SETI, Bicycles, Gravity, Placebos and Baghdad – WIF Scientific Mysteries

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Science Still

Hasn’t Solved

These Mysteries

The science community has granted us a wealth of knowledge that can never be overstated. Things that used to mystify our ancestors can now be understood and more appreciated. It’s shaped our view of the world, the universe, the animal kingdom, human psychology — literally everything you know has been helped along by science and the men and women who dedicate their lives to finding out the whos, whats, whens, whys, and hows of stuff. We owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude.

But with science having that intrinsic aspect of being ever-evolving, it’s never foolproof or absolute. Built right into the scientific method are allowances for screw-ups or just plain not knowing something. And you might be surprised that some very basic parts of life here on our planet totally baffle some of our best and brightest smarties. Here are some examples of mysteries that science has yet to crack.

10. Why do we sleep?

Now here is one you think we’d have nailed down by now. Almost every single person in the world sleeps daily (unless you’re a Rolling Stones guitarist). And the answer probably seems obvious to most of us: we sleep to rest our bodies after the day. We can hold off on food, water, even sex for days on end, but when it’s sleepytime, nature takes over and our bodies ask for the check.

Except it’s not as simple as just needing rest. Science has educated guesses which include all sorts of reasons for sleep, like making time for our brains to get things in order after a long day, to reinforce memories, or to replenish fuel lost while awake. But then you throw in examples of plants and other organisms that don’t have any brains at all like we do, yet still have “sleep” patterns similar to ours, and people who have gene mutations which let them function without much sleep at all, and we begin to see our very limited understanding of why we sleep.

9. How does gravity work?

Gravity, as we learn in school, is very simple… right? There are forces within our planet that pull things toward the center. So if you throw something in the air, it comes back down. Gravity keeps you on the ground. It’s also what keeps the planets orbiting around the sun. This is all very simple, and we’ve known it since we were able to learn information. So why does science have so much difficulty explaining it?

Basically, gravity is one of four forces in our universe, which also include electromagnetism, strong nuclear, and weak nuclear. Gravity is the weakest of the four, and while we seem to grasp the concept of gravity with earthly examples, when things get too small or too big, like black holes and atoms, that’s when science and Newton’s principles don’t really make sense. And a simple science experiment you’ve seen before, where a balloon rubbed on your shirt creates enough electromagnetism to negate gravity and lift your hair or a piece of paper, shows just how easily gravity can sometimes, well, disappear.

8. Why are most people right handed?

People seem to take notice when someone uses their left hand for something, as if it’s some kind of freak mutation that’s just manifested itself. And while it’s rare for someone to be a natural southpaw (about 10 percent of the world’s population), it’s not quite the same as running across someone who, say, has horns growing out of their head.

So why do people deviate from the norm, in terms of handedness? Is it a genetic mutation? The environment they’re brought up in? Is it hereditary? Science doesn’t really know, and it doesn’t even really have an empirically-established way to measure handedness. Science does lean toward genetics, but there are even problems with that, as some teachers in school force children to become right handed when learning to write, and there is some data as to cultural and societal factors influencing which hand becomes dominant. Weirdly enough, we’ve learned why people become right-handed, but not why right is the “right” way. If that makes sense.

7. Why does anesthesia work?

It’s the divine gas that makes people not have to be acutely aware of their leg being amputated, among other things. The introduction of anesthesia granted patients the ability to snooze through all sorts of medical procedures, and it’s been a godsend since the mid-1800s — not only for the patients, but for doctors who had to deal with squirrely, wide-awake amputee victims. What started as an inhaled ether on its inception has become a more refined chemical blend that renders the recipient unconscious.

But we don’t really know how it does that. Think about it. When you’re asleep, you’re unconscious, right? But you would sure feel a scalpel opening you up, wouldn’t you? So why is the anesthesia unconsciousness different? And it’s an even bigger mystery as to how the diverse chemicals in the anesthetic, ranging from steroids to inert gases, can work together to achieve such a deep unconscious level that takes you about as close to death’s door as is possible. It seems that under anesthesia, different parts of the brain are affected much like a coma patient’s brain would be. All in all, it’s a wonderful tool in medicine and we don’t really know why.

6. Why do cats purr?

“Awwww, it’s because he/she LOVES ME!,” you likely think to yourself, ignoring the fact that if that cat was a little bigger, it would probably try to rip your face off. But it’s not a stupid assumption — most people probably associate the low rumbly purr of the kitty-cat to a feeling of happiness or contentedness. Science as a whole shrugs and meekly mumbles, “I dunno.”

See, cats also have a tendency to purr when they’re scared or hungry. Purring probably isn’t a form of communication, as it’s too low and local to be really effective. Also, in the realm of just pure weirdness, science has discovered that purring has been linked to bone regeneration. So there are many theories we have for why kittens just sit there and gently hum their bodies, but most likely it’s just a way for them to soothe themselves. Kind of like how we laugh for several different reasons.

5. Why was there a mysterious hum in New Mexico?

New Mexico has had a weird history of everything from nuclear bomb testings to Walter White standing on a dirt road in his tighty-whities. But the residents of the northern town of Taos have their own strange tale to tell, and it’s in reference to a local phenomenon called the “Taos Hum.”

Since the early ’90s, people in the town have described some kind of tangible audio event. Some call it a whirring kind of noise, or a buzz, or a humming in the air around Taos. A professor of engineering at the University of New Mexico studied the sounds around Taos, and noticed that around 2 percent of the population was susceptible to the strange hum. That doesn’t mean that they picked up any unusual sounds while conducting their research. Quite the opposite. Their very sensitive audio recording equipment and vibration sensors picked up nothing out of the ordinary. The fact that the townsfolk heard differing kinds of sounds is also of less scientific value than if they had all heard one low, persistent hum. And that’s why science is more keen to dismiss the Taos Hum as being part of the onslaught of background noise humans live in these days, mixed with subjective hearing experiences from the people themselves. The residents of Taos, however, stand firm in their belief of a weirder explanation. It is New Mexico, after all.

4. The ancient Baghdad batteries

Now, hear us out here. What if we told you that researchers working in Iraq in the 1930s found what totally appeared to be some kind of crude battery that may have been used to produce electrical charges, and that it likely dated from around 200 BC? Of course, that would predate that kind of technology by a couple thousand years.

What archaeologists originally thought were some kind of clay storage pots turned out upon closer inspection to contain copper rods within them. This led the scientists to strongly believe the pots would have held some kind of substance that would react to the copper rods and produce electricity. But why? Theories range from using the charge to shock people as punishment (those were stricter days), to using that electricity to electroplate things with gold. Another school of thought is that they found a way to make electricity long before knowing what the heck it was good for, kind of like the Chinese with gunpowder. Our turbulent history with Iraq doesn’t help us figure much of anything out, either.

3. Why does the placebo effect work?

You’ve all heard the basics of the placebo effect: it’s a treatment that isn’t “real,” but the very act of a patient believing in its effectiveness creates its own beneficial properties. If you expect a pill or drug to do something, it’s likely to work in some way. It seems mean, but science uses placebos especially when testing a new medication’s effectiveness. Which, maddeningly, is skewed because sometimes these placebos work. But why?

Beats us! The point of a placebo is you don’t know you’re taking it. But that opens up a whole host of problems because placebos can often work even when you know you’re taking one. That clearly goes against its entire purpose. In 2009, researchers testing treatments for irritable bowel syndrome found many subjects who knowingly took placebos got better at higher rates than those who received no treatment at all. That’s absolutely insane. And it seems that a person’s personality is tied to whether the placebo effect will work or not. But that’s just a guess so far. If that’s not enough stuff that science doesn’t get, there’s also potentially an inverse nocebo effect, where if you don’t believe a treatment will work, your symptoms will get worse. Our brains are weird, man.

2. Why are we getting repeating radio bursts from space?

Cue the History Channel “alien guy,” because this is clearly some extraterrestrial stuff, right? Slow down there, Captain SETI. Let’s lay out the basics first. A fast repeating signal burst from space, called FRB 121102, was first discovered in 2012. While we’ve come across some of these before, this one has repeated itself, though sporadically.

The bursts usually last about a millisecond, and we don’t yet know where they originate from. We know it’s from a galaxy 3 billion light-years away that was recently discovered, but that’s about all. The radio bursts, though short, are massive, containing as much energy as the sun produces in a day. The fact that it’s persistent and repeating makes scientists think the location could be near a black hole or a nebula. And the source itself has earned science’s best guess of a pulsar or neutron star. But that doesn’t mean the fantastical minds of scientists are ruling out extraterrestrial origins. What fun would it be to ruin those hopes?

1. How bicycles really work

What?? If science is really going to tell us they can’t figure out how a two-wheeled vehicle works, are we supposed to trust them about anything? And yet, the humble bicycle contains so much scientific mystery within.

Much of the mystery concerns the bicycle without a rider perched on it. If a bike is going fast enough, it’s going to want to balance itself so it doesn’t fall over. It even does with when someone is riding it, to a degree. That self-stability and why it occurs has eluded scientists since the 19th century. The commonly-held idea that the gyroscopic effect of the rotating front wheel keeps the bike stable has fallen apart under recent analysis. An alternate theory likens the wheel on a bicycle to the wheels on a shopping cart, in that they align themselves automatically in the direction being traveled. That also fell apart. It seems science does have a point where they just give up and break for lunch.


SETI, Bicycles, Gravity, Placebos and Baghdad –

WIF Scientific Mysteries

It’s the Law! – WIF Stranger Than Fiction

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Strange

International Laws

If you’ve ever been on the internet, you have probably seen someone pass around a list of “wacky laws” from various states in the USA. These are usually laws that are still on the books from decades or even centuries ago, were never constitutional, wouldn’t be held up by any local judge worthy of their position, and were usually just passed by city councils of small towns to make a point and throw their weight around. However, around the world many truly strange laws have been passed that are either symbolically important, truly enforceable, or are judiciously enforced in creatively interesting ways. In today’s article, we will go over the top 10 strangest examples.

10. In The United States, There Are Some Exemptions to Child Labor Laws On Farms

In most developed countries, child labor has been pretty much done away with and the world is all the better for it. However, in the United States of America, a country that most would imagine got rid of that quite some time ago, there are a lot of exceptions when it comes to farm labor. See, farmers in the United States often have trouble getting enough people to work on their farms and get everything done, especially at a wage that is affordable for the farmer. For this reason, having children work on farms has been a thing for a very long time, and there are exceptions in the law to allow it.

Essentially, as long as they are still getting an education, whether by going to school or a state approved home-school program, they are allowed to be worked on a farm for no pay — even as a young child — without any real restrictions on the hours (as long as they are working for their parents own farm, regardless of how big or commercial a size it might seem). Furthermore, as wild as this may sound to people from Europe, as long as you are just driving your tractor on the farm, you may allow your kids to drive around in it without any age restrictions or training whatsoever. Of course, children die or get horribly maimed due to this sort of nonsense every year, but the pressure from the farm lobbies has so far stopped any laws with real teeth from going into effect to change things.

9. The Laws On Cruise Liners Are Complex, and Different From How Many Imagine

Legal jurisdiction can get extremely murky when it comes to trying to prosecute a cruise liner, or anyone who did anything to you while you were on one, but in general it is supposed to apply as follows: If you are within 12 miles of a country’s waters, you are subject to their laws and jurisdictions. End of story. If you are more than 12 miles out but less than 24, you are not subject to their laws, but you have to allow them to board to look for potential smuggling activity, regardless of your country of origin. After that, once you get to international waters, you do still have to follow laws — the laws of whichever country your cruise ship is officially registered in. That means if your cruise ship is registered in the United States, you still have to obey the laws of the USA.

This meant that from the 1950s to the 1990s, no United States-based cruise liner allowed gambling aboard their ship. However, in 1991, after it was pointed out to the proper regulatory authorities that there were only about three ships left that were officially registered in the United States, they passed a competitiveness act that allows US-based cruise liners to begin allowing people to gamble, in contravention of United States law, once they actually reached international waters. It’s basically a huge exemption that has been carved out so that the USA will not be entirely left out of the cruise ship game.

8. Diplomatic Immunity Has Led to a Plethora of Unpaid Parking Tickets Worldwide

Nobody likes parking tickets and, let’s face it: if we could legally get away with it without any consequences, we would curl the things up into a ball, throw them away, and move on with our lives without paying. Now, most of us simply don’t have the power to do that. We can ball the thing up, but one way or another the city is eventually going to come and somehow take their money from us. However, if you are a diplomat, you have diplomatic immunity. Now, in movies like Lethal Weapon 2, we have plots where diplomatic immunity is used in an attempt to get away with murder, but the vast majority of diplomats abuse it in a much more banal way —  they fulfill a fantasy many of us have, by simply ignoring parking rules (or congestion fees) and doing what they want anyway, as it doesn’t matter.

When you have diplomatic immunity, no one can force you in court to pay your tickets, and many from the United States have argued the congestion fee that London has, for example, is just a tax on going in and out of the city (tax being something diplomats don’t have to pay). The United States government shares this viewpoint. However, it isn’t just London, or even New York for that matter, that suffers most from this, but Canberra and many other cities around the world. If the city plays host to a lot of diplomats, they often have backlogged debts for diplomat parking tickets ranging from the hundreds of thousands to the millions. New York recently implemented a policy where they simply wouldn’t re-register a diplomatic vehicle with too high a debt, and it helped a little, but it has simply creeped back up over the years since. It seems when you give a government official full diplomatic immunity, most just use it to toss aside all the petty bureaucracy that’s part of the system they help maintain.

7. China Decrees They Must Approve Reincarnations, In An Attempt to Control Tibetan Monks

As you probably already know, China has, for a long time, been trying to control the country of Tibet, and part of that involves trying to squash the influence of the Tibetan monks. The entire situation is extremely political, as a lot of religious sensibilities are involved, and if China came down too hard on the current Dalai Lama, they could risk some kind of widespread riots, or even international involvement. However, that doesn’t mean they are just sitting around with no strategy besides occupation and repression.

See, the thing about the Dalai Lama is that he is supposed to be a reincarnation of a previous Lama, and so on.The issue is that the Tibetan monks generally get to choose their own successor, as it is supposed to be their spiritual influence that is able to tell who is actually the next reincarnation. However, in the hopes of controlling the process, China has actually decreed laws not allowing a Lama to reincarnate without going through the Chinese government to approve it first — which means they basically get to hand-pick their own Dalai Lama, which would give them ultimate control and influence over the Tibetan people and anyone who still follows Tibetan Buddhism. However, the current Dalai Lama has already fired back against this by stating the next Lama would likely be born in a free country, and that one chosen out of China, by the Chinese government, could not be trusted as the proper Dalai Lama.

6. In Russia You Can Be Fined Because of a Dirty Car (Sort Of)

Now, this isn’t exactly the law, as it’s more of a law being misinterpreted by the police. However, in a country like Russia, arguing with the police (or the local city council over your police’s corrupt behavior) is not likely to get you much of anywhere. In Moscow, and other big cities in Russia, drivers often simply stop driving for much of the winter as it gets too cold for many older vehicles to operate, and then bring them back in the spring — sometimes without washing them at all first.

Now, the law — like in many countries — simply states that a car is considered “dirty” as an actual offense if it’s dirty to the point that the license plate is not visible. However, many police are using the law and people’s ignorance of the details to fine anyone with an extremely filthy car, even if the license plate can be seen just fine. The first time city authorities started doing this back in 2006 after a harsh winter, they declared it was “clean car month” and went on a rampage of fines. While it may not have necessarily been legal, the city clearly wanted to do something to encourage people to clean up, and didn’t want to have to amend the old law to do it… so they just sort of bent it a bit.

5. In China, You Must Have Social Visits With Your Elderly Parents

China has a lot of elderly citizens. When counted in 2014, their percentage of elderly citizens was at 9%, which is higher than many countries, such as India, which was only at 5% when the same estimate was made. It’s also one of the fastest growing elderly populations in the world, with experts expecting their elderly population to roughly double by the year of 2030. For this reason, elderly people who are lonely or not particularly well cared for are becoming an increasingly serious problem. Elderly people have already even been occasionally suing their children for not visiting them enough, or taking care of them, but a law passed in 2013 in China helps give the elderly more teeth with which to sue their children.

The law states that children should make an effort to regularly visit their elderly parents; however, it isn’t really clear on how often that should be. The law is difficult to enforce because of the ambiguity, but the lawmakers have said that it wasn’t necessarily meant to be a fully functional law, but more of a way to raise awareness of the issue, and make it easier for parents to sue and get the court to order some kind of visitation schedule, if they are being truly neglected when they need physical or emotional care. We feel like it’s important to emphasize that last part, because obviously, this isn’t just your nagging mom wondering why you don’t stop by for dinner more often.

Some Chinese people are worried about the law mainly because of the ambiguity, and also because oftentimes well-intentioned children don’t always have the means, or even the time off work, to visit. The law doesn’t really fix anything, but it does serve to highlight the growing demographic problem in China and the tension between the young and the old.

4. In Much Of The Caribbean, Camouflage Clothing Is Illegal

In the United States, it’s actually fairly common to wear camo-pattern clothes, so much so that people make jokes about whether they can “actually see you there” because of your ability to “blend in.” While it isn’t exactly considered a high fashion choice, it’s certainly not something the authorities would ever worry about in most countries, and people would just assume you have an affinity for military-style garb and/or enjoy hunting.

However, in many Caribbean countries such as Barbados, Jamaica, St. Vincent and St. Lucia, several African countries, and even Saudi Arabia, wearing of camouflage patterned clothes is banned, unless you want to be fined or potentially jailed. The issue is that they don’t want any civilians being mixed up with members of the military, as most of the countries with these laws have at least one uniform with a camouflage pattern. When you think of it that way, the law actually makes perfect sense… although it’s unlikely someone wearing say, a pair of camo shorts and a beach shirt, is going to be confused for active duty military of any kind.

3. The Town of Tuszyn, Poland Banned Winnie the Pooh From Their Playground

While it wasn’t exactly a law, the town of Tuszyn, Poland made international news for a strange decision they made in 2014. They had been trying to decide a new mascot for the town playground, and were going over innocent and wholesome cartoon characters they could use that would be fun for the children. One of the names that came up was Winnie the Pooh, and at first you would think this was a suggestion that would pick up some steam; it doesn’t get much more innocent, fun, and generally banal than Winnie the Pooh. He is, in fact, a character that most people would imagine would be impossible to be offended by… unless he is already associated negatively with your dear leader, as he is in China.

However, someone recorded the town council meeting where it was discussed, and leaked the audio to the Croatian Times, who made fun of the proceedings and their inherent silliness. Apparently, the idea was shot down and Pooh was banned as the potential mascot mainly because he wasn’t wearing any clothes on his bottom half, and was actually “half-naked.” Now, some would imagine you would argue that he isn’t immodest because he has no genitals, and is just a cartoon. Oh, and also, a bear. Last time we checked, it’s more unusual for bears to be wearing red shirts than it is for them to be without pants. Unfortunately, that did come up during the debate, and some council members suggested that it made Pooh some kind of hermaphrodite, or someone with some kind of other gender identity disorder, and that it therefore made him even more inappropriate for children. We wonder what the city council of Tuszyn, Poland, thinks of Donald Duck.

2. Japan Is Policing Obesity, But They Haven’t Made It Illegal As Some People Think

In 2008, Japan passed a “Metabo Law” that left a lot of people scratching their heads and adding yet another one to the “weird Japan” file. The rumor claimed that the law literally made it illegal to be fat, and that if you were fat enough, the government could fine or even imprison you. However, while a Metabo Law was passed, it was not at all what many in the Western World thought it was.

The way the law works is that if you are in between the ages of 45 and 74, and you have a waistline of 35.4 inches or more for a man, or 31.5 inches or more for a woman, then you have to have it measured every year and seek proper medical advice from a doctor on how to shrink your waistline and improve your health. The law does not make it illegal or even attach fines to having extra weight; it just ensures that you get the medical attention you need if you go beyond what Japanese legislators have considered the line for an early intervention against dangerous levels of weight gain.

1. Turkmenbashi Was A Mad Ruler Of Turkmenistan… But They Aren’t Much Better Off Without Him

If you have ever seen the TV show Archer, you may be familiar with an episode where they visit Turkmenistan and learn that it has an insane leader named Gorbagun Gorbanguly, who has changed the words for both bread and Friday to his dog’s name: Gurpgork. Now, while this isn’t at all true, it is based on some true life events. Turkmenistan’s current leader’s name is Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, and the previous leader of the country, a man named Saparmurat Niyazov — also known as Turkmenbashi — was pretty much the undisputed dictator from 1990 until 2006. During that time he was known for being a power-mad eccentric who not only ruled with an iron fist, but made utterly insane proclamations.

He created a national melon day, after the country’s chief export, and also a national day for horses. People used to wear gold fillings in their teeth as a mark of status, but Turkmenbashi felt they were not a good thing, and soon people were tearing them out of their mouths, spending their money on expensive dental work. He banned circuses and ballet because they were “unnecessary.” He also banned beards because he didn’t trust followers of Islam. On top of that, he changed the name of January to his name, and April to his mother’s name. When he died and the new dictator for life took over, he did do away with a lot of the more eccentric laws, but it still continues to be an incredibly poor country where ethnic Muslims are distrusted, and the vast majority of the country’s oil riches are going to the elites who run it all, or just sitting in the ground not being used due to poor infrastructure and mismanagement.


It’s the Law! –

WIF Stranger Than Fiction

Reliable News Sources – WIF Spotlight

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Reliable Sources

of News

…News the old-fashioned way – Unbiased, accurate and responsible…

When writing about this, we understand that based on their perspectives, some people may disagree partly with this list. However, with so many fake news sites out there, and so much propaganda, it can be useful to go over those news sources best known for holding their standards to something more approaching real and honest journalism. A true journalist isn’t out to change your mind, but rather to tell you what is happening.

 Before we get into the full article, it is also important to point out that just because some news sources may be more reliable than others, does not mean we should ever read the news blindly without thinking it through. All news stories should be put through the process of critical thinking, and analyzed based on the context, and any possible biases – whether intentional or otherwise.
The point being… look beyond your Twitter or Facebook timelines.

10. Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal is a well-known name that can often be very controversial. Like many organizations, it is often accused of bias, but in this case the accusations of bias are in a right leaning direction. Many would say that the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal are very conservative. However, while there is some truth to this, the Wall Street Journal’s news is known for being quite accurate as far as newspapers go, and is still a trusted source of news throughout the country. Some people on the left have a small amount of distrust for it, but overall it is a fairly trusted publication on both sides of the ideological spectrum.

The Wall Street Journal has also proven itself as a news source that most people trust. On Election Day, many sites took down their paywall. However, The Wall Street Journal made the interesting decision to keep theirs up and see if they could increase their subscriptions. Their plan worked, and they actually did see quite a large subscription increase in the days following. Like others on this list, one should be careful to read between the lines when reading political reporting or opinion pieces, but when it comes to the basic news itself, they are a reliable source.

9. New York Times

The New York Times hardly needs any introduction. They are perhaps the most well-known newspaper in the entire world, and have been what many consider a source of journalistic integrity and standards for longer than most people can remember. When many people give examples of a reliable source, the New York Times is often the very first example cited. However, they would be higher on the list if not for the fact that like any newspaper in the world, there will always be a certain level of bias. The New York Times can be relied upon to do their best to fact check and tell the truth, but if you are reading up on politics in particular, it is undeniable that they lean slightly more toward the left.

Most of the public still considers them trustworthy, and the bias is slight enough that it is likely natural bias born from life experience, and not anything particularly intentional, but all political stories from any newspaper should be read carefully understanding any possible biases involved in order to better read between the lines. That said, when the President Elect – now President – of the United States, criticized the New York Times for their coverage of the election, and accused them of bias, the public showed their disagreement with President Trump in that regard by voting with their wallets. Shortly after the election the New York Times had an unprecedented surge in paid subscribers of over 40,000 people. This shows that in a time where we have a glut of fake news, people are turning to one of America’s most trusted new sources to get their information.

8. BBC

When most people ask you for most trustworthy or reliable news sources, the BBC is one of the first you hear about. Known around the world for accurate and reliable reporting, they are even judged well in their own country – where people tend to be most critical about the reliability and accuracy of their news. Of those polled in the UK, 62% believed the BBC to be accurate and reliable as news, and almost half of those polled found them to be unbiased. For a news organization that often has to talk about politics, these are actually fairly good numbers. The issue is with politics in general, and the truth is that apart from a service where all they do is literally report what politicians said and nothing else – something essentially no news network today does – there will always be some amount of bias when talking about politics.

This means that with many news sources, the news itself being reported may be reliable, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take any commentary with a grain of salt, or think critically about the way the headline or the story is being presented to you. Remember when watching the news to read between the lines. If a story is political, there is a good chance there is some amount of innate bias involved. If you read the story with the particular bias in mind, it will be easier to get to the heart of the matter.

7. NPR

NPR stands for National Public Radio, and is a non-profit that makes radio programming for hundreds of public radio stations around the United States. Over the years, like everything in radio, they have seen their membership decline. In many ways they have struggled to keep their older audience, and find a way to also bring in new, younger listeners. While people will always drive, and thus there will always be a captive audience for radio, much of NPR’s programming is often seen as rather outdated, and they are often accused of having a liberal bias as well. This accusation of liberal bias is not too surprising, as the public service is often funded by those with a slightly more liberal leaning, but the station itself has never been known to greatly exaggerate or mislead people for political reasons.

Like many news services, when they get into opinions in terms of politics, bias is going to present itself. In this case the bias is going to lean more in a liberal direction. However, this does not mean the news you are being told is untrue or even meant to mislead. Something can be completely true and still be told with an innate bias. It is always important to be informed and read between the lines. However, in their defense NPR has award winning journalists, even some who have been killed in the line of duty bravely reporting on facts in war zones like Iraq. And in a time when people are looking for more accurate, down to earth reporting, with as little bias as humanly possible, NPR has been one of the news organizations to see a recent rise in ratings.

6. Snopes

It may seem strange to see Snopes on this list. They are not a news source, exactly, but they are a watchdog who has, over the years, kept an eye both on news sources and on fake news sources, taking the time to dig into the nitty gritty and find the truth behind urban legends or rumors of all kinds. Their work has been tireless and often unnoticed, but they have been going at it since the early days of the internet. At first they dispelled hoaxes that would appear on email chains, but now they have evolved to taking down hoaxes that appear on social media. Whenever some fake news story is trying to get its legs, Snopes is doing everything they can to cut it off at the knees. They find every little detail and ascertain the real truth, if possible, never worrying about any specific agenda besides truth itself.

This dedication has not gone unnoticed. Facebook has been under fire for the glut of Fake News during the last election cycle that appeared in people’s feeds, and the powers that be at Facebook have decided to do something about it at last. They are going to start checking suspect stories with fact checking groups, and if the story doesn’t pass muster, it will be hidden from being seen in people’s feeds. Snopes, the Associated Press, and a few other trusted fact checkers are working with Facebook to vet stories to make sure that people are not reading lies when they scroll through their Facebook feed. This may sound like a silly issue, but among the millennial generation, an alarming number got most of their election news from Facebook. For this reason, it is very important – especially with how people can accidentally turn their own feed into an echo chamber – that fake news stories are weeded out and removed like the cancer that they are.

5. Reuters

Reuters is not a particularly well known news agency when it comes to the public consciousness. In most polls involving trusted sources of news, it doesn’t even really register. However, most people are still probably familiar with the name Reuters and their presence online has increased greatly in recent years. Many people may even notice that similar to the Associated Press, a lot of news stories actually credit Reuters. This is because the two are actually very similar services. While the Associated Press is more of a non-profit venture, both were originally telegraph wire news services. The idea being that a large network of contacts could use the telegraph service to quickly wire news around the world, so everyone didn’t need a reporter everywhere – as long as one or two telegraph agencies had most everything covered by a journalist or two.

In recent years, just like the Associated Press and the rest of the news services, Reuters has struggled with keeping their business performing as needed. This is why in recent days we have started to see them posting more stories on their own website, instead of simply selling their stories to other news agencies. Unfortunately, they would be higher on the list, but using their own website to market news more directly to the consumer has started to allow opinion to seep more into their news stories – instead of simply wiring facts on the ground to other agencies in need of them.

4. The Economist

The Economist is a publication that has been around for more than 150 years, and despite having a fairly clear political stance in its editorials, has still always had a general air of trustworthiness about it. The Economist is known for having a stance that is quite liberal and calls for a more global economy, a stance that a fairly large chunk of people are not particularly on board with. However, while their editorials do have a clear political tone, they are still known for being clear with the actual facts, and in terms of reporting news are not known for being inaccurate. Part of the fact that they are considered so reliable may be the fact that they have worked hard to keep their editorial style more anonymous than other newspapers, so it seems more like the newspaper itself is speaking, instead of different personalities.

In a bizarre way, this almost helps keep the opinion pieces from becoming a spectacle and overshadowing the basic news reporting, something that has likely helped them remain above the fray when it comes to public trust. According to a study by the Pew Research Center, The Economist is actually the most trusted source in America, if you look at it across both ideological spectrum. Interestingly, the poll lists the second most trusted news source in America as the BBC – also a British news agency.

3. PBS

PBS, which stands for Public Broadcasting Service, is known for being incredibly trustworthy as news, and also for providing excellent programs that entertain children and help them learn. While some may get confused because some programming they see locally on PBS may be made locally and not by PBS itself, the actual organization has an amazing reputation when it comes to being unbiased. For years they have had an independent research poll conducted that finds them at the top of trustworthiness and reliability in terms of news. While this should be taken with a grain of salt because the poll is carried out on the behalf of PBS, you don’t just have to take their word for it.

Other polls commissioned by outside sources have looked at the trustworthiness of news organizations as well, and PBS comes away with the best net rating in terms of trust to distrust. Interestingly, among Republicans, Fox News is the most trusted source, but among Democrats it is the least trusted source – making it perhaps the most controversial news source of all. By contrast, PBS is considered trustworthy by a large amount of respondents from both sides of the ideological spectrum. After all, who wouldn’t trust the people who brought us Mr. Rogers?

2. C-SPAN

For those who aren’t aware, C-SPAN is a public access channel that live streams TV straight from the floor of the House and Senate of the United States. C-SPAN stands for Cable Satellite Public Affairs Network and was created long ago by the cable industry in order to give people a way to keep an eye on the primary source when it comes to the actions of their government. While many people think that the federal government is involved in running C-SPAN, this is really not the case. In certain situations those in charge of proceedings can ask for the camera’s to be shut off, but they in no way have any control beyond that over the running of the network or over what is shown or not.

While it isn’t exactly a news source, C-SPAN is about the most reliable primary source you can ask for when it comes to unbiased political news. If you have ever wondered if what you read in a news report was biased, slanted or outright reported wrong or out of context, you can watch C-Span, or clips from it, and find out the truth for yourself. There is no better way to know exactly what a congressperson said than to watch them on TV and witness with your own eyes and ears exactly what they did and said.

1. The Associated Press

In many cases, the Associated Press basically is the news. They are the non-commentary, no nonsense part of the news whose job it is to have tendrils all over the world, at all times. It isn’t really convenient for a local paper to have a reporter in Iraq covering the war, but they still want to be able to report the facts on the ground to the people reading their paper. They cannot just copy someone else’s story, and they cannot afford to send someone to Iraq. Instead, they buy stories from the Associated Press, which has journalists all over the globe and sells breaking news to roughly 15,000 news outlets around the world.

They have long been known for reliable and accurate reporting, and are not known for having any particular agenda. They are a non-profit agency that works with other non-profit agencies at times, in order to share news as efficiently as possible. And in an era where many news organizations seem to have forgotten that fact checking was a thing it is refreshing that they have a very strong commitment to such, and in a world where news organizations have increasingly become primarily entertainment, a commitment to remaining objective. Nearly every news organization across the spectrum uses stories from the AP, because they find and report the actual news.


Reliable News Sources

– WIF Spotlight

BS or Truth IV – WIF Confidential

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Sounds Like BS

But Oh No No

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Here are 10 more facts that sound totally made up, but are actually true. We highly encourage you to take these tidbits to your friends and family, just to get a “WTF” reaction. They’ll probably go to Google to confirm it later, only to realize that you were actually right. We promise you that these are completely true facts, even if it sounds stranger than fiction. Seriously… you can’t make this stuff up.

10. In the 1700s, Rich People Let Hermits Live In Their Backyards For Their Own Amusement

During the 18th Century, wealthy people in England, Scotland, and Ireland had so few real problems to deal with that it became fashionable to indulge in melancholy. Small houses on these large properties called “hermitages” came into style. Originally, hermitages were a place where someone could be alone and read a book full of tragedy. But eventually, it evolved into keeping a “Token Hermit” in the garden, because it was guaranteed to bum everyone out.

They found a poor man on the street, or one of their existing garden employees, and offered to give him a job and a free place to live at the hermitage. The token hermit was forced to dress up in a druid costume and refrain from cutting his hair or bathing himself for several years at a time. These old men would eventually grow long, white beards. As a “hermit,” the whole point was to be left alone without any social interaction. But whenever the wealthy estate owners felt like visiting, they had to accept them into the tiny house to entertain guests.

This became incredibly popular. People were desperate to keep up with the Joneses, so they did the 18th Century equivalent of buying a fake designer handbag. If someone was not rich enough to actually pay a hermit to live out the rest of their life in the hermitage, they would often stick a mannequin of a druid in the window to trick their neighbors. Other times, they would arrange the kitchen table and furniture to look as though someone was actually living there. So if guests came over to visit the tiny house, they would assume the hermit had wandered off somewhere. Believe it or not, the tradition of having a token hermit in your garden has actually stuck around… Only now, they’re called lawn gnomes.

9. There is a Japanese Town Where the Majority of the Population are Dolls

In the 1960s, the remote village of Nagoro, Japan had hundreds of people living there. They were all employees of a company that was constructing the Nagoro Dam, which is used for hydropower generation. But when the dam was complete, there were no longer any employment opportunities, so the younger generation moved away. The only people still living there were the elderly.

A woman named Tsukimi Ayano grew up in Nagoro, and she moved to Osaka to find work. When her parents were sick and dying, Ayano returned to Nagoro to find that the population had dwindled down to just 40 people, and the school was shut down, because there were no children living there. It was such a small and tight-knit community that Ayano knew everyone who had died. So, she began making dolls to memorialize them. She placed the dolls as life-sized scarecrows in the spots that best represented these people while they were alive — whether it was whispering secrets on their front porch, or planting flowers in their garden. Then, she began making dolls of children to sit in the classrooms of the school. She has created a total of over 400 life-sized dolls. Ayano said, “The time will come when I have outlived all of the people in this village.”

8. Snakes Can Still Bite You When They’re Dead, Even If Their Head is Chopped Off

In 2018, a Texas man found a poisonous western diamondback rattlesnake in his backyard. He quickly grabbed a nearby shovel, and chopped the snake’s head off. Confident that it was dead, he went to pick up the remains of the reptile. However, the snake’s head was still very much alive, and it bit his hand, unloading all of its venom at once. Normally, when someone is bit by a rattlesnake, it is equivalent to 2-4 doses of venom. In this case, it was more like 26 doses. The man fell to the ground and began to bleed and convulse violently. Luckily, his wife was nearby, and she called 911. He had to be airlifted to the hospital, and it took a week of treatment before he was in stable condition.

After this incident, plenty of people were wondering how it’s possible for a decapitated snake to still attack. National Geographic explained that a snake’s bite reflex remains active for several hours after its death. Its brain is essentially pre-programmed to bite whenever something goes near it.

7. Scientists Have Experimented With Interspecies Surrogacy

While it sounds like something out of a science fiction novel, scientists have experimenting with transferring the embryos of an animal into the surrogate mother of a completely different species. This is called “interspecific pregnancy,” and it’s also referred to as “inter-species cloning.” The main motivation is to see if the embryos of endangered species could be carried by surrogate mothers to increase the populations. Cats and rabbits have carried cloned embryos of a panda, but the babies did not survive, because the cat and rabbit bodies rejected them.

A few of the experiments actually did work, though. But as you might imagine, it was between two species that were closely linked. For example, it has been successful with rats and mice, gaurs and cows, as well as two different species of camels. And… yes, there have been talks of experimenting with half-human chimeras, but this has plenty of obvious ethical issues.

6. Two Men Lost Their Arms During Tug-Of-War

While this sounds like a scene out of a Monty Python movie, it was an all-to-real nightmare scenario. In 1997, a group of adult men were playing a game of tug-of-war in Taiwan. There was a huge celebration for a holiday called Retrocession Day in a park along the Keelung River in the city of Taipei.

The media was gathered to capture footage of a massive game of tug of war. There were over 1,600 people pulling on the rope, when it snapped. This amount of force was enough to rip out the arms of two men who were standing at the front of each team. Their arms came straight out of their sockets, and it was all captured on video. They were rushed to the Mackay Memorial Hospital, and it  took over 7 hours of intensive surgery to reattach their arms. These men were actually some of the lucky ones. Tug-of-war has been played since ancient times, and it is responsible for several deaths, injuries, and loss of limbs all over the world.

5. In the Victorian Era, People Collected Serial Killer Figurines

Image result for Serial Killer Figurines vintage

Maybe your grandmother enjoys collecting ceramic figurines, but it is something that has lost a lot of its popularity despite having been a tradition for hundreds of years. In Victorian England, people were obsessed with death. So, it only makes sense that instead of collecting figures of dancers or blushing brides, they wanted to commemorate stories of famous serial killers instead. Just a few examples were the Red Barn Murder, the Murders at Stanfield Hall, the Bermondsey Horror, and William Palmer, who was nicknamed “The Prince of Poisoners.”

If you’re wondering who on earth had the money or motivation to buy these things, look no further than author Charles Dickens. He was inspired by William Palmer and the Bermondsey Horror when he wrote his novel Bleak House, so it would only make sense that he would want to keep around a little memento of the people who helped him write another bestseller.

4. One Cloud Weighs As Much As 100 Elephants

When you look up at the clouds, they look like they must be lighter than air, or at least have a similar consistency to cotton candy. Most people assume that they are weightless, since they are floating. You have probably also experienced going through a cloud when you’re flying in an airplane. However, a cloud is much heavier than you would ever imagine. It actually weighs an average of 1.1 million pounds or 498,952 kilograms.

So how on Earth does something so heavy float? The water droplets crystallize, and this water spreads out, so the weight is evenly distributed. One cloud usually spreads across more than a mile, and they are a quarter of a mile thick. It takes over a million of these small water droplets floating in the cloud to form into just one raindrop. Lucky for us, when clouds have too much moisture it just rains, instead of crashing down on our heads.

3. A Boy Scout Built a Nuclear Reactor in His Parents’ Backyard

In the 1990s, a kid named David Hahn was a boy scout in Clinton Township, Michigan. When he was 14-years-old, he took it upon himself to earn the Atomic Energy merit badge. He continued to remain interested in chemistry, and he caused several explosions on camping trips and in his parents’ basement. His mother forced him to start doing his experiments in the garden shed. By the time he turned 17, he wanted to build a nuclear reactor as his Eagle Scout project.

He started collecting small bits of radioactive material from smoke detectors. He bought thousands of lamps from an army surplus store to collect Thorium-232, and gathered antique glow-in-the-dark watches and clocks to collect Radium-226. He even pretended to be a professor to gather materials that are normally only given to certified laboratories.

Eventually, he had enough to create a real nuclear reactor. He had a Geiger counter, and realized that the radiation was spreading down his entire block. So, he tried hiding it in the trunk of his car. One day in 1994, the police were called on Hahn because he was stealing tires off of cars. When the police opened his trunk, they found the reactor. According to Harper’s Bazaar, this “automatically triggered the Federal Radiological Emergency Response Plan, and state officials soon were embroiled in tense phone consultations with the DOE, EPA, FBI, and NRC.” It took over $60,000 for the government to clean up his nuclear waste, and his reactor had to be entombed in the Great Salt Lake Desert to make sure it could not harm anyone. Needless to say, the Atomic Energy merit badge has been banned from the Boy Scouts.

2. In Spain, People Have Fun Jumping Over Babies

In a Spanish village called Castrillo de Murcia, citizens continue to mix old Catholic and Pagan traditions together once a year for their Baby Jumping Festival. Yes, that’s exactly what it sounds like. The babies born in the town each year are Baptized in the Catholic church. Then, a man dressed up in a yellow costume and mask that is supposed to represent the Devil runs through the streets hitting men as they run away.

Then, this same man dressed as the Devil begins running and jumping over mattresses on the ground with at least four babies laying on each one. This is called “the flight of the devil,” and it represents taking away original sin. Superstition leads people to believe that it will bring good health and prosperity to the child. As soon as the ritual is done, the mothers lay rose petals on the babies, and then bring them back to safety. So far, there have never been any recorded injuries. It is considered to be so safe, in fact, that people from all over the world are starting to bring their babies to participate in the festival each year.

1. Drinking Wine Was A Torture Method Used By The Spartans

The Spartans are remembered for being some of the best warriors in history. Every single soldier in their army was basically a perfect specimen of physical fitness. It only makes sense, then, that their attitude toward alcohol was very strict. Wine was always watered down, and they were only allowed to drink during certain times of the year. Getting drunk on purpose was unheard of, and if someone over-indulged in drinking, they were severely punished.

Young Spartans were taught about the dangers of drinking by watching the captured prisoners of war. These Helots were forced to drink “pure wine”  that had not been watered down. Once the young Spartans saw what it looked like to be drunk, it was seen as proof that it made men weak, stupid, and unprepared for battle. From the Spartans’ perspective, getting drunk was seen as a form of torture. But the Helots? They may not have minded so much. Most of us would take a glass of wine over the rack any day.


BS or Truth IV-

WIF Confidential

“Jaws” Confidential – WIF @ The Movies

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Surprising Facts

About the Movie

“Jaws”

Jaws is often called the original summer blockbuster, so before the next glut of CGI-laden superhero movies fills screens worldwide, why not read a few lesser known facts about the OG blockbuster that set the precedent that allows them to exist? Starting with…

10. Jaws was a PG Release

Jaws is a film that contains a scene of a man being brutally eaten alive by a shark while screaming (fun fact: the actor supposedly broke his leg during that scene so the screams of pain you hear are real), people having the limbs shorn off, and the most iconic jump scare in cinema history. On top of this, the film also involves scenes involving drinking, smoking, swearing, and at least one instance of a shark eating a chubby kid on a raft. Amazingly, censors of the time saw all this and thought to themselves, yeah, this seems suitable for kids.”

Because yeah, Jaws was a PG rated movie, meaning anyone could go watch this thing so long as they had parental supervision, even if they were still at risk of pooping their pants literally instead of metaphorically. Think about that the next time you go watch an Avengers movie and realize it’s a PG-13 because Sam Jackson says the F-word.

9. It Originally Starred Dwarf Stuntmen

The undeniable star of Jaws is the shark, a role that was variously played by a notoriously unreliable mechanical shark (which we’ll get to in a moment) and several real sharks filmed by the crew. The problem was that the shark, who we’ll just call Jaws even though he had a name (which we’ll also get to), is supposed to be a shark of exceptional size, which kind of created a problem when the crew went to film some real Great Whites and realized they’d look noticeably smaller than their robo-shark. An ingenious solution was found in the form of several midget stuntmen.

The idea was to dress these stuntmen up in the same diving suits as the regular cast and film them next to some average-sized Great Whites, creating a forced perspective that made the sharks look super-huge and buff. To complete the illusion, the production team even built a smaller version of the shark cage seen at the end of the movie that the stuntmen were supposed to float around in. This cage wasn’t built as sturdily as an actual shark cage and as a result, before one of the stuntmen could climb inside it, a Great White tore it to pieces. This led to a total rewrite to ensure…

8. Hooper Survived Because Footage of the Cage Being Destroyed was Too Good Not to Use

The footage of a shark tearing apart the shark cage at the climax of the movie was 100% real and was so good Spielberg insisted that it had to go into the movie. The problem was that the original script called for Hooper to be inside the cage at the time, and for him to be killed in the ensuing attack, just like in the book. Another problem was that after seeing a shark tear apart a shark-proof cage none of the stuntmen would get back into the water.

Not wanting to lose the footage, a hasty rewrite was made to show that Hooper survived by swimming to the bottom of the ocean and hiding from the shark. This change also allowed the editors to use footage of the shark attacking from below (where it’s most obvious nobody is in the cage), framing it as if it’s from Hooper’s point of view as he cowered from the shark in a steadily growing cloud of his own urine.

7. Spielberg Laughed When He First Heard the Theme

John Williams’ theme for Jaws is one of the most iconic in all of cinema. Countless articles and academic papers have been written exploring the deceptive depth of the theme and how it affects those who hear it on an almost primal level. Though considered an integral part of the film’s success today, Spielberg was apparently not all that impressed with the theme when he first heard it, he laughed out loud when Williams played it for him.

You see, Spielberg had assumed that the film’s score would be more akin to that of a swashbuckling pirate movie and thought Williams’ minimalist take on the theme was too Spartan. However, Spielberg deferred to Williams’ judgement for final decision, apparently quipping “okay, let’s give it a shot” when Williams insisted the theme would work. We’re assuming Spielberg has never since question Williams’ judgement after the success of Jaws.

6. The Shark Sank the First Time it was Put Into the Water

As noted previously, the robo-shark used for many of the close-ups in the movie was unreliable to an almost comical degree. This is no better summed up than by what the shark did the very first time it was lowered into the water: it sank like a depressed brick of lead with concrete shoes. Apparently it hadn’t occurred to anybody to check if the shark floated while making it.

Along with sinking, the shark often malfunctioned and would sometimes simply stop working for no reason at all. This not only caused the movie to fall 100 days behind schedule, but also meant that half the shots of the movie involving the shark didn’t have the shark in frame.

Curiously, it’s been noted that the fact Spielberg had to film around the fact the shark wasn’t there most of the time, instead having to suggest its presence, made the movie better. Which kind of makes sense. The reason Jaws is such a scary movie is because there’s a constant threat that the shark could appear at any moment and chow down on your butt. If the shark had been on screen for 50% of the movie like Spielberg had originally planned, its few sporadic appearances would have had less impact. So yeah, when you watch Jaws and find yourself feeling on edge throughout the entire film, that wouldn’t be the case if the shark had actually worked and you could have seen how crappy it actually looked most of the time.

5. The Shark’s Name was Bruce

 The shark in Jaws is always referred to as either, simply, “the shark” or else Jaws, which is weird since throughout filming his name was Bruce. The name is supposedly a name coined by the the production crew as a nod to Spielberg’s lawyer Bruce Raynor who, like the shark, was a bit temperamental.

Spielberg himself wasn’t personally a fan of the name since, unlike the mechanical shark, his lawyer sometimes actually worked. So instead, he came up with an altogether more apt nickname considering the numerous mechanical faults the shark suffered throughout production:  The Great White Turd.

4. Spielberg Spent $3,000 of His Own Money for “One More Scream”

Jaws, hands down, contains one of the single greatest jump scares in cinema history. We’re of course talking about when Hooper finds Ben Gardner’s boat, and a big rubber head comes flying out of a shark shaped hole in the hull. That scene wasn’t in the original cut of the movie and was only added after Spielberg watched the audience reaction to the reveal of the shark at the film’s climax (the bit immediately prior to the “we’re gonna need a bigger boat” line), and realized the reaction wasn’t as intense as he’d hoped.

So Spielberg went back to the studio and asked for $3,000 to film another scene with a bigger jump scare and promptly got told not to do one. To be fair to the production company the film was 100 days behind schedule and over budget, so they were within their right to say no, but luckily for us, Spielberg didn’t take no for an answer.

With the studio refusing to pony up the cash, Spielberg decided to film the scene in someone’s pool using his own money. To make the water look more like the kind of place you’d find a sunken boat, Spielberg had the pool filled with milk powder and then put a big tarp over the top to limit the amount of light that got through to the bottom. Admittedly greedy for “one more scream” the director then instructed the sound engineers to make the jump scare happen before the music reached it’s natural crescendo, to make everyone poop their pants the first time they saw it.

3. It Had one of the Widest Releases of Any Film Ever

Jaws was, as noted, one of the first, if not the first, major summer blockbusters. In fact, prior to the release of Jaws and then

Star Wars a few years later, the summer was considered a low period for cinema since it was believed nobody would waste a ball-sweltering summer’s day sitting in a cool, air conditioned cinema. Oh, how wrong they were.

Upon release, Jaws set numerous records for having such a wide release, opening in some 400 cinemas on its first day. But here’s the really crazy part: Jaws was such a massive phenomenon that the number of cinemas screening it across the US more than doubled over the course of two months. This was unheard of back then and rarely, if ever, happens today since most films make the bulk of their money in the opening weekend. It’s a testament then to the sheer inertia of Jaws that after two months at the cinema, demand was still so high 500 more theatres decided to screen it, too.

2. It Kinda Ruined Sharks (and Beaches) for Everyone

As noted in the previous entry, releasing a film during the summer season used to be considered box office suicide since it was believed everyone would be too busy having fun at the beach. Jaws changed all that and during the summer of 1975 beach attendance fell nationwide.

The drop in beach attendance was credited to both the success of the film, which saw millions of Americans flock to cinemas, as well as the fact it kind of made it scary to go into the water. Speaking of which, the film is still criticized today for painting an unnecessarily harsh and objectively incorrect picture of sharks, which hardly ever attack humans. However, the success of Jaws saw shark attacks not only being reported upon more often (creating the false impression that they were more common than they actually are) but also a more negative perception of the animal, which led to many of them being killed for no real reason. All of which kind of leaves a sour taste in our mouths, so let’s end on something a little lighter, specifically that…

1. Michael Caine Loved the 4th Movie

To date Jaws has made more money and has a higher Rotten Tomatoes score than all three of its sequels combined. The fourth film in particular has an impressive 0% rating on the website, and is largely considered to be the biggest cinematic turd since the one Jeff Goldblum finds in Jurassic Park.

According to critics the film has no redeeming qualities whatsoever, and is more painful to sit through than a prostate exam from a pirate with hand tremors. One person who disagress is Michael Caine, who has said of the film: I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific.”

Along with being paid a pretty penny for starring in the film, Caine has praised the fact that it features a realistic romance between two middle aged people (something that’s rarely seen in cinema) and enjoyed that he basically got a free trip to the Bahamas. In case you’re thinking that Caine is only positive about the film because he got a free vacation out of it, starring in the film caused him to miss the 1987 Oscars. And it’s important to note, he actually won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor that year, for the film Hannah and Her Sisters. In other words, Michael Caine had so much fun pretending to fight a giant, fake shark in a terrible Jaws sequel he didn’t mind not collecting the most prestigious award for acting in person.


“Jaws” Confidential

– WIF @ The Movies

Christopher Columbus Bio – WIF Confidential

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Fascinating

Facts About

Christopher Columbus

In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue…

 The elementary school lyrics were the first exposure most students had to the Italian explorer. The line would prove to be some of the only truth told to students about Christopher Columbus and the nature of his explorations into the New World. Was he out to prove that the world wasn’t flat? Was he, in fact, the first man to discover the New World? And how exactly does one discover a place that has millions of inhabitants? Sit back and let the TopTenz team give you the 10 facts about Christopher Columbus that you may not know…

10. Did He Care if the Earth was Flat?

Do you remember being in elementary school and your teacher telling you that Columbus was out to prove the Earth wasn’t flat? We do. For many schools around the United States, teachers used the Flat Earth theory to engage students about the heroic expeditions of Columbus. However, the idea that Columbus was out to prove the Earth was round is just a myth.

Yes, for a period, human beings believed that the world was flat; however, ancient philosophers like Pythagoras came to understand that the world was round in the 6th century BC. You might remember Pythagoras from the Pythagorean theorem… or don’t remember him or geometry much at all. Nonetheless his work, authenticated by Aristotle centuries later, made it very clear that the world was, in fact, round.

What is true is that Columbus underestimated the circumference of the Earth, thinking that Europe was much wider than it was and that Japan was farther from the coast of Asia than it actually was. As a result, Columbus had the false belief that he could reach Asia by going West – a massive miscalculation that led to his discovery of a “New World.”

9. He Struggled Finding Funding for his Voyage

The more one learns about Christopher Columbus, the more his presence in the annals of history seems like a massive insult to the great explorers and thinkers of earlier periods. However, he was persistent. Columbus lobbied European Monarchs and was denied, lobbied, and was denied. That process continued for nearly a decade, with advisers to the Kings and Queens of Europe remarking that Columbus’s math was not just wrong, but embarrassingly wrong. However, Columbus remained steadfast in his beliefs and he was rewarded.

Finally, with the Spanish wars against the Moors coming to an end, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella agreed to finance the voyage. Columbus would sail from Palos, Spain, with three small ships… which we know by now he commanded with misguided maps and calculations. Who could have guessed that this man would make a discovery that would reshape the world?

8. He Wrecked his Ship

The Santa María was the largest of the three ships that embarked on Columbus’s voyage to… ahem, ‘Asia’. And even then, records show that the Santa María was not a particularly large ship, comparable today to a cruising yacht. The Santa María was only about 100 tons with a single deck and three small masts. Crossing the Atlantic Ocean proved fine for Columbus and his men, but the return journey was where tragedy struck.

As children, we probably all asked our parents to hold the steering wheel. How hard could it be? We’d beg and plead and almost always be met with a resounding “No!” That wasn’t the case on the Santa Maria. On the Christmas Eve, 1492, a cabin boy took the wheel and crashed into a coral reef on the northern coast of Hispaniola, close to present day Haitien, Haiti. After two sleepless nights, Columbus had decided to sleep and the crew followed, thinking that the calm night could bring no trouble. They couldn’t have been more mistaken.

Christmas was spent salvaging the remaining cargo, leaving Columbus to return to Spain aboard the Nina. Before leaving, Columbus instructed the crew to build a settlement on the remains of the ship which, they named “La Navidad.” Nearly 40 crew members were left behind at La Navidad, the first European settlement in the New World.

In the fall of 1493, Columbus returned to the settlement and found that none of the crew were alive, describing the La Navidad settlement as being “ burned to the ground.”

7. He Returned to Spain in Shackles

Unfazed by the destruction of his former crew members’ settlement, Columbus decided to rebuild the settlement in a different location. Promising riches to crown and crew member alike, Columbus and his brothers would rule the new settlement with savage cruelty. Believing the island had  great quantities of gold, Columbus forced the native workers into slavery, exploring and mining for gold and rebuilding the settlement. Failure to comply was met with death or the chopping off of limbs.

Convinced that he had found the outer islands of China, Columbus left the encampment for Spain. On his return, he would find the settlement in disarray. Colonists had become embittered with the management of Columbus’s brothers – with some Spanish colonists even being executed at the gallows. The lack of gold and riches also led to many believing that they had been lied to. As a result, colonists complained to the monarchy and a royal commissioner dispatched to the new colony arrested Columbus and brought him back to Spain in chains.The arrest would not hamper Columbus’s explorations, as he would not only be granted his freedom, but also the finances for a fourth voyage.

6. An Eclipse was his Savior

If finding uncharted territory by accident wasn’t enough for you, Columbus would be the beneficiary of even more good fortune while stranded in Jamaica.

 On his fourth and final journey, Columbus promised King Ferdinand the gold that he had so far been unable to fully deliver. In 1502, Columbus set sail, traveling along the eastern coast of Central America – again believing that he was close to find a route to the Indian Ocean. That, he would not find. What he would find was devastating winds; gusts that would wreck one of his ships. Columbus and his men became stranded on the island of Jamaica, where the men’s demands of gold would irritate the natives and lead to their refusal to feed Columbus and his men. Left with little options, Columbus consulted his almanac, realizing that an eclipse was on the horizon. He sought out the natives’ chief and warned him that his God was angry at the lack of food provided for him and his men. He told the natives that a sign would soon come that displayed his God’s anger.

On February 29, 1504, an eclipse would terrify the native population into providing food and trading with Columbus and his party. Months later a rescue party would arrive and Columbus and his men were taken back to Spain.

5. First to Discover New World?

It seems that our Genoese explorer has gotten more credit than he is due. Researchers have confirmed that Christopher Columbus was not the first man to lead a voyage to the Americas. That distinction goes to a Viking, by the name of Leif Erikson.

The exact date is unknown, but scholars put Erikson’s voyage around the year 1000 AD. Son of Erik the Red, Leif Erikson sailed to what is now the Canadian province of Newfoundland, but didn’t settle in the area deemed “Vinland.” After staying for a few years, Erikson and his party returned to Greenland, where he described his travels. Proof of the voyage was uncovered by Norwegian Helge Instad and Anne Stine Instad, who found an ancient Norse settlement.

Less plausible theories suppose that an Irish Monk in the 6th century was the first to discover the Americas in a wood-framed boat covered in animal skin. Another theory holds that in the 15th century, Zheng He, a fleet Admiral who had explored Southeast Asia, India, the Persian Gulf, and the East Coast of Africa had also visited the Americas 71 years before Columbus. The best piece of evidence for this claim was the discovery of an old Chinese map that displays an understanding of the world that predates European knowledge of the Americas. Since the map has been revealed, scholars have questioned its authenticity while others remain convinced that Zheng He did, in fact, explore the “New World” before Columbus. It’s not hard to imagine that in some schools in Far East Asia, it was Zhen He “who sailed the ocean blue.”

4. His Adventures After Death

Although we have questioned his mental acumen, what cannot be questioned is Columbus’s adventurousness in his pursuits and explorations. Those qualities would seem to continue into death, as the deceased bodies of Columbus and his son, Diego, were shipped across the Atlantic to Hispaniola (on the request of his daughter-in-law). They were to be interred in a Santo Domingo cathedral.

Nearly 200 years later, when the French captured the island, the Spanish dug up the bodies of both Columbus and his son and shipped them to Seville via Cuba. Upon further examination, a box with human remains and Columbus’s name was discovered at his original resting place in Santo Domingo in 1877. The finding led to the DNA testing of the remains in Seville, which confirmed that some of the remains were those of Columbus. What are we to make of the box in Santo Domingo bearing Columbus’s name, containing human remains? The Dominican Republic has refused to let their findings be tested, so it is entirely possible that parts of Columbus are spread across the Old and New World.

3. Columbus – Slave Trader

“Only a few hundred were left.” That’s all that remained of the Taino population 60 years after first contact with Columbus. Conservative estimates hold that more than 250,000 inhabited the Dominican Republic before his arrival. It’s a startling figure to consider when contemplating the impact of Columbus on the native populations of the New World.

On Columbus’s first trip, he ordered six of the natives to be seized, stating in his journal that he believed they would be good servants. Other accounts depict Columbus and his men riding on the backs of natives like they were horses. Unable to find large quantities of gold, Columbus enslaved many of the native population, brutalizing them in his quest for the riches of the island. Any form of rebellion led to massive bloodshed – with Columbus even ordering their dismembered bodies to be paraded through the streets. Ultimately, it was the disease brought on by the Spanish that killed off most of the population. However, the Taino people live on in their language: Words like “canoe, hammock,  barbeque, and hurricane” have their origins in the Arawak tribe’s tongue.

2. Columbus was Very Religious

Despite his cruel and inhumane acts, Columbus was a fervent Christian. He believed that his voyages were God’s will, and consequently he would go on to name many of the lands he “discovered” biblical names.

The voyages across the Atlantic were not without biblical influence, as Columbus made sure the crew observed religious rites. Every time they turned the half-hour glass, they exclaimed “blessed be the hour of our Savior’s birth/blessed by the Virgin Mary who bore him/and blessed by John who baptized him.” It is also alleged that despite the crude manner of ship life, Columbus never cursed.

His religious feeling were so strong that upon landing on the American mainland and seeing four rivers flowing from the landmass, he was convinced that he had encountered the Garden of Eden.

1. Columbus Brought Syphilis to the New World

Recent reports have come to suggest that Columbus had an even greater impact on world history than we’ve given him credit for. According to skeletal evidence, Columbus and his crew not only introduced the Old World to the New World, but to syphilis as well. It appears that like Vegas, what happens in the New World will stay in the New World… except for venereal disease.

The sexual nature of the syphilis epidemic made it especially contentious in finding its origins.The first known epidemic of syphilis took place in the Renaissance era (1490s). One of the most notable initial cases was its infection of the army of Charles the VIII after he invaded Naples. The disease would go on to devastate Europe, resulting in 5 million deaths.

While still just a widely held theory, scientists believe they were able to prove the disease’s origin by comparing 26 strains of treponemes from Africa, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, the Americas, and the Pacific Islands. The results were that the “strains that caused the sexually transmitted disease originated recently, with their closest relatives being germs collected in South America. In other words, it seems to have come from the New World.”


Christopher Columbus Bio

– WIF Confidential

Making the World a Better Place – WIF Spotlight

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People That Made

the World

a Better Place

Nowadays, giving to charity has become an almost social experience. With challenges and campaigns like “PuberMe,” the idea of giving has transformed into more of a public domain movement. As a result, the anonymity and personal nature of donating to a cause has lost most of its meaning. There are, however, many people who donate without the public spectacle. Men and women who have made the world a better place without the fanfare. Here are 10 people who made the world a better place, while their actions remained largely hidden from the spotlight…

10. Chuck Feeney

The decision to give away his fortune was easy for Chuck Feeney. When asked about his generous actions, he said, “a man can only wear one pair of pants at a time.” Which, while not technically true, is a lovely sentiment nonetheless. In the 1960s, Feeney made his fortune by setting up duty free shops at airports which soon turned into a booming business. That, coupled with many shrewd investments in technology start-ups, left him with a net worth north of $7 billion. At the age of 85, that number had dwindled down to only $2 million.

Transferring his massive wealth to Atlantic Philanthropies, a collection of several different charities that he had funded, Feeney began giving away his wealth to causes and issues he felt strongly about. In the 1990s, he promised financial support for paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland if they abandoned armed conflict and accepted electoral politics. Feeney also donated to create a public health system in Vietnam as well as to provide anti-retroviral treatment for AIDS victims in South Africa. What makes Feeney’s work so commendable is that it was a business dispute that forced disclosure of his payments to Atlantic Philanthropies.

9. Richard Leroy Walters

There’s very little chance our readers know the name Richard Leroy Walters, and that’s okay. Few even knew him when he was alive. Rita Belle, one of the few who came to know Walters, learned that “he gave up all material things that we think we have to have.” Never married and estranged from his brother, Walters and Belle became friends.

She later discovered that Walters was homeless and sleeping on the grounds of the senior center. Walters would reveal to Belle that he ate at the hospital and used a telephone there or at the center. Despite being homeless, Walters was not poor. He was in fact a millionaire who would, in his will, donate millions to charities including  National Public Radio and the Catholic Church Mission. With his final act, Walters honored his friend. It was clear to Belle that he was an atheist, and she, as you probably guessed, was a Catholic.

8. Ronald Read

Like Richard Walters, Read did not show off his wealth or even give any indication that he was rich at all. The Vermont man was known for wearing a particularly tattered hat around town. A woman knitted him a replacement, fearing that it would not hold up in winter. On another occasion, his meal was paid for by another customer because it was feared he’d be unable to pay.

The truth would only be revealed after his death, when Read left Brattleboro Memorial Hospital and the Brooks Library $4.8 million and $1.2 million, respectively. The donations might seem random, but it was soon revealed that Read would visit the Brattleboro Memorial Hospital frequently for coffee and breakfast. It’s safe to say he paid them back for it.

7. Prince

The iconic artist of hits like “Purple Rain,” “Kiss,” and “When Doves Cry” changed the world in more ways than one. Prince’s death revealed another side of him that he was careful not to publicize: his philanthropy. Van Jones, an environmentalist, was working on George W. Bush’s clean jobs act when he received an anonymous donation check for $50,000. He remembers returning it, but then weeks later getting the same check again. Unwilling to accept a check, at that price, without knowing the sender, he returned it again, only to get a call from a Prince representative.

Jones asked who the sender was, and the representative refused to say, but revealed his favorite color is purple. That’s just one example of Prince’s generosity and the manner in which he displayed it. There are countless others, like his unprompted donation to a senior center in Minnesota, his donations to the victims of the bridge collapse in his home state, and to his support for public schools purchasing musical equipment and a studio to help foster the next great musician. Prince will be missed not only for music, but for his big heart.

6. George Michael

Another musician who doubled as a philanthropist was British singer, songwriter, and record producer George Michael. Although his public life was a matter of national headlines in the UK, he kept his philanthropy under wraps and out of the newspapers. It wasn’t until his death that people came to realize how generous of a man he really was. An employee at a homeless shelter revealed that Michael worked their repeatedly but told employees not to tell anyone of his presence.

His charity also was random and spontaneous. A woman on Deal or No Deal said she needed thousands for IVK treatment. The next day she received a phone call from Michael, who offered to pay for treatment. When a waitress told him of her debt incurred trying to become a nurse, Michael tipped her £5,000. Again, she was sworn to secrecy, only revealing her mystery benefactor after his death. Probably his most generous act was his decision to give royalties from his 1996 number one single Jesus to a Child to the charity to Childline, a free counseling service for young people. Childline’s founder estimates the donation gave millions and saved thousands of lives.

5. Jack MacDonald

Jack MacDonald lived in a small, one bedroom apartment. His clothing had holes in them. In short, he didn’t live the life of a multi-millionaire. MacDonald cared about much much more important things: people. Inheriting his parent’s meat packing business, MacDonald turned his inheritance into more than 180 million dollars through prudent investments.

Throughout his life, he made anonymous donations to hundreds of organization. That continued even in death. A widower without children, MacDonald left his entire fortune to the Seattle Children’s Hospital, the University of Washington Law school, and the Salvation Army.

4. Roberto Clemente

Although Roberto Clemente is well known for what he did on the baseball field, his impact extends far beyond the diamond. Clemente was one of the first Latin American ball players to become a baseball star, and the native of Puerto Rico believed that he had to be a shining example to his country and people. Clemente would host baseball clinics for underprivileged children free of charge, and most notably helped deliver food to communities in need.

Unfortunately, like many of our other cases, his death is a big part of how we’d come to see Clemente’s tremendous character. After a massive earthquake caused devastation in Nicaragua, Clemente organized shipments of aid, but soon realized that corrupt officials were keeping them from reaching the victims. Under the belief that his presence would make a difference, he boarded the next plane to Nicaragua only for it to crash, killing everyone aboard. Clemente lives on in his work, with a community service award named after him in the MLB.

3. Eldon Foote

Sometimes you think you know someone, and they surprise you. There’s no better case of this than the life of Eldon Foote. The lawyer used his background to avoid paying taxes, he abandoned his family for a new romance, and even switched careers to become a marketing executive. Everything about Eldon Foote screamed that he was self-centered and egotistical.

Foote didn’t exactly have an easy life, growing up during the Depression and enlisting in the army during World War II. He returned home and got married, eventually raising five children. However, he became unhappy and not only divorced his wife, but switched careers entirely. He’d grow unhappy again, and after a contentious divorce from his second wife, Foote sold the business and married for the last time. His philanthropy began on a whim. As his hometown prepared to host a massive, international athletics event in 2001, the sports field at the University of Alberta was in dire need of refurbishment. Needing a donation of $2 million, the athletics department approached Foote, a former track athlete. Foote obliged, sending them the full amount. Soon after Foote was diagnosed with cancer, and died only a month later.

His will would reveal that he was leaving the vast majority of his net worth to charitable organizations. Foote would leave 160 million to the Edmonton Community Foundation, the largest donation the organization ever received. Foote’s family was not at all pleased by his decision. They sued, and eventually lost. The impact of Foote’s donation is still being felt in the low income neighborhoods of Edmonton.

2. George Steinbrenner

Brash and bombastic, who knew that Steinbrenner was quietly a philanthropic person? In 1992, when a hurricane laid waste to South Florida, Steinbrenner appeared at the Salvation Army central distribution center in Tampa and simply said, “Put me to work.” Steinbrenner didn’t just sit in the lobby and show his face; he helped load 500 gallons of water into the back of a 20-foot truck. Afterward, he drove six and a half hours to Homestead, and delivered the water to the victims of the hurricane. He did this all without fanfare. No cameras, no press, just Steinbrenner.

Although Steinbrenner was viewed as rash and quick to lose his temper; he was just as quick to help someone in need. He paid the funeral expenses for a family mourning their murdered son, he paid for damaged instruments of a local school band whose band room was vandalized, and when he witnessed a deaf child struggling to get an autograph he purchased the child hearing aids.

1. Julius Rosenwald

It’s a mystery as to why Julius Rosenwald has not become a household name. He didn’t even finish high school, yet he managed to become the chairman of Sears, Roebuck & Company and a life-changing philanthropist. In the early 1900s, Rosenwald gave away $62 million, which would be valued at a billion dollars today.And while the amount donated is important, what makes Rosenwald so special is who he gave the money to.

Nearly all of Rosenwald’s donations went to helping African Americans get a better education by building schools and community centers. As a Jewish man who had been the victim of discrimination, Rosenwald identified with African Americans. He did not help from afar, but was an active voice in these communities. He rallied African American communities to match the funds he had committed to build a school or community center. Their work wasn’t easy, as several schools were burned down, but that didn’t deter Rosenwald or the community. The schools were just built up again.

Rosenwald changed the lives of thousands of black children, and the example he set for his own children would save more lives still. Years later, his children and cousins saved the lives of 300 Jews fleeing Nazi Germany. A Rosenwald yet again making the world just a little bit better.


Making the World

a Better Place