10 Essential News Stories That Mattered This Week (11/15/19)

In today’s hyperfast political environment, keeping on top of the news can seem a Herculean task. So why not let us do the hard work for you? Every Friday, Listverse rounds up the most essential stories from the week, from the world-changing, to the shocking, to the inspiring.

After a six month hiatus, Morris M. returns to guide you through the miasma of media noise in search of the elusive beast we call “news”. This week – in our first retitled reboot of the sorely-missed “Mind-Blowing Things that Happened this Week” column – we’re journeying to Bolivia to watch the president flee into exile; wading into the Hong Kong protests to try and make sense of it all; and checking in on the UK as windbag of the people Nigel Farage does a deal with the devil. Strap yourselves in for a bumpy ride.

10 Bolivia’s President Fled into Exile

Not so long ago, Evo Morales was an international darling. Bolivia’s first indigenous president, he came to power on a wave of popular support, then used his constitutionally-mandated two terms to improve the lives of his nation’s poorest.

Then Morales’ second term ended and he decided he wanted another. And another. Following a constitutional amendment in 2016, Morales finally ran for his fourth term this year. When he was declared victor following widespread voting irregularities, Bolivians decided they’d had enough. The streets exploded in weeks of protests and rioting that only ended when Morales resigned on Sunday. He has since fled into exile in Mexico, along with most of his cabinet.

In the aftermath of Morales’ flight, opposition senator Jeanine Áñez has assumed the presidency, becoming Bolivia’s first female leader. She now has 90 days to call fresh elections. Quite what shape the post-Morales years will take will be the burning question hovering over the ballot box.[1]

9 Brazil’s Former President was Released from Jail

Sticking south of the border for a moment, the weekend also saw another major story involving a Latin American leader. But while the news for Morales was 100 percent bad, the news for Brazil’s ex-president Lula was nearly all good. After being jailed for 12 years some 18 months ago on corruption charges, the leftist firebrand was freed on Friday following a Supreme Court ruling (LINK 2).

The jailing of Lula was a massive turning point in modern Brazilian history. At the point judge Sérgio Moro slammed his gavel down, Lula was preparing for a presidential run, and was the firm favorite to win. Instead, he was locked away, and rightwing populist Jair Bolsonaro was given a clear run at the presidency. The fact that Bolsonaro subsequently made judge Moro his justice minister meant it was all sorts of easy for Lula’s lawyers to argue his conviction was political. Hence his now being a free man.

The re-emergence of Lula throws Brazilian politics into a spin. Although other charges are still pending against him, he’s perhaps the only figure on the left with a popular movement to equal Bolsonaro’s rightist one. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.[2]

8 Chile’s Violent Protests Continued

On October 14, a fare hike for the Santiago metro in Chile exploded into nationwide protests against inequality and pampered elites. When the protestors refused to disperse after the fare rise was reversed, the police responded with extreme violence. This, in turn, led to widespread riots and the normally-stable nation turning into a very unstable battleground.

This week, the news coming out of Chile just got grimmer and grimmer. A New York Times video report found an “epidemic” of protestors being blinded by police. At the same time, a separate report from Chile’s human rights institute declared that 20 had been killed in the protests so far, and over 2,000 wounded, included 1,000 who’d been shot.

But by far the worst news related to the nearly 300 civilians who claim to have been tortured by the police and military. In Chile, allegations of police torture carry weighty memories of the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, when 40,000 were kidnapped and brutalized by the security forces. Hopefully, we’re not witnessing a return to a much darker time.[3]

7 Spain Held its Second Useless Election in a Year

After three entries in Latin America, it’s time to head north to yet another Spanish-speaking nation (yeah, Brazil doesn’t speak Spanish. No, we’re not letting it affect this otherwise smooth transition). This time, we’re looking at Spain itself, where the country went to the polls on Sunday, following a previous election in April that failed to return a workable government. So people once again voted. And, once again, everyone lost.

Socialist Worker’s Party leader Pedro Sánchez called the election after winning the April vote, but falling short of enough seats to form a government. His calculation had been that voters would give him enough of a boost to propel him across the finishing line. Instead, his party lost three seats for a total of 120, painfully far short of the 176 needed for a majority. Still, it didn’t look too good for his rightwing rivals, either. The conservative People’s Party grabbed 22 extra seats, but still languished in second with a total of 88. About the only party able to celebrate was the far-right Vox which came third with 52 seats, a 28 seat increase.

Sánchez has now signed a coalition agreement with the populist party Unidas Podemos. However, this still leaves him 21 seats short of a majority. The smart money is on Spain having yet another election within a year.[4]

6Venice Drowned

As a city built atop a lagoon, Venice is no stranger to flooding. But there’s regular flooding, and then there’s whatever the heck happened this week. Following atrocious weather on Tuesday, the water level started rising in Venice. By the time it stopped, the waters had risen 187cm, the second worst flood the city has ever experienced.

The result was a city that was basically drowning. Historic plazas were flooded, while centuries’ old buildings sustained heavy damage. Images were broadcast around the world of people forced to walk across precarious wooden walkways to avoid the floodwaters. Despite this, at least two deaths have so far been recorded.

The waters still didn’t reach the heights of the infamous 1966 flood, but they came close. The mayor of the city has blamed climate change for the disaster. If that’s the case, we can probably expect more floods like this in the future.[5]

5 Australia Burned

While Venice sank below the waves, down in the southern hemisphere, Australia watched in horror as flames consumed swathes of the east coast. Over the course of the last week and a bit, huge wildfires ripped through the bush, engulfing suburbs and surrounding isolated towns. As firefighters battled to stop the multiple blazes, some 300 homes were turned to ash, and at least four people killed. The worst part? That the worst is yet to come.

Parts of Australia are currently suffering under a spell of extremely dry weather that has turbocharged the ability of bushfires to spread. On Tuesday, things got so bad that the greater Sydney area was issued with its first “catastrophic” fire warning in history. Unfortunately, with temperatures due to soar again this weekend, its thought the fires could get worse.

As in Venice, many – such as a group of former fire chiefs – have blamed climate change for the current catastrophe. The government of Scott Morrison disagrees.[6]

4 We Spotted a Hyperfast Star Being Ejected from our Galaxy

Ahh, space. Both the final frontier, and a reliable escape from the stream of disasters endlessly afflicting Earth. This week, the major news from the heavens involved scientists detecting a superfast star escaping our galaxy at 1,700km per second (by way of comparison, a bullet might max out at a mere 1.5km per second). But the story of this star wasn’t a peaceful one. It’s current trajectory was the result of an almost unimaginable disaster.

The star, S5-HVS1, is thought to have been part of a binary system that wandered too close to the galactic center. This is an issue, because at the center of the galaxy is a great, big black hole. At some point, S5-HVS1’s partner star was pulled into the black hole, and the force was enough to slingshot S5-HVS1 away at mind-melting speeds.

This is the first proof we’ve ever found of something known as the Hills mechanism, which posits a method by which stars can be ejected from the Milky Way by black holes. As for S5-HVS1 itself, it is now doomed to forever wander the empty spaces between the galaxies until it finally burns itself out.[7]

3 The UK’s Brexit Party Threw the Tories an Election Lifeline

“Brexit party to contest more than 600 seats” blared the headlines on November 4. That day, professional pub bore Nigel Farage eagerly declared that his brand new political party would fight nearly every seat in the upcoming UK general election. In reference to the idea of standing down his prospective MPs to give the Conservative Party a clear run in Leave-voting areas, he declared “What kind of conceited arrogance is this?”

Well, a week is a long time in politics, and breathtaking hypocrisy never dies. On November 11, Farage made a new speech so tonally different that to listen to it was to experience the audio equivalent of whiplash. The Brexit Party would no longer be contesting 317 seats across Britain. The reason? Um… to give the Conservative Party a clear run.

The pact is the result of the wild unpredictability of the UK’s first winter election in decades. Farage clearly sees a Boris Johnson win as the best way to secure a hard Brexit. Still, his decision caused anger in some quarters – not least among some of his own party, who accused him of betrayal.[8]

2 Hong Kong’s Protests Flared Up Again

Since August, 2019, Hong Kong has been in the grip of mass protests originally triggered by an extradition treaty with China and Taiwan, but since grown to encompass a much broader fight for democracy. Since the protests are still ongoing, and since this column has been on hiatus since they began, now seems as good a time as any to cover them.

After months of clashes and destruction of property, the protests in recent weeks have focused on several university campuses, where protestors have built fortifications and effectively taken over the buildings. On Tuesday, the Chinese University of Hong Kong was the site of the worst violence since the protests began with police unleashing a hail of over 1,500 tear gas cannisters. For their part, the protestors are reported to be stocking up on petrol bombs. In China, state media has taken to warning Hong Kong that it’s on “the edge of doom”.

With the violence showing no signs of abating, many expats and international students are now fleeing the territory. At the same time, the economy is reportedly taking a battering as tourists stay away.[9]

1 The First Day of Impeachment Hearings Dropped a Bombshell

And so they’ve finally arrived. The first public impeachment proceedings since Bill Clinton sat in the White House. When this column last signed off (under its older, less sexy name), barely any Democrats were willing to even whisper the “I” word in public.

But times change and scandals involving Ukraine explode out of nowhere. So it was that, this Wednesday, the first public hearings of Donald Trump’s impeachment were held. Barely had the cameras begun rolling than the first bombshell was dropped.

During his testimony, former top US diplomat to Ukraine William Taylor declared that one of his aides had overheard a phone conversation between Trump and EU ambassador Gordon Sondland. Reportedly, this involved Trump fretting about Ukraine opening in investigation into Hunter Biden, a quid pro quo the president allegedly demanded in return for restarting military aid. Taylor claims that Sondland subsequently told his aide “President Trump cares more about the investigations of Biden” than Ukraine.

At this stage, every day seems to bring more bad news for Trump, and adds to the whiff of scandal completely engulfing him. While it seems very unlikely the Senate will actually convict him, the emergence of more details like this could damage his reputation. Expect to see more from these hearings in future columns. Ah! It sure is wonderful to be back.[10]

Morris M.

Morris M. is Listverse’s official news human, trawling the depths of the media so you don’t have to. He avoids Facebook and Twitter like the plague.

Top 10 Deadliest Spiders

Deadliest spiders are a subject that you would think we would have covered long ago, but believe it or not, Listverse has never ranked spiders in this way. We have covered deadly snakes and other venomous creatures, but venomous spiders have be long ignored. Until today.

Before we begin let’s just quickly clear up one point of confusion: spiders are (usually) venomous not poisonous. For something to be poisonous it must be harmful through being eaten. To be venomous, a thing must be harmful by injecting venom—via fangs in the bulk of cases with deadly spiders. Now, on with the list!

SEE ALSO: 10 Fascinating Mysteries Involving Spiders

Across the globe, most people can agree that spiders are critters they want nothing to do with. A fear of spiders, otherwise known as arachnophobia, is one of the most widespread fears people have, and there’s a good reason for it.

Most of our fears don’t stem from irrational places; they come from evolving on a dangerous planet. Even though most spiders are harmless to humans, there are several species capable of killing you with a bite or two, and it’s because of these ten that arachnophobia is anything but irrational.

10 Whistling Tarantula—Selenocosmia Crassipes

Selenocosmia Crassipes - whistling TarantulaAustralia has its own species of Tarantulas, some of which are known as whistling or barking tarantulas due to the hissing sound they make when provoked.[1] Their venom is not fatal to humans, but it does pack a punch, thanks to the 1 cm fangs that deliver it. While they don’t pose a fatal risk to adult humans, a bite from one will kill a large dog in under 30 minutes. If they do strike a full-sized adult with full envenomation, you can expect to vomit your guts out for as long as six to eight hours.[2]

Their bites are particularly painful because of the long fangs, and the bite can result in swelling, which can extend from the bite mark to other nearby extremities. A researcher in Queensland was bitten by one in 2010, and they described their experience, “The pain was so intense that sleep that night was impossible. Fifteen hours post-bite, the adjoining finger, and upper hand were also swollen and painful.”[3] While you won’t die if you’re bitten, you should seek immediate medical attention should a bite occur.

9 Yellow Sac Spider—Cheiracanthium Inclusum

Cheiracanthium Inclusum Yellow Sac spider
Yellow Sac Spiders are widely distributed spiders ranging in size from only 3 to 15 mm. You’ve probably seen them numerous times over the years and not given them much thought due to their size, but size rarely matters when it comes to spider bites. A Yellow Sac Spider’s venom contains a cytotoxin, which is a nasty substance that impairs call functions, often leading to cellular death. You will immediately know if one bites, as their bites are incredibly painful.[4]

The good news about a Yellow Sac Spider bite is that it’s not going to kill you.[5] You may wish you were dead when the pain hits, but there have never been any reported deaths. These spiders will aggressively defend their territory, and the last thing you want to do is threaten one of their egg sacs. Their venom does cause limited necrosis of the skin in the area where a bit occurs, which often results in a misdiagnosis of a Brown Recluse bite. Some species of Cheiracanthium’s bite is more severe than others, but the most common are C. inclusum and C. mildei.

8 Brown Recluse Spider—Loxosceles Reclusa

Loxosceles Reclusa Brown recluse spider
The Brown Recluse Spider is one of the most feared spiders in the civilized world due to the nature of its venom. While bites from a Brown Recluse will likely not result in the death of a person, it will cause the death of tissue, as its venom is highly necrotic. Much like a rattlesnake bite, the venom of a Brown Recluse will course through your veins at the site of the bite, resulting in the death of the tissue at the bite location.[6] One of the problems with a bite is that it may not be initially felt, nor will it always be immediately painful. The resulting symptoms can be misidentified as a result.

The severity of the necrosis varies, and not all bites result in tissue death. Only 37% of bites will cause skin tissue to die. A small percentage of people may experience hemolysis — the bursting of red blood vessels.[7] The fear of necrosis is what makes these spiders particularly scary to humans, and they are all over the central and southern United States, though they are rarely aggressive. Untreated bites can result in large portions of skin becoming gangrenous.

7 Redback Spider—Latrodectus Hasseltii

Latrodectus Hasseltii redback spider
The Redback Spider, sometimes called the Australian Black Widow, is often mistaken for a Black Widow thanks to the similar coloring and red mark found on the backs of females. They are highly venomous with a cocktail of different types of neurotoxins that deliver a staggeringly high amount of pain in humans.[8] Fortunately, they don’t often strike with full venomization, preferring to hold back some of their precious venom for prey animals. If a Redback Spider were to deliver its full load in a bite, it would likely result in death.

That being said, there have been no known deaths attributed to these spiders since the invention of its antivenom in 1956. Before that time, a bite could result in death, which would likely be the same today were it not possible to get the antivenom in time. The dangerous symptoms from a bite include nausea, excessive sweating near the bite, muscle weakness, and vomiting. These spiders aren’t particularly shy, and they will strike a person if they feel threatened, which is what happened to one unfortunate Australian man who encountered one while sitting on a toilet.[9]

6 Brown Widow Spider—Latrodectus Geometricus

Latrodectus Geometricus brown widow spider
The Brown Widow Spider is an incredibly dangerous cousin to the more familiar Black Widow. These lovely little beasts carry a particularly dangerous neurotoxin in their venom, which can result in a condition named after the spider’s bite called Latrodectism.[10] The Brown Widow Spider’s venom is more toxic than its famous cousin, but thanks to its stingy nature, it doesn’t completely envenomize humans with a bite.[11] These spiders are particularly shy, and will only bite a person who disturbs them, or if they feel threatened.

That being said, a bite from a Brown Widow spider is going to hurt. A lot. There have been no recorded deaths from their bite, but the pain from a single bite has been described as being hit with something “like a sledgehammer.”[12] The venom will cause immediate pain and muscle contractions, and if left untreated in a particularly sensitive location, the bite can result in spinal or cerebral paralysis. Their distribution has become cosmopolitan, and they are found throughout the developed world.

5 Six-Eyed Sand Spider—Sicarius Hahni

Sicarius Hahni six-eyed sand spider
The Six-Eyed Sand Spider is a relative of Recluse Spiders, though it is only found in the deserts of southern Africa. The spiders are excellent at camouflage thanks to their being covered by tiny hairs called setae.[13] The hairs pick up sand particles to create a sort of ghillie suit it wears as it buries itself under the sand. It sits there, patiently waiting for prey to come along so it can ambush and kill it quickly. These spiders rarely attack humans, but if they do, the bite could be dangerous.

Most bites do not result in envenomation since they prefer to store that for food they can actually eat. That’s a good thing, seeing as their venom contains a cryotoxin capable of destroying tissue and even organs. A bite with full envenomation would likely lead to hemorrhaging followed by liver and kidney failure. Death would come soon after, and there is no antivenom.[14] Fortunately, there are no recorded cases of these shy critters envenoming a bite in humans, but from what we understand of their venom, that’s a good thing.

4 Black Widow Spider—Latrodectus Mactans

Black Widow Spiders are some of the most notorious arachnids on the planet, and their level of danger can be seen in how much they have invaded our popular culture. The term “Black Widow” has been used to describe a woman who kills her husband(s) while Marvel Comics opted to name a deadly assassin after the little buggers. They are found throughout North America, Central America, Africa, and the West Indies, so there’s a good chance one is crawling up your back right now.

National Geographic[15] lists them as the most venomous spider in North America with a venom that is 15 times stronger than a rattlesnake. A bite from a Black Widow will result in a small pricking of the skin, but don’t let the size of the mark fool you; there’s a dangerous amount of venom coursing through your veins, which can cause severe muscle cramping, nausea, and paralysis of the diaphragm, which can result in difficulty breathing.[16] A bite can theoretically kill infants and the elderly, but no recorded cases of this happening are known.

3 Chilean Recluse Spider—Loxosceles Laeta

Brown Recluse spiders are often feared for their necrotizing venom, but they pale in comparison to their Chilean cousins. The Chilean Recluse Spider is considered to be the most dangerous of all the Recluse Spiders, and their bite can cause some serious damage or even death. Fortunately, like most Recluse spiders, they don’t often interact with humans and will only bite if they feel threatened. Their venom contains a dermonecrotic agent,[17] which kills off skin tissue in the area of the bite. When a bite is serious enough, it can cause deadlier issues.

In about 4% of cases, the venom caused a series of failures resulting in death. This can happen if the bite consists of a particularly large amount of venom, or if it hits an area near the heart or kidneys. Renal failure is the most common severe reaction to a bite with full envenomation, but these are incredibly rare. Their venom is 15 times more toxic than some species of cobra, and as much as 10 times more potent than sulfuric acid.[18]

2 Sydney Funnel Web Spider—Atrax Robustus

Atrax Robustus funnel web spider
While Australia may be known for its larger, more toothy animals, there is one spider that stands as the most dangerous of them all in the land down under. The Sydney Funnel Web Spider is listed by Guinness World Records as being the “most venomous”[19] spider in terms of toxicity to humans. While a lethal dose of venom is currently unknown, the spider’s lethality to the crab-earing macaque has been noted as 0.2 milligrams per kilogram. An average venom yield from a male Sydney Funnel Web Spider is 176 milligrams.[20]

The venom of the Sydney Funnel Web Spider is particularly harmful to primates, which includes humans. The venom contains a compound called δ-atracotoxin, which inhibits a primate’s nervous system, and when they bite, they don’t hold anything back. Snakes typically reserve their venom and don’t deliver it all with a strike, but spiders are far less conservative. They issue a full envenomation with a bite, and there have been numerous deaths[21] attributed to the Sydney Funnel Web Spider prior to the creation of an antivenom in 1991.[22][23]

1 Brazilian Wandering Spider—Phoneutria Fera

Phoneutria Fera Brazilian wandering spider

While many of the spiders on this list are dangerous, the one spider most feared around the world is the Brazilian Wandering Spider.[24] They are different from most spiders in that they hunt their prey instead of setting up a trap using webbing, and its prey sometimes includes humans. Granted, it doesn’t bite humans to eat them, but it probably could if it wanted to. They like to hide inside bunches of bananas where they await a passing prey animal . . . or human who attempts to harvest some bananas.

If a bite occurs, death will follow in less than an hour if left untreated. Fortunately, they don’t often envenomize their bites with people, preferring to save it for their actual prey. There are some unusual side effects of Brazilian Wandering Spider bites aside from tachycardia, nausea, blurred vision, hypothermia, and death; males may experience a painful erection, which will last for hours. If the embarrassment doesn’t kill them, not treating the bite certainly will, so if you ever find one of these spiders lurking in some bananas,[25] avoid it at all costs.

About The Author: Jonathan is a graphic artist, illustrator, and writer. He is a Retired Soldier and enjoys researching and writing about history, science, theology, and many other subjects.

10 Real Countries Straight Out Of The Handmaid’s Tale [DISTURBING]

[WARNING: This list contains disturbing images.] The Handmaid’s Tale – the book and the show – has helped return authoritarianism and women’s rights to the public stage, as well as influencing some pretty weird protest attire around the world. It portrays a fictional world named “Gilead” technologically similar to ours, but due to past events, it is now run by a totalitarian theocratic government. Women are subdued and divided among various classes, including the ‘Handmaids’, whose sole purpose is to bear kids for infertile couples.

SEE ALSO: 10 Horrific Acts That Are Legal In Some Countries

The 1985 novel was inspired by many events in history, including the rise of radical Islam in Iran and other parts of the Middle East around that time, persecution of witches in the 17th century, and the resurgence of the Christian right in various parts of the United States in the ’70s and ’80s.

Surprisingly, a lot of that social commentary is still quite relevant today. Many parts of the modern world are as bad – and on occasion much worse – than the fictional world depicted in the show. Here are ten such places.

10 Republic of El Salvador

Lately it’s the United States in the news for its restrictions on abortion laws, though it’s far from being the worst-case scenario. Even if there are some states trying their best to include cases of rape and incest in the ban, it’s still far from becoming a widespread reality.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case in many countries around the world, the most restrictive of them being El Salvador. There has been a total ban on abortion since 1998 without any exceptions, as well as restricted access to contraceptives. Women are regularly sent to jail for homicide charges in cases of abortion, sometimes even in cases of miscarriage.

El Salvador is also one of the worst countries in the world for gender violence. According to some reports, around sixty seven percent of women in El Salvador have experienced violence of some kind.[1]

9 Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo has been going through near-consistent conflict since the Rwandan genocide. While the war among the neighboring nations is largely over, many active rebel groups exist in the region. Because of ethnic tensions, many of those groups actively target rival civilian populations.

The primary target of many of those pogroms are women, who have – owing to the genocidal nature of the conflict—gone through violence ever since the conflict first broke out. Aid workers regularly report cases of forced pregnancies, intentional spreading of STDs, and widespread rape.

The fighters aren’t the only culprits, however. Cases of sexual violence in DR Congo are generally on the rise, too, perpetrated by regular civilians. The country’s lax legal system and ongoing conflict make the situation even more dire for civilians, especially women.[2]

8 Islamic Republic of Iran

The Islamic Revolution in Iran and how it affected women’s rights in the post-revolution era massively influenced the novel, as Atwood would have been in the process of working on it when it was happening. Overnight, Iran turned into a theocratic state based on Islamic law. Many freedoms people took for granted were now taken away, though the strictest of the new laws were imposed on women.

For one, capital punishment by stoning was now a prescribed punishment for adultery by law. Scores of people – mostly women – were executed that way till the Iranian authorities decided that maybe it was too much. While it’s no longer recommended by the country’s laws, it remains a possible method of execution in the books. Sexual violence against women is also a big problem in Iran, which is made worse by laws that overwhelmingly favor the male perpetrators.

Iran is also a peculiar country in the way that it also has a growing section of activists pushing back against its most restrictive laws, unlike most other countries on this list. Unfortunately, it remains a totalitarian state, and many of those activists are at risk of being arrested or even tortured.[3]

7 Islamic Republic of Pakistan

Pakistan is usually grouped among the other conflict-ridden Middle Eastern countries in popular imagination, though things are quite different there. It’s actually a functioning democracy, with a culture that’s more South Asian than near or middle Eastern.

However, conditions for civilians in many parts of Pakistan – especially for women – are bad. Even if the laws exist to deal with cases of sexual violence, deeply patriarchal attitudes and a lack of governance in many of its border regions make it rather difficult to live there. Honor killings are a regular part of many rural regions in the country, and sexual violence is rampant-yet-underreported. While women have the right to vote, Pakistan has the lowest female participation in elections across the world.

While none of its other South Asian counterparts – India and Bangladesh – have a particularly stellar record on women’s rights, Pakistan is in an especially terrible situation. A bad economy, near-consistent conflict in the north-western regions, lack of governance across big parts of its territory and rise of radical Islamism in its rural areas have made it one of the worst countries for women.

It’s not all bad, though, as there’s also a growing section of activists and NGOs willing to work for change, particularly in its more urban areas. The systematic patriarchy and dysfunctional legal system, however, make it a rather uphill battle.[4]

6 Malaysia

Malaysia comes across as one of those south-east Asian countries with awesome beaches and a thriving nightlife, and it absolutely is! For the travelers, Malaysia can indeed be quite a destination to check off your bucket list. Unfortunately, it’s also kind of an authoritarian state for its Muslim residents, with overly restrictive laws most of us wouldn’t even have heard of.

In its more Islamic areas, you can’t miss the Friday prayers three weeks in a row, and a violation would send you to jail for six months. Drinking alcohol is punished using a variety of methods depending on the seriousness of the crime, which we’re just assuming is the degree of how drunk the person was. They still have caning as a punishment, and unsurprisingly, many of the caning victims end up being women (two women were caned for making out in a car in 2018).[5]

5 Federative Republic of Brazil

When the average person thinks about Brazil, they imagine party buses and all-night beach festivals. Those who’ve seen their share of the Internet (and Brazilians, of course), know that it’s also one of the most crime-ridden countries in the world. Many of its cities feature on the list of the most violent cities, with violence only growing in recent times.

There’s also a widespread problem of crime against women. We’re not just talking about domestic violence and rape – though there’s quite a bit of that, too – but outright murders in broad daylight. According to a Guardian report, four women were killed every day in 2019 at the time of the report. Most of those cases graduate from domestic violence, and a lax legal system and lack of redressal by local authorities make it even worse for the victims.[6]

4 Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is like one of the who’s who of repressing women’s rights. If there was a hall of fame for not letting women do what they want, Saudi Arabia would have a special section dedicated to it. While some recent news stories (like women being ‘allowed’ to drive) point towards change, the general attitude towards women in the religious monarchy remains repressive.

While many of the more regressive laws – like women above 21 not being allowed to leave the house unaccompanied by a male – have been abolished, men still have a lot of legal avenues to just do whatever they want anyway. Women still have little agency in the eyes of the law, and have to go through a lot of hurdles to make their cases heard. Sexual violence in the country may not just go unpunished, but the victims may just be accused of adultery according to Islamic law and put to the sword. And yes, to the literal sword, as beheading remains the most popular method of execution in the country with the highest rate of executions in the world.[7]

3 Federal Republic of Somalia

Somalia is one of those countries we seldom hear about. In the middle of a civil war ongoing since (at least) the 80s, it’s going through every conceivable human rights crisis you can think of. From widespread disease outbreaks to wartime violence to apparently pirates, there’s simply too much to even keep track of.

To say that conditions in Somalia are similar to the Handmaid’s Tale would be an understatement, as it’s probably much worse. It’s one of the countries still big on FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) – or female circumcision – and many cases don’t even get reported. There’s consistent threat of sexual violence in many parts of the country. If that wasn’t enough, getting stoned to death was a possibility till surprisingly recently, too.

The situation is made even worse by the ongoing conflict, as there’s no central authority in many parts of the country.[8]

2 Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

Afghanistan has been a battleground for wars it had nothing to do with for quite some time now. Regardless, it has also been a tribalistic society with separate clans that like to do their own thing, even if many attempts to unify it have been made. Many of its regions – especially the ones down south – are still under Taliban’s control.

Afghanistan has also seen some of the most authoritative governments in recent history, like when Taliban ruled over almost all of the country between 1996 – 2001. Public beheadings and stonings were commonplace, and women had to adhere to a strict code of conduct in their public as well as private lives. It wasn’t just women; basic liberties were curtailed for almost everyone.

While most of that is gone now – as Afghanistan has a central government in place – conflict is still ongoing in many of its regions, and sexual violence in many of those areas remains widespread. Taliban still holds some territory and is actively fighting against the government, so that era may not be completely behind us yet.[9]

1 Republic of the Sudan

Sudan was, until recently, ruled by Omar al-Bashir – an authoritarian ruler who was in power for close to 30 years. A hardcore believer in violence, Bashir’s rule was marked by violent reprisals of political and religious opponents, mass rape and pillage of civilian areas by the army and sectarian violence. It was overthrown in a massive rebellion with the army’s support, though things haven’t been better for the people.

While the situation was much worse during Bashir’s rule—women could be taken to the cops if someone found their clothes too enticing—targeted sexual violence is still commonplace in many parts of the country. Rape is often used as a tool to suppress local populations, and the violence is only getting worse. There’s, of course, the usual getting stoned to death for adultery, too.

While there is a military government, it’s accused of human rights abuses of its own, and doesn’t hold much sway in vast swathes of the country. Sudan is still very much in the middle of conflict, as many parts of the country are held by many different actors.[10]

About The Author: You can check out Himanshu’s stuff at Cracked (www.cracked.com/members/RudeRidingRomeo/) and Screen Rant (https://screenrant.com/author/hshar/), or get in touch with him for writing gigs ([email protected]).

Himanshu Sharma

Himanshu has written for sites like Cracked, Screen Rant, The Gamer and Forbes. He could be found shouting obscenities at strangers on Twitter, or trying his hand at amateur art on Instagram.

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Top 10 Things You Probably Get Wrong About Pit Bulls

Pit bulls are one of the most misunderstood dogs, with many people seeing them as nothing more than violent, child-maiming monsters. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth and, just like any other dog, the environment and the owners have the most influence on how a dog turns out.

SEE ALSO: Top 10 Banned Dog Breeds

10 They Don’t Have Locking Jaws

One of the more persistent myths about pit bulls is they have some sort of special mechanism within their jaws which makes it so they never let go of their target. However, this is irrevocably false; they do have strong, well developed muscles in their jaw, as well as a large skull, but their grip can still be broken if you know what you’re doing. Responsible owners of pit bulls should be aware of what is called a break stick; it’s inserted behind the back teeth of a dog’s mouth and then twisted, prying open their jaws.

One of the main reasons for this myth is that pit bulls have a particular biting style, which derives from their breeding history. (They’re partially descended from terriers.) When they see prey, whether it’s another dog or a rabbit, pit bulls will latch on with their teeth, preferring to shake the captured animal around, rather than release and bite again.[1]

9 Their Ancestors Were Bred For Dog Fighting

You can blame 19th century England for this one. They were originally bred to combine various dog breeds, including the bulldog and a number of different terrier breeds, to find a great balance of enthusiasm and stamina. Eventually, due to their unique blend of qualities, pit bulls were used in bear-baiting, a “sport” in which one or more dogs would fight a bear for the amusement of a crowd, and other dangerous activities.

Once governments began to wise up and ban these kinds of horrific displays of animal cruelty, people began to arrange dog fights, since they were quicker and easier to set up. The swift and agile dogs that fighters preferred were the ancestors of what we call pit bulls today. (One of the reasons they are still popular with dog fighters today.)[2]

8 Their Bite Is Not The Strongest Among Dogs

The strength of a pit bull’s bite is another common myth thrown around by the uneducated, with numbers as high as 2,000 PSI (pounds per square inch) being casually remarked. (For comparison, a lion has 600 pounds of bite force.) However, that figure may just be confusion on the media’s part since it comes from a study that is actually talking in Newtons, another form of force measurement. (2,000 Newtons is equivalent to about 450 pounds of bite force.)

For a television special in 2007, Dr. Brady Barr of National Geographic performed a study of dog bites, measuring the strength of three separate dogs: German Shepherd, Rottweiler and pit bull. His results showed that the Rottweiler had the strongest, coming in at 325 pounds, and the pit bull was the lowest, only getting up to 235 pounds. Later research showed that the size and shape of a dog’s skull had the most effect on their bite force, with mastiffs having nearly as strong a bite as a lion.[3]

7 They Actually Have Quite A Relaxed Attitude

The American Temperament Test Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to evaluating all breeds of dogs, in order to find out which ones have the best assortment of traits, such as aggressiveness and friendliness. As of today, the pit bull, or American pit bull terrier as it’s properly known, has a passing percentage of 86.8%; which is greater than some of the more popular breeds, such as the golden retriever or German shepherd.

In addition, studies have shown that small to medium-sized dogs, such as collies and spaniels, are much more likely to be aggressive towards people. Pit bulls have never been shown to be disproportionately dangerous, with the unreliability of the public being able to distinguish the breed of dog which bit them playing a large factor in the supposed increase in pit bull attacks.

One of the most damning pieces of evidence is the fact that the national media reports pit bull attacks at a much larger rate and for a longer period of time than attacks by other breeds. In fact, various studies have shown that pit bulls account for a small portion of dog attacks, with other breeds, especially Labradors, coming out ahead.[4]

6 They Used To Be Extremely Popular

In the early 1900s, a pit bull was the most common dog selected to be a family pet, perfect as a “nanny dog”, thanks to its friendly nature and loyalty. (That friendliness is one reason pit bulls don’t normally make good guard dogs; they have a tendency to look at an intruder as a new friend, rather than a danger.) In fact, for much of their history, pit bulls were considered non-aggressive.

Their ancestors were also very popular among the English before making their way across the pond. Known as “the Butcher’s Dog”, they were often used to herd cows by biting their noses and pulling them to the right area as the butchers brought them to market. Unfortunately, that trait, which made them effective herders, also made them great fighters when the sport of bear or bull baiting evolved.[5]

5 They Make Great Therapy Dogs

Challenging the preconceived notions of many in the world, especially the US, pit bulls have become highly-sought after as therapy dogs. These animals perform a variety of functions, such as helping their “patients” get some much needed exercise, but they are mainly there to provide emotional support. People report feeling happier if they’re around friendly dogs, even if they’re strangers; this is especially true of kids, who often form emotional bonds with therapy dogs, especially after particularly tragic events.

People who run therapy programs understand that pit bulls have a bad reputation but their easy-going temperament and tolerance of people make them excellent candidates. Again, this is great news for those dealing with kids, as they can sometimes be a little rough with animals. In fact: the 2013 American Hero Dog (an award given by the American Human Society) went to a pit bull named Elle, who works as a therapy dog.[6]

4 They’re The Subject Of Many Unfair Laws

Thanks to the many misconceptions about them, pit bulls are targeted more than any other dog, by lawmakers responding to the uneducated public and their fears. (A person is smart; people are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals.) Studies, including the most comprehensive dog bite study since the 1970s, have shown that no breed of dog is more or less likely to be involved in an attack, with a number of other factors, including the environment in which the dog is kept, as better indicators of why an attack occurred.

In addition, a number of studies have shown that laws designed to ban specific breeds fail to accomplish their purported goals of public safety. In fact, the kinds of people who would raise pit bulls irresponsibly will still get them; they just won’t get them checked by a vet, making them more dangerous to society than they would have been. Also, the owner’s identity remains a mystery, leaving law enforcement in the dark about who to go after.[7]

3 They Don’t Attack Without Warning

A common thread in most pit bull attack stories, as well as some of those involving other breeds, is the fact that the victim or witnesses often claim the dog attacked without warning. This is unequivocally false as pit bulls, as well as all other dogs, will give a warning before they attempt to bite someone. Unfortunately, the signs can be subtle, or even mistaken for playfulness.

There’s also an onus on the owner to make sure not to put their pit bull in a potentially stressful environment, whether it’s the first time the dog has been around children, strangers or other dogs. Pit bulls will give off clues that they are wary of a situation, usually one in which they have little to no experience. There is normally an escalating sequence of events which lead up to biting, with growling almost always preempting it.[8]

2 Pit Bulls Trained To Fight Can Be Rehabilitated

Most people assume the old adage “Once a fighter, always a fighter” when thinking about pit bulls unlucky enough to have been raised to fight other dogs. Their reputation precedes them, making potential owners wary of them, fearing unprovoked attacks in the future. However, numerous stories, including one of the most infamous dog fighting rings involving NFL player Michael Vick, easily prove that these dogs can go on to lead happy, normal lives.

Granted, it is of the utmost importance that the people involved with the rehab or adoption of any ex-dog fighters are aware of their new dog’s past but it doesn’t mean they have to be immediately euthanized. One of the reasons that it is usually not an issue is that the pit bulls are not trained to attack humans, they’re trained to attack dogs; many of them are actually quite friendly towards people.[9]

1 They Can Feel Pain

Contrary to popular belief, which paints pit bulls as monsters unable to feel anything, they actually have a sense of pain, just like every other dog. However, just like those other dogs, pit bulls do have the ability to block out that feeling, if they’re focused enough. Thanks to the years of breeding designed to help them become more effective fighters, pit bulls have an extremely high tolerance for pain.

Unfortunately, for law-abiding citizens who just want to raise a healthy pit bull, this makes for quite the danger. Though it makes them more tolerant of rough children, it is also possible to injure a pit bull, even seriously, and not realize because the dog won’t indicate it outwardly. This is one reason that pain-based training, such as chokes or shock collars, are not ideal when dealing with pit bulls.[10]

+ Pit Bull Isn’t Technically A Breed

“Pit bull” isn’t actually a breed of dog; it encompasses American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers and Staffordshire bull terriers, as well as the various mixes of those breeds. When most people think of a pit bull, they’re thinking of an American pit bull terrier.[11]

Top 10 Most Horrifyingly Painful Venoms

Snakes, spiders and bugs, oh my! Many things in nature have evolved—as a way to protect themselves or to hunt—that nasty, evil fluid we call venom.

SEE ALSO: Top 10 Animals You didn’t know were Venomous

Be it in their mouths, their butts, or their claws, so many creatures from invertebrates right up to things that may or may not be a mammal have developed the ability to inject us with venom that can do anything from rot our skin to liquefy our organs with a single dose!

Those unlucky enough to receive a bite or a sting from venomous creatures can suffer anything from a little swelling to death, and every extravagant, showy horror in between. None of us are truly safe from the hollow fangs of natures wrath, and since the only options for coping with this knowledge are endless terrified screaming or developing a definitely healthy and not at all concerning fascination with nature’s most morbid aspects, I vote we do the latter, and jump right into learning about the 10 most horrific, painful venoms nature has in store for the unsuspecting.

10 Brown Recluse Spider Venom

There’s a tale I heard when I was a child about the Brown Recluse spider that goes something like this: a little girl has her hair done up at the salon in intricate, looping braids. One day she starts complaining of headaches, which get so bad that she can’t stop crying, so her mother takes her to the emergency room to get her something for the pain and find the cause of her headaches.

The doctors begin to undo her braids to see if there is a physical cause, and, according to the legend, her whole scalp come off in their hands! The doctor, shocked and horrified, drops the scalp and hair on the floor, and a colony of Brown Recluse spiders pour out of the braids, having been living in her hair the whole time and biting her scalp, causing it to rot away.

While this story is nothing more than an urban legend, the effects of the Brown Recluse spider’s bite are quite real.

Their venom contain’s a protein that cause your tissue to turn against itself and rot from the inside out, starting at the area around the bite. Once the rot has started (2-3 days after the bite) the only option is to cut out the rotted area, sterilize the wound, and get a skin graft.[1]

9 Cobra Venom

Cobras are funny looking little snakes. What’s not funny or adorable, however, is what their venom can do to you. Firstly, the Cobra doesn’t even have to bite you in order to envenom your poor, mortal body. A Cobra in good health and a bad mood can instead spit their venom into your eyes from up to 6 and a half feet away! The venom doesn’t just blind you when it hits your eyes, it also hurts!

Even worse, if it gets into your bloodstream (either from the spitting or through a traditional bite), you have maybe 30 minutes to get help or you’ll die of suffocation. Cobra venom, it turns out, has a novel method of killing the poor unfortunate soul stricken with it: the venom binds itself to the receptors in charge of moving your diaphragm (the muscle that moves your lungs), basically preventing it from receiving orders from your brain to move. If as little as 1/3rd of the receptors are compromised, you stop breathing…and die choking.[2]

8 Stonefish Venom

Did you know that there are fish that can kill you, painfully? Not sharks or anything with teeth, I’m talking about a simple, lowly, kind of ugly fish that creeps along the ocean floor known simply as the Stonefish because it, well, looks like a stone.

Mistaking it for a rock is exactly what this crime against nature wants you to do, of course, so that it can sting you to death with its horrible spines. Should you, by chance, step on one of these, you’re in for an excruciating death out there in the deep blue sea.

Stonefish venom, through a mechanism scientists apparently don’t fully understand yet, releases a protein into your blood stream that is similar to Cobra venom. However, the Stonefish not only suffocates you by shutting down your lungs, it also causes intense pain, seizures, extreme muscle spasms, heart damage, and then paralysis.[3]

7 Lionfish Venom

Although not as deadly as the Stonefish, the Lionfish will still attempt to wring a few gallons of tears out of its victims. Depending on how many spines they stab into you, these beautiful but oh-so-mean fish will leave you in pain, sweating heavily, struggling to breathe and, if you’re really unlucky . . . suffering temporary paralysis.

And then you drown![4]

6 Crown Of Thorns Seastar Venom

If you were to find yourself stuck by the many terrible and sharp spikes of the Crown Of Thorns (which have been recorded as being able to puncture diving suits and gloves) you will experience immediate debilitating pain, followed by significant bleeding and swelling.

While normally the symptoms resolve themselves in anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours, if you’re unlucky enough to get a heavy dose of the venom you could be in for numbness, throwing up, a severe headache and, in very rare cases paralysis.[5]

5 Arizona Bark Scorpion Venom

Caught somewhere between a crab and a spider, with just enough snake thrown in to keep things fresh, Scorpions scuttled right out of man’s nightmares and into the waking world to terrorize us.

The Arizona Bark Scorpion is the worst of the worst, both in looks and in venom. While most scorpions are harmless to humans besides causing a little bit of pain and a welt, the Arizona Bark Scorpion, should it decide to use its venom on you, can do you a great deal more damage.

The venom of an Arizona Bark Scorpion can cause severe pain, swelling, numbness, frothing at the mouth, and difficulty breathing, as well as convulsions, twitching, and sometimes suffocation.[6]

4 Gila Monster Venom

Although Gila Monster venom is comparatively mild, the way it’s delivered is horrific. Unlike the common venomous snake, Gila Monsters don’t posses hypodermic teeth. Instead, the venom drips through grooves in their terrible little lizard fangs.

In order to really get that toxic spit into your system, the Gila Monster not only bites, it chews on whatever part of you it latches onto, often flopping back and forth to tear the wound so it can really smear the venom around. The venom itself is also incredibly painful, and there’s no known antidote for it.

It has never caused a fatality in a human, but you’re definitely going to suffer.[7]

3 Black Widow Venom

Surprisingly enough, the Black Widow spider is actually very docile, for a horrid little murder bug. In order to get a bite from this strangely pretty creature, you have to really provoke it. When you do, however, you’re in for a very, very bad time.

The Black Widow has some of the most potent venom in the arachnid world, in concentrations high enough to kill a healthy adult human with a single bite, and the way it kills is positively horrifying.

The bite releases a toxin into the blood, and from there the nervous system, that completely hijacks your nerves. Within minutes of a bite, you no longer have control of your body, and you get to experience first hand what rigor mortis is like as your muscles repeatedly clamp down in painful, seemingly never-ending waves of full body cramps that can last up to 24 hours even with treatment,

You can recover, of course, if you get medical help in a timely manner, but those unlucky few who don’t: die a horrible, horrible death.[8]

2 Tarantula Hawk Venom

The Tarantula Hawk is a frightening hulking beast of a bug. It was given its name because it hunts and eats (and lays eggs in) tarantulas.

The real terror, however, comes not from what they can do to other bugs, but from what they can do to you. While their venom isn’t deadly, it is so painful that a single sting can incapacitate a man. According to Justin Schmidt, the worlds foremost expert on painful bug bites and stings (he allowed himself to be stung or bit by just about everything and recorded the results) the only thing you can do if one of these stings you is lay on the ground and scream until its over.[9]

1 Platypus Venom

What on God’s green earth is the Platypus doing with its biology? It has hair, but also a beak. It lays eggs but also produces milk (despite having no nipples). And if all of that wasn’t enough, these Frankenstein animals have half-inch spurs on their tiny little feet that produce venom.

Not just any old venom, either, but the most long lasting and painful venom in the animal kingdom!

According to people who have been spurred by an angry platypus, the pain is immediate, completely devastating, and unending. Worse yet, no painkiller can be used against it. Not even morphine can stop the pain, nothing works to stop it except the complete deadening of the affected area.

The muscles in the area will wither away, and you’ll find yourself shivering, sweating, and throwing up from the pain and the venom. Worst of all is that this excruciating pain lasts for up to 3 months. You’ll suffer, vomit, and be crippled by pain every day for 90 long, long days.

You won’t die…but you’re going to wish you had.[10]

About The Author: Deana is, as of writing this list, trembling in sheer terror of the horrific things nature is capable of producing to hurt us.

Deana J. Samuels

Deana Samuels is a freelance writer who will write anything for money, enjoys good food and learning interesting facts. She also has far too many plush toys for a grown woman with bills and responsibilities.

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10 Terrifying Storms Straight Out Of The Apocalypse

Nature can be scary. Sometimes, more than rain, sun, fog, and snow fall out the sky. When the conditions are right, mother nature can throw storms at us that are straight out of the end times.

SEE ALSO: 10 Natural Disasters That Created A More Beautiful World [PICS]

Almost every miraculous wrath of god or sign of apocalypse has come true at some point or another. Trumpets have sounded from the sky; hail, fire, and blood have been thrown down to the earth; great stars have torn through the sky and poisoned our waters; and the sun itself has turned pitch black — and every time, people have panicked, convinced the end is nigh.

10 Pillars of Flame

While California was being ravaged by wildfires in 2018, people fleeing from their homes in Redding saw something straight out of the Bible. A gigantic pillar of fire, climbing up 5,500 meters into the air, descended upon their city, destroying everything in its path.

A literal manifestation of God’s wrath destroyed their homes. You wouldn’t blame them if they got a little reflective. But the thing is, during wildfires, great pillar of fires like the one that led Moses out of Egypt are actually pretty common.

These pillars of flame are called “fire tornados” or “fire whirls”, and they’re perfectly natural. They’re essentially whirlwinds that pick up flames. When hot, dry air rises and swirls into a vortex, they sometimes pick up the burning embers and debris in the wildfire around it, creating a vortex of fire.

Usually, these things are pretty small and short-lived — but some fire whirls can rise up to the clouds and last for hours, wreaking havoc as they travel at tornado-like speeds, hurling flames that burn as hot as 1,093 °C.[1]

9 Hail Mingled With Fire

When the first trumpet of the apocalypse sounds, the Bible says, a mixture of hail and fire will be hurled down onto the earth, burning the grass and trees into cinders.

Which is pretty much exactly what happened in Canberra, the capital of Australia, in 2003. Bushfires outside the city got so out-of-control that spilled into the suburbs, and the sight was horrific.

Canberra looked like Sodom and Gomorrah. Lightning crashed without rain, a pillar of fire 10,000 meters high and 300 meters wide ravaged the city, and—just like in the apocalypse—hail and fire fell together. And, just to make things creepier, the hail was black.

Scientists believe that the hail turned black because ash and soot got mixed up with the water vapor in the clouds, creating a black, dirty hail that actually gets mixed up inside of the smoke plume.

It all makes for a horrifying sight—but in Australia, the dry air can make bushfires brutal enough that this has happened more than once. In some parts of the world, the first sign of the apocalypse is just something to watch out for whenever there’s a fire.[2]

8 Trumpets Sounding in the Sky

On Aug. 11, 2011, a woman in the Ukraine uploaded a video to YouTube of a strange, groaning, metallic sound emanating from the sky. It sounded like something out of a horror movie, or an alien invasion, or—as some pointed out—like trumpets blaring in the sky.

On its own, it was creepy enough — but over the coming months and years, more and more people uploaded more and more videos online. Today, there have been literally hundreds of these videos uploaded from every corner of the world.

While some of those videos were hoaxes from people trying to join a trend, noises like these really do happen. Whole towns have have lived through these kinds of strange sounds, and nobody’s completely sure what causes them.

Some have been chalked up to the rumblings of tsunamis or meteors, while others have been credited to the small earthquakes below the surface emitting the sounds of the earth’s crust moving underfoot.

Whatever it is, it’s hard not to feel a little terrified when you hear trumpets blast from heaven. But when you live with it, it’s nothing short of hell.

“It’s maddening… It won’t go away,” one woman in Rochester has said. “I don’t care what it is. I honestly don’t care. I just want to identify it and get rid of it.”[3]

7 Blood Rain

In July 2018, the Siberian city of Norilsk became coated in scarlet. A blood-red rain fell down from the sky, covering the buildings, vehicles, and roads, and staining people’s clothes red.

It was a horrifying sight — but of all the apocalyptic plagues that mother nature likes to throw at us, this one’s actually the most common of all.

Countless blood-red storms have fallen throughout history, with the earliest records tracing all the way back to ancient Greece. Typically, these storms start when red sand from the desert gets mixed up with the rain, sending down something that looks more than just a little like a death metal music video.

It’s so common that, technically, the process that leads to “blood rains” hits the United Kingdom several times each year. Typically, those rains end up more of a brownish-yellow than red, but other than the color they really are the same thing.

The one that hit Norilsk was actually caused by rust residue from a factory, but, as terrifying as it looked, it still wasn’t real blood — even if a few of the people it fell on were convinced it really was.[4]

6 Plagues of Frogs And Flesh

On Aug. 4, 1921, the people of Calgary found themselves right in the middle of an Egyptian plague. Without warning, the sky opened up above them a torrent of frogs can crashing down upon them just like rain.

It was pretty terrifying — and it’s also pretty common. Or, at least, as common as a Biblical plagues in real-life can be. Frogs have fallen in Japan, Hungary, and Uruguay, as well, while other parts of the world have been showered by fish, worms, jellyfish, octopuses, lizards, and almost anything else you can imagine.

It’s believed that the animals get sucked up by tornadoes passing over bodies of water, then are thrown back onto the earth, often far enough away from where they were picked up to leave the poor people pelted by frogs and fish completely clueless as to what they could have done to deserve this.[5]

5 Rivers of Blood

Raining frogs aren’t the only Egyptian plagues that hit the earth on a semi-regular basis. Just like the rivers of Egypt, waters all around the world have reported spontaneously turning blood red.

Just recently, in Dec. of 2018, people in Dedza, Malawi broke into a panic when they found the Linthipe River running red. This, some of them insisted, was a sign — and, even when geologists explained that a red oxide mine had contaminated the water, plenty of people still insisted that it was real blood.

It wasn’t, of course. Contaminations like this one happen all the time. The Daldykan River in Siberia, which is near a metallurgical plant, has turned red on five separate occasions. In fact, even one of the biggest rivers on earth—China’s massive Yangtze—turned blood red in June 2018.

Usually, it isn’t really blood changing the color of the water — but there is one exception.

In Sept. 2017, a blockage in sewage pipe at a slaughterhouse in Jianxi caused blood and waste from dead pigs to fill the Lianxi River, turning the water supply red — and this time, it really was blood.[6]

4 A Star Called Wormwood

In 2007, there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon upon the fountains of waters. And many men became ill of the waters, because they were made bitter.

Nobody specifically reported hearing an angel sound a trumpet before it happened, but otherwise, the 2007 Carancas impact event pretty well perfectly fits the description of apocalypse.

A meteor crashed into the earth just outside of the city of Desaguadero, Peru, landing with such an impact that the windows at the local health center shattered, leaving a crater 30m wide and 6m deep.

Water rushed up from under the ground after the meteor hit and filled the crater, and, by the time people came close enough to see it, that water was boiling. It was also emanating a gas so toxic that anyone who came near it became physically ill, often ending up hospitalized after they fell into spells of nausea and vomiting.

That’s pretty terrifying — but it has a scientific explanation. Scientists believe that the meteor opened up a channel of groundwater that had contaminated with a sedimentary deposit full of methane gases, which was what got the people sick.[7]

3 Literal S—— Showers

Sometimes it feels God just opened the sky and pooped on your head, but when people complained about that in 2018 in Canada, it wasn’t just a metaphor. The country, for about a year, was overcome by an epidemic of feces falling from the sky.

One lovely Canadian family were enjoying a leisurely ride home when feces from the sky fell directly through their open sunroof and onto their heads.

“My son threw up,” the mother has told reporters. “We had so much in our faces. Both of us, our faces were covered in poop.”

Mother and son alike ended up with a rough case of pink eye — and they aren’t the only ones who have gone through it. 18 separate cases of falling feces were reported in Canada in a single year, with one family having it rain down on them while lounged on their back decks.

It’s not entirely clear why this happens. Transport Canada insists that the feces couldn’t have come from their airplanes, leaving scientists to expound on wild theories about flocks of ospreys and herons. One things for sure, though — sometimes, life really does poop on your head.[8]

2 Blood-Splattered Snow

In May 1818, as Capt. John Ross and his crew were searching through the Arctic for the Northwest Passage, they discovered something eerie on the coast of Greenland. The cliffs were streaked with what the men described as “so dark a red as to resemble port wine.”

It’s a phenomenon that’s been given the cutesy name of “Watermelon Snow”, but it’s hard not to find it a little creepy. In the right parts of the world, you can wake up to find the snow outside looking a murder scene, splattered with blood.

Ross and his team popularized watermelon snow for the modern world, but as far back as Aristotle, people have been recording sightings of this strange phenomenon.

It forms during particularly hot days. When the sun melts the snow, sometimes, an algae called Chlamydomonas nivalis will bloom, turning the snow red or pink. This also speeds up the melting process, often leaving behind eerie little blood-red pools when the snow dissipates.

Not only is it creepy, but it can even be dangerous. Eating watermelon snow is said to have a laxative effect, a fact discovered by those special souls who, when confronted with freak of nature, still can’t resist the urge to put it in their mouth.[9]

1 Days of Darkness

On the morning of May 19, 1780, the sun rose in the sky, changed its mind, and decided to go back down again.

Across New England and parts of eastern Canada, people watched in confusion as the morning sky darkened and, soon, turned completely black. By noon, it’s said, it was as pitch black as midnight.

It would have been creepy for anyone to see, but for a pack of Puritans who were deeply familiar with the Biblical passage promising that, in the end times, the sun would not shine for a third part of a day, it was nothing short of terrifying.

The good people of New England took this as a sure sign that the end was nigh, confessed their sins, gathered out, and waited for rapture.

The world didn’t end, of course, but nobody’s completely sure why it happened the sun went dark that day. There was no eclipse, there were no volcanic eruptions that could have blocked out the sun, and there’s no definitive answer as to what could have caused it.

We do know, however, that’s happened at least once since. In 1950 in Alberta, the sky turned so black that, in the words of one environmentalist: “If you’d woken up at noon you’d have believed it was midnight.”

The cause, that time, was a distant forest fire that had emitted enough smoke to block out the sun — which may very well have been what caused that black night that scared so many Puritans.

But who knows for sure. Maybe the world really did end in 1780, and now we’re in a hellish apocalypse where blood rains from the sky and pillars of flame ravage our cities.

I mean, that’s probably not what happened. But technically, it’s theoretically possible.[10]

About The Author: Mark Oliver is a regular contributor to Listverse. His writing also appears on a number of other sites, including The Onion’s StarWipe and Cracked.com. His website is regularly updated with everything he writes.

Mark Oliver

Mark Oliver is a regular contributor to Listverse. His writing also appears on a number of other sites, including The Onion’s StarWipe and Cracked.com. His website is regularly updated with everything he writes.

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10 Harrowing Stories Of Surviving Nature’s Fury

Humanity has worked wonders during its time on this planet. We’ve cured deadly diseases, explored our world and others, and have notched achievement after achievement in science, engineering, and so on. Nevertheless, we’re sometimes reminded how quickly nature can wipe it all away, leaving us helpless, dust swept away by indifferent wind.

Natural disasters of all kinds have claimed countless human lives throughout history. But for every volcanic wasteland, shattered city, and razed coastline, there are survivors. Whether through luck, the aid of others, skill, or a combination thereof, people walk away from natural events that could have easily taken their lives, as is the case for those below.

SEE ALSO: 10 Natural Disasters That Created A More Beautiful World

10 Struck By A Lava Bomb

May 2018 saw the Puna district of Hawaii’s Big Island inundated with lava flows from the opening of numerous fissures. Many people evacuated, but some remained in a bid to protect their homes and those of their neighbors. One such resident was Darryl Clinton, who lived to the east of the Leilani Estates neighborhood, which was hit by quite a bit of volcanism.

Darryl knew the dangers. While lava flows are generally slow and easily avoided, “lava bombs,” ejected gobs of molten rock, are of greater concern. For five days, he and others would hose houses down when they were struck by flying molten rock from Fissure 17, and they were proficient in watching for the lava bombs, gauging where they’d land, and making sure they weren’t standing in the bombs’ paths. Darryl’s luck ran out on May 19.

That day, Darryl was standing on the third-floor lanai of his neighbor’s house and talking on his phone. A lava bomb which Darryl would later describe as moving less in an arc and more like a rifle shot hit him in the ankle, flipping him off his feet and sending him into a couch, which promptly lit on fire. A friend rushed to his aid. Darryl looked at his ankle and saw bone protruding from his flesh. His foot was hanging off the rest of his leg “like a hinge,” and he was bleeding profusely. At this point, all Darryl knew was excruciating pain and the fear that he’d bleed to death.

Darryl’s friend got a tourniquet on him and dragged him downstairs and into her truck. She called 911 and sped off to meet up with first responders. Darryl was taken to the Hilo Medical Center, fully expecting to lose his leg. Amazingly, doctors managed to save it. Darryl said of the lava bomb that hit him, “It was a mean one. And I mean, it could have hit anywhere else and it would have been all over.” Despite his brush with death, Darryl has no plans for leaving the area and described seeing the lava flows up close as “the event of a lifetime.”[1]

9 Caught By A Tornado

January 24, 2018, was going to be a busy day for Mark Hardgrove of Orlando, Florida. He had a meeting down in Fort Lauderdale, and the weather did not look promising. He left early for this reason, setting off down the Florida Turnpike in his Hyundai Santa Fe.

His rainy drive was tedious, hampered by poor visibility, but Mark nevertheless progressed toward his destination. He saw large, dark clouds to the west, but he felt he could get to the meeting before those clouds hit. As he neared the Coconut Creek Parkway exit, however, things became much worse. Mark grew up in Ohio, and he knew a storm that could spawn a tornado when he saw one. He didn’t see a twister yet, but the trees were whipping in the wind, and a rotating cloud was approaching. Compounding the issue, he was boxed in the left lane by other cars, and everyone slowed to a stop as the funnel cloud approached. Mark was stuck.

He watched the tornado touch down near the exit, hoping it would lift back up. Instead, his SUV began to rock back and forth. The next thing Mark knew, all he could see outside his windows was gray. He felt as though he was rising. Although Mark could only hear the howling of the wind and feel what was going on, two truckers on the northbound side of the turnpike saw it all. Mark’s Santa Fe was tipped into the air and did a barrel roll 20 feet (6 m) off the ground on its journey to the other side of the highway. It landed on the eastern shoulder of the northbound side, facing the oncoming traffic.

A stunned Mark sat among deployed airbags as the two truckers came to help him. They popped the airbags, cut Mark free from his seat belt, and gave him water. He never got the truckers’ names, but he was thankful for their help.

While the SUV took a beating, Mark himself sustained only minor injuries.[2]

8 The Boy Who Gave His Life To Save Another

On April 13, 1949, Kelcy Allen was a six-year-old boy attending Lowell Elementary School in Tacoma, Washington. April 13, 1949, is also the date of a severe earthquake that was felt across Washington and surrounding states, buckling railroad tracks and sending houses into the Puget Sound. The tremor was described by news reports at the time as the worst earthquake in the history of the Pacific Northwest. It struck at 11:55 AM, just before lunch.

At that moment, Kelcy was on the ground level of the elementary school when everything began to shake. Marvin Klegman, an 11-year-old crossing guard, grabbed the frightened kindergartener and led him outside. Just as they exited the building, a cornice collapsed, sending bricks tumbling toward them. Marvin, ever vigilant, yelled, “Look out!” and used his body to shield Kelcy from the falling masonry. Kelcy’s next memory was waking up in an ambulance. Marvin had died protecting Kelcy from the bricks.

Kelcy’s family moved to Portland, Oregon, not long after. He grew up always remembering the crossing guard who saved him, but he never knew the boy’s name. After another earthquake struck the Puget Sound area in 2001, Kelcy had to know. The next day, he was in the Tacoma Public Library, where he finally learned the name Marvin Klegman. He went on to give an interview to The News Tribune (a Tacoma newspaper) about the day Marvin saved his life. Kelcy then raised money for a statue of Marvin to be placed outside Lowell Elementary. In addition, April 13 is observed as Marvin Klegman Day at the school.[3]

7 Swept Away By A Flash Flood

Cesar Garcia and his family expected nothing more than a pleasant Saturday outing on July 15, 2017. Of the 14 family members who went on that day’s fateful hike, only four would emerge alive.

Cesar’s sister, Maria, was turning 27, and the Phoenix, Arizona, family had gone on a day trip to celebrate. They chose to hike to a swimming hole situated below a waterfall known as Water Wheel, which is in the Tonto National Forest near Payson. Unbeknownst to them, heavy rain had begun to fall several miles away as they hiked between hills to the swimming hole, triggering a flash flood.

The Garcias were about a mile (1.6 km) into their hike when they saw a wall of water approaching. There was little time to react. Cesar held his one-year-old daughter, Marina, close and grabbed one of his nephews by the shirt. Then the torrent hit. Cesar’s nephew was immediately ripped from his hand, while rocks and branches tore flesh from Cesar’s legs and bruised his ribs. He held Marina tight as they were pulled underwater by the current. Cesar managed to grab onto a bush but couldn’t hold on for long before the murky, debris-filled water pulled him loose again, tumbling him over jagged rock. All Cesar could think of was to hold onto Marina. Finally, he managed to grab onto a tree, Marina still in his grasp.

For two hours, Cesar clung to the tree, waiting for the flood to die down. Not long after he’d made it to the tree, he learned some good news from hikers who’d shown up. Cesar’s wife and eight-year-old son had managed to escape the current and were alive. Though the rushing water prevented any rescue for the moment, one of the hikers managed to give Cesar a towel to wrap around Marina. Finally, rescuers were able to take Cesar and his daughter to the hospital. There, he learned the fate of the rest of his family. Cesar lost his mother, brother, two sisters, brother-in-law, and five nieces and nephews that day.[4]

6 A New Home Destroyed Piece By Piece

The earliest days of September 2017 were an exciting time for Kyrie Caulfield and his family. The diving instructor and resident of Tortola, the largest of the British Virgin Islands, had just bought a new house with a view of Cane Garden Bay. Kyrie, his wife Charlotte, and their two daughters, aged four years old and 17 months old, had just moved in, and Charlotte was pregnant with the couple’s third child. The only spot of worry was the approaching Hurricane Irma.

Irma hit on September 6. The Caulfields and another family had chosen to ride the storm out in the Caulfields’ new home. Initially, Kyrie wasn’t too worried. He and the others would peek through the hurricane shutters and see trees blown sideways and debris flying, but the house seemed to be holding up. That sense of security would not last.

At around noon, Kyrie felt a gust of air at his feet. It was coming from his daughter’s bedroom, which faced the storm. He opened the door and was greeted with only the sight of the Category 5 hurricane. The bedroom was gone. As Kyrie put it, “There was no wall, no roof, no windows—it was just gone.”

Kyrie placed a dresser in front of the now-exterior door, but it mattered little. Mere minutes later, the storm tore most of the roof from the house and sent it skyward. Buffeted by the hurricane, the two families dashed into the kitchen, now the only room with a ceiling. Kyrie pushed the refrigerator into the entryway between the kitchen and the living room, but Irma immediately ripped it 30 feet (9 m) into the air. The kitchen roof promptly departed to join it. Desperate, Charlotte put her 17-month-old daughter into a cupboard, hoping that at least the baby might be saved. Kyrie knew they had to get out of there, but where to run? What was left of the living room was a morass of wind-blown debris. The husband of the other family decided to smash out a small window in the back of the kitchen, and everyone squeezed their way out.

The families ran down a steep hill to a nearby concrete garage and piled into a car left inside. The garage had no door, but there were wood panels inside, which Kyrie placed over the car’s windows. For a time, everyone began to calm down. But then they felt the winds starting to move the vehicle. Kyrie left the garage in search of new shelter. Around 150 feet (45 m) away was another house, the owners of which weren’t on the island. Most of it was destroyed, but a sturdy closet remained. Inside was the house’s caretaker, Tyrone.

As this point, Irma’s eye began to pass over, providing a much-needed reprieve. The families ran to Tyrone’s makeshift shelter and even had a half-hour to gather supplies and their dogs. Then the rest of Irma rolled in. While the group wasn’t forced to find new shelter again, it was still a tense time for Kyrie. He’d look out and see the sea being brought ever closer. He knew it was all over for everyone if the storm surge reached them. Thankfully, it stopped advancing at 20 feet (6 m) away. Finally, the hurricane passed.

The Caulfields spent the next day digging through the remnants of their home for any supplies they could take to stay in a friend’s house, which was still partially standing. He recorded a video “tour” of his new home at this time, which made its rounds on news outlets and the Internet. Kyrie and his family ultimately moved to Grand Cayman after the hurricane.[5]

5 A Rain Of Boulders

Mount Mayon, with its conical shape and lush surroundings, presents about as stereotypical of an image of an island volcano as you can get. Located on the Philippine island of Luzon, Mayon is active and has erupted a number of times in recent history. On such instance occurred on May 7, 2013.

On the day in question, Roel Llarena and other local tour guides were leading a group of foreign tourists on a hike up Mayon. The excursion had been a good one. The tourists were friendly, and they’d all enjoyed the previous night, with guides and travelers exchanging stories of their adventures. As the group made their way up the mountain, rain began to fall. Climbing Mayon in a driving rain is not a good idea, so everyone turned back. Suddenly, a column of ash exploded upward from the volcano’s cone.

As the hikers and tour guides watched aghast, boulders as large as minivans came cascading down at them. Roel later recounted, “I stood there frozen. I couldn’t believe what was happening, I didn’t know what to do. It was like a scene from hell.” The group tried to take cover behind a large rocky outcropping, but not everyone would make it. Roel’s brother-in-law, three Germans, and a Spanish woman were struck by the tumbling rocks, their bodies carried out of sight.

The surprise eruption lasted only 73 seconds and did not herald the start on an increased period of volcanism. Renato Solidum, the chief state seismologist, stated that the explosion was set off by the rains coming into contact with hot ash deposits at the mouth of Mayon’s crater. Regardless of the cause, Roel vowed never to climb Mayon again.[6]

4 Carried 2 Miles By A Tsunami

Sonali Deraniyagala and her family spent Christmas 2004 on vacation from London at Yala National Park in Sri Lanka. The day after Christmas was the fourth day of their vacation. Sonali was talking with her friend, Orlantha, when the latter noticed something unusual about the sea: A large wave seemed to be coming in. Sonali’s husband, Steve Lissenbergh, was in the shower, but she called to him to come look at the strange oceanic behavior. The wave kept coming right past the boundaries of the beach without stopping. Gray-brown water surged through the trees and drew ever closer to the hotel. Sonali yelled much louder for Steve, who emerged from the shower. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing any more than his wife could.

Sonali’s thoughts turned only toward saving her two sons, seven-year-old Vikram and five-year-old Nikhil (nicknamed “Malli”). She grabbed her boys and ran for the front of the hotel, Steve trailing behind. They reached the front, Vikram and Malli now running alongside their mother, keeping pace despite being barefoot. A man driving a Jeep with a canvas top saw them and stopped. The family jumped in the helpful stranger’s Jeep, and the vehicle began to pull away. Sonali couldn’t see any water now and thought that perhaps the wave had finally stopped. She began to calm a little, only to become worried again, this time about her parents, whose room she’d run right by in her dash to save her sons. Steve assured her that they’d be okay, something which seemed entirely plausible now that the wave was out of sight.

Suddenly, the Jeep was inundated by water and at the tsunami’s mercy. The water rose, and Sonali and Steve each held one of their sons as high as they could, the boy’s faces pressed against the canvas top as the Jeep became an unwieldy boat, its tires no longer touching the ground. The last time Sonali saw Steve’s face, a look of terror the likes of which she’d never seen had spread across it as his eyes locked on something behind her. She never knew what it was, because that’s when the Jeep capsized.

Sonali’s next moments were nothing but disorientation and pain. She felt crushed, dragged, whipped back and forth. She wasn’t sure at times if she was underwater or above it. When she’d open her eyes, she’d see only gray. Sonali was pulled along by the seawater at a speed she could not guess, battered by debris until she finally hit a tree branch and was able to cling to it.

Sonali had been carried almost 2 miles (3.2 km) inland by the water. She was the only survivor of her family. Her husband, two sons, and parents had been killed by the infamous December 26, 2004, tsunami, which claimed hundreds of thousands of lives across the Indian Ocean.[7]

3 A Bone-Shattering Avalanche

During the morning of January 13, 2016, Mike Brede was backcountry skiing with his friends, Brandon Byquist and Jason Hershey, near Lookout Pass, which is on the Idaho-Montana border. The three men were all experienced skiers and were certainly aware of the dangers of avalanches. That morning, however, the snow seemed fine, and they’d skied the area before.

After more than two hours of excursion, they reached a point where the slope was steeper. As they traversed the slope, they heard a boom and felt shock waves beneath their feet. Mike made a few turns, trying to ski out of the danger zone, but a cascade of snow swept him away.

Mike, thinking quickly, pulled the cord to his airbag, a device meant to keep an avalanche victim above the snow and therefore visible to rescuers. It is believed that this is what kept him from being buried alive. However, nothing could prevent the avalanche from sending Mike over a ridge and into a basin full of rocky outcroppings. He felt freefall and then a tremendous pain in his leg. Mike landed in a sitting position facing uphill. He immediately raised his arm to further increase his chances of remaining visible. Snow piled over Mike up to his chest. His pelvis had been broken, and the flesh of his lower leg had been torn back, exposing his tibia and fibula.

Brandon and Jason skied down to Mike, itself a risky move which triggered small slabs of snow to fall as they went. They applied QuikClot to Mike’s lower leg to stop the bleeding and braced it with their ski poles. Afterward, they discovered that Mike’s femur had suffered a compound fracture, and he was bleeding from there as well. There was no hope of moving him on their own, and they’d already used all the QuikClot.

The men called 911 and activated Mike’s emergency beacon. By this point, it was now past 3:00 PM. Daylight was burning, and the weather was worsening. Ground crews would never get to Mike, Brandon, and Jason safely, and using a helicopter was a dicey proposition. A bit before 4:00 PM, they got a call that Two Bear Air, a philanthropic rescue organization with two helicopters which also funds search and rescue missions, would try to get a helicopter to their location, the key word being “try.” In the meantime, Brandon and Jason tried to keep Mike warm, giving him their down layers and gloves. It was snowing heavily, and visibility was terrible. Two Bear Air pilot Jim Bob Pierce had to fly low, following Interstate 90, just to navigate to Lookout Pass.

Finally, just as it was getting dark, the three skiers, Mike still bleeding and now hypothermic, heard the helicopter. Mike was in bad shape; there was no time to stabilize him on a litter. He had to be taken up in what’s referred to as a “Screamer Suit,” which Pierce described as “a coat with a strap that comes between his legs and works like a little hammock.” In Mike’s condition, being raised off the ground in this manner would not be a pleasant experience. As he recalled: “The rescuer told me to prepare myself for the worst effing pain of my life.” He was pulled up with the paramedic, and the helicopter sped off to a waiting ambulance at Lookout Pass.

Mike needed six units of blood and was in emergency surgery for three hours. He was hospitalized for ten days, and full recovery was expected to take about a year. Nevertheless, he is very much alive, as are Brandon and Jason.[8]

2 Crushed

Preston Black of El Reno, Oklahoma, was at home with his wife, their six children, and his parents on the evening of May 25, 2019. At 10:28 PM that night, an EF3 tornado touched down. It lasted a mere four minutes but traveled 2.2 miles (3.5 km) in that time, passing straight through the mobile home park in which Preston and his family lived. Trailers provide minimal protection from a tornado, and there was no time to react to the sudden appearance of this one.

There was little Preston could do but cover his children as best he could, the rain pelting the trailer horizontally as the twister approached. First the doors were ripped from their hinges, and then every window shattered. As the family huddled inside, the mobile home was first flipped upside down and then lifted into the air. A few seconds later, it was torn apart.

Preston hit the ground face-first. He couldn’t see anything initially, but he could feel crushing weight on top of him. Two walls, a refrigerator, and a washer/dryer had landed on him. Preston didn’t care. He could see now, and his wife of 14 years was unconscious near him, also pinned under the walls and appliances. Adrenalized, Preston rolled next to her and managed to lift the debris enough for his family to pull his wife free, ignoring the pain which racked his upper body. As soon as his wife was free, Preston let the pile fall back on him, but his family and now several friends worked to free him.

Preston had a moment of relief upon seeing that his children had survived the tornado with only minor injuries. His best friend immediately drove him to a nearby hospital, from which Preston was transferred to another hospital in Oklahoma City. Both of his shoulders as well as his collar bone had been dislocated, four of his ribs and one shoulder blade were broken, and he had a collapsed lung. Preston’s wife ended up five rooms down from him, with several broken bones of her own. The next day, Preston was finally able to walk down the hall to see her. The couple were reunited with their children that day as well.[9]

1 A Home Lost Forever

Before the earthquake and subsequent tsunami which devastated parts of Japan in March 2011, Ryo Kanoya (also spelled Kanouya) lived with his family in the village of Namie in Fukushima Prefecture. He was at work when the earthquake hit. A tsunami alert soon followed. Ryo’s company ordered employees who lived near the coast to go home to help the elderly evacuate. Ryo headed for his house, situated 0.6 miles (1 km) from the ocean.

However, the by time he got home, the predicted arrival time of the tsunami had already passed. Since nothing had happened, Ryo’s father figured everything would be fine. Ryo ended up watching the news with his grandmothers while his father was upstairs. His mother and sister were still at work. Then the power went off, and Ryo’s father yelled for everyone downstairs to get upstairs as quickly as they could. Ryo helped his grandmothers to the second floor and looked out a window toward the ocean. A massive tidal wave was barreling in. Ryo’s first instinct was to flee, but there was no time. He and his family could only brace themselves as the sea approached.

The tsunami hit, and the family’s home withstood the impact. However, it began to fill with water. The water steadily rose until everyone’s faces were pressed against the ceiling, desperate for a last gasp of air. Then there was no air. Trapped underwater and unable to get out a window, Ryo thought, “I may as well exhale the remaining air in my lungs to die.”

Finally, the house gave way, spilling everyone into the chaotic wash of seawater and pieces of the neighborhood. Ryo saw his father, but then the currents washed the two away from each other. Ryo climbed onto a drawer, but he saw that he was being pulled back toward the ocean. Luckily, he managed to grab onto a mass of debris stuck to a large tree. He held tight as he saw people being swept out to sea on either side of him. Eventually, the water receded, and Ryo was able to climb down.

Cold, wet, shoeless, and fearing that another tsunami might hit, Ryo set off inland. He repeatedly called out, “Anyone alive?” But every person he saw was dead. Ryo finally came across a survivor, an elderly man. Then the two of them saw a fire truck and ran toward it, Ryo noting a few other survivors on the roofs of buildings. They ended up at an evacuation camp, but then they had to move from there due to the meltdowns at the nearby Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

At a shelter in Okada, Ryo was reunited with his sister, mother, and father, who had survived. Ryo’s grandmothers were never found. To this day, Ryo’s family cannot return to Namie due to its proximity to the power plant.[10]

10 Fascinating Scientific Findings About Laughter

Laughter is about as universal of a human experience as you can get, somewhere behind death but definitely above taxes. A quintessential indicator of amusement, joy, and camaraderie, laughter can be found across the globe, and chances are that most of you reading this enjoy a good laugh now and again.

People love to laugh, and some scientists love to study it. Why not? It’s a fascinating subject. It’s frequently touted as the best medicine, yet there exists a wealth of anecdotal accounts of people dying while doing it. Collected here are but a few examples of scientists’ findings on one of life’s more pleasant activities.

SEE ALSO: 10 Things That Will Make You Die Laughing

10 Babies and Chimps

Fact: Babies Laugh Like Chimps

Chimpanzees are considered to be our closest living relatives, so of course humans and chimps have much in common. According to a 2018 study, we can add how we laugh to that list, at least where infants are concerned.

A trio of psychologists and a phonetician from various European universities studied the laughter of 44 babies, aged between three and 18 months. To accomplish this, they simply collected suitable video clips of babies laughing, of which there is no shortage on the Internet. Of particular interest was how much of the laugh was produced during inhalation versus exhalation. A convenient group of 102 psychology students evaluated the clips in this respect.

Results indicated that younger babies laughed both while inhaling and exhaling, as is seen in chimpanzees. Babies at the older end of the study’s age spectrum tended to laugh primarily during exhalation, as human adults mostly do. This shift in the manner of laughter wasn’t tied to any specific developmental milestones but rather appeared to come gradually with additional months of age.

The researchers admitted that these determinations were made by nonexpert listeners but planned to have other phoneticians judge the clips as well. According to Dr. Disa Sauter, leader of the study, there is no agreed-upon reason why humans mainly laugh on exhalation while other primates don’t. It may be due to the superior vocal control of humans. Further avenues of research include whether the inhalation/exhalation ratio of laughter is linked with the cause of said laughter (something that also tends to change as babies grow older) as well as if similar breathing changes are seen in other types of vocalizations.[1]

9 Fake Laughter

Fact: We Can Spot Fake Laughter, No Matter Where We’re From

Sometimes you laugh because someone told a side-splitter that leaves you in tears, and sometimes you laugh just to be polite. Whether to butter up one’s boss or as a segue into civilly excusing oneself from a sandpaper-on-eyeballs terrible conversation, plenty of us have sputtered out a charitable chortle here and there. Unfortunately, these fake laughs may not be fooling anyone.

In 2018, Dr. Greg Bryant of UCLA published research indicating that the ability to recognize genuine laughter is present across cultures. Bryant and his co-authors tested this on 884 people from 21 countries across six continents. The participants listened to recordings of laughs, both spontaneous laughter recorded from English-language conversations and volitional laughs from those asked to do so on command.

Regardless of their society of origin, listeners were able to tell real laughs from fake ones at a rate better than chance. At the low end, Samoans correctly identified the laughs 56 percent of the time, and at the high end, Japanese listeners were right 69 percent of the time. Dr. Bryant also noted that fake and real laughter do have different sonic qualities, with fake laughter essentially sounding a bit more like speech than real laughter.[2]

8 Canned Laughter

Fact: Canned Laughter Works

Speaking of fake laughter, consider the laugh tracks in sitcoms. They may not be as prevalent as they once were, but they’re hardly relegated to the land of syndicated reruns. These days, critics wish these laugh recordings would indeed die. The problem is that canned laughter might just help to make things seem funnier.

In 2019, Current Biology included a study by Dr. Sophie Scott of University College London which examined the effects of recorded laugh tracks on those insidious boogeymen of comedy: dad jokes. Here are four examples which were employed in the study:

What state has the smallest drinks? Mini-soda!
What does a dinosaur use to pay the bills? Tyrannosaurus cheques!
What’s orange and sounds like a parrot? A carrot!
What do you call a man with a spade on his head? Dug!

As you can see, these are not good jokes. Seventy-two unfortunate souls were presented a total of 40 such jokes, followed either by no laughter, fake laughter, or genuine laughter. The participant then rated how funny the jokes were on a scale of one to seven. Results showed that the addition of laughter had an effect; the ratings increased by about ten percent with fake laughter and by 15 to 20 percent for real laughter.[3]

7 Immunity

Fact: Laughter And The Immune System

A 2003 study examined the effects of laughter on the activity of natural killer cells (aka NK cells), which play an important role in the immune system. The researchers recruited 33 healthy adult women from rural areas in the Midwest. Those in the experimental group were shown a comedic video, while those in the control group were shown a tourism video.

Women in the experimental group were given a choice of watching a stand-up segment by Bill Cosby, Tim Allen, or Robin Williams. Most chose Cosby. (It was 2003.) How funny they found the videos was assessed by an observer using the Humor Response Scale (HRS), developed for the study. Afterward, both the experimental and control groups’ NK cell activity was assessed.

The experiment showed that simply viewing a comedic video did not result in a statistically significant increase in NK cell activity. However, the HRS scores of women in the comedy group did how a statistically significant positive correlation with NK cell activity. The increase was especially pronounced for those whose HRS scores were 25 or higher. On the other hand, women who saw a comedic video but didn’t find it funny actually had reduced NK cell activity.[4]

6 Dominance

Fact: Dominance And Laughter

Research by Dr. Christopher Oveis of UC San Diego has shown that higher-status individuals tend to laugh differently than those with less power, and people pick up on those cues.

In 2014, he set out to confirm that status can affect how people laugh. Previous research had already indicated that being in a position of power can affect acoustic aspects of speech. This time, videos of four fraternity brothers (two new ones and two who’d been with the frat for at least two years) were shown to various teams of observers who didn’t know what the study was investigating. In the videos, each brother took turns being teased by the other three. Their laughter was rated by how dominant it sounded and also assessed for attributes like loudness and pitch. Dominant laughter was shown to be louder and higher-pitched and also more variable in tone. The new pledges only showed dominant laughter when they got to do the teasing, whereas the long-running fraternity brothers showed dominant laughter at all times.

A second study in 2016 saw 51 students listening to 20 recordings of the fraternity members’ laughs. They were asked to rate the social status of the laugher. As you might expect, dominant-sounding laughers were seen as higher in status. This was even true when the dominant laugh came from one of the new pledges, implying that perhaps one can appear to be in a position of power by laughing in a certain way. At the same point, even if a submissive-sounding laugh was made by an established frat boy, it was perceived as coming from a high-status individual.[5]

5 Psychopathy

Fact: Is Immunity To Laughter A Warning Sign Of Psychopathy?

Quite a bit of research has gone into which childhood behaviors may predict psychopathy in adulthood, and that includes laughter. You’ve probably heard laughter described as contagious, and research has even shown that simply hearing laughter will spur the brain to prepare the facial muscles for laughing. As it turns out, boys at risk of psychopathy in adulthood may be immune to the giggling pandemic.

In 2017, researchers at University College London recruited a sample of 92 boys between 11 and 16 years old, 30 “normal” kids as a control group and 62 who showed possible indicators of eventual psychopathy. All 62 displayed disruptive behaviors but were further divided based on whether or not they also displayed “callous-unemotional traits.” The boys were given MRIs while listening to recordings of genuine laughter, fake laughter, and crying sounds. The participants were also asked to rate how much each sound made them want to feel that emotion.

The MRIs showed that all the boys’ brains responded to the sound of genuine laughter. However, those with both disruptive behaviors and callous-unemotional traits showed less activity in the supplementary motor area and anterior insula, brain regions associated with joining in laughter and feeling others’ emotions. This difference was also present in boys who were disruptive but not callous-unemotional, albeit to a lesser extent. Study leader Dr. Essi Viding noted that it’s hard to say whether the diminished response to laughter is caused by the boys’ behaviors or is a consequence of it but that the findings absolutely warranted further research.[6]

4 Appetite

Fact: Laughter And Appetite

In 2010, Dr. Lee S. Berk, Dr. Jerry Petrofsky, and others conducted a study on how “mirthful laughter” (a form of eustress) affected the levels of hormones that modulate appetite. Any such effects were compared with what happens when a subject is distressed.

Fourteen participants were shown a comedic video of their choice for the eustress half of the experiment and the first 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan for distress. In this case, everyone viewed both the funny and upsetting videos, spaced a week apart. For each segment, subjects had their blood pressure taken and blood drawn both before and after the videos.

Viewing the distressing video caused no statistically significant change in appetite hormone levels and presumably made no one hungry. Watching a funny video, however, led to a decrease in leptin and an increase in ghrelin, something that is also seen after moderate exercise. Dr. Berk pointed out that the study did not simply conclude that laughter makes you hungry (not that this stopped several news outlets from reporting it as such). However, the findings were valuable for their implications when it comes to treating patients unable to use exercise to increase their appetites.[7]

3 The Best medicine

Fact: Making The Patient Laugh, Literally

A study published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation in 2019 indicated that electrically stimulating a certain part of the brain could reliably induce laughter as well as reduce anxiety. While stimulation of other brain areas has been shown to cause laughter, this is reportedly the first time that a reduction in anxiety was also observed. A research team was performing electrical stimulation brain mapping on epilepsy patients. This is a procedure wherein electrodes are placed on the brain in order to stimulate various regions. Doing so can provide insight into the source of seizures.

While working with a 23-year-old woman, the researchers found that stimulation of her cingulum bundle consistently caused uncontrollable laughter, smiling, and feelings of calm and relaxation. Her mood was elevated, and her cognitive abilities were not impaired by the simulation. After observing this, the team tried the same thing on two more patients and got the same results.

Study co-author Dr. Jon T. Willie postulated that this effect was due to the cingulum bundle’s connections with other parts of the brain, including those associated with emotion regulation. This finding carries a myriad of treatment implications. First and foremost, it could be a means of easing the experience of brain surgery during which the patient must remain awake. This technique may one day lead to treatments for depression, anxiety, and chronic pain. For the moment, a medicinal shock to the cingulum bundle requires invasive surgery, but advances in medical technology down the road could provide a less invasive form of administration.[8]

2 The Laughie

Fact: The Laughie . . . is it the new selfie?

Love it or hate it, the selfie is here to stay. Scores of people around the world are snapping them with their smartphones and uploading them to social media, to the enjoyment or chagrin of their peers. To some, selfies are a sign of societal decline; to others, they’re a form of self-affirmation and even therapeutic. But what about the Laughie?

In another study published in 2019, Freda Gonot Schoupinsky, a graduate student at the University of Derby working under the supervision of Dr. Gulcan Garip, was examining the effect of laughter on well-being. Specifically, this research involved the Laughie, a smartphone recording of one’s own joyous laughter to be listened to when desired.

Twenty-one participants between the ages of 25 and 93 created their own minute-long Laughies and played them back three times a day for a week. In 89 percent of these sessions, participants ended up laughing for most of the playback. Nineteen of them reported increased well-being after the week was up. Their scores on the World Health Organization Well-Being Index were 16 percent higher, and those whose scores weren’t very high beforehand benefitted the most. It seems that laughter is contagious even when it’s your own.[9]

1 Risible Rats

Fact: Rats laugh

Laughter is not unique to humans, as already implied by the comparison of babies’ laughter to that of chimpanzees above. Another animal in which laughter has been observed may come as more of a surprise: rats.

According to a study in 2000, rats, when tickled, emitted the same sounds they would when playing. (These sounds are typically outside of the human auditory range.) Some rats really liked being tickled, too, to the point that they’d follow the hand of the scientist who tickled them.

In a 2016 study, researchers at Berlin’s Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience also tickled rats. They tested the rodents’ reaction to vigorous tickling, gentler tickling, and a chase game. The chase game and vigorous tickling caused the rats to make their happy giggling sounds. Through the use of electrodes, it was shown that all three activities promoted increased activity in the somatosensory cortices of the rats’ brains. Electrical stimulation of this region also caused the rats to laugh, though it’s unknown if the rats were actually enjoying said stimulation.

Notably, if the rats were made anxious (in this case by being put on a high pedestal under bright lights), both the happy vocalizations and the somatosensory cortex activity in response to tickling were noticeably lessened. This was taken as confirmation that the rats’ giggling and brain activity during the previous conditions weren’t actually signs of alarm.[10]

10 Fascinating Parts Of The Day From Around The World

Across cultures and throughout history, many specific features of the day have obtained significant importance. We carve out certain hours of our day to provide us with satisfaction, entertainment, or general peace of mind. Sometimes, we base our entire day on certain groups of hours. Even exact times appearing on the clock developed value to many. Some of these aspects of our day originated centuries ago, and some are much more recent. This list takes a look at ten of the most impactful.

SEE ALSO: 10 Bizarre Calendar Fixes That Made Us Add Or Skip Dates

10 Spanish Siesta

The Spanish Siesta found its way into the popular lexicon. Unfortunately, it is sometimes used derogatorily to imply laziness, when in fact, that could not be further from the truth.

The term “siesta” comes from the Latin for “sexta,” meaning “sixth hour.” Romans began their day at dawn, and used the sixth hour of the day for eating and resting. From there, the tradition for midday rest eventually crossed into other cultures, most notably that of the Spanish. Their siestas came about after the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). Most people worked two jobs, thus splitting their work day into two parts: 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. This gave many the opportunity to have a nice rest if they so desired.

In today’s Spain, close to 60% of working age people have never taken a siesta. Yet, today’s Spaniards average only around 7 hours of sleep a night, a full hour below the recommended 8. It seems it is not just Americans that do not get enough sleep. We cannot all be like George Costanza and take a nap under our desk; we rely on coffee and energy drinks.

Spaniards are one the last European countries to turn in for the night. Midnight is the average bedtime in Spain, over an hour later than neighboring France. Vice President of the Spanish Society for Sleep Juan Jose Ortega believes there is still a place for the siesta in Spanish society. With the knowledge that his people are sleeping over an hour less than their grandparents, Ortega thinks “A brief siesta helps us to alleviate stress, strengthens the immune system and improves performance.”[1]

9 Happy Hour

Everyone wants and deserves to be happy, even if it is only for about an hour a day. “Happy Hour” refers to the time of day, usually for more than an hour, when bars and restaurants offer discounts on certain foods and drinks. Show up after work, relax with colleagues, and enjoy half-off jalapeño poppers and beers. What a great way to end the work day. There is no clear reason how the term “Happy Hour” came to be used as it is today. But, we can piece together the history of the words involved and try to trace a path.

“Happy” comes from the Middle English hap which in turn is derived from the Old Norse happ meaning “good luck. “Hour” is from the Latin hora, which denotes 1/24 of a day, or one canonical hour. By the 19th century, “happy hour” was often used to refer to organized entertainment. It is possible that at some point, establishments appropriated that use of the term for the advertisement of their discounted offerings. Around World War I, the U.S. Navy used the term to let sailors know when they were allowed to participate in recreational activities. Sailors may have brought the term home with them and it further worked its way into popular culture.[2]

8 Brahma Muhurta

In the Hindu religion, the last quarter of the night is the most important part of the day. This is approximately the 90 minutes prior to sunrise. Brahma Muhurta is time for the self, the only time of the day when one is fresh and aware. On this side of the world, many of us do not want to even look at the clock at this time of day, let alone get up and be active.

During Brahma Muhurta, it is believed the body benefits from such things as a boost to the immune system, increased energy levels, and relief of pain and soreness. To make this time the most advantageous, there are five recommended points of focus: meditation, reading, planning, introspect, and memory. Eating and engaging in a mentally stressful activity are not recommended.[3]

7 Afternoon Tea

Despite what we might think, the English have not been tea drinkers for very long. The custom of drinking tea dates back to China circa the third millennium BC. Fast forward to the late 17th century and the reign of King Charles II. His new wife Catherine de Braganza came from Portugal, a tea drinking country. Catherine naturally brought some with her when she became England’s new Queen. Until this time, tea was mostly used medicinally in England, and was quite costly due taxation on importation. The aristocracy began to follow Catherine’s custom, but it would take a while yet before the general population became tea drinkers.

By the mid-1840s, dinner in England had moved to very late in the day. The Duchess of Bedford, Anna Russell, experienced hunger pangs around mid-afternoon and asked that a pot of tea and some light food items be brought to her chambers. Soon after, she began inviting friends to accompany her. Due to her friendship with and lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria, Anna’s custom was adopted by the rest of the elites. More tea was imported and it became easier to purchase. The rest of England began to enjoy these get-togethers. People began sending announcements to friends and relatives stating the hour and day of the week in which they could all gather for tea and snacks.[4]

6 Japanese Temporal Time

Japanese Temporal Time used animals to indicate each two hour block. This system came to Japan from China. Buddha’s observation of the animals under the Bho tree during his twelve years of meditation led to the order in which the animals are arranged. Each sign of the Zodiac corresponds to approximately two hours of the day.

These are the animals and the division of the day they each occupy:

The Rat: 11:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.
The Ox/Cow: 1:00 to 3:00 a.m.
The Tiger: 3:00 to 5:00 a.m.
The Rabbit: 5:00 to 7:00 a.m.
The Dragon: 7:00 to 9:00 a.m.
The Snake: 9:00 to 11:00 a.m.
The Horse: 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
The Sheep: 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.
The Monkey: 3:00 to 5:00 p.m.
The Rooster/Chicken: 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.
The Dog: 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.
The Pig: 9:00 to 11:00 p.m.

For almost 1000 years, water clocks were the norm in Japan. During the Edo Period (1603-1868), Japan began using Western clock-making techniques to manufacture devices to keep better track of their unique time system. Some clocks, like lantern clocks, were driven by a plumb bob. Others like the paper weight and the carriage clock were driven by a spring. Soon after the end of the Edo Period, these types of clocks began disappearing as Japan gradually phased out the use of the temporal time system.[5]

5 Graveyard Shift

Whether we have worked a “graveyard shift” or not, we all know that it means working late into the night, usually into the next morning. A lot of places are open 24 hours and need staff at all times of the day. Some people’s jobs require them to work during according to the time standards of other countries, so they need to be wide awake when the rest of us are sleeping. But from where did the term actually originate?

First off, there is no evidence pointing to the phrase having anything to do with cemeteries. Some believed it came from people having to sit in a graveyard all night to listen for the ringing of bells connected to special coffins. There are conflicting reports as to exactly where and when it was first coined. There is evidence it was first seen the New Albany Evening Tribune in May 1895 which featured a story about the dismal nature of being on the graveyard shift while working in a mine. It may have originated in the Salt Lake Tribune in June 1897 in which it described policeman working the graveyard shift. In any case, if you are working the graveyard shift, it is likely you will be unfortunately working through the next time of day on our list.[6]

4The Witching Hour

Those who have seen the film Paranormal Activity know that most of the bumps in the night in that film happen around 3:00 a.m. Purportedly, this is the start of the witching hour. However, evidence varies on the actual time, and on the era in which the term was conceived. Facts themselves are tough to substantiate with reputable sources, so take this knowledge with a grain of salt. Throw it over the shoulder if need be.

The phrase might stretch either to 1535, or to Pope Pius IV in 1560. In either case, the church soon began to forbid people (specifically women), from any activities between the hours of 3:00 and 4:00 a.m. Not long after, people known to be up at those hours were deemed to be possible witches. The paranoia spread and eventually made its way onto our shores in the form of the Salem Witch Trials.

Even Shakespeare himself is sometimes credited with coining the term in Hamlet referring to the witching hour beginning at midnight. Today, many still believe it does start around 3, but no longer due to anything to do with actual (or suspected) witches. Around 3:00 in the morning is the time when most people enter the deepest phase of sleep. All of the body’s functions slow way down, thus waking up at this time often brings on a state of confusion, and sometimes panic. If I wake up convinced someone is in the corner of my room, I tend not to check the time. Why get freaked out even further?[7]

3 10:10

Do people still buy watches these days? Sadly, so many of us rely on our cellphones to give us the time rather than a cool watch on our wrist. One way watchmakers have always tried to show off their wares is by setting their watches and analog clocks to a specific time. The popular time of late is 10:10. Of the 100 top selling watches on Amazon in 2009, 97 were set to 10:10.

It turns out that aesthetics are the main reason manufacturers set their watches to read 10:10. By setting the hands to the 10 and 2, the logo is ideally framed. The 10:10 position is also symmetrical, pleasing the brain’s desire for things to be in proportion and order. For photographs, Rolex sets their watches to 10:10:31, whereas Timex sets every watch, including digitals, to 10:09:36.

Dating back to the 1920s and 1930s, watches were almost exclusively set at 8:20. Watchmakers began to realize that hands set to 8 and 4 resembled a frown, and that a smile at 10 and 2 would be much more appealing. The feeling buyers get from seeing a “smiling” watch is part of the subconscious clues advertisers use in print ads. “In advertising, we would never expect someone to look at a watch and say, ‘The watch is smiling,’” says Linda Kaplan Thaler, chief executive of the New York advertising agency Kaplan Thaler Group. “(I)t’s just a feeling you get.”[8]

2 11:11

At some point during our lives, we have all seen 11:11 on a digital clock and noticed its uniqueness. What draws us to pay attention to this time on the clock as opposed to other random times?

There is no other time on the clock with quite the allure or symmetry of 11:11. It is pleasing to our eyes to see such uniformity; the sight stays with us longer than other glances at the clock. Maybe it is the result of Baader-Meinhof syndrome. It tells us that there are actually two psychological processes going on. Selective attention occurs when we perceive something new, and when we look for it thereafter, it seems to keep popping up.

Confirmation bias tells us that each time we see it, we further cement its importance. Some of us may even remember who originally told us that it is good luck to make four wishes when 11:11 is on the clock. It seems some people apply so much significance to something like the numbers on a clock, that they believe its possible association with wish-making to be true. [9]

1 Earth Hour

In 2007, Sydney, Australia, inspired by the WWF (World Wildlife Foundation), decided to have a “lights out event.” This is considered the first Earth Hour. As of 2019, more than 185 countries take part in Earth Hour.

Once a year, around the end of March (near the Spring/Autumn equinoxes depending on your hemisphere), people are asked to turn off all non-essential lights. WWF hopes this will motivate think bigger and take action regarding climate change, and a broader commitment to our planet. Perhaps, Earth Hour will eventually become known as the time when the most number of people in the world feel connected to each other at once.[10]

About The Author: Hello everyone on the internet! A little about me: I have two degrees in film: my B.A. from UC Berkeley, and my M.F.A. from Academy of Art University. I worked for a little while in the production office on several films including Bee Season, and Milk. I transitioned to TV and spent a few years in the “bullpen” working on live games for Pac-12 Networks. Lately, I’ve found that writing is what really does it for me. I’ve been writing film reviews for almost five years for the Concord/Clayton Pioneer. Very recently I’ve decided to branch out into comic books and online writing. I have also been a swim coach for twenty years.

10 Crazy News Stories You Probably Missed This Week (9/28/19)

A nice way of relaxing during the weekend is by taking a look at the stranger side of news with a few peculiar or amusing stories. If you missed last week’s list, you can check it out right here.

This week there are quite a few bizarre crime-related tales that involve a wrathful walrus, a camel with sore testicles, and 25,000 pills of ecstasy. Unfortunately, those three are not part of the same story. In other news, a French woman discovers she has a 700-year-old masterpiece in her kitchen and we look at prostitution in the notorious frontier town of Deadwood.

SEE ALSO: Top 10 Bizarre And Offbeat Stories Involving Serial Killers

10 What You Can Find In Your Kitchen

An elderly woman from France discovered that the painting she had hanging over her hotplate for years was a genuine 13th century masterpiece worth millions.

Until a few months ago, the woman who is in her 90s and wished to remain anonymous lived in the French town of Compiègne. She decided to sell her house and move. Her family asked an auctioneer to come take a look at her 1960s home to see if there was anything worth selling. The expert, Philomène Wolf, told newspapers that she almost didn’t come because of her busy schedule, in which case everything would have went to the dump.

As soon as she entered the home, one small painting located between the open-space kitchen and the living room attracted the auctioneer’s attention. It was “Christ Mocked” by early Renaissance artist Cimabue. It is worth between €4m-€6m.[1] Even more surprisingly, it was still in good condition despite sitting above the hotplate the woman used to cook her food.

As far as how exactly the elderly lady ended up owning a painting from 1280, that remains a mystery. She always thought it was an average Russian religious icon and claims to not even remember how or when she obtained it. Other art experts have confirmed the work is genuine and it will go at auction next month.

9 The Walrus Offensive

A protective walrus mother attacked and sunk a Russian boat attempting to explore the Franz Josef Land archipelago in the Arctic Ocean.

Scientists from the Russian Geographical Society (RGO) were onboard the Altai, a tugboat of the Russian Navy staffed by servicemen from the Northern Fleet. The researchers were recreating famed expeditions from the past and conducting biological surveys along the way. They had recovered artifacts dating all the way back to the first mapping of the archipelago during an Austro-Hungarian expedition in 1874.

The scientists had deployed a rubber landing craft to reach Cape Heller, but this didn’t sit well with a mother walrus who was protecting her calves. The large animal attacked the expedition boat, but the navy men managed to steer it towards shore before it sunk.[2] They landed safely and neither human nor walrus were injured during the incident.

8 A Mild Bout Of Hangover

Just in time for Oktoberfest, a German court has ruled that a hangover is an illness.

The decision was passed down by the Higher Regional Court of Frankfurt. Despite how it may first appear, the ruling was not made to give people an excuse to have a few too many and then take a sick day off work. Instead, the court took this stance against an unnamed firm which has been accused of making illegal health claims regarding the anti-hangover products it sells.

The German court took an illness to mean “even small or temporary disruptions to the normal state or normal activity of the body”.[3] A hangover usually comes with headaches, nausea, and tiredness and, therefore, qualifies.

More to the point, food products like the drink powders the company sold cannot say or imply that they can prevent or treat human illnesses so the firm can no longer distribute anti-hangover beverages.

7 Prostitution In Deadwood

The infamous city of Deadwood, South Dakota, is opening a new museum to tell the history of prostitution from its frontier days all the way to the 1980s. Due to open in 2020, the museum will, fittingly, be located inside a former brothel called the Shasta Room.[4]

The city of Deadwood came to prominence during the Gold Rush in the late 19th century. Many legendary figures of the Old West like Seth Bullock, Calamity Jane, and Wyatt Earp called it home or, at least, passed through the city. “Wild Bill” Hickok was killed and buried there. In modern times, interest in Deadwood was renewed thanks to the TV show of the same name.

Prostitution was a part of Deadwood for over a hundred years: since it was founded in 1876 all the way up to 1980 with only a brief time-out during the 1950s. A non-profit called Deadwood History Inc. aims to put a spotlight on it in the new brothel museum because it had a “huge impact” instead of simply “sweeping it under the rug” due to its uncomfortable nature. The exhibits will feature historical furnishings alongside clothes, artifacts, and memorabilia to tell the story of one of the city’s most enduring and successful industries.

6 Camel Gets Sore Injury

A camel had to be prescribed antibiotics after being bitten on the testicles by a woman who was trying to escape from underneath the animal.[5]

The Tiger Truck Stop in Iberville Parish, Louisiana, has a camel named Caspar which it keeps around as a mascot/attraction. Florida couple Gloria and Edmond Lancaster were visiting the truck stop and playing with their unleashed dog. They threw some treats into Caspar’s enclosure and the dog went in after them. Gloria Lancaster then also entered the pen to retrieve her pet by crawling underneath barbed wire. Before she could get up, the 272-kilogram (600 lbs) camel sat on top of her.

Desperate times call for desperate measures so Gloria Lancaster bit Caspar’s testicles to get him to stand up. Subsequently, a veterinarian administered antibiotics to the camel to make sure he avoids infection.

When police arrived, the couple argued that they reacted because the camel attacked their dog. However, deputies concluded that the two provoked the animal by swatting at it and shoving it before it sat on Mrs. Lancaster. They were cited for a leash law violation.

5 Surprise Delivery

A middle-aged couple from Linz, Austria, ordered some dresses online. They were accidentally sent 25,000 ecstasy tablets worth over half a million dollars.

The unnamed 58-year-old woman received two packages which were supposed to contain dresses she bought online from a retailer in the Netherlands. While one of the parcels did, indeed, contain two garments, the other one had 24,800 pink tablets.[6] At first, she thought they were decorative stones, but her husband realized that they were pills.

The couple returned the package to the post office in Linz where employees were equally surprised and called the Austrian police. An investigation revealed that the drugs were supposed to be shipped to Scotland and the matter has been turned over to the UK’s National Crime Agency and Police Scotland who are conducting a joint investigation.

4 Newest Member Of The Sourtoe Cocktail Club

Nick Griffiths from Bolton, England, traveled all the way to Dawson City in Yukon, Canada, to drink a cocktail with his own amputated toe in it.

We have mentioned this bizarre tradition before. At the Downtown Hotel, you can order the bar’s infamous “sourtoe cocktail” which consists of the drink of your choice, usually whiskey, with a human toe floating in it. House rules say that “you can drink it fast, you can drink it slow, but your lips must touch the toe”.

This custom dates back almost half a century and over 100,000 people have joined the “Sourtoe Cocktail Club” since then. The original toe is long-gone and the bar relies on donations for new ones. Nick Griffiths is an endurance athlete who, at the start of the year, lost three toes to frostbite in the Yukon Arctic Race. He kept one as a memento, but donated the other two to the Downtown Hotel.

This happened around June, but, due to his convalescence, Griffiths never actually got to accompany his digits to Dawson City until this week. On Monday night, the bar held a special ceremony where Nick finally joined the club by taking a shot which contained his big toe.[7]

3 A New Kind Of Referee Attack

A referee was shot in the head with a cannon blast during a football game at Maine Maritime Academy.

Right off the bat, let’s just say that the official will be alright since the artillery was, obviously, not loaded with an actual cannonball. He was taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

During the maritime school’s homecoming football game last Saturday, an alumnus brought his cannon along to fire it. The academy already had its own cannon which it traditionally fired whenever its team scored but, on this occasion, it made an exception since most fans rarely provide their own artillery. Normally, school officials load their shot with a blank shotgun shell. This time, though, the cannon was loaded improperly with a shot that contained black gunpowder and a “wad”.[8]

As soon as the blast shot out, the referee caught in its line of fire immediately fell to the ground grabbing his head. The sheriff’s department is investigating the matter and may file criminal charges with the district attorney.

2 The Cheddar Conundrum

A celebrated French chef is taking the Michelin Guide to court after his restaurant lost a Michelin star over allegations of using cheddar in his cheese soufflé.

Marc Veyrat runs “La Maison des Bois” restaurant in Haute-Savoie in the French Alps. The eatery earned its third Michelin star, the highest grade possible, last year. However, when the latest edition of the Michelin Guide was published at the beginning of this year, Veyrat was dismayed to discover that his restaurant was back at two stars.

The chef says that the downgrade came without warning or explanation. When he inquired with Michelin officials, he was only given vague responses which included an accusation that he had served cheddar.[9]

Veyrat claims to have been “dishonored” by the actions of the Michelin Guide, especially since they were not warranted. The chef has built a reputation for using products from the Savoyard region of France. According to him, he definitely used Reblochon or Beaufort or another French cheese variety in his soufflé. He added saffron, though, which turned it yellow and caused the Michelin inspector to think it was made with cheddar.

The chef has asked for Michelin’s bills and notes to prove that the inspector truly ate at his restaurant. Unsurprisingly, his request was denied. The case will go to court in November.

1 Lunch For A Black Hole

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) was only launched a year-and-a-half ago, but already it observed one of the rarest sights in the Universe: a supermassive black hole shredding a star apart.[10]

Officially, this phenomenon is known as a tidal disruption event (TDE). When a star gets too close to a black hole, it cannot escape its powerful gravity. Instead, it gets pulled apart and, while some material gets ejected into space, the rest is “devoured” by the black hole and added to its accretion disk. In this case, the event which is known as ASASSN-19bt occurred in a galaxy 375 million light-years away from us in the constellation Volans. The black hole in question was about the size of six million solar masses while its “snack” was roughly the same as our Sun.

Scientists first managed to confirm the observation of a TDE last year based on an event witnessed a decade-and-a-half ago. However, we caught that episode near the tail end when the black hole was “burping” out the extra material it didn’t consume. This new TDE, however, was discovered just a few days after it started to brighten and was located directly in TESS’s “continuous viewing zone”. Consequently, scientists received observations of the event every 30 minutes for almost 80 days, capturing all the essential stages.