10 Mind-Blowing Things that Happened this Week (11/29/19)

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.

This being Thanksgiving week, a significant chunk of this week’s news was viewed through a haze of turkey, alcohol, and/or blistering family arguments. But while America pigged out and remembered the past, the rest of the world kept right on careening toward the precipice marked “the future”. There were political earthquakes in Israel, actual earthquakes in the Balkans, and the possibility of the world’s newest nation being founded in the Pacific Ocean. Let’s do this thing.

10 Israel’s Prime Minister was Charged with Bribery

We briefly touched on this in last week’s column, but it’s such a huge story that it should probably get it’s own entry. So here it is. Last Thursday, Israel’s Attorney General announced he had reached a decision regarding the three pending cases against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for fraud, corruption, and bribery. “With a heavy heart,” he was going to officially charge the PM in all three cases. Netanyahu is now the first sitting PM in Israeli history to be accused of bribery.

To say Netanyahu reacted maturely would be to tell a lie so brazen even Keyser Soze would balk at it. The 70-year old claimed a coup was underway, attacked the integrity of the Israeli justice system, and tried to ignite a populist backlash against the rule of law. Hey, what else would you expect from a guy who reportedly tried to spark a war with Gaza this September in order to delay elections?

Netanyahu is a consummate political survivor who has weathered storms before. But are the winds finally shifting? On Sunday, his Likud Party announced a contest to replace him as leader, while one of his own former ministers has said he should step down. Are we witnessing the end of the Bibi era?[1]

9 Malta’s Government Teetered Towards Collapse

Within a four month period two years ago, the EU was shocked by the brazen murder of two anti-corruption journalists. In Malta, a car bomb killed blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia in October, 2017. The following February, Slovak investigative reporter Jan Kuciak was executed by gunshot in his home.

But while the two murders shared outward similarities (mafia links, the possible involvement of businessmen and politicians), the reactions were very different. In Slovakia, mass protests collapsed the government and led to an ongoing wave of arrests and anti-corruption purges at the highest levels. In Malta… nothing. The tainted government limped on, and PM Joseph Muscat even allowed – and participated in – a lawsuit against Caruana Galizia’s relatives for the “smears” she published. For a long time, it really seemed like accountability in Malta was falling behind a former Communist state.

Until now. In the aftermath of businessman Yorgen Fenech’s arrest last week, Maltese society has exploded. Three ministers linked to Fenech have been forced to resign from the government. There have been protests. The leader of the opposition has claimed Muscat’s government has been “hijacked by a criminal organization.” It could be we’re witnessing the first dominoes starting to topple.[2]

8Albania Suffered its Biggest Earthquake in Decades

One of the poorest nations in Europe, Albania also has the bad luck to sit atop a notorious faultline, where the Eurasian and African plates meet. In the early hours of Tuesday morning, these two issues combined to create disaster. At 4am, a 6.4 magnitude quake hit just outside the capital, Tirana, and near the second city of Durres. Buildings collapsed. Homes were leveled. At time of writing, the death toll from the quake’s destruction has hit over 30, with hundreds injured.

Bad as the quake itself was, rescue efforts were hampered by the state of Albania’s economy. Though not as backward as it was under the Communist regime of Enver Hoxha, Albania is poor. Within Europe, only Moldova and Ukraine could claim to be poorer. As such, the quake completely overwhelmed Albania’s emergency responders, exacerbating the situation.

Thankfully, the nation’s neighbors have chipped in, with Greece and Italy donating funds and search and rescue teams. Still, the quake is easily Albania’s biggest natural disaster in decades.[3]

7 Bougainville Voted on Whether to Become the World’s Newest Nation

A small-ish island off the coast of Papua New Guinea (PNG), Bougainville is an obscure region within an already obscure country. But it may soon have a hefty claim to fame. Last Friday, a two week process started whereby the island’s citizens will choose whether to secede from PNG. If, as seems likely, a “yes” vote is returned, Bougainville will become the world’s newest country.

Relations between PNG and Bougainville have been strained for a long time. In the 1990s, the two fought a civil war that killed as many as ten percent of Bougainville’s population. In 2001 a peace deal was finally agreed on the basis that PNG would allow a referendum on independence. After nearly two decades of foot-dragging, that referendum has finally arrived.

The challenges for the vote are legion. Bougainville is almost totally rural, with no island-wide communication network, and a population with a literacy rate of roughly 50 percent. As a result, staging the vote has involved years of preparation, treks by officials to remote villages, and interactive plays explaining the entire process of voting to villagers. Additionally, should the vote pass, there is no time limit to implementing the result. Experts have warned PNG could dither a decade before letting Bougainville leave.[4]

6 Samoa’s Deadly Measles Outbreak was Traced to Anti-Vaxxers

When the measles vaccine was first introduced in 1963, it was a literal lifesaver. Hundreds – mostly children – died each year in the US alone. After the vaccine appeared, mortality rates plummeted 80 percent. For people at the time who’d lost a loved one to measles, the idea that, one day, people would choose not to take this preventative miracle would’ve seemed absurd.

Yet, here we are in late 2019, and yet another measles outbreak has been traced back to the insane cult of anti-vax. This time, it’s Samoa in the crossfire, where nearly 40 have died in the latest outbreak. 35 of those dead were children below the age of 4. Note to anti-vaxxers: when your propaganda starts literally killing children, it’s probably time to stop.

The Samoa outbreak started back in October, but it’s really hit the headlines this week as the tiny nation’s resources reached breaking point. Amazingly, soulless husks masquerading as social media influencers are continuing to target the country with anti-vaccine propaganda. Stay classy, guys.[5]

5 The New EU Commission Finally Formed

Like so much about the EU, the job of the commission is one that’s little understood outside political circles, and likely cared about even less. But its significance cannot be overstated. The European Commission is effectively the cabinet of the EU. It runs the continent on a day to day basis, proposing legislation, and making sure that legislation is respected in member states. It’s a body that influences the lives of 513 million people (451 million when – if – the UK finally leaves), and it’s just undergone a major change.

Following EU elections back in May, the term of the Commission headed by Jean Claude Juncker came to a close. After much wrangling in the fractured parliament, compromise candidate Ursula von der Leyen was chosen to replace him. This Wednesday – again, after much wrangling – Von der Leven’s team for the Commission was finally voted through. She will take up her new position formally on December 1.

The hard work begins almost immediately. The EU is having to deal with the loss of 13 percent of its population and its third largest economy as Brexit forges ahead. On top of that, the continent is more split than ever with the rise of the far-right on one hand, and hardcore leftwing parties on the other. How Von der Leven handles these challenges will set the future course of the world’s largest trading bloc.[6]

4 The UK Opposition Accused the Government of Selling the NHS

The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) is one of those peculiarly British institutions that everyone moans about, while simultaneously being ready to man the barricades and die for. Founded in the wake of WWII by the Labour government to provide free healthcare for the nation, it has remained largely under national ownership even as privatization has broken up nearly every other government monopoly.

But could all that change? As part of the ongoing UK election campaign, the Labour party revealed a leaked dossier this week that purported to show the NHS was on the table in post-Brexit trade talks with the US. It’s the sort of claim that could potentially blow the race wide open.

The documents relate to drug pricing and patents, a worrying trend to be sure, but not quite the fire sale the Labour Party sold it as. Still, with the NHS being a classic motivating factor for British voters, the claim could damage the Tories more than you’d expect. At least, Labour will hope that’s the case. Jeremy Corbyn’s leftwing party is currently trailing Boris Johnson’s Conservatives by anywhere between 11 and 19 points. At this stage, they’ll need a major upset to win. But, hey, the past few years have been all about major election upsets.[7]

3Australia Accused China of Trying to Install a Spy in its Parliament

On Sunday, Wang Liqiang sat down for an interview with Australian journalists. Over the next hour, he proceeded to unfurl a lurid tale of espionage, bribery, extortion, and possible murder that wouldn’t seem out of place in a late night thriller. According to Liqiang, he’s a former worker for Chinese intelligence who was intimately involved in a plot to embed a spy within Australia’s parliament. There was even a candidate: luxury car dealer Bo “Nick” Zhao, who was found dead in a motel room in March.

The plan was apparently for Zhao to become a candidate for the Liberal Party, use Chinese funds to make an impact, and then get elected into Parliament. This would be easier than it perhaps seems. According to security analysts, newly-elected MPs aren’t screened in such a way that would pick up spy connections. Infiltrating Australia’s parliament would be worryingly easy.

In response, Chinese media released a video purporting to show Wang Liqiang confessing in court to committing fraud in 2016, and claimed the man was an unemployed fantasist. It remains to be seen who is telling the truth.[8]

2Iraq’s Unrest Turned Deadly (Again)

Chile. Hong Kong. Iran. Bolivia. Lebanon. The list of places experiencing mass protests against their governments seems to be growing ever longer, with more and more nations being shaken by political tremors.

This week, Iraq rejoined the list. After intense protests in October resulted in the deaths of 149 people, violence returned to the streets on Wednesday. In Najaf, protestors torched the Iranian consulate, with those inside only just managing to escape. The following day, separate protests in Nasiriya flew out of control, resulting in a minimum of 13 killed by security forces. The violence may presage an even bigger flare up.

Like many across the planet, those in Iraq are demonstrating for less corruption and better living conditions. And, like many governments across the planet, Iraq’s has responded with force. People have been beaten, injured by tear gas cannisters, and fired at with live rounds. Although Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi has offered to resign, no replacement who can command a majority in parliament has been found.[9]

1 Impeachment Star Witness was Accused of Harassment

Another week, another twist in the ongoing saga of Donald Trump’s impeachment. Just last week, former US ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, was in the news for dropping a bombshell about Trump’s alleged quid pro quo with Ukraine over investigating Joe Biden’s son. This week, it’s Sondland himself who is news.

On Wednesday, the magazine Portland Monthly published tales from three women who accused Sondland of harassing them. The accusations range from the one-time hotelier exposing himself, to retaliating against them professionally when they refused to sleep with him.

To call this story complicated would be to underestimate all the conflicting motivations and counterclaims flying back and forth. One of the named women in the story is the owner of the magazine doing the reporting, although she has said she did not interfere editorially. Perhaps as a result of this, Sondland has declared the entire thing is a politically-motivated hit job, designed to discredit by association his damaging testimony against Trump.

So, is this all a rightwing smear campaign? Or is Sondland the one cynically using liberal dislike of Trump to shield himself from the consequences of being a predator? Coming at the nexus of several movements in US politics – the impeachment proceedings, #MeToo, the #MeToo backlash, the Democratic primary – the story is perhaps the most-2019 thing we’ve yet covered. One thing’s for sure: whatever the truth, people will likely choose what they want to believe and tune everything else out.[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.

10 Mind-Blowing Things That Happened This Week (11/22/19)

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.

SEE ALSO: 10 Mind-Blowing Things That Happened Last Week (11/15/19)

In this second week of our rebooted, renamed news column, the airwaves once again found themselves groaning under the weight of the dreaded I-word. Yep, impeachment was big news again, as it probably will continue to be for the foreseeable future. You can scroll down to the bottom to find out just what shenanigans were happening on Capitol Hill. But first, we’re gonna be discussing the continuing protests in Hong Kong, Israel’s continuing inability to form a government, and the bizarre way rich and powerful idiots continue to defend Jeffery Epstein in car crash TV interviews. Ready to gracefully dive into the Olympic-sized swimming pool of news? Let’s go.

10 Israel Once Again Failed to Form a Government

Are you a Brit tearing their hair out at the endless paralysis and repeat elections Brexit is causing? Just be glad you’re not an Israeli voter! Back in April, an early election failed to return a workable government. So a snap election was called for September. That, too, failed to produce a clear winner.

After incumbent PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s attempts to cobble together a coalition broke down, the baton was passed to Benny Gantz, the leader of the Blue and White alliance, and holder of the most seats in the Knesset. He was given three weeks under Israeli law to form a government. Late Wednesday night, that time limit expired. Although the next attempt goes to the Knesset, it seems unlikely that will result in a government. Israel is almost certainly headed for its third election within twelve months.

But will another election solve anything? Israeli politics is so fractured, and so many parties are refusing to work with other parties, that its hard to see how the math could work. Things have further been complicated by Israel’s attorney general last night finally charging Netanyahu with bribery and corruption.[1]

9 Prince Andrew Gave a Car Crash Interview on Jeffery Epstein

You all know Jeffrey Epstein, the hyper-connected billionaire sex trafficker and child abuser who committed suicide after his recent arrest (or did he? See below). But nobody apparently knew him like Britain’s Prince Andrew. After criticism for his connections to Epstein – including allegedly sleeping with a minor Epstein trafficked for him – the Prince finally sat down for a BBC interview to try and clear his name. To call it a car crash would be to do a disservice to freeway pileups.

At the bare minimum, you’d expect a guy who’d been super close friends with a convicted sex offender to offer a heartfelt apology to Epstein’s victims. Prince Andrew didn’t even do that. Instead, he dodged questions about why he attended Epstein’s 2010 release party; told the interviewer that his main fault was being too honorable towards his friends; claimed he couldn’t have had sex with an underage girl because he was eating pizza at the time; and declared an injury from the Falklands War meant he was incapable of sweating.

The backlash was as swift as it was predictable. Charities and companies severed ties with the Prince, who was withdrawn from his official palace duties.[2]

8We Discovered the FBI are Investigating Epstein’s Death as a “Criminal Enterprise”

Sticking with the rich and powerful’s favorite sex offender for a moment, this was also the week we learned the FBI are now investigating Epstein’s death as the result of a possible “criminal enterprise”. The statement came courtesy of Bureau of Prisons Director Kathleen Hawk Sawyer, who was testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Although she also said she had no evidence Epstein’s death was “was anything other than a suicide,” it was still a clear sign that not everyone is satisfied with the official narrative.

The story goes like this: on the night of August 9, Epstein was left alone in his cell. The guards were meant to check on him every thirty minutes, but instead apparently fell asleep. Epstein wasn’t monitored for three hours, during which time the cameras outside his cell malfunctioned. He was found dead the next morning, in what was later ruled a suicide.

Epstein was a guy connected to many, many powerful people. And not just Prince Andrew powerful. He was friends with both Donald Trump and Bill Clinton. Perhaps unsurprisingly, quite a few people now think he was murdered to keep him from spilling the beans. We’ll see what the FBI investigation concludes.[3]

7 Sweden Dropped its Rape Case into Julian Assange

In 2012, Julian Assange fled into the Ecuadorian embassy in London to escape a Swedish arrest warrant for rape. At the time, Assange claimed he was afraid complying with the warrant would end with him being extradited to America for leaking classified government material. This April, his time in the embassy ended unceremoniously when Ecuador dropped his protections and he was dragged out by London police.

Since then, Assange has been sitting in a London jail, serving 50 weeks for breaching bail conditions, both the Swedish and American extradition orders hanging over him. This week, Sweden abruptly dropped their charges against Assange. While that sounds like good news for the Wikileaks co-founder, it also means he might wind up in a US court even sooner than anticipated.

When dropping the case, Swedish prosecutors were very clear that they still believe Assange committed the crime, and that it’s only the deterioration of evidence over time that makes the case not worth pursuing.[4]

6 Malta Finally Arrested the Alleged Mastermind Behind a Journalist’s Murder

On October 16, 2017, Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia got inside her car and started driving. Seconds later, an explosion engulfed the vehicle. At the time of her death, Galizia had been uncovering corruption within both the Maltese government and business communities.

The car bomb that killed Galizia triggered outrage in Malta, but a slow response from the police. Authorities were accused of dragging their feet, lest someone powerful be implicated in Galizia’s murder. Finally, after intense international pressure, the assassination’s so-called “middleman” was arrested. He was offered immunity from prosecution in return for naming the mastermind. It seems likely he took it. This week prominent businessman Yorgen Fenech was arrested on his luxury yacht. We may know soon if he ordered the hit.

Fenech owns 17 Black, a company Galizia had accused of facilitating bribes to Maltese politicians. His arrest echoes the fate of Slovak businessman Marián Ko?ner, who was recently charged with ordering the notorious 2018 murder of journalist Jan Kuciak. Both men deny the allegations.[5]

5 Bolivia Plunged Further into Chaos

Just last week, we told you how Bolivia’s indigenous leftwing leader, Evo Morales, had fled the country following mass protests over recent election irregularities. But rather than calm things down, his exit only seems to have fanned the flames. Bolivia has spent the last week in a state of chaos, as Morales supporters have blocked roads and clashed with police. At time of writing, the death toll of the protests stands at 31, with the unrest showing no signs of abating.

Morales’ supporters claim the president’s removal was part of a right wing coup orchestrated by the opposition. While this conveniently overlooks Morales apparently rigging recent elections, it’s worth noting that the interim government has already overstepped its bounds. Under Bolivian law, the interim government is just there to call fresh elections and ensure they’re properly run. Instead, president Jeanine Anez has taken a chopper to Bolivia’s foreign policy and purged many of Morales’ appointees. No-one is playing fair, it seems.

Bolivia is now facing chronic shortages due to roadblocks, and the potential for the situation to deteriorate. Things haven’t been helped by Morales repeatedly hinting he’ll return from exile to lead his supporters.[6]

4 Hong Kong Also Plunged Further into Chaos

Another week, another flotilla of bad news from Hong Kong. After months of pro-democracy protests paralyzing the territory, things escalated to dangerous new heights as the weekend. On Sunday, protestors barricaded themselves inside Hong Kong Polytechnic University. When police tried to clear them, they responded with petrol bombs. So the police unleashed teargas and rubber bullets and laid siege to the campus. At time of writing, the siege is still ongoing.

The siege is the most dramatic incident in a half-year of dramatic incidents. Protestors who tried to escape the University have been beaten back with water cannons, leading to insane scenes like dozens of students trying to abseil 8 meters from a bridge onto a glass-strewn road where motorbikes waited to speed them away. Others have attempted to crawl out through sewers. Most, however, have been caught by the police. 400 have been arrested. They face charges of rioting and 10 years in prison.

At the heart of the standoff is the protestors’ fear of police, who they accuse of brutality and torture. This means simply surrendering isn’t seen as an option. With only a few dozen students still holding out inside the university, it’s only a matter of time before the siege is broken.[7]

3 Iran’s Plunge Redefined Notions of Chaos

“Is it just me, or is it getting crazier out there?” So says Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker in the smash hit film of the same name. Perhaps one of the reasons the film has been such a smash is because we can all relate: it really does seem to be getting crazier. As protests continued to shake Bolivia, Hong Kong, and Chile (see last week), yet another country found itself paralyzed by demonstrations. After the government hiked fuel prices, Iran exploded. Just as in other countries, the authorities’ response soon turned dangerous.

Almost from the moment the protests ignited last Friday, Tehran shut down the internet and sent armed soldiers out onto the streets. While the combined death toll of the protests in Bolivia (31), Chile (19), and Hong Kong (2 – excluding suicides) is comfortably under 60, in Iran it has already exceeded 100. Groups like Amnesty claim Iranian authorities have fired live rounds indiscriminately into crowds in the worst Iranian crackdown since 2008.

Tehran has now claimed “victory” against the protestors, but it’s a Pyrrhic victory at best. The scale of violence this week in Iran shows that a) people are MEGA pissed, b) the authorities are scared, and c) the Iranian regime may not last much longer.[8]

2 Roger Stone was Convicted of Lying to Congress

Remember the Mueller investigation? Remember how it was all meant to be a big “nothingburger”? Well, the fallout from it is still ongoing, and still taking down plenty of people. Last Friday, it was the turn of former Trump advisor Roger Stone. Stone stood accused of lying to Congress, witness tampering, and obstruction of justice, pretty much all of it relating to Wikileaks’ publishing of sensitive Democrat emails during the 2016 election. After two days’ deliberation, a jury convicted him on all counts. He now faces years in prison.

During the 2016 campaign, it came to Stone’s attention that Wikileaks had compromising emails from the Democrat party. He attempted to coordinate with the website to find out when they would be releasing them, and then subsequently lied about it before the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee in September, 2017. It’s further been alleged that his reason for lying was to protect Trump.

The trial itself was a huge embarrassment for the president. Former Trump deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates testified under oath that Trump and Stone had discussed the Wikileaks emails on the phone – something the president has denied under oath.[9]

1 Yet Another Bombshell Blew Up the Impeachment Inquiry

And so here we are again, at the big story of the 2019 fall-winter season: impeachment. Just last week, we told you about William Taylor’s bombshell testimony that Trump was overheard demanding a quid pro quo from Ukraine, with military aid being withheld until Kyiv opened an investigation into Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden’s son.

This week, another rhetorical artillery shell landed in the form of testimony from Gordon Sondland, the former hotelier and Trump friend turned US ambassador to the EU. In answer to the question “was there a quid pro quo?” Sondland responded: “As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.” He then went on to implicate numerous officials, including Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, vice president Mike Pence, and secretary of state, Mike Pompeo. Per Sondland: “everyone was in the loop. It was no secret.”

As bombshells go, they don’t come bigger or shellier than that. In Sondland’s telling, everyone around Trump was quietly colluding to let the president’s reelection prospects dictate foreign policy. Worryingly for the president, this testimony isn’t coming from a nevertrumper or a disgruntled careerist ambassador, but one of his handpicked Washington outsiders. If things keep going on like this, expect to see more impeachment stuff occupying the #1 spot.[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.

60 Stunning Images Of South Asia

It is very easy for us in the west to ignore life in remote places. We are, particularly these days, so focussed on our social media driven adrenaline shots (and sometimes our jobs I guess) that we simply have no time to pause. It seems the more technology frees up our time, the less of that time we seem to be able to find.

See Also: 60 Stunning Images of The Middle East That Will Make You Forget Its Violent Past

In September I compiled a list of stunning images of the Middle East (linked right above this paragraph) and a reader (“Aman” to be exact) asked for a list on South Asia. Unlike the Middle East which is dominated by Islam, South Asia is a real hodge podge of religions, peoples, and environments. Nevertheless, it still manages to sometimes attract something of a bad name for itself due to unrest in the region (I’m looking at you Pakistan and India!)

But that aside, it is also a magical region of the Asian continent filled with some of the greatest wonders known to man—both natural and manmade. This list looks at a bunch of them, whilst giving a little background on each country. There are actually only eight nations in South Asia, so I have split the two biggest into two items each to give us a total of ten. They are ordered by size: smallest to largest.

10 Maldives

Pictured: Male City, Maldives Resort, Huvafen Fushi, Raffles Maldives, Radisson Blue, Hurawalhi Resort Restaurant

Maldives is the smallest Muslim country in the world. It was part of the British commonwealth from 1982 to 2016 when it withdrew because of criticisms about its bad record with human rights and political corruption. It has a small population of only 390,000 people (Maldivians) descended from the earliest settlers most likely from India and Sri Lanka. The name of the country means Necklace Island.

9 Bhutan

Pictured: Paro Taktsang, Punakha Dzong, Dochula Pass, Thimphu Chorten, Phobjikha Valley x2

First off, if you want to visit the beautiful sights above, you can’t without lots of money. Bhutan is virtually shut to tourists except through expensive state-run tours costing upwards of $250 a day. The name Bhutan means thunder dragon and the same appears on their national flag. Bhutan has a king (Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck) and an elected parliament. The dominant religion is Buddhism with Hinduism a distant second. The country has banned all public use (including sale) of tobacco products and Internet and TV was made legal in 1999. Homosexuality is illegal. Perhaps unique in the world, Bhutan has an official dress code for its citizens which allows easy recognition of social class.

8 Sri Lanka

Pictured: Yala National Park, Dambulla Cave Temple, Sigiriya Fortress, Anuradhapura, Kurunegala Buddha, Polonnaruwa

Sri Lanka was known as Ceylon until it became a republic in 1972. Its recent history has been rather dominated by a 26 year civil war which ended in 2009 when the government forces won against the Tamil Tigers. 70 percent of Sri Lankans are Buddhist with Hinduism second and Roman Catholicism comprising around 7% of the population of roughly 21 million people. Sri Lanka is the oldest continuously Buddhist nation in the world. The government is a semi-presidential republic.

7 Nepal

Pictured: Pokhara, Langtang Valley x2, Nar Phu Valley Trek, Durbar Square, Kathmandu x2

Nepal, the only country with a non-quadrilateral shaped flag, is mostly Hindu with a population of 28 million. It is home to eight of the tallest mountains in the world (including Mount Everest, the highest spot on Earth). The country is, by election, Communist in that its current president (Bidhya Devi Bhandari) was the leader of the Communist party up to her election in 2015.

6 Bangladesh

Pictured: Ratargul Swamp, Paharpur Vihara, Gaur, Barisal Floating Market, Shiva Temple Puthia, Rajbari Palace

Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries on earth with a population of 161 million people in an area of 147,570 square kilometres (56,980 square miles). It is the world’s fourth largest Muslim majority nation. Bangladesh is plagued with many problems: genocide, child slavery, terrorism, corruption, and severe pollution due to it being exempt from all international requirements for climate change due to being so impoverished.

5 Afghanistan

Pictured: Mazar-I-Sharif Mosque, Band-I-Amir, Wakhan Corridor, Bamyan, Minaret of Jam, Kabul

Afghanistan is 99.7% Muslim and ranks as one of the worst for terrorism, child labor, and general human misery. Homosexuality is punishable by death and nearly half of journalist deaths (which is common there) were perpetrated by the government. There are a few Western anchors who might want to consider that next time they clutch pearls over being criticized by politicians and independent media in the US. Up to 16% of the nation’s wealth comes from the Opium industry. Fortunately many of the citizens who fled war are beginning to return and they are bringing much needed business development to the country. Perhaps its future will be less bleak as a consequence. Afghanistan’s national sport is Buzkashi in which men on horseback have to score a goal with a goat’s carcass.

4 Pakistan—Nature

Pictured: Hunza Valley, Neelum Valley, Swat, Concordia, Fairy Meadows, Shimshal Lake

Like its neighbor, India, Pakistan is a nuclear power. Conflict between the two nations is ongoing due to religious and cultural differences, with Pakistan being largely Muslim and India Hindu. It is a nation bereft with problems of illiteracy, poverty, terrorism, and corruption. Nevertheless, it is also home (unbeknownst to many) to some of the most beautiful natural landscapes in the world. Pakistan has a population of 200 million people and has a constitutional republican form of government.

3 Pakistan—Man

Pictured: Pakistan Monument, Lahore Fort, Badshahi Mosque, Faisal Mosque, Noor Mahal, Katas Raj Temple

2 India—Nature

Pictured: Loktak Lake, Valley of Flowers, Jaisalmer Sand Dunes, Great Rann of Kutch, Lonar Crater Lake, Borra Caves

India must be considered one of the richest in the world in terms of cultural color and diversity. Its pagan religion is filled with golden icons, exotic animals, epic tales, and mystical wonders. India is home to both the wettest place on earth (Mawsynram) due to the highest rainfall, and the 17th largest desert, the Thar desert. India’s food is as diverse as its landscape with offerings of highly spiced curries to wonderfully subtle sweets. Entire lists could be dedicated to the beautiful locations in this wonderfully mysterious far away land.

1 India—Man

Pictured: Khajuraho Monuments, Jaisalmer City, Akshardham Temple, Taj Mahal, Golden Temple, Meenakshi Amman Temple

Jamie Frater

Jamie is the owner and chief-editor of Listverse. He spends his time working on the site, doing research for new lists, and collecting oddities. He is fascinated with all things historic, creepy, and bizarre.

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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]