April Fools’ Day – WIF WABAC Almanac

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April Fools’ Day

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(sometimes called April Fool’s Day or All Fools’ Day) is celebrated every year on the first day of April as a day when people play practical jokes and hoaxes on each other. The jokes and their victims are known as “April fools”. Hoax stories may be reported by the press and other media on this day and explained on subsequent days. Popular since the 19th century, the day is not a national holiday in any country, but it is well known in India, Canada, Europe, Australia, Brazil and the United States.Related image

The earliest recorded association between 1 April and foolishness can be found in Geoffrey Chaucer‘s The Canterbury Tales (1392). Some writers suggest that the restoration of 1 January as New Year’s Day in the 16th century was responsible for the creation of the holiday, but this theory does not explain earlier references.

Origins

The custom of setting aside a day for the playing of harmless pranks upon one’s neighbor is recognized everywhere. Some precursors of April Fools’ Day include the Roman festival of Hilaria, the Holi festival of India, and the Medieval Feast of Fools.

In Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (1392), the “Nun’s Priest’s Tale” is set Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two. Modern scholars believe that there is a copying error in the extant manuscripts and that Chaucer actually wrote,Syn March was gon. Thus the passage originally meant 32 days after March, i.e. 2 May, the anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia, which took place in 1381. Readers apparently misunderstood this line to mean “32 March”, i.e. 1 April. In Chaucer’s tale, the vain cock Chauntecleer is tricked by a fox.

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In 1508, French poet Eloy d’Amerval referred to a poisson d’avril (April fool, literally “April fish”), a possible reference to the holiday. In 1539, Flemish poet Eduard de Dene wrote of a nobleman who sent his servants on foolish errands on 1 April. In 1686, John Aubrey referred to the holiday as “Fooles holy day“, the first British reference. On 1 April 1698, several people were tricked into going to the Tower of London to “see the Lions washed”.

In the Middle Ages, New Year’s Day was celebrated on 25 March in most European towns. In some areas of France, New Year’s was a week-long holiday ending on 1 April. Some writers suggest that April Fools’ originated because those who celebrated on 1 January made fun of those who celebrated on other dates. The use of 1 January as New Year’s Day was common in France by the mid-16th century, and this date was adopted officially in 1564 by the Edict of Roussillon.

Reception

The practice of April Fool pranks and hoaxes is controversial. The mixed opinions of critics are epitomised in the reception to the 1957 BBC “Spaghetti-tree hoax“, in reference to which, newspapers were split over whether it was “a great joke or a terrible hoax on the public”.

The positive view is that April Fools’ can be good for one’s health because it encourages “jokes, hoaxes…pranks, [and] belly laughs”, and brings all the benefits of laughter including stress relief and reducing strain on the heart. There are many “best of” April Fools’ Day lists that are compiled in order to showcase the best examples of how the holiday is celebrated. Various April Fools’ campaigns have been praised for their innovation, creativity, writing, and general effort – especially those from the major corporations such as Google and Apple.

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The negative view describes April Fools’ hoaxes as “creepy and manipulative”, “rude” and “a little bit nasty”, as well as based on schadenfreude and deceit. When genuine news is published on April Fools’ Day, it is occasionally misinterpreted as a joke—for example, when Google, known to play elaborate April Fools’ Day hoaxes, announced the launch of Gmail with 1-gigabyte inboxes in 2004, an era when competing webmail services offered 4 MB or less, many dismissed it as a joke outright. On the other hand, sometimes stories intended as jokes are taken seriously. Either way, there can be adverse effects, such as confusion, misinformation, waste of resources (especially when the hoax concerns people in danger), and even legal or commercial consequences.


 

April Fools’ Day

“Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

WIF WABAC Almanac

Computer Virus Most Wanted (Not) – WIF Spotlight

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Infamous

Computer Viruses

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Much like humans, computers can contract nasty viruses that completely wreak havoc on their systems. It’s believed that there are over 100,000 computer viruses, though some experts contend that there are over a million. The good news is that many of the viruses are not in circulation and are merely a part of collections. However, there are some that have been released, and in some cases, they caused massive devastation. These are 10 of the most notorious.

 10. The Morris Worm

Robert Morris, Jr. is the son of a famous American cryptographer and pioneering computer scientist, Robert Morris, Sr. In 1988, he was a graduate student in Computer Science at Cornell, when he wrote an experimental program called a worm. The worm was 99 lines of code and it had the ability to self-replicate and self-propagate.

On November 2, 1988, Morris loaded his program onto the internet using a computer at MIT. However, Morris made a mistake in his coding and the worm spread quickly. Since the internet wasn’t as widespread then as it is now, the Morris Worm managed to infect 10 percent of all computers on the internet (which was about 6,000).

The program ran a bunch of invisible tasks and this caused computers around the United States to crash or become catatonic. When Morris realized what was happening, he contacted a friend at Harvard and they came up with a solution. They tried to send out an anonymous message on how to fix it, but it was too late and the message got lost in the traffic caused by the worm.

Computer programmers around the country worked for days to figure out how to debug the computers. In total, it cost anywhere from $200 to more than $53,000 to fix an infected computer. After investigating, all evidence in the coding of the worm pointed to Morris. He was convicted of violating the Fraud and Abuse Act and handed a sentence of three years of probation, 400 hours of community service, and fined $10,050.

9. The Omega Time Bomb

Omega Engineering is a Stamford, Connecticut based company that designs and manufactures high tech instrumentation. On the morning of July 31, 1996, an employee in the Computer Numeric Control department started up the file server that controlled all the manufacturing machines. However, the server didn’t boot up and instead a message popped up that said that the file server was being fixed.

However, quite the opposite happened. Instead of fixing the files, it deleted them. Even worse, the virus destroyed any way of finding the programs again. Computer Security Journal said that the lines of code were scattered like a handful of sand thrown onto a beach. Omega was sure they had backups on tape and on local computers, but when they went to retrieve them, they could not be found.

When the employees realized what had happened, the first person they called was Tim Lloyd, a former employee who oversaw the computer network. He had been with the company for 10 years, but lost his job three weeks before the server crash because of problems with his attitude. Over the course of a year, Lloyd’s personality had changed and he became an angry man who lashed out at co-workers. His attitude also led to him purposely bottlenecking projects, which slowed production. He was given several warnings before he was fired on June 10, 1996.

When Omega realized how much information they had lost, they called the police who, in turn, called in the Secret Service. When they investigated, they found that the virus was just six lines of code that worked like a time bomb. When someone logged on July 31, 1996, it would delete all of Omega’s computer files. The most obvious suspect was Lloyd and the Secret Service looked at his home computer and found the same six lines of code. They determined that Lloyd was planning on quitting and he made the time bomb virus at home. He then installed it at work after everyone had left for the night. However, before he got a chance to quit, he was fired.

Lloyd was arrested and sentenced to three and a half years in prison, and ordered to pay $2 million in restitution. At the time, it was the worst act of work-related computer sabotage. It cost Omega over $10 million in lost business and $2 million in reprogramming cost. They also had to lay off 80 people. It took years for Omega to overcome the virus attack, but they are still in business today.

8. Melissa

The Melissa virus started to spread on March 26, 1999, via email. The subject line of the email was “Important message from [Sender’s Name]” and the body of the email was, “Here is that document you asked for…don’t show anyone else ;-).” Finally, there was a Microsoft Word document labeled “list.doc.” When people would open the document, it would send out the same “Important Message” email to the first 50 addresses in the person’s Outlook address book.

The virus spread to hundreds of thousands of computers in the first several days. In some cases, it caused servers to shut down. Even Microsoft and Intel were infected. Microsoft chose to shut down their outgoing internet email service to stop the spread. In total, it’s estimated that the Melissa virus caused around $400 million in damage.

The virus was traced back to David L. Smith, a network programmer who lived in Trenton, New Jersey. Smith had hacked an America Online account and launched the virus from his apartment. He was arrested less than a week after the virus was released. He said that he named the virus Melissa after a topless dancer in Florida. He was sentenced to 20 months in federal prison.

When he was asked why he did it, Smith basically said that he did it to see if he could do it. Fair enough, we guess.

7. LoveBug aka ILOVEYOU

On May 4, 2000, people in the Philippines started getting emails with the subject line “ILOVEYOU.” The body of the email read, “Kindly check the attached LOVELETTER coming from me.” Finally, there was an attachment with a file name like “LOVE-LETTER-FOR-YOU.TXT.” Many people who got the email couldn’t resist the thought of someone sending them a love letter out of the blue, so millions tried to open what they thought was a text file. And as you probably have guessed, it was, of course,a virus.

By today’s standards, the virus was pretty tame. It would make duplicate copies of media files and documents. It would also email the virus’ creator the user names and passwords of infected computers, which would allow him to log onto the internet for free. However, the real problem was that it could email a copy of itself to every email address in the infected computers’ Microsoft Outlook address book. At the time, not many people saw the importance of having things like an up-to-date antivirus program. As a result, according to the BBC, the LoveBug (as it was sometimes called) spread to 45 million computers in the first couple of days.

When programmers looked at the code, they found an email address embedded in it and the worm was traced back to 24-year-old Onel de Guzman, who was a student at the AMA Computer College in the Philippines. De Guzman had recently dropped out because his undergraduate thesis, which was to commercialize a Trojan horse that stole passwords, was rejected.

After the virus was released, De Guzman went into hiding. When he reemerged several days later, he was arrested along with one of his friends, Reomel Ramones. However, there were no laws regarding malware in the Philippines so neither man was ever charged or prosecuted. De Guzman says that the virus was “probably” his creation and admitted that he may have “accidentally” let it out of captivity.

The LoveBug became the first virus to successfully spread using social engineering, but it certainly wouldn’t be the last.

6. Agent.btz

In the fall of 2008, the U.S. Military’s computer network was hit by a variation of a SillyFDC worm. At the time, the SillyFDC worm was a fairly benign worm; before the attack, a SillyFDC worm was listed as “Risk Level 1: Very Low.” One reason the worm wasn’t super effective is that it wasn’t transferred through something like email. Instead, it was transferred via storage devices, like thumb drives.

However, a new variation of the worm, called Agent.btz, infected a military laptop at a base in the Middle East when someone inserted an infected flash drive. The laptop was connected to the U.S. Central Command and the virus was uploaded to the network. From there, the virus spread undetected through both classified and unclassified systems. Once the virus was in place, data could be secretly transferred to different foreign servers.

In a process called “Operation Buckshot Yankee,” it took the military 14 months to finally clear out the virus and it led to the formation of a new unit called the United States Cyber Command.

The leading theory is that the virus was an espionage attack by a foreign country, most likely Russia.

5. Flashback

Apple has long promoted that Macs are much safer than PCs because, Apple says, they are less likely to get viruses or malware. There are two big reasons for this. The first is that Microsoft Windows is used by a vast majority of computers. Even in 2016, Macs only account for 7.4 percent of home computer sales. This makes Windows a much bigger target. Secondly, it is much harder to make changes to Mac’s operating system, macOS (formerly OS X). There are areas of macOS that are walled off and you need administrative privilege to change it, meaning its operating system has a limited amount of points of intrusion.

However, that doesn’t mean Macs are invincible from viruses. The most notorious of them was discovered in September 2011. How it worked was that it was disguised as an Adobe Flash installerand it got around Mac’s security because there was an unpatched vulnerability in Java. The result was that 650,000 Macs, which was about 1.5 percent of all Macs at the time, were infected.

The Trojan horse virus did two things. The first is that it created a backdoor in the system so data, like passwords, could be stolen. It also took control of the computers, making them a botnet, which is when one central computer controls a collection of zombie computers.

By February 2012, Mac released a security tool to remove the virus and Oracle, who makes Java, fixed the vulnerability.

4. Sasser and Netsky-AC

The Sasser virus was first detected on April 30, 2004. It was different from other viruses at the time because with other viruses, users needed to do a task to infect their computer, like open a file. Instead, the Sasser virus passed through the Local Security Authority Subsystem Service (LSASS). It would scan random computers until it found a vulnerable system and then it would copy itself as an executable file to the computer. When the computer was booted, the virus would install itself.

Microsoft knew about the vulnerability and issued a patch for it on April 13, 17 days before the virus was first detected. However, not every computer had updated the patch and this left them exposed. In the two days after the virus was detected, a cleanup tool was downloaded 1.5 million times.

One thing that really set Sasser apart from other viruses is that in the days after the virus was released, an email started circulating with a file that was supposed to fix it. Instead, it was another virus called Netsky-AC.

The viruses didn’t cause any permanent damage. However, it did cause computers to crash and reboot more often. In total, hundreds of thousands of computers were infected.

After the viruses were released, Microsoft offered a $250,000 reward for information on the author or authors. Two people turned in 18-year-old computer student Sven Jaschan, who was responsible for writing both Sasser and Netsky-AC. He was arrested and faced up to five years in jail; instead, he got a 21-month suspended sentence.

3. SQL Slammer

The fastest spreading computer worm in history, the SQL Slammer virus is also known as w2.SQLSlammer.worm, Sapphire, w32.SQLexp.worm, and Helkern. The worm started to spread at 12:30 EST on January 25, 2003. The virus would scan the entire internet for random IP addresses looking for vulnerable Microsoft SQL 2000 servers. The number of computers infected doubled every 8.5 seconds and within 10 minutes, 75,000 hosts, which was about 90 percent of vulnerable hosts, were infected.

The virus didn’t really effect home computers. Instead, it caused network outages, slowed down internet service, and denied some hosts access to the internet. This effected airline flights, interfered with electronics, and caused ATM failures. It is estimated that the virus cost $1 billion in lost revenue.

A major investigation was launched, but the author has never been identified.

2. Storm Worm

On January 19, 2007, computers in the United States and Europe started getting emails with the subject line “230 dead as storm batters Europe,” and then there was an attachment called video.exe. Of course, the attachment wasn’t a video; it was a Trojan horse virus. After infecting the computer, it created a backdoor which the author could use later to get data, and it added the computer to the botnet. The botnet was then used to post spam.

One of the reasons that the virus was initially successful was because, at the time when it was sent,bad storms were raging in Europe. Later, the subject was changed to over two dozen different headlines including “A killer at 11, he’s free at 21 and…”, “Chinese missile shot down USA aircraft”, and “President of Russia Putin dead”, just to name a few.

According to IBM, by February 2008 the worm had taken control of enough computers to perform spam attacks that were making the creators $2 million per day. As for who the creators were, it’s believed that the virus originated in Russia, but beyond that not much is known.

1. Code Red

The first version of the Code Red worm was discovered on July 12, 2001, by several employees at eEye Digital Security. They spent all night analyzing the worm and while working on it, they drank Mountain Dew Code Red. So, they called the virus Code Red, and the name stuck.

The first variation of Code Red didn’t spread fast and didn’t do much damage. Some websites were defaced and they said “Welcome to China http://www.worm.com ! Hacked by Chinese!” However, on the 20th of July, the virus stopped trying to infect other servers and a launched denial-of-service attack on the White House’s web page. Fortunately, the White House was able to stop the attack by changing IP addresses.

Code Red version 2, on the other hand, was much more problematic. At the time, it was the fastest moving computer virus. It was discovered at 5:00 p.m. EST on July 19, 2001, and within 14 hours, over 359,000 computers were infected. In total, it’s believed that the worm infected 1 million of 5.9 million web servers. This caused internet traffic to slow but didn’t do any damage to the servers themselves.

Code Red version 2 was also one of the most costly viruses. In July and August, the virus led to $2.6 billion in damages. The virus is believed to have originated at a university in China. However, it has never been confirmed.


Computer Virus Most Wanted (Not)

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– WIF Spotlight

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

WIF Edu-tainment-001

– WIF Edu-tainment

Snacks from Around the World – WIF Fast Food

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Delicious Global

Snacks

You Should Try

There are many, many reasons to travel: to meet new people, to explore new cultures, to see awesome cities, to hike through spectacular scenery. But what about food? For some, sampling the cuisine of another country is like peeking inside the mind of an entire culture.

We’re not talking Michelin-starred, fancy, five course dining, either. From Europe, to Asia, to the Americas and Africa, some of the best eats on the planet are stuff you can pick up at markets and from street vendors. Here are ten delicious snacks from around the globe that will blow your mind and leave you craving more.

10. Okonomiyaki (Japan)

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It’s said that you haven’t really tasted Japan until you’ve tried Okonomiyaki. In the land of sushi, noodles and seafood, Okonomiyaki stands out by being exactly what you wouldn’t expect. A sort of cabbage-based pancake traditionally served with aonori seaweed flakes, bonito fish flakes, super-sweet mayonnaise and the heavenly Okonomiyaki sauce (not unlike the UK’s HP sauce with a hint of soy), this snack is eaten across the country by the truckload.

Garnish aside, it’s tricky to say what actually makes an Okonomiyaki. The name itself loosely translates as “what you like, grilled.” This means the combinations are essentially endless. You might nab a shrimp or octopus one in Osaka, then high-tail it to Tokyo for a pork filling. There are even local variations on how to cook it. Hiroshima style means putting the ingredients on top; Osaka style means mixing them all into the batter.

You can grab one of these taste-explosions at one of the many Okonomiyaki bars across the country. Just rock up, place your order and prepare to have your tastebuds blown.

9. BeaverTails (Canada)

beavertails

The standard joke is that America is a nation of bulging waistlines, while Canadians are svelte and trim. Judging by the existence of BeaverTails, the only rational explanation for this is that those north of the border are riddled with tapeworm. A fried dough pastry stretched into the shape of a beaver’s tail and loaded with more sweet stuff and condiments than you can shake a proverbial stick at, BeaverTails are a delicious heart-attack-in-the-making.

Just look at this picture, for example. Really, look at it. For those of you who hate right-clicking, it’s a pastry snack the size of your face, coated in chocolate and topped with Smarties (chocolate buttons that inexplicably aren’t available south of the Canadian border). It looks like everything you never knew you wanted while mildly drunk at an ice hockey game.

A branded snack, BeaverTails have only been around since 1978. But our sweet tooth would take them over poutine any day.

8. Kürtoskalács (Hungary)

8

If you’re ever wandering around the top of Budapest at night, follow your nose to the ancient castle. That sweet, doughy smell tickling your senses and making your mouth water like Niagara Falls? That’s probably coming from the Kürtoskalács stalls. Known as Transylvanian Chimney Cakes, these Hungarian bad boys are even tastier than they smell.

Supposedly, the dish originated in modern-day Romania (hence the Transylvania part of the name), among the Hungarian community living there. Today, Kürtoskalács are called the oldest pastry in Hungary, and pop up at street food stands everywhere. So, you might be asking, what the heck are they? It’s pretty simple, really. Chimney cakes are made by rolling dough slowly round a wooden spoon (or similar vessel), coating the outside in sugar and oil and heating it over a fire. So you get a sweet, crunchy exterior and a warm, doughy inside. Just to send the calorie count even higher, plenty of Hungarians take them with chocolate spread.

The absolute best time to try Kürtoskalács is when it’s so cold out you can see your breath. Then the heat of the dough and the sweetness combine to feel like an elixir of life.   

7. Tamiya (Egypt)

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Everybody in the Middle East does falafel, and most countries do it excellently. No one, however, does it as well as the Egyptians. Only they don’t call it falafel, oh no. They want to keep a dish this good a secret. If you’re ever in Cairo or Alexandria (according to food critics, the two best places for Egyptian falafel), keep an eye out for Tamiya. It’ll change your ideas of just how freakin’ good falafel can be.

The secret here is fava beans. While most Middle Eastern countries use chickpeas to make falafel, Egypt bucks the trend by using fava beans. The result is a falafel that’s moister and lighter than anything you’ll find elsewhere. It’s cheap, too. Stalls will sell you a tamiya wrap for around the equivalent of 30 cents a pop. According to the experts, though, the place to head for is Mohammed Ahmed, a cheap eatery in Alexandria. There you can combine it with fuul (a bean paste) and eat yourself into a coma. In fact, tamiya is so cheap and delicious and plentiful that many joke Egypt is the best country for making vegetarians fat.

6. Red Red (Ghana)

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West African food is famous across the continent for its intense flavors and inventive style. But in West Africa itself, the country that takes the crown is probably Ghana. While there’s plenty to be said for Nigerian or Senegalese food, Ghana just edges its neighbors out the running. Part of the key to that success? Red red.

A kind of simple tomato stew made with black-eyed peas, red red is practically Ghana’s national dish. People eat it at home, on the way to work, while hanging out and at restaurants. The reason being that it’s delightful. The texture of the beans, combined with the vague, smoky flavor of the meat all combines to make a mouthwatering dish. Then there’s the red palm oil. Supposedly, the mixture of this oil with tomatoes is why the stew is called red red in the first place.

Although Ghanaians eat red red at pretty much any time, apparently the time to really appreciate it is breakfast time. It’s a fair point. We’re trying and we honestly can’t think of any better way to start the day than with a spicy, smoky, tomatoey African stew.

 5. Klobasa (Czech Republic)

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The Czech Republic consumes more beer per capita than literally any other country on God’s green Earth. Yes, that includes Ireland, Austria and Germany. As such, you’d expect their best street food to cater to the needs of drunks; i.e. warm, fatty and deeply delicious. Enter the infamous klobasa. A smoked, German-style sausage traditionally served with mustard and two slices of brown Czech bread, its 1:00 a.m. drunken street food elevated to an art form.

All this is a pretty recent development. In 1948, the Communists took over what was then Czechoslovakia and immediately started being jerks about it. One of the things they were jerky about was what people could eat. A book was published, called Recipes for Warm Meals. If you cooked and sold anything that wasn’t in it, you’d get yourself thrown in jail. Combined with meat shortages in the ’70s and ’80s, this led to Czech sausages almost vanishing. When the Communists were overthrown in 1989, Czechs went klobasa crazy.

Today, klobasa is so popular that English-speaking locals even runinternational blogs about where exactly to chow down on the best Czech sausage. One to study before you go.

4. Hormigas (Colombia)

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In the heart of Colombia’s Santander department sits a little, whitewashed village called Barichara. Legendarily beautiful, it looks like a slice of southern Spain relocated to South America. That’s not why people go there, though. For foodies and snack fans, there’s one overwhelming reason to visit this sleepy village. Barichara is where you can buy hormigas.

The slightly gross part first: Hormigas are ants. Specifically, they’re female leaf-cutter ants with a butt so big it could star in music videos. Harvested in the spring, they’re toasted with salt and served from little packets, just like peanuts. But this isn’t an entry we’ve thrown in just to make you go “eww!” Hormigas are considered a local delicacy, with high protein levels and aphrodisiac qualities. They’re so renowned that upscale restaurants across Colombia use them to make expensive sauces. But the best way to try them is to grab a pack in Barichara and chow on down.

Salty, earthy and a little strange, hormigas in Santander are traditionally eaten under the blazing sun with an ice cold beer. You take a sip of beer, eat an ant, then take another sip, and so on until the packet is empty.

3. Chilli Crab (Singapore)

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Singapore is one of the smallest countries on Earth. How small? Well, you could fit the entire nation into Rhode Island four whole times and still have a bit of space left over (confused UK readers can replace “Rhode Island” with “Cornwall”). At such a reduced size, you might not expect any incredible foods to come out of Singapore, but you’d be wrong. The micro state’s chilli crab is some of the best street food in Asia.

The snack does what it says on the tin. A stir fried crab, coated in a sweet and super spicy sauce, it comes served with deep fried buns. But that explanation can’t convey just how tasty chilli crab is. CNN ranked it the 35thmost delicious food in the entire world. There are more shops, restaurants and stalls selling it in Singapore than there probably are people in Wyoming. People fly to Asia purely to sample it. That’s how good we’re talking, here.

Chilli crab is so widely available in Singapore that there’s no point in us telling you where to go for it. Just step off the plane and head towards the nearest group of people. We’re like 99% sure one of them will be able to point you to a stand within walking distance.

2. Tacos (Mexico)

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Yeah, we know what you’re thinking. Tacos. Of all the street food in the world, they go and choose the dish that inspired the abomination we call Taco Bell. Well, hold your horses there, pardner. What you probably think a taco is, is light years from what you’ll get on a street in Mexico. Forget the Tex-Mex thing with the crispy shell, real tacos are as close to them as your fourth grade art project was to the Sistine Chapel.

Let’s start with the basics: Proper Mexican tacos come in a flat, homemade tortilla. They also contain more than just a begrudging serving of meat and some salsa. El Chupacabra’s taco stand in Mexico City, for example, claims over 100 different ingredients go into each and every one of their tacos…and that’s before you get onto the sides. Here’s a picture of their truck. See those endless vats full of sauces and garnishes and deliciousness? If you want to, you can pile in stuff from each and every one of those (plus many others off camera) to make a taco exploding with so many flavors you’ll wind up accidentally recreating that scene from When Harry Met Sally.

Basically, get away from the border cities, and tacos in Mexico go from being cheap junk food you eat when you hate yourself and no longer want your pants to fit, to awesome, working class street food that deserves its spot on this list.

1. Burek (Bosnia-Herzegovina)

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The Balkans have easily some of the best food in the world, and that includes the best street food. Pljeskavica meat patties in Serbia, shkembe chorba soup in Bulgaria…the list goes on. For our money, though, there’s one clear winner. Burek (also called Borek) from Bosnia-Herzegovina is perhaps the tastiest snack in the whole of the Balkan region.

Originally from Turkey, this pastry snack really came into its own in Bosnia, where it was brought along with Ottoman rule in the middle of the last millennium. Basically, you take some pastry, fill it with aromatic mincemeat, goat’s cheese, spinach and herbs, roll it up, lightly spice it, glaze with oil and bake until it is golden and delicious. The result is a kinda-sweet, kinda-savory dish that’s crispy on the outside, and has the consistency of al dente pasta on the inside.

 The best place to grab burek is on the streets of Sarajevo, where a serving goes for around the equivalent of $1.70. Awesomely, it tastes good both drunk and stone cold sober, meaning it’s probably, therefore, the most perfect snack in the entire world.

Snacks Around the World

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Prehistoric Man and His Petrifying Pets – WIF World

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Terrifying Animals

That Lived Alongside

Prehistoric Man

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Hunting the Cave Bear by Zdenek Burian

Our species, Homo sapiens, have only been around for about as long as a blink of an eye in terms of Earth’s history. It’s believed that the Earth formed over 4.6 billion years ago, and the first humans evolved about 200,000 years ago in Africa.

 In order to survive so that modern humans could flourish, our prehistoric ancestors had to fight off and hunt animals that were much bigger and far stronger than them. These are 10 horrifying animals that they may have encountered as humans migrated all over the world.

10. The Columbian Mammoth

Columbian mammoths were one of the biggest mammals to ever walk on Earth, and they were cousin to the more famous woolly mammoths. Columbian mammoths were found all the way from modern-day Canada to Mexico, while woolly mammoths, who were smaller, were found in northern Asia, Russia, and Canada. Another major difference is that Columbian mammoths had much less hair, so they looked closer to modern day elephants, but bigger with much longer tusks.

Columbian mammoths were 12 to 14 feet tall and weighed anywhere between 5.5 and 11 tons. The Columbian mammoth also had the biggest tusks out of the elephant family. They were, on average, 12 feet long, spiraled, and very strong. They would have been used to fight off predators, including humans.

9. The Ground Sloth

We know that this list is about terrifying animals, and sloths are anything but terrifying. However, their ancient ancestors, ground sloths, were a bit more intimidating than their modern day counterpart because they were some of the biggest mammals to ever live.

There were several different subspecies of ground sloths and the ones that lived in North America were the size of rhinos and humans most likely dined on them. However, the biggest ground sloths, the Megatherium, which lived in South America up until about 10,000 years ago, were as big as an elephant. From head to tail, they were 20 feet long and weighed up to four tons. Also, because they had sharp teeth and long claws, there is some speculation that they may have been carnivores.

Ultimately, the last species of ground sloths lived until about 4,200 years ago on theCaribbean islands. When humans arrived on the islands, it was the final death blow to the ground sloths.

8. Gigantopithecus

The biggest known primate to ever walk the earth was the Gigantopithecus, which is a relative of orangutans. They were 10 feet tall, and they weighed around 1,100 pounds.

One thing you may notice is that the Gigantopithecus looks a lot like the mythical Sasquatch. However, before anyone begins to speculate, the Gigantopithecus died out 100,000 years ago. So unless a group of 10-foot, half ton apes actively hid themselves from humans for one thousand centuries, it doesn’t seem likely that people have seen Gigantopithecus and thought it was Bigfoot.

The reason they died out after living on Earth for six to nine million years is because they needed a lot of food, like fruits, to sustain their giant bodies, which wasn’t a problem when their home in Southeast Asia was tropical forests. But then, because of weather changes their forests started to disappear and they became dry savannas, meaning there was less food and the giant primate just died out.

Of course, Gigantopithecus may be familiar to those people who saw the very excellent live adaptation of The Jungle Book, because King Louie is a Gigantopithecus.

7. The Cave Hyena

Cave Hyenas, also known as spotted coyotes, were about double the size of their relatives, the laughing coyote. They weighed up to 285 pounds, they were about three feet tall, and were nearly five feet long. According to calculations based on fossils, one cave hyena was strong enough to take down a 5-year-old mastodon that weighed a ton.

However, they lived in packs, sometimes consisting of 30 coyotes. These made them much more effective hunters, and they could take down a nine-year-old mastodon that weighed nine tons. Needless to say, a small family of humans would not want to come across a pack of hungry hyenas.

Their population started to dwindle about 20,000 years ago, before going extinct somewhere between 11,000 and 13,000 years ago. One reason may have been humans, because we competed with hyenas for cave space during the last ice age.

6. Smilodon

Saber-toothed cats are often given the very misleading title of saber-tooth tigers. It’s misleading because while they are part of the Felidae family, they weren’t closelyrelated to tigers.

Saber-toothed cats first appeared 42 million years ago. There were many species of them and most of them had died before humans first appeared. However, it’s believed that humans living in the Americas could have come across two different species of saber-toothed cats, Smilodon fatalis and Smilodon populator. They ranged in size and they could be as big as an African lion, which is the biggest wild lion living today. They also could weigh as much as the biggest subspecies of tiger, the Siberian tiger.

With their size came great strength. The smilodons could take down much bigger animals than themselves, like mammoths. Often, they would wait for prey to get close and then launch a surprise attack.

Out of the feline family, the smilodon didn’t have the strongest bite. According to calculations, it only had about one-third of the bite strength of modern lions. However, it had a really flexible jaw and could open its mouth 120 degrees, compared to a lion, which maxes out at 60 degrees.

The smilodon also had fairly weak teeth, but researchers think to compensate for that, they developed the strongest forearms of all cats. It’s believed that they used this strength to hold down their prey and then stabbed their fangs through the prey’s neck. Another theory is that the Smilodon repeatedly stabbed the prey with their fangs after it was held down. No matter how they killed their prey, a human did not want to find itself under the forearms of a smilodon.

5. The Dire Wolf

Fans of Game of Thrones may recognize Dire Wolves, but unlike many other animals on the show, Dire Wolves were real.

They first appeared about a quarter of a million years ago. They were similar tomodern-day gray wolves but sturdier. The gray wolf, which is the largest living wolf, is about 4 feet to 6.6 feet long and weighs 40 to 170 pounds, while Dire Wolves were about 5 feet long and weighed up to 200 pounds.

Dire Wolves, which were found all over North and South America, had a bite force that was 29 percent stronger than gray wolves. Their diet consisted of mostly horses.

They became extinct like so a lot other carnivores, at the end of the last ice age about 10,000 years ago.

4. The American Lion

Like a lot of other animals on this list, the American Lion is horribly named because it’s not a lion at all. Its scientific name is Panthera atrox, and as it suggests, the American Lion is more closely related to panthers than lions. One part about their name that is correct is that they lived in modern-day America starting about 330,000 years ago.

One notable aspect that our ancient ancestors would have noticed right away if they encountered an American Lion is that it was huge. In fact, it is the biggest known wild cat in history. On average, they weighed 772 pounds, which is 25 percent larger thanan African Lion. The American Lion was also incredibly strong. They were powerful enough to bring down a bison, meaning a small group of humans would have been in trouble had they encountered one of these lions.

They died around 11,000 years ago around the end of the last ice age.

3. The Megalania

Megalania was a monitor lizard, which is the same lizard family as the Komodo dragon, and it lived in Australia until about 50,000 years ago; around the same time that humans migrated there.

The size of Megalania is a highly debated topic. Originally, it was thought to be 23 feet long, while other estimates put its size more in the range of 11 feet long.

Regardless, they were bigger than Komodo dragons, but like the Komodo dragon, the Megalania also had poisonous glands. It would simply bite its prey and if it didn’t die of blood loss, then it would be slowly poisoned to death and the Meaglania would feast on its carcass.

Today, Komodo dragons are considered a very dangerous animal. They are fast, strong, and poisonous. They are also on average 6.5 feet long. The Megalania could have been four times that size; not exactly something a human, either prehistoric or modern, would want to bump into.

2. The Short-Faced Bear

Bears first appeared about 40 million years ago, and several subspecies have evolved over the years. One that our prehistoric ancestors would have encountered is the short-faced bear.

Short-faced bears (Arctodus pristinus) were five feet tall at shoulder height, but when they stood up, they were 12 feet tall and with its arms raised it was 14 feet tall. It also had the ability to run on two legs. If that wasn’t terrifying enough, the short-faced bear also had long limbs, and could run faster than a grizzly, possibly reaching speeds of 40 miles per hour. That means even Usain Bolt, who was clocked in at 28 miles per hour, would be dinner for this beast.

The Giant Short-Faced Bear was one of the biggest carnivores in North America. They first appeared about 800,000 years ago and they became extinct about 11,600 years ago.

1. The Quinkana

According to fossils, the Quinkana first evolved about 1.6 million years ago and they lived in modern day Australia. They were huge members of the crocodile family and they could grow to be 23 feet long. Just for some perspective, the longest crocodile in captivity was Lolong and he was 20 feet long.

A major difference between the Quinkana and many other crocodiles is that they were land dwellers. Since they lived on land, there was two major physical traits that the Quinkana developed. The first was that it had long, powerful legs. It would hunt its prey by chasing after them for long distances. The second difference is that crocodiles use their teeth to latch on and drag their prey into the water and drown it. The Quinkanas’ teeth, on the other hand, were much sharper and they were used for cutting.

They died out about 50,000 years ago, about 10,000 years after humans first arrived in Australia.


Prehistoric Man and His Petrifying Pets

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The White House – WIF Fun Facts

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Fascinating Facts

About

the White House

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One of the most famous, if not the most famous, Presidential homes in the world is the White House, which is located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. Over 6,000 people visit it every day, and it is one of the top tourist attractions in America’s capital. Of course, besides being a famous monument, it is also a home that is steeped in history.

 These are 10 of the most fascinating facts about the White House and the people who lived in it.

10. They Had A Design Contest To Build It

In 1790, Congress passed the Residence Act, which established Washington, D.C. as the capital of the United States. Congress also ordered that the capitol buildings, including the President’s House needed to be built within 10 years.

In order to find architectural plans for the house where the President would live, Congress held a contest. At the urging of George Washington, Irish-born architect James Hoban submitted his plans, which Encyclopedia Britannica said was influenced by Leinster House in Dublin.

Hoban won the contest and his reward was $500 and a lot in D.C. He was also hired on to oversee the construction of the President’s House, which started in 1793. The second President, John Adams, moved into the house in 1800, before it was actually finished.

The total cost of building the President’s House (its name before the White House) was$232,372, which is the equivalent of about $100 million today.

9. It Was Built By Slaves, Freed Slaves, And Immigrants

In July 2016, former First Lady Michelle Obama made some waves during her speech at the Democratic National Convention when she said “…I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves.” After the comment, several prominent people said it wasn’t true, or justified the use of slavery by saying they were “well-fed” slaves. However, Obama’s statement was totally correct.

According to the book The Invisibles: The Untold Story of African American Slaves in the White House, about 400 of the 600 people who built the Capitol, including the White House, were slaves. The other 200 were about 50 freed slaves and the remainder were poor immigrants.

The White House Historical Association confirms that slaves did help build the White House, but they weren’t government owned. Instead, they just rented them out from slave owners. Because that totally makes it OK, right?

8. The British Burned It Down

In June 1812, the United States, which was only 36-years-old at the time, declared war on Great Britain. There were several underlying reasons for the war, but one of them was to take over Canada, which was a British colony, and make it part of America.

Throughout the war, each side had major victories and suffered terrible losses. One of the biggest military defeats for the Americans happened on August 24, 1813, when British forces invaded Washington, D.C. In retaliation for sacking York, which is now Toronto, the President’s House was relieved of a few souvenirs before it was set ablaze. The ensuing fire nearly destroyed the building. After torching the President’s House, several other prominent buildings in Washington were burned to the ground.

Rebuilding started soon afterwards and the White House was restored to its original architectural plans. In fact, James Hoban, who oversaw the original construction, was rehired to oversee the reconstruction to make it as close to the original as possible. The reconstruction was completed by 1817, just in time for President James Monroe to move in.

After the Burning of Washington, the Americans fought back against the British and won several important victories. This led to the signing of the Treaty of Ghent on December 24, 1814. Part of the treaty was that any captured territory by either side would be returned.

What’s interesting is how this part of history is taught in schools in the United States and Canada, who have had uninterrupted peace with each other since the War of 1812. In the United States, students are taught that the War of 1812 was a war that earned the respect of the British and strengthened the nation as a whole, allowing them to expand westward.Canadian students, on the other hand, learn that the War of 1812 was the one time that the aggressive Americans tried to invade Canada and for their troubles, they got their capital and the White House burned down.

7. Why Is The White House White?

One myth about the White House is that it’s white to cover up the fire damage that was caused when it burned down in 1814. However, that isn’t true because it was white before it was set on fire. In 1798, a lime-based whitewash was painted on to protect the porous stone from cracking. Usually, the whitewash would have weathered and faded away. However, instead they kept reapplying the whitewash until 1818, when it was painted with lead-based white paint.

The house was originally called the President’s House, but since it was distinctively white, its nickname was the white house for almost a century. It wouldn’t officially become the White House until 1901 under President Theodore Roosevelt.

6. Pets There Have Included Alligators, Badgers, Bears, and a Dog Named Satan

Besides being home to the First Family, the White House has also had its fair share of pets. Out of 45 Presidents, there are only three Presidents who have no record of owning a pet: Chester A. Arthur, Franklin Pierce, and Donald Trump.

In most cases, the pets were dogs or cats. Abigail Adams had a dog named Satan, for instance. However, it’s also been home to some more exotic pets. Calvin Coolidge had a menagerie and the main attraction was a 600 pound pygmy hippopotamus named Billy.

Two different Presidents had alligators roam the White House grounds – Herbert Hoover and John Quincy Adams. Supposedly Adams kept a gator in the bathroom in the East Room and used it to scare guests.

Martin Van Buren was given two tiger cubs by the Sultan of Oman. However, supposedly Congress made him donate the cubs to a zoo.

Finally, Theodore Roosevelt had a badger named Josiah and was given a bear, which his children named Jonathan Edwards, by a group of voters in West Virginia. However, he didn’t have the proper accommodations for the bear, which Roosevelt called “queer-tempered,” and he ended up donating the bear to the Bronx Zoo.

5. Lyndon B. Johnson’s Shower

Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th President of the United States, was a relentlessly hard worker who was known for getting things done. He was also a man with a strong sexual appetite who seemed to be obsessed with his own genitals. He was known to whip it out whenever and where ever he wanted to. So it really shouldn’t be a surprise that he had some odd requests when it came to his shower.

According to Kate Andersen Brower’s book The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House, Johnson wanted to have several nozzles that switched from hot to cold. He also wanted the pressure to be intense, like a fire hose. Finally, he wanted a nozzle pointed directly at his genitals and to shoot up his rear end.

When the plumber said it couldn’t be done, Johnson himself called the plumber and chewed him out. To inspire him, Johnson said, “If I can move 10,000 troops in a day, you certainly can fix the shower.” So the plumber tinkered with the shower and it ended up with four nozzles. One time, an usher apparently tried the shower and it pinned him to the wall.

When Nixon moved into the White House in 1969, he ordered the plumber to get rid of Johnson’s shower.

4. Market Value

Before Donald Trump was elected President, we could say with certainty that the White House would never go on sale; but now, who knows what will happen? He is a real estate mogul, after all.

If he were to put it on the market, what would be a fair asking price? Well, the real estate website Zillow came up with an estimate for the house, which is a single family home with 142 rooms on six floors and about 55,000 square feet, and sits on an 18 acre lot. If you were to include all the historical artifacts with it and the hot tub that was installed under Bill Clinton (because of course Slick Willie installed a hot tub), then it would cost $398 million. Or if President Trump wanted to rent it out, it would cost $2,079,473.

3. The White House’s Deadly Water Supply

The ninth President of the United States, William Henry Harrison, holds two Presidential records and the common belief is that these two records are connected. The first is that Harrison gave the longest inaugural speech, which he did outside on a cold and miserable March day without a coat. The second record is that he was President for the shortest amount of time. He died on April 4, 1841, 32 days into his presidency, from what was believed to be pneumonia, which he caught while giving his long inauguration speech.

However, according to Dr. Philip A. Mackowiak of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who did a modern-day medical investigation, Harrison most likely died of Typhoid Fever and not of pneumonia. The source of the typhoid fever was the White House’s water supply. Mackowiak also thinks that the water in the White House killed President James K. Polk, who died in 1849, three months after leaving the White House, and president Zachary Taylor, who died in office in 1850.

2. Does It Have Secret Passages?

One of the most mythical elements of the White House is its secret passages and tunnels. For example, it was rumored that John F. Kennedy used the tunnels to sneak out of the White House to meet Marilyn Monroe. However, that’s all they appear to be – myths.

While there have been renovations of the White House over the years, including additions, the White House wasn’t really designed to house things like tunnels and secret passages. The closest thing to a secret lair is the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, which was built after the attack on Pearl Harbor. At the time, the Council of National Defense urged Franklin D. Roosevelt to move out of the White House because they thought it was a “firetrap.” His compromise was to build a bomb shelter in the White House.

The Presidential Emergency Operations Center is in the basement of the East Wing. It serves as the communication center and it is able to withstand a nuclear blast. It’s also important to note that the shelter is not the same as the Situation Room, which is in the basement of the West Wing.

One notable time it was used was on September 11, 2001. Vice President Dick Chaney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, among others, were evacuated from their offices into the Presidential Emergency Operations Center.

1. It Was Almost Torn Down In 1945 Because It Was In Such Bad Shape

By 1945, the White House had been lived in for 145 years and it was in rough shape. Besides being nearly destroyed in 1814, there was another fire in the White House on Christmas Eve 1929. The White House was hosting a party and when the fire started in the West Wing, Herbert Hoover left the party to oversee the removal of papers and documents from the Oval Office, while the First Lady kept the party going. The fire ended up gutting the West Wing, including the Oval Office.

Another problem was that the White House wasn’t constructed to have indoor plumbing and electricity and that was all added well after it was built. This added a lot of stress to the structure of the building. It got to be so bad that Harry S. Truman thought it was going to collapse. In fact, his daughter’s piano fell through a floor into the room below it.

The condition of the White House got to be so bad that it would have been cheaper to tear it down and build something new in its place. However, since it was a national monument Truman was against the idea. They chose to gut the interior of the White House and rebuild it as close to its original design as possible. The reconstruction took four years, during which time Harry and Bess Truman lived in Blair House, which is across the street from the White House.


The White House

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Amazing Nature Almanac – WIF Science

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Strange and Beautiful

Natural Phenomena

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Nature is amazing. There is no doubt about that. People have marveled at nature’s beauty since they came into existence. Not knowing what was happening, these people of old came up with some truly magnificent stories, trying to give a sense to the world around them. Today we are blessed with more knowledge about the world, but nevertheless this doesn’t diminish the magic taking place before our very eyes. If anything, it only makes nature more interesting.

 And while we no longer believe the “sky to be falling” every time it’s raining, or that Thor is smiting his hammer with every lightning strike, there are some natural phenomena out there we common folk still don’t understand. Here are 10 such natural occurrences, explained by our most prized of storytellers: scientists.

10. Snow Rollers

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No, these weren’t made by gnomes during the night, but rather by a series of meteorological events, in a particular order. Snow rollers aren’t a common sight, but when they do happen, and you stumble upon some of them, be sure that a fairly unlikely series of events took place the night before. First and foremost there needs to be two separate layers of snow already present: a first, icy or crusty layer of snow underneath, and a wetter one above. This way, the wet layer has something on which to roll over. Then you need some wind, strong enough to scoop out balls of snow and push them forward, similar to a tumbleweed, but not so strong as to blow it apart.

They will also form in relatively sloped areas, but this is not absolutely necessary. Just imagine yourself making a snowman, and the process is more or less the same. The biggest differences are that one is made by a person, the other by the elements. Also, snow rollers are more often cylindrical in shape, rather than a sphere, and they can vary in size from that of an average snowball, to that of a car. Nevertheless, the many meteorological conditions which need to take place in that exact order, at the exact time, make these snow rollers a very rare phenomenon to behold, and they usually make headlines in the newspapers the following day.

9. Mammatus Clouds

mammatus

Looking very ominous, mammatus clouds are sometimes the harbingers of an imminent and powerful thunderstorm. But more often than not, they form just after the storm has passed. Also known as mammatocumulus, they translate to “mammary cloud” due to their appearance as pouches, usually hanging beneath a larger, anvil cloud. As updraft pushes precipitation enriched air to the top of one such anvil cloud, the air begins to spread out, and the heavier precipitation, usually water particles and ice fall back to the bottom, forming these mammatus clouds. As the air falls back down to the ground, it heats up, evaporating the precipitation within it. The more precipitation there is the further down they will sink.

These clouds usually span over an area of several hundred miles in all directions and last for about 10-15 minutes at a time. While they usually form underneath an anvil cloud, they also appear on occasion under altocumulus, altostratus, stratocumulus, cirrus clouds, as well as volcanic ash clouds. Whatever the case, they look amazing and ominous at the same time, especially when sunlight is reflected off of them.

8. Ice Flowers

ice-flower

This natural phenomenon in particular is as beautiful as it is rare, and only takes places in late autumn or early winter, before the ground freezes over. As the air goes below freezing point, the sap within some plant stems, plants like theFrostweed (Verbesina virginica), begins to freeze and expand, pushing through the plant itself and forming an amazing thin sheet of ice, similar to a flower petal. Certain conditions need to take place for this beautiful phenomenon to appear. As the ground is still unfrozen, water keeps on going up the stem and through the microscopic cracks, the sap escapes and transforms into ice, adding to the ever longer sheet.

In some instances, this phenomenon can happen to wood as well. Wood which hasn’t yet dried completely and is kept in freezing conditions can sometimes present these Ice Flowers. More often than not however, the wood cracks from the pressure within, generating these wonderful patterns which curl and fold into gorgeous frozen petioles, giving this phenomenon both its name and appearance.

7. Columnar Basalt

columnar-basalt

This type of rock formation occurs, as it name suggests, in basalt, which is a lava flow rock. These formations can be found all over eastern Washington state, Devils Tower in Wyoming, Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, or the Los Organos on the northern part of La Gomera Island in the Canaries, and many other places around the world. Based on their name, you can clearly see what kind of stories people used to give these, back in the day. Nevertheless, there are columnar basalt formations found even on Mars. The way these form, is similar to how the ground cracks during a severe drought. As the water evaporates, or goes into the water bed below, the ground above contracts and cracks. The same thing applies here, as the lava flow progressively cools over a period of maybe longer than 100 years. The cracks form perpendicular to the original flow direction.

The difference in thickness of these columns depends on the speed at which they cool. While there are cases of a lava beds contracting as a whole, it is more likely for them to crack. The faster they cool, the thinner the columns will be. And while hexagons are most common, polygons with three to twelve or more sides can be observed. Their length, which can be greater than 50 feet, is based on how thick the original lava flow was.

6. Fallstreak Hole

fallstreak-hole

This particular cloud formation looks as if someone took an enormous cookie cutter and made a hole in what, otherwise, looks like an enormous flat cloud covering the sky. In fact, some people call them Holepunch clouds. Another particular aspect here is that a streak of cloud usually hangs underneath that hole. What’s happening up there is quite interesting, to say the least. For starters, we need to know that air at higher altitudes is much cooler that the temperature at the ground level. In fact, temperatures can go well below freezing point.

But despite this, water vapor and tiny water droplets “refuse” to freeze and remain in a “supercool” state. Water usually begins to freeze due to the impurities inside it: salt, dust particles, all sorts of other minerals, and so on. Cold, distilled water can also begin to freeze instantaneously if a piece of ice is added to it, in a process known as “ice nucleation.” Since water vapor is quite pure, water stays in liquid form even under freezing temperatures. Here, a piece of ice falls from higher altitudes and comes in contact with the water inside this cloud. This in turn sets out a chain reaction, freezing the droplets around, and making them fall to the ground – thus, the cloud streak below the hole. If a plane happens to pass through a cloud at a shallow angle, it can also cause it to freeze and form a cigar-shaped Fallstreak hole.

5. Brinicles

Brinicles are a fairly rare sight to see, not because they rarely happen, but because they take place underwater. In fact, they were only discovered in the 1960s. When seawater freezes, it releases its salt, creating super-salty brine. This percolates through cracks in the ice, into the water below. This brine then sinks because it’s much denser than the surrounding water. That is also the reason you can float in salty water, far better than in a fresh water lake. Nevertheless, this brine is also much colder, and the seawater around freezes on contact. Over time, this creates somewhat of an inverted cone, or funnel if you will, which goes ever deeper towards the bottom. This stalactite is what’s known as a brinicle.

Since brinicles appear in shallower waters, closer to the coast, in a course of some 12 hours it’s able to reach the bottom, trapping everything in ice. Creatures usually living on the ocean floor, like starfish and sea urchins, move far too slow and they get trapped in this newly formed ice, which then spreads along the bottom. Not surprisingly, brinicles are more commonly known as “The Ice Fingers of Death.”

4. Volcanic Lightning

Also known as a dirty thunderstorm, volcanic lightning is a weather phenomenon related to the production of lightning in a volcanic plume. What causes them was somewhat hard to figure out, and is still not yet fully understood. While during a thunderstorm, lightning is caused by colliding ice crystals, which generate enough electricity to cause a lightning bolt, ash clouds are far more difficult and a lot moredangerous to study. At first glance, it would seem counter intuitive to attribute ice as the main culprit behind a “dirty thunderstorm”. Some new scientific studies and better equipment, however, have begun to show us what’s really happening during one such volcanic inferno.

Once an eruption begins, large quantities of positively charged particles are blown into the air, which in contact with the negatively charged air particles around make for an electric discharge. These lightning bolts occur in and around the plume, which is ejected by the volcano itself. At first this theory was mostly based on speculation, but thanks to the very high frequency (VHF) radio emissions technology, scientists were able to get a better look inside one such dense volcanic plume and figure out what’s actually happening. But this is not all when it comes to lightning and volcanoes together.

Another study has tracked the location of lightning strikes some 60 miles from the eruption, and at near-stratospheric heights of about 12 miles above the ground. This seems to be caused somewhat in the same way as in a usual thunderstorm. As the ash cloud is blown by the wind, it thins out, and ice begins to form at its extremities, resulting in further lightning strikes. These studies, while not that surprising, can help a great deal in aviation as they can inform on the way to properly respond to a volcano eruption and the usual flight paths of commercial airliners passing above.

3. Sailing Stones

sailing-stones

Death Valley in California is notorious for its scorching heat during the day and extreme cold during the night. Among the many mysteries and legends linked to this place, none is more fascinating than the “sailing stones” phenomenon taking place within the Racetrack Playa, an exceptionally flat and level scenic dry lake. Some weighing around 700 pounds, the stones which dot the lake bed seem to be moving across the desert floor when nobody’s watching, leaving long trails behind them. This has puzzled scientists for decades now, but now geologists Richard and Jim Norris, believe they have found the answer. Though the phenomenon itself was under scrutiny since the 1940s, only recently did the two geologists actually capture these sailing stones on film. They set up a weather station in the area and fitted stones with GPS trackers. Two years into the project, the stones began to move.

What actually happened was that it rained the day before, and during the night a thin layer of ice had formed over a few inches of liquid water. As day came, the ice began to break apart and, pushed by the breeze, these ice sheets simply dragged the stones with them, scraping a trail on the bottom. By the end of the day, when all the ice had melted, some of the stones moved more than 200 feet. However, the conditions for this phenomenon to take place are hard to come by, and Norris compared the chances of actually stumbling upon it with winning the lottery. This also explains why this seemingly simple occurrence has intrigued people for so long.

2. Penitentes

penitentes

Penitentes are narrow ice formations, commonly found at high altitudes of over 13,000 feet, with low humidity, especially in the Andes Mountains of South America. What’s curious about them is that they usually point towards the sun, ranging from a few inches to six or even 16 feet in height. Their name comes from their resemblance to people kneeling, as when doing penance. More precisely, they resemble the brothers of the Procession of Penance in Spain, who wear hats with very tall, narrow, and white sharp tips (just like the KKK).

Anyway, the existence of these Penitentes was known about as early as the 1800s and were originally believed to have been formed by the wind. But in fact these jagged snow structures are the result of dimples in the original snow sheet. These in turn result in ever larger ablations, through a process known as “sublimation” – where ice and snow melts and vaporizes without turning into liquid water first. This happens more easily at high altitudes due to the reduced pressure of the atmosphere, together with the lower temperatures of the air and the more powerful rays of the sun above. The Penitentes are what remains behind, thanks to their angle towards the sun.

1. Light Pillars

light-pillar

This stunningly beautiful light show usually makes an appearance in cold, arctic regions and can be described as optical phenomenon in which columns of light seem to emanate below or above a light source, in a vertical orientation. This light source can be of natural origins, like the sun or moon, in which case these light columns are called Sun or Lunar Pillars, respectively. Or, they can occur due to the presence of artificial lights as well. These light pillars form when the two astral bodies are close to the horizon and tend to take on the color of the body emanating that light in the first place.

The effect itself is created by the reflection of that light onto the many ice particles suspended in the air or clouds. Because of this, light pillars fall in the category of halos – optical phenomenon produced by light interacting with ice crystals. The reason for why they appear vertical and not as a circle, is because the ice crystals which reflect them consist mostly of flat, hexagonal plates, which tend to orient themselves more or less horizontally as they fall through the air. Together they act as a giant mirror, reflecting the light either up or down. Thanks to the slight turbulences in the air, these ice crystals somewhat change their horizontal orientation, elongating the light column even further. The larger the crystals, the more pronounced this effect becomes. In some rare cases, column-shaped crystalscan cause light pillars as well.


Amazing Nature Almanac

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WIF Science