Pages

Saturday, 21 October 2017

10 TERRIFYING FACTS ABOUT ORGAN TRAFFICKING

wps39E9.tmp
10 Terrifying Facts About Organ Trafficking
By Simon Griffin,
Listverse, 19 October 2017.

We’ve all heard stories of people who go out on a date in a strange city, only to wake up in a bathtub full of ice with a big scar across their body, at which point they quickly realize that their kidney has been stolen. While stories like these have undoubtedly happened, they come nowhere near to capturing the true horror of organ trafficking.

Illegal organ transplantation is more ubiquitous, more lucrative, and more predatory than you might think. Traffickers are rarely brought to justice. On top of all that, this illegal trade can be the only option for people who would otherwise die before receiving an organ legally.

10. Up To Ten Percent Of Organ Transplants Are Performed Illegally

wps642.tmp

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over 100,000 organ transplants are performed across the world every year. But due to a mix of government policies, personal beliefs about organ donation, and our ability to safely harvest organs quickly, we would need over ten times as many donations to meet global needs.

Of course, whenever supply doesn’t meet demand, people turn to illegal means. Since there is such a disparity between the amount of organs required and the amount available, the WHO estimates that five to ten percent of all organ transplants performed worldwide are illegal. Of these, 75 percent are kidneys, the most sought-after organ.

9. Net Worth

wps87A3.tmp

Like in all black markets, people are willing to pay a higher price for transplants that are done illegally. Despite the increased risk involved with illicit transplants, most people who are “in the market” for new organs are desperate and faced with the very real prospect of dying before moving to the top of the donor list. This enables the sellers to coerce exorbitant amounts of money from patients, which delivers the global black market for organ transplantation a profit of between $600 million and $1.2 billion a year.

The people from whom these organs are bought tend to be from disadvantaged areas, such as the poorer parts of the Filipino capital of Manila. Assuming that these people do in fact see the money they are promised, the amount offered to them rarely exceeds $5,000. Meanwhile, the sellers of these organs will charge buyers from wealthier countries, such as the US and Japan, up to $200,000 per organ, personally pocketing all the profit in between.

8. Supply And Demand

wps3CA.tmp

Needless to say, not all organs are valued equally. The price of an organ will depend on how susceptible it is to failure, how easily it can be removed and transplanted, and whether or not people can survive donating it. The overwhelming majority of organ transplants, both illegal and legal, are of kidneys. This is because kidneys are easily damaged by lifestyle choices such as drinking, but they’re also easily sourced, as people can donate one without impacting their quality of life. This puts the price of kidneys at roughly $150,000.

Livers fetch a similar price, since although they are in less demand, only a portion of the liver needs to be donated, and both the donor’s and recipient’s portions will regenerate within eight weeks. Bones and ligaments will generally set you back about $5,000, while a new cornea costs about $20,000. Unsurprisingly, the most expensive organs are the lungs and the heart, which can cost up to $300,000 and upwards of $500,000, respectively.

7. Vulnerable Targets

wps9349.tmp

$5,000 may not sound like a lot of money for one of your organs, but for some people, it is an unimaginable amount. Needless to say, this means that traffickers focus on the most vulnerable members of society. It’s not only easier to persuade these people to part with their organs but also to underpay or steal from them entirely. These poorer, more vulnerable victims will not have the means or government assistance to ensure that any transaction negotiated is carried out fairly.

One of the clearest examples of this comes in the form of a Spanish woman. In 2012, the unnamed woman posted online, advertising her kidney after speaking to a doctor in Morocco, but she soon updated it to also sell off one lung, part of her liver, and her corneas. Despite facing a 12-year prison sentence if caught, the disabled single mother was desperate to find the money she needed to support her daughter. The reason she was short on cash was that her disability payments didn’t cover the rent of her house, which was owned by an abusive ex-boyfriend. Such a case perfectly illustrates the very real dangers of organ trafficking in what are seen as otherwise safe, respectable countries.

6. Black Market Magic

wps5F16.tmp

In 2013, one of the largest hospitals in Swaziland got caught up in a major controversy. Employees at Raleigh Fitkin Memorial Hospital were accused of running a black market for organs, allegedly selling them to buyers from neighboring countries. All of this is done for a practice known as muti, a form of traditional sub-Saharan medicine, aka magic.

Muti is most powerful when using freshly removed body parts, and although muti murders for this purpose do occur, they are not tracked. Since committing murder after murder would draw too much attention, staff at this hospital supposedly began harvesting the organs of recently deceased patients and selling them to be used in creams, potions, and powders. Demand for fresh body parts in the area has also led to an increase in grave robbing, with the deceased often being robbed of their eyes, hands, and genitals.

5. The Iranian Model

wpsE0AB.tmp
Photo credit: Ebrahim Noroozi/AP

Black market organ transplantation presents a lot of problems for a lot of people. Vulnerable groups, such those living in poor, rural communities, are frequently taken advantage of. People are murdered, or graves are robbed. There are major health risks to both the donor and recipient. And with only about ten percent of the global demand for organs being met, the problem of black market organs appears to be insurmountable.

It is for reasons like these that many experts advocate for the Iranian model. About 30 years ago, the number of people with serious kidney-related issues skyrocketed in Iran. With treatments failing and costs going up, the government began paying relatives to donate kidneys and have the operations abroad. The program was somewhat of a success, with patient deaths falling, but costs still rose. So they set up their own service for organ donation, with centers all across Iran. They followed this by enacting legislation that would allow unrelated people to donate, albeit with no choice as to who the organ would go to.

Within a year, donations had doubled, with the vast majority coming from unrelated donors. In exchange for donating, donors would receive payments and free health insurance, and post-op care was improved for all. The government also made every effort to suppress transplant tourism by banning foreigners from entering the country and getting an Iranian kidney, by only allowing refugees and vulnerable people to donate to others within their own group, and by outlawing any form of payment to hospital staff or middlemen.

One of the most interesting results is the fact that there are no major demographic differences between the recipient and the donor groups, meaning that the rich and powerful are donating and receiving just as much as the weak and vulnerable. Another interesting point is that organs donated after a person has died only account for ten percent of donations in Iran, whereas they account for 60 percent in the US. That being said, Iran still gets plenty of cadaveric donations; they just also attract a huge number of living donors at the same time.

4. Child Trafficking

wps6608.tmp

Unfortunately, organ transplantation isn’t simply a matter of finding someone willing to part with the necessary organ; it also entails finding one that is a match. Sadly, this doesn’t just mean finding a donor who has the right blood type but often also means finding one who is roughly the same age and size as the recipient. That is how innocent children have become victims of the black market organ trade.

Child organ trafficking takes place all over the world, but the situation in Mozambique is possibly the most infamous. In the northern town of Nampula, nuns from the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate, who had been operating an orphanage in the area for over 30 years, claim to have seen the devastating effects of this operation firsthand. As well as speaking to escaped victims and seeing photographic evidence, the nuns also say they have witnessed repeated abduction attempts at the orphanage and have even cared for orphans who have had organs removed (some of whom later died). The nuns also received death threats from the traffickers, while locals have claimed that the police are complicit in the activity and attempting to cover it up.

3. Smaller Circles

wps1EF4.tmp

Not all organ trafficking involves a conspiracy of international actors attempting to kidnap or buy off vulnerable people. Sometimes, it involves a much smaller circle of people, and the removal can occur without the knowledge or consent of either the unwilling donors or their families. By their very nature, these cases are harder to spot, but one of the most shocking examples that was uncovered is that of Ruben Navarro.

In January 2006, 25-year-old Ruben was admitted to the Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in California. Having been diagnosed with the neurological disorder adrenoleukodystrophy, Ruben’s mental and physical abilities slowly deteriorated until January 29, when he was found unconscious. His mother, who was living on disability benefits, was told that her son was not likely to recover. Later that night, she received a call requesting that he be registered as an organ donor. She agreed.

A few days later, the decision was made to switch his life support off. The doctor treating Ruben, Dr. Hootan C. Roozrokh, was accused of instructing a nurse to administer “candy” when Ruben continued to survive without a ventilator. With the transplant team in the room (which is a violation of protocol), morphine, antianxiety medication, and antiseptic were put into the patient’s system in an attempt to speed up his death. However, Ruben didn’t die until eight hours later, and his organs ultimately could not be harvested.

Despite a significant amount of suspicious activity, Dr. Roozrokh was cleared of all charges. His was the first such case to go to trial in the US, though there is no shortage of accusations that deceased patients have had their organs removed without consent. In many cases, however, the body will be cremated, and the truth becomes impossible to determine.

2. War Crimes

wpsDE2F.tmp

Traffickers usually target the poorest and most vulnerable people in society for two very clear reasons: They will be willing to part with their organs for less money, and the police will be less likely to take notice or step in. Still, there comes a point when so many people in a region have fallen victim to organ trafficking that the public outrage will simply cause the traffickers to move onto the next area. But in situations where huge numbers of poor, vulnerable people are dying or going missing en masse, the trail is much easier to cover up - such as in wars or refugee crises.

In 2015, the bodies on nine Somali citizens were found on a beach in Egypt. While they initially may have looked like refugees who drowned at sea, the scars on their bodies made it clear that their organs had been harvested. After the tsunami in 2004, a slum in India became known as “Kidneyville,” as doctors there would refuse to treat people who couldn’t pay without getting something in return, namely healthy organs.

Another example is that of the Kosovo Liberation Army, who were accused of harvesting organs from Serbian rivals after the end of the Kosovo War. After journalists leveled the accusations and the EU investigated, a new court was established as a direct response. The new court will look into allegations of war crimes where defendants are accused of “subjecting persons who are in the power of an adverse party to physical mutilation or to medical or scientific experiments of any kind which are neither justified by medical, dental or hospital treatment.”

1. Everyone’s Problem

wps5C49.tmp

Many traffickers convince themselves that organ trafficking is often a victimless crime: The sick get healthy, the poor get money, and the middleman earns a living by connecting them. Normal people will usually see the unwilling donors as victims, and many times, the recipients are being given substandard organs that could put their lives at risk. In truth, the black market for organs is a problem that affects us all.

In the US, there are about 120,000 waiting for an organ transplant, with one more being added to the list every ten minutes. 22 people a day die while on this list, and yet, a single organ donor can save eight people. By donating tissues in addition to organs, that same donor could end up helping an unbelievable 75 people. So in a country of over 320 million people, is finding an extra three per day really so difficult?

The answer is clearly no. But only 42 percent of Americans are registered as organ donors, despite the vast majority being eligible. The reality is that the black market for organs exists because both governments and citizens continuously fail to take any significant action to address this issue.

In 2015, Wales changed their laws to adopt an opt-out system, where everyone is assumed to be an organ donor unless they specify otherwise. This allows doctors to take the organs without having to jump through hoops, during which time the organs may become unusable. In the following year, they saw a ten-percent rise in organ donations (versus four percent in the rest of the UK), and only six percent of people have chosen to opt out. Over 24 countries now have some form of presumed consent laws, and these generally see donation levels up to 30 percent higher than countries with an opt-in system. So while the organ traffickers are indisputably carrying out horrifying crimes, we must ask ourselves two questions: When will our governments take back control of this market, and until then, where do I sign up?

Top image: Kidney transplant surgery. Credit: Tareq Salahuddin/Flickr.

[Source: Listverse. Top image added.]

Thursday, 19 October 2017

6 HUMANOID ROBOTS USED FOR SPACE EXPLORATION

wps9B8C.tmp
Real-Life 'Replicants': 6 Humanoid Robots Used for Space Exploration
By Elizabeth Howell,
Space.com, 16 October 2017.

"Blade Runner 2049" features biorobotic androids called "replicants" that closely resemble humans. But the replicants are stronger, faster, and possibly more resilient and intelligent.

Some of these replicants even work in space. In the original "Blade Runner" (1982), a replicant named Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) briefly talks about his experiences working off of planet Earth. The 1968 Philip K. Dick novel on which the movie was based, "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?", also mentions androids being used for space labor.

While replicants are still far in the future, NASA and other space agencies already use humanoid robots to help do work in space. (Japanese officials hoped to put a humanoid on the moon in 2015, but that hasn't happened yet.) There are many other versions of space robots exploring our solar system - including rovers, satellites and space probes - but here are some examples of the humanoid robots that are doing work in space.

1. Robonaut (NASA)

wpsF61B.tmp
Photo credit: NASA

Although Robonaut 1 was never meant to fly in space, NASA tested the technology on the ground before launching its successor, Robonaut 2, in 2011. Robonaut was created in collaboration with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a branch of the U.S. military that invests in far-flung technology projects.

Robonaut 2 has been on the International Space Station since 2011. Its goal is to take over some of the tedious tasks that astronauts do on the station, such as flipping switches and turning levers. It has even tested out telemedicine, clinical health care from a distance via telecommunication. An upgraded version of the robot could also be used for spacewalking in the future.

The Robonaut 2 currently at the space station has special climbing manipulators (legs) to cling on to surfaces, and has been upgraded with better processors and sensors than those on Robonaut 1. While Robonaut 2 undergoes testing in space, ground crews at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston are working on another project called the Active Response Gravity Offload System, which is developing a robust robotics research platform for space by working with similar robots on Earth.

2. Valkyrie (NASA)

wps199D.tmp
Photo credit: NASA

Valkyrie (also known as R5), which was developed in just nine months, was originally a competitor in the DARPA Robotics Challenge in 2011. The robot had to perform functions such as picking up debris, operating a vehicle or cutting through a wall. The initial goal of the project was to assist with disaster response and search-and-rescue operations.

In 2015, NASA awarded one robot each to Northeastern University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where collegiate robotics teams would research ways to use the humanoid robots for space exploration.

The robot remains Earth-bound but has shown amazing dexterity and flexibility. In 2015, Valkyrie was filmed dancing to techno music. Its "moves" included standing on one foot while leaning in different directions, and moving from foot to foot. Its technology could be used for missions to Mars someday. [NASA's Valkyrie R5 Space Robot in Pictures]

3. RoboSimian (NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

wpsE9EF.tmp
Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

RoboSimian is more like an ape than a human, but however you classify it, it's a powerful machine. The robot can map its environment in 3D using lidar technology. It's extremely flexible, and can go over tough terrain and undertake tasks that require dexterity. RoboSimian competed in the finals of the DARPA Robotics Challenge in 2015.

RoboSimian's extreme dexterity could also be useful in disaster recovery efforts, NASA said at the time. With four limbs, the robot can support itself easily on uneven surfaces and climb on ladders, stair treads or railings. The robot's ability to see in 3D, coupled with its enhanced mobility, reduces its risk of falling over - a common problem for two-legged robots. [NASA JPL's RoboSimian Robot in Images]

4. Kirobo (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency)

wps6422.tmp
Photo credit: Video screenshot Kibo Robot Project/YouTube

Japan's Kirobo was an adorable mini-astronaut robot that launched to the International Space Station in 2013 aboard the HTV-4 cargo ship. Standing only 13 inches (34 centimeters) tall, the robot was used to test human-robot interaction in space as a part of the Kibo Robot Project.

On Dec. 6, 2013, Kirobo carried on its first conversation in space, with Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata. The robot speaks only Japanese.

Kirobo and its Earth-bound twin, Mirata, were built at the University of Tokyo's Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology. In addition to talking, they could recognize voices, faces and emotions. [Photos: Meet Kirobo, Japan's 1st Talking Space Robot]

5. Dextre (Canadian Space Agency)

wpsE332.tmp
Photo credit: NASA Johnson Space Center/Flickr

Admittedly, Dextre doesn't really look all that human - it's a little gangly with limbs bent at odd angles. But the robot does a lot of valuable work on the exterior of the International Space Station. The two-armed robot is also known as the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator.

Since its launch in 2008, Dextre has participated in robotic satellite refueling tests, which could help extend the lifespan of satellites in the future. The robot is also "on call" for routine maintenance on the orbiting complex, such as replacing cameras or batteries, according to the Canadian Space Agency.

The long-term goal of Dextre is to reduce the need for astronauts to do spacewalks, which are some of the riskiest activities astronauts undertake. Having Dextre on board also reduces the time astronauts spend on repairs, since operators on the ground can control it remotely.

6. AILA (German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence)

wps78FC.tmp

Germany's Aila robot is intended to improve artificial intelligence in space. Controllers can move Aila using a custom mouse or Microsoft Kinect technology (which was used for the Xbox 360 and Xbox One video game consoles.)

The robot can mimic human motions by recording what humans do, analyzing the movements in small segments and then building upon the library of information to make new moves. This type of learning might be useful for future robotic work inside and outside the space station, on the moon and even on Mars.

Aila was unveiled in 2010 and has received funding through multiple projects since then. The German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence maintains a page about Aila on its website.

Top image: Robonaut 2. Credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann.

[Source: Space.com. Some images added.]

INFOGRAPHIC: 15 WORST HOME INFESTATIONS FROM AROUND THE WORLD

wpsA91.tmp
A Stanford University study in 2001 demonstrated an "impressive" relationship between weather and home infestation. The study found that the majority of Argentine ant invasions of homes and apartments in the greater San Francisco Bay Area occur during winter rainstorms and summer droughts. It has also been well-documented in the UK that unusually damp and humid summer offer a perfect breeding ground for a wide-range of insects and other creatures in homes. It's found that bad, unusual or unseasonal weather has a knock-on effect on the local wildlife resulting in some very unusual home infestations on a grand scale. These home infestations occurs all over world, as shown in the following infographic by Twinkle Clean.

http://www.twinkleclean.co/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Home-Infestation-Min.jpg


[Post Source: Twinkle Clean.]

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

10 UNIQUELY SHAPED ISLANDS

wps37FF.tmp
10 uniquely shaped islands
By Josh Lew,
Mother Nature Network, 16 October 2017.

Islands are alluring for a variety of reasons. Some are attractive because of their white sand beaches, while others stand out due to their palm-fringed tropical landscapes or clear, warm water. Then there are those that have earned fame because of the stories, factual and fictional, that surround them.

More recently, previously ignored islands have been noted for what they look like from the sky. It wasn’t until the era of space travel, satellites and drones that people began discovering that a surprisingly high number of islands are shaped like well-known objects, such as hearts.

A few of these require a little imagination and the right angle to see the resemblance. But some are much more obvious. Here are 10 oddly shaped islands and the stories behind them.

1. Manukan, Mamutik and Sulug Islands

wpsE41B.tmp
Photo: Jason Thien/Flickr

Manukan, Mamutik and Sulug are three islands near the coast of Kota Kinabalu, which is the capital of the Malaysian state of Sabah. All three of these landmasses are part of Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park. Best known to Sabah locals for their protected status and idyllic landscapes, Manukan and its peers have become popular on photo sharing sites because together they resemble the two eyes and upturned mouth of a smiley face.

The face is visible on satellite images, but passengers arriving and departing from Kota Kinabalu International Airport can see the islands, too. The three are located adjacent to Gaya Island, the largest landmass in the park. Manukan, the “mouth,” has well-developed tourist facilities, including a dive center and vacation villas. The “eyes” are quieter, with Mamutik featuring picnic and swimming facilities and Sulug best known for its peaceful, undeveloped atmosphere. All these islands are only a short distance from the city.

2. Isabela Island, Galapagos

wpsA76D.tmp

The Galapagos Islands are famous for their endemic animal species, some of which inspired the now-famous works of Charles Darwin. Even among the teeming islands that make up the Galapagos, Isabela stands out. It has a large population of birds, turtles, iguanas and penguins (among other types of fauna). Dolphins and whales are commonly seen offshore.

With a population of about 2,000 people (as opposed to 12,000 on neighboring Santa Cruz), Isabela is dominated by nature. Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that Isabela is shaped like a marine animal. When seen on satellite images, the island resembles a seahorse. Because it is four times larger than any other island in the chain, the seahorse shape is quite distinct and unmistakable.

3. Gaz Island, Brijuni Islands

wps46BC.tmp
Photo: Video screenshot World of Traveling/YouTube

Brijuni consists of 14 small islands in the Adriatic Sea off the coast of Istria, which is part of Croatia. One of southeastern Europe’s most interesting destinations, Brijuni features ancient Roman and Byzantine ruins and 200 ancient imprints that are thought to be dinosaur footprints. In addition to beaches and warm water, the islands' submerged archeological sites and marine life draw snorkelers and divers.

Gaz Island, one of the smallest and westernmost landmasses in Brijuni, looks like a fish when seen from above. It does not resemble any particular species, but it is shaped very much like a Goldfish Cracker.

4. Molokini, Hawaii

wps6398.tmp
Photo: Bossfrog/Wikimedia Commons

Despite appearing quite craggy when viewed up close, the islet of Molokini resembles a crescent moon when seen from above. The landmass near Maui is a partially submerged volcanic crater that is designated as a Marine Life Conservation District and a State Seabird Sanctuary. The “moon” rises about 160 feet above the ocean.

Molokini’s shape makes it an attraction, but not simply for Instagrammers who want to snap it from above. The crescent protects reefs and creates ideal diving and snorkeling conditions. The water inside the crescent is protected from powerful ocean currents that would otherwise make diving difficult (though experienced scuba divers can explore the outside of the crater).

5. Gallo Lungo, Li Galli Islands

wps2534.tmp
Photo: Video screenshot gianfranco capodilupo/YouTube

There are three Li Galli Islands. These small landmasses off of Italy’s famously picturesque Amalfi Coast are also known as the Sirenusas, after mythical sirens who were said to live there and seduce sailors into wrecking their boats on the rocky shores with beautiful songs.

In addition to their deadly history, the islands have a glamorous side. Private villas on Li Galli have hosted the likes of Greta Garbo, Sophia Loren and Jacqueline Kennedy. A few years before he succumbed to AIDS, dance icon Rudolf Nureyev bought and restored the villas on the islands.

The longest of Li Galli’s islands is Gallo Lungo. Sometimes described as crescent shaped, the island looks like a dolphin when seen at certain angles. A flat, wide rock formation juts out from the bottom of the island, forming the tail, while a thinner point has formed on the opposite end, mimicking the shape of a dolphin's nose.

6. Chicken Island, Thailand

wps4B87.tmp
Photo: McKay Savage/Wikimedia Commons

Chicken Island is a little different from most of the other entries on the list because its unique shape is best appreciated at water level instead of from above. On one end of this island in Krabi Province, visitors see a towering rock formation that resembles the head and outstretched neck of a chicken.

Ferries leave from the mainland at Ao Nang, and because the island is protected as part of a national park, visitors have to pay an entrance fee in addition to the ferry fare. The chicken rock is only one of the reasons to sail from the mainland. The island is a popular site for snorkeling because of its warm water and coral reefs. It also has pristine beaches. There are no accommodations, but vendors sell food and beverages near the shore of Koh Gai.

7. Palm Jumeirah, Dubai

wpsC81C.tmp
Photo: Richard Schneider/Wikimedia Commons

The Palm Jumeirah is the first of several artificial island development projects in Dubai. This project is completed, and it indeed resembles a palm tree when seen from above. Anyone can visit the “trunk” of the palm, which is covered with malls and entertainment facilities. Private villas were built on the “branches,” and the Middle East’s first monorail connects the different areas.

The Palm is certainly impressive, but it has not been immune to controversy. According to Conde Nast Traveler, the project took years longer than expected, and the villas offer less privacy than advertised. The publication also pointed out that the dredging required to get sand for the island may have changed wave patterns, water temperature and sped up erosion in the Gulf.

8. Tavarua, Fiji

wps2DAA.tmp

From above, the tiny Fijian island of Tavarua is shaped exactly like a heart (the Valentine's Day version, not a human heart). You might think that this place would be overrun by honeymooners and couples. While some do come to Tavarua, most of the people who travel here are surfers, not romance-seekers.

There are a number of world class waves in the area. One spot, dubbed Cloudbreak, is arguably one of the world’s most famous surfing areas. It regularly hosts professional contests, including a stop on the world championship surfing tour. The popular resort on Tavarua is a for-profit enterprise, but it gives financial support to local development projects that bring services, education and infrastructure to remote parts of Fiji.

9. Saint Kitts and Nevis

wps2E69.tmp
Photo: NASA/Wikimedia Commons

From above, the shape of Saint Kitts could be likened to several different things. It could be described as a whale or a lute. When you add round-shaped Nevis into the picture, however, the island nation appears to resemble a ball and baseball bat. Actually, since cricket is the dominant sport on the islands, a cricket bat and ball might be a more accepted comparison.

These islands have a very interesting past. Alexander Hamilton, of US$10 bill fame, was born on Nevis, and Christopher Columbus landed there in 1493, accidentally naming the island because he mistook the clouds above the inland mountains for snow. (Nieve is snow in Spanish).

The island nation, whose shore areas are threatened by rising sea levels, is one of the most eco-friendly in the Caribbean. Nevis is on track to be the region’s first inhabited carbon neutral island.

10. Turtle Island, Philippines

wpsBB0A.tmp
Photo: elaine ross baylon/Flickr

Turtle Island, shaped like its namesake animal, is part of a larger archipelago of limestone landmasses in Pangasinan, a province on the west coast of Luzon (the largest island in the Philippines) that features a variety of different-shaped islands. One is said to resemble a crocodile, while others look like mushrooms or umbrellas.

One of the most obvious shape comparisons is Turtle Island. When viewed from the right angle, it takes very little imagination to see a sea turtle floating on the top of the water. This is a popular destination thanks not only to the whimsical tree-covered limestone formations, but also because the archipelago has a lot of wildlife, swimming and snorkeling opportunities, and easily accessible caves.

Top image: Gaz Island, the fish-shaped island in Brijuni, Croatia. Credit: Video screenshot World of Traveling/YouTube.

[Source: Mother Nature Network. Some images and links added.]

10 THINGS THAT ARE MUCH MORE DANGEROUS THAN YOU PROBABLY THOUGHT

wpsFD1D.tmp
10 Things That Are Much More Dangerous Than You Probably Thought
By Gregory Myers,
Listverse, 17 October 2017.

Many people are afraid of things like lightning striking them dead-on and frying them to a crisp, being a passenger on an airplane when it goes down, being eaten by a shark while swimming, having a tornado rip right through their home, and so on. The fortunate thing is that most of these fears are entirely irrational.

Many things that people commonly fear rarely cause fatalities or injuries and shouldn’t be thought about with nearly so much anxiety. However, there are many other things lurking much closer within reach that are much more dangerous than you would imagine at first. Some of the items on this list can kill you before you realize that you’ve already made a big mistake.

10. Rabies Will Sneak Up On You When You Least Expect It

wps6FD1.tmp

Rabies can be really sneaky and should be taken very, very seriously. The reason all pets have to get shots for it is because the disease can kill very suddenly, and it can be hard to spot. Many wild animals such as coyotes and bats, or even some stray dogs or cats, can have rabies, and if you get bit, you should be vaccinated immediately, even if you don’t show symptoms. Oftentimes with rabies, you won’t feel ill for a while, but then you’ll start to feel the symptoms of a cold and then a fever. After that, when you start to get to the worse stages, you will experience hydrophobia, a fear of water where you find it difficult to swallow, thinking you will choke if you do.

At this advanced stage, a person suffering from rabies will generally have extreme mental confusion and hallucinations and will often die not long after. It is very important to vaccinate early if you think you may have been bitten by something with rabies because it can hide for a while and then crop up suddenly, making it hard for a doctor to realize where the problem is coming from. Hydrophobia is one of the only symptoms that is more unique to rabies, but it is often too late by that stage. Those who don’t get vaccinated early often die of the disease.

9. Amusement Park Rides Are Much More Deadly Than You Might Imagine

wpsFC63.tmp

Amusement parks are usually seen as a fun place to take the kids for a day or to partake in some insane roller coasters and enjoy the feeling of adrenaline surging through through the veins. Most people tend to think of amusement parks as a great place to have a good time because they think of them as relatively safe. You’d think that a park full of attractions that lift people into the air, throw them all over the place, and strap them into train-like contraptions that travel as fast as some cars would have pretty strict government safety regulations. However, because of a loophole, there hasn’t been any federal oversight of amusement parks in the United States of America since the 1980s, which leaves everything up to the states.

Some states have no regulations at all, and some leave it entirely up to the counties. Many states don’t require amusement parks to properly record how many injuries or incidents they have, and one of those is Florida - which has some of the biggest and most visited amusement parks in the world. The annual voluntary survey of injuries and accidents is completely ignored by at least half of parks, which makes it even harder to quantify the dangers at all.

Unless someone records an incident on their phone, like at the Ohio State Fair in 2017, where one man died and several were injured when a swinging gondola broke loose, people almost never hear about it. Amusement parks go to great lengths to keep accidents out of the media and settle out of court when possible to avoid publicity. Even with all the accident underreporting (or non-reporting), the numbers are still at over 1,000 injuries per year.

8. Box Jellyfish Kill Way More Often Than Sharks

wps8D1B.tmp
Photo credit: Guido Gautsch

We tend to be most scared of the animals that look like huge monsters, and when it comes to the ocean, sharks are the scariest beasts around in the eyes of most people. Hardly even needing the influence of Jaws to make them terrifying, some sharks are gigantic carnivores with rows of sharp teeth and have been known on occasion to take a bite or two out of human beings. However, if you really look at the cold, hard statistics, there are only a handful of fatal shark attacks around the world every year, and there aren’t that many shark-related incidents to begin with. Sharks simply don’t have that much interest in hunting people.

However, while shark attacks are incredibly rare, there is something in the ocean you should be increasingly concerned about. We are talking, of course, about the jellyfish. Most people think of jellyfish as a mostly harmless nuisance. Their sting is something joked about in popular culture, with many different shows doing a gag where people urinate on the sting to decrease the power of the venom. (This doesn’t work and may actually make it worse.) However, it is no joking matter if you get stung by almost any species of box jellyfish. Their sting can easily be fatal if not treated quickly, and some people still die despite quick treatment. In just the Philippines alone, box jellies account for 20 to 40 deaths a year and countless hospital visits, but experts believe the actual death toll may be underreported because the deaths are often attributed to general causes.

7. Escalators

wps46D7.tmp

When most people think of a potentially dangerous way to quickly move up or down a building, elevators tend to come to mind. Think of all the movies and TV shows where a cable snaps, and the elevator plunges to the ground, leaving everyone hoping that the hero will find a way to arrest their fall at the last minute. This has become so ingrained in popular culture that a lot of people think this is a reasonable fear in an elevator. However, the only known case of a cable actually snapping and causing an elevator to free-fall happened when a plane crashed into the Empire State Building, and the woman within survived. The vast majority of elevator accidents and fatalities happen to repairmen working on them, doing the most dangerous tasks.

However, while the elevator isn’t the killer many would suspect, the humble escalator is far deadlier than you might imagine. Although some people fear escalators, most don’t really think simple moving stairs could really be that dangerous. Unfortunately, the design has serious flaws. If someone gets something snagged within the mechanism, it doesn’t really have a way to detect this and automatically shut off; it just keeps moving. This has caused people to lose their limbs or fingers, and in one recent high-profile case, a man was strangled to death by an escalator when his sweatshirt got caught.

Escalators can also be a magnet for slowly building up lint and other fire-causing materials in their workings. Back in 1987, this was the cause of a great tragedy in the London Underground. An escalator exploded because of various grime accumulated in the machine over years of use. 31 people died due to this single incident.

6. Body Spray

wpsEF7B.tmp

Body sprays, due to the heavy advertising of brands like Axe, have become associated with the bro culture and sometimes aren’t particularly respected. However, most teenagers and young people who are using body sprays aren’t trying to put forth some arrogant persona; most of them just want to smell nice. One teenager from Manchester lost his life in 1998 because he wanted to smell nice for everyone around him, as many self-conscious teenagers do. He used body sprays excessively, and his family warned him that he was using too much - not so much for his health, as they didn’t understand the risks, but simply because they thought it was excessive.

The reports say that the teen was known for thickly covering his entire body in the spray at least a couple times a day, in enclosed areas, and that he did it so much that his family couldn’t just smell it from rooms away with the doors closed but could actually taste it sometimes. The coroner believed that his overuse over the course of months had caused chemicals to build up in his body, eventually causing a heart attack. It seems possible he may have even built up a tolerance over time with his habit, as the amount of butane and propane in his body was ten times a lethal dose. The coroner didn’t believe the teen had any idea what he was doing to himself and ruled the case a death by accidental propane inhalation.

5. Headphones

wps7566.tmp

Sitting at home and listening to music with your headphones on, rocking out to your favorite tunes, seems like the safest thing to do in the world. You can’t possibly have anyone hurt you or get into any trouble that way, or so you would think. The problem is that headphones give people an easy way to damage their hearing without knowing it, and the fact that so many people are unaware of this danger makes it easier to suffer its effects. Permanent hearing loss can happen gradually, to the point you only start to notice after truly serious damage has been done, and you start to hear - or not hear - a noticeable difference.

The problem is that the sound is so contained, making it very easy for headphones to play music or other sounds at incredibly loud levels. Many headphones can reach 120 decibels, which is unfortunate for people who like to play their headphones at max, because sounds of 110 decibels are already enough to cause permanent damage to your hearing. For reference, chainsaws and other various power tools don’t reach the decibel levels that your headphones can reach, and it is strongly recommended to use hearing protection while using most heavy power tools. Even crazier, most concerts don’t go above 105 decibels for the average person in the crowd, which still doesn’t come close to the kind of damage your headphones can do to your hearing.

4. Cat Scratches

wpsF499.tmp

You’ve probably heard the song “Cat Scratch Fever,” which is a pretty upbeat rock tune, but it is no fun to those who actually get this disease. As we know, cats can get into almost everything; they lick and paw themselves all over their bodies in order to get clean, and they have very sharp claws. This creates a situation where a cat can easily build up bacteria in its mouth and claws, which can be potentially very dangerous to humans. And when they come into contact with fleas, cats can build up a nasty cocktail that can kill a human, especially if the person is immunocompromised or doesn’t get proper medical treatment in time.

This means that particularly if your cat has recently had fleas and scratches you and breaks the skin, you may want to seek medical attention just to be safe. If you start getting a fever, you should certainly get checked out. In rarer cases, cat scratches can spread an infection to the heart or cause the brain to swell dangerously and kill the scratched individual. The best avoidance is to keep your cat and its environment clean and keep both your cat’s shots and your own up-to-date.

3. Nicotine Overdose

wps9CD1.tmp

Cigarettes are pretty much universally considered to be unhealthy, but they don’t immediately kill you, or there wouldn’t be so many people using them. Some people can smoke cigarettes and live well into their eighties or nineties without seeing too many adverse health effects at all; many others aren’t nearly so lucky, of course. Some people will claim that just a couple packs of cigarettes are enough to kill a person of about 150 pounds, but this has never really been proven. In many documented cases, people have overdosed on nicotine and survived - although these people usually tend to be smokers, who have built up a tolerance.

Even then, the real danger is rarely from smoking itself. Cigarettes have much less bioavailability of nicotine when smoked as compared to when you use chewing tobacco or a patch. A novice smoker without much of a nicotine tolerance would have to smoke a lot of cigarettes, something they aren’t at all used to doing, in order to overdose, making it extremely unlikely. However, such a beginner, especially someone younger, could potentially seriously or fatally overdose by using chewing tobacco or using patches. The patches in particular can release a lot of nicotine at once if abused, and even seasoned smokers should heed the warning on the label and take care not to use too much at once.

2. Bluetooth-Enabled Fidget Spinners Burst Into Flames While Charging

wpsF8DC.tmp
Photo credit: WBRC

Fidget spinners are the toy that just about everyone has heard of, and even a number of adults have one or two of around for novelty’s sake, if nothing else. Teachers hate them because they’re a distraction in class, and parents love them for a similar reason. However, the reason kids love them is because they often come in bright colors and have flashing lights and sometimes other capabilities, like Bluetooth and a charger so that you can sync it up with your phone and your music.

These high-tech fidget spinners are really cool, but they come at a dangerous cost. There have already been multiple reports of this variety of fidget spinner bursting into flames while recharging, and there’s really no way to track down the manufacturer to hold anyone at all responsible, not to mention very little regulation for this product in general. The problem is that the patent for the fidget spinner ran out before it became popular, so now an untold number of companies are releasing their versions of the product with whatever features they want, and almost no one is inspecting for any kind of proper safety standards. Fidget spinners don’t really come with branding, and most people can only get as far as knowing that it was made in China before they run into a wall. While a fidget spinner with no electronic capabilities is not dangerous, you should always be wary of electronic products with unknown or unverifiable origins.

1. Hail Is A Far Bigger Threat Than People Think

wps9377.tmp

When most people think of dangerous weather events, they think of a giant hurricane bringing in a storm surge to flood everything or tornado-force winds ripping their house to matchsticks. However, some of the biggest weather dangers often go unheeded in the popular mind, even though they’re far worse than most of the other things we worry about. While severe thunderstorms can certainly include tornadoes and flooding, hail still manages to account for an entire half of all related damage.

Hailstorms are no joking matter and can injure hundreds of people at a time, with dozens seriously so, when one comes up on a group of partiers who don’t have enough time to get inside. In addition to causing bodily harm, hail can tear up homes, cars, and agriculture horribly. Even if you don’t get hit by a direct pass from a tornado, the ensuing hail damage can still easily ruin your day. When a really bad hailstorm occurs, it usually causes billions of dollars in damages. However, you can consider yourselves at least partially lucky when it comes to hail. While it causes a lot of injuries and property damage, actual death by hail is very rare, as a large piece generally has to whack you right on the noggin.

Top image: Hailstorm. Credit: NOAA Photo Library/Wikimedia Commons.

[Source: Listverse. Top image added.]