World Urban Extremes – WIF Geography

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Most Extreme Cities

in the World

As of 2008, for the first time in human history about as many people live in urban areas as suburban or rural ones. That means there are a lot of people who think that they deal with greater levels of traffic, more crime, more overcrowding, and higher costs of living than residents of places they consider barely populated backwaters.

 Well, those urbanites have something to consider: They live with country bumpkin-levels of those problems compared to the denizens of the following cities. Depending on the city in question, that makes them much more fortunate, or unfortunate, than the occupants probably realize.
Now, it’s important to remember, when we say “extreme” we don’t mean these are places where you should grab a Mountain Dew and a snowboard, bruh. These 10 cities, instead, exist at the extreme edge of various spectrums. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

10. Largest Population

This is one of the more contentious records as far as cities of the world go, since during rush hour or big events they can all feel like they’ve got the most people in them. Some of the most populous cities in developing nations have very outdated, underfunded bureaucracies which can make an accurate census report difficult to acquire. This is especially true for two of the leading contenders, Jakarta, Indonesia and Delhi, India. But even the highest estimates put them at the city the World Atlasclaims is the world champion: Tokyo, Japan.

As of November 2016, Tokyo’s population was reported to be roughly 37,830,000 residents. To put that very large number in perspective, the population of Japan is reported by the CIA to be roughly 127,000,000 people. More than a quarter of the island nation’s population is located in one urban area. And yet, it’s by no means the largest city or the most crowded.

9. Largest Land Area

In July 2016, Guardian magazine said that urban areas were expected to triple in size over the next forty years. That’s also probably how long it will take any of the fastest growing cities to overtake the current largest urban area in the world. The champion city in that regard is unquestionably New York City, New York, with a metro area of 8,683 square kilometers (or 5,395 square miles if you’re going to use the imperial system like a true American).

It’s over 1,700 square kilometers more than Tokyo, the next largest urban area. It’s also nearly as large as the entire state of Connecticut (5,543 square miles). As it happens, growth in New York City has been slowing as recently as 2016. So it’s not out of the question for the little joke from the start of this entry that some other city will overtake it in the coming decades will have some truth to it.

8. Most Densely Populated City

As heavily populated and vast as New York and Tokyo are, they’re not even close to the most crowded, even if stories of people having to pay hundreds of dollars to live in closets might give that impression. After all, they are cities with large numbers of wealthy inhabitants who can afford decently-sized apartments and houses  No, you have to go to the developing world to find places where people truly have no elbow room. Not even to a notoriously crowded city like Hong Kong. It’s one which many people in the Western Hemisphere haven’t even heard of, let alone a famous city.It’s Dhaka, the largest metropolis in Bangladesh.

At 16,235,000, its population is roughly a million less than that of the New York Metro area, but it’s less than 125 square miles in size. There are more than 110,000 people per square mile, and considering that the Telegraph reported that it was rated the second least livable city in the world, the housing is overwhelmingly slums. Unfortunately for many of the people who already live there, it’s only going to get worse in the immediate future because it’s also one of the fastest growing cities in the world.

7. Most Expensive City

The average person on the street would probably guess that the answer is New York City again, considering it’s a city where a single riverside house can go for as much as $130 million. But we live in a rapidly changing world, so we have to look across the Pacific once again to find the real ‘winner’. As of 2014, that honor swung over to Singapore, particularly due to the rising cost of utilities, food (11% higher than New York City), clothing (50% higher than New York City), and vehicular ownership. Not owning a car won’t save you that much: Singapore’s other transportation methods are three times more expensive than NYC’s.

This dubiously desirable record was still held as of 2016, though it’s been so volatile that it dropped and rose 10% during the time in between. With that in mind, such a volatile economic status means that a bust that leaves it one of the cheaper cities to live in might be around the corner.

6. Healthiest City

It’s time for us to look at an unambiguously positive record for a city to have, for a change. From clear air initiatives to encouraging cycling, many cities are going out of their way to increase the longevity of their citizens. The front runner is, once again, a city that’s not particularly famous. It’s the city-state of Monaco, which is totally surrounded by France except for a coast along Mediterranean Sea. You’ve probably only heard of it either if you’re into Formula One racing, or because you’re a fan ofGrace Kelly. It’s only about two square kilometers (1.24 miles) with a population of only roughly 38,000. Odds are you’ve only heard of it for how ridiculously small it is compared to most nations.

 However, Monaco exists in no small part as a tax shelter, and thus it has drawn a highly disproportionate number of wealthy people. So not only does it have enough people who can afford top-of-the-line medical treatment and lifestyles, it has taken on green initiatives and has many electric cars for government employees, driving down illnesses caused by emissions. The result is the residents have an average life expectancy of a staggering 89.6 years. Perhaps the city-state doesn’t seem so silly now?

5. City with Worst Traffic

Even people who’ve been stuck in traffic for hours doesn’t really understand how bad it can get. Imagine that the worst traffic you’ve experienced was not only significantly worse, but that such an amount of traffic is effectively routine. If you can imagine that, then you’ve just pictured life for the average driver in Mexico City, the city which has held the title for “Worst Traffic” for multiple years. It’s also the only country in the Western Hemisphere in the top five.

During regular hours, a driver in Mexico can expect a trip to take at least 66% longer to reach the destination than if there was no traffic congestion. When rush hour comes around, however, this will balloon to around 101%. Every driver can look forward to spending an average of just under an hour a work day stuck in congested traffic. Even factoring in days off and other times that might help them avoid the worst congestion, the average person in Mexico City will still spend 227 hours a year stuck in traffic, or just over nine days total. It’s frankly kind of amazing enough people are willing to put up with that, to the point where the traffic can remain so bad.

4. Most Impoverished City in the World

It’s no surprise that the poorest city in the world is located in an area that was torn apart by civil war for decades. Even 14 years after the end of a 23-year civil war, Monrovia, Liberia can hardly be described as having recovered. It’s the largest city in Liberia and the capital, with a population of roughly one million. Despite that, amenities most people take completely for granted are generally out of the question for them.

Public transportation is limited to sparse private taxis. Electricity is utterly unreliable, leaving such devices as ATMs and credit card readers out of the question. Those with access to electricity aren’t supposed to use it between 2 and 6 a.m. Monrovia’s plumbing infrastructure is so insufficient that only one third of the population even has access to a flush toilet. They have to rely on makeshift latrines or even public spaces. Even for those whose toilet functions, the sewage system for the city is failing, leaving the sanitation bad enough that it’s no surprise the city was hit by an ebola outbreak.

3. Happiest City

Okay, since that was pretty grim, let’s lighten the mood by focusing on something positive. It might seem difficult or unscientific to quantify something as abstract as the happiness of a city. However, the design and consultation firm Arcadis’s method for determining it still seems pretty credible. It was to take the balance of the population’s health, the amount of prejudices the citizens faced and expressed, the levels of education, employment levels vs. cost of living, and the crime rate. After crunching the available data of all that, the city in question turned out to be none other than Seoul, the capital city of South Korea. You might think that a city that is constantly threatened with nuclear destruction by a notoriously unstable neighbor would make the city more paranoid, but this does not seem to be the case (it undoubtedly helps that North Korean missiles are infamously unreliable).

Unfortunately for fans of small government, this success is attributed in no small part to extensive urban planning. Seoul’s government also heavily favors globalist policies. Maybe you feel living in a happier city might not be worth accepting all that, but it feels like something worth considering.

2. The Most Homicidal City

Let’s get the most negative one out of the way. Many people believe that cities are inherently more violent than rural areas (although a study published in 2013 showed that cities actually aren’t any more dangerous than less populated areas), so they’ll assume that the most violent one must be practically a free-fire zone. That city would be Caracas, Venezuela, which is also that nation’s capital.

As the World Atlas reported in February 2017, the capital’s murder rate reached 119.87 per 100,000 people, meaning that with a population of 2.1 million, 2,517 homicides will occur there in a year. It’s one of only four cities in the world where the murder rate is more than 100 per 100,000. To give an idea just how much homicide there is in Venezuela, there are two other Venezuelan cities in the worldwide top ten for homicides a year. It’s more than double the homicide rate of St. Louis, Missouri, which now has the highest murder rate in America per capita. It’s also not a brand new development. Even back in 2011, Caracas’s murder rate became notorious when it rose above Baghdad’s. Hopefully there’s still time for anyone reading to cancel their plans to take a vacation there.

1. Oldest City in the World

We’ll conclude this list with a neutral fact. In this case, we don’t mean which was the first city ever built (evidence indicates this would be long-abandoned Jericho of Old Testament fame). What we’re looking for is which city has been continuously occupied since it was founded for the longest time. You might think it’s somewhere in Africa, where humans first evolved. Maybe you assume it’s somewhere in Eastern Asia? How about in the Middle East, where Mesopotamia is known as the Cradle of Civilization? Turns out it’s the last one, and it’s a city that likely will be quite familiar to anyone following current world events. As reported by The Guardian magazine, it’s poor, war-ravaged Aleppo, the largest city in Syria, that has the strongest claim.

Aleppo was first founded as a city circa 6,000 BC, because it occupied easily defended, hilly terrain. Its easy access to the Queiq River connected it to what’s now the nation of Turkey, and made it a valuable trading center for millennia. Being located in the notoriously volatile Middle East has meant it was conquered and reconquered many times by many empires including the Assyrians, Egyptians, and so on. So while it’s currently experiencing extreme turmoil, we can be assured that it will be able to recover eventually. It certainly has plenty of times in the past.


World Urban Extremes

– WIF Geography

 

Man Eats Mars – WIF Candy

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Fascinating Facts

About the

Mars Candy Company

Young or old, we all love candy and the Mars Company has been making some of the most popular and beloved candy bars and confections for as long as most of us can remember. They are known around the world for beloved items like the Mars Bar, Snickers, M&M’s and so many others. However, they are also suppliers of more than just candy. Mars also owns multiple popular pet food brands, as well as the Wrigley Company and several other brands. The history of the Mars Company and their products is a fascinating journey through the land of sweets.

 10. The Milky Way in the US is the Mars Bar in the United Kingdom

Those who live in the United States are very familiar with a candy bar known as the Milky Way. It is made up of nougat and caramel coated in chocolate and is incredibly delicious. The name is actually inspired by the fact that the creator was trying to mimic the popular malted milkshakes of the day, and not really inspired by our galaxy as some imagine. Many of us who love this candy bar may take it for granted when traveling, only to find that it doesn’t exist in quite the same form in other parts of the world.

In the United Kingdom and almost everywhere else it is sold besides the USA, there is a very similar bar – although not made with the exact same ingredients – known as the Mars Bar, that replaces the traditional Milky Way in those regions. To make matters more confusing, you may actually see a candy bar called the Milky Way when traveling abroad, but that version of the Milky Way is actually the European version of our current 3 Musketeers bar. And yes, all of these are produced, sold and marketed by the Mars Candy Company.

9. The 3 Musketeers Has its Name Because it was Once Three Flavors Packaged Together

Many people have wondered why in the world the 3 Musketeers bar has the name that it does. It is a chocolate bar filled with a nougat fairly similar to that in a Milky Way, except airier and fluffier. It enjoys a certain strong popularity of its own in the United States, but that doesn’t bring most people any closer to an explanation. Most people cannot be blamed for not knowing either – the package no longer has any three musketeers on the logo, and it has been a very long time since the product namesake made since.

The reason it has its name is because originally, the candy bar was packaged to share with three separate pieces, and each piece was a different flavor – chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. Not long ago some of you may remember the Mars Company releasing a set of promotional mini 3 Musketeers candies with the flavors of Cappuccino, French Vanilla, and Strawberry, as a throwback to their roots. It would certainly be interesting if they brought back the original 3 Musketeers with all three bars wrapped in the same package, it would probably be a huge hit.

8. The Mars Company Also Owns Pet Food Brands Pedigree And Whiskas

When most people think of a candy company pet food is not something that immediately jumps to mind. However, the Mars Company has owned several pet food brands for many years now, including the well known Pedigree dog foodbrand and Whiskas cat food brand. Some might imagine that this was simply part of some strategic acquisition or deal, but Mars is very serious about their pet food business and has been going to great lengths to increase their market share and dominance in that sector.

Just a few years ago in 2014 Mars coughed up almost three billion in cash toProctor and Gamble to buy up most of their existing pet food business, which includes the brands Iams, Natura and Eukanuba. The president of their petcare division was excited about the deal and had this to say “the deal reinforces our leadership in pet nutrition and veterinary science”. We are not saying the Mars Company doesn’t own good pet food brands, but we don’t think what most people know Mars for is pet food. Most people aren’t even aware they own pet food brands at all and know them mainly for their popular candy products such as M&M’s or Snickers.

7. During WW2 M&M’s Were Only For Soldier Rations

M&M’s have a very fascinating history indeed that is steeped in the lore of wartime. It is said that originally Forrest Mars Sr. had witnessed troops in the Spanish Civil War eating chocolate that was encased in a hard candy shell. He noticed that the chocolate was managing to avoid entirely melting in the hot temperatures, and he decided he wanted to perfect the idea into a perfect candy. He approached a man named Murrie who worked as an executive for Hershey’s and struck up a partnership – incidentally their two names are what the two M’s stand for.

With World War II starting Mars saw an opportunity and started selling the candy exclusively for use in soldier rations for the duration of the war. The troops found it very convenient as it was easily packaged in small tubes, and didn’t melt easily in the heat, making it easy to preserve and transport in the thick of troop movements. Eventually the war ended and all the veterans were already big fans of the product. With chocolate no longer being rationed and the veterans introducing it to their family and friends, M&M’s became the runaway success that they are known for today.

6. The Snickers Bar Was Actually Named After a Horse

The Snickers bar is easily the most iconic candy in the United States of America. No one really needs an introduction to this perfect candy bar. Not only great tasting, but filling enough and with real peanuts which could make it feel more like a real snack. It has enjoyed incredible popularity in the United States since its inception, but most people never stop to think where the name comes from. Many candy bars have rather odd fanciful names that we never take the time to stop and think about. Probably in the case of the Snickers we don’t think about it too much because it sounds rather strange and doesn’t seem like it has much to do with the candy at all.

The reason for this is because the Snickers was named after the Mars families’ favorite horse at the time, and they thought it would be fun to name the candy bar after him. There really is nothing connecting the candy and the horse besides a flight of whimsy. Strangely though, the name was once again different when it was marketed in the United Kingdom, where it was originally known as the Marathon Bar and enjoyed popularity at the top spot for many years. However, for continuity sake Mars changed the name worldwide to the

Snickers Bar and the sales in the UK dropped significantly. Generally consumers don’t take well to a products name being changed out of the blue after so many years.

5. Mars Got Into a Dustup With Vegetarians in the United Kingdom

Back in 2007 vegetarians got angry over a very small amount of potential animal rennet in their confections. Mars had told the public that they were switching from a form of whey that came from microorganisms to a form of whey that comes from rennet – an animal byproduct taken from the stomach of calves. After a week of criticism Mars agreed to back down on using it in some of their products, but was also unwilling to pull it from all of their products entirely. This left many people who were following a strict vegetarian lifestyle angry with the company. They felt that Mars was not entirely backing down, and also that there was still confusion over what did and not did include animal rennet.

The reason for this is that there was no recall, as too many products had already gone out and there wasn’t any health risk with them – most people, even vegetarians, will not freak out about a small amount of potential animal byproduct in an already unhealthy candy bar. So many vegetarians complained that even though the company was leaving a few product lines without the whey with animal rennet, that there was no way to know for quite some time if they might be eating one of the vegetarian unsuitable versions that had already shipped out. Mars argued in return that their hadn’t been any boycott or noticeable effect on their sales, and that they were already bending over backward to please a small minority.

4. Mars Owns Uncle Ben’s Rice and Has Tried to Smooth Over the Controversially Racial Roots

Another brand many may be surprised to know is owned by Mars is the Uncle Ben’s instant rice company. An incredibly famous product ubiquitous in grocery stores around the United States and likely other parts of the world as well. Everyone knows the image and many of us feel a little strange knowing the likely origin of the image. Similar to Aunt Jemima’s pancake syrup brand, it pictures an African American in a role that depicts them as a servant preparing food for white people. The clothes worn by both of them and the title used, as well as the lack of a last name, tends to give a lot of people misgivings and wonder about what the creators were thinking when the brand was first designed.

When Mars acquired Uncle Ben’s rice not that many years ago they decided that they wanted to try to change the image to uplift the brand from its controversially racial origins. They put together a marketing campaign where Uncle Ben was depicted as the chairman of the board of his company, in a fancy office overseeing all decisions regarding the product. The advertising campaign depicted him as a wise leader who always knows best, while still leaving him with the bow tie he was known for. The reactions from many African Americans were mixed. Some people felt that it was a good step that helped rehabilitate the image of the brand, but others said it felt like it was glossing over the past and trying to hold onto something they would prefer to go away. To Mars credit, most people seemed to feel that an honest effort was being made to overcome the racially charged past of the brand.

3. The Reese’s Pieces in E.T. Were Supposed to be M&M’s, but the Mars Company Declined

E.T. is an iconic movie, and once of the most well known scenes, as well as the most famous product placements ever in movies, was the scene with the Reese’s pieces. We all know it well, and someone at Hershey’s is probably still gloating over the acquisition of a lifetime. See, the original candy intended to be used in the film were M&M’s and Mars was approached about doing a tie-in deal with the movie. In a move that someone may still be kicking themselves for, the Mars Company declined to have M&M’s in the movie or do any kind of marketing deal. Some people claim that the executive who made the decision didn’t want their product in a movie with a strange alien being, others say that they simply didn’t think the movie was going to be successful and didn’t want to tie their brand to it. Whatever the reason, the Mars Company declined, and the filmmakers were stuck looking for an alternative.

Realizing there was a similar, but not as popular candy made by Hershey’s, they struck up a deal to use Reese’s Pieces instead. The movie was successful beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, Hershey’s was able to use E.T. in their advertising to create a very successful association in the minds of consumers and sales of Reese’s Pieces shot up by a huge margin, gaining a strong share in the market that they had never had before.

2. Mars Has Been Criticized in the Past For Their Chocolate Buying Practices

Mars and all the other major chocolate giants have a huge problem that is hard to ignore – the fact that their chocolate, and essentially all chocolate, comes from countries where child labor, abuse and oftentimes what amounts to outright slavery are incredibly common. This has been the subject of many documentaries and lawmakers have tried to force the chocolate industry into self-policing and helping to end the child labor practices. After all, the chocolate industry is so rich it dwarfs the economies of the countries it buys chocolate from, so the power is mainly in their hands. Many of the chocolate makers have pledged to try to end child labor, but the goalposts keep shifting.

For many people the major chocolate makers such as Mars, Nestle, and Hershey’s are not doing nearly enough to deal with the issue. One of the original deadlines to majorly curb child labor was back in 2005, but the deadline was then extended to 2008 and then 2010. When 2010 came around the major manufacturers of chocolate candy made a new pledge to reduce child labor in the Ivory Coast by 70% by 2020. Not only is that another ten years away, but that isn’t even three quarters of the child labor reduced. It would seem that companies that have more money than the economies they are buying from could do more to prevent child labor and exploitation if they really wanted to.

1. Mars and Other Companies Have Moved Recently to Remove Artificial Dyes From Their Products

Recently many companies in the food industry have moved to start removing artificial dyes. One of the most famous examples is the move by Kraft to use only natural coloring in their famous instant macaroni and cheese products. What may be more surprising is that candy companies are starting to follow suit, despite not being generally known for trying to appeal to the health conscious. This shows that consumers today are increasingly concerned about artificial ingredients, even when indulging in less than healthy snacks.

Mars specifically made the news in 2016 when they promised to remove all artificial dyes from their human products and move to natural options. They did add the caveat that this will not happen right away. They expect to finish removing all artificial dyes in five years, but they are still looking for some of the best natural alternatives and it will take time to cycle old inventory out and bring in the new. This includes any Wrigley products such as Starburst and any other food lines, but does not include pet products at this time. While this may not seem huge, moving toward natural dyes can only be a good thing. More and more studies seem to suggest that many artificial dyes are dubious in terms of whether they are truly safe to be consuming on any kind of regular basis. A natural alternative that is proven safe would make people feel better about what they are eating in a world with increasingly processed foods and ingredients.


Man Eats Mars

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– WIF Candy

The Meaning of Life – Seriously?

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Theories About

the

Meaning of Life

Why are we here? What is the purpose of our lives? It’s a question that has probably popped into everyone’s head at least once. These are five of the most interesting theories.

 5. Hedonism

Hedonists believe that pleasure and happiness are intrinsically valuable, and pain and sadness are dis-valuable. Their argument for the meaning of life is: shouldn’t we live our lives to be as happy and as pleasurable as possible?

As it stands right now, we’re only on Earth for a short period of time, but we could die at any minute. While a lot of people have faith that there is an afterlife, there is no guarantee of one. Therefore, shouldn’t we try to have as many pleasurable experiences as we can while we’re alive? Why not eat the best food, enjoy the finest drinks, and pursue any type of carnality that we want? At the very least, shouldn’t we spend our lives avoiding pain and displeasure?

4. Stoicism

Stoicism is  a school of philosophy that dates back to Ancient Greece, and it was taught by Zeno of Citium. Stoicism is about finding inner peace, because that is something that is unshakable. Other things in your life will change. Like, your bank account will fluctuate and your career path may change directions, because those are outside forces that we can’t control. But we can control what goes on in ourselves.

Stoicism is also about overcoming destructive emotions and behaviors to achieve inner calm. This doesn’t mean extinguishing the feelings, but transforming them using reason and clear judgment.

Some stoics have advanced Zeno’s theories and believe that being actively involved in life is a major component of the meaning of life. Being active in life includes working and meeting life’s demands. For example, if you slept all the time, you wouldn’t be living.

Essentially, stoicism is about self-control and being actively involved in life. Through this, you’ll find inner peace and you’ll be free from suffering.

3. Existentialism

Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard was the first existential philosopher and his argument was that life was nothing but a series of choices that we make on our own. No one else makes these choices, and these choices bring meaning to our lives.

Basically, we have to define the meaning in our own life by using free will, our choices, and personal responsibility. Also, we should make these choices free of law, ethical rules, and tradition. However, that isn’t to say there are no consequences, because there obviously are.

Existentialism is about choosing what you want to do with your life and how you’ll find meaning; just be prepared to deal with the repercussions.

2. Physics

Jeremy England, an assistant professor at MIT, says that life “should be as unsurprising as rocks rolling downhill.” His theory is that objects, like rocks, plants, and animals, absorb and dissipate energy. Rocks absorb very little energy and release a little bit back. Living things, on the other hand, are really good at absorbing energy and dissipating only a little bit of it.

When atoms are hit by energy, like from the sun or from a chemical fuel, and they are surrounded by a heat bath, such as an ocean or atmosphere (like the conditions on Earth), the atoms will reorganize themselves to better dissipate the energy. In certain conditions, the reorganization inevitably leads to life.

On Earth, those atoms organized into a single cell and about 3.5 billion years ago, it started to evolve and eventually branched apart to become every single species on Earth.

So that’s it. The reason we’re here is because life was bound to happen sometime. That’s… kind of disappointing.

1. Projects of Worth

Susan Wolf is a professor of philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and she has an interesting perspective on the meaning of life.

In her essay “The Meanings of Lives,” Wolfe argues that the question “does our existence have meaning?” only has two possible answers – either there is a God or gods, who created us for some reason, or there is no God, or gods, and our existence is random and has no meaning. That being said, she does not think that individual lives do not have meaning.

One of her early arguments in the essay is that she doesn’t think that happiness is an important aspect to the meaning of life. She points to people like Albert Einstein, Mother Theresa, and Mahatma Gandhi, who didn’t exactly lead happy lives, but to suggest their lives were meaningless would be outrageous. Meanwhile, someone who sits at home all day drinking beer and watching TV may be happy, but their lives lack meaning. But man, would they be so happy.

Wolf’s theory of having a meaningful life is to actively be engaged in a project or projects of positive value and the projects have to be successful.

What does that mean, exactly? Well, to be actively engaged should be pretty clear, but what are positive projects? That term is purposely vague because value means something different to everyone. For example, if you hate sports you may not see the value in someone training to be an elite athlete. Likewise, if you don’t read books, you may not see the value of someone trying to write a novel. Also, positive value does not mean it has to be moral nor does it necessarily have to better life for your fellow human.

Another main part of her theory is that you have to at least be a little successful in your project. An example she gives is a scientist who spends his entire life working on a single project. Then a week before he is about to publish it, another scientist publishes the same results that they discovered independently. His life would sadly be meaningless.

Wolf says that by being involved in projects of worth, instead of just pursuing things that make us happy, shows that we see value in something else besides ourselves, which in turns creates meaningful lives.


The Meaning of Life

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(click on for video)

– Seriously?

USA No, Elsewhere Yes – WIF Edu-tainment

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Things You Can Do

in Other Countries

You Can’t Do

in the USA

 

The citizens of the United States of America like to consider themselves one of the freest countries in the world. However, the truth is actually a lot more complicated than that. The United States enjoy some of the most lax laws in the world when it comes to saying whatever you please, but that doesn’t necessarily equate to being free to do what you want to do. In many countries around the world, it is perfectly legal to do many things people wish they could do in the States.

 10. In The Czech Republic You Can Use Magic Mushrooms

Magic mushrooms are the common given nickname for a class of mushroom that has an active compound called psilocybin that can have very strong psychedelic effects when ingested. Of course, most people who find this mushroom intriguing will need to accept that it is beyond their reach, as it remains in the realm of the black market of illegal drugs. That is, unless they are willing to live in the right, very specific country.

In the European country of the Czech Republic, mushrooms are actually mostly decriminalized, making it fairly easy to use them or get your hands on them. While it is not legal

 to sell mushrooms, import them into the country, or buy them, it is perfectly okay to own small amounts and grow them yourself. The law was likely set up this way so that their citizens could have their own freedom, without too strongly encouraging tourists to come to their country just to get a chance to go on a drug trip. Also, in the country of Brazil psilocybin is mostly legal, but only because of a technicality and the fact that no law has yet been written to correct it – this is mainly because it isn’t really a problem there in the first place.

9. In Mainland China People Often Allow Their Young Children To Pee In Public

China is known for being overpopulated despite having had a one child policy for a long time. Their major cities are also especially known for being overcrowded, and as such they have to deal with certain cultural situations in different ways. Not long ago, a Chinese couple from the mainland caused a stir because they were visiting Hong Kong, and allowed their small boy to pee into a diaper in a public space. This was quite controversial to do in Hong Kong, but in mainland China, their actions would have been perfectly normal.

Parents in mainland China often allow their children to pee in public if they are having trouble finding anywhere else for them to go in time – this has likely cropped up over time as a solution to the overcrowding issue. Of course some people may find the very idea repulsive, but those parents who do so claim that their child would have had to go anyway, and they usually find a corner as out of the way as possible.

8. In North Korea It Is Both Legal And Commonplace To Smoke Weed

North Korea is known for being a strict, fascist dictatorship that rules everyone inside with an iron fist. Most areas of the country are extremely poor and hardly anyone enjoys anything that can be called a quality of life. Even those who tow the party line and get to live in the major cities don’t exactly live in the lap of luxury. However, on one particular front, the North Koreans tend to be incredibly lax. They are totally okay with the growing, and smoking of marijuana and make regular use of the drug.

Those who have managed to sneak around enough in North Korea to find out have discovered that it can even be found on the roadsides, that people grow it for personal use and that it enjoys incredible popularity. Weed can grow fairly easily in North Korea, and cigarettes and alcohol can be expensive to import in, so weed is usually the major drug of choice for most North Koreans. Tour guides discourage visitors from looking for weed, mainly because they don’t want to be known only for drugs. For those stoners who are interested in visiting North Korea and trying some of their weed, it likely isn’t worth the effort. Those who have tried it claim it is fairly poor quality as far as the drug goes.

7. In Japan It Is Considered Strange If You Don’t Slurp Your Noodles Loudly And Proudly

There are some particular cultural traditions out there that happen to be completely the opposite in another part of the world, and this is one of them. In the United States, and most Western countries, making a lot of noise while eating is generally frowned upon. Even while eating foods like noodles, we have come up with many different techniques to eat our food as noiselessly as possible. However, in Japan, eating noodles is a completely different experience.

In Japan, they believe that noodles should be eaten when they are still piping hot in order to fully enjoy them. And to eat them piping hot essentially requires the mouth movements that create that distinctive slurping sound. No one in Japan minds because it is simply considered a sound that is necessary in order to properly eat noodles – in fact, if a Japanese person does not hear you slurping, they may make the mistake of thinking that you do not like your food.

6. In The UK And Much Of Europe It Is Legal To Jaywalk As Much As You Wish

In the United States, nearly everyone has a car, and roads have become very serious business indeed. Places like New York are the exception instead of the rule, and even in places with a decent public transportation infrastructure, most people still find it more convenient to have their own method of transportation. This means we often have very congested roads full of very peeved drivers, and have thus made very rigid rules on where and when pedestrians should cross the street in order to ensure public safety. There is also a legal element involved, as it helps deal with liability in a country with a lot of lawsuits, if there are well laid out places and ways that people are supposed to safely cross the street.

However, in the United Kingdom, where they are a little less sue happy and have a lot less cars on the road, the rules are much different. Some visitors from across the pond have even found themselves arrested in the United States because they crossed the road randomly in a very busy place without using a proper crosswalk. While it is not always enforced, jaywalking is against the law in the United States, but there is no law against it at all in the United Kingdom. Instead, in most European countries, people are simply expected to cross responsibly, wherever and whenever it is safest.

 5. In New Zealand Prostitution Is Fully Legal And Regulated

In many countries in Europe sex trafficking is a problem, and some countries believe the solution to this is to clamp down hard on the legality of prostitution. Most of them are targeting those who buy the services of the prostitutes instead of the prostitute themselves – as they may be a victim of trafficking – but New Zealand has long felt that this is the wrong approach to dealing with the situation. They feel that in order to deal with sex trafficking, you need to remove the veil of secrecy from the business and regulate and keep an eye on it like any business.

To this end, in New Zealand a law was passed in 2003 that decriminalized prostitution and set up a framework that would allow for brothels to be inspected just like any other business for health and safety standards. This ensures that women in the business will go to the police when needed, and give them information, instead of living in fear. It ensures that they won’t fear their clients will dry up for fear of police prosecution, and helps avoid exploitation because they know workers’ rights laws and the officers of the law are all on their side. Some countries in Europe argue that New Zealand’s system only works well because they are so isolated, and that as countries with bigger trafficking problems, they need more restrictive laws – not less.

4. In Spain People Take A Several Hour Nap In The Middle Of The Workday

Many people may have already heard of the Spanish Siesta — the habit of Spaniards knocking off for three hours during the hottest part of the afternoon and enjoying a nice, relaxing snooze. The habit developed over time because the area was mostly used for farming, and it made a lot of sense to take a break when the sun was highest in the sky. Today, it is more of an inconvenience for the people of Spain, what with the fast paced industrialized world that most people now live in. Shops will close at 2:00 p.m. and people will often come back and reopen their shops around 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. and stay open until late at night.

While it may sound relaxing to knock off for three hours in the middle of the day, it is hardly good for you to segment your work day up that way, and end up constantly working late into the night – and the people of Spain are well aware of this. It is hardly realistic in the modern age to use the time for a nap, and most people actually take the time to get things done instead. Unfortunately, they still have to report for work at the same time every morning. This has led to a culture where most people in Spain stay up late, get up early, rarely nap and don’t get much sleep overall. While the siesta has given them a reputation of laziness, they are actually a hardworking, sleep deprived country that is increasingly considering removing the siesta completely and just shortening the workday to a reasonable amount of time to begin with.

3. In Japan You Can Buy Poisonous Fugu Fish

Most people have heard of the poisonous puffer fish known as Fugu, which is a delicacy in the country of Japan. In the United States and other countries around the world, if you want to taste Fugu, you will have to pay large amounts of money to eat fish that was specially prepared by Japanese chefs and imported frozen to your part of the globe. This is because Japan is the only country in the world that legally allows people to prepare the fresh Fugu for serving, and they have extremely stringent requirements in order to earn that legal right.

The fish has a poison known as tetradoxin that is extremely poisonous, causing paralysis and asphyxiation in a very short time in humans, with only a small amount required to be deadly. Certain parts of the fish are not poisonous, and are actually quite delicious, and it is these that the highly trained chefs carefully separate from the inedible or dangerous parts of the fish. It takes three years of training and only about a third of those who take the licensing exam even pass the test. These standards ensure that those who buy Fugu in a restaurant will not truly be gambling with their lives – although it is said that a truly skilled chef leaves just enough poison to make your lips tingle and remind you of the danger, without actually putting you in harm’s way.

2. In Russia It Is Perfectly Acceptable To Leave Young Children Home Alone

In the United States there are laws about how young a child can be and still be legally left home completely alone by their parents, and in today’s United States, most parents couldn’t imagine their child walking to or from school alone. If a child too young were too be left home alone in the United States, and the authorities found out, it could lead to a visit by child protective services. However, in the federation of Russia, they do not look at the issue in the same way at all. In Russia it is far more commonplace for children to leave the house on their own at a young age, either to go to school or simply go to the store, and it is not illegal to leave young children home alone.

Some parents in certain parts of Russia have lobbied in the past to make stricter laws regarding the matter, especially due to cases where children have been left home alone and got hurt, but ministers in charge of law making seem reluctant to push the issue. They feel that punishing parents for leaving young children home alone is more of a Western thing, and aren’t sure if that is the route they want to go. While it could someday change, it seems for the moment, Russians aren’t interested in worrying too much about the matter.

1. In Estonia They Vote For Public Officeholders Online

The United States like to consider themselves one of the most technology advanced nations in the world, but despite our many advances, voting online and doing many other government related actions online is still a thing of fantasy. In that particular regard, we are being beaten rather badly by a small country in Europe called Estonia. They are known for being incredibly digitally connected, possibly the most connected in the entire world. They have made training in the understanding of computers and the internet a core part of all school curriculums, and almost all important business can be done online.

 Estonians all get their own unique government ID that also comes with its own special PIN. This special ID allows Estonians to have their own online fingerprint and use that identity to do pretty much everything government related that they could possibly need to do. With this ID, Estonians do business with the library, pay taxes, vote for political candidates and many other things as well. While some Americans fear the possibility of massive voter fraud or cheating, the Estonians have not yet had any reason to believe that their system has been tampered with. They also believe their proportional voting system helps discourage those who would consider attempting to cheat in the first place.

USA No, Elsewhere Yes

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– WIF Edu-tainment

Cowboy Confidential – Old West Misconceptions

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Common Misconceptions

About Cowboys

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They’re the guys with the thousand yard stare. The one with six-shooters in their holsters, a broad-brim hat on their heads and enough jagged iron in their guts to break down even the toughest steak. They are the cowboys, and everyone knows they’re the coolest, calmest, most-heroic folk in America history.

 Or are they? What if we were to tell you that the cowboys you think you know are nothing like the real ones? That your mental image of cowboys could do with slightly less stoicism and gunfights… and more camels, examples of poor personal hygiene, and venereal diseases. Here are 10 little-known, crazy facts about the men who really tamed America’s wild west.

10. Most Cowboys Didn’t Carry Guns

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The gun-totin’ cowboy is the only cowboy most of us can picture. He’s Clint Eastwood on the way to a shootout. John Wayne blowing away bad guys. Yet take your Blu-Ray player back to the 19th century and show a genuine cowboy these films and he’d likely look at you askance. Why? Because real cowboys only rarely carried weapons.

Sure, you might need them when you were out on a cattle drive or whatever. But when you got to town? Check that baby at the door. Most towns in the wild west enacted strict gun control, just to make sure the sort of shootouts we see in movies didn’t happen on a daily basis. Even the infamous Tombstone didn’t let its cowboys walk round armed. The Gunfight at the OK Carrol only came about because Doc and Earp were trying to enforce gun laws.

The city wasn’t alone. Dodge City, Wichita, and others all stopped their visitors from packing heat. So how did cowboys solve problems without their pistols? We’re glad you asked…

9. They Almost Never Got in Fights

It’s said that “the true story of the American West is one of cooperation, not conflict.” Although 90 percent of westerns involve people getting shot, a barroom brawl, a violent posse riding into town, or (more likely) all three, the truth of the frontier was that acting tough was a good way to wind up dead. If you wanted to survive, you basically had to get on with your neighbors.

This meant no high noon showdowns, no thuggery, and no murders. Even in the roughest, toughest cattle towns, the murder rate was generally lower than that of most modern American cities. Bank robberies, too, were rare. In 2005, the University of Dayton calculated that there were more bank robberies in modern Dayton in a single year than there were across the entire Old West in a typical decade.

There were exceptions, of course. In the immediate post-Civil War period violence sporadically flared up, and Native American tribes often experienced the brutal side of the frontier. But these were the exceptions. Even notorious outlaws were less violent than their reputation suggests. Billy the Kid, for example, spent way more time rustling cattle than he ever did robbing banks or shooting people.

8. Many Were Ravaged by Venereal Diseases

old west

If your mental image of a cowboy is John Wayne acting all moral and clean-cut, you might not want to read this entry. The reality of cowboy life was dirty from beginning to end. Cowpokes often went days on end without bathing. They were smelly. Often covered in grime and stale sweat. But dirtiest of all was what was happening inside their bodies. Y’see, it’s now thought that many citizens of the frontier were crawling with venereal diseases.

Depending on where you were in the Old West, between 50 to 90 percent of the local prostitutes were likely carrying STDs. And since many cowboys liked to, ahem, avail themselves of these ladies’ talents, that meant a whole bunch of cowboys were riding around with a growing bacterial menagerie between their legs.

Although precise figures are hard to come by today, we know that new recruits to the US Army between 1876 and 1896 were frequently diseased, suggesting many of the general population were, too. Some have even suggested that crazy behavior by guys such as the Wild Bill Hickok might have been due to syphilis, making them act all eccentric.

 7. Plenty Didn’t Do Any Riding Whatsoever

cowboys

Close your eyes. Picture a cowboy. Got him? Right: What animal did he appear with?

Despite the name, almost none of you said ‘cow’. For a good reason. Cowboys in modern mythos are almost completely inseparable from their horses. The image of them riding across the high plains on a long cattle drive is one charged with romance and the spirit of adventure. For many cowboys, that was exactly what life was like.

But not for all of them. For a significant minority, their job description involved absolutely no riding whatsoever.

This was especially true at the end of the era, from about 1885 onwards. A dry summer and a terrible winter had convinced many ranchers to keep their cattle close to home. For a huge chunk of cowboys, that meant the romance of the plain was suddenly replaced with menial labor like mending fences and checking penned cows for disease. If they got to ride anything at all, it would likely be a haymow. Unsurprisingly, most hated such work.

6. Some That Did Ride Rode Camels

camel

Here’s a classic western scene. The sun stands at high noon, baking the lifeless city streets. A tumbleweed blows through the dust. A shadow appears on the horizon. It’s the cowboy. He emerges out of the heat haze, skin like cracked leather… and proceeds to ride into town on the back of his Arabian camel. Wait, what?

It’s true. In certain parts of the Old West, horses were as rare as they are in big cities today. Instead, ranchers had their cowboys ride on the backs of camels that had been imported in the 1850s, and accidentally released into the wild at the height of the Civil War.

Because of the harsh conditions on the frontier, it had been theorized camels would cope much better than horses with the heat. The US Government agreed. At great cost it imported hundreds of camels to Camp Verde, only for war to break out. When the Confederates seized the camp they released the camels. For the next few decades, enterprising ranchers occasionally caught a few, broke them in and gave them to their cowboys to work with.

 5. ‘Brokeback’ Encounters Were Surprisingly Common

brokeback

Remember 2005? That was the year Brokeback Mountain hit cinemas and Heath Ledgerproved he didn’t have to be in clown makeup to provide a magnetic performance. The movie was also controversial among some who thought it was grafting our modern notions of sexuality onto a historic setting (in this case, the 1960s).

Interestingly, this is the one criticism that can easily be refuted. According to historian and author Patricia Nell Warren, gay encounters were way more common in the Old West than we ever realized.

A lot of this is thanks to the conditions cowboys had to endure. Long stretches of time away from women, surrounded by other men, led to occasional ‘one-off’ trysts simply as a way of relieving sexual tension. Within that mix, you had a handful of genuinely gay cowboys, who’d often fled out West as a way of achieving anonymity. Because manpower was scarce, it was impractical for landowners to refuse to hire them due to their sexuality.

As social historians John D’Emilio and Estelle Freedman noted in their book Intimate Matters, there are even surviving love poems written from cowboys to one another. It might have been frowned upon by the rest of society, but on the Frontier, homosexuality was relatively open.

4. Black Cowboys Were Also Surprisingly Common

black cowboys

Quick: how many westerns can you name that feature black cowboys? Most of us can probably only get Django Unchained and Blazing Saddles. As a result, you might think African-American cowpokes were a rarity on the frontier. You’d be wrong. By some estimates, as many as one in four cowboys were black.

It makes sense when you think about it. Cowpunching, as it was often called, was a dirty, difficult, badly-paid, working class job. In the post-Civil War era, those were exactly the sort of jobs newly-emancipated slaves might be expected to do. And as we mentioned above, the Old West was one area where employers couldn’t afford to turn a good pair of hands away, no matter what the color of their skin was.

That’s not to say everything on the frontier was racial harmony. Way into the 20thcentury, black cowboys were expected to do the hardest, toughest jobs of all. They were the ones breaking in wild horses, doing all the cooking on wagon drives, and holding the cattle down at branding time. On the other hand, black cowboys often had a degree of autonomy and responsibility they would have lacked in other jobs. Perhaps that’s why so many ex-slaves chose to head out West.

3. Outlaws Were Shameless Self-Promoters

billy the kid

When you hear that robbers today are live-Tweeting their own break-ins, it’s tempting to assume we’ve hit rock bottom as a culture. Such nonsense would never have happened in the stoic Old West, right? Kinda. Although photographs of Pat Garrett playing on his smartphone have yet to surface, outlaws of the cowboy era were just as narcissistic as today’s criminals. When conducting major crimes, they frequently handed out press releases.

Jesse James was notorious for this. When holding up a train, he’d pass witnesses a carefully-written note, boasting about his own exploits. He wasn’t the only one. Billy the Kid deliberately inflated his kill-count from 8 to 21, and boasted about his violent temper. In fact, the Kid almost never got involved with shooting, robbing or hold ups. The main reason the law went after him was because he kept rustling cattle.

On the other side, the good guys were equally image-conscious. Wild Bill’s nickname actually referred to his gigantic nose, similar in size to a duck’s bill. It was only by effort he made out it referred to his ‘wild’ and dangerous nature, thereby terrifying local criminals.

2. The Rest of the Country Considered Them Suspicious and Dirty

cowboys2

The cowboy is enshrined in legend as the epitome of American values. While other eras and professions have their draws, it’s impossible to think of a historic figure today more beloved by the entire nation. Which just goes to show how times change. In the early days of the Frontier, cowpunchers were regarded as ill-educated vagrants at best, and dangerous carriers of disease at worst.

Around the Deep South, cowboys were considered trespassers who used public land for their own gain. The North generally considered them illiterate (they usually were). Even along the Great Plains, there was much resentment. Cattle drives routinely trampled the crops of farmers and Native Americans, and it was the cowpunchers themselves who got the blame. Many people even feared they would spread dreaded ‘Texas Fever’ throughout the land. It’s safe to say that, during the golden age of the cowboy, most of America regarded them as a smelly nuisance.

It wasn’t really until the early 20th century that pulp novelists and early Hollywood began to transform these tough, dirty, uneducated men into folk heroes. Fast forward to today and that’s the image that remains.

 1. Modern Germans Love Them

german flag

Of all the countries in the world, which do you think has fallen for the cowboy myth the hardest (aside from the good ol’ US-of-A, that is)? Nope, it’s not Canada. Not Australia. Not even Great Britain. The country most obsessed with the cowboy today? Germany.

For some reason, Germans go nuts over cowboy-related stuff. Hundreds of clubs exist across this mountainous European nation, where people go on weekends to dress as cowboys and pretend they’re living in 19th century Texas. It’s estimated that several tens of thousands of Germans do this every single week, with many, many thousands more holding a passing interest in such exploits.

Nor is this a completely modern thing. Back in the 1930s, the Nazis venerated cowboys almost as much as they did genocide. Hitler himself was known to be a huge fan of westerns, often reading cowboy books between bouts of conquest and megalomania. For some reason, this very un-German tradition has taken deep root in a country far more ordered and rule-abiding than the Old West ever was. Which just goes to show, we guess, that you never can tell what the future has in store.


Cowboy Confidential

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– Old West Misconceptions

Trash Television – WIF Critique

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Pioneers of

Trash Television

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Tabloid television, or as critics refer to it, “Trash TV,” is made up of abrasive talk shows that set up confrontations and consciously try to be controversial and shocking. Despite being panned for their lowbrow nature and appealing to the lowest common denominator, tabloid talk shows have struck a chord with television audiences and have been popular for the past 50 years.

10. Phil Donahue

After graduating from Notre Dame in 1957, Phil Donahue went to work at a radio station in Cleveland. In 1963, he started one of the first radio talk shows, and in 1967 tried his hand at television with The Phil Donahue Show(later shortened to Donahue). His talk show format, which was targeted at “women who think,” was radical at the time because a big part of the show involved interacting with the studio audience. Audience members were able to ask questions or talk with guests and Donahue was more of a moderator than traditional talk show host. In 1972, the show went into national syndication and became hugely popular, forever changing the landscape of talk shows. For the first nine years it was on, Donahue won nine Daytime Emmys for Best Talk Show Host.

The show had rather taboo topics for the time; for example, the first guest on the show was an atheist. But it also covered other topics that were considered taboo, but in hindsight, were rather important to talk about, like women’s health. Donahue managed to stay on the air for almost 30 years, before getting cancelled in 1996. The problem was that the imitators of Donahue were willing to be more outrageous than him, and people simply weren’t watching his show anymore. Donahue went into retirement until July 2002, when MSNBC resurrected Donahue, but it was cancelled after eight months due to poor ratings.

9. Sally Jessy Raphael

After getting her degree in broadcasting from Columbia, Raphael (whose real name is Sally Lowenthal), went to work in Puerto Rico as a correspondent. After that, she came back to the United States to work in broadcasting. Over the course of three years, she was fired 18 times and she, her three children, and her husband/manager moved around a lot, sometimes sleeping in their car. In 1969, she finally landed steady work as both a morning anchor and an afternoon radio newscaster in Miami. In 1976, she moved to New York, where her popularity started to grow with audiences nationwide with her radio call-in show.

When Raphael was filling in as a substitute for a daytime talk show host in Cleveland, she caught the attention of Phil Donahue’s producer. He gave Raphael a chance with her own half hour talk show located in St. Louis. The Sally Jessy Raphael Show went on the air on October 17, 1983, and within six months, the show became nationally syndicated. She was a pioneer for women in the talk show industry, helping pave the way for the likes of Oprah (whose show debuted the following year).

Raphael, whose trademark red framed glasses became instantly recognizable, was known for taking a liberal stance on many topics like homosexuality, abortion, and premarital sex. This, of course, did not sit well with conservatives during the Reagan era. In the end, Raphael stayed on the air until 2002, when her show was cancelled.

8. Jenny Jones

In 1991, when The Jenny Jones Show went on the air, the daytime talk show circuit was pretty crowded. The host, Jenny Jones, was a comedian who became famous for her Girl’s Night Out comedy act that banned men from coming in. When the show started, Jones explained that it would be “part pajama party, part group therapy, part Oprah.” But, like many shows of the 1990s, after two years of low ratings, the show started to push the envelope. They started doing paternity tests, confronted bullies, and revealed secret crushes. While the show wasn’t anything groundbreaking, it was pioneering for an event that happened because of the show. It was a collision of “it’s only television” and the fact that the guests on tabloid shows are real people.

The controversial show was recorded on March 6, 1995, and was called “Same Sex Secret Crushes.” On the show, a gay man named Scott Amedure told an associate, Jonathan Schmitz, that he had a crush on him. Schmitz went on the show knowing he had a secret admirer, but was led to believe that it was a woman. At the time, Schmitz didn’t seem to be upset by the news, but said he wasn’t gay himself. That night, Amedure, Schmitz, and a mutual friend drank together. The friend claimed that after the taping, Amedure and Schmitz had a sexual encounter, but Schmitz denies that. Three days later, they were back home and Schmitz found a sexually suggestive letter from Amedure. After finding the letter, Schmitz bought a shotgun, went to Amedure’s house and shot him twice in the chest, killing him. In a 911 call, Schmitz blamed the show for the murder. After the murder, the episode was never aired.

At Schmitz’s trial, it was revealed he had a history of mental illness. He was given 25-50 years in 1996. Amedure’s family also sued The Jenny Jones Show and were awarded $25 million in 1999. The show was canceled in 2001, and Jones now hosts a cooking show.

7. Maury Povich

After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in television journalism, Maury Povich started working as a reporter and newscaster in Washington, DC. In 1986, he became the host of a new tabloid news show, A Current Affair. Then in 1991, Povich got his first chance at hosting his own talk show, The Maury Povich Show, which ran for seven years. During that time, the climate of tabloid television was changing drastically and shows were given the choice: either follow the flow and dumb the show down, or lose in the ratings. Maury chose to devolve and the show, now just called Maury, re-launched in 1998 with thefirst show being “Who’s Your Daddy?” The use of DNA results would be one of their most common and popular shows. Other shows often feature lie detector tests, makeovers, possessive men, and wild teens.

Since changing the format, Maury has been a staple of the daytime talk show circuit and Povich is a pop culture icon, known for his famous expression when announcing the results of the paternity test. One of the most mind blowing things about Maury is that he was born in 1939, meaning that as he heads into the show’s 18th season in the fall of 2015, he will be 76-years-old.The show was renewed in 2014 for four more years.

6. Chuck Barris

Chuck Barris got his start in television in 1960 as the assistant to American Bandstand host Dick Clark. In 1965, Barris borrowed $20,000 from his stepfather and produced a pilot for his show The Dating Game. The game show involved a bachelor or bachelorette, who would ask three eligible single people behind a wall a series of question. The contestant would then pick one of them, and they would go on some elaborate date together. The show aired on December 20, 1965, on ABC and it was an instant hit. The next year, Barris made a show to pair with The Dating Gamecalled The Newlywed Game, where newly married couples were asked questions to see how much they knew about each other. It was also a big hit.

But the show that Barris struck trash gold with was The Gong Show in 1976. It was a “talent” show that was hosted by Barris himself. The premise of the show was that people performed an act for three celebrity judges. If the performance got to be unwatchable, a judge could bang a large gong to put an end to the act. One very notable controversy happened in 1978 when two 17-year-old girls came out, sat crossed legged on the floor andvery suggestively ate a popsicle. No one rang the gong, but two out of the three judges gave them low marks. Singer and actress Jaye P. Morgan gave them 10 out of 10, saying that was how she got started as well.

While The Gong Show was not a tabloid talk show like the other shows on this list, it was revolutionary in the fact that it used people that really didn’thave any talent. Many people went on the show and completely made fools of themselves in front of a national audience. This idea would of course be mined later for tabloid shows that would come later, not to mention shows like American Idol and America’s Got Talent.

Barris also published an autobiography called Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, in which he claimed that the entire time he was a television producer, he was also a CIA hitman. The book was adapted into a film in 2002, directed by George Clooney and starring Sam Rockwell as Barris.

5. Geraldo Rivera

Brooklyn native Geraldo Rivera got a law degree in 1969, but instead of entering the legal profession, he became a TV news reporter for New York’s WABC-TV. His breakout moment was in 1972, when he did an exposé on abuse against mentally disabled children at the Willowbrook School on Staten Island. From there, he went on to be a contributor for national news programs before joining 20/20 in 1978. He would only stay there for two years before he was fired over a disagreement about a story.

In 1987, Rivera got his own talk show, Geraldo, and it quickly gained notoriety for its controversial topics and guests. The most notable incident happened on November 3, 1988, on a show called “Teen Hatemongers.” On the heated show, a young man named John Metzger, who was the leader of the White Aryan Resistance Youth and the son of infamous white supremacist Tom Metzger, insulted Roy Innis, an African American man who was the national chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality. Metzger said, “I’m sick and tired of Uncle Tom here, sucking up and trying to be a white man.” So Innis stood up, walked over and strangled Metzger. This led to a brawl where chairs were thrown and Geraldo’s nose was brokenduring the melee. When asked about the incident, Geraldo said that if there was ever a time for violence, that was it.

The brawl made national headlines and also gave the ratings a huge boost, because news of the brawl was made public before the episode aired. This brawl would of course lay the foundation for another, very controversial show just years later. And yes, we’ll get to that one soon enough. Geraldowas cancelled in 1998 and he is currently a contributor to Fox News.

4. Les Crane

After graduating from Tulane University and serving in the Air Force, Les Crane started off his career in broadcasting in the early 1960s as one ofthe first “shock jocks” on the radio. While tame by today’s standards, Crane would take calls from all over the West Coast of the United States and had no problem insulting and dismissing certain callers’ points of view; even going as far to hang up on some of them.

In 1963, Night Line… With Les Crane, later changed to The Les Crane Show, was first broadcast on ABC, at the 1:00 a.m. time slot. On the show, Crane was confrontational with guests that he didn’t agree with, but he also was pretty hip and cutting edge. For example, he was the first host in the United States to interview the Rolling Stones, and when Bob Dylan was 23-years-old, he appeared on the show and performed three songs. Crane also interviewed Randy Wicker, the first openly gay male on television. He also had some provocative newsmakers like Malcolm X, Governor George Wallace, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King.

Crane’s show was popular, and in June 1965, he was moved up to 11:30 p.m. to compete against Johnny Carson. Crane, who was just 30 at the time, never really found an audience and was cancelled just a few months later. After losing to Carson, Crane tried another talk show (which also failed), and had some small acting parts. In 1980, he became the chairman of a successful computer software company called Software Toolworks, and passed away at the age of 74 in July 2008.

3. Joe Pyne

Joe Pyne served in World War II, and an injury led to part of his leg being amputated. In 1954, he got his start in television and by 1964, his television show was syndicated in 84 cities. On top of that, his hour long radio show was syndicated in 450 cities.

On his show, Pyne would chain smoke behind a news desk, not unlike Edward R. Murrow, but instead of asking questions, Pyne would actively look for confrontation and often found it. Pyne was one of the first people on TV to argue from his own viewpoint instead of being unbiased, which led to him openly insulting his guests while being cheered on by his studio audience. As for his guests, he would find the most extreme and outrageous people of the day, like the head of the Church of Satan or a man who had been married 17 times. As for why Pyne would argue with his guests, he said that he didn’t respect anyone who would agree to be on his show. We’re not sure if he was including himself in that statement, of course.

Pyne’s show ran until November 1969, when he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He died at the age of 45 on March 23, 1970.

2. Morton Downey Jr.

In the fall of 1987, a new talk show aired on a local TV station in Secaucus, New Jersey. The show was similar to what Sally Jessy Raphael and Phil Donahue were doing, but the host was a combination of Les Crane and Joe Pyne. That man was 55-year-old Morton Downey Jr.: a chain smoking right winger who screamed, swore, and even got physical with his guests. The show was popular locally and went national a year later. The Morton Downey Jr. Show became a huge hit, mainly because Downey was loud, belligerent, and unapologetic. In fact, the show’s logo was a big mouth. Downey justified his show saying that yelling and confrontation was how a lot of Americans were raised.

When Downey had a guest on his show that he disagreed with (which was many of them), he would scream and blow cigarette smoke in their face while he was cheered on by his near rabid studio audience, which he called “The Beast.” Downey was completely open about his hostility to immigrants, gays, feminists and anyone with liberal leanings.

One notable guest that Downey had on many times was Al Sharpton, who made a name for himself on the show. An interesting story involving Downey and Sharpton was the case of Tawana Brawley. She was a black teenager, who was found wrapped in a plastic bag on the roadside in New York State in November 1987. Someone had written racial epitaphs on her body and she was covered in feces. She claimed she had been raped by a group of white officers. Her story made national headlines when Sharpton took up her cause. Downey confronted Sharpton over the validity of the story, and it turned out Brawley had set the whole thing up.

This story would prove to be important in the downfall of Downey, which started in 1989. It was hard booking guests for the show, because no one wanted to go on a show where they would be yelled at and insulted by Morton while he was being cheered on. It was great for the audience; not so much for the guests. In the summer of 1989, in a desperate attempt for ratings, Downey hosted a show at the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem, where he had a group of white supremacists “debate” representatives of the African American community (it was more of a screaming match than debate). A short time later, in San Francisco, Downey was found in a bathroom stall in an airport with a bruise on his face, his hair cut, and swastikas drawn on him with felt markers. Downey claimed that a group of skinheads attacked him. He even passed a polygraph, but all evidence indicated that Downey faked the attack. His show was cancelled shortly afterwards and a year later, he filed for bankruptcy.

In 1996, Downey was diagnosed with lung cancer and he immediately changed his stance on smoking, becoming a spokesperson for the American Lung Association. He passed away in 2001 at the age of 68. Downey is also the subject of the documentary Évocateur.

1. Jerry Springer

We’ve hinted at him through the whole list, and it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that Jerry Springer is number one. The man is synonymous with trash television, and he seemingly embraces being king of rock bottom.

Born on February 13, 1944, to parents who escaped the Holocaust, Springer came to the United States when he was five-years-old. By 1968, he had his Juris Doctor, and that’s when he met Robert Kennedy, who was campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination. Shortly after the meeting, Springer started working on Kennedy’s campaign, but a few months after joining, Kennedy was assassinated.

Working with Kennedy encouraged Springer to get into politics. He ran for Congress in Ohio, but lost. In 1971, he won a seat on the Cincinnati city council, where he served for five terms. He even survived a sex scandal in 1974 when it was discovered that he had been with a prostitute (he paid with a personal check). In 1977, he became the youngest mayor in Cincinnati’s history. After losing the election for governor of Ohio in 1982, he was approached by a number of television stations to do a talk show.

In 1991, The Jerry Springer Show debuted and, at first, it covered political topics. Then in 1994, in order to boost ratings, a new producer from the tabloid The Weekly World News was brought in to adjust the show. Springer’s new premise was simple: bring out someone, have them reveal a secret, and then let the guests physically fight each other. The show was a hit and a cultural phenomenon for being so outrageous. In May 1998,The Jerry Springer Show became the number one show in the May sweeps, putting an end to Oprah’s 10 year run on top. The show was so popular, it even led to a horrible movie and an opera. Astonishingly, it also managed to lead to a talk show for Springer’s large, bald, and popular security guard on the show, Steve Wilkos (of course, the fact that Wilkos married Springer’s executive producer in 2000 probably helped him land his own show, too).

In 1999, the show was forced to stop showing violence. It was during this time that violence on TV was a hot button issue in the wake of the Columbine shooting. Yet, the show remained popular and is still on the air. The ban on violence seems to have been lifted and it’s as raunchy and trashy as it’s ever been. It is scheduled to be on the air until at least 2018.


Trash Television

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– WIF Critique

Get to Know Mexico – WIF Fun Facts

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Facts About Mexico

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Mexico’s international reputation isn’t exactly the greatest. Plagued by drug violence, hampered by poverty, and constantly getting bashed by US politicians, it can seem like a scary, far-away place where bad things happen. Even in the carefree days before the drug war, lots of Americans just saw it as the land of tequila, siestas and rowdy spring breakers.

 Well, we’re here to tell you that there’s a lot more to Mexico than its popular reputation suggests. A lot more. Stretching over nearly 2m km2, and with a history that goes back to the Aztecs and ancient Mayans, Mexico is a place of endless fascination. It has dozens of indigenous peoples. Its capital has more museums than any other city on Earth. It’s a place of culture, history, and great, historic achievements. Here are ten fascinating facts about North America’s only Spanish-speaking nation that you rarely hear north of the border:

10. It Used to be the 5th Biggest Nation on Earth

Modern Mexico is a big place. While it might pale beside Canada and the USA, it dwarfs the nations of Europe, and is bigger than all but one of Africa’s countries. Ranked, it would be the 13th biggest nation on Earth. But that’s just modern Mexico. The Mexico of the 19th century used to be much, much bigger. Go back to 1821, and you’d find yourself standing in one of the biggest countries in the world.

That map there is independent Mexico at its fullest extent. As you probably remember from history class, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada and California were all once part of the US’s southern neighbor. But Mexican territory extended further south, too. Modern Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Belize, Costa Rica and Nicaragua were all part of Mexico. Taken altogether, the Mexico that existed at independence was larger than the entire European Union. If it existed today, it would be the 5th largest nation on Earth.

This super-Mexico didn’t last long. Before the 1820s were out, it had lost most of the nations that now make up Central America. About 25 years after that, the Mexican-American War eliminated its territory in the modern US.

9. It Has the Oldest University in North America

Quick, what’s the oldest university in North America? A good number of you just yelled ‘Harvard!’ at your tablet screens. Sure, Harvard is pretty old; it was founded in 1636. But even that august institution is a baby compared to its Mexican equivalent. The National Autonomous University of Mexico, based in Mexico City, was opened in 1553.

To demonstrate just how mind-blowingly old that is, consider this: NAUM was opened when Mexico was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. It was given its charter by Emperor Charles V, who headed both the Holy Roman Empire and the Spanish Empire (dynasty was a complicated thing back then). At that time, Shakespeare was still over a decade away from being born. Isaac Newton was over a century away. Right now, you are closer in time to George Washington’s last breath than NAUM was at its founding.

Not that it was called NAUM back then. It was the Royal and Pontifical University of New Spain. Unlike Harvard, it also hasn’t been in continuous operation. The dictatorship closed it down in 1867, and it wasn’t reopened until the Revolution.

8. There are Over 60 Official Languages

Ask most people to name the official language of Mexico, and they’ll say ‘Spanish’. And they’d be right… to a degree. See, while Spanish is the most widely-spoken official language in Mexico, it’s not the only one. Ever since the government enacted the Law of Linguistic Rights, over 60 indigenous tongues have been recognized as co-official languages.

The largest of these is Nahuatal. About 1.3 million people speak the language, roughly equivalent to the entire population of New Hampshire. This is the language of the Aztec Empire, the language that once dominated the whole of Mexico. But it’s far from being the only one. Over 700,000 people speak the Yucatec Maya language, and another half a million or so speak Mixtec. Over all, nearly 7 million Mexicans speak a language other than Spanish (although most are bilingual).

Interestingly, not all co-official languages are so widely-spoken. While the next 30 most popular are all spoken by between 10,000 – 400,000 people, some like Aguacatec are spoken by less than 30.

7. They Had the Shortest Presidency in World History

William Henry Harrison is famous in the US for his horrendously short presidency. The 9thPresident contracted pneumonia on Inauguration Day and died a single month later. But even WHH’s reign lasted longer than that of Mexico’s 34th president. By one count, it lasted nearly three thousand times longer. Pedro José Domingo de la Calzada Manuel María Lascuráin Paredes was President of Mexico for anywhere from an hour to just 15 minutes. So basically he was president just long enough for someone to get through his name.

The reason for this was the crazy politics of Revolution-era Mexico. General Victoriano Huerta had just overthrown President Madero in a coup. Under Mexico’s constitution, power of a deposed president automatically passed to either his vice-president, attorney general, foreign minister or interior minister. At the time, Lascuráin was foreign minister. To make his coup look less like a coup, Huerta convinced the government to appoint Lascuráin president. The two men then cut a deal, and he moment he was sworn in Lascuráin appointed Huerta his interior minister and then resigned. Power automatically, and legally, passed onto Huerta.

To date, no other world leader has ruled for such a short time. The closest is Diosdado Cabello, who ruled Venezuela for around six hours in 2002. His reign was still over twenty times longer than Lascuráin’s.

6. In Some States, There are Three Genders

Mexico’s relationships with LGBT rights is… complicated, to say the least. While drugs gangs have been known to shoot up gay bars in some states, places like Mexico City have legalized same-sex marriage. Then there’s Oaxaca. The southern state has an approach to trans-people that is possibly unique in North America. Among the indigenous Zapotec people, they’re legally recognized as a third gender.

 Known as Muxes (Moo-Shays), the third gender are people born as men, who choose to live instead as women. Concentrated around the town of Juchitan, they’re treated as a fact of life, in the same way men and women are. They own businesses, are admired for their cookery skills, and even have a yearly ball which the mayor of Juchitan attends. For American readers, this might seem like PC gone mad. But the Muxes are far from a modern invention. They’ve been around as long as the Zapotec themselves.

Pre-Columbian societies in Mexico tended to have a third gender of men who lived as women. While most traditions died off with the coming of the Spanish, among the Zapotec it thrived. In short, the Muxes have been around since long before anyone could say what the acronym LGBT stood for.

5. It’s Home to the World’s Smallest Volcano

So, apparently Mexico has an aptitude for leading the world in the ‘unlikely smallest things’ stakes. After the record beating barely-a-presidency of Lascuráin, the country has since thrown up yet another tiny marvel. Welcome to Cuexcomate, the smallest volcano in recorded history.

Now, pay attention, kids, because just looking at images of Cuexcomate is about as exciting as watching your toenails grow. It’s the facts behind it that make it fascinating. Cuexcomate formed way, way back in 1664, an offshoot of the bigger Popocatépetl volcano. Somehow, it began to grow… and then just stopped. Like a kid who doesn’t get any bigger after their first birthday, Cuexcomate topped out at a mere 43 feet. That’s tiny. You could stack 7 averagely-tall dudes on one another’s shoulders, and the top guy would be able to peer into the crater.

So small is the long-dormant volcano that no-one thought twice about building around it. If you want to visit Cuexcomate, you have to drive out into a suburb of Puebla, work your way around the Volkswagen factory, and locate it among people’s yards.

4. Net Mexican Migration to the US is Actually Negative

Mexican immigration has become a political flashpoint in the US. While we don’t want to get into the politics of it here, it’s worth noting that things may not be quite so explosive as they seem. While plenty of Mexican still travel to the US looking for a better life, plenty more come to the US, look around, then decide to go back to Mexico. We know this because, according to PEW Research, net Mexican immigration to the US over the last decade has fallen to negative levels.

This means there are actually more Mexicans permanently leaving the US than there are arriving. Prior to the recession, it was the other way. The period 1995-2000 saw a net migration of 2.27 million Mexicans to the US. The period 2009-2014, on the other hand, saw a net migration of minus 140,000.

The factors for this are manifold. Better border policing, the Great Recession, and increasing job opportunities in Mexico have all played a part, as has the desire to reunite with family members still in Mexico.

3. Mexico Once Went to War With France Over Pastries

In the annals of warfare, there can’t be many dumber reasons for attacking another state than the fate of a pastry shop. Yet that’s exactly what transpired between France and Mexico in 1838. After a rioting mob ransacked a Mexico City bakery owned by a Frenchman named Remontel, he sued the nation of Mexico for compensation. When Mexico laughed him out, he returned to France and demanded an audience with King Louis-Philippe. Amazingly, he got it. Even more amazingly, Louis-Philippe agreed to help him.

Paris wrote to Mexico and demanded payment of 600,000 pesos, some 600 times the value of Remontel’s shop (to be fair, some of it was for unpaid Mexican debts incurred a decade earlier). When Mexico balked, the French navy invaded. They bombarded  San Juan de Ulua, captured Veracruz, and blockaded the entire country. It was only thanks to a British-brokered agreement that the war ended in early 1839. Remontel got his money. All in all, the Pastry War dragged on for four months, killed over 100 people, and injured nearly 200 more.

2. They Briefly Had the Most-Deluded Emperor in History

Ferdinand Maximilian Joseph has the distinct honor of being just Mexico’s second and final Emperor. A member of Europe’s royal Habsburg line (the guys who ruled the Austro-Hungarian Empire), Maximilian was just drifting along when, in 1863, he received a letter telling him the people of Mexico had voted to make him their king. Rather than treat it as we would an email from a Nigerian prince, Maximilian hightailed it to Mexico and declared himself Emperor. Bad move.

The letter had been issued by Napoleon III of France, who was conspiring with conservative Mexicans to place a loyal French puppet on the throne. Unknown to Maximilian, they’d chosen him as their useful idiot. When Maximilian crowned himself emperor, it triggered a civil war in Mexico that lasted three years. Apparently, Maximilian didn’t realize this, and thought he was a beloved, paternal figure who’d finally found his true calling. When the US intervened to push France’s pro-Maximilian troops out, the Emperor even refused to leave, saying the Mexican peasants needed him.

Those same peasants executed him on a hillside outside Querétaro in 1867. The deluded reign of Mexico’s last Emperor was over.

1. Their Capital City is Sinking

At 2,240 meters above sea level, Mexico City is one of the highest capital cities on Earth. Only seven other capitals (out of nearly 200) sit at a higher altitude. Pretty neat, huh? Well, wait till you get a load of this next part. If things keep going the way they are, Mexico City may not hold its coveted 8th position much longer. This is for the simple reason that the capital is sinking at an incredible rate.

Yeah, sinking. Every year, this vast megacity, home to over 21 million people, loses roughly one meter (3 feet) in altitude. In the last 60 years, the entire city has dropped 10 meters closer to sea level. That might not sound like much, so let’s put it this way. The 7thhighest capital city in the world is Sana’a in Yemen. It stands at 2,250 meters above sea level, ten meters higher than Mexico City. Over the course of six decades, the entire Mexican capital sank so low that it passed Sana’a, dropping from 7th to 8th place in the ranking of capitals by altitude.

 The reason for this is simple: water. Mexico City’s residents draw their water from beneath the capital, draining the water table and causing it to subside. As the city’s population keeps growing, it will sink faster and faster, until eventually dropping out of the top 10 highest capitals altogether. While that’s still a way off yet, (Nairobi, the current #10, is nearly 450 meters lower than Mexico City), the simple fact it could happen is mind-blowing.

Get to Know Mexico

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– WIF Fun Facts