Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Pablo Escobar

He is regarded as the richest and most successful criminal in world history. In 1989, Forbes magazine declared Escobar as the seventh richest man in the world, with an estimated personal fortune of US$ 9 billion.

He and his brother’s operation was so successful that at its height they were spending US$1,000 a week just purchasing rubber bands to wrap the stacks of cash. Also, since they had more illegal money than they could deposit in the banks, they stored the bricks of cash in their warehouses, annually writing off 10% as “spoilage” when the rats crept in at night and nibbled on the hundred dollar bills.

Amount Laundered: US$5-US$10 billion.

Punishment: Confined in what became his own luxurious private prison for several months in 1992, he escaped after hearing he would be transferred to another prison, and was killed soon after.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Col de Turini

Col de Turini is a dangerous stretch of road in Southern France. About 20 miles on this pass is part of the Monte Carlo Rally with 34 death defying hairpins and long stretches where cars top our at over 100 miles per hour. It's considered one of the greatest driving roads of the world, but not for normal people who embrace safety first.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Largest Islands in the world

10. Ellesmere, Canada (196,235 km²)

Ellesmere Island is part of the Qikiqtaaluk Region of the Canadian territory of Nunavut. Lying within the Canadian Arctic Archipelago it is considered part of the Queen Elizabeth Islands, with Cape Columbia being the most northerly point of land in Canada. It comprises an area of 196,235 km2 (75,767 sq mi), making it the world’s tenth largest island and Canada’s third largest island. The Arctic Cordillera mountain system covers much of Ellesmere Island, making it the most mountainous in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. The Arctic willow is the only woody species to grow on Ellesmere Island.

9. Victoria Island, Canada (217,291 km²)

Victoria Island (or Kitlineq) is an island in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago and straddles the boundary between Nunavut and the Northwest Territories of Canada. It is the eighth largest island in the world, and at 217,291 km2 (83,897 sq mi) is Canada’s second largest island. It is nearly double the size of Newfoundland (111,390 km2 (43,008 sq mi)), and is slightly larger than the island of Great Britain (209,331 km2 (80,823 sq mi). The western third of the island belongs to the Inuvik Region in the Northwest Territories and the remainder is part of Nunavut’s Kitikmeot Region.

8. Great Britain (218.595 km²)

The Kingdom of Great Britain resulted from the political union of the kingdoms of England and Scotland with the Acts of Union 1707 on 1 May 1707 under Queen Anne. In 1801, under a new Act of Union, this kingdom merged with the Kingdom of Ireland to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. After the Irish War of Independence, most of Ireland seceded from the Union. Currently the kingdom is named the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

7. Honshu, Japan (230.500 km²)

Honshū (本州?, literally “Main State”) ([hoɴɕuː]; also spelled Honshu) is the largest island of Japan. The nation’s main island, it is south of Hokkaidō across the Tsugaru Strait, north of Shikoku across the Inland Sea, and northeast of Kyūshū across the Kanmon Strait. It is the seventh largest island in the world, and the second most populous after Java in Indonesia.

The island is roughly 1,300 kilometres (810 mi) long and ranges from 50 to 230 km wide, and its total area is 227,962.59 km², 60% of the total area of Japan. It is larger than the island of Great Britain, and slightly larger than the state of Minnesota. Its area has been expanding with land reclamation and coastal uplift in the north, but global sea level rise has diminished these effects. Honshū has 5,450 kilometres (3,390 mi) of coastline.

6. Sumatra, Indonesia (443.065,8 km²)

Sumatra was known in ancient times by the Sanskrit names of Swarnadwīpa (“Island of Gold”) and Swarnabhūmi (“Land of Gold”), due likely to the gold deposits of the island’s highland. The first word mentioning the name of Sumatra was the name of Srivijayan Haji (king) Sumatrabhumi (“King of the land of Sumatra”), who sent an envoy to China in 1017. Arab geographers referred to the island as Lamri (Lamuri, Lambri or Ramni) in the 10-13th centuries, in reference to a kingdom near modern day Banda Aceh which was the first landfall for traders. Late in the 14th century the name Sumatra became popular, in reference to the kingdom of Samudra, which was a rising power. European writers in the 19th century found that the indigenous inhabitants did not have a name for the island.

5. Baffin, Canada (507.451 km²)

Baffin Island (Qikiqtaaluk, French: Île de Baffin, Old Norse: Helluland) in the Canadian territory of Nunavut is the largest member of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. It is the largest island in Canada and the fifth largest island in the world, with an area of 507,451 km2 (195,928 sq mi) and has a population of 11,000 (2007 estimate). Named after English explorer William Baffin, it is likely that the island was known to Pre-Columbian Norse of Greenland and Iceland and may be the location of Helluland spoken of in the Icelandic sagas (the Saga of Erik the Red (Eiríks saga rauða) and the Grœnlendinga saga).

4. Madagascar (578.000 km²)

As part of East Gondwana, the territory of Madagascar split from Africa approximately 160 million years ago; the island of Madagascar was created when it separated from the Indian subcontinent 80 to 100 million years ago. Malagasy mythology portrays a group of African pygmy like people called the Vazimba as the original inhabitants of Madagascar, however most archaeologists estimate that the human settlement of Madagascar happened between 200 and 500 A.D., when seafarers from southeast Asia (probably from Borneo or the southern Celebes) arrived in outrigger sailing canoes. Bantu settlers probably crossed the Mozambique Channel to Madagascar at about the same time or shortly afterwards. However, Malagasy tradition and ethnographic evidence suggests that they may have been preceded by the Mikea hunter gatherers. The Anteimoro who established a kingdom in Southern Madagascar in the Middle Ages trace their origin to migrants from Somalia.

3. Kalimantan, Indonesia (726.000 km²)

In English, the term Kalimantan refers to the Indonesian portion of the island of Borneo, while in Indonesian, the term “Kalimantan” refers to the whole island of Borneo. The Indonesian territory makes up 73 percent of the island by area, and 70 percent (12,000,000) by population. The non-Indonesian parts of Borneo are of Brunei (609,000) and East Malaysia (6,000,000). The region is also known as Indonesian Borneo.

2. Papua (800.000 km²)

Papua New Guinea (pronounced /ˈpæpuːə njuː ˈɡɪni/ PAP-oo-ə new-GIN-ee, also /ˈpɑːpuːə/ PAH-poo-ə or /ˈpæpjuːə/ PAP-yew-ə; Tok Pisin: Papua Niugini) (PNG), officially the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, is a country in Oceania, occupying the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and numerous offshore islands (the western portion of the island is a part of the Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua). It is located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, in a region defined since the early 19th century as Melanesia. The capital is Port Moresby.

1. Greenland (2.166.086 km²)

Greenland (Kalaallisut: Kalaallit Nunaat meaning “Land of the Kalaallit people”; Danish: Grønland) is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark, located between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Physiographically, it is a part of the continent of North America. The largest island in Greenland is also named Greenland, and makes up most of the country’s land area.

Greenland has been inhabited, though not continuously, by indigenous peoples since 2500 BC. There were Norse colonies in Greenland from AD 986 until sometime most likely in the 15th century. In the early 18th century contact between Scandinavia and Greenland was re-established and Denmark established rule over Greenland.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Famous Micronations

10. Ladonia

Size: .386 of a square mile

In 1980, Swedish artist Lars Vilks built a series of wood and stone sculptures on the beach of the Kullaberg nature preserve in Skane, Sweden. The artworks, which look like strange whimsical castles, eventually became a popular tourist attraction. They also drew the ire of the local city council, which decreed that Vilks had illegally built a “house” in a nature preserve and demanded the pieces be removed. Not willing to see his art destroyed, Vilks did what any reasonable person would do: he declared the stretch of beach to be an independent, sovereign nation free from the laws and rules of the Swedish government. Vilks named his new country the Kingdom of Ladonia, and quickly came up with a flag and a manifesto that said that his nation’s only tax policy was that citizens should “give away their creativity.”

By the 2000s, Vicks’s country had built up an unofficial population of 14,000—unofficial because none of them actually lived there—made up mostly of fellow artists and other supporters of his cause. It also claimed to have a currency (called the Ortug) and a national language (phrased Latin), and there was even a set series of social classes. Still, even today the fledgling country has yet to impress Sweden, which has never recognized it as a legitimate nation.

9. The Kingdom of Redonda

Size: .78 of a square mile

The back-story on the Kingdom of Redonda has been built up over the years by a number of artists and novelists, so its history is more than likely a mixture of fact and fiction. But as the story goes, in the 1800s Matthew D. Shiell, a resident of the Caribbean Island of Montserrat, made a claim on the rocky and uninhabited island of Redonda. The island is almost totally desolate, so Sheill never lived there, but he did serve as “King” from a distance and passed the crown on to his son M.P. Sheill in 1880. According to legend, Sheill even wrote to England’s Queen Victoria and requested that she recognize him as King of the island, to which she replied that she would, as long as he never rebelled against the crown.

M.P. Sheill later became a famous writer, and it was he who first told the story of Redonda and established most of its customs, including the flag and the style of government (absolute monarchy). He then passed the crown on to his friend John Gawsworth, who went by the name King Juan I. Since then, the crown and its power over Redonda’s 100 “citizens” have passed through a number of hands, and today there are as many as three would-be kings claiming the thrown. Perhaps the most famous of these is the Spanish writer Javier Marias. He has given out ceremonial titles in the Redondan kingdom to a number of artists, among them Francis Ford Coppola, Ray Bradbury, and Alice Munro.

8. The Republic of Minerva

Size: 4 square miles

Micronations are often formed by groups hoping to advance political agendas and experiment with new forms of government, and of these the Republic of Minerva is probably the most famous. The country was started in 1972 by Michael Oliver, a real estate millionaire with a strong libertarian bent who envisioned a society with no taxes or social intrusions by government. He and his followers staked out a small cay in the South Pacific, and after dredging it with sand to create an artificial island, declared it a new country called the Republic of Minerva. A group of settlers arrived on the island in January of ’72 after the construction of a small tower, and the country raised a flag and declared itself sovereign.

Unlike most micronations, which are largely ignored by the international community, the Republic of Minerva actually caused quite a stir among the other South Pacific nations. After Minerva issued a declaration of independence and began coining money, a small conference was held between Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, and some other island nations to discuss the implications of there being a new country in the region. Tonga soon declared that Minerva and its nearby reefs were part of their country, and they even sent a small force to reclaim it and lower the Minervan flag. The Republic of Minerva has since been abandoned, but it was only the first of many experimental island nations, some of which remain in the works today.

7. The Dominion of Melchizedek

Size: 14 square miles

Small nations have often been used as tax-free havens and centers of fraud and identity theft, and the Dominion of Melchizedek, is certainly one of the more extreme examples. The upstart nation was formed in 1986 by Evan David Pedley and his son Mark Logan Pedley, both of whom have since served time in jail. Using the claim of sovereignty as a shield, for a number of years this island in the South Pacific (part of Antarctica) has operated as an offshore haven for phony banks and nearly every variety of fraud. The Dominion once issued passports for $10,000 a piece and has supposedly sold fake business licenses that were used by conmen and other swindlers to give their front companies a veneer of authenticity. The country has repeatedly been blasted as an outright sham, both by regulators and by the media (60 Minutes once profiled the DoM and was promptly sued by it), but it has yet to be shut down, and its website is still up and readily accepting applications for citizenship (for a fee, of course).

The Dominion claims to be an ecclesiastical state in the tradition of Vatican City, and lists several small cays in the south Pacific (one of which is some six feet under water) as its territory, along with a previously unclaimed part of Antarctica. The DoM has claimed that its sovereignty has been acknowledged by everything from the United Nations to the Central African Republic, but these allegations are widely considered to be false. This hasn’t stopped it from continually asserting its authenticity both online and in the media, most absurdly in 1995, when it briefly threatened France with nuclear war.

6. The Principality of Outer Baldonia

Size: .00625 of a square mile

The Principality of Outer Baldonia was a tongue-in-cheek nation started in 1948 by a publicist for Pepsi and notorious eccentric named Russell Arundel. He began his nation project after stumbling across a small island while sport fishing off the coast of Nova Scotia in Canada. He soon bought the island, built a small fishing lodge, and began regularly going on drunken weekend getaways to it with his friends. During one of these late night drinking sessions, Arundel and his pals concocted the Constitution (which mandated fishing and the consumption of rum as time-honored state pastimes) and Declaration of Independence for what they called the Principality of Outer Baldonia. They doled out government titles among the group (anyone who caught a tuna and paid a fee was immediately declared a “prince”), and even developed a currency. They later released a State Charter that stated taxes and women were banned from the island, and that its main export was empty beer bottles.

Baldonia would have remained just a joke among friends, but Arundel went so far as to list his office number in Washington D.C. as that of the Embassy for the Principality. Soon, he and his imaginary country were being invited to state functions, and Baldonia was supposedly mistakenly asked to join the United Nations. Arundel and his fake country even became famous enough to warrant criticism from a Soviet newspaper, which Baldonia responded to, naturally, with a declaration of war. The Baldonian Navy, which was made up entirely of local fishing vessels, supposedly took the sea in order to attack the Russians, but it can only be assumed that they got sidetracked and went drinking instead.

5. Frestonia

Size: .0028 of a square mile

In the late 70s, a small, derelict section of the Notting Hill region of London gained worldwide attention after it declared its independence from the rest of Britain. The community, which called itself Frestonia thanks to its location on Freston road, was made up of squatters and other counterculture types who had been threatened with eviction by the local city council. Unwilling to abandon their lifestyle, the residents banded together, and after voting overwhelmingly to secede, declared themselves a sovereign nation on Halloween night 1977. They quickly applied for induction into the United Nations, and warned that peacekeeping troops would be needed if the council tried to evict them by force. Because of constant media coverage, the city found it difficult to throw the Frestonians out of their neighborhood, and following a public inquiry the micronation was given the right to exist.

The residents jumped at the opportunity to build their own nation, and soon created their own newspaper, postage stamps, national anthem (three of them, actually), and even a film institute that regularly showed concert footage of the Sex Pistols. The area became a counterculture haven, to the point that in 1982 The Clash even came to the community to record their album Combat Rock. Eventually, though, members of the region negotiated an agreement with the city to help in rebuilding the crumbling district. This meant that Frestonia lost its cherished freedom from the British government, and many of the original citizens moved away. The organization of the little country-within-a-country soon collapsed, but even today the neighborhood remains an unusually close-knit community.

4. Talossa

Size: Indeterminate, but includes a good part of Milwaukee, Antarctica, and some French islands

The internet has become a veritable playground for amateur nation builders, as new countries—many of which exist only on paper—can use websites and blogs as a way to build up their populations and drum up support for their cause. There is perhaps no better example of this than Talossa, an upstart country formed in 1979 by then-14-year-old Robert Ben Madison of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It officially seceded from the United States in the same year (though, as its website states, the U.S. didn’t seem to notice) and established itself as a constitutional monarchy with “King Ben” as its head. In the beginning, Talossa was just a joke hobby (the original “Kingdom” consisted of Madison’s bedroom), but in 1995 Talossa became the first micronation to get a website, and from there its legend and its membership grew rapidly. Soon, it had developed a cult following, and conventions called Talossafests were regularly held in and around Milwaukee.

As micronations go, Talossa features one of the most fully realized cultures. Fans have traced its “history” back to the Berbers, written a national anthem (“Stand Tall, Talossans”) and, most impressively, composed a 25,000-word dictionary of their own invented language, the so-called Talossan Tongue. As one of the world’s oldest micronations (Madison claims to have coined the term), Talossa has become famous the world over, but it has not been without controversy: in 2004, a group of citizens rebelled against the crown and formed the Republic of Talossa, and it seems that a rival Kingdom has also recently sprung up—all only online, of course. Photo: King Robert I (successor to King Ben).

3. Hutt River Province

Size: 28.9 square miles

Few micronations ever have any real success at being recognized by the larger countries that they “secede” from, with the notable exception of Australia’s Hutt River Province. Its history dates back to 1970, when Leonard Casley, a farmer from outside of Perth, got into a dispute with government officials over wheat quotas. When no reasonable compromise could be reached, Casley resorted to a loophole in British law and declared that he and his 75 square kilometer property had seceded from the state of Western Australia. A comedy of errors and inaction in the Australian government led to Casley’s claim receiving an uncommon amount of legitimacy, and when he was threatened with prosecution he simply declared himself “His Royal Highness, Prince Leonard of Hutt,” in order to take advantage of ancient law that made monarchs immune to arrest. Since then, the Hutt River Province, or the Principality of Hutt River, as it is now known, has existed in a legal grey area. Residents are not subject to Australian taxes, but the government has still never officially recognized the micronation as a sovereign entity.

Once Hutt River gained its de facto independence, Price Leonard immediately went about the business of drafting a bill of rights, a flag, and a form of money called the Hutt River Dollar. The Principality is still going strong today, and Hutt River has even become something of a tourist destination where visitors can buy Hutt River coins and get their picture taken with the Prince, who is now well into his 80s.

2. Seborga

Size: 4 square miles

The history of Seborga dates back to the 10th century, when the small territory in northern Italy was granted independence and given to some monks so that they could build a monastery. Nearly seven hundred years later it was annexed by the Kingdom of Sardinia, which once owned large parts of Spain and Italy. But even after the end of the Sardinian Kingdom, Seborga was never officially claimed by the Italian state. Things stayed this way for another 200 years until the 1960s, when a local florist named Giorgio Carbone began arguing that the region had never lost its autonomy, and as such was technically an independent principality. Carbone managed to win over the local townspeople, and he was soon elected as the unofficial head of the “country” of Seborga.

Despite its newfound independence, things stayed mostly the same in Seborga until the mid-nineties, when the town’s 300 residents voted to once and for all declare independence from Italy. Carbone, who was already jokingly known as “your tremendousness,” became the official prince of the region, a title he held until his death in 2009. He was the most enthusiastic promoter of the Principality, and is responsible for instituting its flag, money, postage stamps, and motto “sub umbra sede” (which apparently means “Sit in the Shade”). The Italian government has never officially recognized Seborga—residents still pay Italian taxes and attend Italian schools—but they have not discouraged it from symbolically operating as a sovereign state, and today it even has its own standing army, which supposedly consists of a single soldier named Lt. Antonello Lacalo.

1. The Principality of Sealand

Size: .0002 of a square mile

Of all the tiny upstart nations in the world, perhaps none has managed to garner as much fame as the Principality of Sealand, a micronation built on an abandoned WWII sea fort off the coast of Britain. It was started in 1967, when famed pirate radio broadcaster Paddy Roy Bates occupied the platform and began using it as hub for his station “Radio Essex.” Bates began calling the fort “Sealand,” and by 1975 he had come up with a flag, a national anthem, a currency, and even passports. Unlike most micronations, Sealand has gained a remarkably high profile in the international community, if only for its readiness to use force. This was most apparent in 1968, when Bates’s son Michael used a rifle to fire on a British vessel that had entered Sealand’s territorial waters. He was handed a weapons charge, but managed to dodge it in court because Sealand was far enough off the coast that it was outside of British jurisdiction. This decision has been used time and again as proof of Sealand’s sovereignty, but it has yet to be recognized by any major country. Germany did send a representative to the fort during the so-called “Second Sealand Incident” in 1975, when a German citizen briefly claimed the platform before being ousted and imprisoned by the Bates, but it has since denied that this action means it recognizes Sealand as a legitimate nation.

In recent years, Sealand has become less of a country and more of a business venture. During the dot com era, it was briefly used as an offshore data hosting facility because of its lack of laws and regulations. It has also operated as a tourist destination, and in recent years the Bates family even unsuccessfully attempted to sell the Principality for some 750 million euros.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Sydney funnel spider

The Sydney funnel-web spider, Atrax robustus, is an Australian funnel-web spider usually found within a 100 km (62 mi) radius of Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.The Sydney funnel-web spider is unquestionably the most dangerous spider in Australia; the red back and the paralysis tick are the only other two arachnids with potentially fatal bites.The Sydney Funnel-web Spider (Atrax robustus) occurs in New South Wales, from Newcastle to Nowra and west to Lithgow. They especially favour the forested upland areas surrounding the lower, more open country of the central Cumberland Basin.It is a large (6-7 cm), black, aggressive, ugly looking spider with massive fangs. These are large and powerful enough to easily penetrate a fingernail. When disturbed it tends to rear up on its hind legs, a defensive posture that exposes the fangs. The venom of the slightly smaller male spider is five times as toxic as the female. This is unfortunate, as male funnel webs tend to roam about, particularly after heavy rain in summer, and often wind up indoors. The primary toxic component is atraxotoxin, which alone can cause all the symptoms. The venom also contains hyaluronidase and other components (GABA, spermine, indole acetic acid). For some strange reason, human beings (and other primates and monkeys) are particularly sensitive to the venom, whereas toads, cats and rabbits are almost unaffected.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Roach birth

Ever saw a Madagascar cockroach giving birth?

Monday, December 21, 2015

Crystal Cave

Cueva de los Cristales (Cave of the Crystals) is a cave of the Naica Mine in Chihuahua, Mexico. The chamber contains giant selenite crystals, some of the largest natural crystals ever found. The cave’s largest crystal is 11 m (36 ft) in length, 4 m (13 ft) in diameter and 55 tons in weight. The cave is about 30 m (98 ft) in length, 10 m (33 ft) in width and almost 300 meters (900 feet) below the surface of the Earth. It is extremely hot in the cave with air temperatures reaching up to 43 °C (109 °F) with 90 to 100 percent humidity. The hot temperature is due to the proximity of a magma chamber. The cave is relatively unexplored because humans can only survive for approximately ten minutes without proper protection and only 45 with special equipment. Add to that the risk of falling into deep pits, ending impaled on a sharp crystal.