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Dog ‘sold for $2 million’ in China

Posted in NEWS with tags on March 20, 2014 by Yappy Kawitarka

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Dog ‘sold for $2 million’ in China


20 hours ago
One of the Tibetan mastiffs (L) was sold in China for almost $2 million, a report said on March 19, in what could be the most expensive dog sale ever. (AFP Photo/)

Beijing (AFP) – A Tibetan mastiff puppy has been sold in China for almost $2 million, a report said Wednesday, in what could be the most expensive dog sale ever.

A property developer paid 12 million yuan ($1.9 million) for the one-year-old golden-haired mastiff at a “luxury pet” fair Tuesday in the eastern province of Zhejiang, the Qianjiang Evening News reported.

“They have lion’s blood and are top-of-the-range mastiff studs,” the dog’s breeder Zhang Gengyun was quoted as telling the paper, adding that another red-haired canine had sold for 6 million yuan.

Enormous and sometimes ferocious, with round manes lending them a passing resemblance to lions, Tibetan mastiffs have become a prized status symbol among China’s wealthy, sending prices skyrocketing.

The golden-haired animal was 80 centimetres (31 inches) tall, and weighed 90 kilograms (nearly 200 pounds), Zhang said, adding that he was sad to sell the animals. Neither was named in the report.

Tibetan mastiffs, such as this one pictured April 6, 2012 at a dog show near Beijing, have become a prized status symbol among China’s wealthy, sending prices skyrocketing (AFP Photo/Mark Ralston)

“Pure Tibetan mastiffs are very rare, just like our nationally treasured pandas, so the prices are so high,” he said.

One red mastiff named “Big Splash” reportedly sold for 10 million yuan ($1.5 million) in 2011, in the most expensive dog sale then recorded.

The buyer at the Zhejiang expo was said to be a 56-year-old property developer from Qingdao who hopes to breed dogs himself, according to the report.

The newspaper quoted the owner of a mastiff breeding website as saying that last year one animal sold for 27 million yuan at a fair in Beijing.

But an industry insider surnamed Xu told the paper that the high prices may be the result of insider agreements among breeders to boost their dogs’ worth.

“A lot of the sky-high priced deals are just breeders hyping each other up, and no money actually changes hands,” Xu said.

Owners say the mastiffs, descendants of dogs used for hunting by nomadic tribes in central Asia and Tibet, are fiercely loyal and protective.

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A powerful new virus is infecting computers in Ukraine

Posted in NEWS with tags on March 12, 2014 by Yappy Kawitarka

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A powerful new virus is infecting computers in Ukraine

A powerful new virus is infecting computers in Ukraine

It’s called “Snake” and it’s being compared to another alleged state-run virus, Stuxnet. And yes, all evidence points to Russia.

According to British-based BAE systems, dozens of computer networks have been infected with the virus, which sometimes goes by the name Ouroboros (named after the serpent in Greek mythology). It works by giving remote attackers “full remote access to the compromised system.” It has stealth qualities, including the ability to stay inactive for a number of days.

The cyber weapon has been increasingly used since the beginning of the year, before the overthrow of president Viktor Yanukovych. Security experts are comparing it to Stuxnet, the malware that disrupted Iran’s nuclear facilities in 2010. More from AFP:

Although its origins are unclear, its developers appear to operate it in the same timezone as Moscow — GMT plus four hours — and some Russian text is embedded into the code, BAE says. BAE has identified 14 cases of Snake in Ukraine since the start of 2014, compared to eight cases in the whole of 2013. In all there have been 32 reported cases in Ukraine since 2010, out of 56 worldwide. “Our report shows that a technically sophisticated and well-organised group has been developing and using these tools for the last eight years,” said David Garfield, the managing director of cyber security at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence. “There is some evidence that links these tools to previous breaches connected to Russian threat actors but it is not possible to say exactly who is behind this campaign.”

A powerful new virus is infecting computers in Ukraine

The problem with releasing sophisticated viruses like these is containability. Take Stuxnet, for example, which was recently detected in a Russian nuclear power plant. It’s conceivable that the viruses, once unleashed, might damage other computers and systems in unpredictable and undesirable ways. I think the self-eating snake metaphor in this case is quite apt.

Image: gudron/Shutterstock;Designua/Shutterstock.



Dogs ripped kids to pieces in N.Korean camp: ex-guard

Posted in NEWS with tags on February 27, 2014 by Yappy Kawitarka

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Dogs ripped kids to pieces in N.Korean camp: ex-guard


By Nina Larson21 hours ago
Dogs ripped kids to pieces in N.Korean camp: ex-guard

Geneva (AFP) – Ahn Myong-Chol witnessed many horrors as a North Korean prison camp guard, but few haunt him like the image of guard dogs attacking school children and tearing them to pieces.

Ahn, who worked as a prison camp guard for eight years until he fled the country in 1994, recalls the day he saw three dogs get away from their handler and attack children coming back from the camp school.

“There were three dogs and they killed five children,” the 45-year-old told AFP through a translator.

“They killed three of the children right away. The two other children were barely breathing and the guards buried them alive,” he said, speaking on the sidelines of a Geneva conference for human rights activists.

The next day, instead of putting down the murderous dogs, the guards pet them and fed them special food “as some kind of award,” he added with disgust.

“People in the camps are not treated as human beings… They are like flies that can be crushed,” said Ahn, his sad eyes framed by steel-rimmed glasses.

The former guard is one of many defectors who provided harrowing testimony to a UN-mandated enquiry that last week issued a searing, 400-page indictment of gross human rights abuses in North Korea.

Dogs ripped kids to pieces in N.Korean camp: ex-guard
North Korean soldiers take part in training with military dogs at an undisclosed location, April 6,  …

After fleeing the country two decades ago, Ahn worked for years at a bank in South Korea but gradually got involved in work denouncing the expansive prison camp system in the isolated nation.

Three years ago, he quit his bank job to dedicate all his time to his non-governmental organisation, Free NK Gulag.

“It’s my life’s mission to spread awareness about what is happening in the camps,” he said.

There are an estimated 80,000 to 120,000 political prisoners in North Korea, a nation of 24 million people.

Ahn, who today is married with two daughters, knows all too well the brutal mentality of the camp guards.

When he, as the son of a high-ranking official, was ushered onto the prestigious path of becoming a guard in 1987, he says he was heavily brainwashed to see all prisoners as “evil”.

Dogs ripped kids to pieces in N.Korean camp: ex-guard
Graphic on North Korea’s prison camps outlined in a UN mandated report (AFP Photo/Adrian Leung/J …

- ‘Horrors still happening’ –

At his first posting at camp 14, north of Pyongyang, he was encouraged to practice his Tae Kwon Do skills on prisoners.

And he recalls how guards were urged to shoot any prisoner who might try to escape.

“We were allowed to kill them, and if we brought back their body, they would award us by letting us go study at college,” he said.

Some guards would send prisoners outside the camp and kill them as escapees to gain access to a college education, he added.

Ahn said he had beaten many prisoners but said that, to his knowledge, he had never killed any of them.

Dogs ripped kids to pieces in N.Korean camp: ex-guard
North Korean soldiers patrol along the Yalu River at the North Korean town of Sinuiju on February 12 …

Although he witnessed numerous executions, starving children, and the effects of extreme torture, it was not until he was promoted to be a driver, transporting soldiers back and forth between camps, that he began to question the system.

During his travels he sometimes struck up conversations with prisoners and was astonished to find that “more than 90 percent” of them said they had no idea why they were in the camp.

Ahn had stumbled across North Korea’s system of throwing generations of the same family into prison camps under guilt-by-association rules.

He got a taste of that rule himself. On leave in 1994, he returned home to find that his father had committed suicide after making some drunken, negative remarks about the country’s leadership.

Ahn’s mother, sister and brother were detained and likely sent into camps, although he is not sure what became of them.

Shin Dong-hyuk speaks during an interview with Reuters in Seoul

Shin Dong-hyuk, a North Korean defector who has given the U.N. panel harrowing accounts of his life and escape from a prison camp, speaks during an interview with Reuters in Seoul February 10, 2014. After a year of investigation, the United Nations is set to release a detailed report on human rights violations in North Korea, but defectors from the country and experts are deeply sceptical it will have any effect on the regime in Pyongyang. Picture taken February 10, 2014. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji (SOUTH KOREA – Tags: POLITICS)

Though Ahn returned to work, he feared he too would be dragged off. So he drove his truck to the shores of the Du Man River and swam across to China, having to dump the heavy weapons he was carrying to avoid drowning.

Once he got involved in the NGO work in South Korea, he was uneasy about meeting former prisoners who had also managed to defect, like Chol Hwan Kang.

Kang was sent to Camp 15 — where Ahn once served — with his whole family when he was nine and spent 10 years there to repent for the suspected disloyalties of his grandfather. Ahn remembered him from his time as a guard there.

But Kang, like most survivors, understood he had not chosen his job and had accepted his plea for forgiveness.

“He met me with a gentle handshake,” Ahn said.

A U.N. Human Rights staff points to the title of a drawing describing North Korean labour camp no 18 in Geneva

A United Nations Human Rights staff points to the title of a drawing describing North Korean labour camp no 18, a gift made in December 2012 by survivor Kim Hye Sook, in Geneva February 17, 2014. The Commission of Inquiry will release its report on human rights in North Korea later on Monday. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse (SWITZERLAND – Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)

Last week’s UN report was vital to spreading awareness about the reality of the camps, Ahn said, comparing what is happening there to the Soviet-era Gulags.

“The difference is that in North Korea we are still talking in the present tense. These horrors are still happening,” he said.

Indonesia’s Deadly New Volcanic Eruption ‘Heard’ Around the World

Posted in NEWS with tags on February 15, 2014 by Yappy Kawitarka

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Indonesia’s Deadly New Volcanic Eruption ‘Heard’ Around the World

By Becky Oskin, Staff Writer   |   February 14, 2014 12:46pm ET
The eruption at Kelud, Feb. 14 local time.
Credit: @hilmi_dzi/Twitter  

A powerful eruption yesterday evening (Feb. 13) at Indonesia’s Mount Kelud volcano, in eastern Java, hurled ash 9 miles (15 kilometers) into the sky, grounding air travel and sending out sound waves picked up by more than a dozen nuclear weapon detectors.

More than 200,000 people have been evacuated from the region near Mount Kelud, one of Indonesia’s most deadlyvolcanoes. Lava fragments ejected from the volcano crushed the roof of a home, killing two people, AFP reported. Another man died from inhaling ash.

Image :

The eruption, at 11:29 p.m. local time, forced a Virgin flight from Sydney to Bali to turn around midair, and airlines have now grounded flights to and from tropical resorts such as the Phuket, Thailand, as well as Australia’s Christmas Island and Cocos Island. Airports across Java, including the capital of Jakarta, are also temporarily closed, according to news reports.

Volcanic lighting flashed as Kelud flung ash and lava into the air, and lava poured down the volcano’s slopes, eyewitnesses said. [See Electrifying Images of Volcanic Lightning]

No pyroclastic flows or lahars have been reported yet, but in past eruptions, these deadly mixes of gas, water and volcanic material have killed thousands. A lahar killed more than 5,000 people when Kelud erupted in 1919. A drainage system was built to empty the crater lake following the 1919 disaster, in order to prevent future lahars.

Mount Kelud’s ash cloud.
Credit: ESA

Kelud’s last eruption was in 2007, when a dome of lava started growing within its crater lake. In recent weeks, the volcano’s alert level, which tracks its risk of eruption, was raised to yellow and a 3-mile-radius (5 km) evacuation zone established as seismic activity ramped up below Kelud. The number of shallow volcanic tremors rose from an average of one to two per day to more than 100 per day since the start of February. Water temperature in the crate lake also rose by more than 9 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius), the Indonesian Geological Survey said.

File:Kelud eruption 2014 ash in Yogyakarta.jpg – Wikipedia, the free …

Indonesia has some 130 active volcanoes. Earlier this month, a blast at Mount Sinabung, in western Sumatra, killed 16 people. Sinabung volcano has been erupting since September 2013.

Keludlava dome (Photo: Tom Pfeiffer)

Ash from Kelud volcano eruption cover roofs of houses in Yogyakarta …

Email Becky Oskin or follow her @beckyoskin. Follow us @OAPlanet,Facebook and Google+. Original article at Live Science’s Our Amazing Planet.

Syria: Negotiators talk and people still suffer

Posted in NEWS with tags on February 3, 2014 by Yappy Kawitarka

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January 27, 2014

Syria: Negotiators talk and people still suffer

While negotiators from all sides hold difficult talks in Geneva, the violence continues for the Syrian people The Syrian government said women and children could leave the besieged city and that rebels should hand over the names of the men who would remain. A U.S. State Department spokesman said an evacuation was not an alternative to immediate aid.” –Thea Breite (16 photos total)

A child clears damage and debris in the besieged area of Homs January 26, 2014. (Thaer Al Khalidiya/Reuters)

Monzer Akbik, center, a spokesman of the Syrian National Coalition, Syria’s main political opposition group, is surrounded by journalists after a meeting with the Syrian government at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014. Syrians on opposite sides of their country’s civil war tried again Sunday to find common ground, with peace talks focusing on an aid convoy to a besieged city that once more came under mortar attack from the government. (Anja Niedringhaus/AP) #

Syrian army soldiers loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad walk through a hole in the wall in Al-Mirnda building, after claiming to have regained control of the area, in Aleppo January 26, 2014. Al-Mirnda building, and Karm Qasr neighbourhood that surrounds it, are now in the control of the Syrian Regime after more than a year and a half of being controlled by Free Syrian Army fighters. Both places are strategic, for they overlook Nairab military airport, activists said. (George Ourfalian/Reuters) #

A security officer stands guard as UN-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi (L) speaks with UN staff after a press conference at the United Nations Offices in Geneva on January 26, 2014. Syria’s regime and opposition discussed prisoner releases on the second day of face-to-face peace talks in Geneva. With no one appearing ready for serious concessions, mediators are focusing on short-term deals to keep the process moving forward, including localized ceasefires, more humanitarian access and prisoner exchanges. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images) #

Syrians look through rubble following a reported airstrike attack by government forces on Daraya, southwest of the capital Damascus, on January 25, 2014. Helicopters struck Daraya, using TNT-laden barrels, reported the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group with a network of sources inside the war-torn country. (Fadi Dirani /AFP/Getty Images) #

A delegation of the Syrian opposition walks outside of the United Nation Offices in Geneva on January 26, 2014. . (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images) #

A female member of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) takes up position at Al-Menajir village, Ras Al-Ain in the countryside near Hasaka, January 26, 2014. Violent clashes between members of the YPG and the al Qaeda-linked Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and other Syrian Islamic rebel groups, took place in Al-Menajir village, activists said. (Rodi Said/Reuters) #

Haitham al-Maleh, 2nd from left, senior member of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), Syria’s main political opposition group, enters an elevator after leaving a meeting with U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014. (Anja Niedringhaus/AP) #

A young Syrian boy in shock is comforted after surviving a reported government airstrike on the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on January 23, 2014. Regime air raids on Aleppo left another 16 people dead, including three women and eight children, after warplanes hit several rebel-held areas in the south of the city. (Mahmud Al-Halabi /AFP/Getty Images) #

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem, head of a Syrian government delegation, arrives for a meeting with U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi (not seen) at a U.N. office in Geneva January 24, 2014. International mediator Brahimi ended talks with the Syrian government delegation on Friday after less than an hour, two security officials said. (Jamal Saidi /Reuters) #

Rebel fighters on a street in the northeastern city of Deir Ezzor on January 25, 2014. More than 130,000 people have been killed in Syria in nearly three years, and millions more forced to flee their homes. (Ahmad Aboud/AFP/Getty Images) #

UN-Arab League envoy for Syria Lakhdar Brahimi attends a press conference at the United Nations Offices in Geneva on January 26, 2014. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images) #

Free Syrian Army fighters help an injured comrade at a front line at Aleppo International Airport January 25, 2014. Activists say there were violent clashes in the neighborhood of Karam Altarab as forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad attempt to secure the perimeter of Aleppo International Airport. (Saad Abobrahim/Reuters) #

Veteran Syrian opposition figure and prominent Syrian human rights activist Haitham al-Maleh arrives at the United Nations Offices in Geneva on January 26, 2014. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images) #

A young Syrian boy cries as others inspect the damage following a reported government airstrike on the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on January 23, 2014. (Mahmud Al-Halabi/AFP/Getty Images) #

Syrian senior presidential advisor Buthaina Shaaban speaks to a Syrian TV reporter at the United Nations Offices in Geneva on January 26, 2014. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images)

Riots in Ukraine

Posted in NEWS with tags on February 3, 2014 by Yappy Kawitarka

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January 24, 2014

Riots in Ukraine

Anti-government protests erupted this week in the Ukraine city of Kiev. Despite crisis talks including President Viktor Yanukovych, rioting still persists and has started to spread beyond the capital. –Leanne Burden Seidel (21 photos total)

Protesters burn tires as they clash with riot police during an anti-government protest in downtown Kiev, Ukraine, Jan. 22. At least two people died of gunshot wounds on January 22 during anti-government protests in Ukraine. (ROMAN PILIPEY/EPA)

Riot police officers gather as they clash with protestors in the center of Kiev on Jan. 22. Ukrainian police stormed protesters’ barricades in Kiev as violent clashes erupted.(ANATOLII BOIKO/AFP/Getty Images) #

Ukrainian riot policemen detain a bleeding protester following clashes between security forces and pro-EU demonstrators in central Kiev on Jan. 22. (ANATOLII BOIKO/AFP/Getty Images) #

A protester throws a Molotov cocktail during an anti-government protest in downtown Kiev, Ukraine, Jan 22. According to media reports, two men were shot dead as anti-government protests escalated in Ukraine, causing central Kiev to resemble a war zone with protesters and riot police battling on and off while smoke from burning tyres and firebombs blackened the sky. (ALEXEY FURMAN/EPA) #

Police prepare to clash with protesters in central Kiev, Ukraine, Jan. 22. The mass protests in the capital of Kiev erupted after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych spurned a pact with the European Union in favor of close ties with Russia, which offered him a $15 billion bailout. (Efrem Lukatsky/Associated Press) #

A pro-European integration protester takes cover behind a makeshift shield at the site of clashes with riot police in Kiev Jan. 23. Ukrainian opposition leaders emerged from crisis talks with President Viktor Yanukovich on Wednesday saying he had failed to give concrete answers to their demands, and told their supporters on the streets to prepare for a police offensive. (David Mdzinarishvili/Reuters) #

A protester breaks up a mannequin on the roof of the burned truck during clashes with police in central Kiev, Ukraine, Jan. 23. Thick black smoke from burning tires engulfed parts of downtown Kiev as an ultimatum issued by the opposition to the president to call early election or face street rage was set to expire with no sign of a compromise on Thursday. (Sergei Grits/Associated Press) #

Protesters stand on a barricade during an anti-government protest in downtown Kiev, Ukraine, Jan 24. (SERGEY DOLZHENKO/EPA) #

A pro-European integration protester throws stones towards riot police as others take cover in Kiev Jan. 23. (Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters) #

A woman cries as she and others appeal to Ukrainian police troops at the site of clashes with anti-government protesters in Kiev Jan. 24. Ukrainian protesters erected more street barricades and occupied a government ministry building on Friday after the failure of crisis talks with President Viktor Yanukovich, pointing to a further hot weekend of protest. The words on the placard read, from top: “Soldiers and policemen, pass on to the people’s side. Together to the victory. Glory to Ukraine.” (Gleb Garanich/Reuters) #

Pro-European integration protesters take cover from water sprayed from a fire engine at the site of clashes with riot police in Kiev Jan. 23. (Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters) #

A view of anti-government protesters camping at the Independence Square in central Kiev Jan. 24. Ukrainian protesters erected more street barricades and occupied a government ministry building on Friday, fuelling tension after the failure of crisis talks with President Viktor Yanukovich. (Gleb Garanich/Reuters) #

An anti-government protester stands next to a mannequin on a barricade at the site of clashes with riot police in Kiev Jan. 24. (Gleb Garanich/Reuters) #

Police troops stand in front of a barricade at the site of clashes with anti-government protesters in Kiev Jan. 24. (Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters) #

A protester wearing improvised protective gear helps a woman cross near the barricade in front of riot police in Kiev, Ukraine, Jan. 24. Protesters have seized a government building in the Ukrainian capital while also maintaining the siege of several governors’ offices in the country’s west, raising the pressure on the government. (Darko Vojinovic/Associated Press) #

Police block the road near the Ukrainian Cabinet of Ministers building on Jan. 24, in Kiev, Ukraine. After two months of primarily peaceful anti-government protests in the city center, new laws meant to end the protest movement have sparked violent clashes in recent days. (Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images) #

A woman speaks as she kneels down in front of a line of riot police in the center of Kiev on Jan. 24. Ukrainian protesters today expanded their protest camp in Kiev closer to the administration of President Viktor Yanukovych, after crisis talks to end Ukraine’s worst crisis since its 1991 independence ended in deadlock. (SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images) #

Protesters warm themselves at a fire during continuous anti-government protests in Kiev, Ukraine, Jan. 24. Anti-government protesters in Ukraine vowed to carry on after President Viktor Yanukovych failed to make major concessions in late-night talks with opposition leaders. (ZURAB KURTSIKIDZE/EPA) #

Some 10,000 Ukrainians take part in the funeral ceremony of dead protester Yuri Verbytsky in the western city of Lviv on Jan. 24. (YURIY DYACHYSHYN/AFP/Getty Images) #

Anti-government protesters stand on a barricade at the site of clashes with riot police in Kiev, Jan. 24. Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, in what appeared to be an offer of concessions to the opposition amid violent protests against his rule, pledged on Friday to reshuffle the government next week and to amend sweeping anti-protest laws. (David Mdzinarishvili/Reuters) #

Activists of Euromaidan (the name given for Independence Square) burn tires and warm themselves at a barricade in the center of Kiev early on Jan 24. (SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)

For 40 Years, This Russian Family Was Cut Off From All Human Contact, Unaware of WWII

Posted in NEWS with tags , , on January 6, 2014 by Yappy Kawitarka

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For 40 Years, This Russian Family Was Cut Off From All Human Contact, Unaware of WWII

In 1978, Soviet geologists prospecting in the wilds of Siberia discovered a family of six, lost in the taiga

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The Siberian taiga in the Abakan district. Six members of the Lykov family lived in this remote wilderness for more than 40 years—utterly isolated and more than 150 miles from the nearest human settlement.

The Siberian taiga in the Abakan district. Six members of the Lykov family lived in this remote wilderness for more than 40 years—utterly isolated and more than 150 miles from the nearest human settlement. (Wiki Commons)

Siberian summers do not last long. The snows linger into May, and the cold weather returns again during September, freezing the taiga into a still life awesome in its desolation: endless miles of straggly pine and birch forests scattered with sleeping bears and hungry wolves; steep-sided mountains; white-water rivers that pour in torrents through the valleys; a hundred thousand icy bogs. This forest is the last and greatest of Earth’s wildernesses. It stretches from the furthest tip of Russia’s arctic regions as far south as Mongolia, and east from the Urals to the Pacific: five million square miles of nothingness, with a population, outside a handful of towns, that amounts to only a few thousand people.

When the warm days do arrive, though, the taiga blooms, and for a few short months it can seem almost welcoming. It is then that man can see most clearly into this hidden world—not on land, for the taiga can swallow whole armies of explorers, but from the air. Siberia is the source of most of Russia’s oil and mineral resources, and, over the years, even its most distant parts have been overflown by oil prospectors and surveyors on their way to backwoods camps where the work of extracting wealth is carried on.

Karp Lykov and his daughter Agafia, wearing clothes donated by Soviet geologists not long after their family was  rediscovered.

Thus it was in the remote south of the forest in the summer of 1978. A helicopter sent to find a safe spot to land a party of geologists was skimming the treeline a hundred or so miles from the Mongolian border when it dropped into the thickly wooded valley of an unnamed tributary of the Abakan, a seething ribbon of water rushing through dangerous terrain. The valley walls were narrow, with sides that were close to vertical in places, and the skinny pine and birch trees swaying in the rotors’ downdraft were so thickly clustered that there was no chance of finding a spot to set the aircraft down. But, peering intently through his windscreen in search of a landing place, the pilot saw something that should not have been there. It was a clearing, 6,000 feet up a mountainside, wedged between the pine and larch and scored with what looked like long, dark furrows. The baffled helicopter crew made several passes before reluctantly concluding that this was evidence of human habitation—a garden that, from the size and shape of the clearing, must have been there for a long time.

It was an astounding discovery. The mountain was more than 150 miles from the nearest settlement, in a spot that had never been explored. The Soviet authorities had no records of anyone living in the district.

The Lykovs lived in this hand-built log cabin, lit by a single window “the size of a backpack pocket” and warmed by a smoky wood-fired stove.

The four scientists sent into the district to prospect for iron ore were told about the pilots’ sighting, and it perplexed and worried them. “It’s less dangerous,” the writer Vasily Peskov notes of this part of the taiga, “to run across a wild animal than a stranger,” and rather than wait at their own temporary base, 10 miles away, the scientists decided to investigate. Led by a geologist named Galina Pismenskaya, they “chose a fine day and put gifts in our packs for our prospective friends”—though, just to be sure, she recalled, “I did check the pistol that hung at my side.”

As the intruders scrambled up the mountain, heading for the spot pinpointed by their pilots, they began to come across signs of human activity: a rough path, a staff, a log laid across a stream, and finally a small shed filled with birch-bark containers of cut-up dried potatoes. Then, Pismenskaya said,

beside a stream there was a dwelling. Blackened by time and rain, the hut was piled up on all sides with taiga rubbish—bark, poles, planks. If it hadn’t been for a window the size of my backpack pocket, it would have been hard to believe that people lived there. But they did, no doubt about it…. Our arrival had been noticed, as we could see.

The low door creaked, and the figure of a very old man emerged into the light of day, straight out of a fairy tale. Barefoot. Wearing a patched and repatched shirt made of sacking. He wore trousers of the same material, also in patches, and had an uncombed beard. His hair was disheveled. He looked frightened and was very attentive…. We had to say something, so I began: ‘Greetings, grandfather! We’ve come to visit!’

The old man did not reply immediately…. Finally, we heard a soft, uncertain voice: ‘Well, since you have traveled this far, you might as well come in.’

The sight that greeted the geologists as they entered the cabin was like something from the middle ages. Jerry-built from whatever materials came to hand, the dwelling was not much more than a burrow—”a low, soot-blackened log kennel that was as cold as a cellar,” with a floor consisting of potato peel and pine-nut shells. Looking around in the dim light, the visitors saw that it consisted of a single room. It was cramped, musty and indescribably filthy, propped up by sagging joists—and, astonishingly, home to a family of five:

The silence was suddenly broken by sobs and lamentations. Only then did we see the silhouettes of two women. One was in hysterics, praying: ‘This is for our sins, our sins.’ The other, keeping behind a post… sank slowly to the floor. The light from the little window fell on her wide, terrified eyes, and we realized we had to get out of there as quickly as possible.

Agafia Lykova (left) with her sister, Natalia.

Led by Pismenskaya, the scientists backed hurriedly out of the hut and retreated to a spot a few yards away, where they took out some provisions and began to eat. After about half an hour, the door of the cabin creaked open, and the old man and his two daughters emerged—no longer hysterical and, though still obviously frightened, “frankly curious.” Warily, the three strange figures approached and sat down with their visitors, rejecting everything that they were offered—jam, tea, bread—with a muttered, “We are not allowed that!” When Pismenskaya asked, “Have you ever eaten bread?” the old man answered: “I have. But they have not. They have never seen it.” At least he was intelligible. The daughters spoke a language distorted by a lifetime of isolation. “When the sisters talked to each other, it sounded like a slow, blurred cooing.”

Slowly, over several visits, the full story of the family emerged. The old man’s name was Karp Lykov, and he was an Old Believer—a member of a fundamentalist Russian Orthodox sect, worshiping in a style unchanged since the 17th century. Old Believers had been persecuted since the days of Peter the Great, and Lykov talked about it as though it had happened only yesterday; for him, Peter was a personal enemy and “the anti-Christ in human form”—a point he insisted had been amply proved by Tsar’s campaign to modernize Russia by forcibly “chopping off the beards of Christians.” But these centuries-old hatreds were conflated with more recent grievances; Karp was prone to complain in the same breath about a merchant who had refused to make a gift of 26 poods [940 pounds] of potatoes to the Old Believers sometime around 1900.

Things had only got worse for the Lykov family when the atheist Bolsheviks took power. Under the Soviets, isolated Old Believer communities that had fled to Siberia to escape persecution began to retreat ever further from civilization. During the purges of the 1930s, with Christianity itself under assault, a Communist patrol had shot Lykov’s brother on the outskirts of their village while Lykov knelt working beside him. He had responded by scooping up his family and bolting into forest.

Peter the Great’s attempts to modernize the Russia of the early 18th century found a focal point in a campaign to end the wearing of beards. Facial hair was taxed and non-payers were compulsorily shaved—anathema to Karp Lykov and the Old Believers.

That was in 1936, and there were only four Lykovs then—Karp; his wife, Akulina; a son named Savin, 9 years old, and Natalia, a daughter who was only 2. Taking their possessions and some seeds, they had retreated ever deeper into the taiga, building themselves a succession of crude dwelling places, until at last they had fetched up in this desolate spot. Two more children had been born in the wild—Dmitry in 1940 and Agafia in 1943—and neither of the youngest Lykov children had ever seen a human being who was not a member of their family. All that Agafia and Dmitry knew of the outside world they learned entirely from their parents’ stories. The family’s principal entertainment, the Russian journalist Vasily Peskov noted, “was for everyone to recount their dreams.”

The Lykov children knew there were places called cities where humans lived crammed together in tall buildings. They had heard there were countries other than Russia. But such concepts were no more than abstractions to them. Their only reading matter was prayer books and an ancient family Bible. Akulina had used the gospels to teach her children to read and write, using sharpened birch sticks dipped into honeysuckle juice as pen and ink. When Agafia was shown a picture of a horse, she recognized it from her mother’s Bible stories. “Look, papa,” she exclaimed. “A steed!”

But if the family’s isolation was hard to grasp, the unmitigated harshness of their lives was not. Traveling to the Lykov homestead on foot was astonishingly arduous, even with the help of a boat along the Abakan. On his first visit to the Lykovs, Peskov—who would appoint himself the family’s chief chronicler—noted that “we traversed 250 kilometres [155 miles] without seeing a single human dwelling!”

Isolation made survival in the wilderness close to impossible. Dependent solely on their own resources, the Lykovs struggled to replace the few things they had brought into the taiga with them. They fashioned birch-bark galoshes in place of shoes. Clothes were patched and repatched until they fell apart, then replaced with hemp cloth grown from seed.

The Lykovs’ mountain home, seen from a Soviet helicopter.

The Lykovs had carried a crude spinning wheel and, incredibly, the components of a loom into the taiga with them—moving these from place to place as they gradually went further into the wilderness must have required many long and arduous journeys—but they had no technology for replacing metal. A couple of kettles served them well for many years, but when rust finally overcame them, the only replacements they could fashion came from birch bark. Since these could not be placed in a fire, it became far harder to cook. By the time the Lykovs were discovered, their staple diet was potato patties mixed with ground rye and hemp seeds.

In some respects, Peskov makes clear, the taiga did offer some abundance: “Beside the dwelling ran a clear, cold stream. Stands of larch, spruce, pine and birch yielded all that anyone could take…. Bilberries and raspberries were close to hand, firewood as well, and pine nuts fell right on the roof.”

Yet the Lykovs lived permanently on the edge of famine. It was not until the late 1950s, when Dmitry reached manhood, that they first trapped animals for their meat and skins. Lacking guns and even bows, they could hunt only by digging traps or pursuing prey across the mountains until the animals collapsed from exhaustion. Dmitry built up astonishing endurance, and could hunt barefoot in winter, sometimes returning to the hut after several days, having slept in the open in 40 degrees of frost, a young elk across his shoulders. More often than not, though, there was no meat, and their diet gradually became more monotonous. Wild animals destroyed their crop of carrots, and Agafia recalled the late 1950s as “the hungry years.” “We ate the rowanberry leaf,” she said,

roots, grass, mushrooms, potato tops, and bark, We were hungry all the time. Every year we held a council to decide whether to eat everything up or leave some for seed.

Famine was an ever-present danger in these circumstances, and in 1961 it snowed in June. The hard frost killed everything growing in their garden, and by spring the family had been reduced to eating shoes and bark. Akulina chose to see her children fed, and that year she died of starvation. The rest of the family were saved by what they regarded as a miracle: a single grain of rye sprouted in their pea patch. The Lykovs put up a fence around the shoot and guarded it zealously night and day to keep off mice and squirrels. At harvest time, the solitary spike yielded 18 grains, and from this they painstakingly rebuilt their rye crop.

Dmitry (left) and Savin in the Siberian summer.

As the Soviet geologists got to know the Lykov family, they realized that they had underestimated their abilities and intelligence. Each family member had a distinct personality; Old Karp was usually delighted by the latest innovations that the scientists brought up from their camp, and though he steadfastly refused to believe that man had set foot on the moon, he adapted swiftly to the idea of satellites. The Lykovs had noticed them as early as the 1950s, when “the stars began to go quickly across the sky,” and Karp himself conceived a theory to explain this: “People have thought something up and are sending out fires that are very like stars.”

“What amazed him most of all,” Peskov recorded, “was a transparent cellophane package. ‘Lord, what have they thought up—it is glass, but it crumples!’” And Karp held grimly to his status as head of the family, though he was well into his 80s. His eldest child, Savin, dealt with this by casting himself as the family’s unbending arbiter in matters of religion. “He was strong of faith, but a harsh man,” his own father said of him, and Karp seems to have worried about what would happen to his family after he died if Savin took control. Certainly the eldest son would have encountered little resistance from Natalia, who always struggled to replace her mother as cook, seamstress and nurse.

The two younger children, on the other hand, were more approachable and more open to change and innovation. “Fanaticism was not terribly marked in Agafia,” Peskov said, and in time he came to realize that the youngest of the Lykovs had a sense of irony and could poke fun at herself. Agafia’s unusual speech—she had a singsong voice and stretched simple words into polysyllables—convinced some of her visitors she was slow-witted; in fact she was markedly intelligent, and took charge of the difficult task, in a family that possessed no calendars, of keeping track of time.  She thought nothing of hard work, either, excavating a new cellar by hand late in the fall and working on by moonlight when the sun had set. Asked by an astonished Peskov whether she was not frightened to be out alone in the wilderness after dark, she replied: “What would there be out here to hurt me?”

A Russian press photo of Karp Lykov (second left) with Dmitry and Agafia, accompanied by a Soviet geologist.

Of all the Lykovs, though, the geologists’ favorite was Dmitry, a consummate outdoorsman who knew all of the taiga’s moods. He was the most curious and perhaps the most forward-looking member of the family. It was he who had built the family stove, and all the birch-bark buckets that they used to store food. It was also Dmitry who spent days hand-cutting and hand-planing each log that the Lykovs felled. Perhaps it was no surprise that he was also the most enraptured by the scientists’ technology. Once relations had improved to the point that the Lykovs could be persuaded to visit the Soviets’ camp, downstream, he spent many happy hours in its little sawmill, marveling at how easily a circular saw and lathes could finish wood. “It’s not hard to figure,” Peskov wrote. “The log that took Dmitry a day or two to plane was transformed into handsome, even boards before his eyes. Dmitry felt the boards with his palm and said: ‘Fine!’”

Karp Lykov fought a long and losing battle with himself to keep all this modernity at bay. When they first got to know the geologists, the family would accept only a single gift—salt. (Living without it for four decades, Karp said, had been “true torture.”) Over time, however, they began to take more. They welcomed the assistance of their special friend among the geologists—a driller named Yerofei Sedov, who spent much of his spare time helping them to plant and harvest crops. They took knives, forks, handles, grain and eventually even pen and paper and an electric torch. Most of these innovations were only grudgingly acknowledged, but the sin of television, which they encountered at the geologists’ camp,

proved irresistible for them…. On their rare appearances, they would invariably sit down and watch. Karp sat directly in front of the screen. Agafia watched poking her head from behind a door. She tried to pray away her transgression immediately—whispering, crossing herself…. The old man prayed afterward, diligently and in one fell swoop.

The Lykovs’ homestead seen from a Soviet reconnaissance plane, 1980.

Perhaps the saddest aspect of the Lykovs’ strange story was the rapidity with which the family went into decline after they re-established contact with the outside world. In the fall of 1981, three of the four children followed their mother to the grave within a few days of one another. According to Peskov, their deaths were not, as might have been expected, the result of exposure to diseases to which they had no immunity. Both Savin and Natalia suffered from kidney failure, most likely a result of their harsh diet. But Dmitry died of pneumonia, which might have begun as an infection he acquired from his new friends.

His death shook the geologists, who tried desperately to save him. They offered to call in a helicopter and have him evacuated to a hospital. But Dmitry, in extremis, would abandon neither his family nor the religion he had practiced all his life. “We are not allowed that,” he whispered just before he died. “A man lives for howsoever God grants.”

The Lykovs’ graves. Today only Agafia survives of the family of six, living alone in the taiga.

When all three Lykovs had been buried, the geologists attempted to talk Karp and Agafia into leaving the forest and returning to be with relatives who had survived the persecutions of the purge years, and who still lived on in the same old villages. But neither of the survivors would hear of it. They rebuilt their old cabin, but stayed close to their old home.

Karp Lykov died in his sleep on February 16, 1988, 27 years to the day after his wife, Akulina. Agafia buried him on the mountain slopes with the help of the geologists, then turned and headed back to her home. The Lord would provide, and she would stay, she said—as indeed she has. A quarter of a century later, now in her seventies herself, this child of the taiga lives on alone, high above the Abakan.

She will not leave. But we must leave her, seen through the eyes of Yerofei on the day of her father’s funeral:

I looked back to wave at Agafia. She was standing by the river break like a statue. She wasn’t crying. She nodded: ‘Go on, go on.’ We went another kilometer and I looked back. She was still standing there.

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Anon. ‘How to live substantively in our times.’ Stranniki ['Wanderers'], 20 February 2009, accessed August 2, 2011; Georg B. Michels. At War with the Church: Religious Dissent in Seventeenth Century Russia. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995; Isabel Colgate. A Pelican in the Wilderness: Hermits, Solitaries and Recluses. New York: HarperCollins, 2002; ‘From taiga to Kremlin: a hermit’s gifts to Medvedev,’, February 24, 2010, accessed August 2, 2011; G. Kramore, ‘At the taiga dead end‘. Suvenirograd ['Souvenirs of Interesting places'], nd, accessed August 5, 2011; Irina Paert. Old BelieversReligious Dissent and Gender in Russia, 1760-1850. Manchester: MUP, 2003; Vasily Peskov. Lost in the Taiga: One Russian Family’s Fifty-Year Struggle for Survival and Religious Freedom in the Siberian Wilderness. New York: Doubleday, 1992

A documentary on the Lykovs (in Russian) which shows something of the family’s isolation and living conditions, can be viewed here.

Undersea Miracle: How Man in Sunken Ship Survived 3 Days

Posted in NEWS with tags on December 16, 2013 by Yappy Kawitarka

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Undersea Miracle: How Man in Sunken Ship Survived 3 Days

By Marc Lallanilla, Assistant Editor   |   December 04, 2013 02:46pm ET
Harrison Okene survived almost 3 days inside a sunken vessel.
Credit: YouTube screengrab from ABC News

In one of the most shocking tales of survival-at-sea ever told, a man lived for almost three days inside a sunken ship at the bottom of the ocean.

In May, a tugboat with a crew of 12 was moving through choppy waters off the coast of Nigeria. The boat was towing an oil tanker when a sudden ocean swell orrogue wave slammed into the vessel, snapping the tow rope and capsizing the vessel at about 4:30 a.m.

Harrison Okene, the ship’s cook, was in the bathroom when the boat turned over and began to sink. Most of the other crew members were locked in their cabins — a safety precaution necessitated by the pirateswho regularly rob and abduct vessels in that area. That safety measure, however, sealed the other crew members’ doom. [Disasters at Sea: 6 Deadliest Shipwrecks]

In the predawn darkness, Okene was tossed from the bathroom wearing only his boxer shorts. “I was dazed, and everywhere was dark as I was thrown from one end of the small cubicle to another,” he toldThe Nation. Okene was luckier than his crewmates, however. Locked inside their cabins asleep, none survived the ship’s sinking.

Okene eventually scrambled into the engineers’ office, where he found a small pocket of air. By this time, the boat had come to rest upside down on the seafloor at a depth of about 100 feet (30 meters). Almost naked, with no food or fresh water, in a cold, wet room with a dwindling supply of oxygen, Okene’s odds of survival seemed to be near-zero.

Tales of survival

Through a series of odd coincidences and amazing good luck, Okene survived. Other people who have been trapped underwater have equally hard-to-believe tales of survival under near-impossible conditions.

In 1991, scuba diver Michael Proudfoot was exploring an underwater wreck off the Baja California coast when he accidentally smashed his breathing regulator, losing his entire air supply. Finding an air pocket, Proudfoot reportedly survived for two days on raw sea urchins and a small pot containing some fresh water before he was rescued.

In addition to his small pocket of air, Okene also discovered a bottle of Coca-Cola and a life vest with two small flashlights attached. But as Okene listened to the sounds of sharks or other fish devouring the bodies of his crewmates, he began to lose hope, he is reported as saying.

The physics of staying alive

The air pocket Okene found was, by his estimation, only about 4 feet (1.2 m) high, and humans inhale roughly 350 cubic feet (10 cubic meters) of air every 24 hours.

However, because Okene was under pressure at the ocean floor, physicist and recreational scuba diver Maxim Umansky of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) estimates that Okene’s air pocket had been compressed by a factor of about four, according to a LLNL statement.

If the pressurized air pocket were about 216 cubic feet (6 cubic m), Umansky reckoned, it would contain enough oxygen to keep Okene alive for about two-and-a-half days, or 60 hours.

But there is an additional danger: carbon dioxide (CO2), which is lethal to humans at concentrations of about 5 percent. As Okene breathed, he exhaled carbon dioxide, and levels of the gas slowly built up in his tiny air chamber.

Carbon dioxide, however, is also absorbed by water, and by splashing the water inside his air pocket, Okene inadvertently increased the water’s surface area, thereby increasing the absorption of CO2 and keeping levels of the gas below the deadly 5 percent level. [14 Oddest Medical Cases]

Hypothermia: a slow death

Another risk for Okene was hypothermia, which occurs when a person’s core temperature drops to 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius) or below. Hypothermia can result in confusion, movement disorders, amnesia and, in severe cases, unusual behaviors like “terminal burrowing,” in which a person struggles to find a small, enclosed shelter, not unlike a hibernating animal.

Death can eventually result from extreme hypothermia. Even in water as warm as 60 degrees Fahrenheit (16 degrees Celsius), a person could go unconscious within two hours, according to the University of Minnesota.

But once again, luck was with Okene: He was able to fashion a small platform with a mattress, which kept him just above the water level. Had his body been exposed to the frigid ocean water, Okene would have died within a matter of hours.

Looking for bodies

Dramatic video shows the moment salvage divers — who were looking for bodies and had already found four — saw a human hand motioning to them through an opening in the wreck.

After about 60 hours underwater, Okene was nearing the end of his oxygen supply. “This man was lucky to survive mainly because a sufficiently large amount of trapped air was in his air pocket,” Umansky said in the LLNL statement. “He was not poisoned by the CO2 after 60 hours spent there, because it stayed at safe levels, and we can speculate that it was helped by the ocean water sealing his enclosure.”

After almost three days of desperately hoping, praying and reminiscing about family and friends, Okene was finally brought to the surface in a decompression chamber by the salvage divers. He had no idea, however, how much time had passed.

“When we came out, I saw the stars in the sky and I thought I must have been in the water for the whole day,” Okene told The Nation. “It was after I left the DCC [decompression chamber] that I was told that I had spent over two days there.”

Follow Marc Lallanilla on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescience,Facebook & Google+. Original article on LiveScience.

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Canada says it owns the North Pole, despite not having a proper map

Posted in NEWS with tags , on December 11, 2013 by Yappy Kawitarka

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Canada says it owns the North Pole, despite not having a proper map


Canada says it owns the North Pole, despite not having a proper map

The Canadian government is claiming 463,323 square miles (1.2 million square kilometers) in the Arctic, a wide expanse of territory that includes the North Pole. Trouble is, Canada hasn’t yet fully mapped the area, nor does it have the scientific evidence to back the claim.

Along with Russia and Denmark, Canada is currently in a mad territorial dash to claim all that juicy, globally-warmed area for itself. Because, you know, oil. Similar, but weaker, territorial claims are also being made by France and the United States.

In a characteristically belligerent gesture, Russia made a territorial overture back in October, saying it would restore a major Soviet-era military base in the Arctic; President Putin hasangrily dismissed suggestions that the region should be placed under the jurisdiction of the international community.

And now Canada is making its moves, albeit through the UN-channel — and despite the country’s own admission that it doesn’t yet possess all the evidence required to make the claim. The submission, which the Canadian government says is preliminary, was made last week to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. The federal government wants its scientists to finish mapping a giant undersea mountain range that Ottawa claims will secure the sea floor under the North Pole.

The Calgary Herald reports:

The undersea Lomonosov Ridge runs from near Ellesmere Island northward over the pole and would be the geological basis for a Canadian territorial claim. Scientists suggest it looks as if the ridge is connected to the Canadian land mass, but Canada has only done aerial surveys of the ridge once it gets past the pole.

“The reality is the Lomonosov Ridge wasn’t fully mapped in the submissions that my department did,” [Foreign Affairs Minister John] Baird said. “And, frankly, we think it’s important when you do this extensive mapping, we wanted to get the entire Arctic map, including on the ridge.”

Arctic experts point out that Russia and Denmark also argue the Lomonosov Ridge extends from their shores. International law expert Michael Byers points out the pole lies on the Danish side of the ridge. It also lies on the Danish side of a line that runs equidistant from Ellesmere Island and Greenland.

“In five or 10 or 20 years, we are going to have to admit that the North Pole is not Canadian,” said Byers, who teaches at the University of British Columbia. “(Harper) does not want to be the prime minister seen publicly as having surrendered the North Pole, even if the scientific facts don’t support a Canadian claim. What he’s essentially doing here is holding this place, standing up for Canadian sovereignty, while in private he knows full well that position is untenable.”

Interestingly, one possible outcome is that all three High Arctic neighbours will get sizeable chunks of the Lomonosov Ridge. If that should happen, Canada would still do well, as the ridge would be equally divided between the three countries, putting Canada’s boundary 230 miles (370 km) past the North Pole.

Image: NASA

The Phenomenon Of August 2014

Posted in NEWS with tags on December 10, 2013 by Yappy Kawitarka

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The Phenomenon Of August 2014

The only time you will witness this phenomenon in your life.     
August 2014
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
Next year, the month of August will count 5 Fridays, 5 Saturdays and 5 Sundays. This phenomenon occurs only once every 823 years. Chinese people call it: ‘Pocketful of money!’
So… send this to all your friends and in 4 days, you will have a pleasant monetary surprise…
Based on Chinese Feng Shui.  Whoever does not forward this message… could find himself without a clue of what’s going on in his life… and that’s no laughing matter.

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