment of several dozen live giant African snails, considered a delicacy in Nigeria but also voracious pests that can eat paint and stucco off houses, officials said on Monday.

Weighing nearly 2 pounds (0.9 kg) each, including their shells, and measuring about 6 inches (15 cm) in length, the 67 snails arrived from Lagos, Nigeria, in two plastic baskets with paperwork describing them as being for human consumption, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency said.

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The mollusks appeared to be packaged as a personal shipment and were marked as destined for an address in San Dimas, California, about 30 miles (48 km) east of Los Angeles, agency spokeswoman Lee Harty said.

No attempt was made to conceal or smuggle the snails, the largest such shipment ever seized at LAX, she said. But the creatures are prohibited from entry because they are deemed a highly invasive pest that pose a serious threat to U.S. agriculture, the environment and public health, the agency said.

According to Customs and Border Protection, the giant snails can consume more than 500 types of plants, and will even munch on the exterior of homes if fruits and vegetables are not available. They also can carry several parasites harmful to humans, including one that can lead to meningitis, Harty said.

After they were intercepted by customs officials at the airport on July 1, specimens were sent to a local U.S. Department of Agriculture lab and then on to USDA mollusk specialists in Washington for further examination.

Experts identified the creatures as belonging to the giant African snail species, known by the scientific name Archachatina marginata. They also are commonly referred to as giant African land snails, West African snails, West African land snails or banana rasp snails.

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Each of the mollusks, with striated brownish-orange shells, can easily fill the palm of a person’s hand. They can grow up to 8 inches (20 cm) in length and may live up to 10 years in the wild, experts say.

The entire collection confiscated at the airport was eventually turned over to the USDA, which disposed of the snails through incineration, although no garlic or butter was used, Harty said.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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[Image via Wikipedia Commons]


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No vaccine, no carnival, Rio’s samba schools warn

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Some of Rio's biggest samba schools say they will not participate in next year's Carnival unless a coronavirus vaccine is widely available, Brazilian media reported Tuesday.

Five of the 12 top samba schools, including Mangueira and Beija Flor, told Brazil's O Globo newspaper they would vote to postpone the parades at a meeting set for Tuesday.

"It's simple. If there's no vaccine, there will be no samba," said the head of the Sao Clemente school, Renatinho Gomes.

"How can you gather crowds without collective immunity?"

The mayor of the northwestern city of Salvador de Bahia, where festivities also attract thousands of tourists, has proposed postponing the carnival season nationwide until April or June.

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New York couple point guns at Black Lives Matter protesters marching past their house

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A New York couple pointed guns at protesters marching past their house during a Black Lives Matter rally, and activists want them to be charged.

Protesters were nearing the end of their parade route when a white man came out of his home shouting obscenities in an apparent attempt to incite the group, and then yelled to his wife to get his gun, reported WNYT-TV.

Hudson Mayor Kamal Johnson, who took part in the march, said the woman came back outside and started waving the gun around.

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Australian columnist aghast at America’s ‘rotten’ COVID-19 response: ‘We are witnessing the fall of a great power’

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A columnist for an Australian newspaper has been watching the United States' response to the novel coronavirus with a mix of shock and horror -- and he now believes "we are witnessing the fall of a great power."

Crispin Hull, an editor and columnist for The Canberra Times, argues in his latest column that President Donald Trump's disastrous handling of the pandemic is symbolic of deep rot within the American political system.

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