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Ever Wanted to Own a Wild West Town? Here’s Your Chance!

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  • It’d be an expensive impulse purchase, but it just might pay for itself…

Imagine you’re reading the morning newspaper and you hit the classifieds section. Or if you’re too modern for that, maybe you’re on Craigslist. Suddenly, you notice a strange ad. A Wild West town for sale, lightly used, comes with a saloon.

Alright, that’s an exaggeration, but it’s not too far from reality. For the meager price of $7.5 million you could become the owner of Mellonsfolly Ranch, a Wild West resort town that recently went up for sale in New Zealand.

The town features ten period-appropriate buildings, such as a hotel, one private residence, two rental homes that can house up to 22 people, a courthouse that doubles as a movie theater, a sheriff’s office and – as the finest feather in this proverbial headdress – a fully licensed saloon, CNBC writes.

Additionally, the resort hosts a burgeoning Manuka honey business that in 2019 produced 15.5 tons of honey. Doesn’t sound like a bad deal at all.

 

A New Zealand Cowboy

Mellonsfolly Ranch opened in 2006 on a 900-acre plot near the town of Raetihi on New Zealand’s North Island. The concept is the brainchild of cowboy enthusiast John Bedogni, who built it as a tribute to a 1860s Wyoming frontier town.

Rob Bartley, the current owner, bought the town off of Bedogni in 2012 for NZ$8 million ($5 million). He told Bloomberg that Bedogni originally built the town for his friends and to host private events.

“Obviously, he is very much a cowboy enthusiast. The whole town was drawn by him, and every inch of it is genuine,” he said.

Construction of the cowboy town started in 2002 and finished in 2006. The resort is filled with objects and doodads that Bedogni and his wife brought with them from their expeditions to the U.S.

There are many ways for guests to get to Mellonsfolly. The town is a six-hour drive away from Auckland, one of the North Island’s largest cities. The Wahanganui airport is some 80 miles away, and the resort also boasts a helipad.

They probably didn’t have those in the 1860s, but maybe this one slip from authenticity can be forgiven.

“On a typical weekend, people arrive – we encourage them to bring cowboy clothing, but we also have a costume department – and then we give them a town tour. Next we strap holsters on everyone and give them a gun. Everyone grows about six inches when they put that gun on,” Bartley chuckles.

Just to point it out, the guns are not real. They aren’t loaded with bullets, but pulling the trigger does produce a shot-like sound.

If the guests want to get their hands on a real revolver, though, it is a possibility. A day at the ranch is filled with all kinds of activities to fulfil your cowboy fantasy, from horse riding and wilderness tours to clay pigeon shooting and archery.

In the evening, the saloon hosts music and card games, and at every night at 9 o’clock the staff – dressed in authentic Western costumes, of course – fires a big cannon. On Sundays, the six-person staff serves the guests a huge breakfast before they’re corralled back into the modern world.

 

From One Owner to the Next

Unfortunately for the original owner, Bartley says Bedogni suffered a personal tragedy that caused him to lose interest in his cowboy town. “That’s when I got involved,” Bartley says.

According to Bartley, the town is currently being used as a boutique hotel, with nightly rent rates for the entire town starting at $5,000. “It’s not over the top. We should charge more,” muses Bartley.

Add to that the honey business, and owning the ranch starts sounding pretty tempting.

The resort remains popular, too. Bartley says that Mellonsfolly hosts roughly an event per month. “It’s as busy as we want it to be. We’re quite selective about what we do and who we do it for, because it’s quite a special place,” he says.

The town has hosted weddings, corporate retreats and family meetings, and Bartley says that there are some cowboy fanatics who come back “all the time”. And the guests seem to love it, seeing how the ranch has nothing but five-out-of-five star reviews on Tripadvisor.

“There’s a lot of money here. Especially with China coming back, now they’re paying big money for it, says Bartley.

But if the ranch is so lucrative, why is Bartley selling it off? Sadly, he says that the health issues that he’s dealing with are making it hard for him to keep running the place.

“I’m certainly sad to be selling it. My family doesn’t really want to sell it, but we’ve got so many other business interests. I’ve got to make some decisions,” he told Bloomberg.

So, if you’re a die-hard cowboy fan or just have several million dollars burning a hole through your pocket, now’s the time throw on your Stetson, slap spurs on your boots and mosey on down to New Zealand.

When the next time you’re going to see a Wild West town for sale, anyway?

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Dutch Cops Arrest Six After Discovery Of Horrifying Torture Chamber

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  • We all would’ve been better off without this particular horror story coming to life

We’ve covered events that resembled famous movie scenes before. This is one more of those, but this time the genre has switched to horror.

On July 7, Dutch police officers raiding a criminal gang’s hideout made a bloodcurdling discovery. The gang had constructed a torture chamber that could just as well have been a set for one of the ultraviolent Saw films.

The police discovered seven shipping containers in a warehouse used by the gang in the town of Wouwse Plantage in southern Netherlands. The criminals had converted six of the containers into makeshift prison cells, according to the Dutch Public Prosecution Service.

Each container’s walls were lined with heat-insulating foil and sound-proof plates to muffle the intended victims’ screams. Metal handcuffs had been attached to the walls, floor and ceiling, and a single chemical toilet was the only furnishing.

The gang had fitted the containers with cameras to keep an eye on their would-be prisoners. Additionally, sets of police clothing, bulletproof vests and flashlights laid on the floor of one of the containers.

The Heart of Darkness

But the true horror of the gang’s intentions became clear only when the police entered the seventh container.

In it, they found a dental chair with handcuffs and straps to keep the victim’s limbs in place. In addition to the chair, the container held a sickening collection of implements of torture.

“The police found pruning shears, loppers, branch saws, scalpels, pliers, extra handcuffs, finger cuffs, tape, balaclavas and black cotton bags that could be pulled over the victim’s head,” the Public Prosecution Service said in a statement.

“The objects were presumably intended to torture or at least put pressure on victims.”

Adjacent to the torture chamber, the gang had built a sitting and sleeping area. The police suspect its purpose was to allow guards and torturers to stay in the warehouse longer and reduce suspicious traffic.

The warehouse also housed a weapons cache, with seven small firearms and a Chinese variant of the Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifle. In investigations related to the torture chamber, the police found 17 more firearms and more than 50 pounds of the drug MDMA.

Six people have been arrested over the discovery of the torture chamber. Their impressively long list of suspected crimes includes “preparation for kidnapping, taking hostages, serious abuse and extortion, participation in a criminal organization, and possessions of illegal weapons”.

Covering Two Bases

The Dutch police got onto the gang’s tracks in April, when they arrested a 40-year-old man from The Hague. The man was involved in drug trafficking, and investigations into his finances revealed that he used a warehouse in Wouwse Plantage.

The police immediately put the warehouse they had found out about under surveillance. Since mid-April, they observed men working on the seven cargo containers on a nearly daily basis.

They also found out about a second warehouse the gang was using near the city of Rotterdam. Several of the people spotted in Wouwse Plantage were also seen there.

“The second warehouse seemed to serve as the base for the criminal abduction team, housing fast cars, weapons and bullet-proof vests,” said the Prosecution Service.

Hacking the Communications

In a separate investigation, the police got access to the encrypted chat network EncroChat. The police intercepted the gang’s messages and at times they could even follow their conversations as they happened.

You can only imagine the cops’ reactions when they read the disturbing messages.

The gang members sent each other pictures of the “treatment room” they were constructing. They talked about kidnapping and torture, and the intricately planned plot to carry out the abductions.

“If I have him on the chair, more will come,” one message read. We probably really don’t want to know what that “more” is.

However, with their meticulous planning the criminals’ ended up sabotaging their own plot. Through the messages the police were able to deduce the identities of the gang’s intended victims.

“They were warned by the police and went into hiding. As a result, and thanks to continuous CCTV surveillance in and near the warehouse, the prepared kidnappings, hostage-taking and other serious violent crimes were prevented,” the Prosecution Service said.

A Criminal Network

The EncroChat service that became a crucial source of evidence and clues in the case is a now-defunct communication network. It operated out of France and at its height had an estimated 60,000 users, according to the BBC.

Accessed through customized Android phones, the system offered encrypted communications with the messages set to self-destruct after being read. It also had a “panic button” that would wipe all data on the user’s device.

Gee, it almost sounds like the thing was tailor-made for shady activities. Wonder why it got shut down.

An international team cracked the system’s encryption in April, said the Independent. The security breach gave law enforcement officials a chance to take peek inside the network.

Surprise, surprise – the cops found out that the secretive messaging service was used by criminals the world round. Matt Horne, deputy director of the UK National Crime Agency, said the “Encrophones” had become a “requirement” in organized crime.

Since the police got access to the network in April, they have made 746 arrests in the UK alone. In addition, they have seized more than $68 million in cash, 77 firearms, 1,800 rounds of ammunition, and more than two metric tons of various drugs.

Now they can add a fully-equipped torture chamber to that list. We can all breathe a sigh of relief that they caught it before it was ever used.

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‘Challenging’ Rescue Operation For Horse Stuck In Mud

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  • It’s said that art imitates reality, but in this case it’s the other way around

Have you ever seen The NeverEnding Story? If you have, then you will remember the horse in the swamp scene. It’s one of the most heartbreaking moments in film history and seeing it as a child scarred many of us for life.

An incident very reminiscent of the infamous clip played out near Bognor Regis on the southern coast of the UK. Only this time, the horse had a happy ending.

On the evening of July 29 a white horse named Millie got herself stuck in deep mud. She’s even the same color as Artax, the horse from the movie. It’s just too uncanny.

Around 6 p.m. that night, the West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service got a call for help from Millie’s owner. According to the owner, Millie was stuck shoulder deep in a muddy pond.

Firefighters from the Bognor Regis Fire Station and officers from the service’s Technical Rescue Unit rushed to Millie’s aid.

The TRU Crew Manager Adrian Kirkpatrick said they arrived to a scene that wasn’t quite as dramatic as the one in the movie. Sure, Millie was stuck but she seemed calm and the owner wasn’t wailing.

“We found Millie standing quite calmly in the water, but she was unable to climb back out again as the bank was so muddy, and quite steep,” Kirkpatrick recounted.

The rescuers began the operation by doing the same thing they do whether dealing with people or animals – talking.

“The first and most important action you can take is to try and talk them in to the side without having to go into the water yourself,” said Kirkpatrick.

“But despite all our reassurances, and those from the owner as well, Millie was having none of it and was unable to climb out on her own.”

Time for Action

And so, the rescuers decided it was time to get down and dirty. Two officers from the team, trained in swift water rescue, geared up and got into the water.

Carefully wading waist-deep through the mud, they reached Milly and fitted her with a harness. But even though they tried several tricks to get her moving, the horse wouldn’t budge.

“It became clear quite quickly that she would need to be lifted out as she wasn’t going anywhere under her own steam,” Kirkpatrick said.

He complimented Millie’s owner for deciding for calling the rescue service.

“The owner was right to give us a call to get Millie out of the water, as we would never advise members of the public to attempt a rescue from water – especially when there is a large animal involved.”

With horse- and manpower having failed, the rescuers decided to rely on machinery. They connected the harness wrapped around Millie to a winch attached to one of the rescue service’s off-road vehicles.

“After lining the bank with some thick plastic sheeting so she wasn’t injured as we hauled her out, we pulled her slowly back up onto dry land,” said Kirkpatrick.

Unlike Atrax in the movie, Millie rose from the mud and laid down on the ground beside the pond. But all was not yet well.

Further Complications

Despite her having gotten out of the water, Millie made no effort to get back on her feet. Could it be that she had been injured by the operation?

Luckily, that was not the case. Kirkpatrick explained that not all horses will happily bounce back onto their feet after such an ordeal.

“Their legs can go to sleep if they’ve been in the water for a prolonged period of time, and sometimes the shock of the situation they find themselves in can all just be too much,” he said.

It wasn’t the rescue service’s first time helping out a horse and they knew just what to do. With great care, they rolled Millie over from laying on one side to the other.

“This did the trick,” Kirkpatrick said. “This was the adrenaline rush she needed to get back up again.”

For all their strength, horses can be surprisingly delicate creatures. Especially their legs are prone to various injuries and ailments. So, a lot could have gone wrong during the operation.

“Horse rescues can be incredibly complex, and this one was no exception,” said Kirkpatrick.

“Thankfully, Millie was none the worse for wear for her ordeal, just a little damp and wet from being in the water.”

Cause for Concern

This particular horse rescue ended well, but it’s one more number in a concerning statistic. Incidents with sick or injured horses in West Sussex – and all of the UK – have gone up during the coronavirus pandemic.

Between March and May 2020, West Sussex alone had 32 such cases, reported Spirit FM. While Millie ended up stuck by accident, a lot of the other cases have sadly involved intentionally abandoned horses.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) said that equine welfare charities were already under immense strain. A lot of horses were taken in to different charities some ten years ago due to the 2008 market crash.

Now, with the coronavirus cutting into horse owners profits, cases have increased again. Charities are buckling under the increased number of cases and the financial strain they cause.

Those of our readers wanting to help save UK horses from the impacts of coronavirus can make a donation to the RSPCA.

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Kanye’s Running for President and His Platform Is What You’d Expect

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  • Kanye announced his bid for the presidency on the Fourth of July via Twitter.
  • Elon Musk and Kim Kardashian-West tweeted out their support soon after.

On July 4th, Kanye tweeted, “We must now realize the promise of America by trusting God, unifying our vision and building our future. I am running for president of the United States!” garnering 1.2 million likes. At this point in 2020, why not? Elon Musk and Kim Kardashian-West tweeted out their support. But the general response from political pundits and others was one of skepticism and indifference. 

Photo by Morning Brew on Unsplash

At most, those following the 2020 campaigns seem to feel, he’ll split the vote and give the Trump campaign a boost in its re-election bid. But in this bizarro-world we’re inhabiting with a worldwide pandemic, protests, and rampant natural disasters, doesn’t it seem like Kanye could win? 

 

At least, he stands as much of a chance as the last person to run without political experience. He’s also pretty open about his shortcoming as a political candidate, as revealed during a four-hour interview with Forbes. The entire thing is worth a read, but let’s go over a few of the highlights. 

The Kanye Campaign, in Brief

Photo by Srikanta H. U on Unsplash

“I haven’t done enough research on that,” he said about taxes. I mean, none of us have, otherwise why would filing your taxes every year induce a flop-sweat panic. It’s complicated, and you have to believe that Kanye isn’t a fan of the tax-the-rich model. He’s open to the advice of “the strongest experts that serve God.”

 

“I’m gonna use the framework of Wakanda right now,” to manage the White House, which sure, why not? Worked well in Black Panther. He goes on, “we’re going to work, innovate, together.” 

 

“I don’t know if I’d use the word policy for the way I would approach things,” he replied when asked about his platform regarding foreign policy. He made some comparisons to designing with Nike and Louis Vuitton. But maybe that’s just a semantic difference? Design foreign strategies? Sure. 

 

“They want to put chips inside of us, they want to do all kinds of things, to make it where we can’t cross the gates of heaven,” sums up Kanye’s feelings on vaccines, right after he called them the “mark of the beast.” Which isn’t exactly the attitude you want from your president during a pandemic desperate for a vaccine so we can all go to Buffalo Wild Wings or wherever. 

 

The interview also revealed that Kanye had COVID-19 back in February. His campaign slogan is “YES,” but he’s missed the deadlines in several states to get on the ballot for the fall, and his window of opportunity in the rest of the country is closing, so maybe no? He’s not worried, “God just gave me the clarity and said it’s time… I’m not crazy.”

 

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