Top 10 Secret Ways Animals Help Humans

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Top 10 Secret Ways Animals Help Humans


Who doesn’t love animals? We all know the beauty of the adorable creatures that live with us, like cute puppies and fuzzy kittens, but animals can do more than just make us laugh with the clumsy mistakes they make. Animals are used in almost every scientific field from medicine to the aerospace industry, and they play a crucial role in the advancement of human life.

Scientists continuously study animals and their unique qualities and find ways to apply those qualities to problems humans face every day. This includes utilizing our most intelligent and trainable animals but also the evolved chemical traits of smaller, lesser-known animals. So, here are ten ways animals help us out that you may never have realized even existed.

10Keyhole Limpet Proteins

Keyhole limpets are sea snails with, wide, conical shells that feature a small hole at the top, and they have a secret superpower. They contain a protein known as keyhole limpet hemocyanin (KLH), which is used in a wide array of medicines, ranging from cancer and Alzheimer’s medications to vaccinations for animals and humans. The complex structure of hemocyanin makes it a perfect candidate for fighting disease, because it contains many binding sites, which allows other particles bind to it easily.

Limpets aren’t the only sea organisms that are used in unexpected ways by humans. For example, kelp is used to create a creamy texture in a myriad of products ranging from ice cream to toothpaste. However, keyhole limpet proteins are used in medications for very serious diseases, and entire companies specialize in the production and sales of KLH. Industries such as this are constantly growing as we find more uses for KLH in medications. Since limpets are invertebrates with no true brain, using them in the medical field has the added bonus of eliminating the question of morality involved when using animals for scientific testing.

9Cancer-Sniffing Dogs

Dogs will make a few appearances on this list, as they’re so intelligent and easily trained, not to mention adorable. Dogs have about 60 times as many sensory nerves in their noses compared to humans. For years, scientists have known of their ability to sniff out cancer. If you have seen this in headlines, you may think, “Aww, how cute,” and move on. However, there is actually a lot of scientific evidence to back this up.[2] Back in the early 1990s, trained dogs were tested on their ability to smell cancer using various urine samples from patients with and without cancer. The canines could correctly identify samples from cancer patients about 95 percent of the time. Types of cancer they could identify ranged from liver to lung to breast cancer.

Although it is unlikely that dogs alone would ever be used to detect cancerin new patients (as much as having dogs around might make the doctor’s office more pleasant), scientist have found a way to implement their olfactory sense into diagnostic machines. They’ve created a device that can “smell” the chemicals being picked up by dogs that are linked to cancerous cells. While this area of study needs more funding before it is viable, the science is all there.

8Diabetes Dogs

While this topic started out as purely anecdotal and charming stories to make headlines, it has become fact. Cases of dogs predicting low blood sugar in diabetes patients have occurred regularly enough that it became clear they could smell something we could not. Scientists began to look into these cases and studied the exhaled breath of diabetes patients. They discovered that when blood sugar drops to dangerously low levels, the amount of a chemical called isoprene nearly doubles. Humans would never be able to notice such a thing, but the incredible noses of our noble pups can.

This is, of course, very impressive and could save even save lives. Dogs are trained to alert owners of this change, giving them time to eat and stabilize their glucose levels to stop themselves from passing out or even having a seizure. These diabetes alert dogs (DADs) are for sale right now. The only downfall? The dogs are hard to train and can cost up to $20,000 to purchase, and this does not even take into account the $1,000 per year it will cost to feed them, on average.

7Airport Falconry

If you’ve seen the movie Sully, about a pilot whose plane suffers duel engine loss, causing him to perform an emergency water landing on the Hudson River in New York, this entry will sound familiar. The movie was based on a real event, in which birds flew into both engines of a plane soon after takeoff, causing them to break and stopping the plane from flying. You might think there should be a simple way to stop problems like this from occurring. It turns out there is.

Trained falcons are used at airports to scare away smaller flocking birds from flying straight into planes during takeoff by using specific warning calls. This is widely practiced in the United States, where damages caused by birds flying into planes can cost more than $500 million per year. If even one engine is ruined, it can cost up to $2 million. Training falcons seems like a small price to pay for flight safety, especially in light of those numbers. Scientists calculate that there is about a one-in-four chance of a bird hitting a plane when falconry isn’t employed. So, next time you fly, be sure to be on the lookout and to thank your bird trainer!

6Growing Human Organs In Animals

As of January 2017, almost 80,000 people in the US alone were awaiting some kind of organ transplant. It is apparent that not all of these people will find viable organs before it is too late. In lieu of transplantation, scientists have been searching for a way to grow healthy human organs independently. There has been some amount of success, even though the process still has a long way to go before it is commercially available.

Scientists have successfully grown human organs inside large animals, such as pigs. Stem cells are taken from the transplant patient’s skin, and because they do not have determined growth, they can still grow into any type of organ or tissue. The main issue facing the medical community is that of morality. In order for the stem cells to grow into a needed organ, the animals must be engineered to develop without that organ so that the body can signal the undetermined cells to generate the required structure. There is currently a ban on using the procedure due to overwhelming complaints over the morality of using animals as vessels for human organ growth.

5Cancer Immunity In Sharks

For all of us who fear sharks above all else and wish we could go for a swim in the ocean without the threat of shark attacks, just know that they may have genes that could save countless human lives. Recent studies have shown that sharks have an increased immunity to cancer due to their overall highly evolved immune systems. The scariest sharks out there, hammerheads and great whites, are the species which exhibit these extraordinary genes. The genes, known as “legumain” and “Bag1,” are remarkably similar to genes that humans carry.

Bag1 plays a role in what is known as apoptosis, or programmed cell death. Programmed cell death is much better than it sounds. The system evolved in order to get rid of defective cells, including cancerous ones. In the case of cancer, this system has broken down or been overwhelmed by mutated cells. Scientists believe Bag1 plays a role in the regulation of apoptosis.

Sharks have an amazingly fast healing rate for open wounds as well as a shockingly low infection rate, especially when you factor in the constant contact with various bacteria that live in the ocean. It’ll still be a while before we figure out exactly how they heal so well, but specific genes found in sharks and rays but not bony fish appear to be a factor.

4Dogs Sniffing For Science

Okay, this is the last dog fact, I promise. Sure, dogs are used to sniff out cancer or diabetes, but their noses can also help us indirectly. Scientists, ever thrifty, have found a low-cost and effective way to weed out invasive plant species: dogs trained to track them down in an effort to keep our nature beautiful and safe. Companies that specialize in this kind of conservational science are currently thriving.

Imagine this as your career: spending all day with a lovable dog, training it to find the scent of a particular plant, and then walking out into an open field and letting it roam free until it comes across the scent for you. This is a real job, and I may need to consider a career change. Teams of eight to ten dogs at a time will go out and reveal about two times as many invasive plants as humans can find, just by sniffing. The method is effective, not to mention inexpensive, since the scientists involved don’t need to buy $20,000 dogs. They can often just train their own.

3Algae Used In Biofuels

Photo credit: Fred Hsu

Yes, algae aren’t technically animals, but they still have some powerful uses that shock many people. Algae are now being developed as a source of renewable energy. From tiny single-celled organisms to giant kelp, their ability to photosynthesize can help save us from our energy crisis. There are thousands of different types of photosynthetic algae, all with unique properties. Using these organisms as fuel would be as cost-effective as the algae would be cheap to produce. This could be the next step in sustainable, affordable energy.

The process is somewhat confusing for those of us not boasting a PhD, but it includes extracting lipids from the algae and subjecting them to high-intensity heat and pressure conditions, a procedure known as hydrothermal liquefaction. This will concentrate the amount of energy created by the algal cells and could ultimately be used in products from jet fuel to gasoline to ethanol. Big oil companies such as ExxonMobil have even been taking notice of the science behind algae. The development of this technology is still underway, but however you feel about big oil, there’s no denying the power of these tiny plants.

2Oysters Removing Nitrogen

ExxonMobil started a project in 2014 which is planned to take until 2030 to complete and involves adding one billion oysters to the coastal ecosystem in New York. In the past three years since its inception, about 20 million oysters have already been placed. This is clearly a gigantic undertaking, taking up copious time, resources, and workers. However, it does ultimately serve a purpose. Mollusks, including oysters, retain nitrogen in their systems in order to maintain homeostasis. This will allow for a healthier marine ecosystem in surrounding areas, where too much nitrogen may be causing harmful algae to flourish.

Marine animals must find ways of dealing with nitrogen if they are to survive. Fish, mollusks, and other marine animals excrete ammonia through urine, which is highly toxic. Oysters, however, will store nitrogen and excrete waste in other forms. Ammonia carries only one nitrogen molecule, whereas releasing uric acid or urea will expel higher levels of nitrogen. In the case of New York Harbor, oysters will essentially pull in water with high nitrogen levels, filter it, and convert the nitrogen into less toxic forms, making the water safer and healthier.

1Plastic-Devouring Worms

One of the world’s largest pollution problems is plastic. It accumulates all over the planet and is constantly ending up in the ocean. If you walk along a polluted beach, you can find plastic from all over the world, some of which may have traveled thousands of miles from another continent. This problem claims the lives of thousands of sea creatures each year, and humans are always trying to come up with creative and cost-effective ways of reducing plastic use and pollution. Luckily, there is an animal that has already figured out a way to break down our plastic bag problem.

The larvae of wax moths, which are often used as bait by fisherman, have the ability to eat plastic without being harmed. Since learning this, scientists have been studying these little worms to determine if they can really have a strong impact on lessening human waste. We know they have the ability to digest plastic, but it is unknown whether or not they can survive and thrive on plastic alone. The worms are also only a few centimeters long, so there would need to be a copious amount of them to make a dent. However, if they do indeed love plastic, they may in the near future be bred to be set loose on human trash.


Top 10 Fascinating Facts About Eagles

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Top 10 Fascinating Facts About Eagles


Eagles are known worldwide as majestic aerial predators. Their hunting expertise and legendary awe have earned them both respect and fear from humanity. Behold the astonishing aspects of their intense lives and intricate relationship with us.

10Haast’s Eagle

Photo credit: John Megahan

At present, golden eagles are capable of dragging adult mountain goats off cliffs with a bone-crushing grip strength of 750 psi, more than a lion’s bite force. However, a golden eagle would have no chance against the prehistoric man-eating eagle of New Zealand.

Before human colonization by the Maori people, the island only had three species of bat to greet them as fellow mammals. Uncontested, birds became the dominant class, growing into giants. The 3.6-meter (12 ft) flightless moas filled the niche of grazing herbivores and were the main food source of the largest, most powerful eagle ever.

Haast’s eagle, flying on a 3-meter (10 ft) wingspan, easily claimed the title of New Zealand’s apex predator. Diving with 1,000-psi, 9-centimeter (4 in) talons at 50 miles per hour (80 kph), it was wholly capable of killing a human, as described in Maori oral tradition.

Nevertheless, man prevailed. Five or six centuries ago, the Maori had finally hunted the moa to extinction, which correspondingly caused the extinction of Haast’s eagle. Having discovered the eagle in 1871, Julius von Haast was laughed at for the fearsome tall tale he brought back to his companions . . . until he brought back the bones as well.

9Hunting With Eagles

Photo credit:

Though Haast’s eagle feasted on the Maori in ancient times, the golden eagle has been trained throughout history to hunt for our food rather than our flesh. Using seven different techniques depending on the nature of prey, the golden eagle was reserved for the falconry of kings in medieval Europe. The ancestral eagle hunting traditions of Turkic people, most notably the Mongolians, continue today.

Taken from the nest as eaglets, they are raised by only one master to form a powerful personal bond. After being treated as family for a decade, they are released into the wild for natural reproduction. Eagle hunters ride on horseback to follow the attacks on various prey items such as the wolves, foxes, and hares of the Eurasian steppe.

8Police Eagles vs. Criminal Drones

Photo credit:

In First World civilizations, the lifestyle of an eagle hunter is unwelcome. Amazingly, though, the eagle is the perfect solution for an advanced technological threat: drones.

With the ubiquity and accessibility of drones in the modern world, not all tech enthusiasts are using them for recreational purposes. These drones can be used to covertly spy on buildings and people for later theft as well as to deliver and drop illegal substances or explosives.

Reports have found drugs attached to criminal drones in prison grounds, confirming our worst suspicions. Praised as “a low-tech solution for a high-tech problem,” specialized drone-catching eagles were first trained by Dutch police as a safer alternative to bullets and nets in the presence of crowds.

Eagles view the drones as other birds of prey invading their airspace. (As an aside, the wedge-tailed eagles of Australia also view hang gliders and paragliders as rival threats. Attacking the gliders, the wedge-tailed eagle seems to live up to his old New Zealand brother’s disdain for humanity.)

Much like avoiding the beak and talons of a competitor, the trained eagles are naturally able to strike the drone in the center while avoiding the rotors. The police and military in modern nations across the world, such asScotland Yard and the French Air Force, are highly interested in replicating Dutch success.

7The DDT Danger Myth

Eagles have also been used as a major political force before—in the politics of the DDT ban. The popular conception is that DDT is a dangerous poison in addition to a powerful pesticide that ruins wildlife.

The bald eagle is a special focus due to its bioaccumulation after consuming many fish. Adults are killed and eggshells are thinned to the point of being crushed during incubation. But did you ever ask if this was scientific truth?

The truth is that DDT isn’t even marginally dangerous to humans. For bald eagles, the cause of decline was almost entirely due to shooting and habitat loss. After the Bald Eagle Protection Act, eagle numbers soared even during the peak of DDT spraying.

US Fish and Wildlife Service biologists even “fed large doses of DDT to captive bald eagles for 112 days” to no adverse effect, and none of the hundreds of dead eagles found between 1961 and 1977 were killed by DDT or its residue. Despite the unpopular facts, environmentalists repetitively pushed to outlaw DDT for decades. Eventually, the government relented.

The suppression of a genuinely harmless and incredibly useful chemical proved to be only a demonstration of rising environmentalist political power. Though this is beneficial for the well-being of the world, the question remains: Does the end justify the means?

6Bald Eagles Are Scavenging Cowards

You may have learned about Benjamin Franklin’s laughable proposal for the humble turkey to be America’s national bird instead of the fierce bald eagle. But the beautiful, grand American symbol is not the glorious predator you think it is.

Respected naturalists often noted that the bald eagle was not a hunter but instead a scavenger and thief. It used its size to bully food from the highly successful fish-hunting osprey.

Sarcastically quoted by Meriwether Lewis in his adventures during the Lewis and Clark Expedition, “We continue to see a great number of bald eagles. I presume they must feed on the carcasses of dead animals, for I see no fishing hawks to supply them with their favorite food.”

This occurs because the bald eagle is not a true eagle. It is a sea eagle related to the African vulture lineage, with no will to kill for itself. Its only “hunting” is in catching the salmon that have nearly tired themselves to death during migration, if it isn’t picking up the ones that are already dead.

Franklin described the bald eagle as a “rank coward,” fleeing from an aggressive kingbird, a bird as large as a sparrow. Even its classic screech is a lie. The noise is from a red-tailed hawk. Bald eagles, unimpressively, chirp.

There is no courage, no honor, in the bald eagle. The more powerful, truly noble golden eagle would have been chosen if not for the fact that it is distributed across the world. As a native of America that was much more physically attractive than the turkey, the unjust bald eagle was selected byThomas Jefferson to become the country’s national symbol.

5Love And Home

Photo credit: National Geographic

The beauty of the bald eagle is undeniable and never so magnificently expressed as in the daring display of the death spiral. Two eagles clasp theirtalons together and fall, swinging through the skies until they break off at the last moment.

For bald and white-tailed eagles, the behavior is the ultimate courtship, a vital expression of the health (and romantically, the trust and love) of a mate. Eagles are purely monogamous and, unlike other birds in “monogamy,” do not roost with other eagles while away from the aerie.

Sharing a loyal monogamy, bald and white-tailed eagles have another household trait in common: massive multigenerational aeries. Built in the trees as usual, these nests accumulate through reuse over generations of descendants. One white-tailed eagle home in Iceland has existed for 150 years, and the weight of a 1,814-kilogram (2 ton) bald eagle nest is enough to crunch a tree (and, unfortunately, fall off).

4Females And Fratricide

Once the lifetime partner is chosen and the home is built (or perhaps, refurbished), eagles lay between one and five eggs. One parent is present nearly all the time and is extremely protective.

However, the greatest threat is within the nest itself and it is one that the parents let naturally play out. The fluffy eaglets hold a vicious, dark secret. It is common for an older eaglet, generally female due to its larger size, to kill its sibling. Nothing is done to stop the fittest from demonstrating their fitness.

But why are females larger than males across all eagle species, demonstrating the rare reversed sexual size dimorphism in birds? Nothing is conclusive, but the standing explanations are that the larger size is more useful in assisting the maternal instinct for nest building, incubation, protection, and (albeit unnecessary) defense from the male.

Meanwhile, the male partner is faster and more agile in his hunting due to his lighter weight and size.

3Mythical Foundation

Eagles have made themselves into the mythology of mankind as well as its history. The legend of the thunderbird, a giant magical bird controlling the thunder and lightning of a storm, is thought to have originated from the sighting of an eagle riding storm winds.

In the famed Middle Eastern story of Sinbad the Sailor, the massive roc is plausibly based on the existence of two animals: the now-extinct Malagasy crowned eagle and the elephant bird, cousin of the moa. The presence of the 2-meter (7 ft) eagle and the giant eggs of the elephant bird were likely exaggerated to the epic proportions of the roc.

Founder of an empire, the eagle is also respected in the origin of Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Empire. The myth is that an eagle perched upon a cactus and preyed on a snake, signifying to travelers the place of their settlement. It would later become the most powerful empire in Mesoamerica.

Representing various sky gods, most notably the Greek god Zeus, the eagle captured the imagination of past peoples as both a noble king and a thunderous force to be reckoned with.

2The Legal Eagle

Nations across the world looked to the eagle for symbolic representation, with eagles of all species honored as 18 national birds and in 25 nationalcoats of arms. However, their previous mythical prestige fell to the materialism wrought by the Industrial Revolution.

With guns available and livestock to protect, people shot down eagles as a nuisance predator. As an example, from 1917 to 1953, more than 100,000 bald eagles were killed because they were falsely perceived as a threat by Alaskan salmon fishermen.

Fortunately, since then, laws have been made worldwide in defense of eagles, with fines up to $250,000 for American bald and golden eagles. Violations of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act are literally down to the feather, with possession warranting arrest.

Injuring or killing a Philippine eagle, a critically endangered, monkey-eating apex predator endemic to its namesake, could involve punishment of up to 12 years in jail and a 1-million-peso fine. “Unfortunately, one person with a gun thinks he can shoot anything,” the Philippine Eagle Foundation states after an eagle previously rehabilitated from a shot was found shot dead later on.

We hope that people shall continue to become more informed and respect eagles as well as the rest of nature.

1Eagle’s-Eye View

No description of the eagle is complete without mentioning its outstandingvision, a requisite for excellent talon-eye coordination. Seeing four times farther than our view, as the most accomplished birds of prey, eagles boast 20/4 vision and 100x better night vision.

They are even able to see ultraviolet light for detection of UV-reflecting urine from prey. Living thousands of feet in the air and swooping down at hundreds of miles per hour for a swift, accurate kill, eagles are animals of perfect precision. When they see what they want, they fearlessly look to strike.

As noted in the Encyclopedia of Life, “They have at least one singular characteristic. It has been observed that most birds of prey look back over their shoulders before striking prey (or shortly thereafter); predation is, after all, a two-edged sword. All hawks seem to have this habit, from the smallest kestrel to the largest ferruginous—but not the eagles.”

Damian Black is an American nationalist interested in perfection and happiness. Visit his nascent personal site: The Black Decree.

Top 10 Artworks Made Of Humans

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Top 10 Artworks Made Of Humans


Many cultures throughout history have used the remains of both humans and animals for various things: clothes, weapons, rituals, medicine, and so on. While we wouldn’t expect many of these things to translate into the modern day, the reality is that many people still seem to have plenty of uses for dead (and sometimes living) people and are determined not to let any uproar keep them from doing what they want.


Photo credit: Sunspot Designs

We’ve spoken before about companies that will make diamonds out of your dearly beloved when they have passed, but that’s not your only option if you want to wear the deceased. Sunspot Designs makes jewelry by working with bones and teeth. Owner Columbine Phoenix likens working with these to using “homegrown ivory” and says that it is intended to celebrate life rather than death. She gets the bones used in her work from educational suppliers, who acquire them from schools or museums that are updating their collections.[1] Unsurprisingly, the main target audience is goths. The pieces can cost up to $200.

If you are unfortunate enough to still have all your loved ones in your life, fear not, ladies, because women can now have their breast milk turned into jewelry. In fact, there are no less than 70 businesses devoted to turning a woman’s milk into something personal yet fashionable. Companies such as Breast Milk Keepsakes and Mommy Milk Creations will take a small amount of your milk and turn it into a bead that can be placed in things like pendants, earrings, and bracelets for about $80.

Finally, if anyone remembers Kesha, you’ll know that she has always had a bit of a quirky sense of style, but you’d probably still be quite surprised to learn that she fashioned some of her attire out of human teeth—her fans’ teeth, to be exact. Back in 2012, she asked her fans to send her in a tooth each and ended up getting about 1,000 of them, which she used to make earrings, a headdress, several necklaces, and . . . a bra. Talk about a supportive fan base.


Auctions are a great place to pick up some unusual pieces at low prices and are a popular attraction for artistically minded people. When Francois Robert attended a school auction in Michigan, he was really just looking to pick up a few old lockers for practical, rather than artistic, purposes. But the golden rule in auctioneering is if you buy something, you get to keep whatever’s inside. So when one of the three lockers he purchased for the bargain price of $50 turned out to contain an actual human skeleton, Robert knew he had found his next project.

To be clear, the skeleton had been used for science classes and was not the sad remnants of a long-forgotten poindexter. Actually, this particular skeleton had been wired to hold its shape, so Robert had to trade it in for another before he could get to work. He decided that the best way to put his new friend to use was to create a series of photographs in which he arranged the bones into various shapes reminiscent of war. Creating the likes of guns, grenades, tanks, planes, and knives, Robert used his second skeleton to create a haunting collection of photographs for a series entitled Stop the Violence. While it’s hardly the subtlest collection you’ll ever see, Robert certainly got his $50 worth.


Photo credit: Tim Hawkinson

Looking at Tim Hawkinson’s two 1997 sculptures, Egg and Bird, you could be forgiven for thinking you were looking at exactly that: an egg and a bird. Of course, this is not the case, as the sculptures are actually made out of everybody’s favorite disembodied body parts: hair and fingernails.

Much more subtle than many of the other entries on this list, these sculptures are meant to represent our intrinsic link to nature and how our sense of reality can never escape our bodies, which provide the materials to create the illusion we’re observing.


Photo credit: BBC News

Anthony-Noel Kelly is a British artist who made his name in the 1990s with his realistic sculptures of human bodies, mainly in the form of busts. The police became suspicious of his work after a 1997 exhibition and launched a search which found human remains in both his house and his girlfriend’s apartment. With the help of Niel Lindsay from the Royal College of Surgeons, Kelly had stolen the body parts over a three-year period. He used these to make casts, which were then gilded in silver and gold.

About 40 body parts were recovered, including heads, torsos, and limbs. Lindsay was paid the generous sum of £400 for his involvement but also received six months in jail, while Kelly was sentenced to nine months. The pair were the first people in the history of the United Kingdom to actually be convicted with the theft of human remains, after a ruling that human bodies can be owned—and therefore stolen. Such a crime had already been considered as “outraging public decency.”


Photo credit: Nat Geo TV

There has been much speculation over the years as to the veracity of the claims that the Nazis made lampshades out of human skin. Many people believe it’s just a ridiculous urban legend, created to make the Nazis seem even more evil than they really were. Well, in 2005, a lampshade was bought in a car boot sale for $35 from a man who told the buyer it was made from the skin of a Jewish person. The buyer, Skip, eventually became too uncomfortable with the lamp and gave it to his journalist friend Mark Jacobson, who investigated things further.

The lamp was brought to Bode Technology in Washington, DC, where it underwent a DNA test. Bode Technology is one of the leading DNA labs in the world, having done much work for the US government, including identifying remains from 9/11. When the results came back, it was confirmed that the material used on the shade was in fact human skin from two different people. The first mention of Nazi skin lampshades comes from 1945, by a reporter named Ann Stringer, who says that other items made in the Buchenwald concentration camp included shrunken heads and an ashtray made from a human pelvis.

An artist named Andrew Krasnow has also made a number of pieces out of human skin, including lampshades, a direct reference to Buchenwald. Other things he has created include boots, maps, flags, and a $10 bill. You probably don’t need to be told that this is a statement about morality, or lack thereof, in the United States.

53-D Printed Sculptures

If someone asked you ten years ago whether a machine could be switched on and left alone for 24 hours to make a house entirely by itself, you probably would have said that it’s quite unlikely, at the very least. And yet, that’s where we are today. So if I were to ask you today whether you could turn your grandfather into a rocking chair, you might want to think about your answer.

Wieki Somers is a Dutch artist who wanted to come up with a more creative way to use cremated ashes. Thus, her In Progress exhibition was born. Somers loaded 3-D printers with donated ashes, which were then turned into various sculptures and pieces of furniture. The results are hauntingly familiar household objects that make us reconsider our attachment to worldly possessions. we’d like to think this won’t catch on, you may need to get used to the idea of living in a world where you need to distinguish between “Rock on, Grandpa!” and Rock on Grandpa.


The Dublin Science Gallery in Trinity College is a place for exhibitions where science meets art. Selfmade is one such exhibition, where cheese was made from celebrities who donated not their milk but rather their phlegm, tears, skin bacteria samples, and whatever was found lurking in the depths of their belly buttons.

The bacteria taken from their bodies was used to grow cheese, which then smelled and tasted like that body part. A cheese and wine night was hosted, although the guests were not allowed to eat the art, just smell it.


Photo credit: Harrison/HO

Jessica Harrison is a British artist who specializes in what she calls “body furniture.” This is a bit of a misleading name, as her creations don’t actually involve using pieces of the human body, but they’re generally inspired by it, such as her hairy chair or her drawers that look like human flesh. But she caught a lot of attention in 2010, when she posted a video of her latest fashionable design: fake eyelashes made out of real fly legs.

Although they are not available to buy (not yet, anyway), she still made and wore them herself, which is pretty disgusting. The eyelashes have drawn criticism from PETA, who compared them to hacking off the ears of beagles to make clothes.

2Wall Art

Photo credit: Hans Ladislaus

Forgotten Inheritance is a piece of wall art made of stone and hardened sand that first went on display in the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu in 1996. Despite being approved by a committee that included native Hawaiian members, many other natives took great offense to the sculpture. The reason for this is that it contains the real bones of Hawaiian natives.

Such a sculpture would likely gain a certain amount of criticism anywhere in the world, but the natives of Hawaii have a strong belief in malama iwi, which is taking care of and respecting their ancestors’ bones. After receiving a large number of complaints for years, officials at the convention center finally covered the sculpture in September 2013 and began investigating how to remove it without destroying both it and the bones it contains. Ultimately, an agreement was reached to allow Forgotten Inheritance to continue to be displayed.


Hananuma Masakichi was an artist who lived in the 19th century. Late in his life, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and decided that he wanted to immortalize himself by creating a life-size self-sculpture. He made the sculpture using an elaborate layout of mirrors that allowed him to carve the bits of himself he couldn’t see. He constructed each body part individually. The roughly 5,000 individual pieces of the sculpture are reportedly joined together so well that not even a magnifying glass can detect the seams.

Masakichi polished the model, used needles to poke tiny pores in the skin, and plucked hairs and inserted them into these pores. For each body part on the model, he used hair from the corresponding area on himself in order to create exact realism, right down to the eyelashes. He also pulled out all his own teeth, fingernails, and toenails and made eyes out of glass.

Masakichi finished in 1885 and would stand next to the sculpture so that people could try to guess which was human and which was art. Apparently, it was extremely difficult to tell. The sculpture is currently owned by Ripley’s Odditorium and has been restored and maintained by extremely talented professionals.

Pennsylvania’s New Body Camera Policy Would Allow Officers Unrestricted Access to Film in Homes

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Pennsylvania’s New Body Camera Policy Would Allow Officers Unrestricted Access to Film in Homes

Today 3:15pm

Image: AP

Pennsylvania state senators are pushing for a new bill that would amend the state’s body camera policy to allow officers to record in private residences and exempt all footage from the state’s “Right to Know” act—making it muchharder for the public to request recorded video. If it passes, it would be among the nation’s most restrictive and invasive body camera policies.

Senate Bill 560, introduced by Senator Stewart Greenleaf in December, amends the state’s Wiretap Act—which bars law enforcement from recording conversations in residences—to allow police to use the cameras to record footage inside private homes. The bill passed the senate unanimously on May 10th. (There’s no precise timetable for approval going forward, but it would need to happen before the session ends this November.)

In a memo announcing his sponsorship, Greenleaf said the measure is necessary “because so much [officer] work involves responding to incidents taking place inside a residence.” The language of the new bill permits officers to record in people’s homes without notifying citizens they’re being recorded, even if none of the residents are suspects in a crime. Residents, suspected of a crime or not, aren’t granted authority to compel officers to stop recording them.

Andrew Hoover, the communication director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, says the bill relies entirely too much on officer discretion about when to record.

“This is really broad language,” Hoover told Gizmodo. “There may be narrow circumstances in which an officer can and should be recording, such as a search warrant or arrest warrant … but this bill, the way it’s written, basically allows recording in a residence carte blanche.” (The Wiretap Act requires two-party consent for recording conversations, and this bill exempts footage from that requirement.)

There’s no single, federal body camera policy, and departments are free to create whichever policy they feel suit the needs of their own community. However, that means regulation is scattershot across departments, and many privacy concerns, protection for minors and assault victims and rules on retaining footage, go unaddressed until after an issue arises.

Greenleaf acknowledged the privacy concerns, saying in the memo, “measures can be taken to protect the privacy of the occupants of the residence,” presumably referring to redaction software that can blur out people’s faces and distort or remove audio so they can’t identified. Redaction software protects the identity of those recorded, but can be a lengthy process—agencies usually only redact footage before it’s released to the public.

That leads to our second concern: SB560 would exempt body camera footage from the Right to Know law. With most public records, the Right to Know law designates an officer to coordinate with the public for most records requests. But, instead of filing a traditional records request, body camera footage would have its own request process.

Per Pennsylvania’s Courier Times, here’s how SB560 would require people to request footage (emphasis ours):

Greenleaf’s bill, however, puts a time limit of 20 days to file a request for a body camera recording and also requires the person to identify his or her connection to the footage they are requesting. If a request is denied, according to Greenleaf’s bill, the requester has 30 days to file an appeal with the court of common pleas in the county where the police activity happened and also pay a $125 filing fee.

By exempting body camera footage from the Right to Know act, officers gain the ability to outright deny requests if the agency determines they’re part of an investigation. Of course, that creates leeway to deny requests for that very reason, to stall, or to force the filing fee.

Hoover took issue with the time limit. “If there’s a dispute between an officer or a person or there’s a use of force incident, 20 days is completely arbitrary,” he said, pointing out that agencies retain the footage for much longer than 20 days—so why pick that as a cutoff date? Another problem is charging people to access footage, which would likely disproportionately impact the poor.

“The filing fee to appeal a denial could price people out of being able to get the video,” Hoover said, noting that many use of force incidents occur in poor communities. “They may have a legitimate argument to make…but if they can’t come up with the hundred twenty five dollars, they’re out of luck.”

Hoover points out that police departments could add their own amendments to the bill—reigning some of this in should they choose to—but SB560 would put that entirely at their discretion. Now that the bill has passed the Senate, it’s on its way to the House Judiciary Committee—where Hoover said it may find a sympathetic audience.

“Our sense right now is that this has a strong chance of passage,” he said.

[Courier Times]

Taser’s Latest Body Cams Push Is Unregulated, Unprecedented, and Disturbing

Gif: YouTube

On Wednesday, Axon (formerly “Taser”) announced its offer to outfit every cop in the US with a free body camera, with rollout beginning as soon as the end of the month. About 20% of police departments use body cameras. The overwhelmingly majority of all police departments have no policies about how best to use the cameras, what to do with footage, or even when to record.

Privacy experts are concerned that embracing this technology without regulation only undermines its original goals of transparency and accountability. What’s more, unregulated introduction of technology into the police force would result in a variety of unprecedented legal and safety issues.

Harlan Yu is a principal researcher for Upturn, a tech policy nonprofit that produced the Body Worn Camera scorecard—a 2016 report rating body camera policies for different police departments. Upturn found that for the few existing body camera policies in the United States, there is no consistent standard. Additionally, the majority of police departments only vaguely address crucial aspects of body camera use, such as personal privacy concerns, and some—such as unnecessary footage retention—are barely addressed at all.

“Axon’s offer creates a perverse incentive for departments to rush into deploying body worn cameras without taking the necessary time to engage with the community and think through many of these hard policy trade-offs before making the snap judgment to go with this free offer,” Yu told Gizmodo. When constructing the necessary regulations, the police departments need to be aware that for every new policy, there is a benefit and a loss.

When to record

The first policy hurdle is deciding simply when the cameras record. Yu is opposed to continuous recording, in which officers simply keep their cameras on throughout every shift, because it picks up so much mundane, public data—people walking on sidewalks and sitting in traffic, for example.Departments should instruct officers to record the overwhelming majority of public interactions, Yu proposed. He emphasized that the police should also clearly communicate to civilians that they’re being recorded. But, even that has caveats.

When not to record

“I think there should be particular sensitivity for victims to be able to opt out,” Yu said, referring to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Jay Stanley is a senior policy analyst with the ACLU and the co-author of the organization’s 2015 policy recommendations for police departments utilizing body cams. Stanley agrees that in cases where officers respond to domestic violence and sexual assault, particularly when children are involved, officers should defer to victims for consent to be filmed. Similarly, informants and witnesses, who can endanger themselves by helping police, should have similar privileges. The federal grant program for body cameras encourages police departments to contact victims rights’ groups when creating body camera policies, though Axon’s offer has no such requisite.

“Officers ought to not have very much discretion over when to or not to record,” Yu said. Officers shouldn’t individually decide when cameras their cameras should be on or off—there should be policy for every scenario.

Recording “malfunctions”

When to record is one problem, but what happens when officers don’t record when they should? In practice, officers have time and again reported that the cameras have either “fallen off” or spontaneously stopped recording before a fatal incident. How should these officers be held responsible? How should they be punished? Most departments don’t have clear-cut guidelines.

“Different departments will have different ways of going about it, but it should be an escalating process,” Yu offered. The ACLU suggests specific guidelines, which also encourage a punishment scale that gets worse for the officer depending on severity of the incident or whether it is a repeated offense.

Reviewing footage before submitting police reports

Some policies require officers to submit their reports before seeing footage; some actually encourage officers to view footage before completing their report.

Yu suggests a two-step process. First, the civilian and officer involved both provide a written statement immediately following an incident, before seeing the footage. Second, both the civilian and the officer view the footage of the incident and provide written statements addressing the discrepancies between the original statement and what is depicted in the footage.

This process would partially level the playing field. It would also, for example, prevent officers from tailoring their reports to the footage so that any inconsistencies in their statements are not exposed.

Yu discussed concerns of a “chilling effects” on civilians, where they may feel uncomfortable reporting officer abuse because of the veneer of objectivity the legal system gives video footage. If a policy is firmly in place allowing the civilian to give a statement, regardless of the footage, these effects could be partially alleviated.

Retaining the footage

How long should police departments keep footage they aren’t using? If, for example, 100 patrolling officers record an hour of footage daily, that’s 100 hours of footage to review. It’s not always easy to say “keep what’s important,” because it takes so long to review all that footage.

Departments should be clear in how long data can be kept before deletion. Yu recommends six months, as it “limits the privacy risks of having all that footage around.”

Mining the footage with AI

Placing firm time limits on footage retention “would also limit the ability of departments to mine that footage, especially when were seeing AI technology coming down the pike,” Yu added.

In February, Axon announced it had acquired a computer vision startup, Dextro Inc, which allowed for AI-powered object detection and unprecedented video data search capabilities. There were a number of privacy concerns, such as the technology’s capability for automated public surveillance and biometric tracking. Yu says police departments should make immediate headway in regulating AI and similar metadata analytics with such dangerous potential.

“[It’s] not what communities probably were expecting when they said ‘OK, let’s adopt body cams,” Yu said of AI-enabling features like face and object recognition. “This is a feature that is going to get snuck in with body cam technology that I think is a very dangerous combination.”

Stanley says that any type of analytics should only be used for footage flagged for use of force or a specific complaint.

Too much, too soon

Potentially as many as 14,000 police departments are being offered this technology without any regulatory framework in place and no training beyond that which is offered by the private company.

Police body cameras were originally presented as a solution for persistent and urgent issues, such as lack of transparency and accountability involving incidents of police brutality and fatal shootings, and the subsequent community mistrust of the police force. Yu and Stanley both underscore that body cameras are not a replacement for substantive police reform.

Moreover, adding these cameras before the difficult work of deciding how to balance privacy, safety and security can do more harm than good.

10 More Missing Treasures You Can Still Find

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10 More Missing Treasures You Can Still Find


Find treasure, and you could become instantly rich, maybe even famous. You could discover a part of history that we thought was gone forever, or something we never even knew existed. And unlike many other legends,hidden treasure is well documented. Any one of us could stumble across some at any point in our lives, without warning.

10Elysian Park

Photo credit: Wikimedia

Elysian Park is LA’s oldest and second-largest park, spread over roughly 600 acres. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility, therefore, that the legends of treasure there lost for over 150 years could be true.

During the US-Mexico war of 1846–1848, Southern California was a hotly contested territory. Troops from both sides fought for control of the land, striking fear into the hearts of the local elite. Legend has it that, to protect their immense wealth from hostile forces, locals took to the hills, caves, and ravines of this vast park to hide gold, jewels, and more.

Newspapers as far back as 1896 show that people have been searching for the treasure ever since. If the stories are true, it’s likely that many of the residents later recovered their riches. But it is equally likely that many died, fled, or lost their wealth forever by the time the war ended. The most famous example is that of Don Francisco Avila, who built the first-ever house in LA, which stands to this day. Avila was an extremely wealthy political figure and businessman and is likely to have stashed considerable amounts of expensive goods during the war.[1]

Treasure hunter Roy Roush claimed to have found etchings in rocks that he believes may point to the location of this treasure, while another man by the name of Marvin Baker also claims to have found such makeshift maps in the rocks. To this day, however, no treasure has been discovered in Elysian Park.

9Lake Toplitz

Photo credit: Wikimedia

High in the Austrian Alps, and deep in the dense mountain forest, Lake Toplitz is an ideal place to hide $5.6 billion of stolen gold. Rumors have long surrounded this isolated lake, with lifelong local Michl Kaltenbrunner claiming she can “guarantee” that the Nazis dumped gold in the lake. She would have been about 10 years old when World War II ended.[2]

What gives this theory some credence is that £700 million of counterfeit notes that Hitler had planned to use to destabilize the British economy were recovered from the lake in 1959. The dilemma here of course is the question of whether this is what the locals saw the Nazis dump in the lake or just part of what went down. The lake is over 300 feet (100 meters) deep, with a layer of logs floating roughly halfway down, making investigations a very risky ordeal.

8Poverty Island

Poverty Island in Lake Michigan is home to a lonely lighthouse and an absolutely ridiculous amount of gold, if legends are to be believed. Estimates based placed the value of the lost gold at around $400 million today. There are many legends surrounding the possible origin of this gold, the first of which dates back to the 1750s. According to this theory, British forces attacked a French ship sailing across Lake Michigan to woo the Native Americans with gold. To prevent the British from seizing the gold, the captain ordered it be thrown overboard. An almost identical story is attributed to the War of 1812.

Another legend speaks of James Strang, whose gold allegedly ended up in the lake after he was overthrown by his colony on a nearby island. The French make another appearance, with some legends saying the gold belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte the third. Bonaparte supposedly sent the gold to support the Confederates during the civil war, but the plan was thwarted when the ship was attacked and sunk by Canadian pirates. It is unknown whether they apologized.

According to yet another legend, the son of a lighthouse keeper saw a crew of treasure hunters celebrating aboard their ship one night in 1933. The men had reportedly been searching the lake for years, and when it finally looked as though they had found it, a storm hit and sunk them to the depths of Lake Michigan.[3]

The legends are far from over however, as in 2014, two men claimed to have found the shipwreck of what they claim to be the Griffin, a French ship. However, three years on, they have yet to provide any proof of their supposed $2 million discovery.

7Skeleton Canyon

Photo credit: Wikimedia

Skeleton Canyon is located in the Peloncillo Mountains along the Arizona-New Mexico border. Prior to the 20th century, the canyon was a popular trail for smugglers looking to quietly move their booty to Tucson, as well as for the bandits looking to ambush them. While it is possible or even likely that Skeleton Canyon contains multiple sites of hidden treasure, the Skeleton Canyon Treasure refers to one specific haul, originally known as the Monterrey loot.

Toward the end of the 19th century, American bandits carried out a raid on the Mexican city of Monterrey. Despite a few deaths, the raid was quite successful, with the bandits purportedly making off with 39 bars of gold, $1 million worth of diamonds, bags or silver and gold coins, and countless golden crucifixes, chalices, statues, and other humble Catholic artifacts.

The band of bandits were hotly pursued on the 1,000-mile trail, leading them to hide as much of the treasure as they could. Many of these men died on the journey, which is how the canyon got its name. There have been several reports throughout the years of men who set up camp, only to quickly disappear, leading locals to believe they may have been recovering the treasure. It has never been proven whether any or all of the treasure has been recovered, so this canyon may have more than a few skeletons in its closet to this day.[4]

6Kruger’s Millions

Photo credit: Wikimedia

Stephanus Johannes Paulus Kruger, or “Uncle Paul” for short, was the third president of the South African Republic for over 17 years at the close of the 19th century. With the advent of the Second Boer War, and public opinion turning against him, Kruger fled South Africa in 1900, two years before his presidency officially ended. But not before taking a little something for himself first.

As Kruger made his escape for Europe, rumors swirled that the train he was riding on was also carrying a substantial amount of gold. Subsequent investigations revealed not only that £1.5 million had been stolen from the government, but that it had been slowly siphoned off for months. Five years later, a prisoner named John Holtzhausen revealed that he had been hired to bury the gold north of Leydsdorp and was the last surviving member of the team.[5]

In 2001, a Zulu family in the town of Ermelo came forward claiming to have found some of the lost coins, while last year another man claims to have found the treasure at the base of the Emmarentia dam. Even if both of these claims are true (and neither has been verified), Ermelo councillors believe the stash would have been split up into at least three caches.


5Tsar’s Treasure

Photo credit: Siberian Times

When most people think of Russian royalty, they’ll think of one of three things: oppression, conspiracy, or decadence. It should come as no surprise therefore that Tsar Nicholas II allegedly stashed away what would now be billions of dollars’ worth of treasure prior to the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. The only question is where.

One theory is that the treasure, consisting mainly of gold, was hidden or simply lost in the tunnels underneath Omsk, a Siberian city that acted as a de facto capital during the revolution. Omsk has a vast network of underground tunnels, and it is a known fact that gold was transported there during the revolution, making this a perfectly plausible theory.

In 2001, it was suggested that the gold could be hidden beneath the home of ballerina/royal mistress Mathilda Kshesinskaya. Excavations of her St. Petersburg home appear to have been a fruitless effort, but since Kshesinskaya only died in 1971, it is possible the gold was moved at some point during the intervening years.[6]

A third theory suggests that the gold went down with the RMS Republic, an Irish ship that sank off the coast of Nantucket. According to this theory, the gold was being sent by the French to the Tsar in secret, when the Republiccollided with another ship and sank. The wreck was rediscovered in 1981, but a 74-day search conducted several years later turned up nothing.

Finally, another theory suggests that the gold may have been aboard a trans-Siberian train that crashed into Lake Baikal, which just happens to be the oldest and deepest lake in the world. Excavations have been attempted, but have met with little success other than confirming the location of the train.

4Ivory Coast Crown Jewels

Photo credit: BBC

In 2010, the Ivory Coast held its first election in over 10 years, which saw the incumbent president Gbagbo pitted against the much more popular Alassane Ouattara. When Gbagbo was declared the winner, the country was thrown into a turmoil that would become known as the 2010–2011 Ivorian Crisis. Although the crisis was short-lived, and Ouattara has shown himself to be a promising figure for change after being democratically reelected five years later, this brief conflict may have cost the coast one of its most valuable treasures: the Ivory Coast Crown Jewels.

As civil war raged through the country, with heavy UN & French intervention, over 80 objects were stolen from the Museum of Civilizations, including masks, necklaces, scepters, and religious artifacts. Valued at around $6 million, it is the immense cultural significance of these objects that sets them apart from other similar losses. Unlike most crown jewels, which are passed down from heir to heir, the Ivory Coast collection represented multiple kingdoms and dynasties, making the loss of this diverse collection especially devastating. Interpol is trying to locate the items on the black market, but have had no success to date.[7]

3Awa Maru

Originally intended to be an ocean liner, the Awa Maru was a Japanese warship built during World War II. With the end of the war drawing near, the US grew increasingly concerned for Allied troops being held captive in Japan. Not because they feared mass execution but because the Japanese were low on resources and would prioritize their own people over their enemies. Switzerland, in its usual peaceful manner, negotiated a deal between the two sides: the US would send emergency supplies, allowing Japanese ships to pass by un-bombed.

Seeing an opportunity to turn the war around, the Japanese used ships much larger than necessary, letting them safely transport raw materials, their brightest citizens, and a collection of invaluable treasure, such as gold and art. Unfortunately for the Japanese, bad weather prevented the entire US fleet from hearing the ‘no-bombing’ plan, and the USS Queenfish torpedoed the Awa Maru in 1945, killing all but one of the 2,004 people onboard.[8]

Although the US concealed the location of the sunken ship for some time, it was declassified and revealed to have gone down in Chinese waters. In the 1970s, a Chinese expedition spent millions trying to recover the treasure, but turned up nothing. The value of the treasure, which included ivory, precious metal, gemstones, and historical artifacts, has been estimated as $5–10 billion, making it potentially the biggest haul in treasure-hunting history.

2Brink’s-Mat Robbery

Photo credit: Wikimedia

The Brink’s-Mat warehouse was a highly secure facility located in Heathrow Airport, London. On November 26, 1983, the security guard on shift was Anthony Black, an inside man who allowed six gunmen into the facility.

The original plan was to break in and abscond with as much cash as possible, but upon entering, the men discovered much more than they bargained for. The warehouse was teeming with platinum, gold, diamonds, checks, and cold hard cash. After dousing the staff in petrol and threatening to set them alight, the men packed up the goods and fled. What was intended to be a haul of around £3 million cash ended up being a literal treasure trove to the tune of £26 million.[9]

Black, who has links to the criminal underworld through his brother-in-law, was sentenced to six years in prison, while two of the armed men were caught and also received sentences of 25 years. Police could trace how a lot of the haul was laundered, but it is believed that £10 million worth of gold remains hidden, and the case has yet to be solved in full.

1Hatton Garden Heist

Photo credit: Wikimedia

Hatton Garden is the Amsterdam of Britain, with a long history of jewelers and diamond traders taking up residence in the London district. It should come as no surprise so that it is also home to some of the UK’s highest security safes, such as the aptly named Hatton Garden Safe Deposit.

What makes this robbery particularly interesting, apart from being the single biggest robbery in British history, is it took place over two days, during theEaster Bank Holiday weekend in April 2015. On their first attempt, four elderly career thieves used an elevator shaft to gain entry to the lower levels of the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit. Using a diamond-tipped drill, they bore through the walls and gained entry to the safe. They then discovered that they couldn’t enter the cabinets where the goods were kept, so they left, got the necessary supplies, and returned the next day. They then walked out with all measure of gold, diamonds, jewelry, and cash. Original estimates placed the cost of the robbery at £14 million, but that has now risen to £25 million. Only one-third of the loot has ever been recovered.[10]

An alarm was triggered on day one, and although a security guard did show up, he was not permitted to enter without police presence (for his own safety). Police likely did not respond because the thieves had tried to disable the alarm system. Unfortunately, these pensioners severely underestimated the omnipresence of technology in today’s world and left a very blatant trail of CCTV footage and phone signals that led police straight to them.

If you’re thinking the only real losers here are the big bad bankers, think again. If you got robbed and didn’t have private insurance, it’s not their problem. Makes you wonder how much they spend on security, especially considering the alarm woke the guard up while he was at home asleep, and not on site guarding.

Simon is a 26-year-old Irish writer who enjoys living up to Irish stereotypes such as drinking and loving the potato. You can follow him on Twitter here.

Top 10 Fascinating Facts About Uzbekistan

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Top 10 Fascinating Facts About Uzbekistan

ASH SHARP MAY 19, 2017

Countries are weird places. So much of our individual identities are tied to arbitrary lines on maps. Robert Anton Wilson said, “Every national border marks the place where two gangs of bandits got too exhausted to kill each other anymore and signed a treaty.” Is that true? Maybe. In our quest to find out more about our world, this week, we’ve gathered some interesting things about Uzbekistan.

10In A Majority-Muslim Country, Vodka Is Hugely Popular

Uzbekistan is one of the few places in the world where religious suppression under the Soviets gave way to more religious suppression but with fewergulags. While the nation has slowly become reacquainted with the Islamic faith, the religion is largely nondenominational and is kept under strict control by the government.

The cultural influence of Russia predates communism quite considerably, extending back to before “the Great Game” with Britain in the 19th century. As such, it is quite common in Uzbekistan to find Russian influence in cuisine, particularly in the consumption of vodka, which is often served in teapots.[1]Wine production is also a relatively resurgent force, with a winemaking pedigree that dates back to Alexander the Great before coming back into fashion in the last century.

9A Lost City The Size Of Monaco Was Literally Just Discovered

Photo credit: Daily Sabah

The Chinese and Uzbeks have been collaborating since 2011 on archaeological projects along old Silk Road routes, and they just hit paydirt.[2]In Ming-Tepe in the Ferghana Valley, what was previously thought to be merely a staging post for the Silk Road has in fact been revealed to be a 2,000-year-old settlement.

The people of those days were likely trading with the Han Dynasty, as the first-century Book of the Later Han tells: “The Son of Heaven on hearing all this reasoned thus: Fergana (Dayuan) and the possessions of Bactria and Parthia are large countries, full of rare things, with a population living in fixed abodes and given to occupations somewhat identical with those of the Chinese people, but with weak armies, and placing great value on the rich produce of China.”

Investigations are ongoing, but the excavation could reveal an ancient city of the Yuezhi people, the nomadic tribes that overthrew the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, which would make this location one of the earliest places where Eastern and Western cultures met.

8Islam Struggles With Authoritarianism

The government of Uzbekistan doesn’t seem to have changed much since the days behind the Iron Curtain. The former president, Islam Karimov, started out as leader of the Communist Party and ruled for four terms, which is pretty impressive when you realize that the constitutional limit is just two. Minor breaches of the law aside, Karimov was dead set on preventing Uzbekistan from forsaking the complete lack of public freedoms of a post-Soviet autocracy in favor of the complete lack of freedom provided by the ideology over the border in Afghanistan. “I’m prepared to rip off the heads of 200 people [ . . . ] in order to save peace and calm in the republic. If my child chose such a path, I myself would rip off his head,” he said, sounding like an utter villain.

Of course, being an authoritarian dictator comes with its problems, like what to do with Islamist terrorists. During the hilariously unsuccessful War on Terror, Karimov allowed multiple black sites for the United States’ extraordinary rendition program. Relations with the West soured, however, when it emerged that in addition to handing over suspected terrorists to the CIA for torture in Guantanamo, Karimov’s regime was also boiling them alive.

The issue the Uzbek people have is that their Muslim culture has been suppressed for so long. The country’s beautifully designed 14th- and 15th-century buildings might have been preserved, but Uzbekistan has maintained a secular stranglehold—leaving the door open for subversive and revolutionary Islamism to take root with the young.[3]

7Corruption Is Rife

One of the major issues with the Eastern Bloc countries was the high level ofcorruption. Uzbekistan takes their state corruption very seriously. As Amnesty International Director John Dalhuisen says, “It’s an open secret that anyone who falls out of favor with the authorities can be detained and tortured in Uzbekistan. No one can escape the tendrils of the state.”[4]Transparency International ranks Uzbekistan as 156th out of 176 countries for corruption, with virtually every area of public life ridden with favoritism, bribery, and so on. Extortion by public officials is particularly common.

You might expect such nefarious actions to extend to the very top, and you’d be correct. Parliamentary and presidential elections are regularly criticized for ballot-stuffing and fabrication of results, and Gulnara Karimova, daughter of the former president, ran an extensive money laundering and corruption network that siphoned hundreds of millions of dollars out of the country.

In most countries, you’d expect enterprising journalists to reveal such behavior, except . . .

6Freedom Of The Press Doesn’t Exist

In Uzbekistan, you have two choices: state-controlled media or nothing. For example, while Gulnara Karimova was happily fleecing every business she could get her hands on, the press were publishing puff pieces to clean up her image. Karimova’s shenanigans were common knowledge, and according to leaked US communiques, she was the country’s “most hated person.” Within a year of those cables in 2013, the news site (now closed by the Uzbek authorities) published pieces distancing President Karimov from his daughter as he dismantled her business empire, and reports emerged that the Uzbek secret police had Gulnara under house arrest.

Imagine a society with some semblance of a free press in which these events occurred. Imagine that Chelsea Clinton had been arrested by the FBI and had been discovered defrauding the nation. Then imagine that nothing is heard for almost three years, and Chelsea is presumed dead, only to apparently resurface again, still under house arrest.[5] The fact that news of this case is smuggled out in secret letters or by secret meetings with Swiss lawyers should give some insight into the state of the media—and that’s without mentioning the four journalists still in Uzbek jails for criticizing the state.

5Huge, Juicy Melons

On a happier note, Uzbekistan is the world capital of melons. They have in excess of 150 different varieties, which form a staple part of the local diet, served fresh in the summer and eaten dried through the winter. According to the Press Office of Uzbek Tourism, achieving mastery in melon-cutting is a real thing that people do, as is judging whose melons taste the best.[6]

We would like to inform our readership that writing this entry without making double entendres has become impossible, and it is therefore the shortest entry on this list, due to the writer being juvenile. We apologize unreservedly.

4The Legendary Conqueror Tamerlane Was Born In Uzbekistan

Photo credit: shakko

In the West, we know relatively little about Tamerlane, or rather, we are taught relatively little in comparison to the Mongol horde of Genghis Khan. Perhaps this is due to the fact the Timurid Empire only lasted for 137 years and did not spawn successive empires.

As a Turco-Mongolian, Tamerlane found himself in a unique and challenging position during his rise to power. His Turkmen heritage and Islamic faith gave him some legitimacy with the Muslim world, and his Mongol lineage did the same on the side of the great hordes. However, as neither a direct successor of Muhammad nor Genghis Khan, Tamerlane needed subtle politics and myth-making to create his advantage. By claiming to be “protector of the member of a Chinggisid line, that of Genghis Khan’s eldest son, Jochi” (in reality a puppet), Tamerlane dodged the requirement of being a khan to rule. By circulating myths of his own divine provenance, he played into the Muslim belief that military success came from Allah alone, and therefore Tamerlane was surely anointed in some manner.[7]

Remembered in Uzbekistan as a folk hero and great conqueror, Tamerlane forged a huge, multiethnic army ostensibly under his self-styled banner as the “Sword of Islam.” His career saw the defeat of the Knights Templar, the sacking of Delhi, and the conquering of the fractured nation-states of Persia and eventually led to his death while trying to conquer the Ming Dynasty.

Tamerlane was, in short, a total badass. He also killed an estimated 17 million people and employed terror as a weapon with no qualms whatsoever, once building several pyramids from the severed heads of 200,000 of his own subjects who had rebelled against his taxation. In such a way, Tamerlane is considered to be the founding father of systematic terror as a weapon of war.


A double-landlocked country is a landlocked country that is itself surrounded by landlocked countries. Uzbekistan is in Central Asia and is surrounded by Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. As you need to cross at least two of these countries (i.e Turkmenistan and Iran orAfghanistan and Pakistan) to reach the coastline of the Arabian Sea, Uzbekistan is doubly landlocked.

Time for pedantry. It could be argued that, in fact, Uzbekistan is not landlocked at all, having the Aral Sea to the north. This argument is wrong. The Aral Sea is technically a saltwater lake and has no connection to the ocean, so Uzbekistan is truly a double-landlocked country.[8]

Here’s a pop quiz for the comments: Uzbekistan is one of only two doubly landlocked countries in the world. Which is the other one? No search engines allowed.

2A Massacre Changed The Course Of The Country (But No One Really Knows Why)

Photo credit: The Kalifah

The Andijan massacre in 2005 was, without a doubt, a bloodbath. Beyond this, things get a little confused. What is known is that 23 businessmen who were members of an ostensibly peaceful Muslim group were arrested, allegedly for growing too powerful and threatening government control. These men were promptly broken out of jail by armed fighters, and then an occupation of the town took place.

According to the protestors, the standard of living in Andijan was too low. The businessmen proposed a form of Islamic socialism, a high minimum wage, and job creation programs. The government disagreed, and the army was instructed to move in, massacring an estimated 500 people.[9] Some place the death toll as high as 1,500.

The government claimed that the protestors were Islamists, but this appears unlikely, given the nature of the group in question. It had no history of violence and no support for other actual Islamist groups in Uzbekistan who advocated for an Islamic state. We may never know the truth, but US president George W. Bush denounced the repression, which in turn led to the closure of the US Air Force base at Karshi-Khanabad and a strengthening of ties between the Uzbeks and China and Russia. The support of these two countries headed off an international investigation by the UN, and the true events of the massacre may never be revealed.

1Hope For The Future

After the death of Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan received only its second president since declaring independence in 1991. Shavkat Mirziyoyev, who comes from from the same Samarkand clan as his predecessor, could in no terms be described as a modernizer.[10] However, after taking power in a routine, Soviet-style sham election, Mirziyoyev has actually slackened the authoritarian grip the state has on Uzbekistan a tiny, tiny bit.

After announcing an online portal for Uzbeks to write to him with their concerns, President Mirziyoyev has signed a valuable trade deal with Chinaand moved to improve relations with Uzbekistan’s neighbors. Flights to Kyrgyzstan have resumed for the first time since 2005, and while the country still an isolationist state, there is at least the vaguest feeling that Uzbekistan may be opening the door a crack.

Why China’s Nervous Over South Korea’s New Missile Defense System

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Why China’s Nervous Over South Korea’s New Missile Defense System

FILE – In this Tuesday, May 2, 2017 file photo, a U.S. missile defense system called Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, is installed at a golf course in Seongju, South Korea. Clashes between residents and police over the deployment of an advanced U.S. anti-missile system highlight a divisive issue ahead of South Korea’s presidential election on May 9. (Kim Jun-beom/Yonhap via AP, File)

Chinese officials have long protested the U.S. deployment of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system to South Korea because they believe it can spy on its military activities deep inside its mainland. Well, on Tuesday, Beijing’s fears were pretty much confirmed when military officials in South Korea reported that they were in fact able to detect North Korea’s recent ballistic missile test Sunday with THAAD.

Reuters reports that South Korean officials were able to determine that the missile was an IRBM (intermediate range ballistic missile), which can travel between 1,860 to 2,485 miles. The country’s defense minister, Han Min-koo, added that the North’s missile program is developing faster than expected.

While we are not sure how, exactly, the South used THAAD to track the north’s missile test, the accompanying X-band AN/TPY-2 radar may have played a role. To recap, THAAD uses powerful radar systems to track short, medium, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles similar to the ones North Korea could use in a hypothetical a nuclear shooting match. THAAD then uses non-warhead equipped missiles to destroy the enemy projectile.

To be sure, China is not worried about THAAD’s missiles; again, they are not armed with warheads, so they are not offensive weapons. What’s really at issue here is the radar.

At the same time, as The Diplomat explained in March, there are some technical issues countering the argument that the system is as powerful of the Chinese claim it is. For example, this isn’t the first time the U.S. has deployed AN/TPY-2 radar. There are already two in Japan, specifically the Shariki, Aomori prefecture. Also, the surveillance range of the AN/TPY-2 may not be able to monitor the locations where the Chinese do more of their missile testing, as The Diplomat explains:

Second, while we have no watertight estimates on just how capable the AN/TPY-2 radar is and in what configurations, even the most generous estimates don’t leave the Gyeongsangbuk-do unit capable of any useful surveillance deep into the Gobi desert, where China has its most active and sensitive missile testing ranges. (AN/TPY-2 range estimates go from “several hundred miles” to 3,000 km.) I’ve mapped out the ranges below with the most generous range estimate of 3,000 km, using a Chinese ballistic missile impact range that Thomas Shugart at War on the Rocksrecently revealed as a test-bed for potential People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force preempetive warfare tactics (i.e., a site of surveillance interest for the United States).

Adding the westernmost AN/TPY-2 in Japan — the Kyogamisaki Communications Site unit — the map doesn’t change drastically, either. (Incidentally, North Korea’s latest missile test resulted in three missiles splashing down in Japan’s exclusive economic zone, between the two AN/TPY-2s in the country — a less-than-subtle show of confidence.)

There is an argument that THAAD could threaten China’s second-strike capabilities—its ability to respond in kind to a nuclear attack, and minimize its chances of being obliterated or crippled by an enemy’s first strike.

Li Bin, a nuclear weapons expert at Tsinghua University in Beijing, wrote in March that THAAD’s radar would “would undermine China’s nuclear deterrence by collecting important data on Chinese nuclear warheads.”

More specifically, as the New York Times explains, Beijing fears Washington can use the radar to get a jump start on its nuclear weapons strike response (China as a no first use nuclear weapons policy), weakening its capabilities to the point of uselessness:

He and other Chinese experts say the radar could identify which Chinese missiles are carrying decoy warheads intended to outfox foes. That would be like being able to see what cards China holds in a nuclear poker game, and that could weaken China’s deterrent, they say.

“For China this is a very important point, because its missiles are limited in number to begin with,” Wu Riqiang, a nuclear expert at Renmin University in Beijing. That meant, he said, “China could lose its nuclear retaliatory capacity.”

For China, it does not matter that the American and South Korean governments have said Thaad is meant only to foil North Korean missiles. Mr. Wu said.

“What we worry about is the ability. It doesn’t matter to us whether the United States says this is aimed at North Korea or China,” Mr. Wu said. “If there’s this ability, then China must worry.”

What this comes down to is trust. Beijing doesn’t believe that the U.S. will use THAAD solely as a defensive measure against a North Korean missile attack. If the Chinese truly believe THAAD can track which of its missiles is carrying a warhead, it is a moot conversation to argue that it will not be used for that.

The fact that THAAD can determine the success of North Korea’s latest ballistic missile test will not make China feel any more secure about it being deployed in South Korea. If it can be used to track Pyongyang’s actions, to what extent can it be used to do the same against Beijing?

That is what has China up at night.