Human Trafficking – WIF Atrocities Spotlight

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Worst Countries

for

Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is one of the most despicable crimes that one person can commit against another, and it is sadly way too common. The FBI says that it is the third biggest criminal activity. Anyone can become a victim of human trafficking, which is modern day slavery, and according to the United Nations, about 20 percent of victims are children. It’s also a global problem and countries in every region of the world are affected by it; this includes first world countries.

 Often, people who are desperate for work or food can either be tricked or even kidnapped into slavery. Then, through force or coercion, they are made slaves who work for little or no pay. This work includes forced labor, domestic servitude, and prostitution, to name just a few.

The most comprehensive study on human trafficking is the annual Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP), which is published every year by the American Department of Justice. The reports go back to 2001 and they have a three tier rating system. The worst countries are Tier 3, which are “Countries whose governments do not fully meet the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.” Currently, every single one of these countries are Tier 3, and have a history of being Tier 3.

10. Algeria

Algeria is the largest country in Africa, and because of its location, it’s a hotbed for human trafficking. It’s a North African country and is the gateway to Europe for migrants from Mali, Niger, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, and Nigeria. It’s common for people to voluntarily enter Algeria so they can take a boat to Europe. However, many times after entering Algeria their journey to Europe is thwarted; usually they run out of money, or their money is stolen. Being in a foreign country with no money means that these people are sometimes left with no choice but to work as sex workers, laborers, domestic servants, or they are forced to beg until they collect enough money to pay traffickers to get them to Europe.

Another possibility is that they are brought into Algeria by traffickers, and then owe a debt that needs to be paid before they can continue on to Europe. The problem is that it’s very hard to get out of debt because they don’t make a legal wage, while interest on the debt always makes the debt larger. Or the employer could give them a place to live and food to eat, and that adds to the debt, essentially making them slaves.

For years, Algeria denied that they had a human trafficking problem, despite being a Tier 2 or 3 country on the Department of Justice’s Trafficking In Persons report (TOP) since 2004. It wasn’t until 2015 that they acknowledged the problem, and in December of that year, the Algerian government rolled out a plan on how to deal with human trafficking. However, in the year that followed, no one was convicted of human trafficking related crimes.

9. Venezuela

Since 2002, Venezuela has drifted between Tier 2 Watch List, and Tier 3 on the TIP report, which is like hovering between a D- versus an F. However, things got really bad in 2015 when the Venezuelan economy had a downturn. When it did, the rates of human trafficking tripled.

Among the people who are trafficked out of the country, 55 percent are adults, 26 percent are young girls, and 19 percent are young boys. Often, they are lured into trafficking by the promise of high paying jobs. Instead, they are sent to countries in the Caribbean, where they are forced into the sex trade or domestic servitude.

The main reason that Venezuela is constantly on the bottom of the list when it comes to worst countries for human trafficking is because they do very little to combat it. They have strict laws surrounding it, but it’s rare if anyone is prosecuted under the laws. Since 2013, only three people have been convicted under the human trafficking laws in Venezuela. Unless the government cracks down on human trafficking, it will continue to be a plague on the country.

8. Sudan and South Sudan

Two civil wars between Muslims, who live in northern Sudan, and Christians and Animists, who live in the south, led to South Sudan gaining its independence in 2011. When South Sudan seceded, they were debt free and it was a middle income country because they exported oil. However, within just five years, thanks to corruption, South Sudan is now impoverished and the 16th poorest country in the world. Sudan is a little better off, but it’s still the 52nd poorest country. Both countries also have a horrible problem with human trafficking.

Both countries are source and destination countries for human trafficking, and Sudan is also a transit country. People are brought into countries by Sudanese and South Sudanese employers, especially those who own restaurants, construction companies, and hotels. They lure people from Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo with the promise of work and then enslave them.

A big market in both countries is child slaves. Children, as young as 10, are used for a whole series of jobs, including construction, market vending, shoe shining, car washing, rock breaking, brick making, delivery cart pulling, and begging. Girls are also subject to sex work in restaurants, hotels, and brothels.

7. Belarus

Belarus is a country in Eastern Europe that is landlocked between Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, and Latvia. It is different than many of the other countries on this list, because in a lot of countries, human trafficking is usually controlled by organized crime syndicates. However, in Belarus, it is state-sponsored.

There are several ways the Belarus government can enslave people. One is through a 2015 presidential decree that makes unemployed people pay a fee to the state or they are forced to do community service. If you’re unemployed, there is a good chance you can’t pay the fee, so this leads to community service, meaning unemployed people are forced to work for the government without being paid.

Another presidential decree ordered that workers in the wood processing industry would be given bonuses every month. However, if they resigned, then they would have to pay back the bonuses. If they don’t repay the bonuses, the courts can force them to continue to work in the industry while being watched by law enforcement.

A third decree that is troubling to the DOJ and the UN is that alcoholics and drug addicts can be detained for 12 to 18 months in something called “medical labor centers.” At these centers, people are forced to work, and if they don’t, they can be locked into solitary confinement.

Other laws in Belarus that show the systematic use of human trafficking is that high school and university students are forced to work on farms without pay. Parents who had their paternal rights taken away are subject to compulsory labor, and the government keeps 70 percent of their wages. Finally, government workers and private businesses are forced to work occasionally on Saturdays and then donate all their earnings on those days to state projects. If they don’t, they can face fines, or lose their business licenses or government contracts.

Due to the conditions in Belarus, people try to leave the country, making it a source country for human traffickers, while others are lured there with the promise of work and then they are subjected to forced labor.

6. North Korea

North Korea has one of the most unique human trafficking situations in the world. One reason is that it is almost exclusively a source country for people to be trafficked out of. That’s because of how terrible the conditions are in the country, which includes forced labor camps that house 80,000 to 120,000 people – many of whom have not been charged with a crime. This means that North Koreans fleeing the country can be highly susceptible to human traffickers.

Another way that North Korea is unique in the human trafficking industry is that they also deploy 110,000 to 120,000 forced laborers to 20 to 40 other countries. This apparently makes the Kim Jong-Un regime anywhere from $150 million to $2.3 billion a year. However, the workers only receive 10 percent of their pay after they return to North Korea, usually after a three year stint.

One of these countries that rent slaves is Qatar, who are preparing their country for World Cup 2022.

5. Russia

By surface area, Russia is the biggest country in the world, and is home to 140 million people. It is also the only G8 country that is a Tier 3 country when it comes to human trafficking.

It’s believed that anywhere from 5 to 12 million migrants are working in Russia in conditions that are close to slavery, if not outright slavery. This includes working in underground garment factories, being public transport drivers, and working in construction and agriculture. Also, women and children are forced into prostitution.

How it usually works in Russia is that wages are withheld, or come extremely late. This makes the migrants incur a debt that is impossible to get out of. Employers will also take away migrant workers’ passports, so they can’t leave.

One reason that human trafficking in Russia is such a problem is because of corruption within the Russian government. There are allegations that Russian officials facilitate the entry of migrants into the country for exploitation, and other officials receive bribes to not investigate human trafficking crimes.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the Russian government is also directly involved in human trafficking. In the last entry, we talked about how North Korea deploys workers to other countries for slave labor. One of those countries that “lease” North Korean slaves is Russia. In a state-to-state agreement, 20,000 North Korean workers every year are sent to Russia to work in different industries, especially logging.

Since the Russian government is benefiting from human trafficking, don’t expect Russia to move up any tiers on the TIP report any time soon.

4. Syria

Something that helps human trafficking flourish is instability in a country, which makes Syria one of the worst places for human trafficking. Of course, the source of their instability is the most devastating war of the 21st century, so far.

The civil war got its start in March 2011, after 15 boys between the ages of 10 and 15 were brutally tortured, one to the point of death, for writing graffiti supporting the Arab Spring. This led to protests, and to quash the protests, President Bashar al-Assad’s government ordered hundreds of protesters to be killed and imprisoned. This led to defections in the army, and the defectors organized rebellion forces to bring down the Assad government. The war, which is still ongoing, displaced half of Syria’s population, which is 12 million people. Four million were able to flee the country, but 7.6 million are still displaced inside Syria.

People fleeing from dangers, like a civil war, create ideal conditions for human trafficking because traffickers are parasites that thrive on desperation. It makes victims easy to lure into slavery. Imagine if your home was destroyed by a missile, and the only thing you had were the clothes on your back? Not even the government can help you, because they could have been the ones that fired the missile at your home. What choice do you have when someone comes up to you and says that they can help?

Unfortunately, this is a reality for many Syrians who were forced to flee their homes. Once in the custody of the traffickers, the people, especially women and girls, are shipped out to neighboring countries like Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, where they are forced into prostitution, labor, and domestic servitude.

What makes the human trafficking situation so much worse in Syria is that it is also a destination country. During the civil war, the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), was able to seize two areas of the war torn country. Women and children are trafficked into these two areas. The woman and girls are forced into marriages with ISIL fighters, where they become domestic slaves and face abuse and sexual violence. Boys as young as 6-years-old are used in warfare. Sometimes they are sent to school and taught how to use weapons or they are trained to be suicide bombers. Others are used as human shields and executioners; ISIL has been known to get Syrian children to behead Syrian soldiers.

Besides ISIL, other armed groups, like Ahrar Al-Sham, Jabhat Al-Nusra, and Kurdish forces control different areas of the country, and they also traffick in women and children. Needless to say, the situation in Syria is horrifying. Until there is peace, human trafficking in the country will be impossible to stop.

3. Yemen

As we mentioned in the opening, based on the DOJ’s TIP report, the worst offenders of human trafficking are considered Tier 3. However, there is another category called “special cases.” They’re “special” because the countries are so unstable that it’s hard to get any real figures to understand the true scope of the human trafficking problem.

The first of those countries is Yemen, which is an Arab country found at the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. For the past five decades, there have been several civil wars in Yemen. In 2011, the country became more tumultuous after President Ali Abdallah Saleh stepped down after being injured in a rocket attack. The hope was that his resignation would end the civil unrest, but it didn’t work and in March 2015, civil war broke out between forces that are loyal to the government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, which is internationally recognized, and forces that are loyal to the Houthi rebel movement. Added to the mix is that ISIL and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), an Al-Qaeda franchise, both control areas of the country.

Before the civil war, Libya had a terrible track record for human trafficking as a destination and transit country for migrants from the Horn of Africa. It was also known as a sex tourist area for people from the Gulf. Child labor was also fairly common, as there were 1.7 million children under the age of 14 who were subject to forced labor.

Experts believe a lot of those activities are still going on, but they have no official data because of how unstable the country is. What they do know is that, due to the conflict, over 3 million people have been displaced, and much like in the case of Syria, human traffickers prey upon those displaced people.

Children are particularly hard hit in Yemen. Boys are forced to be laborers, work in shops, or beg, while both boys and girls are shipped to Saudi Arabia, where they are forced to work as prostitutes. Boys, sometimes as young as 10, are also used as soldiers by government forces (yes, the same one that is internationally backed), the Houthi rebel forces, and the AQAP.

2. Libya

The second special case is Libya, which is found in northern Africa between Algeria and Egypt. Libya is an oil rich country that was controlled by dictator Muammar Gaddafi before a civil war led to Gaddafi being ousted and killed in 2011. However, even before his downfall, Libya was a magnet for human traffickers because of its position between Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa, and because Gaddafi’s regime profited from trafficking.

However, after Gaddafi’s ousting, no real government has taken its place and different areas of the country are controlled by different armed groups. This includes ISIL and Al-Qaeda, and has led to an explosion of human trafficking. It’s the second biggest industry in Libya, just behind oil.

Many people are detained on their way from Africa to Europe and held for ransom. During detainment, people are held in overcrowded centers where they’re tortured, arbitrarily murdered, and sexually assaulted. The conditions are so horrendous that before women head to Libya, they take contraceptives to avoid getting pregnant by rapists. Sometimes these detention centers are state-sponsored, while others are controlled by militias.

Besides the horrid detention centers, like many other countries on this list, men are forced to become laborers, women and girls are forced into the sex trade, and boys are recruited by militia groups. Unfortunately, until Libya starts to get some stability, their nightmarish human trafficking problem will only get worse.

1. Somalia

If you were hoping that “special cases” were just temporary designations for a country because something horrible and unforeseeable happened that would dramatically increase the amount of human trafficking, like a natural disaster, war, or genocide, and the label would go away once that issue was dealt with… well, the African country of Somalia should demystify any notions of that. In 2016, Somalia was labeled a special case for a 14thconsecutive year.

Somalia is at the tip of the Horn of Africa and is one of the poorest countries in the world. A lot of problems in the country stem back to 1991, when President Mohamed Siad Barre, who assumed power in 1969 after a military coup, was ousted. After that, the country fell into anarchy. Different areas of the country were controlled by warlords who ruled over clans. Since then, there have been attempts at peace, but the war is still ongoing 26 years later. A new government was finally elected in 2012, after 21 years without a central government, and they have been slowly moving towards stability. However, the government doesn’t have much control over the six states that make up the country. Also, Al-Shabaab (a terrorist organization) controls some rural areas of the country.

Of course, since Somalia had the same amount of laws as the world of The Walking Dead for over two decades, human trafficking has been pretty rampant there. It’s hard to verify any of the trafficking problems, but it’s believed that men, women, and children are used for forced labor, domestic servitude, and the sex trade. Things are so bleak in the country that sometimes parents are forced to give their children up to traffickers.

Child soldiers are also quite common, as the Somali government uses them, as do two states. To be fair, the Somali government doesn’t issue birth certificates, so it’s hard to verify ages. However, Al-Shabaab has been known to recruit neglected children and use them as soldiers, assassins, suicide bombers, to plant roadside bombs and other explosives, and finally, as human shields during incursions.


Human Trafficking

WIF Spotlight

THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 64

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THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 64

…Great, I’m going to save a bunch of goat minders…

Photo from Paula Watts

Not three. Not two. One of the original Ÿ€Ð cruisers is left cruising into Terran System territory.

To be exactly correct, zero may soon leave Collapsar Axis as the only Ÿ€Ð creation in the Great Expanse.

Gus is out for an authorized joy ride in his SEx machine. Without the drag of a formal “launch”, he is flaunting that freedom with the usual McKinney flair. The 1st time daddy is learning about all the new built-in bells ‘n whistles, with a get-a-long in his giddy-up.

Ostensibly Roy has dispatched him to NEO 2038DP to test out a fully charged disruptor blast. That 13-meter, oblong, tumbling big-bang-debris is back again and this orbit promises to charge headlong into the Himalayas next week. The UASI {United Association of Sherpas International} is sponsoring this near-Earth object deflection/destruction in conjunction with Dalai Lama 16.

“Now remember Gussy, you want to aim for the thinnest equator of that beggar.” Fletcher Fitch has narrowed the destructive beam of the weapon. The anonymous gift from somebody, arrived with a not-so-narrow ray, meant for a larger purpose. “For the time being, we want to put this thing to good use.”

Great, I’m going to save a bunch of goat minders.”

“Today’s goats are tomorrow’s llamas.”

“I almost forgot Fitch, those used to be your people!” an ancestry dig.

“Talibanistan is a China away from Nepal, did you fail geography?”

“The only geography I am focused on is a 43 foot hunk of space-rock.”

Mount St. Helens before

“That rock is traveling at 45K kilometers/sec. If it hits on a steep enough angle, it could be a mini Mount St. Helens.”

“Now you are testing my history aptitude? Displaced a billion tons of the mountain’s north face… in Washington State… in 1980… Ronald Reagan was president… and disco was king.”

“Enough already McKinney! Just do the task assigned and accept the gratitude of 126 Everest mountain climbers!”


THE NULL SOLUTION

Mount St. Helens after

Episode 64


page 67

Pollution Scorecard – WIF Environment

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Countries Causing

the Most

Pollution

If we humans were to have a collective hobby, it’d probably be ‘polluting the heck outta stuff’. As a species we chuck so much stuff into the atmosphere that there are arguably no pollution-free places left on Earth. Every year car exhausts, coal plants, forest fires and cow farts (seriously) wind up choking our atmosphere and heading the planet towards what we’re gonna call Climate-ageddon.

 But who’s really to blame for this planet-sized catastrophe? Well, it’s hard to tell, exactly. If you measure pollution per capita, then Canada is far and away the biggest emitter. On the other hand, if you measure environmental impact in terms of those killed by pollution, then the tiny nation of Georgia outstrips even China. On the other hand, if you look at it in terms of actual greenhouse house gas emissions, then there is one clear winner… scroll down to see it. But first, the 10 worst polluters in real terms, according to the Global Carbon Atlas.

10. Canada (557 mtCO2 emitted per year)

The second biggest nation on Earth, Canada is essentially an icy wilderness ringed by a tiny human population clinging desperately to its slightly-less frozen parts. It’s a land of virgin forest, desolate mountain ranges, crystal blue lakes, and enough pollution to suffocate a herd of buffalo. Sorry, what?

Yep, despite its squeaky-clean image, Canada is actually kind of dirty. And we don’t mean in the way yo momma is. Like the weed-addicted younger brother of America’s beer-swilling older sibling, Canada is puffing out more clouds of smoke than even the biggest bong-addict. Want the numbers? In 2015, Canada sent 557 mtCO2 (million tonnes of CO2) spewing into the air, from a population of 35.9 million. For comparison, the 11 th biggest polluter, Indonesia, sent 537 mtCO2 into the atmosphere from a population of over a quarter of a billion. And these guys have deadly annual smog that have killed 100,000 people.

Yet Canada may not keep its less-than-coveted 10th ranking for long. In October 2016, the government signed up for a carbon tax plan that could put the country on a path to a cleaner economy. Failing that, Indonesia’s pollution output is increasing like mad, so they’re probably about to overtake North America’s answer to Denmark pretty soon anyway.

9. South Korea (592 mtCO2 emitted per year)

On a peninsula half-occupied by the country of a demented fat man armed with nuclear weapons, South Korea can seem like a breath of fresh air. It’s clean, safe, modern, rich… and very, very dirty. Yeah, that ‘breath of fresh air’ we just mentioned? That was only metaphorical. Visit Seoul in spring, and it can feel like you’re trying to outdo your uncle’s four-pack-a-day habit with a single breath.

Partly, this is China’s fault. The neighboring super-polluter sends its toxic gunk spewing over both Koreas like an annoying kid repeatedly chucking his carcinogenic death-ball into your yard. But the Global Carbon Atlas doesn’t track pollution caused by other countries. Plenty of Seoul’s clean air problems come from the Republic of Korea itself. As NPR has pointed out, the country is powered by 50 coal plants, with more on their way. Then there’s the sheer size of their capital. Seoul has a bigger population than New York or London, and everyone’s driving cars. For comparison, dystopian nightmare LA recorded 7 days of air ranked ‘unhealthy’ in 2015. Seoul recorded 53.

So what’s South Korea doing to tackle this problem? Umm, nothing actually. They’re one of the few countries in smog-choked Asia Pacific that are increasing their carbon output.

8. Saudi Arabia (601 mtCO2 emitted per year)

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) the Saudi capital of Riyadh is one of the most polluted cities on Earth. Even Beijing doesn’t rank so highly in terms of horrifying stuff that’ll get into your lungs and make you feel like you’ve swallowed a cheese grater. While some of this is thanks to stuff beyond human control – namely, the region’s terrifying sandstorms – plenty can be laid squarely at the feet of the ruling classes. Across Saudi Arabia, industrial waste is let into the environment like it’s going out of fashion.

Part of this may be to do with the fact that the Wahhabist kingdom is a petro-state that bungs its 31 million citizens subsidized gas. Until recently, you could fill-up a medium-sized car from empty for about $7. While prices have gone up, that’s still a massive incentive to drive everywhere. Add lax rules with industrial waste and plenty of oil flowing, and it all adds up to a state where ‘environmental concerns’ are ranked by the government as a slightly lower priority than ‘literally anything else’.

Like South Korea, Saudi Arabia is not interested in cutting its current output by much. Although they signed up to a 50% clean energy target a while back, this was recently reduced to only 10%.

7. Iran (648 mtCO2 emitted per year)

A short hop over the Persian Gulf from Riyadh, and you arrive in one of the planet’s other super-polluters. The Islamic Republic of Iran is home to Ahvaz, a city with the unfortunate claim to fame of being literally the most polluted place on Earth. Air quality is so poor in this city of a million that the WHO can’t even measure how dangerous it is. Their official scale calls any place with over 20 micrograms of tiny, health-destroying PM10 particles per cubic meter of air a hazard. Ahvaz has over 372 micrograms of PM10s per cubic meter. You might as well just wire your lungs up to a sewage pipe as breathe this stuff.

But it’s not just Ahvaz. All across Iran, from Tehran to Qom, blankets of smog severely screw with people’s lives. In November 2016, all the capital’s schools had to be shut down due to clouds of killer fumes strangling the city. We aren’t using the word ‘killer’ lightly. Over 400 people died from the pollution in just 23 days.

Aside from a reliance on petrochemical industries, one big reason for Iran’s bad air is the sanctions placed on it following the Islamic Revolution. Fume-belching cars and low-grade fuel were all anyone could afford for decades, contributing to the current situation.

6. Germany (798 mtCO2 emitted per year)

So, we’re probably all pretty surprised to see Germany on this list. The economic powerhouse of the EU, Germany is also supposed to be unfailingly clean and efficient. Which it totally is… provided you just concentrate on visible dirt. Focus on those pesky invisible PM10s, and wandering through Germany’s cities is like stepping into a blizzard of flying death.

 Stuttgart, for example, has been called “Germany’s Beijing”. While you won’t get the same clouds of smog you get in China, you’ll still get pretty unhealthy air. Hazardous particles exceeded the legal limit for 64 days in 2014, more than Seoul and Los Angeles combined. Elsewhere, things are just as bad. 28 areas of Germany, including Berlin, Hamburg and Munich, have levels of air pollution considered dangerous. In 2013 alone, hazardous amounts of nitrogen dioxide were estimated to have killed over 10,600 Germans.

Things have gotten so bad that the EU recently threatened to hit Germany with a hefty fine if it didn’t clean up its act (literally). Not that they can really talk. Taken as a single nation, the EU would be the 3rd biggest polluter on Earth.

5. Japan (1,237 mtCO2 emitted per year)

Leaping upwards a few hundred million tonnes of CO2 per year, orderly Japan emits enough bad gas per annum to make it Asia Pacific’s 2nd biggest polluter. Man, what is it with these supposedly clean countries and terrible air quality?

Actually, we’re being pretty unkind here. Japan may be a high-level emitter today, but it’s a squeaky-clean utopia compared to what came before. In the 1960s, Japan was what China is now: a smog-choked industrial powerhouse that was raking in billions, even as it killed hundreds of thousands of its citizens with horrifically unsafe air. Some pollution-related illnesses, such as Minamata Disease, are still known globally after the Japanese cities where they were first identified. It was only after a massive push to curb emissions in the 1970s that Japan started its slow climb down from smog-filled dystopia to the relatively clean place it is today.

In fact, things would likely be even better, were it not for Japan’s recent reliance on coal fired power stations. 2014 was the country’s second-worst year for emissions on record. For that, you can thank the Fukushima disaster of 2011. The only nuclear disaster in history to come within touching distance of Chernobyl, it resulted in nearly all of Japan’s nuclear plants being shut down and replaced with coal fired ones.

4. Russian Federation (1,617 mtCO2 emitted per year)

If you need an illustration of how polluted Russia is, look no further than the town of Karabash. A small town 100 miles north of Kazakhstan, Karabash is home to only 13,000 people… possibly because no one else is fundamentally insane enough to live there. The river water is orange. The lake is dead and red. A mile-long ridge of black slag runs through the town. The air is so nasty it causes your eyes to sting and your throat to burn. Children have multiple birth defects. In 1996, the government declared it a disaster zone.

Of course, most Russians don’t live in a city even remotely approaching this bleak state. But even in the richer, western cities, things can still get bad. Moscow occasionally records pollution at ‘especially dangerous’ levels, and, in 2010, was hit by a suffocating smog more like something you’d see in Beijing. Still, it’s the Siberian industrial towns that are really to blame for Russia’s impact on climate change.

Interestingly, the Kremlin doesn’t seem too bothered about combatting this. Although Moscow announced a recent carbon reduction plan, some analysts have said it’ll actually increase emissions in the long term.

3. India (2,274 mtCO2 emitted per year)

When you’re emitting as much gunk into the air as Russia and Iran combined, you know you’ve got a problem. At least, you probably should. But India is something else. Home to five of the world’s most polluted cities, its insane population levels are contributing to an ecological bomb that could threaten the entire region. It’s estimated that up to 1.2 million people die in India each year due to air pollution. That’s equivalent to the entire population of Prague dropping dead every 12 months.

Although India has signed up to cut emissions and move towards clean energy, economists are asking whether this will be possible in a practical sense. India’s economy is booming, but it’s still a long, long way behind even China in terms of supplying a decent standard of living for its poorest citizens. Hundreds of millions still lack electricity. Tens of millions are stuck in poverty so dire most of us can’t even imagine it. Central to India’s recent economic gains have been its reliance on cheap, atmosphere-destroying coal. Take that away, and Delhi worries it will be condemning its citizens to an eternity of moneyless misery.

On the other hand, India is also one of the countries that will be most affected by climate change, with its coastal cities being flooded and crops destroyed. Huh. Some choice.

2. USA (5,414 mtCO2 emitted per year)

Sorry to any frat bros out there hoping to start up a chant of “USA! USA!” when America snagged the top spot. The good ol’ US-of-A ain’t even close to being the planet’s number one emitter. That’s not to say they’re a slouch, though. With over 5,000 million tonnes of CO2 being released into the atmosphere each year, the USA is laying into the atmosphere with more gusto than nearly any other country on Earth.

“But hang on,” you may be thinking, “the US doesn’t have any of the post-apocalyptic pollution wastelands you’ve written about for most other entries.” Well, no, maybe not. But that doesn’t mean bad stuff isn’t happening. A 2016 report by the American Lung Association found more than half the country’s population lives at risk of breathing in dangerous air pollution. That’s 166 million Americans at risk of asthma, cancer, heart disease and reproductive problems, all thanks to the air they’re breathing.

To be fair, the US’s air problems don’t all start in Washington. The smog in Western states frequently starts life in China and India, before drifting into the USA and causing misery for millions. Still, America isn’t totally innocent. According to the Global Carbon Atlas, it’s still one of the biggest emitters, however you cut it. Yet even this pollution behemoth has nothing on…

1. China (10,357 mtCO2 emitted per year)

Be honest: you saw this coming, didn’t you? No other country on Earth emits as much smoggy nastiness as China. If the USA, India, Russia and Japan were all to suddenly decide to conglomerate into a single state (we’re not exactly sure why or how), that new super-nation would still only be emitting the same amount of greenhouse gas as China. If polluting was an Olympic sport, China would bring home gold every single time.

You hardly need us to repeat all the stories of China’s toxic air. The deadly smog that suffocate entire regions. The impenetrable haze that makes seeing more than a few meters in front of your face an impossibility in Beijing. The studies that have compared breathing the country’s air to being as bad for you as smoking. It’s all grim stuff that’s pretty well known.

But hey, at least China signed up to the Paris Agreement, right? And Beijing seems pretty down with combating this whole ‘toxic air’ thing. Not quite. Recent data has shown that China’s air crisis is actually getting worse as time goes by. Expect them to stay at #1 for some time yet.


Pollution Scorecard

WIF Environment

THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 50

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THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 50

…When your life expectancy is immaterial, keeping track of time’s passing is left to the astronomers…

Image: REUTERS/Mike Blake

Sand of Time created by Gadion

Ekcello, the Supreme Elder of the High Council on Eridanus, has certainly seen it all. From the unfortunate vulcanization of the original home world and subsequent relocation of his people, to the puzzling loss of an exploratory expedition to a neighboring star, to the unexpected arrival of the McKinneys and now, the mass neutralization of the Gifted.

The passage of time is subjective. One Eridanian cycle is an extrapolation of several factors at work in the Epsilon Eridani binary star cluster. On the planet of the McKinneys, they keep time by its revolutions, whereas here, a cycle is numbered when the dominant of the two stars appears on the Gifted side of the planet. When your life expectancy is immaterial, keeping track of time’s passing is left to the astronomers. It is not a matter of concern.

It has been several cycles since the collective cessation in Eridanian function. Ekcello is aware of the reason for it. He alone is able to overcome the self-defense mechanism that causes their society to shutdown, whenever something unknown appears on the scene.

O is such an occurrence. The shining orb that Skaldic had spied in wonder turns out to be the switch that extinguished the brightness of Eridanian society. Unable to grasp the scope of its being, the whole of them retreat to within, from the mystery without.

Notwithstanding, it is Ekcello’s responsibility to rise above the indefinite and map a course to go forward. O has come and gone. Whether he or anyone else fathoms its intentions is secondary to the resumption of normal activities, so he comes down out of his tower.

**Immediately a psychic connection between father and daughter is reestablished.**

“Ekcello is back among us,” Alerts Cerella to the Earthlings and Nulls, as matter-of-fact-ly as only an Eridanian can. From one mind to another, he has apprised himself of the current situation, at least as far as the Gifted go. By Cerella’s uninterrupted reality, he is taken aback. Has her human husband diluted her Giftedness? She seems to be otherwise unaffected.


THE NULL SOLUTION

Episode 50


page 53

 

 

No Helium, No Fun – WIF Science

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 If We

Ran Out

of Helium

Helium Balloons GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

Helium was first discovered in 1895. It is the second most abundant element in the universe and it makes up 0.0005 percent of the Earth’s atmosphere. It is a colorless, odorless gas that is lighter than air and it is the coldest liquid on Earth.

 While it’s abundant in the universe, on Earth, we might be running out of it. You may not know it, but helium is an important part of modern life and possible shortages have been such a big worry that the United States government has been stockpiling helium since the 1960s.

The problem is that once helium hits the atmosphere, it is pretty much useless, so it needs to be mined or pull from natural gas. This makes helium a finite element on Earth.

So what would a post-helium world look like?

10. No More Party and Parade Balloons

When the American government first announced a possible shortage of helium in April 2012, one of the first things suggested to conserve helium is to stop using it to fill up party balloons and balloons used in parades. This is pretty hard to argue against because it’s a completely frivolous use of the a finite element, even if you can get a good laugh out of listening to people’s voices change after inhaling the gas and parades won’t be as exciting. However, as you’ll see, helium has a lot more important uses.

Unfortunately, eliminating helium filled balloons isn’t going to solve the problem of helium running out, because only a minuscule amount of helium is used to fill up balloons. It would be like a pack a day smoker trying to avoid cancer by taking one last puff every year.

9. Airships

The Goodyear Blimp over Dodger Stadium. (Courtesy photo)

One reason that helium is so useful in many different fields is that it is safe to use because it isn’t flammable or combustible. This makes it great for flying machines like blimps. When blimps are filled with a different lighter-than-air gas, such as hydrogen, which is both combustible and flammable, things can go horribly wrong. A notable example is the Hindenburg disaster in 1937, when the German blimp LZ 129 Hindenburg burst into flames while trying to dock at the Naval Air Station Lakehurst in New Jersey. In total, 36 people were killed. While the cause is debated, the fact that the airship was full of flammable and combustible gas wouldn’t have exactly slowed down the fire.

Granted, blimps aren’t common and most people have probably only seen one at an air show or a football game, but amazingly they are still used by different segments of the United States government. One example is the Tethered Aerostat Radar System(TARS). They are unmanned blimps that are used to detect low and slow flying aircraft and marine craft. It’s currently being used along the American-Mexican border and in a portion of the Caribbean.

Another blimp used by the United States is the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, which is used to track things like cruise missiles or even trucks full of explosives. The project has been in development for over two decades and the Pentagon has spent at least $2.7 billion on the project.

A whole other field of flight that wouldn’t work without helium is balloon space tourism. Currently, there are two companies that plan on sending people into space using helium filled balloons. For $75,000 to $125,000, travelers can get into pressurized pods and the balloons will lift them out of the atmosphere. This is similar to the way Felix Baumgartner got to space to do his famous jump.

However, without helium, attempting to reach space in a balloon would be much more dangerous.

8. A Leak Checking Tool

When the Manhattan Project started in 1942, it was important that when they enriched the uranium needed for a nuclear bomb, there couldn’t be any leaks in the pipes or tanks during the process. Even a tiny leak could have been disastrous.

To ensure everything was sealed, the scientists sprayed the welding seams with helium. If there was a leak, the helium would get into it, because out of all the elements, helium has the second smallest atom (hydrogen is smaller, but it is inert, which means it doesn’t move). So helium can find really small leaks, which helps ensure that the tanks and pipes are sealed.

Besides just having a small atom, helium is also non-toxic, non-condensable, and non-flammable, so spraying it won’t leave a trace behind.

Since the Manhattan Project, helium has gone on to be a common way to detect leaks in more than just tanks and pipes. It is used in such industries as food canning, refrigeration, air conditioning, furnace repair, fire extinguishers, aerosol cans, and car parts, just to name a few. Essentially, any industry that relies on sealed cans use helium to look for leaks. That means without helium, we may have products that be will more dangerous because they are leaking, and/or products will be more expensive because some other method will need to be implemented to detect leaks in all those different fields.

7. Some Welding Will be Impossible

One of the most common applications for helium is welding; about 23 percent of the world’s helium supply is used for welding purposes.

Certain arc welding jobs, which is the process of joining two metals using electricity, depends on helium because it is used to keep the molten metal from oxidizing. One type of metal that couldn’t be welded without helium is aluminum. That means things like shipbuilding and building space shuttles will be much more difficult to do.

However, arc welding isn’t the only type of welding that utilizes helium. CO2 laser welding, which is used in car manufacturing, uses helium as a shielding gas. Shielding gas is used to keep the molten metal away from other elements in the air, like oxygen, water, and nitrogen. Without helium, this could cause an increase in vehicle prices while alternative methods are implemented.

6. Barcodes

One of the most common ways that we interact with helium is at the supermarket. Barcodes scanners use helium-neon lasers, also known as HeNe lasers and they use a gas ratio of 10:1 helium to neon. HeNe lasers are used because they are inexpensive, have a low energy consumption, and they are efficient. Besides just barcode scanning, HeNe lasers are also used in other fields, like microscopy, spectroscopy, optical disc reading, biomedical engineering, metrology, and holography.

Of course, the good news in this example is that, as many of you with smart phones already know, there are other ways to scan codes. It will just be a matter of changing over to the new forms of scanning.

5. Space Travel Would Become More Dangerous

A field that would be incredibly hard hit by a lack of helium is the aerospace industry. NASA reportedly uses about 90 to 100 million cubic feet of helium a year in a whole variety of ways.

One way is that when a rocket burns fuel, the fuel that was in the tank is replaced with helium. This ensures that the tank doesn’t collapse under structural pressure. This also reduces the risk of fire or an explosion in the fuel tank. Helium is also useful during space travel because it keeps hot gases away from ultra-cold liquids.

A third way that NASA uses helium is to clean liquid oxygen out of tanks. Finally, there are other minor uses, like it’s needed for pneumatic control systems and it cools fueling handling systems.

Without helium, space travel will still be possible, but it will be a lot more dangerous than it already is.

4. The Large Hadron Collider will be Useless

It’s believed the Large Hadron Collider at CERN can help unlock many of the universe’s mysteries. It’s the biggest, most powerful machine on earth, and it smashes subatomic particles together almost as fast as the speed of light. And in order for the whole thing to work, liquid helium is needed.

Shooting those particles around the 16.7 mile loop are magnets that steer the particle beams. However, they can quickly overheat and they need to be cooled with liquid helium to -452.47 degrees. Also, the niobium-titanium wires that make up the magnets that shoot the particle beams around the loop are housed in a closed liquid-helium circuit that is -456.25 degrees. Liquid helium also cools the entire system down to -456.34 degrees. 

Without liquid helium, the Large Hadron Collider would literally become, and we’re gonna use a technical term here, a hot mess.

3. MRI Scans Will Be Less Common

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a common tool in the medical field and it is used to non-invasively look inside the human body at things like ligaments, spinal cords, and organs, including the brain. A lot of times, ailments like torn ligaments and tumors are diagnosed using MRI machines. However, without helium it will be impossible to run these machines.

How an MRI works is that a magnet is powered and it creates a magnetic field. This field causes the protons of hydrogen atoms in your body to align and then they are exposed to a beam of radio waves. This creates a signal that is picked up by a receiver, which converts the information to a detailed image. However, maintaining that large magnetic field requires a lot of energy. To get that much power and sustain it without overheating, helium is used and that is done by reducing the resistance in the wires to almost zero. This is accomplished by constantly bathing the wires in liquid helium that is -452.38 degrees. On average, one machine uses 1,700 liters of liquid helium.

While there are MRI magnet cooling systems that do not use helium, the problem is that they are not designed for full body MRI machines, like the ones that are in hospitals.

2. Computer Chips and Fiber Optics

As we’ve mentioned a few times, helium is commonly used for cooling. In fact, nearly a third of it is used for cryogenics. One notable feat is that it can be cooled to temperatures near absolute zero, which is -459.67 degrees. This makes it the coldest liquid on Earth.

Another field where cold helium is vital in computers and telecommunications. One of the main uses is with fiber optics, which are cables that are used to connect the internet and telecommunications. Fiber optics can transfer more data over longer distances than wire cables. However, they are much more fragile than wire cables and they need to be housed an in all-helium environment or it can cause air bubbles, which would make them useless.

Another way helium is used when it comes to computers is that computer chips are made using superconductors. Superconductors are basically magnets that are supercharged and don’t overheat thanks to liquid helium.

Without helium, computer chips will be incredibly hard to make. This is going to have big ripple effects on everything that uses computer chips. This includes cars, smart phones, appliances, and of course computers.

1. Scientific Progress Will Be Slowed

The Large Hadron Collider is the biggest experiment that uses helium, but it is also necessary for use in all different types of experiments and machines that are used in universities and laboratories around the world. The reason it’s used is because it’s safe because it isn’t flammable or combustible, which is great for researchers, especially students who are still learning.

So other elements, much more dangerous ones, will have to be used to cool the machines. This will clearly slow down progress and make experiments and machines more dangerous. Even if there was a way to run the machines, that means they will have to be retrofitted or purchased new, which isn’t cheap. For example, Western Michigan University’s chemistry department has a $250,000 machine that needs helium and they have a tank of helium delivered monthly. That is just one department at one university.

Without helium, all fields of scientific study that rely on machines that use helium will be slowed down this includes physics, medical science, chemistry, and computer science, just to name a few. In turn, scientific study will be severely handicapped.


No Helium, No Fun

WIF Science

Strange Lake Guide Handbook – WIF 10 Cent Travel

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Strange Lakes

From Around

the World

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Mallards Lake by Doug Kreuger

10. Gafsa Lake, Tunisia

Pretty early on in life, most of us learn that things don’t just appear from nowhere. Apparently, Gafsa Lake in Tunisia never got the memo. One day in 2014, a group of Tunisian shepherds were making their way to a familiar patch of land. Imagine their surprise when they got there and found a giant freaking lake where their meadow used to be. A lake that just happened to be the most-inviting shade of azure.

 Gafsa is an area that has seen lots of mining in its past, much of it unregulated. Scientists think that some rupture in the rock above the water table resulted in the sudden appearance of Lake Gafsa, as below-ground water was sucked up onto the surface. Whatever the cause, it happened quickly. One local resident said he’d passed the remote area only three weeks beforehand and it had been dry as a bone.

Although Gafsa Lake started out a cool, inviting blue, it quickly became full of algae, and possibly toxic to humans. Not that that stopped locals from bathing in it. In the heat of Tunisia, even a lake full of green sludge is better than no lake at all.

9. Roopkund Lake, India

There are certain things you never want to find in any body of water. Piranhas is one. The decaying remains of hundreds of humans who’ve died a terrifying death is another. Yet that’s exactly what British troops found in Roopkund Lake in the winter of 1942.

It being wartime and all, the Brits naturally assumed that they were at the scene of a Japanese massacre. The truth was far, far stranger. When the bones were examined, it turned out that they all dated to around 850 AD. On top of that, they’d all been killed in a similar way: with a blow to the head that cracked their skulls. The injury matched no known weapon. So what could have caused 200 people to die in this way? The eventual answer scientists came up with was hailstones. Really, really big hailstones.

 There’s an old song from the region around Roopkund, about a mountain goddess who smote a bunch of travelers with a titanic hailstorm. It’s now thought this is a folk memory of a real event, and a freak hailstorm that dropped baseball-sized chunks of solid ice killed all 200 pilgrims in the valley when they couldn’t reach shelter. Over time, the valley filled with water, eventually becoming the skeleton-haunted Roopkund Lake.

8. Lake Nyos, Cameroon

Picture the scene. You arrive home from a weekend away, to find your neighborhood full of corpses. Bodies lie in the streets, an expression of fright etched on their dead faces. You wonder what could have killed all these people. Was it a terrorist attack? A virus? The answer could be even weirder. They could’ve been killed by a nearby lake.

In 1986, this is exactly what happened in Cameroon. As locals lay in bed, Lake Nyos quietly released a gigantic bubble of CO2, like the Earth was exhaling. The effect was immediate and horrific. A cloud of deadly gas settled over the region, suffocating anyone in its path. Up to 25 kilometers away, people and animals suddenly fell to the ground, coughing and gasping for air. Flames extinguished. Children died in seconds. Within minutes, 1,746 people and 3,500 animals had died. Entire villages had been wiped out. It remains one of the world’s weirdest natural disasters.

That it happened at all is down to sheer bad luck. Lake Nyos was formed from a CO2 rich volcanic crater. While similar crater lakes usually released small doses of CO2 over a long period of time, Nyos was so freakishly still that the gas became trapped. It wasn’t until something – a landslide, a heavy rainstorm on one side of the lake – agitated the water that its deadly payload was released, ending nearly two thousand lives.

 7. Lake Peigneur, Louisiana

Unlike Lake Nyos, we know for certain what caused the freakish Lake Peigneur disaster. Texaco were drilling for oil when they accidentally punctured the roof of a mineshaft below the lake. Not that knowing the cause makes what happened next any less bizarre or terrifying.

The collapse of the mineshaft created a whirlpool. A whirlpool that became a powerful vortex. A vortex that grew and grew until it became the biggest, scariest sinkhole in human history.

The entire lake was sucked down into a swirling mess of mud and terror. The drilling platform was pulled in. 11 barges on the lake at the time went under. Landslides started, bringing surrounding forest and countryside tumbling down into the sinkhole. The canal flowing out the lake actually reversed, pulling the Gulf of Mexico up into the former-lake. Imagine pulling the plug out your bathtub and having not only your entire house, but half your neighborhood go swirling down the drain. That was Lake Peigneur.

Incredibly, this muddy vortex of horror didn’t kill a single human being. 50-odd people all managed separate, miraculous escapes from what should have been certain death.

6. Baotou Toxic Lake, Inner Mongolia

The lake at Baotou, China, is so new that it doesn’t have a real name. Instead, reports simply refer to it as the ‘Baotou toxic lake’. That the word ‘toxic’ is in its title should be telling enough. Baotou is a manmade lake, created by the mining and refining processes that give us the minerals to power our shiny iPhones. As such, it is one of the most-polluted lakes anywhere on Earth.

Coming face-to-face with it is like stepping into a dystopian nightmare. The surface is almost entirely black, a giant swathe of sludge that’s unremittingly bleak. Nothing can grow here. The shores are all dyed as black as the lake itself. The result is a nightmarish, monochrome world. A place that’s as surreal to set eyes on as it is horrifying.

Perhaps the strangest part of the Baotou Lake is why it exists. Most modern technologies use specific minerals in their running, such as cerium, which gives us touchscreens on our phones. Many of these minerals are also used in ‘green’ technologies, like wind turbines. Minerals for such technologies are one of Baotou city’s biggest exports. That’s right: Perhaps the most-polluted lake on Earth was created thanks to our love of eco-friendly tech.

5. Lake Natron, Tanzania

It sounds like something out of a fairy tale, or maybe some haunting Disney story. A lake that magically turns anything that touches its surface into a frozen statue. Yet Lake Natron in Tanzania is far from being fictional. Hidden deep in east Africa, it is surrounded by the creepy stone statues of animals that strayed too close to its deadly waters.

Of course, Lake Natron isn’t magical, or cursed, or anything like that. Instead, its waters are filled with natron, a naturally-occurring compound that contains a lot of sodium carbonate, and a bit of sodium bicarbonate. They’re also dangerously hot and have an alkalinity of around pH 10. The result is that anything that tries to drink from the lake usually dies, quickly, and gets immersed in the waters. The natron then does its thing, calcifying the bodies and essentially turning them into stone.

For visitors, it represents a spectacularly horrible sight. All around the lake are dead statues, often of birds that died when attempting to land on the water’s surface. As a result, visiting is like walking through the most-gruesome department store in history, one where all the mannequins used to be living things.

4. Kawah Ijen Crater Lake Java, Indonesia

At first sight, Kawah Ijen Crater Lake in Indonesia looks almost inviting; the kind of lake you’d like to take home to meet your folks. But this sky-blue lake at the top of a volcano has a fiery underbelly… literally. The whole thing is so full of sulphur that it periodically bursts into neon-blue flames that are both hypnotic to look at, and so deadly that even getting close can cause you to keel over and die from inhaled fumes.

 While the shores of the lake burn and rage, the lake itself is basically one great big bath full of hydrochloric acid. Remember the chemical vat Michael Keaton’s Batman knocked Jack Nicholson’s Joker into, like, three Bat-decades ago? Well, that’s Kawah Ijen Crater Lake. The thing’s got a pH of 0, and could melt anything you chuck in it as quickly as a pool of car battery acid. Speaking of acid, the air around the lake is so full of the stuff that its almost essential to wear a gasmask while visiting. Unless you want your lungs to resemble those of a lifelong, six pack-a-day smoker, that is.

The craziest part of this weirdo lake? Some people actually choose to work here, dodging streams of flickering blue fire to mine chunks of Sulphur from the volcano itself.

3. Pitch Lake, Trinidad

Pitch Lake may have the most-apt name of any lake on Earth. It is a lake made entirely from pitch asphalt, the same stuff we use to surface roads and so-on. You better believe the result is weird. Pitch Lake is so thick in places that you can walk across it… and so dangerously-thin in others that you can slip through its surface, vanishing forever into the murky depths below.

 The lake’s surface ranges in texture from being as thick and solid as rock, to as springy as an eraser, to as squidgy and terrifying as quicksand. Trees, boulders and other bits and pieces that fall into its embrace often get stuck to the surface, where the pitch hardens around them, effectively turning them into stone. This means Pitch Lake is a lake that you walk across while surrounded with the statues of dead trees and other lifeforms. We’re betting that’s not a sentence you hear very often.

Word to the wise if you’re planning a visit: While some tourists brave the lake’s clearer waters for a swim, this is about as dangerous as the idea of swimming in pitch sounds. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

2. Lost Lake, Oregon

As we saw with Gafsa Lake, it is possible to have a lake just spontaneously appear from nowhere. But what about one that disappears? Lost Lake in Oregon is such a lake. Every summer, the nine-foot deep, 85-acre lake quietly vanishes. Every fall, it reappears again, as if nothing ever happened.

We don’t mean ‘most of it dries up’ or anything. It utterly vanishes. In its place, a pretty little meadow appears that has no trace of water in it at all. The reason this happens: Lava tubes.

Lava tubes are… well, tubes in rock that are left over from ancient lava flows. They can be less than a foot across, or big enough to walk into. There are two small ones in Lost Lake, constantly draining water off from the surface, ensuring the lake doesn’t flood in winter. In summer, however, the streams that feed Lost Lake dry up. As a result, the lava tubes completely drain the lake dry, until the fall rains come and the two little tubes can no longer keep up with all the water flowing in, and the lake reappears.

 1. Yellowstone Lake, USA

Literally everybody reading this has heard of Yellowstone Lake. Famously vast, calm, and beautiful, it’s about as far from a ‘strange’ lake as you’re likely to get. At least, it is on the surface. Go diving in its placid depths, and you might just notice an odd dome growing on the bottom. This is the current topmost point of what’s been termed the Yellowstone Supervolcano. One day it’s gonna burst. When it does, you can say goodbye to life as we know it.

Think of the lake as your teenage face, and the dome as a gross little spot that’s just starting to swell under the skin. Over time, that spot is gonna swell up and up and up, until it’s ripe and ready to pop. Only it won’t be a little jet of pus that comes out. Instead, the bottom of Yellowstone Lake leads into a gigantic magma chamber that contains enough lava to fill the Grand Canyon more than 11 times over.

If it one day erupted, it would be a catastrophe. Although a relatively-small number would die for such a gigantic blast (estimated in the region of 90,000), the Midwest would be buried under a layer of ash, and massive crop failures would plague the US for the next decade or so. If you thought Lake Nyos up there was deadly, just wait till Yellowstone Lake blows.


Strange Lake Guide Handbook

WIF 10 Cent Travel

Pope City / Vatican Secrets – WIF Confidential

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Dark Secrets

About the Vatican

Walled off in the city of Rome, Vatican City is an independent city-state that is just one-eighth the size of Central Park in New York City, and is the home of the Pope. However, the Vatican can also refer to the Holy See, which is the governing body of the Catholic church. These are the five darkest facts about the Vatican.

6. Pop(e) Secret

I apologize for this hint of irreverence (my Readers, Religious leaders or Theater feeders). I actually like popcorn and love God.

5. Exorcisms

With advances in the fields of psychology, neuroscience, and biology, it’s hard to believe that exorcisms are still performed by the Catholic Church. However, according to former exorcist Gabriele Amorth, who apparently performed 70,000 exorcisms in his office in the Vatican, there are around 300 exorcists worldwide and four working in Rome.

Besides priests performing exorcisms, at least two modern-day Popes have performed exorcisms in the Vatican.

The first one was performed by Pope John Paul II in March 1982, on a young woman named Francesca Fabrizi from the Umbria region of Italy. During the exorcism, she writhed on the ground and cried out. The Pope said he would say mass for her the next day, which apparently cured her. She went on to live a normal life, getting married and having kids.

Pope John Paul’s second exorcism was in September 2000, when a woman with a history of possession was sitting in the front row of the Pope’s weekly audience. She flew into a rage and needed to be restrained, but was too strong and fought off the security. When she was finally restrained, Pope John Paul talked with her, hugged her, and then performed an exorcism. However, it didn’t work and Father Amorth had to do a follow up exorcism session that lasted two hours the next day.

Then in May 2009, Benedict XVI performed an exorcism on two men who were howling during the weekly audience. Apparently, when Pope Benedict blessed the men, they flew back nine feet and were cured.

4. Retiring Popes

For most Popes, it’s a job they have until they die. It’s part of Catholic Dogma; it would be like a parent giving up his or her kids. However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t allowed to. It’s just very rare that they resign or retire. In fact, over the past 1,000 years there have been 123 Popes and out of all of them, only five have abdicated.

The first one to resign was Benedict IX, who was one of the youngest Popes, and was probably about 20 when he first sported that amazing hat. He was also the only person to have served multiple terms as Pope. He was forced out of the Papacy in 1036, but returned just months later and became Pope again. However, he had a problem – he wanted to get married. So he ended up selling the Papacy to the man who became his successor, Pope Gregory VI, in May 1045. However, Benedict soon regretted doing that because it turned out the woman he wanted to marry wasn’t interested in marrying him. Oops. He was able to reclaim the title of Pope in November 1047, but he only lasted a year before he was excommunicated.

The second Pope to resign was the man who bought the Papacy, Pope Gregory VI, who stepped down at the urging of the Bishops. He denied he did anything wrong, but resigned nevertheless in 1046.

The next Pope to resign was Pope Celestine V in 1294. He decreed that if the Pope wanted to resign, then he should be allowed to do so. He did that very thing a week later, after five months of being Pope. After retiring, he lived like a hermit for two years. Unfortunately, his predecessor was worried that Celestine might try to reclaim the Papacy or oppose him, so he had him imprisoned, and he died after 10 months.

The next one was Pope Gregory XII in 1415. At the time, due to a schism in the Catholic Church, which started in 1378, there were two Popes: one in Rome, and one in Avignon. Gregory chose to step down so that the Pope in Avignon could be excommunicated and the Catholic Church could get a fresh start.

The final Pope to resign was Pope Benedict XVI in 2013; he did it citing health reasons. However, there is a conspiracy theory that he was forced out, or undermined so much that he was forced to resign. Proponents of this theory point out that he retired after the “Vatileaks” scandal, which was the leaking of documents that showed Pope Benedict’s struggle to be more transparent with the public about things like priests and sexual abuse, but interior politics thwarted his plans. The Vatileaks scandal showed that Benedict was an ineffectual manager and he chose to retire.

3. The Banco Ambrosiano Scandal

The Vatican bank is officially known as the Institute for Religious Works, and from 1971 to 1989, the President of the bank was Archbishop Paul Marcinkus from Cicero, Illinois. Before that, the 6-foot-4 former rugby player worked as a bodyguard for Pope Paul VI. However, he’d be remembered for a scandal that broke in 1982.

The scandal started with the collapse of Banco Ambrosiano, which was one of the biggest private banks in Italy, with $1.4 billion in debt. Shortly afterwards, Roberto Calvi (pictured above), who was the general manager of the bank and friend of Marcinkus, was found dead, hanging from a bridge in London, England. Originally it was considered a suicide, but it was later ruled a homicide. Five people were tried in connection to his murder, but they were all acquitted.

That brings us to Marcinkus and the Vatican bank. It turns out that the main shareholder in the bank was the Vatican, and they had funneled a billion dollars from the bank into 10 shell companies. Other rumors that surrounded the scandal was that other shareholders with the bank were involved in organized crime and some were even members of a secret Masonic lodge.

When Italian investigators tried to interview Marcinkus about the scandal, he was very uncooperative. He refused to leave the Vatican, and even refused to answer questions, citing diplomatic immunity. Marcinkus ended up being indicted, but he never went to trial because the charges against him were dismissed. He continued to head the Vatican bank for seven more years.

The scandal has even led to some conspiracy theories. The most famous one was used in the plot of Godfather Part III, and it’s that Pope John Paul I was assassinated by the Mafia in August 1978. John Paul I was pope for only 33 days in 1978 before he was found dead sitting up in bed. The official cause of death was a heart attack, but no autopsy was performed. According to the conspiracy theory, he was assassinated because he wanted to put end the relationship between the church and private bank.

2. The Apostolic Penitentiary

Catholic priests have some pretty awesome powers when it comes to granting absolution for committing crimes. This includes forgiving people for things like murder, or mass murders and even genocide. That’s right: if you’re Catholic and you chop up the family next door and eat them, you could go to a priest, and ask for forgiveness and he could forgive you. Not only that, but the priest could never tell the police.

Yet, there are five sins that are so grave that priests can’t absolve them. Instead, inside the Vatican, they have a secret tribunal called The Apostolic Penitentiary, which looks at cases involving these sins.

The tribunal was established by Pope Alexander III in 1179 and the type of cases that they examine has been a secret for much of its history. However, in 2009, the Catholic Church made a huge step towards transparency and revealed the nature of these sins.

Two of them can be committed by anyone. The first is desecrating the Eucharist, because Catholics believe that it is the actual body and blood of Christ. The second is attempting to kill the Pope.

The other three sins can only be committed by a priest, or men trying to become priests. One is if a priest reveals a sin (and the person who committed the sin) that they hear in confession. Second, they can’t have sex with someone and then offer confession to their sexual partner. Third, a man who wants to be a priest or a deacon can’t directly be involved with an abortion, such as paying for the procedure.

1. The Vatican Bank and Nazi Gold

According to a 1946 document from the Treasury Department, the Vatican may have both held and smuggled Nazi gold during World War II, despite being a neutral entity.

The document, which was brought to the attention of the public in 1997, said the Vatican bank held 200 million francs, which is about $254 million in 2016, for the Nazis. According to a rumor cited in the document, that money was later funneled through something called the “Vatican pipeline” to Argentina and Spain, where it was given to Nazis who fled prosecution for war crimes.

The Vatican bank also apparently funneled money that was stolen from Serbs and Jews by the Utashe, who were a Nazi puppet regime in Croatia. At the end of the war, the Utashe started plundering from the victims of their ethnic cleansing campaigns and then smuggled 350 million Swiss francs, which is worth about $440 million, out of Yugoslavia through the Vatican. The money was then used to support the murderous Ustashe organization while they were in exile.

In 2000, a lawsuit was brought against the Vatican over this issue, but the suit ultimately failed.


Pope City / Vatican Secrets

WIF Confidential

THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 13

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THE NULL SOLUTION = Episode 13

…Speaking of supposed-to-be’s {what-ifs and cold days in hell}, President Harper Lea Bassett is closing in on the would-be festivities…

“Take it easy, Fletch. While I was poking around in there last night, I discovered that SEx can achieve escape velocity on its own. The reinforced hull, along with the molecular stabilizer, will allow Gus to take that baby out solo.”

The youngest McKinney {that Earth knows about} is suiting up as he speaks.

“Somebody please inform our President about the change in plans, after the fact.”

“But…”

“I know what you’re thinking. We are going to show file footage of the boys inside SEx. Nobody will know the difference.”

Related image“But what about taking off without a piggyback? Somebody is going to notice.”

“Gus is going to be past the moon before anyone knows he’s off the pad. We’re all supposed to be on the receiving stand, isn’t that correct.”

Speaking of supposed-to-be’s, what-ifs and cold days in hell, President Bassett is closing in on the would-be festivities. Few things are more important to a figurehead than advertised appearances. There was a “leak” a week back {not weak back} about her welcoming the heroes of hyperspace in person. She has long since laid claim to bringing SOL technology to the light of day, when in fact it is only her pen and the insistence of her political backers that are truly responsible.

“Where are our men-of-the-hour?” is the most asked question.

“This guy Shriver is being a leaky O-ring,” is how Francine Bouchette-Crippen describes him, for everyone in the inner circle with an earbud. She is not as cranky as her husband, but at their station in life, they don’t suffer fools lightly.

All Prez Roy does is point to the unique contrail left behind by the Stellar Explorer. He makes up a non-treasonable explanation, “There they go, Madame President. We wanted to give you a live demonstration. How will that play in D.C.?”

To support his elaborate smokescreen, he summons a video of Gus and Deke waving to the camera, curiously resembling the one from their original roundtrip to the fringe of the solar system – and back – mostly {before Deke vanished}. The screen behind the reviewing stand is innocently playing that recording and another showing long-range footage, which elicits rousing applause from all the space-geeks and political freaks who would not know the difference between an asteroid and a comet.


THE NULL SOLUTION

Episode 13


page 19

Those Wacky Pharaohs – WIF Confidential

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Crazy Things

Done by

Egyptian Pharaohs

Like many rulers from the time before we had running water and microwaves, the pharaohs of Egypt were considered to be only rivaled in power by the gods their people worshiped. Considering the ancient Egyptians worshiped a god with crocodile for a head, they must have thought their pharaohs were pretty boss. So boss in fact that they let them get away with some pretty ridiculous things during their time in power, for example let’s talk about that time…

 10. Pharaoh Psamtik III Let His Army be Defeated… to Save Some Cats

As you may recall from The Mummy movies, cats were kind of a big deal in ancient Egypt. This is mostly due to the animal being closely linked with the cat-headed goddess of warfare and balls of twine, Bastet. In addition, cats were revered for the role they played in protecting food stores and homes from disease by killing pests likes snakes and rats. As a result, it was considered a crime in ancient Egypt to harm or, through inaction, allow a cat to come to harm. Basically, the pharaohs coined the three laws of robotics millennia before Asimov, and used them to protect the thing that poops under your stairs.

Perhaps the greatest example of a pharaoh placing the well-being of cats above that of his own people was when pharaoh Psamtik III literally told his army not to fight because an enemy commander had released hundreds of cats onto the battlefield. That commander was Persian king Cambyses II who, knowing of the Egyptians love of cats, had his men collect as many as they could prior to the battle and ordered them to simply walk up to the front gate of Pelusium (a major Egyptian stronghold) holding them, along with releasing hundreds more into the enemy ranks as they advanced.

The Egyptians, under threat of death from their pharaoh, had no choice but to let Cambyses’ men walk straight into the city unchecked. Cambyses’ men then methodically slaughtered anyone who dared challenge them, using shields with cats drawn on them, because oh yeah, even striking an image of a cat in ancient Egypt was enough to get in trouble.

The end result was a total victory for Cambyses, who celebrated in a dignified, noble fashion. Just kidding. He ordered the defeated Egyptian army to march past him as he threw cats at them while screaming insults at their god. Luckily for Psamtik, this is by no means the most embarrassing thing to happen to a pharaoh, with that honor likely belonging to…

9. Pharaoh Menes, the Legendary Pharaoh Who Was Killed by an Angry Hippo

Pharaoh Menes (sometimes written as Mena, or sometimes simply Min) was reportedly Egypt’s first pharaoh, and his journey to unify all of Egypt under a single ruler is the stuff of legend. Not because it was awesome, but because we know virtually nothing about Menes’ life or rule. He’s just from that long ago.

In fact, historians are only really confident about a few key details from Menes’ life: That he ruled Egypt during a time of relative peace, that he was well-respected by his people, and that he was stomped to death by a hippo after 62 years on the throne. Exactly how Menes met his end at the hands of a hippo isn’t known, because apparently that’s not a detail anyone back then felt was all that interesting to note. All we know for sure is that somehow the first Egyptian pharaoh was mysteriously ambushed while surrounded by guards, by a hippo. Speaking of dead pharaohs, did you know…

8. Pharaoh Rameses Got a Passport, Long After He Was Dead

Ramses II is considered to have been one of ancient Egypt’s greatest rulers, judging by just how many monuments were built in his name and the fact he was alternatively known as Ramses the Great by his subjects. After a 96-year long career as a pharaoh, Ramses was probably looking forward to spending some quality time alone as a corpse in a pimpin’ gold coffin, but the museums of the world had other ideas.

Like many great pharaohs, Ramses’ corpse was exhumed and put on display in a museum, his near-century-long legacy as a man thought of as no less than a god summed up by a single placard in a language his ancient mind couldn’t comprehend. In 1974, after years on display, Ramses’ corpse was showing its age and it was agreed that it should be sent to a Paris laboratory to be prettied up.

Not wanting the memory of one of the greatest pharaoh to be sullied by listing him as luggage, the Egyptian government granted Ramses an official Egyptian passport for his journey. Along with listing his name and age (some 3,000+ years at the time he flew), the passport also listed Ramses occupation as “King” with a small disclaimer adding that he was dead, as if the fact he was 3,000 years old didn’t already give that away.

7. Pharaoh Sesostris and His Big Ol’ Vagina Statues

Pharaoh Sesostris is a Pharaoh who may or may not have existed, with modern historians believing that he may actually be a composite figure with the stories told about him being gleaned from the lives of several pharaohs from across Egypt’s history. These pharaohs include the aforementioned Ramses the Great and Seti the First. As a result, we don’t know exactly who the following story is actually attributed to, but we had to share it, because… well, you’ll see.

The story goes that Sesostris was an incredibly confident military leader who hungered for battle, openly mocking enemies he felt fought poorly and applauding those he felt fought with honor. To this end the pharaoh is said to have taken to erecting statues in the middle of conquered cities he felt didn’t put up much of a fight with a giant vagina carved into it. A symbolic insult suggesting that the conquered city’s army fought like women. Again, we have no idea about the veracity of this tale since it’s main source is the notoriously unreliable scholar of history, Herodotus, but put yourself in our shoes and tell us you wouldn’t at least mention a pharaoh with a penchant for erecting giant vagina statues as an insult?

6. Pharaoh Akhenaten Got Rid of Religion, So Egypt Got Rid of Him

Akhenaten is a Pharaoh notable for two things: attempting to introduce monotheism to ancient Egypt, and the resulting backlash that saw him nearly erased from all of history.

 Basically, Akhenaten attempted to abandon the traditional Egyptian religious beliefs of believing in multiple awesome gods, and instead tried to convince his people to believe in and worship a single, super god called Aten. Perhaps because Aten was a lame disk of light with dozens of arms instead of a cool crocodile man or dog-headed grim reaper, the people of Egypt largely rejected this new religion and mere days after Akhenaten died, every reference to Aten – and by extension Akhenaten (who styled himself as Aten’s representative on Earth like some sort of sun-pope) – was scrubbed from Egypt.

Everything from the vast temples the pharaoh built to simple cooking pots bearing an image of Aten were destroyed, and Akhenaten himself was branded a traitor, with every mention of his rule being erased from every historical record. So complete was this process that his modern scholars had no idea Akhenaten had even existed until the late 19th century, when some of the items that survived the purge of his new religion were discovered.

5. Many Pharaohs Ceremonially Masturbated Into the Nile

Whacking it (the proper scientific term) played a surprisingly big part in ancient Egyptian culture, with the society’s creation story literally involving one of their many gods masturbating into the cosmos to create life as we know it. As pharaohs were seen as being basically a single step below the various deities of ancient Egypt, it was similarly customary for pharaohs to polish their bone and shoot some baby gravy directly into the Nile every now and again.

The idea behind this bizarre practice was that, like the gods before them, the pharaoh was infusing the river with his holy seed, encouraging life to spring forth from its waters in the form of a good harvest. Of course, not every pharaoh did this, because not every pharaoh had a tallywacker, which didn’t stop them pretending they did. Just ask…

4. Pharaoh Hatshepsut and Her Big Fake Beard

While the image of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh is undeniably that of a rippling, golden skinned man with a crooked staff, a silly hat, and a stupid beard, Egypt did have its fair share of vagina-owning pharaohs. Among them was Hatshepsut, one of Egypt’s most celebrated rulers and a woman credited with one of the longest and most successful reigns of any ruler from history, female or otherwise. Along with establishing major trade routes that helped fill Egyptian coffers full of gold and various spices, Hapshetsut is also credited with inventing that killer eyeliner all the pharaohs wore.

History notes that Hatshepsut’s gender was seldom an issue for her subjects and many statues were built in her honor sporting her delicate features, and oddly enough, a big beard. You see, in ancient Egypt that stupid little beard thing was seen as a symbol of “pharaonic power” and all pharaohs, male and female, were expected to have one during special ceremonies. The problem for Hatshepsut, other female pharaohs, and even male pharaohs who couldn’t grow a half decent beard, is that this obviously wasn’t possible. As such, elaborate fake beards were constructed to be used by the pharaohs who, for whatever reason, didn’t like the idea of actually growing and maintaining a real one.

Hatshepsut went a step further than this, though, and she’s recorded to have ordered that all statues of her were to capture her likeness while also simultaneously depicting her as a man to silence any naysayers who believed she couldn’t rule because of her gender. As a result of this, Hapshetsut’s statues are a curiosity among historians, as they clearly depict her with female facial features, but a buff man’s body and a beard.

3. Pharaoh Cleopatra Once Had Herself Delivered Naked in a Carpet

Cleopatra, like Hapshetsut, (ge·sund·heit) was one of Egypt’s celebrated female rulers. However, unlike Hapshetsut, who went out of her way to appear as a man, Cleopatra was famous for using her womanly wiles to get her own way. This is no better summed up than by the story of how she got Julius Caesar into bed.

The story goes that Cleopatra, who was renowned across the ancient world for being both beautiful and exceptionally cunning, sought to secure Caesar’s assistance in bolstering her political power during a diplomatic visit by the Roman ruler. Seeing as, at the time they met, Caesar was a 52 year old man and she was a nubile 20 year old, Cleopatra realized the best way to do this would probably be with her vagina.

To absolutely ensure that Caesar would have no chance to spurn her advances, she stripped completely naked and had several slaves roll her up in a giant carpet (some sources say bed sheets), which she then asked to be delivered to Caesar as a “gift”. The slaves knocked on Caesar’s door, told him they had a present for him, then unrolled the fabric towards the foot of his bed, revealing a naked Cleopatra, who then invited him to have some sex.

The resulting love affair between Caesar and Cleopatra formed one of the ancient world’s most influential power couples, and it all started with a sex-move straight out of Barney Stinson’s playbook.

2. Pharaoh Pepi II and his Honey Covered Slaves

Pharaoh Pepi II was a fairly unremarkable pharaoh, all things considered. Sure, he ruled Egypt and probably did the five knuckle shuffle into the Nile a few times, but he was mostly content during his rule to gorge himself on food and chill with Ra by bathing shirtless beneath the burning Egyptian sun. Pepi, however, had a particular dislike of flies, in particular when he was trying to eat, which was an issue because Pepi was always stuffing his face.

To counter this problem King Pepi had a designated slave in his sizeable entourage covered in honey every day. This slave would invariably attract the flies, who’d become stuck to the honey and thus be unable to bother Pepi while he ate. This worked so well that Pepi eventually had a honey covered slave stand in every room of his palace so that he’d never be bothered by flies again, proving that even the most minor annoyances can be totally avoided, provided you’re rich and powerful enough, and also have an army of slaves willing to be dipped in honey.

1. Pharaoh Tutankhamun had a Dagger From Space

We’re not going to front by pretending anyone reading this far down on a list of ancient Egyptian pharaohs doesn’t have some sort of an idea about who Tutankhamun is, so we’re just going to get right to it and say he had a knife FROM SPACE.

Specifically, Tutankhamun had a small dagger experts believe was forged from the iron heart of a meteorite. Found in the pharaoh’s tomb in the 1920s, the dagger, despite being thousands of years old, is still sharp enough today that the TSA wouldn’t let you board a plane with it.

 But here’s the thing: nobody is really sure where the dagger came from, because historical evidence suggests that the ancient Egyptians weren’t suitably advanced enough to smelt iron, let alone forge a weapon using space metal. This has led historians to presume that the dagger was a gift from a foreign nation who did possess that technology. While historians are pretty confident that the foreign nation wasn’t the Martians, they haven’t explicitly ruled it out either, so we guess those Ancient Aliens guys might have had a point.

Those Wacky Pharaohs

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 butthole. 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 disagrees 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