Post Office Madness – WIF Travel

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Craziest Post Offices

on Earth

(and Beyond)

Going to the post office can be one of the most mundane—and dreaded—items on your to-do list. But if you’ve ever had the chance to visit any of the outposts below, you know that not all post offices are boring. Here are 10 crazy post offices that make mail delivery seem exciting…

 10. Peach Springs and Supai, AZ

The post office in Peach Springs, Arizona isn’t much to look at—just a squat yellow brick building that seems about the right size for a town with a population of just over 1,000 residents. The physical facility is unremarkable, except for one unusual feature—the only walk-in freezer found in a post office in the continental US. Why does it need this? The Peach Springs post office has a very unusual mission—delivering mail to the bottom of the Grand Canyon–and that cargo includes a lot of perishable groceries. The tiny town of Supai, populated by a few hundred members of the Havasupai tribal nation, sits at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Supai has its own tiny post office, and residents and tourists are rely on the USPS to deliver all the provisions that aren’t otherwise available at the bottom of the canyon.

So, after the mail makes the 70-mile trip to the canyon rim from Peach Springs, how does it get down to Supai? Helicopter transport is expensive and unreliable, as choppers can’t fly during periods of high winds. Enter the “mule train,” a caravan of up to 50 horses and mules, guided by intrepid riders, carrying up to 200 pounds each of mail and packages that make the 8-mile trek down to the base of the canyon and then eventually back up, carrying outgoing mail and trash. At least 2 mule trains are operating at any given time, so the mules, horses, and riders are able to rest overnight in the village before making the return trip back up the next day. Mail sent from Supai bears a special postmark, indicating that it traveled by mule train to reach its destination. Despite the inherent difficulty of the journey and the extreme conditions faced by riders and mules, scheduled mail delivery has only been skipped twice since 1999.

9. Inside the Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower holds a lot of history within its iconic frame, which was originally constructed for the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris. It also holds shops, restaurants, a champagne bar, a conference room, a replica of Gustave Eiffel’s original office at the top of the tower, and one more surprising facility: a post office, which is found on the first floor of the Eiffel Tower’s south pillar.

While this post office may seem to be a present-day concession to tourists, the Eiffel Tower has had a post office since it has been open to the public (it was, after all, built for an exposition designed to attract visitors from around the world). The original post office wassituated at the top of the tower, where, after riding an elevator, fairgoers could mail postcards from more than 900 feet above ground. Postmarks from the original post office read “Sommet de la Tour Eiffel” (Summit of the Eiffel Tower), or, for less intrepid tourists, after the ground floor post office was added, “1er Etage de la Tour Eiffel” (First floor of the Eiffel Tower) while the contemporary Eiffel Tower post office offers a more generic postmark, which doesn’t specify its less exalted present-day location within the tower.

8. Mount Everest Base Camp, Nepal

With post offices closing by the hundreds across the globe—including in the US, the UK,South Africa, and Germany—you may find yourself complaining about the inconvenient “trek” to a more distant post office or having to contend with more-limited operating hours in your local branch. However, one post office can put issues of accessibility and availability in perspective—the China Post office located in the Mount Everest Base Camp.

The post office, which is actually more of a post tent, has been present (seasonally) at the Everest Base Camp since 2008. Sitting at 5,300 meters, it’s purported to be the world’s highest post office. However, because of the extreme weather conditions at this altitude, the post office has a rather short operating window—from late April to August each year, when conditions permit a temporary road to open up from base camp to the town of Tingri. This remote outpost operates from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. during those months, not including a noontime break for the post office’s three workers (apparently, there is no altitude at which postal workers will not adhere to their break schedules). There is a markup on the usual postcard rate to compensate for the challenges in transporting mail from the top of the world to its destination—as of 2016, the post office charged about $1.45 USD to mail a postcard to the UK, whereas elsewhere in Nepal, mailing a postcard would cost about $0.30 USD.

7. Underwater (in Vanuatu)

Vanuatu, an island nation in the South Pacific, faces a potentially grim future as the result of climate change, with some experts suggesting much of the archipelago could eventually be submerged because of rising sea levels. However, there is one facility in Vanuatu that is already (deliberately) submerged beneath the tides—the world’s only underwater post office, located within Vanuatu’s Hideaway Marine Sanctuary.

The post office sits about 10 feet below the surface on the ocean floor. Opening hours are posted on a nearby beach and a special flag is hoisted to float on the surface when the postal workers (wearing scuba equipment) are staffing the post office. The post office has been open since 2003 and several Vanuatu Post staff members received open water dive training to be able to man the location. Divers or snorklers are able to mail special waterproof postcards at the underwater outpost (if snorklers can’t dive down to the post office, staff members will help get the postcard down to the ocean floor). Because the postcards can’t be cancelled using traditional ink, Vanuatu Post developed a special embossing device to cancel the postcards.

6. Aogashima Island, Japan (…on an active volcano)

Why would you put a post office on an active volcano? Even Vanuatu Post (yes, Vanuatu is apparently at the epicenter of postal innovation), only put a postal box on the crater of Mt. Yasur, where visitors can mail letters steps away from molten magma spewing into the air. However, on Japan’s Aogashima Island, there’s really nowhere else to put a post office—the island is a volcano (actually 4 overlapping calderas).
 The population of the isolated island, less than 200 people, are served by a tiny post office which transmits mail to and from mainland Japan (Tokyo is about 200 miles to the south of the island). Life on the island can be described as “sleepy,” with residents (mainly farmers and fishermen) enjoying the slow pace of island life, the beauty, and volcanic hot springs that comprise the island. However, the volcano is still considered active. The last time the volcano erupted (in 1785), about half the island’s inhabitants perished, though modern-day inhabitants have the benefit of a volcano alert system that has been operated by the Japan Meteorological Agency since 2007. As of 2017, no alerts have been issued for the island, meaning that Aogoshima’s population, and its tiny post office, have had no cause to consider moving away from their volcanic outpost.

5. Ny-Alesund, Norway

Ny-Alesund is the world’s northernmost civilian settlement—an unincorporated town on a peninsula, home to more than 10 scientific research stations that draw scientists from around the world, 30 year-round residents, and as many 120 residents during the summer. It is also the site of the world’s northernmost post office. Whereas the town’s origins are related to mining and expeditions to the North Pole, today, the town’s activity is largely driven by research and tourism. Given that the town now enjoys fiberoptic internet connections to the rest of the world, Ny-Alesund’s tiny post office exists largely to serve tourists, who arrive at the town via cruise ship.

Ny-Alesund has long served as a base for expeditions to the North Pole and, given that it is the most proximate post office to Santa Claus’ North Pole workshop, you might expect that the post office is busy processing letters to Santa from children across the globe. However, Santa’s mail does not pass through Ny-Alesund. Instead, that flood of Christmas correspondence is handled by the United States Post Office in North Pole, Alaska.

4. J.W. Westcott II, Marine Post Office

Even as the US Postal Service makes cutbacks, at least one US post office has found a way to stay afloat… literally. The J.W. Westcott II, a 45-foot mail boat that serves freighters traversing the Detroit River, is the nation’s (and likely the world’s) only floating post office.

The J.W. Westcott Company of Detroit has been conveying messages between merchant sailors, who are often aboard ship for months at a time, and their loved ones since 1874. Mail delivery began in 1895 and the boat has been a registered post office since 1948. The company motto is “mail in the pail,” which literally described how the mail, even today, is often hoisted aboard freighters using a rope and a bucket. The J.W. Westcott II even has its own zip code—48222—and mail delivered to the freighters is to be addressed:

Vessel Name
Marine Post Office
Detroit, MI 48222

Like many post offices, the J.W. Westcott has seen a decline in mail volume, as email enables families and friends to stay in touch more immediately, even aboard ship. However, the company, which also delivers for UPS and FedEx, reports that it has seen an increase in package delivery. The company’s contract with the USPS runs to 2021, and the company’s owner sees a long future for his floating post office, pointing out that he has diversified into personnel transportation and that drone technology may never be cost-effective enough to compete in the delivery of low-value bulky goods like paper towels.

3. The Washington Park and Zoo Railway at the Portland Zoo

Today, the idea of a post office on a train may seem like a quirky novelty, and it doesn’t helpthat the only railway left in the US that offers mail service and its own authorized postal cancellation, was originally planned as a “kiddy train” at the zoo and was sited to serve Oregon’s 1959 Centennial Celebration. But while “mail by rail” now seems like an anachronism, it was once the gold standard for express mail delivery in the United States.

From 1862 to 1977, the Railway Post Office (RPO) operated postal cars, which offered mail sorting and cancellation on trains that crisscrossed the country, operating on 794 routes at its peak. However, as mail sorting became an automated task, it was increasingly moved to and from large regional processing centers by truck. While the Washington Park and Zoo Railway offers the only postal car operating in the US on a regular basis, another mail car recently rolled again. The 40th anniversary of the last RPO rail train was celebrated on May 6, 2017 (which is National Train Day, in case you didn’t mark your calendar), with the Northern Pacific #1102, its RPO car (one of only two known to still be in working order) and postmark coming out of retirement for a one-day commemorative mail run.

2. Penguin Post Office, Antarctica

One continent’s most popular tourist attraction is its post office. If you guessed Antarctica, which, despite its abundance of natural beauty, has few other tourist facilities to compete with its tiny post office, you’re right! The so-called “Penguin Post Office” is located on the Antarctic Penninsula at Port Lockroy, Antarctica, making it the world’s most southerly post office.

The post office, which is operated by the UK Heritage Trust on behalf of the government, is open for less than 5 months a year (during the Antarctic summer from November to May). Who uses the post office? While Port Lockroy has thousands of residents, most of them are penguins, so the 70,000 post cards that are sent annually from the office come mostly from the 18,000 or so tourists who arrive every year via cruise ship.

Manning a post office at the bottom of the world, a role that pays $1,700 a month, and involves, as one member of the four-person team staffing the post office put it, “being confined to an island the size of a football pitch,” may not seem like everyone’s cup of tea. Nonetheless, hundreds of applicants have vied for a spot in recent years, perhaps inspired by documentaries on the Penguin Post Office that aired on the BBC and PBS.

1. China Post Space Office aboard the Shenzhou-8 spacecraft, 213 miles above Earth

The final post office on our list is out of this world—literally. Established in 2011, the “China Post Space Office,” has two outposts—one on the ground of mission control at the Beijing Aerospace Command and one more than 200 miles above the Earth in the Shenzhou-8 spacecraft. The post office even has its own zipcode—901001—and a special postmark that reads “Beijing” and “Space” in simplified Chinese.

Mail will be processed through the terrestrial branch, but emails can be routed through a computer aboard the unmanned spacecraft before returning to Earth to be printed out for commemorative mail. While this roundabout virtual space mail may be exciting only to true space aficionados, officials have indicated that future iterations will allow the public to send letters to astronauts and/or allow physical mail to be transported to space before returning to Earth for delivery.


Post Office Madness

– WIF Travel

Real Laws – WIF NonSense

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Real Laws That

Make Absolutely

No Sense

Laws aren’t made to be popular; they are made to enforce behavior and allow humans to live together in functional societies. However, across the world, there are some laws that just don’t make sense. Some aren’t enforceable, some are anachronistic, and some defy facts and/or logic. Below are 10 examples of regulations that will make you ask, “Seriously–how is this a law?”

10. Women in Saudi Arabia are not legally allowed to drive

Saudi Arabia is not known for its tolerant climate toward women’s rights—women in the kingdom, which is governed by Sharia (Islamic law), with a strict Wahabbism interpretation, face numerous restrictions on their day-to-day lives. These religious restrictions, which have the power of law, include a requirement for women to dress conservatively and cover their hair, the need for a male guardian when venturing out in public, and a restriction that requires women to get the permission of a male relative to open a bank account or obtain a passport.

While women in Saudi Arabia have gained some limited rights in recent years, including the right to vote and run for office, they still face numerous limitations on their freedoms, including the world’s only ban on female drivers. While the ban is technically an unwritten religious edict, it is codified as law because Saudi Arabia only recognizes local driver’s licenses, which are not issued to women, and has arrested women who attempt to defy the ban. The kingdom’s ruling family and religious authorities have repeatedly justified the ban, with deputy crown prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud saying the Saudi community “is not convinced about women driving” and one conservative cleric contending, without offering evidence, that driving posed a threat to women’s ovaries and would result in children born with health problems (again, this argument is refuted by evidence from every other country on earth). The nonsensical ban has certainly impacted the Saudi economy, with limited mobility hurting female workforce participation, and exacerbated income inequality, as women from wealthy families are able toemploy drivers to get around, but poor women cannot.

Interestingly, while Saudi women (and non-Saudi women in Saudi Arabia) cannot drive cars, they are able to fly planes within the kingdom. The first female Saudi pilot was licensed in 2014.

9. In Utah, drinks can’t be seen by patrons until they are served

If James Bond really wants to be certain his martini is “shaken, not stirred,” he better not drop by any restaurants in Utah. Since 2009, Utah law requires restaurants to prepare mixed drinks behind a 7-foot partition (often made of opaque glass) out of the view of restaurant patrons. This so-called “Zion Curtain,” a nod to the state’s large teetotaling Mormon community, was meant to shield children from the glamour and corrupting influence of seeing a drink being mixed. This, despite any evidence that seeing drinks mixed by professionals would be a potential gateway to underage drinking for Utah youths. About the only good thing you can say about the law is that it is actually better than the alcohol restrictions it replaced. Prior to 2009, Utah law required customers to become members of “social clubs” (i.e. restaurants) or bars before you could consume a drop of alcohol on the premises. Basically, getting wine with dinner involved the same procedure as joining a country club, sometimes even requiring sponsorship.

The “Zion Curtain” law has been unpopular in the state, with a survey showing 70% of Utah residents oppose the law. A revised version of the law, effective July 1, 2017, will allow restaurants to forgo the “Zion Curtain,” but only if they create an adults-only buffer zone around the bar. Again, the law is better than what it replaced, but still tied to the–largely unproven–conclusion that the sight of an alcoholic drink being mixed poses an unacceptable threat to Utah’s youth (but somehow watching adults consume the drinks post-mixing doesn’t).

8. In Mississippi, it’s illegal to have a second illegitimate child

There are archaic “love laws” that remain on the books all over the United States that make everything from living together before marriage, gay sex, and adultery criminal acts. These laws are rarely, if ever, enforced, so their continued existence is perplexing.

Mississippi has one particularly strange law of this type, which states:

“If any person, who shall have previously become the natural parent of an illegitimate child within or without this state by coition within or without this state, shall again become the natural parent of an illegitimate child born within this state, he or she shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment in the county jail for not less than thirty (30) days nor more than ninety (90) days or by a fine of not more than Two Hundred Fifty Dollars ($ 250.00), or both.”

This law has a dark history. It was designed largely to target African-Americans and originallyclassified parenting a second illegitimate child a felony and included a provision that allowed violators to escape punishment if they agreed to sterilization (fortunately, that version never became law). There was one quirky loophole written into the law: all multiple births would be counted as the first illegitimate child, so if you had twins (or triplets, etc.) out of wedlock, you had found the only way to legally have multiple illegitimate children in Mississippi.

While it may seem harmless to keep these outdated and unused laws on the books, the fact remains that as long as a law is there, someone could decide to enforce it (in the case of laws against adultery, a vindictive spouse seems to be the primary complainant seeking the law’s enforcement against their partner or partner’s paramours). Before gay marriage was legalized across the United States, there was some concern that the law against a second out-of-wedlock birth, borne of racist intentions, could find another discriminatory outlet. The law could theoretically be used to target gay parents, whose marriages were not recognized in Mississippi (and whose children were all, therefore, technically born out wedlock). Another reason for Mississippi to ditch this law: it doesn’t seem to be discouraging Mississippians from having kids outside of marriage. Census Bureau research showed that Mississippi’s percentage of out-of-wedlock births was the second-highest among US states, with more than 48% of births occurring outside of marriage.

7. It’s legal to be naked in public in Vermont, but can be illegal to take your clothes off in public

one man, who strolled through Burlington, Vermont one day in the summer of 2016, wearing only sneakers and a bandana (on his head), apparently knows, it’s not illegal to be naked in public in Vermont, unless you are in a public park. However, while nudity is fine, disrobing in public is generally considered to be a violation of Vermont’s law against lewd and lascivious conduct. A Vermont Supreme Court case (around a flasher) did find that exposing one’s naked body could be a violation of the law and the Court further referenced the need for lewd and lascivious conduct to be obscene or sexual in nature.

Because it’s hard to draw the line between innocently taking off one’s clothes in public and being a flasher, would-be nudists in Vermont are advised to drop trou before they head out in public. When asked about public nudity, Burlington’s police chief described the behavior of a man who was walking through busy intersections in the buff as “inappropriate,” but “not necessarily illegal,” noting that as long as naked folks weren’t stripping down in public, harassing people, or touching themselves, there was not much city police officers could do according to state law.

6. In the US, it is illegal to burn money

Got money to burn? Well if you’re in the US, you can’t, at least not legally (several other countries also outlaw the destruction of currency).  Title 18, Section 333 of the United States Code says that:

“Whoever mutilates, cuts, disfigures, perforates, unites or cements together, or does any other thing to any bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt issued by any national banking association, Federal Reserve Bank, or Federal Reserve System, with intent to render such item(s) unfit to be reissued, shall be fined not more than $100 or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.”

Interestingly, it’s fine to destroy coins, as long as it’s not done “fraudulently,” so collectors of souvenir pressed pennies can sleep soundly at night.

Actually, everyone can pretty much sleep soundly at night. Despite the existence of this law, destroying bills is not a crime that’s often prosecuted, even when it’s done publically. MSNBC’s Larry Kudlow burned a bill on the air to protest inflationary policies without facing any legal consequences. And some think that if burning of currency were prosecuted, the law would likely be ruled unconstitutional as a limit on protected speech, though others point out that since the government pays to print money (about 5 cents per bill), its interest in preserving the cash supply isn’t merely symbolic. In the US, this law is mainly used against counterfeiters, so while burning money is technically illegal (even when it’s YOUR money), the odds that you’ll end up doing time for setting fire to a stack of Benjamins remain low.

5. Under US military law, unsuccessful suicide attempts are illegal

You would think someone who was on the verge of taking his own life would have suffered enough, right? But the US military disagrees, making it a crime for soldiers to attempt to kill themselves, one that can result in disciplinary action, including prison time and a bad-conduct discharge. Under Article 134 in the Manual for Court Martial, prosecution is allowed for self injury that causes “prejudice to good order and discipline” or has a “tendency to bring the service into disrepute”, a provision that has been used to prosecute unsuccessful suicide attempts, even when there was evidence of mental health issues on the part of the offending soldier.

Suicide isn’t treated as a crime for soldiers who succeed. As one military lawyer, defending a client who was court-martialed after a failed suicide attempt, explained this cruel paradox, “If he had succeeded… he would have been treated like his service was honorable, his family would have received a condolence letter from the President, and his death would have been considered in the line of duty. Because he failed, he was prosecuted.”

Certainly, the US military does have a compelling interest in dissuading its troops from suicide. Suicide rates amongst US service members are more than two times the average for the general population. However, there isn’t any evidence that criminalizing suicide attempts reduces their frequency. Data from Canada and New Zealand, which decriminalized suicide in 1972 and 1961 respectively, suggest that removing laws punishing suicide attempts did not impact the suicide rates within those nations.

Common sense suggests that adding criminal charges to the plate of an already suicidal individual only compounds the problems facing that person. The World Health Organization suggests that criminalizing suicidal acts adds to the stigma related to suicide, which can undermine suicide prevention efforts. In other words, laws against suicide attempts, like those within the US military, don’t stop suicides, but they may deter depressed people from accessing help that might prevent suicides.

4. In several US states, atheists are barred from public office

Atheists, those who do not believe in a higher power, have long faced discrimination, and in many places across the globe, that discrimination is codified as law. In 13 Muslim countries, people who reject the state religion of Islam or espouse atheism face the death penalty. In the United States, the situation for atheists isn’t nearly so dire, but for a country whose Constitution includes several references to freedom of religion, the US has a surprising number of legal restrictions on atheists.

In seven US states, state constitutions bar atheists from public office. Maryland’s Constitutiongoes a step further, saying atheists also can’t serve as jurors or witnesses. While these restrictions have been rendered unenforceable by a Supreme Court decision (in a case brought by a Maryland notary who refused to take an oath that required belief in God), that hasn’t stopped some from trying to use them to deny office to atheist elected officials. Given that keeping these bans on the books serves no purpose, some atheist groups have been arguing for their removal. Proponents of removing the atheist bans, like Todd Steifer, chairman of the Openly Secular Coalition, say that if illegal discrimination against any other minority group was enshrined in the state constitution, “You’d have politicians falling all over themselves to try to get it repealed. Even if it was still unenforceable, it would still be disgraceful and be removed. So why are we different?”

3. In some US states, you must disclose if your house is haunted when trying to sell it

While the existence of ghosts is up for debate, with polls showing that almost half the people in the US and the UK believe in ghosts, there is no conclusive scientific evidence that supports their existence. In fact, some scientists have argued that the existence of ghosts is refuted by the failure of the Large Hadron Collider to detect any energy that would comprise such spirit beings. However, even though there’s no irrefutable proof that ghosts exist, some US states still require you to disclose whether your property is haunted when you try to sell it.

The extent of required ghost-related disclosures depends on the state where your house is located. In Virginia, you aren’t legally required to disclose any act or occurrence (including hauntings), unless it had, “effect on the physical structure of the real property, its physical environment, or the improvements located hereon.” So if the haunting extends to blood appearing on the walls, for example, you do need to make it known to buyers. In New York State, the Supreme Court found that once a homeowner publically represents their home as haunted, the home is legally considered haunted, a material condition that must be disclosed to potential buyers. But if you’ve kept Casper’s existence to yourself, you’re in the clear to sell without providing info to buyers. In Massachusetts, there is no requirement to disclose that a home, “has been the site of alleged parapsychological or supernatural phenomenon.” However, if the buyer asks if the place is haunted, it is a crime to lie. For an unproven phenomenon, ghosts seem to get a surprising number of mentions in US real estate law.

2. In Switzerland, it is illegal to keep just one of a social animal

In 2008, Switzerland passed legislation protecting the “social rights” of certain animals. Since passage of this law, it is illegal to keep a single member of a social animal species, a designation which includes goldfish, parrots, and guinea pigs, since a solitary social animal will be lonely.

While this law has great intentions behind it, it does create a bit of a quandary for some pet owners seeking to abide by the law. What if you start with two guinea pigs, but one dies? Do you now have to continue buying replacement companion guinea pigs until the end of time? One enterprising Swiss company addresses just this problem, offering a “rent-a-guinea-pig”service. The rental service provides companion guinea pigs for an otherwise solitary guinea pig’s remaining time, which can be returned after the death of the other guinea pig. No word on how the law will deal with guinea pigs who happen to be antisocial jerks, and are the rare members of their species that don’t want to chill with a buddy. However, the law doesn’t have strong enforcement provisions, especially since the Swiss voted down an attempt to appoint lawyers to act on behalf of pets, so folks who keep a solitary goldfish are unlikely to face penalties (other than pangs of conscience) for violating the law.

1. In China, it is illegal for Buddhist monks to reincarnate without state permission

China’s citizens are subject to a sweeping array of laws, including legal restrictions on thenumber of children they can have and their mobility to relocate within the country. But with regard to Tibetan Buddhist monks, the Chinese government is seeking to extend its control even beyond this life. China’s State Religious Affairs Bureau Order No. 5 requires Tibetan religious leaders (known as living Buddhas or tulkus) who are planning to be reborn to apply to several government entities for approval before doing so. China has called the law, “an important move to institutionalize management of reincarnation,” a statement that merely underlines the inherent futility of attempting to regulate what its citizens can do after death.

The real purpose of the law seems to be to allow Chinese authorities to control the selection of the eventual successor to the Dalai Lama, and to quell any movement in support of Tibetan independence by religious figures in the region. The Dalai Lama has previously said that if Tibet remains under Chinese control, he will be reincarnated elsewhere, suggesting there could be dueling Dalai Lamas in the future—one selected by Chinese authorities through their reincarnation recognition procedures, and another illegally-reincarnated Dalai Lama outside of Chinese territory.


Real Laws

–  WIF NonSense

World Urban Extremes – WIF Geography

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Most Extreme Cities

in the World

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

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

10. Largest Population

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

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

9. Largest Land Area

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

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

8. Most Densely Populated City

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

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

7. Most Expensive City

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

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

6. Healthiest City

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

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

5. City with Worst Traffic

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

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

4. Most Impoverished City in the World

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

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

3. Happiest City

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

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

2. The Most Homicidal City

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

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

1. Oldest City in the World

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

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


World Urban Extremes

– WIF Geography

 

Facebook Turns 13 – WIF Facts and Figures

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Facts About

Facebook

Facebook was launched on February 4, 2004 as TheFacebook.com by Mark Zuckerberg, who was studying psychology at Harvard at the time. 24 hours later,1,200 students at Harvard had registered and then within a month, over half of the undergraduate students were signed up.

 From there, Facebook expanded to other universities throughout the United States and in August 2005, they became Facebook.com, after purchasing the domain for $200,000.

In September 2005, high school students in the United States could sign up, and then it moved overseas to universities in the United Kingdom in October. After originally only being available to people with a “.edu” email account, Facebook finally started to allow anyone with any email address to sign up in September 2006. Since then, it’s grown to be an indelible part of world culture, to the point where the point where rumors persist that Zuckerberg may eventually run for president. Yes, of the United States.

Of course, things didn’t exactly go smoothly for Zuckerberg and Facebook, but there is a whole movie dedicated to their problems. These are 10 facts about Facebook that you won’t find in The Social Network.

10. Crazy Language Settings

If someone leaves their Facebook open and you want to prank them, don’t pose as them and post something stupid on their wall, because that could lead to some unintended problems. Instead, we recommend changing their language settings.

For people who speak English, there are two fun options that allows the person to use Facebook as normal, but things will seem a bit… off.

The first is the Pirate setting, which it changes things around to be more of a pirate theme. Duh. For example, your wall is called the Captain’s Log, the post box asks “What’s troublin’ ye?” and the smiley emoji says “Yo ho ho,” while the shocked face is “Shiver Me Timbers.”

However, if that prank is a bit too lighthearted and you really want to mess with someone, there is another language setting that turns all the text upside down. We tried it, and it can make you dizzy.

To change the languages, go to Settings, Language, and then “What language do you want to use Facebook in?” And you’re all set.

9. The Most Popular People on Facebook

The most popular person on Facebook is Cristiano Ronaldo, who is the star player of Real Madrid. But since he’s so popular, we figure you already knew that.

Ronaldo also became the first athlete to break 100 million likes, and he is currently at 119.57 million likes. In second place is Colombian pop singer Shakira, who has 104.49 likes, then in third it’s the bald headed star of The Fast and the Furious series. Oh wait, you say that nearly all the male stars of The Fast and the Furious are bald? Well, it’s Vin Diesel. He has 101.22 million likes.

8. Someone Will Always Have More Friends Than You

Do you ever get the feeling that your Facebook friends have more friends than you? Well, according to statistics, nearly everybody has a friend who has more friends than themselves.

The reason everyone has a friend who has more friends is because of a strange thing that happens in statistics called the Friendship Paradox. How it works: let’s say you have a small amount of Facebook friends. You’re bound to have at least one friend who is popular, because people with lots of friends are more likely to be your friend. Secondly, popular people are misrepresented when it comes to averages. By being popular, they spread themselves out when it comes to averages, and this effects probability.

While this concept might be a little hard to wrap your head around, you can check it yourself by seeing if any of your Facebook friends have more friends than you. Except you, Larry. We both know it’d be a waste of your time to check, because we already know the answer, don’t we.

7. The Yellow Facebook

One thing that made Facebook different from MySpace and other social media sites at the time was its uniformity. Everyone’s Facebook page layout was similar, and you couldn’t change the coding on it to add media, like music or pictures, which you could on MySpace. That uniformity is still prevalent today and everyone has very similar looking Facebook layouts. Well, nearly everyone.

The employees of Facebook have a more advanced version of the application that has a yellow icon instead of Facebook’s famous blue color. Mark Zuckerberg gave people a glimpse at the employee version in 2016, when he announced that live video streaming was heading to Facebook. In the video, Zuckerberg shows some features that have yet to be added, like being able to post slideshows and music from their music service. However, Zuckerberg said that some of the features on the yellow Facebook may never be made public.

Besides that video, not a whole lot is known about the yellow Facebook, but it is thought that it’s used by the upper echelon of Facebook to test new features.

6. Facebook Friends

According to a study from Oxford University, the average amount of friends a Facebook user has is 155. The same study, which looked at a group of 3,300 students, also found that they only had four real friends.

Why people have so many Facebook friends, but very few real, close friends, is explained by Dr. Robin Dunbar, who authored the study. He said:

“Social media certainly helps to slow down the natural rate of decay in relationship quality that would set in once we cannot readily meet friends face-to-face but no amount of social media will prevent a friend eventually becoming ‘just another acquaintance’ if you don’t meet face-to-face from time to time.”

These findings are consistent with other studies on close friendships, like an American study from 2011 that found that people, on average, only have two close friends. Another study from Dunbar found that, on average, people know up to 150 people, but they are only intimate with 15, and only five of those 15 are trustworthy.

5. It Can Wreak Havoc on Your Romantic Relationship

Saying that things that happen on Facebook can wreak havoc on your real life shouldn’t be a surprise. Perhaps you’ve experienced it yourself, or you may have witnessed it happen to one of your friends on your news feed. If you haven’t, humor websites have massive collections of them.

Besides anecdotal evidence, there are studies that show that Facebook can add more stress to a romantic relationship. One study that was conducted on 2,000 married people in Britain found that one-in-seven had thought about divorcebecause of something that happened on Facebook. In another British study, a quarter of the people surveyed said Facebook led to a fight once a week with their romantic partner, and 17 percent said a fight happened every day because of Facebook.

Meanwhile, between 2005 and 2010, divorce courts in the United States saw a dramatic increase in Facebook being used as evidence. Finally, a study from the Loyola University Health System found that 20 percent of all cases cited problems stemming from Facebook as part of the reason for divorce.

4. MySpace Had Two Chances to Buy Facebook

In the mid 2000s, the monster of social media was MySpace. Facebook was started essentially as an imitator; it was just better organized and more uniform, and at the time, it was more exclusive because you needed to have a university email address to get an account. These two aspects proved to be popular and Facebook started to gain a lot of traction. As they started to amass users, MySpace had the opportunity to buy Facebook… twice.

In the spring of 2005, MySpace CEO Chris DeWolfe visited Zuckerberg and company. At the meeting, Zuckerberg offered to sell him Facebook for $75 million and DeWolfe turned him down. They met again later in 2005, and this time Zuckerberg wanted 10 times his original offer, $750 million. DeWolfe turned Zuckerberg down again.

Just two years later, Microsoft purchased 1.6% of Facebook for $240 million, giving Facebook a $15 billion valuation. By 2009, Facebook was getting twice as many visitors as MySpace. Today, well, Facebook is the thing that everyone uses and MySpace is something you have to Google to see if it’s still online (it is).

At the time of this posting, Facebook market capitalization is over $400 billion and some people think it could grow to be worth a trillion dollars in the next few years.

3. What Happens to Your Facebook When You Die?

Before 2015, when someone died, their family could contact Facebook with proof, like a death certificate, and request that the deceased’s Facebook profile be memorialized.

Memorializing the profile removed the deceased from public searches and notifications, like for their birthdays. Their memorialized profile could also only be viewed by people who were Facebook friends with the deceased before it was memorialized. Nothing else could be done with the account and some people found this upsetting. A notable example was Hollie Gazzard, who lived in Gloucester, United Kingdom. She was stabbed to death by her boyfriend Asher Maslin in February 2014. Her family had her Facebook memorialized and this included memorializing pictures of Gazzard and her murderer. Obviously, the family was upset by this and repeatedly asked Facebook to remove the pictures. For months, Facebook refused to take the pictures down and finally only removed them because of copyright infringements.

This type of dilemma prompted Facebook to allow users to pick a “legacy contact.” The legacy contact is able to pin a notice to your wall with information like funeral services. It also allows the contact to respond to new friend requests, change your cover and profile photos, and archive your Facebook posts and photos. The one thing that the legacy contact will not be able to do is read your private messages. So don’t worry about your loved ones finding Facebook messages expressing your profound love for Nickelback after you pass away.

To add a legacy contact, go to your security settings and it should be there. When you set the legacy contact, it will send a message, which you can edit, to the friend with information about the policy.

2. Every Minute Facebook Goes Down Costs Them $52,583

One of Facebook’s best qualities is that it is reliable. When was the last time you remember Facebook not being available when you tried logging on? It’s so rare that when Facebook went down in 2014, people called 9-1-1.

When it did go down in 2014, The Atlantic figured out how much money Facebook lost per minute by looking at their profits. They concluded that every minute the site was down, it cost them $24,420. This is over $1.4 million an hour and over $35.1 million a day.

But that was three years ago. Since then, Facebook’s revenues have gone up and in 2016, they made $27.638 billion. If the crash were to happen in early 2017, it would cost them $52,583 a minute, which is $3.1 million an hour and $75 million a day.

1. Everyone is Connected by 3.57 People

The theory of six degrees of separation was put forth in 1929 by Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy, in his 1929 short story “Chains.” In the story, the characters came up with a game, where:

“We should select any person from the 1.5 billion inhabitants of the Earth – anyone, anywhere at all. He bet us that, using no more than five individuals, one of whom is a personal acquaintance, he could contact the selected individual using nothing except the network of personal acquaintances.”

There have been several attempts to prove the theory over the years, including one by famed psychologist Stanley Milgram, and all the tests have resulted in varying degrees of success. The jury is still out on whether or not we’re connected to Kevin Bacon, as well.

In 2016, on its 12th anniversary, Facebook released some data that shows that everyone on Facebook is separated by 3.57 degrees. This, however, does not pertain to the real world, and it is just the world of Facebook. That being said, even if someone doesn’t use Facebook, they just have to know a Facebook user to be connected with the rest of the world. And really, there are good odds nearly everyone on the planet knows someone who uses Facebook. As of April 2017, Facebook has 1.86 billion monthly active users; that is almost a quarter of the entire population of the world.


Facebook Turns 13

– WIF Facts and Figures

Double Takes – WIF Photography

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Photographs

That’ll Make

You Look Twice

You know the famous idiom, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” For the most part, it’s true. But those thousand words we make up for ourselves can be completely off if we don’t have the right backstory or any context in which that photo was taken. So, with that in mind, we’re going to show you some photos here that are pieces of history in their own right, and we’ll also give you the circumstances in which they were taken. The rest you’ll have to fill in for yourselves… but only within a thousand words, right?

 10. Arnold Schwarzenegger Walking Down a Munich Street – 1967

This particular photo was taken back in 1967 in downtown Munich, Germany. Nothing out of the ordinary in this particular description so far, but as we can all see here, Arnold was wearing only a Speedo, and nothing else. And by the look of those people in the background and the ladies wearing scarves around him, this wasn’t a common sight in Munich back 1967. Heck, it probably isn’t one today, either. He was 20 years old when this photo was taken, and given his physique, nobody was really complaining even back then.

By this time, he already won several bodybuilding contests and titles, including the Mr. Universe. He was the youngest participant ever to do so. During his time in Munich in 1967, he was training six hours per day, attending business school, and promoting his own gym he acquired that same year. In fact, this was exactly what he was doing here in this photo – promoting his gym and the benefits of bodybuilding.

9. Marilyn Monroe’s White Dress – 1954

This photo will definitely make you look twice, regardless of whether you know the whole story behind it or not. But even if that’s the case, let’s, nevertheless, talk a bit about it. This iconic moment in cinematic history was captured back in 1954, during the filming of the Seven Year Itch, a movie that came out one year later. The scene was filmed and photographed at 1:00 a.m. in New York City at the corner of Lexington Ave and 52nd Street and took 14 takes and about three hours to finish. But because of the 100 photographers and roughly 4,000 onlookers who were, let’s say, reacting every time her dress was lifted by the soft, upward breeze, they had to re-shoot it in California. But to be fair, she prepared herself accordingly by wearing two pairs of white underwear.

Nevertheless, this scene almost certainly cost Monroe her marriage to baseball star Joe DiMaggio, who viewed it as an “exhibitionist” scene. Two weeks later, and following a fight at their hotel room after the filming, Marilyn filed for divorce on the grounds of mental cruelty. The late Debbie Reynolds, a fellow actress, singer, and businesswoman (not to mention Carrie Fisher’s mother), bought the dress for $200back in 1971. In 2011, she sold it for a whopping $4.6 million.

8. The Guatemala City Sinkhole – 2010

The sudden appearance of this gaping hole in the middle of a street in Guatemala City is still largely a mystery. Its almost perfect cylindrical shape does make it seem to be man-made, and done intentionally no less, but it isn’t, even though human causes may have contributed here. Sam Bonis, a geologist at Dartmouth College who is living in Guatemala City, does have a theory about what happened. The 60 feet (18 meters) wide and 300 feet (100 meters) deep hole was caused, it seems, by leaking pipes. Yes, this is true. This is what happens if you leave the water running, apparently. Bonis believes that the city’s poor infrastructure and leaking pipelines have eroded the soil underneath over an extended period of time and in 2010, with the arrival of the severe tropical storm Agatha, the ground finally gave in and collapsed, forming that huge chasm.

But before you start calling a plumber to come and investigate your pipes, you should also know that the ground’s composition also had something to do with what happened here. As it turns out, Guatemala City is located in a somewhat volcanic region and the soil underneath is made out of pumice – a very porous and light volcanic material. Normally, over long periods of time, this pumice is turned into hard stone. But this time, however, the city was built before this was allowed to happen and the soil beneath is quite brittle. Combined with seeping water, over time one such sinkhole can happen. What’s funny about this is that this exact phenomenon doesn’t really have a name of its own. Since it’s partly man-made, Bonis says it should actually be called a piping feature and not a sinkhole, per se. This is because a sinkhole is entirely natural, and this one is not.

7. China’s Rainbow Mountains

The Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park is China’s equivalent of the Grand Canyon. And even though it isn’t as huge, it definitely has its charm – as can be seen in this photo. It’s a geologic marvel, to say the least, and a jewel given to us by Mother Nature. The layer upon layer of color tells the history of Planet Earth in the most amazing way possible. The story behind this colorful mountain range goes back for many millions of years. Over time, layer upon layer of stone and minerals were deposited, but then, some 50 million years ago, India slammed into Asia. Pushing ever further at a speed of 27 feet per century, it was able to form the mighty Himalayas, as well as these mountains. Each differently-colored layer speaks to another period in Earth’s history.

Interestingly enough, these rainbow mountains weren’t always as popular as they are now. They were first mapped back in the 1930s, and only after the area became a UNESCO World Heritage Site did more people began to learn about its existence. There are some other somewhat similar places in other parts of the world, like the United States or Peru. But none of those are so striking as these rainbow mountains in China.

6. Picture, or Painting? – 2011

It’s not so easy to tell whether this is a photograph or a painting, right? Now, it does resemble a somewhat alien and surreal painting, with the trees looking almost like silhouettes and the color contrasts faintly resembling something by Edvard Munch. But no, it’s a real picture taken by photographer Frans Lanting while on an assignment by National Geographic to Namibia. The photo was taken in the early morning, just as the sun was rising over the horizon and flooding the orange sand dune in the backdrop. The barren ground in front is still under the partial cover of darkness, having a slightly bluish tint, reflecting the sky above.

Back in 2011, Lanting was in the Namib-Naukluft National Park, in a region called Sossusvlei. This is the largest conservation area in Africa and Namibia’s most sensational landmark. The sand dune in the background is known as Big Daddy, so yes, and it’s the largest in the area, measuring 1,066 feet (325 meters) in height. Though not the largest in the Namib Desert, it nevertheless dominates the surrounding area.

5. Two (or More) Heads are Better Than One – 1895

Severed human heads always have the capacity of drawing people’s attention, right? Here we have a huge collection of mokomokai, or tattooed Maori heads, and the man sitting with them is Major-General Horatio Gordon Robley. He was a British officer who was stationed in New Zealand during the New Zealand Wars, during the second half of the 19th century. As an artist and as an antiques collector, he became fascinated with Maori tattoos and these mokomokai. After the wars, the art and tradition of these tattooed heads disappeared among the Maori people of the islands, but before the arrival of the Europeans, these denoted a high social status. Now, even though predominantly males wore these tattoos on their entire faces,women of prominence had them on their lips and chin. These symbolized the wearer’s connection with the ancestors.

General Robley was also an illustrator and wrote a book called Maori Tattooing, published one year after this photo was taken. During his stay in New Zealand, he collected these mokomokai. Later, he decided to sell them back to New Zealand for £1,000, but he was refused. He later sold them to the Natural History Museum in New York for 250 pounds more. The heads themselves went through an entire process of boiling, steaming, smoking, drying, and embalming before they were preserved. They were usually kept by the families and brought out during sacred ceremonies. The mokomokai belonging to enemy chiefs were also taken as spoils of war. After a peace was brokered between two tribes, these heads were exchanged as a sign of good will.

4. The Kiss – 1979

We could’ve gone with the kiss scene from Gone with the Wind, the sailor and nurse in Times Square, or even the kiss between Britney Spears and Madonna, but no –we chose this one. It’s not every day you see two old ‘geezers’ kissing, let alone two Soviet-era leaders from the Cold War period. The man on the left is Leonid Brezhnev, the leader of the Soviet Union, while the man on the right is President Erich Honecker of East Germany. The photo was taken in 1979, during the 30th anniversary of the Soviet German Republic. Now, in its proper context, the kiss itself is not so out of the ordinary. Known as the socialist fraternal kiss this was a customary greeting between socialist leaders from the former soviet bloc. It stemmed from the old East European tradition of cheek kissing between family and friends, which itself can be associated with the East Orthodox Easter Kiss.

So, the kiss wasn’t so shocking in and of itself. What was shocking, however, was the enthusiasm shown between the two the moment they locked lips. The photo was taken by Regis Bossu and when it was published it quickly made it around the world. In 1989, when the Berlin Wall went down, former Soviet artist, Dmitri Vrubel, decided to paint it. The painting still exists in Berlin as part of the East Side Gallery. The caption running underneath it says: “My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love.”

3. The Eyes of Madness – 1916

Whoever says that war is cool or glorious obviously has no idea what they’re talking about. This photograph was taken back in 1916, during WWI, and this man’s look is the living embodiment of war and what it actually stands for. That is the look of one’s reality made nightmare. This British soldier was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or shell shock, as it was called back then. Massive artillery fire was introduced during this time – weapons so powerful and devastating that they denied any chance of courage, heroism, or skill in battle, bringing only constant pummeling and misery. This was no longer an adversary one could see or even face head on – it was perpetual death raining from the sky, and there was absolutely nothing one could do about it. As writer and lecturer Adam Hochschild describes it:“Simply put, after even the most obedient soldier had enough shells rain down on him, without any means of fighting back, he often lost all self-control.”

Shell shock presented itself with a wide variety of symptoms like crippling fatigue, confusion, uncontrollable tremors, constant nightmares, impaired vision and hearing, hysterical paralysis, as well as the inability to reason, among others. But for the better part of the war, this horrific mental disorder went unrecognized and countless shell shock sufferers were convicted of cowardice or desertion and then executed. Only after officially recognizing it as an actual disease did the British government pardon those who were put to death.

2. The Guardian Angels of NYC – 1980

The New York subway scene was not pretty during the late ’70s and early ’80s. Acts of vandalism, robberies, and even shootings became widespread, and taking the underground became a serious risk for daily commuters. This came at a time when the NYPD was completely overwhelmed and some citizens took it upon themselves to make their lives and the lives of their fellow New Yorkers a little bit safer. This is civic duty in action, and it’s never more beautiful or powerful than in periods of hardship. Led by Curtis Sliwa, the Guardian Angels, as they came to be known, were a group of young men who had to deal with the crime-related problems in their own neighborhoods, and who were now looking to make the city a safer place to live.

Over 500 members joined, all wearing their emblematic red berets, leather jackets, or white t-shirts with the Guardian Angels logo on them. Though their numbers weren’t nearly enough to successfully tackle the rampant crimes happening in New York at the time, they were, nevertheless, a comforting presence for any late night subway commuter. Bruce Davidson, the man who took this photo, describes his feelings and general atmosphere of taking the city’s subway in the early ’80s:

“As I went down the subway stairs, through the turnstile, and on to the darkened station platform, a sense of fear gripped me. I grew alert, and looked around to see who might be standing by, waiting to attack. The subway was dangerous at any time of the day or night … Passengers on the platform looked at me, with my expensive camera around my neck, in a way that made me feel like a tourist – or a deranged person.”

1. The Rockefeller Salute – 1976

This is Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, flipping off a group of protesters back in 1976. When this photo was taken, Rockefeller was on a campaign tour through upstate New York, alongside Senator Bob Dole, President Gerald Ford’s running mate for that election. So, after a group of SUNY students from Binghamton showed him the finger, he responded in kind. That’s Dole in the background there, smiling at the exchange. As you can imagine, this gesture of “political maturity” was not received kindly by the media and the country’s citizens, who then started referring to it as The Rockefeller Salute. When confronted about his outburst, Rockefeller refused to apologize by cleverly avoiding the point that his apology was actually meant for the general public, and not just the students themselves.

As governor of New York, Rockefeller was constantly attacked throughout his political career. His fellow Republicans saw him as too liberal, while the Democrats viewed him simply as a Republican. In fact, during this time, all liberal Republicans were called “Rockefeller Republicans.”


Double Takes

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– WIF Photography

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 129

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 129

…The Air Jamaica aircraft lifts up and away from the seaside airport, not being a very long flight, they barely get above 20,000 feet

20000 ft by Photojournalist Rdiger Nehmzow

Old Francine

— “Do you possibly have an open seat somewhere — you know what I mean?” she points and whispers to a flight attendant to escape her sweaty human sandwich. “What is the holdup Miss?”

Old Francine would have thrown an absolute fit and shouted her way off the plane, accomplishing absolutely nothing except drawing undue attention to her disrespectful derrière.

New Francine

“We are under a security alert, something going on to the west, sort of like a red light in the sky.” A loaded passenger plane sitting on the taxiway for two hours is borderline cruel and unusual. “We just had a single window seat, 3A open up, why don’t we move you up?”

New Francine asks for the attendant’s name, “I will be writing a letter praising your service to Air Jamaica, thank you.”

Just after staking her claim at the front of the jet, the calming voice of the Captain fills the cabin, “Good afternoon passengers of Air Jamaica Flight 217 nonstop to Related imageHouston Texas. We will be taking off shortly and we thank you for your patience. The stewardesses will be handing out complimentary beverages.”

“If he weren’t the oldest pilot in the fleet, I would be offended.”

“At least he didn’t call you an airplane waitress…I’ll have a vodka rocks please,” Francine relates her similar story of having been introduced, early in her career, in a pre-sweeps station promo, as anchor-girl Francine Bushel.

The jet aircraft lifts up and away from the seaside airport. It is not a very long flight and they barely get above 20,000 feet, but the view from her window is nonstop fantastic, with Cuba fading into background of the azure Gulf-blue waters and the familiar soil and foliage of the Gulf Coast states rising to the north.

Like tiny islands, oil drinking platforms dot the water below, but one in particular seems to be the hub of activity. She reaches down to her carry-on to retrieve her trusty pair of field glasses, every good reporter has one, and gets a 20x power view of the action. She pulls back, rubs her eyes to make sure she isn’t seeing things, the one thing being the familiar blue & white paint scheme of Roy’s helicopter; blades idling, atop the one acre pedestal. There are a good thirty-odd people mulling about, many of whom belong to that huge Coast Guard cutter lashed to the side.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 129


page 159

 

Contents TRT

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