Friday, May 30, 2014

Fergana Valley/Mingbulak, Russia, 1992 – 88 million gallons oil spill

When you think about an oil spill you probably picture a capsized tanker or drilling platform issue; however, the Fergana Valley oil spill didn’t involve either. This case of the Fergana Valley oil spill is definitely one of ignorant thinking. It stands as one of the largest inland oil spills ever recorded. The Fergana Valley is located between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan which was a densely populated area with highly fertile land for agriculture. Vast oil deposits were discovered under the land- of course with this type of finding, drilling would happen, and it did.

On March 2, 1992, an oil well located in the area experienced a mechanical breakdown which then caused an oil blow out. This well was one of the most active in the location, resulting in the spilling of 88 million gallons of oil. The oil quickly flowed out of the well and into the valley. The oil from the well had been leaking for 8 months, but dikes were used to hold it back. Eventually the dikes failed and oil was sent into the Russian Arctic. The oil somehow stopped flowing on its own. The oil field was abandoned soon after.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Mobutu Sese Seko

Mobutu was President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 1965 to 1997. He is number 3 on Transparency International’s most corrupt leaders list having embezzled an estimated US$5 billion – much of which has never been recovered. Mobutu was known to regularly charter a Concorde from Air France for personal use, including shopping trips to Paris for himself and his family. He died in exile in Morocco in 1997,

Amount Laundered: Estimated US$5 billion

Punishment: None.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Vampire Café

Nowadays, modern vampires hang out far away from Transylvania. Located in the heart of Ginza – Tokyo, Vampire Café seems to be a great meeting place. Blood Clot is on the menu! Draped in sanguine velvet, the décor is composed of crucifixes, spiders, skulls, candelabras, bizarre pictures and a Dracula’s coffin is the centerpiece. With bars and restaurants like Vampire Café, Alcatraz ER, Christon Café, Tokyo Ice bar, Alice in Wonderland and Office Bar, among others, Tokyo has established itself as the capital of the most unusual bars of the world.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Dracula Ants

These tiny, wasp-like tropical ants primarily hunt large, venomous centipedes, attacking the many-legged killers in swarms and dragging their remains back to the nest. The adults, however, aren’t eating the centipedes they catch, but chewing them up as food for the grub-like, helpless ant larvae. So what do the adults eat? The blood of those same larvae, cutting them open and drinking just enough bodily fluids for their baby sisters to recover. Though it doesn’t kill them, the larvae do seem to panic and struggle when they sense a hungry grown-up coming.

Monday, May 26, 2014

19 year coma

During the 1980’s, Poland was still run by a Communist regime. It was a terrible period of despair, great poverty and confusion.

Polish railway worker Jan Grzebski, suffered a severe head injury while attaching two train carriages. He was rushed to the hospital, but the doctors had even more devastating news for the family: besides the injuries caused by the work-related accident, Jan Grzebski was suffering from brain cancer. He fell into a deep coma of 19 years. Doctors didn’t expect him to live longer than three years. His family had faith that Jan would recover and his wife Gertruda provided the loving care Jan needed to survive. The amazing part of this story is that Mr. Grzebski awoke on April, 12, 2007 after 19 years of coma. He awoke to a world of democracy and capitalism. Mr. Grzebski was surprised to find out that 18 years had passed since the fall of Communism and that 11 grandchildren couldn’t wait to hug him

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Kiehl’s Badwater Ultramarathon

Kiehl’s, a company known for its cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, herbal products and many other things, hosts an annual marathon that is definitely considered to be tougher than most. It involves a rough 135 miles, starting in Badwater, CA, which is 280 feet below sea level, and ending at Mt. Whitney, CA, 8360 feet above sea level. The marathon begins at the lowest elevation level within the Western Hemisphere and covers three different mountain ranges. This of course means a lot of incline running as well as decline, and the ascent can surely have an effect on those running. The race has been around since 1999 and each year thousands line up to get a shot at the harsh course. Throughout the run marathoners pass through many different locations including Mushroom Rock, Salt Creek, Stovepipe Wells, and Devil’s Golf Course. Because the course is so tough, there has never been a 100% completion rate, though it’s not rare to have one within the 90th percentile.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Jellied Moose Nose

This gross food is also enjoyed in the northernmost of the United States. Preparation is relatively simple: first, the moose‘s nose is removed. Then it’s boiled for a bit until the hairs become loose and can easily be plucked free. After a few spices are added, the meat is boiled even longer until it disintegrates into a gelatinous mass. Finally, it’s sliced and served chilled.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Le Mummie di Urbania

La Chiesa dei Morti, The Church of the Dead, is located in Urbania in Italy. Inside lies the Cemetery of the Mummies, which was built in 1833. This cemetery is famous for its strange phenomenon of natural mummification. According to specialists, the process is caused by a particular mold that has absorbed moisture from the corpses leading to the complete desiccation of the bodies.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


Pompeii was an ancient city that had been founded in the 6th century BC by Oscan-speaking descendants of the Neolithic inhabitants of Campania, later coming under Greek, Etruscan, Samnite and finally Roman control. As a Roman colony it prospered as a port and as a resort destination, evidence of which can be found in the many villas, temples, theaters and baths built throughout the city. Pompeii also had an amphitheater, a forum, and a basilica and was home to around 20,000 citizens. In 63 AD an earthquake caused extensive damage to Pompeii and in the years that followed there were attempts to repair some of the damage. Then terror struck on August 24, 79 AD when the nearby volcano of Mount Vesuvius erupted and blanketed the city in cinders and ash. Pompeii was discovered in 1599 by Domenico Fontana while he was working on a hydraulics project, but remained unexcavated until it was rediscovered in 1748 by Spanish military engineer Rocque Joaquin de Alcubierre.


The ruins of Pompeii give archeologists a unique perspective into Roman life: the daily workings of a living city. We can get a clear snapshot of a city in crisis because the ash has preserved everything so well- including families huddling together, criminals still in chains, animals left where they stood and perfectly preserved frescoes.

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Life Without Pain

Gabby Gingras is an energetic 9-year-old girl who is determined to be just like every other child around her. What makes her different from most of us, is a rare and extremely unusual disease known as CIPA – congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis. There are only 100 documented cases of CIPA around the globe.

Gabby was born without the ability to feel pain, cold and heat. It might seem like an amazing gift, but actually it’s a devastating condition. Pain sensitivity is crucial, because pain works similar to a warning and defense mechanism. Gabby’s parents noticed something wasn’t right when their daughter was five months old. She was biting her fingers until they bled. Later on, the girl lost an eye and severely injured the other one due to excessive rubbing and scratching. Various measures have been taken to prevent these types of accidents. The desperate parents are doing their best under the difficult and challenging circumstances. Brave Gabby was the subject of a documentary. “A Life Without Pain” by Melody Gilbert. It tells the powerful story of Gabby Gingras.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Nowruz Oil Field, Persian Gulf, 1983 – 80 million gallons oil spill

The year of 1983 really proved to be a horrible year at the Nowruz Oil Field. There were several different incidents that resulted in oil being spilled into the Persian Gulf. All of these incidents occurred during the height of the Iran-Iraq War. During the war, an oil tanker collided into an oil platform in the Persian Gulf. The power and force of the collision caused the platform to fall into a 45 degree angle-position. Waves and daily corrosion eventually caused the riser to fall into the wellhead. This of course caused heavy damage and for months, the well leaked 1,500 barrels of oil each day. Even though many planned efforts to stop the leakage were put into place, capping the well was seen as too dangerous because Iraqi planes were constantly attacking the platform.

Before this first incident was resolved, there were more oil spills. For example, in March 1983, Iraqi helicopters attacked a platform in the Nowruz Oil Field. During this incident alone, over 733,000 barrels of oil were spilled. The spill was finally stopped and capped in May 1983, but only after 9 people died in the attempt to cap the well. The first Nowruz incident was not solved until September 1983- 11 men had died during attempts to stop the leak.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Ferdinand Marcos

Marcos was a lawyer who ruled as President of the Philippines from 1965 to 1986 before being overthrown by a popular people’s revolt. He is number 2 on Transparency International’s most corrupt leaders list having laundered billions of dollars of embezzled public funds through the United States, Switzerland, and other countries, during his 20 years in power. His wife, Imelda, famously left over 2,500 pairs of shoes in her closet when the pair fled Manila.

Amount Laundered: USD5Billion – USD10 Billion

Punishment: Marcos died of a heart attack in 1989 while in exile in Honolulu, Hawaii, awaiting his trial.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Crotch Kick Man

Yong Hsueh, a Shaolin monk, appeared on the Chinese version of Britain's Got Talent to demonstrate his ability to get kicked in the crotch without suffering injury. He told the audience: “Steel crotch Kongfu is an ancient art, with roots stretching back to ancient China. “It's a practice to strengthen and protect the male genital organs so there is less chance they are injured or incapacitated in battle.”

Cross legged male members of the audience watched in shock as various members of the panel were invited to boot the monk – who simply bowed and smiled after each blow – between the legs. The monk said this skill could only be learned by a student that started in childhood – and it involves pushing the testicles into the body where they could not be hurt

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Casu Marzu

Sometimes referred to as ‘maggot cheese’, casu marzu is a Sardinian cheese made from goat’s milk. But what makes this food so disgusting is the way it’s prepared. Early in the fermenting process, the larvae of cheese flies are introduced. Over a period of weeks, the larvae hatch and begin feeding. As the cheese’s fats are broken down, a special flavor is produced which many consider to be delicious. When the time comes for human consumption, many people meticulously remove the maggots. However, some leave them in, believing that they add an extra flavorful punch.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Marathon Des Sables

The ideal marathon would be one hosted on a day when the weather is not too hot, but not too cold; however, with the Marathon Des Sables, heat is definitely part of the challenge, as competitors must run in 120°F or higher temperatures. Because of the conditions and length of the marathon, it’s often been called the toughest on earth. It has taken place since 1986 and is run throughout the Moroccan Desert. The location has definitely wreaked havoc on some of the runners, some participants have gotten lost in sand storms while 2 have died. Translated into Marathon of the Sands, this marathon literally takes place in a desert. This type of marathon is as long as 6 marathons put together and spans over 6 days and by the end of it all, runners will have travelled about 120 miles. As if the heat and distance aren’t enough, those who participate must carry all of their food and belongings with them during the race.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Family That Couldn’t Sleep

FFI is the acronym of a fatal genetic sleep disorder called Fatal Familial Insomnia. Jay Schadler and Laura Viddy best describe the rare disease: “Those affected by FFI are forever trying and failing to fall asleep. The disease steals one’s sleep, mind and ultimately one’s life, and, before dying, one hovers for months in a twilight world.”

29-year-old Cheryl Dinges (left) is one of the members of a family that couldn’t sleep. Her family carries the gene for Fatal Familial Insomnia, such a rare condition that it is believed to affect only 40 families worldwide. Fatal Familial Insomnia killed their mother, grandfather and their uncle. Cheryl Dinges declined to be tested, even if her sister (right) didn’t inherit the mutation. FFI begins with mild twitching, panic attacks and insomnia. In time, patients start to hallucinate and insomnia becomes so severe that they totally lack the ability to sleep. Ultimately, patients develop dementia and, eventually, die. The mutated protein is called PrPSc. If only one of the parents has the mutated gene, there are 50% chances of inheriting and developing FFI.

Friday, May 9, 2014

King Leopold II of Belgium

In 1885, on condition that the inhabitants were to be brought into the modern world and that all nations be allowed to trade freely with it, Leopold was effectively appointed the patriarch and benefactor of the Congo Free State by the world’s most powerful nations. However, he soon closed all borders, took personal control of all business, and turned the country into a slave labor camp brutally administered by his thugs. He secretly channeled the huge gains from the Congo (for eight years in the 1890’s the Congo was the world’s largest supplier of rubber) through several trading companies which were wholly owned on his behalf by a private holding company. Much of the ill-gotten gains were used to finance the construction of major public buildings in Belgium, which were eventually settled into a Will Trust for the ultimate benefit of the people of Belgium. By 1907, when King Leopold was forced to relinquish control to the government of Belgium, the population of the Congo had halved from an estimated 20 million to ten million.

Amount laundered: Pretty well the whole GNP of what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo for 22 years.

Punishment: The Belgian Government bought Leopold’s rights ‘in gratitude’ to the Congo for about US$5 million.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Alcatraz ER

Tokyo is home to some very bizarre and crazy bars. Alcatraz ER, a bar and restaurant, is a fascinating “medical prison”. To enter Alcatraz ER, the guests have to declare their blood type and let the staff know if they are suffering from any kind of health disorders. A pretty nurse will fill out the medical chart and prescribe the right “medicine”. The guests will be handcuffed and taken to their prison cell.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Royal Library of Ashurbanipal

A collection of around 25,000 clay tablet fragments, the Library of Ashurbanipal was discovered in the mid 19th century by Austen Henry Layard at the Mesopatamian city of Nineveh (in what is now Iraq). Ashurbanipal was the king of Assyria during the height of Assyrian military and cultural achievements, but beyond this he was a passionate collector of texts who sent scribes throughout his Empire looking for additions to his library. The library itself was one of the largest in its time and contains approximately 1200 texts. These texts included royal inscriptions, chronicles, mythological and religious texts, contracts, royal grants and decrees, royal letters, omens, incantations, hymns to various gods and texts on medicine, astronomy, and literature. Some of the literary finds include the epic of Gilgamesh, the Enuma Elis creation story, the myth of Adapa and the Poor Man of Nippur. In 612 BC, Nineveh was destroyed by an alliance of Babylonians, Scythians and Medes and the palace was burned, thus preserving the clay tablets by partially baking them.


Buried for centuries by invaders, the Royal Library of Ashurbanipal gives scholars a lot of precious information about the ancient inhabitants of the Near East. Besides the epic of Gilgamesh one of the most important texts found at the site was a nearly complete list of ancient Near Eastern rulers.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Mafia Cemetery

In the 1990s, Yekaterinburg was known as ‘The crime capital of Russia.’ Many of the leaders of the Russian Mafia lived there and Shirokorechenskoe Cemetery was the final resting place for many of them. Very expensive tombs, black marble, precious stones, laser-engraved images and life-size granite gravestones are common here. The nicknames of the deceased mobsters are engraved along with some of the things they were known for: He was an expert in using knifes.