GlobalPost - Offbeat C. 2014 GlobalPost, only republish with permission. Subscribers must independently license photographs supplied by third-parties en Someone stole 300,000 liters of beer in Germany <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> That's the equivalent of 140,891 six-packs in the US. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Emily Lodish </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>How does one even go about stealing so much of something? </p> <p>The answer is actually very simple: First you take some, then you come back for more.  </p> <p>Sometime after last Thursday, a group of <a href="" target="_blank">thieves broke into a warehouse</a> in the German city of Krefeld and took some pallets of beer. They loaded those onto a tractor trailer and then came back for more.</p> <p>They apparently did this 10 times, since the amount of beer (300,000 liters) is enough to fill 10 trucks. At the bar in <a href="">Germany</a>, that amount of beer would sell for about 2.1 million euros ($3 million). </p> <p>Where the theives went with it all is anyone's guess at this stage. Someone thought they spotted the robbers speeding east on the the A40 Autobahn toward the city of Duisburg. </p> <p>The police are stumped and asking the same endearingly earnest questions as everyone else: "Has anyone noticed a large amount of beer?" police wrote in a press release. "Can anyone provide information on a possible storage area?"</p> <p>According to the <a href="" target="_blank">Wall Street Journal</a>, police are even speculating as to motives. I mean, come on, who would even want to steal that much beer? Really.</p> Food & Drink Strange But True Germany Offbeat Fri, 18 Jul 2014 11:30:58 +0000 Emily Lodish 6206740 at Boko Haram leaders are being attacked by snakes and bees <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Captured fighters report the critters are reincarnations of the people they killed. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Jess Zimmerman </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>Even nature is against Boko Haram, the extremist group that in April <a href="">kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls</a> in <a href="">Nigeria</a>. The local newspaper Vanguard reports that recently-captured Boko Haram fighters <a href="">describe</a> “mysterious snakes and bees” that chased them out of their forest hideouts.</p> <p>One of the arrested insurgents, Kolo Mustapha, says the bees and snakes have killed several Boko Haram leaders and sent everyone else on the run. But the details are a little hard to swallow: Mustapha claims that the critters, which disappear after biting, are actually “the aggrieved people who had suffered from our deadly mission, including the ghosts of some of those we killed.” (He also said “I personally have never killed anyone,” soooo…)</p> <p>The other captured Boko Haram member, Umar Abor, says the sect believes “the Chibok people are using juju to pursue us because of their children said to have been taken by our leaders.” Oh, so they’re juju bees.</p> <p>So is Boko Haram being hounded by real snakes and bees, such as one might find in a Nigerian forest? Or are the leaders plagued by a guilty conscience? Or, alternately, are these just your standard-issue ghost bees? No matter what the reason, the Civilian JTF (Nigeria’s anti-Boko Haram militia) <a href="">says</a> that more and more fighters have been fleeing the group’s hideouts, and some are offering assistance to security forces. I guess if it takes mystical snakes to make that happen, then that’s what it takes.</p> Africa Boko Haram Strange But True Nigeria Offbeat Mon, 30 Jun 2014 20:28:32 +0000 Jess Zimmerman 6191972 at No one knows if this religious leader is dead or meditating <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> His family says he's dead. His followers say he's meditating. Either way, Shri Ashutosh Maharaj is in a commercial freezer and there's $170 million at stake. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Timothy McGrath </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>His Holiness Shri Ashutosh Maharaj, a wealthy religious leader in the Punjab city of Jalandhar, is <a href="">either dead or meditating</a>. A court may decide which, and the Maharaj&#39;s $170-million estate is at stake.</p> <p>According to his family, he died from a heart attack on Jan. 29, 2014.</p> <p>According to members of Divya Jyoti Jagrati Sansthan &mdash; which was founded in 1983 and which&nbsp;<a href="">describes itself</a>&nbsp; as a &quot;socio-spiritual-culturel, not-for-profit organisation&quot; &mdash; he&#39;s in a deep state of meditation known as &quot;Samadhi.&quot;&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;Maharaj has been in deep meditation,&quot; <a href="">one of his followers said</a>. &quot;He has spent many years meditating in sub-zero temperatures in the Himalayas, there is nothing unusual in it. He will return to life as soon as he feels and we will ensure his body is preserved until then.&quot;</p> <p>Punjab police initially confirmed that the Maharaj was deceased, but the Punjab High Court, ruled that his condition was a spiritual matter. Now, the Maharaj&#39;s wife and son are filing a court application seeking to have his death confirmed, claiming that his followers just want control of his money.</p> <p>While all this gets decided, His Holiness Shri Ashutosh Maharaj will remain right where he is: in a commercial freezer.</p> This is weird Asia-Pacific Strange But True India Offbeat Thu, 29 May 2014 14:13:00 +0000 Timothy McGrath 6161172 at Honest janitor gets to keep $80,000 he found while cleaning a toilet <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Karma? </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Emily Lodish </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>What would you do if you found $100,000 while cleaning a bathroom on the job?</p> <p>Would you quietly take it? Tell your supervisor? Does it depend if you like your supervisor?</p> <p>Well this actually happened in Australia and listen up so you can fine tune your moral compass.</p> <p>In 2011, an honest janitor by the name of&nbsp;Chamindu Amarsinghe was dutifully going about his job where he worked at Channel 9&rsquo;s Docklands headquarters, in a suburb of Melbourne.</p> <p>He was cleaning the groundfloor bathrooms when he found a sanitary bin full of money.</p> <p>&quot;There was too much to count &mdash; I thought someone was playing a prank on me,&rdquo; Amarsinghe told <a href="" target="_blank">Melbourne&#39;s Herald Sun</a>.</p> <p>&ldquo;But when I touched the notes &mdash; all yellow and green &mdash; I realized it was real money.&rdquo;</p> <p>Real money, it turns out, grows in bathrooms.</p> <p>Maybe he was in a state of shock, but Amarsinghe didn&#39;t pocket the money. Instead, he called his supervisor.</p> <p>Police and a plumber rushed over and all said and done recovered more than $100,000 from the bathroom &mdash; $1,200 of it stashed in the pipes!</p> <p>If it sounds sketchy, it probably is. But police were never able to discover what was going on or who the money belonged to.&nbsp;</p> <p>So, this month they gave it to Amarsinghe! Well, $80,000 of it. According to court order, the rest goes to the state. Still. Score.</p> <p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s no reason why such honesty should go unrewarded,&rdquo; magistrate Michael Smith said.</p> <p>Police agreed.</p> <p>&ldquo;All the guys in the office felt the same. He&rsquo;s a struggling student who straight-up didn&rsquo;t even think of pocketing it,&rdquo; said Detective Senior Constable Daniel Thorne.</p> <p>Amarsinghe, who is working himself through IT school, said he&#39;s going to donate some of the money to a Buddhist temple and some will go to helping disabled people.</p> <p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m really, really lucky. I&rsquo;m not going to waste it,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p>Lucky he is. Also this month Amarsinghe heard he was granted permanent residency in Australia.</p> Do the right thing Asia-Pacific Strange But True Culture & Lifestyle Offbeat Mon, 12 May 2014 15:18:31 +0000 Emily Lodish 6144837 at Turns out Valeria Lukyanova, Ukraine's human Barbie doll, is kind of a racist lunatic <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> She seemed so normal until now. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Timothy McGrath </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>Back in 2012, the internet <a href="">discovered</a> a 21-year-old Ukrainian woman named Valeria Lukyanova, whose life goal was to look exactly like a Barbie doll. Through a combination of plastic surgery, makeup, and self-starvation, she achieved the look in uncanny fashion.</p> <p>She really did look like a Barbie doll. And not just in some general way: you know, insanely small waist, large bust, long blonde hair. She looked just like a Barbie doll: all those things, plus plastic-looking skin and a vacant stare.</p> <p>It was easy to assume that Lukyanova was just another young woman in a world of global popular culture who'd internalized oppressive beauty ideals.</p> <p>Well apparently there are some other oppressive ideals at work in her Barbie doll image.</p> <p>Lukyanova sat down recently for an interview with <a href="">GQ magazine</a>. She offered some insight into the motivations behind her transformation. And they aren't pretty.</p> <p>She first told her interviewer that her image was the same one that women around the world were striving for.</p> <p>"Everyone wants a slim figure," she said. "Everyone gets breasts done. Everyone fixes up their face if it's not ideal, you know? Everyone strives for the golden mean. It's global now."</p> <p>When her interviewer noted that beauty ideals had changed over time, Lukyanova offered a strange observation.</p> <p>"That's because of racial mixing."</p> <p>Wait, what?</p> <p>She explained:</p> <blockquote><p>For example, a <a href="">Russian</a> marries an Armenian. They have a kid, a cute girl, but she has her dad's nose. She goes and files it down a little, and it's all good. Ethnicities are mixing now, so there's degeneration, and it didn't used to be like that. Remember how many beautiful women there were in the 1950s and 1960s, without any surgery? And now, thanks to degeneration, we have this. I love the Nordic image myself. I have white skin; I am a Nordic type—perhaps a little Eastern Baltic, but closer to Nordic.</p> </blockquote> <p>Well thanks for letting us know.</p> WTF Strange But True Culture & Lifestyle Offbeat Tue, 08 Apr 2014 19:57:00 +0000 Timothy McGrath 6116577 at This is what happens when you hold The X Factor in a prison <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> ‘Their CD will be out before they are.’ </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Jessica Phelan </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>PARIS, <a href="">France</a> — Rap and prison go together like … well, like playas and playa haters.</p> <p>But if most of the US rappers who’ve penned albums in the pen have treated it as a temporary inconvenience, for one group debuting this week in France, without the bars, there’d be no beats.</p> <p>They are <a href="" target="_blank">Shtar Academy</a> — a play on the name of the French American Idol, called Star Academy, and “chtar,” a slang word for jail — and they were formed, as their alias suggests, in a talent contest. A talent contest in a prison.</p> <p>Thankfully, Simon Cowell had nothing to do with it. Shtar Ac, as the group’s known, was the brainchild of <a href="" target="_blank">Mouloud Mansouri</a>, an ex-con turned DJ who now organizes writing groups and concerts in penitentiaries across France — a country with one of the fastest-growing prison populations and highest rates of prisoner suicides in <a href="">Europe</a>.</p> <p>In 2012, Mansouri began auditioning inmates at a detention center near Aix-en-Provence, in the south of France. Three made the final cut: Malik, aged 21 and serving three years for burglary and extortion; Mirak, 36, sentenced to four years for selling drugs; and Badri, 21 and with a seven-year sentence for burglary and organized robbery.</p> <p>With the mentoring of some of the top names in French rap, the three men have just released their <a href="" target="_blank">debut album</a>. Self-titled, it includes songs such as "Yo Jailbirds" and "The Penitentiary Doors" (sample lyric: “Lots of people take inspiration from our story/Because theirs is just a con/You want to know what prison smells like/Listen to Shtar Ac’s album”). Said album came out on Monday and by Tuesday afternoon had reached number five on <a href="" target="_blank">France&rsquo;s iTunes chart</a>.</p> <p>Amid the rounds of newspaper interviews and TV appearances, there’s one notable absence: Badri, who remains locked up. The group hopes he’ll be given special dispensation to take part in at least some of the concerts — in prisons, naturally — they have planned.</p> <p>For him, if not the others, it’s just like their website prophesied: “Their CD will be out before they are.”</p> <p>Check out two of their videos below; more <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>. </p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="//" width="640"></iframe></p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="//" width="640"></iframe></p> Johnny Cash it ain't Entertainment France Strange But True Offbeat Wed, 22 Jan 2014 07:18:18 +0000 Jessica Phelan 6048990 at In Zambia, don't call the president a potato (and other handy insults from Africa) <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> GlobalPost's senior correspondent in Africa decodes "potato" and other headline-grabbing insults from around southern Africa. Use with caution. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Erin Conway-Smith </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>JOHANNESBURG, <a href="">South Africa</a> – In Zambia, call the president a “potato” at your peril.</p> <p>Yes, a potato.</p> <p>This seemingly innocuous word, used to describe Zambian President Michael Sata during a radio show Monday, got an opposition leader thrown in jail and charged with defamation. If convicted, Frank Bwalya faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison.</p> <p>Points for calling your leader a spud.</p> <p>But this is hardly the most colorful insult one finds in the region.</p> <p>As a public service, GlobalPost here decodes "potato" and other headline-grabbing insults from around southern <a href="">Africa</a>.</p> <p>Use with caution.</p> <p><strong>"Potato"</strong></p> <p>In comparing Zambia's president to a potato, the actual phrase used was “chumbu mushololwa,” a Bemba term that literally means a sweet potato that breaks easily when bent. It refers to someone who is stubborn and inflexible, and who won’t listen to the opinions of others.</p> <p>Bwalya’s supporters argue that this is not an insult, but rather “a perfectly legitimate way for one politician to describe a fellow politician, if indeed that person is stubborn by nature.”</p> <p>Either way, it seems an apt description for President Sata, who is known for his sharp tongue and increasingly autocratic behavior since being elected president in 2011.</p> <p><strong>"Limping donkey"</strong></p> <p>In <a href="">Zimbabwe</a>, dozens of cases have been filed in recent years under a law that makes it a crime to insult the president — and which is often used to harass and intimidate critics of President Robert Mugabe, who turns 90 next month.</p> <p>Opposition activist Solomon Madzore was arrested last May after allegedly calling Mugabe a “limping donkey.”</p> <p>In the Shona language, the phrase “dhongi rinokamina” refers to a lame draft animal that is no longer of any use and must be put out to pasture.</p> <p>A Zimbabwe court ruled in November that the “insult law” is unconstitutional, and said prosecutors should not be overzealous about charging people who make comments about Mugabe “in drinking halls and other social places.”</p> <p>But reports from Zimbabwe suggest that despite the court ruling, the law is still being used.</p> <p>So maybe hold off on calling Mugabe a “limping donkey” just yet.</p> <p><strong>"Bushman"</strong></p> <p>This one wasn’t intended as an insult. But when a South African tourist spotted a framed portrait of Botswana's president at a border post and remarked that he “looks like a Bushman,” she quickly found herself in a world of trouble.</p> <p>The woman was interrogated, kept in jail overnight and forced to pay a fine before being freed.</p> <p>The Bushmen — also known as the San, or the Khoi — are the original people of Southern Africa, some of whom still follow a traditional lifestyle as hunter-gatherers.</p> <p>In Botswana they have faced discrimination and persecution by government officials. Ian Khama, the president of Botswana, once described their way of life as “an archaic fantasy.”</p> <p>"A South African person thought resembling a Bushman was complimentary, but Botswana officials took it as an insult,” the director of Survival International, a group that campaigns for the rights of indigenous people, said after the tourist's arrest in 2009.</p> <p>“You couldn't have clearer evidence of the racism towards Bushmen in Botswana than this incident.”</p> <p><strong>“Tjajarag”</strong></p> <p>In South Africa, insults won’t get you locked up.</p> <p>President Jacob Zuma has been called a “monster,” a “tyrant” and “illiterate,” among many other things. The <a href="" target="_blank">abaThembu king</a> called him “a liar who doesn’t use condoms.”</p> <p>Zuma too has been known to take mean swipes, for example calling the opposition party's parliamentary leader “ntombazana,” the Zulu word for a “young girl."</p> <p>But one of South Africa's more colorful taunts made headlines a few years ago thanks to Julius Malema, the loudmouthed former African National Congress youth leader, who called a BBC journalist "tjatjarag."</p> <p>Not the easiest of words, but a useful one, meaning someone who is annoying, in a hyper and overly excitable sort of way.</p> <p>The pronunciation goes something like this: "cha-cha-raa-ch."</p> <p>Tjatjarag. Keep that one in your back pocket.</p> Africa World Leaders Want to Know Politics Offbeat South Africa Zimbabwe Tue, 07 Jan 2014 18:11:00 +0000 Erin Conway-Smith 6037213 at Just how corrupt is Afghanistan? <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Reporter’s notebook: A peek behind the curtain at one of the world’s shadiest nations. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Jean MacKenzie </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>It&rsquo;s now official: Afghanistan ranks as one of the three most corrupt nations on Earth &mdash; splitting the crown with Somalia and North Korea, according to Transparency International&rsquo;s 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index.</p> <p>This is the second year in a row that the trio leads the list of the world&#39;s bad guys. In previous years, the best Afghanistan could muster was first runner up.</p> <p>But just how pervasive is the problem? Can it really be true that after more than a decade under international stewardship, the most widespread skill the population has honed is graft?</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Turns out almost 70 percent of the world&#39;s nations are seriously corrupt</a></strong></p> <p>Let me start by saying that I loved every minute of my seven years in Afghanistan, and am fortunate to count many Afghans as close friends. I have happily put my life in their hands on more than one occasion, and would do so again.</p> <p>But in many Afghans courage, nobility of spirit and graciousness toward guests exist side by side with rampant venality, fed, no doubt, by a lingering resentment of the foreign occupation.</p> <p>A feeling that Afghans are owed some reparation for their pain doesn&#39;t help much, either.</p> <p>I have spent significant time in several of Transparency International&rsquo;s pantheon of the crooked: Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Belarus and Russia &mdash; all old haunts of mine &mdash; share the bottom third of the scale with Afghanistan.</p> <p>None of them comes close to the casual disregard for what&rsquo;s normally considered legality that I saw in my years in Kabul.</p> <p>It starts at the very top.</p> <p>One evening several years ago I was invited to a dinner at the US Embassy in Kabul. I was seated next to an Afghan-American official, and we were discussing corruption.</p> <p>&ldquo;How can we expect to make any progress when one of the most corrupt people in the country is the minister of counternarcotics?&rdquo; I fumed.</p> <p>Ahmed Zarar Moqbel, who had been interior minister until the graft and malfeasance in that organization proved too much for the international community to stomach, had recently been <a href="" target="_blank">made drug czar</a>. The British government, which had taken the lead on counternarcotics, cut off funding to the ministry upon his succession, apparently convinced that Moqbel himself was involved in drug smuggling.</p> <p>Even in Afghanistan, he stands out.</p> <p>The official looked at me, amused.</p> <p>&ldquo;Zarar is my relative,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p>I choked simultaneously on my food and my foot, and tried to stammer out an apology, but he just leaned toward me and laughed.</p> <p>&ldquo;Don&rsquo;t worry, I agree with you,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I do not allow my family to see him.&rdquo;</p> <p>Moqbel has recently been named to head the Foreign Affairs Ministry.</p> <p>In my experience, corruption in Afghanistan is everywhere, from the smallest office to the largest contractor. Examples range from the mildly irritating to the downright dangerous.</p> <p>President Hamid Karzai insists the problem came with the foreigners. In an interview with author William Dalrymple, he shifted blame to his major benefactor.</p> <p>&ldquo;There is corruption, no doubt,&rdquo; he <a href=";_r=0" target="_blank">said</a>. &ldquo;Our own petty corruption in the delivery of services was there before, is here today and will continue for some time. The big corruption was designed by the Americans. The contracts were used by the US government to buy influence in Afghanistan. It was designed to corrupt the Afghan political leadership so as to be usable by them.&rdquo;</p> <p>There may very well be some substance to Karzai&rsquo;s accusations. After all, if the United States and its allies had not <a href="" target="_blank">funneled nearly $700 billion dollars</a> into Afghanistan over the past 12 years, it would not have been there to steal.</p> <p><strong>More GlobalPost analysis: <a href="" target="_blank">Should we send more aid to Afghanistan?</a></strong></p> <p>Many in the international community also have a habit of looking the other way when it suits them.</p> <p>Take the example of <a href="http://;_r=0" target="_blank">Karzai&rsquo;s half-brother</a>, Ahmed Wali Karzai, who was widely believed to have been a major figure in the drug trade before he was assassinated in 2011.</p> <p>Ahmed Wali enjoyed good relations with the US &mdash; in fact, he was <a href="http://" target="_blank">a paid CIA informant</a>.</p> <p>But the bulk of the responsibility has to lie with the Afghans, who have seized opportunities with alacrity.</p> <p>In one office where I worked, the office manager was an expert at procurement. He had scoped out all the best suppliers in Kabul, and had a list of places to go. Very efficient, I thought, until I went to one of his favorite shops to buy a circuit breaker.</p> <p>When I mentioned the name of my office, the store manager smiled understandingly.</p> <p>&ldquo;Ah, yes, this is what you want.&rdquo; He fetched a raggedy-looking piece of equipment from in back. &ldquo;It is reconditioned. Costs just a third of what a new one would. But don&rsquo;t worry &mdash; we&rsquo;ll give you a receipt for the full cost. We have an arrangement with your chief.&rdquo;</p> <p>A quick count of circuit breakers in the office ran to several dozen &mdash; the office manager was making $100 or so on each one. He also had a habit of hiring his relatives for minor jobs &mdash; guards, drivers. He would pay them a small fee and pocket the bulk of their pay.</p> <p>Our resourceful manager was doubling or tripling his salary.</p> <p>After I left, one of my former colleagues left behind sent me a message, typos and all:</p> <p>&ldquo;Im so sad of that situation witch is going on in our office in Kabul&hellip; corruption is in high level, making of corrupt invoices &hellip; hiring of relatives in office etc. ... I want to send some documents to head office.&rdquo;</p> <p>But the head office was not interested. Exposing corruption is bad for business.</p> <p>Our office was not a rich one; just imagine the scams the big boys must have thought up.</p> <p>When I worked in Helmand, we liaised with a local official in Lashkar Gah, the capital. For the roughly two years of our stay we had to pay him a monthly &ldquo;facilitation fee&rdquo; not to make trouble for us.</p> <p>While there, I lived in the governor&rsquo;s guesthouse overlooking the river. It was lovely, except for the fact that the Taliban were across the water and occasionally fired automatic weapons in our direction. By the end of my sojourn the window was sandbagged to keep out stray bullets.</p> <p>Helmand is a dodgy province: bombings, kidnappings, outright battles were common. Security seemed tight around the governor&rsquo;s compound, except that one of our acquaintances, let&rsquo;s call him Araf, would slip the guards a tab of hash to let him in without searching his car.</p> <p>Araf, I should explain, was collaborating with the Taliban. He and his brothers used to make trips to the Iranian border to swap drugs for guns, which they would hand over to the insurgents. His father was arrested and incarcerated for his sons&rsquo; crimes, and Araf was desperately looking for money to buy him out of jail.</p> <p>We stopped going to Helmand shortly after that, partly out of fear that our faithful &ldquo;friend&rdquo; would sell us to the Taliban to get the necessary funds.</p> <p>Afghanistan is a world of fun-house mirrors.</p> <p>One journalist I knew was insistent on bringing down a lawmaker from his home district, which bordered Tajikistan. The official, he claimed, was smuggling drugs.</p> <p>An obliging governor from a poppy-growing province had made a helicopter available to get the parliamentarian home; since it was a government vehicle it was not searched. On every trip home the chopper was loaded with heroin or opium; the lawmaker&rsquo;s brothers would then take the drugs and smuggle them across the border.</p> <p><strong>More GlobalPost analysis: <a href="" target="_blank">The rise to a narco state</a></strong></p> <p>Ahmed (not his real name) brought me the helicopter pilot, who confirmed the story.</p> <p>&ldquo;But how do you know about the drug trafficking through Tajikistan?&rdquo; I asked.</p> <p>Ahmed laughed.</p> <p>&ldquo;Because my brothers are in business with them!&rdquo; he said.</p> <p>The story went untold, although it is common knowledge among many Afghans.</p> <p>The ultimate in corruption was the presidential election of 2009.</p> <p>Vote rigging was rampant, and far from subtle. Any election worker could produce sheaves of ballots all marked with the same distinctive squiggle &mdash; hastily filled out by the same hand.</p> <p>According to one United Nations election monitor, there were at least 1,500 &ldquo;ghost&rdquo; polling stations &mdash; meaning that the hundreds of thousands of mostly Karzai votes they sent to Kabul were fraudulent.</p> <p>The international community hailed the elections as a success, anointed Karzai as the legitimate winner, and, for good measure, fired the <a href="http://" target="_blank">pesky official who tried to expose the fraud</a>.</p> <p>Afghan malfeasance reinforced by international complicity &mdash; come to think of it, maybe Karzai&rsquo;s got a point.</p> <p><em>Journalist Jean MacKenzie worked as a reporter in Afghanistan from October 2004 to December 2011. </em></p> Afghanistan Blatant Corruption Business Want to Know Politics Culture & Lifestyle Offbeat United States Mon, 09 Dec 2013 18:03:27 +0000 Jean MacKenzie 6012217 at This is Howard. He's the world's foremost impersonator of Kim Jong Un. <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> It pays off to look like an evil dictator. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Emily Lodish </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>Kim Jong Un isn't known for giving people breaks.</p> <p>On the contrary, he is associated more closely with purging the ranks — just this week rumor has it that he <a href="">ousted his No. 2</a>, Jang Sung Taek.</p> <p>But there is one man by the name of Howard who received his biggest break yet when the third son of Kim Jong Il assumed the mantle.</p> <p>"When he first came on the scene, just before his dad Kim Jong Il introduced him and promoted him to the head of the army or something. I thought, 'Man, that's my face,'" Howard recently told <a href="" target="_blank">Vice magazine</a>.</p> <p>So closely does Howard, a music producer from <a href="">Hong Kong</a>, resemble Kim Jong Un that over the last couple years he has patched together a side gig of impersonating the supreme leader.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="//" width="640"></iframe></p> <p>Howard, who doesn't use his last name in public in order to protect himself from the hermit kingdom's wrath, posted a few pictures of himself on Facebook after Kim Jong Un took over.</p> <p>It didn't take long for an <a href="">Israeli</a> production house to take notice. They were making a commercial for a McDonald's competitor called Burger Ranch, which makes burgers for Orthodox Jews who keep kosher and don't eat milk with meat.</p> <p>Here's the commercial below. It has English subtitles, but what you need to know is that Kim Jong Un does not like McDonald's and so he nukes Washington, DC, after which he eats a Burger Ranch patty and muses: "How can I send the Israelis to hell with such a taste from heaven?" </p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="//" width="640"></iframe></p> <p>Since the above commercial aired a few months ago, Howard has received a string of other requests for his body double services.</p> <p>"It is fun to play Kim Jong Un because it freaks people out," Howard told Barcroft TV.</p> <p>"The key is to always look unhappy and dissatisfied. It is his trademark look."</p> <p>Oh, and in case you know anyone who looks like the North Korean first lady, Ri Sol Ju, Howard would like your number.</p> <div id="fb-root">  </div> <script>(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); = id; js.src = "//"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));</script><div class="fb-post" data-href=";set=a.379683512149816.1073741829.361346080650226&amp;type=1" data-width="550"> <div class="fb-xfbml-parse-ignore"> <a href="">Post</a> by <a href="">Kim Jong "Um"-Kim Jong Un &#44608;&#51221;&#51008; Look alike/Impersonator</a>.</div> </div> Things that look like other things World Leaders Entertainment Strange But True China Offbeat North Korea Tue, 03 Dec 2013 21:19:00 +0000 Emily Lodish 6008041 at The story of Thanksgivukkah <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> As told by Moses Fletcher, the lone Jew aboard the Mayflower. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Moses Fletcher, the lone Jew aboard the Mayflower </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>Admittedly, it is the lesser told story. But the story of Thanksgivukkah packs as much of a punch as the traditional Hanukkah saga, and leaves you feeling as warm and fuzzy as the Thanksgiving tale. Believe you me.</p> <p>It is like the latke that you put sour cream on without noticing that the edge already had some apple sauce on it — a slightly confusing mouthful, but not one you can say you regret. Thanksgivukkah. It really is the best of both worlds.</p> <p>I should know, you see, because I, Moses Fletcher, the lone Jew aboard the Mayflower, was there when it all began. And tonight, a night unlike all other nights for the last 125 years and unlike any to come for the next 77,798, a night when Thanksgiving and Hanukkah once again coincide, I will finally tell my story.</p> <p>I guess it really all started when the Mayflower finally made landfall in Plymouth. Why Plymouth? Beats the crap outta me, but that’s where Capt. Christopher Jones said he was going to land and I’ll be darned if Christopher Jones didn’t get every last thing he wanted save the late Humility Cooper’s hand in marriage.</p> <p>Plymouth was the destination, something about the land already being cleared or somesuch. If you ask me, the land was clear because every living thing in a 70-rod-and-chain radius turned tail and got the hell out of there before winter.</p> <p>To say that winter was harsh in Plymouth is an understatement. December 1621 felt longer than the Curse of the Bambino. That winter sucked. We lost more than half our original 102. We were tired. We were cold. We were at each other’s throats. Well, truthfully, a few pilgrims were taking the brunt of it, mainly Bartholomew’s crew, but that goes back to what happened between William Bradford and John Carver back in Yorkshire before we even set sail, so.</p> <p>Anyway. There are a couple miracles at the heart of the Hanukkah story, as you probably know. There’s the miracle of how the measly Maccabee army succeeded in liberating <a href="">Israel</a> from Hellenic dominance. And there’s the miracle of how seriously just a tiny thimbleful of oil lasted for a whole eight long days.</p> <p>So, I guess you could say what Hannukah is really about is a how a little can really be a lot, or how a small bit of the right effort can get the job done swimmingly or something along those lines. Which is all really great and good, but I’ll tell you what the real miracle was.</p> <p>The real miracle was that we pilgrims hadn’t torn each other limb from limb by the time Hanukkah rolled around. I mean, it was a small group and getting smaller with every cough and wheeze. We had already journeyed together across the Atlantic for four hellish months, cramped most of the time down below, coming up for air really only to empty a chamber pot, if that.</p> <p>But what they don’t tell you in the history books is that we were still living on that frigging ship by the time it was Hannukah! Can you believe that? I mean we were in Plymouth and everything, we had been there for a few weeks, but we just for the life of us couldn’t figure out how to make a house with a roof that didn’t ignite at the first spark of Gilbert Winslow’s pipe.</p> <p>“Look,” I said to William and John and Francis, “my people have been through harder times than this and —“</p> <p>“We know, we know,” Francis croaked. “You got through it and not only that but it made you stronger. We know, Moses. We’re happy for you. Now fer chrissake give it a rest.”</p> <p>“My brothers,” I said, “I vow this time will be no different. If there is one thing our trans-Atlantic trip reinforced for me, it is that G-d gives us intestinal fortitude to stomach even the thinnest of porridge. Stay with me on this. I know a way.”</p> <p>In truth, I did not know a way, but I knew that Hanukkah was nigh and I knew that a little really can be a lot when it’s the right bit, and, well, I had a little faith.</p> <p>On the eve of Dec. 12, 1621, the first night of Hanukkah for the lunar year 5381, what transpired can only be called a divine act.</p> <p>Our barrels of rice, peas and biscuits were nearly empty. The men had not been lucky in the hunt. What kind of Hanukkah would it be without even a morsel to eat, I thought to myself. No kind of Hanukkah, that’s what.</p> <p>A very curious looking man showed up at the edge of the shore where the Mayflower sat. Soft deerskin draped over his loins. I remember thinking his deerskin looked very soft. Much more so than our breeches. This was my first clue.</p> <p>Capt. Jones said we weren't to go meet him, but cowering in fear is no way to greet Hanukkah, I thought to myself. I resolved to go and meet the man.</p> <p>As I lowered myself to shore, the wind howled mightily. Whole drifts of snow obscured my vision. I could barely make out the cries of my fellow pilgrims still aboard the Mayflower, begging for my return. I could barely make out the man in the deerskin before me. </p> <p>The storm grew in intensity. I had to cover my eyes with my arm to withstand the chill. The blistery chaos of the weather was matched in that moment only by the emotional turmoil beneath my short coat and doublet.</p> <p>I stood still for what felt like an eternity, growing colder and more afraid. When the wind finally quieted and I was able to lower my arm and raise my gaze, the man was nowhere to be seen. But before me on the ground, glowing and afire, was the most peculiar kind of waterfowl. </p> <p>In truth, I may not have gone near the bird had we all not been so desperate and had it not been Hanukkah and had I not promised William and John and Francis that something miraculous was going to happen. But go toward it I did and thank goodness.</p> <p>In no time at all, the lot of us had each tasted, nay feasted, upon the sweetest, most succulent meat our weary bodies had known in months. Hanukkah was upon us and our bellies they were full, and I'll be darned if they didn't stay that way for eight whole days.</p> <p>Oh, it’s true the natives showed us how to plant corn and all the good places to hunt and all that, but that wasn’t until spring. The real Thanksgiving was Thanksgivukkah, in the middle of December.</p> <p>In the dead of winter, when a man leaves you a <a href="">turkey</a>, you thank the good Lord and you eat it.</p> Satire Entertainment Strange But True World Religion Offbeat United States Thu, 28 Nov 2013 13:58:13 +0000 Moses Fletcher, the lone Jew aboard the Mayflower 6002390 at Things rich people do: have 'receipt wars' <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Two Russian millionaires battle it out to see who can spend more at a night club in London. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Emily Lodish </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p><em>Editor&#39;s note: &quot;Things rich people do&quot; is a GlobalPost series on the global 1 percent. See the last installment: <a href="">Things rich people do: build buildings on top of other buildings</a>.</em></p> <p>Ever hear the one about the Russian millionaire who walked into a bar?&nbsp;</p> <p>He met this other Russian millionaire there and they proceeded to try to one-up each other in terms of what they could purchase and ingest.&nbsp;</p> <p>The punchline? More than $200,000 in combined bar tabs over the course of three hours.&nbsp;</p> <p>This apparently really happened in London at a nightclub called <a href="" target="_blank">Kitsch</a>, when two unnamed Russian millionaires started going head-to-head ordering bottles of Dom Perignon and Cristal, according to <a href="" target="_blank">news reports</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>When the bar closed at 3 a.m., the bills were totaled and one table won by less than $4,000. Folks at that table were reportedly seen jumping up and down, ecstatically waving their bill in the air.</p> <p>One club-goer told the <a href="" target="_blank">Daily Mail</a>:</p> <blockquote><p> &#39;It was one of the most bizarre nights I&rsquo;ve ever seen.&nbsp;</p></blockquote> <blockquote><p> &#39;These two guys were competing with each other to buy more and more champagne. Each time one would buy five bottles the other would order six, then seven, then eight.&#39;</p></blockquote> <p>Between the two, they ordered 84 bottles of Dom Perignon, 55 bottles of Cristal and 44 cans of Red Bull, among other beverages. <span style="font-size: 13px;">And, gulp, they didn&#39;t even drink it all.</span></p> <p>Meanwhile, Russia has the highest rate of wealth inequality of all the countries in the world. According to the latest <a href="" target="_blank">Credit Suisse Wealth Report</a>, 110 billionaires lay claim to 35 percent of the country&#39;s wealth.&nbsp;</p> Russian millionaires Travel/Tourism Entertainment Food & Drink Strange But True Global Economy Offbeat Russia United Kingdom Fri, 11 Oct 2013 18:21:00 +0000 Emily Lodish 5958524 at Venezuela's 'smells like sulfur' diplomacy <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Update: Washington has responded to Caracas’ expulsions by kicking out three Venezuelan diplomats, the latest tit-for-tat between Venezuela and the northern superpower it says stinks like Satan. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Girish Gupta </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>CARACAS, Venezuela &mdash; The US government is kicking out three Venezuelan diplomats, the latest tit-for-tat move against South America&rsquo;s loudest critic of Washington.</p> <p>The State Department said late Tuesday it had told Venezuela&rsquo;s charge d&#39;affaires in Washington, Calixto Ortega, and two other diplomatic corps members they had 48 hours to leave the United States &mdash; an echo of a similar order by Venezuela to the US Embassy in Caracas earlier this week.</p> <p>&quot;It is regrettable that the Venezuelan government has again decided to expel US diplomatic officials based on groundless allegations, which require reciprocal action. It is counterproductive to the interests of both our countries,&quot; the State Department said.</p> <p>On Monday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said he&rsquo;d ordered the expulsion of three US Embassy staff members, including Washington&rsquo;s top envoy to Caracas, accusing them of meeting with the Venezuelan &ldquo;far right&rdquo; and funding economic moves to sabotage the economy.</p> <p>&quot;Yankees go home! Get out of Venezuela! Enough of this abuse!&quot; Maduro said Monday on state television, giving them 48 hours to leave.</p> <p><em>Below is a YouTube video from Venezuelan television of his address in Spanish.</em></p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="//" width="480"></iframe></p> <p>Venezuela has expelled several US officials and <a href="" target="_blank">citizens</a> since Maduro took over after his mentor Hugo Chavez&rsquo;s death in March. The allegations have ranged from spying to working to destabilize the oil-rich South American country.</p> <p>This latest accusation is not new. &quot;Far right&quot; is a label the leftist government uses to criticize the opposition, which is made up of politicians of various political stripes. The Venezuelan government has long accused Washington of colluding with them.</p> <p>As far as heightening tensions with Western foes, it has been a busy few weeks for Maduro.</p> <p>He&rsquo;s leveled accusations that France-based aircraft maker <a href="" target="_blank">Airbus sabotaged</a> his presidential plane and that <a href="" target="_blank">the United States plotted to kill him</a>.</p> <p>Last week, he had a phone call with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and voiced his support for the embattled regime amid wide international condemnation.</p> <p>What Maduro may lack in his predecessor&#39;s charisma and cult-like popularity, many observers say, he has sought to make up for with attempts to imitate Chavez&rsquo;s characteristic anti-Western imperialist bravado.</p> <p>Beyond revolutionary heroics, critics say Maduro&rsquo;s mostly unsubstantiated allegations point to troubles at home.</p> <p>Prices here have risen more than 45 percent in the last year. Shortages of basic items such as toilet paper and newsprint persist, as the US dollar becomes more difficult to obtain thanks to currency controls enacted a decade ago.</p> <p>Maduro&#39;s allegations against the US diplomats recalled another important problem. Venezuela has suffered blackouts for years. In September, when a big power outage hit, <a href="" target="_blank">Maduro blamed his &quot;far right&quot; opponents</a> once more. Now he&#39;s alleged the embassy staff worked to &quot;encourage actions to sabotage the power system and the economy.&quot;</p> <p>US officials deny the accusations.</p> <p>&ldquo;We completely reject the Venezuelan government&rsquo;s allegations of US government involvement in any type of conspiracy to destabilize the Venezuelan government,&rdquo; the US Embassy said in a statement. The statement did acknowledge holding meetings with politicians across Venezuela&#39;s political spectrum.</p> <p>Opposition leader Henrique Capriles Radonski, a centrist who lost elections against both Chavez and Maduro in the last year, reacted to the latest US diplomat expulsions <a href="" target="_blank">over Twitter</a>: &ldquo;It&rsquo;s just a smokescreen to cover up their inability to manage the country.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Venezuela&#39;s press is dying from a paper shortage</a></strong></p> <p>Venezuelans judge Maduro harshly against his predecessor. As divisive as he was, Chavez was wildly popular during his 14-year presidency and won his final election in October by 11 percentage points.</p> <p>Maduro, on the other hand, mustered an election victory in April of fewer than 2 points. His approval ratings have now dropped, according to some local pollsters, lower than his opponent.</p> <p>To counter that, observers say, government rhetoric is following the same line it did under Chavez &mdash; sometimes with even more bite. The moves are designed to play well at home, analysts say, regardless of the damage they do in international circles.</p> <p>Maduro boasted of his 20-minute phone conversation with Assad, who had given a rare interview to Venezuela&rsquo;s pro-government Telesur TV channel.</p> <p>&ldquo;I told him that the Venezuelan people support and accompany the people of Syria in their fight against the terrorist armies that the United States and the West armed to overthrow him [Assad],&rdquo; Maduro <a href="" target="_blank">said</a> on state television late on Thursday night. &ldquo;Syria is not alone.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Venezuelan lawmaker vows to fight for Syrian army</a></strong></p> <p>Indeed, Syrian authorities say they&rsquo;re keen on Latin America as a model for their own region.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p><a href=";src=hash">#Assad</a>: Arab states should follow the path of Latin America if we want to make a mark in the world, to be independent and advanced.</p> <p> &mdash; Syrian Presidency (@Presidency_Sy) <a href="">September 26, 2013</a></p></blockquote> <p>Maduro said Assad told him Syria&#39;s government &mdash; which has waged a bloody two-and-a-half-year war against partly Western-backed rebel groups &mdash; this week would announce plans to send a &ldquo;high-level delegation&rdquo; to Latin America to &ldquo;bring the truth&rdquo; to the region.</p> <p>Maduro was foreign minister under Chavez for six years and is responsible for implementing his firebrand predecessor&rsquo;s policies abroad. They&#39;ve been highly controversial: Venezuela warmed up not just to Assad but to international pariahs from&nbsp;former Iranian leader <a href="" target="_blank">Mahmoud Ahmadinejad</a> to late Libyan dictator <a href="" target="_blank">Muammar Gaddafi</a>.</p> <p>With those friends, Caracas shared a love of hating the Great Satan of American superpower.</p> <p>The fraught relationship between Chavez and the US came to a nadir in 2006 at the United Nations General Assembly when the self-styled socialist stood at the lectern and theatrically sniffed the air. &ldquo;The devil came here yesterday,&rdquo; <a href="" target="_blank">he said</a>, referring to then US President George W. Bush. &ldquo;It smells of sulfur still.&rdquo;</p> <p>Maduro missed the latest UN General Assembly last week. Yet his trip that ultimately avoided the New York event did feature drama of its own.</p> <p>Two weeks ago, before the 50-year-old president even took off to China to sign oil and lending agreements, he <a href="" target="_blank">accused US authorities</a> of refusing to allow his plane to fly over the US airspace of Puerto Rico.</p> <p>&ldquo;Denying a head of state permission to fly through airspace that they [the US] colonized, as in Puerto Rico, is a grave error,&rdquo; Maduro said on state TV.</p> <p>But the US flatly denied Maduro&rsquo;s accusation, saying Venezuelan authorities failed to make a proper request yet permission was granted regardless.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s not clear why the row erupted. Puerto Rico is far from any direct flight path between Caracas and Paris (Maduro&rsquo;s stopover on the way to Beijing).</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">5 signs Venezuela-US relations are still rocky after Chavez</a></strong></p> <p>On his way back from China, Maduro stopped off in Vancouver before the UN General Assembly in New York. However, intelligence of &ldquo;<a href="" target="_blank">provocations</a> that could threaten [his] life&rdquo; led him to skip the UN meeting entirely and fly straight back to Caracas.</p> <p>When he arrived here, Maduro <a href=";v=Xjdn4S7hczU#t=31" target="_blank">added Airbus</a> to the list of those out to get him.</p> <p>After five months of maintenance in France, Maduro said technicians here found a &ldquo;serious fault&rdquo; in one of the wings of his presidential plane. The company, he said, would have to answer for the fault, as legal action is prepared.</p> <p>Airbus in response said that it would help Venezuela investigate.</p> <p>After the &ldquo;provocations&rdquo; that persuaded Maduro and his entourage to sidestep New York and the UN, the president suggested that the headquarters of the international organization be moved to a &ldquo;safer&rdquo; location such as &ldquo;Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro or some other place in Latin America.&rdquo;</p> <p>On Saturday, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua spoke at the UN in lieu of his boss to little of the fanfare received by Chavez seven years ago.</p> <p>&ldquo;Sadly,&rdquo; he <a href="" target="_blank">said</a>, &ldquo;it still smells of sulfur.&rdquo;<br /> &nbsp;</p> Syria Want to Know War Politics Offbeat United States Venezuela Tue, 01 Oct 2013 04:16:00 +0000 Girish Gupta 5949344 at Skateboarding goat among entries to the 2014 Guinness Book of World Records <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The latest edition of the Guinness world records book features more than 3,000 new or updated entries. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Allison Jackson </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>A tightrope walking dog, a vacuum cleaner collector and a skateboarding goat are among the record breakers featured in the <a href="–-the-latest-and-greatest-to-make-it-into-the-new-guinness-world-records-2014-book-51203/" target="_blank">2014 Guinness World Book of Records</a> released Thursday.</p> <p>The latest edition features <a href="" target="_blank">more than 3,000 new and updated entries</a>, including the fastest sprinter in high heels and an iPhone-sized dog.   </p> <p>Guinness, the company responsible for assessing and compiling often bizarre record breaking achievements around the planet, has been publishing the book for nearly 60 years and claims more than 130 million copies have been sold worldwide. </p> <p>Among this year’s entries is Fabio Reggiani of <a href="">Italy</a>, who created <a href="" target="_blank">the world&rsquo;s largest &ldquo;rideable&rdquo; motorcycle</a>. Measuring 16 feet, 8.78 inches from the ground to the top of the handlebars, the 5-tonne motorcycle is six times the size of a normal motorbike. </p> <p>In the U.K., a canine called Ozzy was recognized for the “fastest crossing of a tightrope by a dog” after wobbling across an 11.5-foot rope in 18.22 seconds. </p> <p>Fellow Briton James Brown’s collection of 322 vacuum cleaners was enough for a mention in bible of record-breaking accomplishments.</p> <p>In one of the more unusual additions, <a href="" target="_blank">a goat in the U.S. called Happie</a> clocked the longest skateboard ride by a goat – 118 feet in 25 seconds.</p> <p>No less impressive was <a href="">German</a> woman Julia Plecher, who ran her way into the record book after posting the fastest 100 meters in high heels, crossing the line in 14.531 seconds, while a 3.8-inch tall Puerto Rican Chihuahua was awarded the title of “world’s smallest dog.”</p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <style id="_clearly_component__css" type="text/css"> #next_pages_container { width: 5px; hight: 5px; position: absolute; top: -100px; left: -100px; z-index: 2147483647 !important; }</style><style id="_clearly_component__css" type="text/css"> #next_pages_container { width: 5px; hight: 5px; position: absolute; top: -100px; left: -100px; z-index: 2147483647 !important; }</style><p class='u'></p> Offbeat Weird Wide Web Thu, 12 Sep 2013 18:00:00 +0000 Allison Jackson 5932450 at Step aside Miley Cyrus, here comes K-Porn <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Some Koreans cry foul over K-Pop’s growing raunchiness. Others revel in it. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Geoffrey Cain </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p><em>Editor's note: We publish thousands of stories at GlobalPost every year. But some of these don't receive the reader attention they deserve. Our series "20 Must-Reads of 2013" fixes that problem. Here's a look — maybe a second one — at some of our best journalism of the year.</em></p> <p>SEOUL, <a href="">South Korea</a> — Miley Cyrus may have ticked off American parents with her salacious “twerking” dance, grabbing her crotch and grinding in nude-colored hotpants.</p> <p>But Americans aren’t the only ones on edge about sleazy stage tricks.</p> <p>On the other side of the Pacific, South Koreans are stirring up a similar commotion over skin-boasting pop stars and their raunchy music videos.</p> <p>You may know K-Pop, or Korean pop, thanks to Psy and Rain. But the industry has far wider appeal in South Korea, where training schools churn out legions of upcoming stars, urging them to get plastic surgery and dance dirty for the camera.</p> <p>K-Pop has always had a reputation for risqué depictions, although the intensity of sex-charged videos appears to be on the rise this summer.</p> <p>James Turnbull, a commentator on Korean gender issues, lists <a href="" target="_blank">examples</a> at the magazine <em>Busan HAPS</em>: in “Be Ambitious,” girl group Dal Shabet rips off skirts to reveal camel toes. Ladies from another troupe, After School, dance on stripper poles in “First Love.” </p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//" width="560"></iframe></p> <p>Last October, one artist kicked up the steam factor even further. In “Bloom,” pop singer Ga-in played a young woman experiencing a sexual awakening, masturbating on her kitchen floor. Scandalously, the vocalist said she got inspiration from <a href="" target="_blank">all sorts of adult movies</a>.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//" width="560"></iframe></p> <p>Of course, such images are tame by MTV standards. South Korea is still a society steeped in traditional norms, where online pornography is blocked, and authorities can review and censor music videos before reaching the public eye. Acts that get the government’s dreaded 19+ rating are banned from airtime before 10 p.m., although many managers anticipate this and put out tamer versions for daytime hours.</p> <p>Even 30-second teasers are getting adult ratings, like Seungri’s trailer for his upcoming single “Let’s Talk About Love” — which includes a shot of a man taking off a woman’s lingerie.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//" width="420"></iframe></p> <p>Some Korean pop artists, too, are lashing back against management companies that rely on sex appeal more than music. Lee Seung Chul, a 1980s K-pop veteran, <a href="" target="_blank">tweeted</a> in protest, “Naked legs, underwear teasers … optical illusion outfits?? TT TT. It′s not right to promote like this." (TT is a Korean emoticon for sadness.)</p> <p>Even if the number of salacious videos is on the rise, Koreans have repeatedly staged uproars against pop music for the past five years or so, Turnbull tells GlobalPost — for example in 2011, when the government restricted one video simply because fully clothed girls spread their legs on the floor.</p> <p>South Korea’s censorship is a lingering product of its autocratic history. For decades, K-Pop was an obscure and heavily <a href="" target="_blank">restricted</a> genre under successive Korean dictators. Still, early artists from the 1950s and 1960s took inspiration from American servicemen, who brought rock and roll and other popular art forms to the impoverished peninsula.</p> <p>As the country rose out of poverty, K-Pop made its first footprints throughout Asia in the late 1990s, and became hot by the mid-2000s — years before the Gangnam Style sensation we know today. Today, bands have found enormous popularity as part of the “Korean Wave,” or the spread of Korean culture mostly throughout Asia.</p> <p>But the notoriously cyclical entertainment industry goes through good and bad years, possibly explaining the libertine videos this summer. Turnbull says the K-Pop scene has long relied on sex to keep groups in the public eye.</p> <p>Sex, of course, is appealing to the legions of K-Pop fans in their teens and 20s. Tumblr is full of micro-blogs of the <a href="" target="_blank">men</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">women</a> of K-pop, showing off their poses and suggestive dance moves in what many jokingly call "K-pop porn."</p> K-Porn Want to Know Culture & Lifestyle Offbeat South Korea Sun, 01 Sep 2013 10:02:00 +0000 Geoffrey Cain 5919984 at Brazil bans batch of Heinz ketchup after rodent fur found <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Health officials in Brazil ban batch of Heinz ketchup after traces of rodent fur were found in a Mexican-made lot. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Jill Langlois </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>SAO PAULO, Brazil — Health officials in Brazil have banned a batch of Heinz ketchup after traces of rodent fur were found in the lot from <a href="">Mexico</a>.</p> <p>In a <a href="!ut/p/c5/jZDJboNADIafhQeIxqFhKEcyLMMSlhTCckEQAkUQoCVqRzx9QOo1qPbJ-vXZ8odStHSf_zR1_miGPu9QjFKcWT41dABecoN3BYxDcKaSRVxtv1_yBGfwomRYaaLL9CDay4yPBAxdcLDguwDuH_0y5_9ze2P7Nm2itO6GYvkxUq4tUwa5VlTlPM1H6GjBm-6gN6pJCv-UeLZw8t7aqpRYIIoDkRNghZdO9az4bHcZfe2760mFx6aPXFX7KvmYlz5CWpYX9gtOGcBjZ0-qY8kdte0r83CRfdKQQ9Hqe9vAmm_4dehwv6HxHobxfGsrmeOeNybe4g!!/?1dmy&urile=wcm%3apath%3a//Anvisa%20Portal/Anvisa/Sala%20de%20Imprensa/Assunto%20de%20Interesse/Noticias/Anvisa%20suspende%20lote%20de%20catchup%20da%20marca%20Heinz" target="_blank">statement from Anvisa</a>, Brazil's health surveillance agency, the government said it had banned all sales, distribution and marketing of the specific 2k04 batch of Heinz tomato ketchup.</p> <p>While the extent of the contamination and <span style="letter-spacing: 0px; line-height: 1.2;">the amount of product in the batch is unknown, Heinz has said it has already been taken out of circulation, <a href="" target="_blank">BBC said</a>.</span></p> <p><a href="" style="letter-spacing: 0px; line-height: 1.2;" target="_blank"></a></p> <p>Brazil's consumer advocacy group <a href="" target="_blank">Procon</a> sent a note to Heinz, notifying the company that it needs to provide more details about what happened and to clarify how the incident could have occurred.</p> <p>"Along with other information, the company must describe the nature of the defect and the potential risks it caused to the health and safety of consumers, as well as the procedures adopted in order to repair the defect," said the note.</p> <p>Mexican authorities have launched an inquiry into the incident, and an inspection of the factory where the ketchup was produced has been ordered.</p> <p>Cofepris, Mexico's hygiene agency, has also requested a visit to check on the standards of the factory and has asked Heinz for a "detailed report" on the batch of ketchup where the rodent fur was discovered.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Happy International Cat Day! Guess which country has the most pet felines?</a></strong></p> <p class='u'></p> Food & Drink Brazil Offbeat Health Mexico Weird Wide Web Wed, 21 Aug 2013 18:19:00 +0000 Jill Langlois 5914695 at Kyrgyz authorities discover vodka pipeline <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Oil isn't the only liquid flowing underground in Central Asia. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Angus West </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>The authorities in Kyrgyzstan shut off a pipeline carrying <a href="">alcohol from Kazakhstan</a> after it was discovered last week, the&nbsp;Kyrgyz news agency&nbsp;AKIpress reported.&nbsp;</p> <p>It&#39;s believed to have carried mostly vodka through an 8 inch-wide tube over a third of a mile under the Chu River, which divides the two countries. The pipeline ended in the city of <a href="">Tokmok</a> in northern Kyrgyzstan.</p> <p>Kyrgyz border guards found the pipeline during a routine search.</p> <p>&quot;We assume that thousands of liters of alcohol were smuggled,&quot; a Tokmok police official told&nbsp;<a href="">AKIpress</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>Police are searching for the pipeline&#39;s operators.</p> <p>Kyrgyzstan, a majority Muslim country, has a growing demand for cheap alcohol from Kazakhstan, one of the largest grain producers in the region.</p> <p>Last fall, the authorities discovered a <a href="">similar pipeline</a> smuggling oil under the Chu River.</p> <p><img src="" width="670" /><br /> <span style="color: rgb(59, 58, 38); font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 10px;"> Tengrinews via</span><em> </em></p> Vodka Asia-Pacific Food & Drink Strange But True Offbeat Tue, 20 Aug 2013 15:51:00 +0000 Angus West 5913732 at What China wants: Breast milk and tiger penis <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> 6 vices of China’s rich and infamous. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Benjamin Carlson </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>HONG KONG &mdash; Every new generation of nouveaux riches has its vices.</p> <p>Nineteenth-century American industrialists were fond of marrying European royalty. In the 1980s, Japanese millionaires got their kicks from buying Rockefeller Center. In recent decades, Emirati princes have shown a predilection for building vast indoor snow machines.</p> <p>Now it&rsquo;s China&rsquo;s turn.</p> <p>The country&rsquo;s newly-minted millionaires are second to none in their unusual tastes. Here&rsquo;s a guide to some of the strangest vices preferred by China&rsquo;s new super-rich.</p> <p><strong>Breast milk</strong></p> <p>Earlier this summer, Chinese social media erupted after a report in Southern Metropolitan newspaper claimed that rich adults had taken to hiring wet nurses not simply to feed their babies &mdash; but also themselves.</p> <p>&ldquo;Adult [clients] can drink it directly through breastfeeding, or they can always drink it from a breast pump if they feel embarrassed,&rdquo; the owner of the wet-nurse agency in Shenzhen reportedly said.</p> <p>At $2,600 a month, the suckling service does not come cheap, but to wealthy clients who believe that breast milk grants enormous health benefits, it&rsquo;s apparently worth it.</p> <p>While the company has subsequently denied the report (and GlobalPost tried and failed to confirm it), the queasy feeling remains: some people just never got weaned.</p> <p><strong>Tiger thingy</strong></p> <p>Think of it as a substitute for Viagra &mdash; but more expensive, less effective, wildly unethical, downright illegal, and dangerous to the future of a charismatic species.</p> <p>In China and across Southeast Asia, dried tiger member is still believed to be a potent sexual medicine for men, despite a notable lack of empirical evidence. Poaching bans and modern medicine have dented demand only modestly.</p> <p>Though eating the phallus of an endangered cat may not sound appetizing, tiger penis soup can command up to $300 a bowl. You want the whole shebang, so to speak? That&rsquo;ll cost you $5,000.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Qigong masters</strong></p> <p>Hollywood celebrities have their psychics and gurus. Wealthy Chinese have their qigong masters &mdash; at least until the Communist Party cracks down.</p> <p>In a country that remains officially atheist, qigong masters at their best offer spiritual guidance to an elite looking for deeper beliefs.</p> <p>At their worst, they&rsquo;re something close to charlatans.</p> <p>Just last week, one of the more famous qigong masters, Wang Lin, fled China for Hong Kong when state-run media began denouncing him as a &ldquo;vulgar magician,&rdquo; spurring rumors of an imminent arrest.</p> <p>Wang had amassed a fortune thanks to followers that included a who&rsquo;s-who of China&rsquo;s rich and famous: Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Internet tycoon Jack Ma, several high-ranking Communist Party officials. Wang claimed that he could cure cancer, conjure snakes, and steer his car handlessly, among other things.</p> <p>The fees for a qigong master can be steep. One Chinese businessman claims he <a href="">paid Wang</a> millions of yuan to learn his secrets, but only got a mattress, a book, and a whole lot of disappointment.</p> <p><strong>Rhino horn</strong></p> <p>They&rsquo;d be just as well off swallowing their toenail trimmings, but that hasn&rsquo;t stopped China&rsquo;s well-heeled from paying loads to eat rhino horn.</p> <p>For centuries, Chinese traditional medicine has seen rhino horn as a rare and powerful remedy for inflammation and fever. In reality, the horn is simply compressed hair and keratin &mdash; which is what fingernail is made of.</p> <p>It has zero medical effect.</p> <p>Nevertheless, China&rsquo;s newly rich pay up to $30,000 a pound for the stuff, leading to a furious rise in rhino poaching across Africa and Asia. (In Vietnam, the elite use rhino horn as a <a href="" target="_blank">party drug</a> and hangover cure.)</p> <p>While the Chinese government has started to crack down on smuggling, the toll on rhino populations is already harsh. More than 668 rhinos were poached in South Africa in 2012, up roughly <a href="" target="_blank">3000 percent</a> since 2007.</p> <p><strong>Moutai Baijiu</strong></p> <p>To the uninitiated, the first sip of baijiu &mdash; a highly alcoholic liquor distilled from sorghum &mdash; tastes a bit like rubbing alcohol mixed with motor oil.</p> <p>Frequently referred to as &ldquo;China&rsquo;s national drink,&rdquo; Moutai baijiu is China&rsquo;s most expensive, and most prestigious, domestic spirit. It is the preferred drink of the elite, accompanying official banquets and business deals.</p> <p>As a result, the price has inflated radically over the last decade. Ten years ago, a bottle could be bought for $30. Now it runs from about $300 to over a million dollars. Last year, a 1980 vintage sold for $1.3 million at auction.</p> <p><strong>Gold-plated cars</strong></p> <p>It&rsquo;s not exactly performance enhancing, but it gets the message across. That message being: I&rsquo;m very, very rich.</p> <p>Yes, the latest and greatest way for China&rsquo;s most flamboyant rich to outdo one another is to encase their luxury cars in solid gold.</p> <p>Recent favorites include a gold-plated <a href="" target="_blank">Ferrari</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">Lamborghini</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">Bentley</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">BMW</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">Porsche</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">Rolls Royce</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">Infiniti</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Lincoln stretch limousine</a>. &nbsp;</p> Vices Strange But True Wildlife News China Culture & Lifestyle Offbeat Tue, 20 Aug 2013 10:08:00 +0000 Benjamin Carlson 5909214 at Just how racist is Switzerland? <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Oprah, estimated to have raked in $77 million last year, has a Pretty Woman moment. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Angus West </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p class="p1"><span class="s1"><a href="">Oprah Winfrey</a></span><span class="s2"> claims to have been a victim of racism while shopping at a mall in Switzerland. Although the Swiss Tourism office was prompt in issuing an apology to Oprah, the event brings into question a trend of hostility towards foreigners&nbsp;</span>in Switzerland.</p> <p class="p2">The country recently voted to maintain <a href=""><span class="s1">restrictions</span></a> placed on asylum seekers last June, eliminating&nbsp;<a href=""><span class="s1">military desertion</span></a> as a reason for asylum and the ability (unique in Europe) to apply through Switzerland&rsquo;s embassies.</p> <p class="p2">The not-so-neutral rules add to a law first implemented in 1981, which has been periodically amended to increase limitations on foreigners seeking refuge in Switzerland.&nbsp;</p> <p class="p2">Some towns want to segregate asylum seekers to live in designated areas&mdash;often old military barracks&mdash;and limit their ability to leave the compounds outside the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. They even seek to prevent asylum seekers from entering public spaces, such as pools, soccer pitches, libraries and retirement homes.</p> <p class="p2">Opponents of the legislation&mdash;which passed with an overwhelming majority&mdash;deride the restrictions as unfair.</p> <p class="p2">What&#39;s more, it may be overreaching.</p> <p class="p2">According to&nbsp;human-rights advocacy group&nbsp;<a href="">Human Rights Watch</a>: &ldquo;Under international law, Switzerland must formally justify any prohibition on free movement as the least restrictive measure necessary to protect national security, public order, or public health. In addition, any such policy may not discriminate between Swiss citizens and foreign nationals.&rdquo;</p> <p class="p2">The Swiss People&rsquo;s Party (SPV), which supported the new measures, pushed for a constitutional referendum to <a href="">ban minarets</a> in Sweden in 2009. The referendum passed with over 50 percent&nbsp;voting in favor, but another attempt supported by the SPV, criticized in a report by <a href="">Amnesty International</a>,&nbsp;to outlaw full-face veils failed.</p> <p class="p2">So where did all the anti-immigrant sentiment arise from?</p> <p class="p2">Switzerland experienced a rise in refugees during the Kosovo conflict in 1999, but declined during the proceeding decade. The number of asylum seeker&nbsp;<a href="">dropped precipitously</a> this year, after rising sharply the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings.</p> <p class="p2">Many Swiss fear a coming influx of immigrants, particularly from the Muslim world, for economic reasons, and also harbor widespread anti-Muslim feelings. The SVP has been adept at playing off a mix of religious tensions and xenophobia.</p> <p class="p2">Switzerland&rsquo;s Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that <a href=""><span class="s1">town councils</span></a> voting to decide on granting individuals citizenship was unconstitutional. A failed referendum in 2008, initiated by the <a href="">SVP</a>, attempted to make the votes legal again.</p> <p class="p2"><a href="">Naturalization laws</a> in Switzerland are some of the most stringent in the world. A law backed by the SVP prevents &ldquo;<span class="s1"><a href="">convenience</a></span>&rdquo; marriages by outlawing foreigners from marrying Swiss citizens without a visa.</p> <p class="p2">Switzerland&rsquo;s <a href=""><span class="s1">net migration rate</span></a>, the effect of migration on population change, is the third highest in Europe, trailing only Luxembourg and Spain. There are over 50,000 refugees in Switzerland, according to the <a href=""><span class="s1">UN Refugee Agency</span></a>. With 332 asylum seekers per capita, Switzerland&rsquo;s rate is double the European average.</p> <p class="p2">The recent exclusion of military desertion as a reason for granting asylum was particularly harmful to applicants from Eritrea, which make up the largest portion of Switzerland&#39;s asylum-seekers.</p> <p class="p2">In April, Switzerland reached an agreement with the <a href=""><span class="s1">European Union</span></a> to restrict the total number of asylum seekers from all EU countries not capped under earlier arrangements.</p> Want to Know Offbeat Fri, 09 Aug 2013 20:01:00 +0000 Angus West 5906457 at 7 things you can do to donuts <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> You know about cronuts, but have you heard of sushi doughnuts? </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Emily Lodish </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>Here at GlobalPost, we are interested in the intersection of cultures. It happens all around us, all the time.</p> <p>It happens when<a href="" target="_blank"> Sesame Street goes to Afghanistan</a> and when <a href="">K-pop comes to America</a>. It happens when <a href="">McDonald&#39;s goes to Morocco</a> and when <a href="">J Lo goes to Turkmenistan</a>.</p> <p>But perhaps most importantly, it happens when donuts take the form of sushi. Yes, that&#39;s a thing now.</p> <p>Actually, it has apparently been a thing for a couple years, according to <a href="" target="_blank">HuffPo</a>, but netizens have been raging about it this week due to a Japanese Twitter user who spotted the gems while visiting Thailand.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>タイのミスドがやりよった! <a href=""></a></p> <p> &mdash; Chaiyo106 (@Chaiyo106) <a href="">June 25, 2013</a></p></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script><p>SushiDo are more donut than sushi, in the sense that you will get a mouthful of sweet and doughy instead of briney and spicy. But you can still eat them with chopsticks if you want.</p> <p>What else can you do with donuts if you want? That&#39;s a really good question. GlobalPost is on it:</p> <p>1) <strong>Sushi donuts</strong> &mdash; Sushi only in appearance, these <a href="" target="_blank">donuts made adorable</a> are available in Thailand.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="414" src="//" width="576"></iframe></p> <p>2)<strong> Cronut</strong> &mdash; Cross between a donut and a croissant, these little guys have been <a href="" target="_blank">taking off around the globe</a>. They are called <a href="" target="_blank">&quot;crossnuts&quot;</a> in Vietnam, but word on the street is that Americans find &quot;cronuts&quot; more appetizing.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//" width="560"></iframe></p> <p>3) <strong>Pizza donuts</strong> &mdash; Donut on the outside, <a href="" target="_blank">pizza on the inside</a>.</p> <p>4) <strong>Grilled cheese donuts</strong> &mdash; Cincinnati, Ohio, apparently, is famous for these.</p> <p><iframe frameborder="0" height="414" scrolling="no" src="" width="576"></iframe></p> <p>5)<strong> Donut sandwich</strong> &mdash; Bostonites everywhere rejoice. Dunkin Donuts has improved upon the bacon, egg and cheese sandwich in the only way possible: encasing it inside a donut. Those who&#39;ve sampled it say it <a href="" target="_blank">tastes just like a pancake and eggs</a>.</p> <p>6)<strong> Donut ice cream sandwich</strong> &mdash; In case you want to <a href="" target="_blank">keep your sandwiches sweet</a> as opposed to savory.</p> <p>7)<strong> And dude, it&#39;s a <a href="" target="_blank">bronut</a></strong> &mdash; By which I mean, a burger inside a donut.</p> Travel/Tourism Food & Drink Strange But True Global Economy India Offbeat Japan United States Thailand Vietnam Wed, 07 Aug 2013 14:54:00 +0000 Emily Lodish 5904013 at 15 songs for Hollywood's next prison break movie <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> These inmates fought the law, and won. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> James Miller </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>In the last month four prison riots across the Muslim world have set free over 2,000 inmates.</p> <p>Breakouts occurred in <a href="" target="_blank">Pakistan</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">Libya</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">Iraq</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">Indonesia</a> with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda claiming responsibility for the attacks on prisons in Pakistan and Iraq, respectively.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Interpol issued</a> a global security alert last Wednesday after news that dozens of terrorists associated with Al Qaeda were among the escaped in Iraq.</p> <p>For now, they fought the law &mdash; and won.</p> <p>Yikes.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Prison Breaks: </a><a href="">Three&#39;s a trend</a></strong></p> <p>Considering the series of prison breaks is sounding more and more like the movies, we offer you the potential soundtrack from The Clash, to Johnny Cash, Public Enemy, 2Pac and more.</p> <p><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="500" src="" width="650"></iframe></p> Terrorist's Playlist Conflict Zones Want to Know Iraq Offbeat Indonesia Pakistan Tue, 30 Jul 2013 19:12:00 +0000 James Miller 5897923 at SmartPorn: India's other mobile revolution <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Cheap smart phones have put porn in the palms of millions. Indians debate if it is triggering a rape epidemic. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Jason Overdorf </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>NEW DELHI, India &mdash; Call it India&#39;s other mobile revolution.</p> <p>With sub-$100 smart phones <a href=",1" target="_blank">hitting the market</a> and savvy entrepreneurs hawking downloaded clips, once-innocent Indians are watching hard-core porn like never before.</p> <p>That smut flood is sparking a serious debate about the impact on society.</p> <p>&ldquo;We&#39;re raising up an army of rapists in India by not warring against internet pornography,&rdquo; Abishek Clifford, who runs a moral awareness program for Indian colleges called <a href="" target="_blank">Rescue</a>, told GlobalPost.</p> <p>He&#39;s not the only one concerned.</p> <p>Since the December gang rape of a Delhi student, who <a href="" target="_blank">died from internal injuries sustained during the attack</a>, the entire country has been wrestling with what many regard as a spike in sexual violence.</p> <p>Although possessing or watching porn is permitted in India, distributing it is illegal. And now, the authorities are moving to crack down on web porn &mdash; even as in many other areas the country grows more liberal in its attitude toward sex.</p> <p><strong>Flood of free porn</strong></p> <p>Ancient India had no qualms about graphic depictions of sex. Consider the luxurious illustrations of the Kama Sutra, or the carvings on the 1,000-year-old temples of Khajuraho &mdash; which<a href="" target="_blank"> depict everything from threesomes to bestiality</a>. But, until recently, modern India has been decidedly more prudish.</p> <p>In the &#39;80s and &#39;90s, films with lascivious dialogue and a few shots of buxom women in wet saris were<a href="" target="_blank"> considered softcore porn</a>. Bollywood didn&#39;t even dare show kissing until a few years back. And the country&#39;s <a href="" target="_blank">first &ldquo;real&rdquo; porn star was a cartoon</a>.</p> <p>Now, suddenly, affordable smart phones have put hardcore porn in the palms of millions.</p> <p>According to statistics from Manwin Holding, the Luxembourg-based owner of the world&#39;s largest free porn sites, YouPorn and Pornhub, India&#39;s 150 million-odd internet users visit those two sites alone at a clip of around 2 million hits per day. The presence of Indian-themed content (&ldquo;naked desi babes in bath&rdquo; is one of the few printable titles) and advertisements confirms that the multibillion dollar industry has taken note.</p> <p>Meanwhile, reported incidents of rape have nearly doubled since 1995, when the internet first came to India, <a href="" target="_blank">according to the National Crime Records Bureau</a>. More recently, rape reports have spiked 12 percent since cheap smart phones hit the market two years ago, although it&#39;s impossible to parse how much of that increase stems from the greater willingness of victims to come forward.</p> <p>To some, that correlation signals causality.</p> <p>&ldquo;Pornography is en masse perverting the lifestyles and behaviors of young people in India,&rdquo; said Rescue&#39;s Clifford, citing Rescue surveys in which college students confessed that each week they watch an average of two hours of &ldquo;violent porn.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>More porn, more rape?</strong></p> <p>The media and the authorities, too, have been quick to draw a connection between the increased availability of pornography and the apparent increase in sexual violence.</p> <p>A <a href="" target="_blank">recent article in India Today</a>, a leading weekly magazine, drew attention to the prevalence of rape fantasy porn and other violent clips at local &ldquo;download centers&rdquo; &mdash; kiosks where entrepreneurs illegally load porn onto customers&#39; thumb drives and memory chips. And it cited Google AdWords statistics to point out that &ldquo;Mobile phones were used nearly 4.1 million times a month on average to search with the keyword &#39;rape&#39; over the past year&rdquo; and &ldquo;search keywords included &#39;Indian girls raped&#39;, &#39;raping video&#39;, &#39;raping stories&#39;, &#39;raped in public&#39;, &#39;little girl raped&#39;, &#39;raping mom&#39;, &#39;father raping daughter&#39; and &#39;raped to death&#39;.&rdquo;</p> <p>In June, the department of telecommunications <a href="" target="_blank">banned 39 websites</a>, all hosted abroad, that allow users to share pornographic content.</p> <p>And this month, a parliamentary committee <a href="" target="_blank">was formed to explore ways to block internet pornography</a> altogether in response to the latest of many petitions that have demanded a blanket ban.</p> <p>But is the flood of smut really to blame for an epidemic of violent gang rapes?</p> <p>If so, India may not exactly be an outlier.</p> <p>The country&#39;s 4.1 million monthly searches for the keyword &ldquo;rape&rdquo; amounts to one search per month for every 30 internet users. In comparison, US mobile users also searched for &ldquo;rape&rdquo; an average of 4 million times per month last year, along with key phrases like &ldquo;women getting raped,&rdquo; &ldquo;men being raped&rdquo; and &ldquo;kids being raped.&rdquo; That&#39;s one search per month per 60 internet users.</p> <p>For both countries, those figures include not only the apparently heinous phrases highlighted by India Today, but also every search for rape counseling, rape news reports, rape crisis centers and so on. In India&#39;s case, for instance, there were an average of around 100,000 searches for &ldquo;raping video&rdquo; (or one search per month for every 1500 internet users). The average was 246,000 searches for &ldquo;Delhi gang rape&rdquo; and 90,500 for &ldquo;rape victims.&rdquo;</p> <p>Incidentally,<a href="" target="_blank"> Google indicates</a> that it removes suspected &ldquo;commercial&rdquo; and child pornography from its products, and reports criminal activity to the authorities. A quick search suggests the rape-related search terms don&#39;t return graphic pictures and videos &mdash; although a disturbing proportion of the YouTube results for &ldquo;rape&rdquo; are clips from mainstream Indian movies.</p> <p>After years of debate, academics and psychologists both in India and abroad are still at odds over whether pornography turns men into rapists. Bangalore-based neuroscientist Sai Gaddam, co-author of &ldquo;A Billion Wicked Thoughts,&rdquo; argues that there is precious little data to support most of the claims about the disastrous impact of ubiquitous web porn.</p> <p>&ldquo;We found that they&#39;re inversely correlated,&rdquo; Gaddam told GlobalPost. &ldquo;The more easily available pornography is, the less the incidence of sexual crimes.&rdquo;</p> <p>Still, nobody contends that the proliferation of smart phone smut is improving men&#39;s attitudes toward women.</p> Indian Porn Entertainment Want to Know Politics India Offbeat Mon, 29 Jul 2013 10:35:00 +0000 Jason Overdorf 5894914 at Motown Rocks: 26 Detroit musicians who kick out the jams <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Detroit may have declared bankruptcy. But from Motown, to Iggy, to techno and beyond, there's still reason to dance. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> James Miller </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>Marvin Gaye, Eminem, Iggy Pop and Madonna.</p> <p>In addition to defining the sounds of their respective decades, all these musical greats have another thing in common: they&#39;re all from Detroit.</p> <p>Yes, despite economic ruin, America&#39;s &quot;worst city&quot; has produced some of the most influential musicians from the last 60 years. Kick out the jams and boogie chillen, Detroit rocks!</p> <p>Detroit&#39;s musical legacy spans decades and genres including boisterous anthems of rebellion, timeless soul classics and incisive critiques of income inequality.</p> <p>The place has always pioneered music &mdash; and done so in a way that is very Detroit.&nbsp;</p> <p>From <a href="">three high school students</a> inventing techno in their basements to an<a href=""> unemployed ex-boxer borrowing $800</a> to found the legendary record label that would define 60s soul music (and plenty more), Detroit has approached music with gritty determination and fearless innovation.&nbsp;</p> <p>To all those Detroiters and others feeling gloomy about this week&#39;s bankruptcy news, crank these 26 Motor City anthems to remember why Detroit rocks. Still.</p> <p style="margin-bottom: 0in;">&nbsp;</p> <p><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="600" src="" width="670"></iframe></p> Want to Know Culture & Lifestyle Offbeat United States Fri, 19 Jul 2013 19:55:00 +0000 James Miller 5888452 at India: If you have casual sex, you are legally married <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The Madras High Court ruling has far-reaching consequences for young couples living on a tumultuous sexual landscape. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Jason Overdorf </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>NEW DELHI &mdash; In India, there&#39;s no sex without marriage &mdash; literally, according to a new court ruling.</p> <p>&ldquo;Any couple who choose to consummate their sexual cravings, then that act becomes a total commitment with adherence to all consequences that may follow,&rdquo; the Madras High Court <a href="" target="_blank">ruled in a recent palimony case</a> in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.</p> <p>The grammatically inclined will note that&#39;s not actually a sentence. That&rsquo;s true of most of the clauses in the judgment. But the meaning is decipherable: In Tamil Nadu, if two single adults have sex, even a one night stand, the legal system may consider them to be married.</p> <p>In context, the ruling made sense. The court simply upheld a lower court judgment awarding monthly support to a woman who had lived with a man for several years and had two children with him. The father attempted to skirt financial obligations by asserting that they had never married.</p> <p>However, in India&#39;s rapidly changing sexual landscape, the sweeping and ambiguous judgment could have far-reaching legal consequences.</p> <p>&ldquo;Indian society is grappling with sexuality, and patriarchal norms are coming into play,&rdquo; Geeta Ramaseshan, a lawyer who practices in the Madras High Court, told GlobalPost.</p> <p>India has long had a conservative streak. Families have historically shunned Western-style courtship, preferring instead to pair off their children through arranged marriages.</p> <p>These days, however, dating and premarital sex are considered normal by a growing portion of the population, yet such relations remain scandalous to many.</p> <p>All too often, the law is called in.</p> <p>For instance, police frequently file rape charges against men who have had consensual sex with their girlfriends &mdash; sometimes for years &mdash; if they fail to follow through on their promises to get married.&nbsp;</p> <p>Using the high court&rsquo;s ruling as precedent, jilted women (and men, too) could claim that vows and registration notwithstanding, the sex itself entitles them to divorce proceedings, Ramaseshan said.</p> <p>&ldquo;What this will do, I think, is cause confusion in the trial courts,&rdquo; Ramaseshan said in a telephone interview.</p> <p>Under Indian law, the judgment could only become a binding precedent in Tamil Nadu, and then only if it is inscribed in the law books. Either way, throughout the country lawyers can cite the Madras High Court to persuade their own state judges to copy its ruling.</p> <p> At a minimum, legal experts say that it could result in a lot of new litigation.</p> <p>&ldquo;It has, in a vast sweep, generalized all kinds of relationships and intimacies that could give rise to a lot of confusion in trial courts,&rdquo; Ramaseshan wrote in The Hindu. &ldquo;The implication of the court&rsquo;s observations is that if both parties have a casual relationship they would require dissolution of a nonexistent marriage.&rdquo;</p> <p>For a culture in the throes of a sexual revolution the impact could go beyond the court room. As the cases equating consensual sex on an alleged &ldquo;false promise of marriage&rdquo; with rape indicate, legal definitions and cultural morays are easily confused.</p> <p>In one recent case, for instance, Ramaseshan fought to extricate a young woman from a relationship in which her former boyfriend had claimed they were married on the basis of Facebook photos, among other things.</p> <p>At the same time, by arguing that sex is legally tantamount to marriage, the court inadvertently goes further than protecting women from being exploited or from discouraging young people from getting it on.</p> <p>It underscores the deplorable premium placed on virginity by India&#39;s major religions, and demonstrates the willingness of officials to intrude in intimate matters &mdash; with seemingly arbitrary penalties. As <a href="" target="_blank">GlobalPost has reported</a>, officials in Madhya Pradesh state allegedly forced young tribal women to undergo pregnancy tests before allowing them to participate in a mass marriage ceremony earlier this month.</p> <p>And while nobody can deny that millions of Indian women and girls are abused and exploited by their fathers, husbands and boyfriends every day, state paternalism of the type demonstrated by the Madras High Court will prevent these women from seizing power over their own sexuality.&nbsp;</p> Want to Know Culture & Lifestyle India Offbeat Sun, 30 Jun 2013 10:34:40 +0000 Jason Overdorf 5870665 at Wanted in China: blind date with a millionaire <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Skills required: ironing, cooking, tying a necktie </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Zhao Chen </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>HONG KONG &mdash; Want to marry a millionaire in China? You&#39;d better be hot and know how to clean house.</p> <p>At least that&rsquo;s the message from a high profile mainland contest, and not everyone&#39;s happy about it.</p> <p>Last week in Jinan, China, more than 1,300 women wearing exquisite make-up and elegant dresses were asked to iron, cook, and tie a necktie. The goal: to qualify for a competition that will match 50 women with 50 millionaires for a blind date this July.</p> <p>The men&rsquo;s identities are kept secret, but their net worth isn&#39;t. Organizers say they&#39;re worth an average of $25 million each.</p> <p>In addition to being judged on their looks and cleaning ability, the women were asked to draw a picture for psychologists to evaluate. Organizers also interviewed their friends and colleagues to assess their associates and connections.</p> <p>While the women spared no efforts to show that they would make perfect wives, the millionaires were not at the scene. Only when the field has been whittled down to 50 women will the millionaires show up for a final party.</p> <p>News and photos of the event have triggered heated debate on Weibo, China&rsquo;s Twitter-like service. Although it wasn&#39;t the first time a pageant-style matchmaking gig created controversy, many micro-bloggers bitterly denounced the Jinan event as a sign of money worship, a serious social illness in China, they argued.</p> <p>One Weibo user wrote: &ldquo;Are we going backward to the feudal society where the emperor held mass-selection to choose his concubines? What a lamentable society, all about money, all after money, do the women still have their self-esteem?&rsquo;&rsquo;</p> <p>Cheng Yongsheng, the CEO of the Chinese Entrepreneurs Club for Singles (CECS), which has organized the blind date for four times since May 2012, defended the event by saying that it serves a real need that rich people have.</p> <p>&ldquo;I had the idea of creating CECS in 2012 originally because one of my friends who is also a millionaire told me how he is frustrated about finding a wife. It struck me for the first time that even these seemingly omnipotent rich guys have their weaknesses and vulnerabilities just like normal people,&rdquo; Cheng said.</p> <p>Moreover, Cheng believes it is even harder for millionaires to find wives because they are not as resourceful and sociable as people assume. More importantly, they are so engaged with their work that they don&rsquo;t have the time and energy to go on dates.</p> <p>That&rsquo;s where Cheng saw the market potential.</p> <p>In recent years, China has grown obsessed with money and millionaires, thanks to the country&rsquo;s economic boom and to the skyrocketing list of rich people. A 2010 study jointly conducted by Reuters and Ipsos revealed that 70 percent of Chinese agree that money is the best sign of personal success &mdash; a higher rate than in almost any other country.</p> <p>As such events seem to show, love and marriage aren&#39;t immune to the influence of money.</p> <p>However, criticism of that mindset is equally impassioned.</p> <p>In 2010, a contestant on a TV matchmaking program attempted to show her determination to marry a rich man by saying she&rsquo;d &ldquo;rather cry in a BMW car than smile on a bike.&rdquo; That remark immediately frayed public nerves, and ignited widespread condemnation of such millionaire-baiting contests that are gaining momentum in recent years.</p> <p>Some argued that such matchmaking transforms women nothing more than men&rsquo;s property.</p> <p>Ma Guanghai, a sociology professor at Shangdong University agreed. &ldquo;Although I don&rsquo;t want to be judgmental on this matter, I felt it very improper in the light of gender equality. Women are inspected from every angle in the strictest way possible while the millionaires enjoy the prestigious right of choice just because they are rich, &rdquo; Ma said.</p> <p>For 27-year-old Liu Ying, who participated a blind date selection this April in Chengdu, however, matters aren&#39;t so complicated. &ldquo;I haven&rsquo;t thought of money-worshiping stuff or anything related to gender discrimination. I came just because I want to find a husband as good as myself, whether it is in terms of education, background or salary. I just want find the right one who can match me. &rdquo;</p> Want to Know China Culture & Lifestyle Offbeat Sat, 29 Jun 2013 10:35:19 +0000 Zhao Chen 5870408 at Chatter: North Korea sends envoy to China <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> What's Kim Jong Un's boy doing in Beijing? Also: security experts say internet warfare is all but imminent, and - gasp - garden gnomes have been allowed back at the Chelsea Flower Show. Just this once. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Emily Lodish </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><form action="" class="constantcontact" method="post" name="ccoptin" target="_blank"> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <label class="contactheader">Get Chatter in your inbox!</label> <input name="ea" size="20" type="text" value="" /> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <input class="submit" name="go" type="submit" value="Submit e-mail!" />&nbsp;&nbsp; <input name="llr" type="hidden" value="gtng8xcab" /> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <input name="m" type="hidden" value="1102459385446" /> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <input name="p" type="hidden" value="oi" /> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <div class="privacy"> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; *We take your privacy seriously, GlobalPost will not share your information with any other companies.</div> </form> <p><strong>NEED TO KNOW</strong></p> <p>What&#39;s Kim Jong Un&#39;s boy doing in Beijing? Good question.</p> <p>North Korean state media announced the departure on Wednesday of one Vice Marshal Choe Ryong Hae for China. Not only is this the <a href="">first special envoy that Kim Jong Un has sent anywhere</a>, but the visit also marks the first of its kind since North Korea began this latest round of militaristic bluster. In other words, long overdue.</p> <p>Choe Ryong Hae is also a top military advisor to Kim Jong Un, and probably the most high-profile envoy the leader of the rogue state could have chosen for such a visit.</p> <p>So, what are they going to talk about? Oh, y&#39;know, probably North Korea&#39;s <a href="">recent missile launches</a> and the <a href="">hijacking of a Chinese boat</a> by North Korean sailors. China has historically been the only country to have any sway in telling North Korea what to do, though that doesn&#39;t seem to be the case so much right now.</p> <p><strong>WANT TO KNOW</strong></p> <p>As the <a href="" target="_blank">search for survivors winds down</a> in Oklahoma following a devastating tornado on Monday, here is <a href="" target="_blank">some good news</a>. It&#39;s the best thing you will see today. That&#39;s a promise.</p> <p>After two decades of relative peace, security experts caution that <a href="">internet warfare is all but imminent</a>. GlobalPost examines the skirmishes, defenses, and the &quot;calamitous&quot; threat that a small group of hackers could pose to American cities.</p> <p><strong>STRANGE BUT TRUE</strong></p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Russia is not happy</a> about its Eurovision score and is taking it to the top. The Russian and Azeri foreign ministers held a joint press conference to voice their displeasure over a missing 10 points that Azerbaijan awarded the Russian singer but that mysteriously were not tallied in the final scores. Russian balladeer Dina Garipova finished 5th, 17 points behind 4th place Sweden, so the points would not have made any difference. But still. Don&#39;t mess with the Soviet bloc and Eurovision.</p> <p>And, like a New York Fashion Week of flowers, the Chelsea Flower Show highlights the top talent of Britain&#39;s garden-mad society. As any such high-profile event, the show imposes limits. One hard and fast rule in particular has fenced Chelsea&rsquo;s gardens off from commoners&rsquo; plots: <a href="">no gnomes!</a> Except this year.</p> <p class='u'></p> Entertainment Chatter China Offbeat Russia North Korea United Kingdom Wed, 22 May 2013 10:31:00 +0000 Emily Lodish 5843575 at Chatter: Mile-wide tornado rips through Oklahoma <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Nearly 100 feared dead in Oklahoma; the US has started saying 'Myanmar' over 'Burma'; and pose with a toilet to get hitched in India. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Emily Lodish </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><form action="" class="constantcontact" method="post" name="ccoptin" target="_blank"> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <label class="contactheader">Get Chatter in your inbox!</label> <input name="ea" size="20" type="text" value="" /> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <p>&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <input class="submit" name="go" type="submit" value="Submit e-mail!" />&nbsp;&nbsp; <input name="llr" type="hidden" value="gtng8xcab" /> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <input name="m" type="hidden" value="1102459385446" /> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <input name="p" type="hidden" value="oi" /> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <div class="privacy"> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; *We take your privacy seriously, GlobalPost will not share your information with any other companies.</div> </form> <p><strong>NEED TO KNOW</strong></p> <p>Emergency crews worked through the night and into the morning Tuesday, trying to find survivors of a massive, <a href="">mile-wide tornado</a> that touched down in Oklahoma, killing a feared 91 people and flattening neighborhoods whole. Most of the damage appears to be in the suburb of Moore, where at least 20 of those who died are said to be children. Oklahoma resident David Massey posted several powerful videos of damage from the tornado using the <a href="" target="_blank">video sharing app Vine</a>.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Israeli and Syrian forces have exchanged fire</a> across the cease-fire line in the occupied Golan Heights. Syria said it destroyed a vehicle that crossed the line overnight, and Israel acknowledged returning fire. While sporadic gunfire from Syria&#39;s civil war has spilled over into Israel on occasion, this marks the first time that Syria appears to have intentionally fired on Israeli forces.</p> <p><strong>WANT TO KNOW</strong></p> <p>As expected, Obama urged Myanmar&#39;s president Thein Sein to tame anti-Muslim violence in his troubled country during an historic visit. But the White House also acknowledged what Myanmar observers have noticed for a while: diplomats (including Obama) are <a href="" target="_blank">more often using the word &quot;Myanmar&quot;</a> though official policy favors &quot;Burma,&quot; a colonial title that (to some) signifies a stance against the military rulers who switched the name more than 20 years ago.</p> <p><strong>STRANGE BUT TRUE</strong></p> <p>Would-be grooms in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh are posting photos of themselves with their <a href="" target="_blank">home&#39;s toilet to woo brides</a>. Millions of poor and rural Indians still defecate under the open sky because their homes and sometimes even their villages lack facilities. The local administration has made the picture of the groom along with the toilet a mandatory requirement for getting registered for mass marriage ceremonies and available benefits.<br /> &nbsp;</p> <p class='u'></p> World Leaders Conflict Zones Syria Diplomacy Military Myanmar World Religion Chatter Israel and Palestine India Offbeat United States Tue, 21 May 2013 11:24:00 +0000 Emily Lodish 5842708 at North Korea’s latest barking? South Korea had a sex scandal <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The sexual peccadilloes of South Korean public servants are now the target of North Korean complaints. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Geoffrey Cain </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>SEOUL, <a href="">South Korea</a> — Last week, the administration of the South Korean president, Park Geun-hye, fired a spokesman after a Korean American intern <a href="" target="_blank">called the police on him</a>.</p> <p>During the president’s visit to Washington, DC, the unnamed victim accused the official, Yoon Chang-jung, of grabbing her buttocks and, later that night, answering his hotel door for her wearing only underwear.</p> <p>The official, Yoon Chang-jung, quickly escaped on a flight to Seoul.</p> <p>On Friday, the North Korean state news agency, KCNA, published a version of the events <a href="" target="_blank">using its own acerbic vocabulary</a>.</p> <blockquote><p>"Upset by this scandal, the puppet group sent him back to south Korea [sic] next day. It kicked up much fuss replacing the spokesman and making an apology to the people and the 'president' on <span style="letter-spacing: 0px; line-height: 1.2;">behalf of the senior secretary for publicity of Chongwadae."</span></p> </blockquote> <p>Notice that the government mouthpiece accused the “puppet group” — a reference to the South Korean presidential delegation visiting the <a href="">United States</a> — of deliberately sending Yoon home after they learned of this allegation.</p> <p>The Blue House has not said this is the case.</p> <!--break--><!--break--><p>Also see that “south Korea” is errant on capitalization. The writer left the word “south” hanging on purpose, because North Korea, at least on paper, doesn’t see “South Korea” as a true country.</p> <p>The government in Pyongyang recognizes itself as the sole legitimate sovereign over the entire Korean Peninsula, a sphere that includes all of South Korea. (South Korea has laid the same legal claim over the North.)</p> <blockquote><p>"The opposition Democratic Party of south Korea said this conduct had been expected as Yun was appointed to the post though he had no qualifications."</p> </blockquote> <p>Critics have called Yun, the spokesman, a far-right conservative known for his acerbic and at times obscene use of language in his newspaper column. Among the political spectrum in Seoul, the North Korean government could especially abhor him as an ideological enemy.</p> <p>But is North Korea even justified in complaining about the sexual peccadilloes of South Korean public servants? Kim Jong Il, the deceased father of the current leader, was fond of his, um, “<a href="" target="_blank">pleasure squad</a>” of attractive young women.<br>  </p> <style type="text/css"> #reactionDiv_gig_containerParent { display:none; }</style><p class='u'></p> World Leaders Diplomacy Culture & Lifestyle Offbeat North Korea South Korea United States Today In North Korea Wed, 15 May 2013 10:21:34 +0000 Geoffrey Cain 5837670 at Kurdish men dress in drag to support gender equality <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The campaign 'Kurd Men for Equality' is a response to an Iranian court's sentence for a man found guilty in a domestic dispute. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Katrine Dermody </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><style type="text/css"> #reactionDiv_gig_containerParent { display:none; }</style><p>On April 15, Iranian police paraded Saman Rasoulpour, a man found guilty in a domestic dispute, through the northwestern <a href="">city of Marivan</a> dressed in traditional Kurdish women&rsquo;s clothing.</p> <p>That walk was his <a href="" target="_blank">punishment.</a></p> <p>That&#39;s upset women and men alike who&#39;ve been offended by the heavy implication that a man made feminine should be ashamed of himself.</p> <p>In the days that have followed, protesters have taken to the streets and to the internet to <a href="">voice their contempt</a> for the outmoded concept behind the punishment.</p> <p>Local feminist organization Marivan Women&#39;s Community was among those who responded. They led a march of more than one hundred women in a civil resistance campaign for gender equality.</p> <p>Soon thereafter, an advocacy group called &#39;Kurd Men for Equality&#39; <a href="">joined the women in solidarity</a>&nbsp;&mdash; but they took to social media rather than the streets.</p> <p>Their tagline&nbsp;&mdash;&nbsp;&lsquo;Being a woman is not a way for humiliation or punishment&rsquo;&nbsp;&mdash; has been emphasized by the visual component of their campaign, which features user-generated photographs of men (and some women) dressed in drag to oppose the sexist nature of&nbsp;Saman Rasoulpour&#39;s punishment.</p> <p>The &#39;Kurd Men for Equality&#39; movement has gained notable popularity and nearly 10,000 Facebook fans in the short time since its launch on April 18.</p> <p>While&nbsp;<a href="">Rasoulpour </a><a href="">conceded&nbsp;</a>that public humiliation is a common punishment for troublemakers,&nbsp;he emphasized that, &lsquo;This is the first time in Iran that an accused is paraded in women&rsquo;s clothes in the streets to humiliate him. It is unprecedented anywhere in Iran.&rsquo;</p> <p>So far, over 150 men have submitted photos of themselves in women&#39;s clothing and 17 members of <a href="">Iran&#39;s parliament have even signed a letter</a>&nbsp;sent to the the Justice Ministry condemning this sentence as &#39;humiliating to Muslim women,&quot; but a&nbsp;public apology has yet to be made by authorities and security forces in Iran have strongly criticized the campaign.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="" width="640"></iframe></p> <p><a href="">View the &#39;Kurd Men for Equality&#39; Facebook page here</a>.</p> gender equality kurds Iran Strange But True Politics Culture & Lifestyle Offbeat Thu, 25 Apr 2013 16:39:00 +0000 Katrine Dermody 5825148 at Pro-Assad hackers take control of CBS News' social media accounts <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The Syrian Electronic Army, a group of pro-Assad hackers, took control of CBS News Twitter accounts 60 Minutes, 48 Hours and CBS News Denver on Sunday. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Jeb Boone </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>Hackers from the pro-Assad Syrian Electronic Army (SEA) took control of several CBS News Twitter accounts over the weekend, including accounts belonging to 60 Minutes, 48 hours and CBS Denver.</p> <p>The hack on Sunday was the second attack launched by the Syrian Electronic Army against CBS News social media accounts.</p> <p>The Syrian Electronic Army has targeted a number of Western news agencies and organizations, including NPR, the BBC and Human Rights Watch, to spread their message of support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. They also criticize Western media organizations for having an anti-Assad bias.&nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;The US government is sponsoring a coup in Venezuela and a terrorist war in Syria,&rdquo; read one tweet from the hacked 60 Minutes Twitter account.&nbsp;</p> <!--break--><!--break--><p><strong>More from GlobalPost:<a href=""> Anonymous faces infighting as Your Anon News raises thousands in funding</a></strong></p> <p>&ldquo;Exclusive: Terror is striking the #USA and #Obama is Shamelessly in Bed with Al-Qaeda,&rdquo; read another hacked tweet, arguing the SEA&rsquo;s position that Syria&rsquo;s anti-government armed groups are terrorists attempting to bring down the Assad government.&nbsp;</p> <p>According to technology news outlet <a href="">Slash Gear</a>, several of the tweets also included links to a malware infested site &mdash; possibly part of the SEA&rsquo;s campaign to gain even further access to social media accounts belonging to Western news agencies.&nbsp;</p> <p>The SEA claimed responsibility for the hack on their official website, posting screenshots of the compromised accounts.&nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;The Syrian Electronic Army hacked today several Twitter accounts of CBS-American Network and published through it the truth,&rdquo; read a statement on the <a href=";lang=en">SEA&rsquo;s website</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost:&nbsp;<a href="">OpGabon: Anonymous attacks Gabon government sites in protest of ritual killings</a></strong></p> <p>In addition to their attacks against Western media, the SEA also collects personal information of human rights activists and rebel fighters within Syria. The hackers then pass the information along to the Assad government.&nbsp;</p> <p>Syrian opposition figures claim that this information is then used to locate and kill prominent activists within Syria.&nbsp;</p> <p>In March, <a href="">NPR</a> reported that anti-government hackers based in Turkey hack social media accounts belonging to these activists and remove and identifying information in hope of protecting them from attack.&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;We replaced the flag of the revolution with pornography,&quot; rebel hacker Ahmed Heider told NPR. &quot;Like pictures, you know, to keep the investigator busy.&quot;</p> <p class='u'></p> Syria Politics Culture & Lifestyle Offbeat Technology United States The Grid Tue, 23 Apr 2013 10:26:04 +0000 Jeb Boone 5822307 at Sydney chef stabs customer after complaint <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> A chef has been charged after he allegedly stabbed a customer with a metal skewer. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ellen Connolly </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>A customer was allegedly stabbed at a Sydney restaurant after he complained about bad service, police said.</p> <p>The chef, 43, was charged Wednesday with reckless wounding after the incicent in Sydney's west at a <a href="">Lebanese</a> restaurant, t<a href="" target="_blank">he Sydney Morning Herald reported.</a></p> <p>According to police, five men were dining at the restaurant on March 31 when they made a complaint about the service.<a href="" target="_blank"></a></p> <p> AAP reported an argument began at the front counter and the chef grabbed a long metal skewer from the kitchen and began threatening the men with it, police say.</p> <p>A short time later after the customers had left, it is alleged the chef followed them outside and struck one of the men, which pierced through his hand. </p> <p>He suffered hand injuries and required surgery. </p> <p>The 43-year-old chef will face court on May 2.</p> <p class='u'></p> Offbeat Weird Wide Web Wed, 10 Apr 2013 23:18:59 +0000 Ellen Connolly 5810002 at WikiLeaks' cables suggest Imelda Marcos forced generals to dress in drag <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The wife of then-Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos forced his military chiefs to dress in drag at his birthday party, WikiLeaks' cables say. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Amy Silverstein and Patrick Winn </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p><a href="">BANGKOK</a>, Thailand — The wife of former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos forced his leading military chiefs to dress in drag for a party, according to a report written by the former US ambassador to the Philippines. The report has been made public by newly-released WikiLeaks cables. </p> <p>In 1973, US ambassador William Sullivan reported to Washington that Marcos had a two-day birthday party. The highlight? Marcos' wife Imelda forced military chiefs to dance while wearing "garish female attire,"  <a href="">Agence France Presse reported</a>.  </p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost:  <a href="">Wikileaks cable reveals US surprise over Thatcher's rise</a></strong></p> <p>"In general, every aspect of the occasion was too much, too long, and in questionable taste," Sullivan wrote.</p> <p>Imelda Marcos, accused in the cables of orchestrating the bizarre generals-in-drag show, is perhaps best known for her extravagance.</p> <p>In the years since her husband's 1989 passing, she has attempted to restake her clan's claim to political power despite a flurry of corruption trials.</p> <p>Now a congressional lawmaker — the second richest behind boxing phenom-turned-congressman Manny Pacquiao — her lavish parties continue to attract press attention. She has previously talked up her son, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., as a future presidential candidate.</p> <p>Marcos ruled the Philippines from 1965 to 1986. He was then<a href="">&nbsp; forced from power</a> and fled to the <a href="">United States</a> in 1986. He died three years later.</p> <p>The WikiLeaks cables describing Marcos' birthday party come from a database  <a href="">that WikiLeaks launched on Monday</a>. The database contains 1.7 million US State Department documents from 1973 through 1976. The documents were already declassified but not easy for general public to find.</p> <p><em>GlobalPost senior correspondent for Southeast <a href="">Asia</a>, Patrick Winn, contributed to this report from Bangkok.</em></p> <p class='u'></p> World Leaders Entertainment Asia-Pacific Offbeat Philippines Weird Wide Web Tue, 09 Apr 2013 15:28:00 +0000 Amy Silverstein and Patrick Winn 5807479 at Innovation of the Day: Pay as you weigh <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> In Samoa, the more you weigh, the more you pay — to fly. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Katrine Dermody </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p><span style="letter-spacing: 0px; line-height: 1.2;">Like many Pacific island nations, </span><a href="" style="letter-spacing: 0px; line-height: 1.2;">Samoa has a serious obesity problem</a><span style="letter-spacing: 0px; line-height: 1.2;"> and is often included in the top 10 fattest countries.</span></p> <p>And while we respect the Samoans&#39; preogative to live large, <a href="http:///">Samoa Air</a>, is penalizing those with extra pounds.&nbsp;</p> <p>Touted as the fairest way to fly, Samoa Air has instituted a new policy whereby passengers are required to pay a fixed price per kilogram that they weigh, rather than paying a fixed price per seat.&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;This is the fairest way of travelling,&quot; <a href="">chief executive of Samoa Air, Chris Langton, told ABC Radio</a>. &quot;There are no extra fees in terms of excess baggage or anything &ndash; it is just a kilo is a kilo is a kilo.&quot;</p> <p>And while some airlines in the United States already force obese passengers who cannot fit in a single seat to pay for two seats &mdash; remember the <a href="">Kevin Smith debacle</a> of 2010? &mdash; this is the first time a per-kilo rate has been used by an airline.</p> <p><a href="">According to The Syndey Morning Heral</a><a href="">d</a>, under the new system, Samoa Air passengers must type in their weight as well as the weight of their baggage into the online booking section of the airline&#39;s website. The rates vary depending on the distance flown: from $1 per kilogram on the airline&#39;s shortest domestic route to about $4.16 per kilogram for travel between Samoa and American Samoa. Passengers are then weighed again on scales at the airport, to check that they weren&#39;t fibbing online.</p> <p>Being publically weighed on airport scales? Talk about travel stress!</p> <p>Mr. Langton, however, continues to emphasize that the new policy is rooted in practicality and safety concerns and that it should not be considered a cruel punishment for our heftier Samoan counterparts.</p> <p><span style="letter-spacing: 0px; line-height: 1.2;">&quot;When you&#39;re only fitting eight to 12 people in these aircrafts and you&#39;ve got some bigger Samoans getting on, you do need to weigh them and distribute that weight evenly throughout the aircraft, to make sure everyone&#39;s safe,&quot; he said. &quot;At the end of the day, I don&#39;t care who they&#39;re weighing or how they&#39;re weighing them as long as it&#39;s safe.&quot;</span></p> <p><span style="letter-spacing: 0px; line-height: 1.2;">And while we understand Lanton&#39;s logic &mdash; after all, Samoa Air&#39;s flight capabilities are limited to small BN2A Islanders and Cessna 172 aircrafts as opposed to 747 planes &mdash; we thought this story was as good of an excuse as any to bring this oldie but goodie back onto the radars of our readers.</span></p> <p>Enjoy.</p> <p><img alt="" class="imagecache-gp3_full_article" src="" title="" /></p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost:&nbsp;<a href="">Top 10 most obese countries in the world (PHOTOS)</a></strong></p> <p class='u'></p> obesity Quick Click Travel/Tourism Asia-Pacific Quick Click Offbeat Tue, 02 Apr 2013 17:08:00 +0000 Katrine Dermody 5799535 at India: Leopards stalk Bollywood <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Leopards living in the heart of Mumbai have mauled or killed more than 100 people over the past decade. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Jason Overdorf </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>MUMBAI, India &mdash; Swetha Paghe, 50 years old, was crouching in the pitch dark when the leopard came for her this November.</p> <p>The beast swiftly silenced her screams and dragged her from her slum colony on the outskirts of Mumbai into the scrub forest along the borders of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. Her fellow villagers quickly formed a search party and set off for the hills. But by the time they found her, <a href="" target="_blank">she was dead</a>.</p> <p>&ldquo;Every day of your life, whether you&#39;re eating, drinking, or going outside, you&#39;re always wondering [if the leopard is going to come],&rdquo; said Dilip Navsha Paghe, Swetha&#39;s 30-year-old son.</p> <p>&ldquo;Now we don&#39;t let the kids out of our sight at night,&rdquo; said Paghe, who has three small boys.</p> <p>Residents of Aarey Milk Colony and other communities that border the national park have good reason to be afraid of the dark. Over the past decade, the leopards that stalk Bollywood have mauled or killed more than 100 people &mdash; even straying onto the studio lots of nearby Film City.</p> <p>But local news stories of bloodthirsty maneaters obscure an all too familiar reality: India&#39;s notorious civic failures, not Mumbai&#39;s leopards, are to blame for the killings. And, until recently, forest officials&#39; response to the problem was actually making it worse.</p> <p>Sanjay Gandhi National Park is a 100 square kilometer &ldquo;wilderness&rdquo; surrounded on three sides by a teeming megalopolis. Nearly 30 times the size of New York&#39;s Central Park, with a core area that is off-limits to ordinary citizens,&nbsp;the park is home to at least 21 leopards, <a href="" target="_blank">according to a recent study</a>.</p> <p>But as many as a million tribal people and migrant laborers live in and around the urban wilderness. And because these communities have been ignored and neglected by the government, their settlements have actually spurred an increase in the leopard population and drawn the animals into the city, rather than driving them deeper into the forest.</p> <p>&ldquo;Nowhere else in the world will you see so much wildlife and so many people [living together],&rdquo; said wildlife biologist Vidya Athreya, who led a yearlong research project on human-leopard conflict that involved the Maharashtra forest department, the Bangalore-based Center for Wildlife Studies and a civil society group called Mumbaikars for Sanjay Gandhi National Park.</p> <p>&ldquo;In America, all their wolves have been killed off. They&#39;re reintroducing them, and people are scared. In Europe, they have 20 people per square kilometer, and they don&#39;t want even one wolf per 100 square kilometers. In India, we kill [our dangerous animals], we poach them, and all that. But we don&#39;t think that they all should be wiped out. That&#39;s not there in our philosophy.&rdquo;</p> <p>Can that philosophy survive? Maybe. Certain tribal groups who have resided in the vicinity for centuries are permitted to build huts and gather firewood on the outskirts of the forest and even inside the park.</p> <p>However, neither the city, nor state, nor central government has been able to stop migrant laborers from moving in illegally. And nobody provides the battery of services that is needed to prevent the leopard population explosion and protect people from their wild neighbors.</p> <p>There is no garbage pickup and no plans to provide it, so the villages and slums attract legions of stray dogs. Fat and boisterous, these dogs have replaced the fleet deer and shy wild pigs to become the leopards&#39; primary food source. There are no street lights, no sewers, and no toilets, so to relieve themselves childen and women like Swetha Paghe must squat in the dark near the rubbish heap &mdash; where leopards mistake them for their dogs, or settle for them, just the same.</p> <p>&ldquo;We tell the people, we meet the corporators, we tell the administration,&rdquo; said Sunil Limaye, the forest official in charge of the park. &ldquo;Everybody says, &#39;Yes, we will do it.&#39; But nobody does it. That is clearly the problem.&rdquo;</p> <p>The result is that there are a whopping 57 dogs per square kilometer in the park region, according to the Mumbaikars for Sanjay Gandhi National Park study. The strays have not only lured the leopards to the forest&#39;s outskirts, but also spurred a concurrent population boom among the big cats. Using camera traps and spot-patterns to identify individuals, researchers found that the park is home to nearly twice the number of leopards that would be found in a more isolated forest.</p> <p>&ldquo;We found 12 females, six males, and three individuals which we couldn&#39;t identify [by sex], so a minimum of 21 individuals in Sanjay Gandhi National Park and Aarey Milk Colony, which is an area of about 120 square kilometers,&rdquo; said the Center for Wildlife Studies&#39; Athreya. &ldquo;Each female leopard needs 10 square kilometers of territory, so by that account we should only have had 12 [leopards].&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;The density of large cats is totally dependent on prey. The more prey you have, the more [predator] animals you have.&rdquo;</p> <p>Until city and forest officials find a way to collect garbage and cull the area&#39;s stray dogs, the hope for local residents and conservationists is that a greater density of leopards doesn&#39;t necessarily mean more leopard attacks. Athreya argues that leopard attacks spiked between 2000 and 2004 (including 84 attacks in two years alone) primarily because widespread panic forced forest officials to trap and relocate supposed problem animals &mdash; mostly by dropping them deeper into the park itself.</p> <p>&ldquo;Any leopard seen anywhere, its home was Sanjay Gandhi National Park, by our definition,&rdquo; Athreya said. &ldquo;That was what used to happen until 2005. Leopards rescued in Nashik, leopards rescued in Pune ... were all sent into Sanjay Gandhi National Park. We thought that was the right thing to do.&rdquo;</p> <p>Instead of removing a threat, however, the relocations opened up a territorial vacuum for new leopards to move in. So attacks continued wherever a leopard was removed. Meanwhile, the relocated leopards grew more aggressive in targeting human habitations since they were thrown into ranges already occupied by hostile rivals. Or they just made their way back home, sometimes traversing hundreds of kilometers to get there.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">South Africa sics drones on rhino poachers</a></strong></p> <p>&ldquo;Everybody thinks trapping is the solution,&rdquo; Athreya said. &ldquo;But it actually worsens the problem.&rdquo;</p> <p>Since the forest department realized that relocation should only be used as a last resort &mdash; removing animals that have actually attacked people &mdash; the frequency of attacks has gone down dramatically. At the height of the relocation craze, between 2002 and 2004, there were some 84 leopard attacks in the area, an average of 28 a year. Between 2005 and 2010, the average number of attacks plunged to two per year.</p> <p>But a dramatic increase in the human population has resulted in another spike in attacks &mdash; including seven fatal maulings in 2012 and several more this year. The number of people living inside the park has ballooned from a few hundred to at least 10,000 over the past five years, according to Jalpesh Mehta, whose non-profit Empower Foundation works with these communities. And with every attack, the forest department faces more pressure from local residents and the politicians who represent them to set traps and relocate animals.</p> <p>Understandably, tempers run hot. On the night forest officials captured the leopard believed to have dragged away 50-year-old Swetha Paghe, angry villagers armed themselves with iron rods, knives and cleavers to try to prevent the wildlife rescue team from taking the animal away. Only with the help of police, and after a long negotiation, could forest officials and volunteers get the leopard out.</p> <p>&ldquo;People feel that we care more about the animals than we do about the people,&rdquo; said Pawan S. Sharma, a volunteer who helped with the rescue. &ldquo;Sometimes people say, &#39;You are waiting for something to happen, and only then you will act.&#39;&rdquo;</p> Travel/Tourism wildlife Want to Know Wildlife News Aid India Offbeat Wed, 20 Mar 2013 10:01:00 +0000 Jason Overdorf 5787856 at Is China trying to take Apple down? <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Last year, China's Consumer Rights Day programming grilled McDonald's. This time, CCTV went after the iPhone maker, a big competitor of China's Huawei. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Benjamin Carlson </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>HONG KONG &mdash; Every year on March 15 &mdash; World Consumer Rights Day &mdash; China&#39;s state television runs widely watched exposes on companies it alleges are guilty of some seamy practice.</p> <p>China Central Television, or CCTV, usually does such a good job of ginning up outrage that companies are forced to apologize, and their stocks take a huge tumble. (Just look at the program they ran on <a href="" target="_blank">food safety at McDonald&#39;s</a> last year.)</p> <p>This year, CCTV really stepped in it. <a href="" target="_blank">Their program on Apple</a> raised concerns that the company has less fair phone-replacement policies in China than in other countries. But <a href="" target="_blank">it all backfired</a> when Taiwan-based star singer and actor Peter Ho posted a message on Sina Weibo, China&#39;s version of Twitter, that blasted Apple and ended with the off phrase, &quot;post around 8:20.&quot;</p> <p>Netizens immediately pounced, accusing Ho &mdash; and a bevy of other celebrities &mdash; of participating in an astro-turfing campaign against Apple. Ho deleted the post, then claimed it had been sent by a hacker.</p> <p>Then another celebrity, internet icon Kai-fu Lee, came out and said he had been approached by CCTV and asked to join in the Apple bashing.</p> <p>Since then, the hashtag <a href=";utm_medium=feed&amp;utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Tealeafnation+%28Tea+Leaf+Nation%29" target="_blank">#PostAround820 has gone viral on Weibo</a>.</p> <p>Some users have theorized that CCTV was trying to pressure Apple into buying advertising, as many have noted that some companies that were previously attacked, such as internet giant Baidu, then went on to buy huge sponsorships of CCTV&#39;s New Year Gala, which would be equivalent to a Superbowl ad in the US.</p> <p>As venture capitalist Xue Manzi wrote in a <a href="" target="_blank">translation by Ministry of Tofu</a>, &quot;The difference between its Chinese New Year Gala and 315 Evening Show is, you can pay money to appear in one and pay money to avoid appearing in the other.</p> <p>In fact, it&#39;s raised suspicions that this may be the tip of an orchestrated campaign against Apple, which competes against Chinese companies like Huawei. The iPhone has huge cachet in China as a luxury product, and perhaps more importantly, it&#39;s brought on a wave of smartphones that have given people unprecedented power to share information. This is something that the Communist Party would like to have under control.</p> <p>Of course, this is highly speculative, but it has some precedent in Google, which came under such pressure that it pulled out of China in 2010.</p> <p>If Apple starts to encounter unusual roadblocks in China in the near future, people may look on this little CCTV debacle as prophetic.</p> Companies Want to Know China Offbeat Mon, 18 Mar 2013 15:20:00 +0000 Benjamin Carlson 5787017 at Killer dolphins? No, not really <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> News about the animals’ escape from a military training program in Ukraine was fabricated — and not for the first time. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Jakub Parusinski </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>KYIV, Ukraine &mdash; &ldquo;<em>A </em>lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes,&rdquo; Mark Twain is said to have remarked. That was certainly true of news about three supposedly lovesick killer dolphins going AWOL from a military training program in Ukraine.</p> <p>Information about the deadly swimming mammals was first <a href="" target="_blank">reported</a> by the Russian news agency RIA Novosti, which quoted what it said was a source from Russia&rsquo;s Black Sea fleet base in Sevastopol. The news spread like wildfire, including through <a href="" target="_blank">The Atlantic</a> and <a href="" target="_blank">The Huffington Post</a>. (The Atlantic has since <a href="" target="_blank">issued a correction</a>).</p> <p>The takeaway: &ldquo;Watch out if you&#39;re in the Black Sea, Ukrainian killer dolphins are on the loose&hellip; and in search of mates.&rdquo;</p> <p>Which would be a great story if it were true. However, locals say it all started with a fake report by the local news portal Sobytia Kryma (Crimean Events), which posted a piece about three armed dolphins escaping from the local ocenarium. It was picked up by RIA Novosti and the rest is history.</p> <p>&ldquo;This is absolutely fabricated news,&rdquo; Anatoliy Gorbachev, director of the national Research Center of Ukrainian Armed Forces State Aquarium in Sevastopol, <a href="" target="_blank">told the Kyiv Post</a>. &ldquo;There is no way anything like this could happen and all the animals we have are in their places.&rdquo;</p> <p>Ukraine&#39;s defense ministry has also <a href="" target="_blank">denied the allegations</a>.</p> <p>The belief in a militarized dolphin program, particularly in an obscure and suspicious country like Ukraine, is supported by the fact that armed forces have indeed experimented with use of the <a href="" target="_blank">animals in naval warfare</a>.</p> <p>The closest man&#39;s best marine friends <a href=";v=uqhovv5a_Ls" target="_blank">came to offensive action</a>, however, was apparently training to blow up underwater bombs.</p> <p>The Ukrainian killer-dolphin story nevertheless continues to resurface every couple months &mdash; and be shot down just as often, as it was by <a href="" target="_blank">Wired last year</a>. The magazine highlighted such intractable obstacles as teaching the aquatic mammals to distinguish between friend and foe: &ldquo;Since dolphins cannot discern the difference between enemy and friendly vessels, or enemy and friendly divers and swimmers, it would not be wise to give that kind of decision authority to an animal,&rdquo; the article quoted the <a href="" target="_blank">United States Navy marine mammal program</a> as stating.</p> <p>The killer dolphin story isn&rsquo;t the only significant hoax to surface this week, thanks to contemporary media&#39;s unfortunate reliance on aggregators and news feeds.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">A satirical story</a> by the news parody site The Daily Currant claimed Nobel Prize laureate Paul Krugman amassed huge debts buying Portugese wine and English cloth. That made news on American financial blogs and outlets, including and</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Who hacks the most? Hint: Not China</a></strong></p> <p>Meanwhile, a <a href="" target="_blank">new international hoax</a> focuses on soccer. Reports have circulated that Qatar, an Arab Gulf state of fewer than two million citizens, is planning to spend exorbitant sums to create a new &ldquo;Dream League&rdquo; of superstar soccer clubs. That was apparently dreamt up by the satirical French soccer news site Les Cahiers du Football.</p> <p>But at least it didn&#39;t report plans to put <a href="" target="_blank">lasers on players&#39; heads</a>.</p> Qatar Ukraine Military Strange But True Offbeat Technology Thu, 14 Mar 2013 20:40:00 +0000 Jakub Parusinski 5783821 at A pilgrimage for Potter fans <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> A London studio tour becomes refuge for those who can’t let go of the magic. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Corinne Purtill </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>LONDON, UK &mdash; They come in costume every day to this soundstage on the outskirts of London: Dobbys and Hagrids and once, in a homemade cardboard contraption that made it impossible to sit down, a woman dressed as the Hogwarts Express train.</p> <p>Since the sets of the Harry Potter films opened to the public in April, more than 1 million fans of J.K. Rowling&rsquo;s wildly popular series about the boy wizard have descended upon the Warner Bros. Studio Tour in Leavesden, some 20 miles northwest of central London.</p> <p>For a $44 entry ticket, Potter-inclined visitors can walk down Diagon Alley, photograph themselves on the Knight Bus and sample a glass of Butterbeer on the 200-acre campus on which the eight movies were filmed.</p> <p>For a smaller and more devoted group of fans, however, the studio tour is less of a tourist attraction than a place of pilgrimage. To the series&rsquo; most diehard disciples &mdash; people for whom Harry Potter is not a book and film franchise, but a significant part of their identity &mdash; the sets are among the few tangible links to a world that exists only in fantasy.</p> <p>For some, the effect is overwhelming. The tour&rsquo;s &ldquo;interactors&rdquo; &mdash; stripe-shirted docents preternaturally well-versed in all things Potter &mdash; have witnessed all sorts of powerful reactions. People cry. A lot of people cry. One Australian woman was so overcome with emotion that she collapsed some 11 times.</p> <p>The largely self-guided tour is designed to take three-and-a-half hours. The record visit length of nine hours is held by an English couple who had to be told to leave at closing time. The man dropped to his knees upon entering the Hogwarts dining hall. The woman fainted three separate times, though tour guides pointed out that she had a pre-existing heart condition.</p> <p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve had people kissing the Great Hall floor. It&rsquo;s mad,&rdquo; said interactor Emily Parks. Many visitors proudly flash tattoos, Parks said: eyeglasses, lightning bolts, the skull-and-serpent symbol of villain Lord Voldemort known as the &ldquo;Dark Mark.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;A lot of people grew up with the books, and this is a part of who they are,&rdquo; interactor Briony Scott said. The emotion, she said, &ldquo;is them feeling like they&rsquo;re a part of it.&rdquo;</p> <p>In the canon of franchises with devoted cult followings &mdash; Star Trek, Star Wars and the like &mdash; Harry Potter is unique in having a reliquary this exhaustive. Star Wars fans can&rsquo;t, for example, walk around the set of the Mos Eisley cantina, which was filmed on a London soundstage and long ago dismantled. A Harry Potter devotee can, however, stand on the same York stone floor where Daniel Radcliffe tread and snap a dozen photographs of Maggie Smith&rsquo;s McGonagall robe, as multiple visitors were gleefully doing on a recent Monday.</p> <p>The movies were filmed between 2000 and 2010, which meant that sets had to be built to last, said studio spokeswoman Rachel Parsons. In addition, filmmakers didn&rsquo;t know when they started production how Rowling was going to end the series, meaning that virtually every prop and set had to be kept on hand in case it made a significant reappearance in a later book.</p> <p>For anyone with even a passing interest in Potter, it&rsquo;s hard not to be charmed by the props on display. Werewolf Remus Lupin&rsquo;s trunk unpacks itself with the touch of a button; the astoundingly detailed scale model of Hogwarts Castle used for exterior shots twinkles under the lights.</p> <p>Fourteen years passed between publication of the first book and the premiere of the final movie &mdash; enough time for fans to grow up alongside Rowling&rsquo;s characters. For many, Harry Potter is as evocative of childhood memories as a familiar smell or favorite photograph.</p> <p>Victoria Hale, a marketing executive from Essex, cheerfully admits to getting &ldquo;a little hyper, a little emotional&rdquo; over Harry Potter.&nbsp;The 31-year-old has happy memories of reading the books with her parents and brother, and&nbsp;bonded with the friend who later became her husband over their shared love of Potter.&nbsp;The entire family visited the studio in November, an experience that gave Hale goosebumps and a lump in her throat.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Harry Potter theme park to open in Osaka</a></strong></p> <p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s something about the films that is magical,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;The minute I hear that music I get chills up my spine.&rdquo;</p> <p>For committed fans, this sense of belonging has real emotional benefits. A 2011 study published in the journal Psychological Science found that readers who identified with Rowling&rsquo;s fictional world got the same boost in mood and satisfaction that people got from associating with real-life social groups.</p> <p>David Pearce, a university instructor from Kent, read the books with his four children, now aged 12 to 19. The family visited the sets in December. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t want to be flippant, but it had almost this feel of a pilgrimage,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p>Though Pearce initially wondered if seeing behind the scenes would spoil the magic, his experience was just the opposite. &ldquo;Just seeing how they did it and the amount of work that went into it just makes you appreciate it even more,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p>&ldquo;That was the thing that really came out for me. This was a labor of love.&rdquo;</p> Travel/Tourism Entertainment Want to Know Offbeat United Kingdom Sun, 10 Mar 2013 11:00:39 +0000 Corinne Purtill 5776536 at Great Weekend Reads <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Another look at stories you may have missed this week. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> News Desk </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>A string of surprising and strange events dominated the international scene this week. The death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez produced a flood of tributes and speculation about the country&#39;s future, while Dennis Rodman&#39;s visit to North Korea made him one of the most unlikely diplomats in the history of US-Korean relations. Back in the United States, Rand Paul executed a bizarrely entertaining 13-hour fillibuster of John Brennan&#39;s confirmation vote.</p> <p>No matter how you cut it, it&#39;s been a big week for the world. Here&#39;s a sampling of the most important stories from GlobalPost and a look at some of the news you may have missed.</p> <p><a href="'s next" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="imagecache-half-column" src="" style="width: 200px; height: 134px; border-width: 5px; border-style: solid; margin: 5px; float: left;" title="" /><strong>In-Depth Series: After Chavez</strong></a><br /> After a prolonged battle with cancer, the polarizing socialist leader Hugo Chavez has died. He leaves behind a country in deep economic and political crisis. What&#39;s next for the people of Venezuela?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="imagecache-half-column" src="" style="width: 200px; height: 133px; border-width: 5px; border-style: solid; margin: 5px; float: left;" title="" /></a><strong><a href="" target="_blank">For a Korean peace, are sports stars our only hope?</a></strong><br /> John Kerry may not think Dennis Rodman can solve the North Korea<br /> problem. But the retired basketball star has joined a cast of&nbsp;musicians, artists and athletes who have helped open Asian&nbsp;dictatorships to the world.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="imagecache-half-column" src="" style="width: 200px; height: 133px; border-width: 5px; border-style: solid; margin: 5px; float: left;" title="" /></a><strong><a href="" target="_blank">Kenya: </a></strong><strong><a href="" target="_blank">Officials deny vote fraud claims</a></strong><br /> Calm maintained after trailing candidate&rsquo;s camp alleges &ldquo;doctored&rdquo;&nbsp;results following electronic voting system failure.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="imagecache-half-column" src="" style="width: 200px; height: 133px; border-width: 5px; border-style: solid; margin: 5px; float: left;" title="" /></a><br /> <strong><a href="" target="_blank">Aft</a></strong><strong><a href="" target="_blank">er the h</a></strong><strong><a href="" target="_blank">ousing boom, opportunity dries up in Fernley, Nevada</a></strong><br /> Once among the country&#39;s fastest-growing places, a town near the end&nbsp;of the Truckee River hit with economic drought.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong><a href="" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="imagecache-half-column" src="" style="border-width: 5px; border-style: solid; margin: 5px; height: 133px; width: 200px; float: left;" title="" /><br /> Russian activists stagger under Kremlin crackdown</a></strong><br /> As the opposition flounders, protesters are seeking new ways to take a&nbsp;stand against the authorities.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p> &nbsp;</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="imagecache-half-column" src="" style="width: 200px; height: 133px; border-width: 5px; border-style: solid; margin: 5px; float: left;" title="" />A plague of locusts descends on Egypt (VIDEO)</a><br /> Israel is on alert after a swarm of locusts hit neighboring Egypt.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p> &nbsp;</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><br /> <img alt="" class="imagecache-half-column" src="" style="width: 200px; height: 133px; border-width: 5px; border-style: solid; margin: 5px; float: left;" title="" /><strong>On Location Video, Mongolia: Cleaning up one of the world&#39;s most polluted cities</strong></a><br /> Just breathing in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, can be as bad as smoking five<br /> packs of cigarettes a day.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"> <img alt="" class="imagecache-half-column" src="" style="width: 200px; height: 133px; border-width: 5px; border-style: solid; margin: 5px; float: left;" title="" /><strong>PlanetPic: Hugo Chavez joining group of famous, embalmed world leaders.</strong></a><br /> The body of the recently deceased Venezuelan leader will be preserved for the public eye in a style used for leaders like Lenin and Mao.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p> &nbsp;</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"> <img alt="" class="imagecache-half-column" src="" style="width: 200px; height: 133px; border-width: 5px; border-style: solid; margin: 5px; float: left;" title="" /><strong>Video of the Day: Rand Paul 2016?</strong></a><br /> After a fiery thirteen-hour filibuster, Sen. Rand Paul sets his sights&nbsp;on the White House.</p> Great Weekend Reads Need to Know Offbeat Sat, 09 Mar 2013 11:16:00 +0000 News Desk 5777391 at Poland: Dog saves girl from freezing to death (VIDEO) <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Firefighters in Poland say the dog stayed with the girl after she went missing from her home, likely keeping her from freezing to death. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Sarah Wolfe </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>Firefighters in Poland say a stray dog saved the life of a 3-year-old girl who went missing overnight in freezing temperatures.</p> <p>The girl named Julia vanished from her home in&nbsp;Pierzwin on Friday, <a href=";feedType=VideoRSS&amp;feedName=TopNews&amp;videoChannel=75" target="_blank">Reuters reported</a>.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Thousands of caterpillars found in man&#39;s bag at Gatwick airport</a></strong></p> <p>Family members last saw her playing with a small black dog named&nbsp;Czarue in the backyard, and it appears the pair wandered into a nearby forest.</p> <p>Rescuers stumbled across Julia the next morning.</p> <p>She was wet from lying in a moist marsh, clinging to Czarue and crying for her mother, <a href=";ns_mchannel=rss&amp;ns_campaign=1490" target="_blank">The Daily Mail reported</a>.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="" target="_blank">Watch helicopter rescue deer trapped on frozen lake (VIDEO)</a></strong></p> <p>Though she did suffer some frostbite, firefighter Grzegorz Szymanski<a href="" target="_blank"> told BBC News </a>the dog kept Julia warm enough to live.</p> <p>&quot;This dog is the most important part of this story,&quot; he told Reuters. &quot;He is a hero. It is thanks to this dog that the girl survived the night.&quot;</p> <p>Temperatures fell to about 23 degrees that night, according to <a href="" target="_blank">Russian news network Ria Novosti</a>. </p> <object data=";edition=UK" height="259" id="rcomVideo_241433365" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="460"> <param name="movie" value=";edition=UK" /> <param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /> <param name="allowScriptAccess" value="always" /> <param name="wmode" value="transparent" /> <embed allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always" height="259" src=";edition=UK" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="460" wmode="transparent"></embed> </object> <p class='u'></p> Offbeat Poland Weird Wide Web Mon, 04 Mar 2013 20:01:08 +0000 Sarah Wolfe 5773167 at Word of the Day: Gardaa <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Because marijuana doesn't already have enough street names. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Katrine Dermody </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><style type="text/css"> #reactionDiv_gig_containerParent { display:none; }</style><p><span style="letter-spacing: 0px; line-height: 1.2;">Grass.</span></p> <p>Pot.</p> <p>Reefer.</p> <p>Bud.</p> <p>Ganga.</p> <p>Weed.</p> <p>Lady Maryjane may go by many names, but at the end of the day, all of her colorful aliases mean (essentially) the same thing.</p> <p>Yes, we are talking about Marijuana.</p> <p><span style="letter-spacing: 0px; line-height: 1.2;">Today&#39;s word of the day, <strong><a href="">gardaa</a></strong>, has been chosen in the spirit of GlobalPost&#39;s <a href="">World Wide Weed series</a>&nbsp;that launched this morning. </span></p> <p><span style="letter-spacing: 0px; line-height: 1.2;">Gardaa<a href=""><strong>&nbsp;</strong></a></span><span style="letter-spacing: 0px; line-height: 1.2;">is a type of cannabis <a href="">made in Pakistan</a> using dried <a href="">resin</a> of high potency.&nbsp;</span><span style="letter-spacing: 0px; line-height: 1.2;">It is known for being very pure and free from any additive chemicals &mdash; hooray for organic products!</span></p> <p><span style="letter-spacing: 0px; line-height: 1.2;">But that&#39;s not all.</span></p> <p>Gardaa, which in the Urdu Language (official language of Pakistan) means &quot;dust&quot;, is so named because of its similarity in colour to mud or brown thick dust.&nbsp;</p> <p>Ok, so that isn&#39;t <em>that</em> cool. Sorry for the buildup.</p> <p><span style="letter-spacing: 0px; line-height: 1.2;">Usually sold in the shape of balls, Gardaa is a very pliable substance that can take virtually any shape and can start dissolving into smaller particles with the heat released from the mere palm of your hand. </span></p> <p>Looking for more super awesome pot news? Check out GlobalPost&#39;s full <a href="">World Wide Weed</a> series and learn about the cultural applications and the legal implications of marijuana around the globe.</p> <p class='u'></p> Afghanistan Quick Click World Wide Weed Quick Click Culture & Lifestyle Offbeat Pakistan Wed, 27 Feb 2013 13:40:00 +0000 Katrine Dermody 5767734 at Video of the Day: Animals give you tough love <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Few things can make you feel worse about yourself than adorable animals who are disappointed in you. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Katrine Dermody </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><style type="text/css"> #reactionDiv_gig_containerParent { display:none; }</style><p>If you thought that you were your own harshest critic, think again.</p> <p>These animals aren&#39;t angry. They&#39;re just disappointed.&nbsp;</p> <p>The video opens with a visibly upset sea turtle who is &quot;disappointed that you don&#39;t just do the dishes and instead you always find a lame excuse to wait.&quot;</p> <p>Dish guilt not your thing?</p> <p>How about the owl that, &quot;remembers every New Year&#39;s resolution that you failed to keep or that you know that you are going to break.&quot;</p> <p>Ouch. That was a low blow.</p> <p>Anyway, this one if for the masochists in the audience &mdash; aw, hell, we know it&#39;s going to speak to everyone out there in one way or another.</p> <p>So, sit back. Watch. Introspectively ponder. And then lower your head in shame and embrace the inevitable self-loathing that is sure to follow the watching of this video.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" src="" width="640"></iframe></p> <p>Hat tip to our friends at <a href="">Buzzfeed</a> who inspired this sadistic work of genius.</p> <p class='u'></p> animals Quick Click Quick Click Wildlife News Culture & Lifestyle Offbeat United States Tue, 26 Feb 2013 14:07:40 +0000 Katrine Dermody 5766985 at Plastic surgery, 'Gangnam-style' <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Under the knife, beauty seekers get a piece of the Gangnam dream. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Geoffrey Cain </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>SEOUL, South Korea &mdash; A crowd of young women wait nervously in the lobby of a popular plastic surgery clinic in Apgujeong, the affluent neighborhood at the heart of Gangnam. Photographs of Korean pop singers and actresses line the walls, winsome customers who smile next to their cosmetic surgeons.</p> <p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s painful, but I really want a face like those Korean actress girls,&rdquo; says a Chinese patient leaving a check-up &mdash; with her nose wrapped in a surgical bandage.</p> <p>Many customers have traveled to this neighborhood &mdash; home to some 400 cosmetic surgery hospitals &mdash; all the way from China, Japan and Southeast Asia. They&rsquo;re hoping to take home a little &ldquo;Gangnam style&rdquo; for themselves.</p> <p>That isn&rsquo;t just a Psy reference. Gangnam is popular from an Asia-wide trend made famous over the past decade: the popularity of Korean television shows and pop singers known as the &ldquo;Korean Wave.&rdquo;</p> <p>Plastic surgery is a lucrative trade in South Korea, with citizens edging out Greece, Italy and the US as the <a href="" target="_blank">most cosmetically enhanced people</a> in the world.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s also attracting a torrent of medical tourists. In 2011, the country&rsquo;s income from medical tourism income reached $116 million, double from five years earlier, according to government statistics.</p> <p>At the Grand Plastic Surgery Clinic, surgeons offer procedures for the rounded eyes and pointy nose &mdash; just a few examples &mdash; that are a standard of beauty in Asia.</p> <p>The Grand Clinic is one of many of Gangnam&rsquo;s most successful ventures, attracting celebrity customers and offering regular tours to Korean television crews. &ldquo;A lot of people want to be like they are in Hollywood,&rdquo; said Huh Chul, a cosmetic surgeon. &ldquo;There is glamour to it.&rdquo;</p> <p>For a neighborhood that amounts to the Beverly Hills of Seoul, the prices aren&rsquo;t ghastly. An eyelift costs around $1,500 to $2,000, while a nose job, hovers around $3,000 to $4,000 depending on the hospital.</p> <p>But don&rsquo;t be mistaken. In South Korea, this is no longer a woman&rsquo;s pastime. Men are <a href="" target="_blank">getting their faces restructured</a> in big numbers, too.</p> <p><strong>The tourism factor</strong></p> <p>In 1996, South Korea joined the club of developed countries, the OECD. It was the first major landmark that signified the country was gathering the expertise and technology to build a plastic surgery industry.</p> <p>In the mid-2000s, as the Korean Wave picked up momentum, the nation saw a corresponding boom of travelers seeking medical procedures in Seoul. Grand Plastic Surgery Clinic started out with a single doctor working in a subway station, but grew to include some 30 doctors during those years, said Huh Chul, the doctor.</p> <p>More recently, South Korea has been trying to appeal to medical tourists. Seoul is setting itself up as a hub competing with Thailand and India, but offering more reliable medical expertise and higher quality facilities.</p> <p>For tourists, plastic surgery is the second most popular procedure behind internal medicine.</p> <p>But the Korean Wave is only one factor boosting plastic surgery.</p> <p>&ldquo;Korea also offers price competitiveness and quality,&rdquo; said Jiyun Yu, a senior researcher at the Korea Tourism and Culture Institute, a policy think-tank in Seoul. &ldquo;We are not behind the American doctors in terms of expertise.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>Celebrity underworld</strong></p> <p>The booming plastic surgery industry comes with a shady side. In late January, Seoul prosecutors announced they were launching a wide-reaching investigation into celebrities who abuse Propofol &mdash; a powerful anesthetic used in the operations.</p> <p>The intravenously injected drug quickly puts patients to sleep after exhausting days of rehearsals, performances, and fan pressure. Addiction contributed to the death of Michael Jackson, who was addicted.</p> <p>In December, police raided seven hospitals in Gangnam, alleging that several clinics have been prescribing Propofol illegally to celebrities for non-medical purposes. Bringing in celebrities is good for advertising.</p> <p>So far, prosecutors have called in <a href="" target="_blank">two prominent Korean actresses</a> for questioning over their supposed abuse of the narcotic.</p> <p>Even though one in five South Korean women admits to going under the knife, the practice hasn&rsquo;t entirely shed its stigma.</p> <p>South Korean men &mdash; especially older ones &mdash; revile the idea of dating or marrying a &quot;sung-gui,&quot; slang for &ldquo;plastic surgery monster.&rdquo; The lewd term refers to a person who has lost natural beauty to inappropriate botox injections and surgical treatments, giving off a fake and sometimes bloated appearance.</p> <p>But given the pressures of this fiercely competitive society, others say an eye-tuck and facelift are prerequisites to getting ahead.</p> <p>&ldquo;You don&rsquo;t understand!&rdquo; exclaimed a university student at a pub, who asked not to be named after she went through three operations. &ldquo;To be Korean is to get plastic surgery. You must do it, or young people will think you&rsquo;re weird.&rdquo;</p> South Korea Travel/Tourism Entertainment Want to Know Cambodia China Global Economy India Offbeat Indonesia Japan Health Philippines South Korea Thailand Vietnam Tue, 26 Feb 2013 11:00:36 +0000 Geoffrey Cain 5762366 at Korean food made me cry like a baby <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Choo-sung has achieved notoriety for a masochistic recipe that the Korean press calls one of the country's spiciest. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Geoffrey Cain </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>SEOUL, South Korea &mdash; On a frigid winter evening in Seoul, a college student raced out of a popular bistro and vomited near my feet.</p> <p>The owner, Im Choo-sung, followed him out the door. &ldquo;Would the kids please throw up in the bathroom?&rdquo; he announced. &ldquo;The neighbors get angry at all this.&rdquo;</p> <p>The 49-year-old eccentric, who&rsquo;s recognizable from his appearances on Korean talk shows, then greeted me. &ldquo;Hey, American,&rdquo; he said, pointing to a nearby sign. &ldquo;We had 13 people pass out from our spicy noodle soup last year. They all went to the emergency room.&rdquo;</p> <p>That was a frightening introduction to this otherwise inconspicuous hangout, Shingildong Spicy Jjambbong. &ldquo;You better go buy some milk to protect yourself,&rdquo; he ordered.</p> <p>After questioning my hot-food credentials in front of my Korean fianc&eacute;, his doubt turned out wise. I vomited in the bathroom after attempting (and failing) to finish the fiery broth, and upon returning to my seat, a girl nearby broke out in tears to her boyfriend.</p> <p>Since 2002, Choo-sung has achieved notoriety for his masochistic recipe that the Korean press calls one of the spiciest in the country: an exceptionally hot bowl of jjambong, or seafood noodles. Korean pop stars frequent the hole-in-the-wall restaurant, trying out their stomachs of steel for $3.80 a bowl.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s one of a handful of hard-core eateries that are trendy among Korean youngsters. Some of them travel for hours across Seoul to satisfy their mean palates, while others come after work for an adventure with their colleagues.</p> <p>Choo-sung takes pride in his broth, a concoction of the hottest peppers from Korea, India, China and Thailand. He took years to perfect the eclectic mixture, &ldquo;and it&rsquo;s started a fad of restaurants pushing the spiciness to as much as possible,&rdquo; he added.</p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="420"></iframe></p> <p>This particular jjambong isn&rsquo;t designed not to be tasty, but simply to put spicy fanatics to the test. Customers who finish an entire bowl eat for free, but be warned: even Choo-sung admits to fainting the first time he tried to gulp down his own soup.</p> <p>Choo-sung came from a life of poverty in the province of North Jeolla, a region that&rsquo;s less prosperous than other parts of South Korea. After eking out a living as a food stall proprietor in Seoul, he wanted to try something new.</p> <p>At first, even Korean customers, who were accustomed to piquant flavors, were repulsed by the smell of extreme spiciness. After three years of squalor in his restaurant, the burning taste started catching on, eventually attracting television crews and celebrities.</p> <p><strong>Palate of fire</strong></p> <p>Korea is a country where the ability to eat hot foods is a respectable trait, much like Thailand and India.</p> <p>Many take pride in the prevalence of red pepper pastes and powders, which come from the chilies than Koreans call gochu. They&rsquo;re lathered on staple dishes such as kimchi and give tartness to their stews, or jjigae.</p> <p>Ask Koreans where their food came from, and a variety of responses reveals a contentious divide. Even hot peppers are wrapped up in a debate over national origins.</p> <p>Most scholars agree that Japanese invaders, who originally got the first red peppers from Portuguese traders, brought the peppers to Korea during the Imjin War in 1592. Koreans began fermenting them in the mid-1700s, and possibly earlier, to make gochujang &mdash; a gochu paste &mdash; and jjigae.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">More than kimchi, Korean food&#39;s popularity soars</a></strong></p> <p>In 2009, a group of Korean historians challenged that theory. Koreans consumed gochu centuries before the Imjin War, they say, citing evidence in cookbooks as early as 850 AD that include gochu-like peppers &mdash; which predated the chili peppers from the New World through Japan &mdash; in recipes for stews resembling jjigae.</p> <p>&ldquo;These findings are completely opposite to the view that gochujang first came from Japan,&rdquo; says Jang Dae-ja, a scientist at the Korea Food Research Institute in Seoul.</p> <p>Nowadays, most Korean meals come with at least one biting dish. &ldquo;But this stuff kills my stomach,&rdquo; said one Korean-American customer who took the train for two hours to try a meal. &ldquo;Koreans can be proud of gochu, but once you throw it together with the rest of the world&rsquo;s chilies, it&rsquo;s more like a test of manliness.&rdquo;</p> Cambodia Food & Drink Strange But True China India Offbeat Japan South Korea Thailand Vietnam Sun, 24 Feb 2013 11:01:06 +0000 Geoffrey Cain 5755032 at Baby elephant rescued from a well by villagers in India (VIDEO) <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> A baby elephant that become isolated from its herd near the Indian village of Bundu has been rescued. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Talia Ralph </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>A baby elephant has been rescued from inside a well near the Indian village of Bundu.</p> <!--break--><!--break--><p>The young calf fell into the unused 12-foot-deep well, which was hidden by brush on all sides, after being separated from its herd, <a href="" target="_blank">according to Sky News</a>.</p> <p>The villagers heard the young elephants&#39; cries, and called in a rescue team to help after realizing that the well was too deep for them to hoist the calf out of it.</p> <p>&quot;The elephant may have come in search of its mother here and was roaming in the jungles when he fell inside the well,&quot; Arjun Badaik, assistant conservator of forests Khunti division, <a href="" target="_blank">told the Times of India</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>&quot;A slope was dug into the well, which helped the elephant come out,&quot; said Badaik.</p> <p>It was also speculated that the calf belonged to one of two female elephants who had recently been electrocuted in the area, <a href="" target="_blank">the Huffington Post pointed out</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>Mass deforestation and poaching in the area have forced elephants to search for food and water outside of their natural habitat, which also could have led the baby to fall into the unused well, <a href="" target="_blank">the Telegraph reported</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>The baby quickly returned to the jungle.&nbsp;</p> <p>Does it get warmer and fuzzier than that?&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost:&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Vodka saves elephants from freezing to death in Siberia</a></strong></p> <div style="text-align:center"> <script type='text/javascript' src=''></script></div> <p class='u'></p> Green Wildlife News India Offbeat Weird Wide Web Thu, 24 Jan 2013 20:12:05 +0000 Talia Ralph 5739029 at Indonesia: death by soap opera? <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Child's family says soap opera's hospital shoot contributed to daughter's death </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Patrick Winn </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>Soap opera-crazed <a href="">Indonesia</a> is watching a tragically ironic drama play out in the death of a 9-year-old, whose parents blame a hit soap for playing a role in their daughter's death.</p> <p>"Love in <a href="">Paris</a>" is a romance starring a young starlet, actress Michelle Zudith, whose character suffers from leukemia and is expected to die before 20 -- a plot device that affects her search for love.</p> <p>Ayu Tria Desiani was a 9-year-old who suffered leukemia in real life. According to the Jakarta Globe, she frequently required treatment in hospitals. After experiencing a burst blood vessel, the Globe reports, <a href="">she was rushed to an ICU ward yesterday.</a></p> <p>Turns out the ward was filled with atypical guests: the perfectly healthy cast and crew shooting a scene for "Love in Paris."</p> <p>Ayu didn't survive. And her family, according to the Jakarta Post, now claim the soap opera crew<a href="">contributed to her death</a> by crowding the ward, disturbing her treatment and walking around without sterile clothing.</p> <p>The hospital insists the received adequate treatment though the Post reports that Indonesia's health minister insists that active ICU wards <a href="">can never be used legally as filming locations.</a></p> <p>Whether Ayu's family can prove a hit soap opera interferred with their daughter's treatment is up in the air. But the accusation alone is stirring up a publicity nightmare for both the show and the hospital.</p> <!--break--><!--break--><p class='u'></p> Entertainment Asia-Pacific Culture & Lifestyle Offbeat Indonesia On Southeast Asia GlobalPost Blogs Thu, 27 Dec 2012 17:20:14 +0000 Patrick Winn 5730382 at New feat for Colombia’s urban innovator: slum escalators <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Escalators could be Medellin’s hillside ghetto game-changer. But some say they sweep crime under the rug. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> John Otis </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>MEDELLIN, Colombia &mdash; The upper reaches of a mountainside slum called Comuna 13 are so steep that streets give way to staircases. To get home, many residents here used to climb the equivalent of a 28-story building.</p> <p>But last year, Medellin officials installed a $7 million outdoor escalator &mdash; the first ever designed for a slum. The ride to the top now takes five minutes.</p> <p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a relief because we no longer have to climb all those steps on foot,&rdquo; said Jose Ivan Taborda, 69, who has lived in Comuna 13 all his life. &ldquo;The escalator is comfortable, especially for older people.&rdquo;</p> <p>Rising above tin-roofed shanties with laundry hanging from clotheslines, the escalator, which has a bright orange roof, seems a little out of place. Many slum residents had never before ridden an escalator so city officials organized field trips to shopping malls so they could practice.</p> <p>But rather than an extravagance, the electric staircase is part of a broader plan to reduce crime and improve living conditions in Medellin, the hometown of the late drug kingpin Pablo Escobar and the former murder capital of the world.</p> <p>While police work is important, a major part of the strategy is to install public transportation and link these systems to newly built parks, libraries and community centers that encourage people to reclaim their neighborhoods from drug-dealing gangs.</p> <p>Comuna 13 and other slums were founded by people displaced by <a href="" target="_blank">Colombia&rsquo;s guerrilla war</a>. Many relocated to Medellin, which sits in a river valley, and built illegal settlements high on the mountaintops overlooking the city center. Isolated and ignored by politicians, many slum residents became gunmen for the Medellin cartel or joined guerrilla or paramilitary units that later controlled the neighborhoods.</p> <p>&ldquo;This displaced population didn&rsquo;t feel like they were part of the city,&rdquo; said Laura Isaza, a consultant for ACI Medellin, an organization focused on bringing foreign investment to the city. &ldquo;These people used to say: &lsquo;I live in this neighborhood and I don&rsquo;t live in Medellin.&rsquo; So, one of our first steps was to try to gain their confidence and to make them feel that they are part of our city.&rdquo;</p> <p>One of the main projects integrating Medellin is a network of cable cars that opened in 2004. The aerial trams carry people from the mountaintop slums to the subway system, giving them access to the rest of the city.</p> <p>Unlike exhaust-spewing buses, the system is quiet &mdash; and efficient. Reaching downtown via cable cars and the subway now takes 45 minutes rather than two-and-a-half hours. The gondolas move 20,000 people a day. They&rsquo;re so popular they&rsquo;ve inspired similar cable car networks in the mountainside ghettos of Rio de Janeiro and Caracas.</p> <p>While the view high above the slums is impressive, some cable car passengers opt to read during the ride. They can check out books from a handsome new library and community center, designed by Bogota architect Giancarlo Mazzanti, that sits next to one of the cable car stations in the Santo Domingo slum. Several subway stations house smaller libraries carrying everything from self-help manuals to James Joyce&rsquo;s &ldquo;Ulysses.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;We are trying to promote reading among the commuters,&rdquo; said Ana Maria Rosario, the librarian at one of the subway stations. &ldquo;Like they say, if you can&rsquo;t bring Mohamed to the mountain, bring the mountain to Mohamed.&rdquo;</p> <p>Many of these experiments were cited last month when Medellin was named &mdash; along with New York and Tel Aviv &mdash; as one of the world&rsquo;s most innovative cities in a competition sponsored by The Wall Street Journal, Citi, and the Washington-based Urban Land Institute. The winner, which will be chosen by the public through an <a href="" target="_blank">online poll</a> will be announced in January.</p> <p>Medellin was selected for its &ldquo;progress and potential&rdquo; and was also cited for cutting CO2 emissions by 175,000 tons annually and for reducing crime. Although the annual murder rate remains high, it has been cut in half over the last decade and now stands at about 50 homicides per 100,000 people. That&rsquo;s well below New Orleans&rsquo; rate of more than 70, but still over three times that of Miami.</p> <p>In lauding the innovation displayed by Medellin and the other finalists, Anita Kramer of the Urban Land Institute said the reforms &ldquo;reflect remarkable forward-thinking decisions on the part of municipal leadership. Taken together, they provide models for the world.&rdquo;</p> <p>But not everyone is convinced.</p> <p>John Hernandez, a holistic healer who lives in Comuna 13, says the flashy new projects have distracted people&rsquo;s attention from lingering issues. He says gangs still control the city slums where they sell drugs and extort businesses. City officials, he said, &ldquo;are sweeping those problems under the rug.&rdquo;</p> <p>Indeed, when a reporter showed up to visit the escalator, city officials at first hesitated at providing a tour of the area due to recent gang shootouts. But at the same time, there are clear signs of progress.</p> <p>Tourists now come to slums to ride the escalator and cable cars. Property values in Comuna 13 and other barrios are on the rise. What&rsquo;s more, Colombian and foreign investors have shown new interest in Medellin.</p> <p>Over the past five years, Hewlett-Packard, Kimberly Clark and Unisys have all opened production and research centers in Medellin. Though much work remains, Isaza of ACI Medellin says she believes the city has turned a corner.</p> <p>&ldquo;We still have a pretty difficult city and we are still struggling against violence in our city.&rdquo; Isaza said. &ldquo;But conflict in Medellin has changed ... We don&rsquo;t have this huge war we had before. This is a conflict that could only be ended through real opportunities for the people.&rdquo;</p> Offbeat Colombia Thu, 27 Dec 2012 11:00:17 +0000 John Otis 5730006 at China: even the apocalypse is on lockdown <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> If Church of the Almighty God members want to talk about the end of the world, they will have to do so in jail. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Cain Nunns </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>TAIPEI, Taiwan &mdash; The <a href="">500-odd people arrested in China</a> for spreading rumors about the impending apocalypse won&rsquo;t be locked up for long if their predictions are true.</p> <p>If however, they are wrong and the days keep comning after Dec. 21, those imprisoned in China this week will likely have a lot of time while in one of the world&rsquo;s most brutal prison systems to consider where they went wrong &mdash; and why they decided to go up against the Chinese Communist Party and its fixation with maintaining social stability.</p> <p>State-run media reported that more than 400 members of the Church of the Almighty God were detained in western Qinghai province for spreading word about the coming end of the world.</p> <p>Devotees of the church believe Jesus has returned to earth in the guise of a 40-something Chinese woman, who has supposedly never been photographed and has penned a third testament to the Bible.</p> <p>Also known as Eastern Lightening, the group says only the woman&rsquo;s followers will join her in heaven following the apocalypse. They also claim to be engaged in a death struggle with the &ldquo;Big Red Dragon,&rdquo; or China Communist Party.</p> <p>Beijing has labeled the group an &ldquo;evil cult&rdquo; and said it uses promises of money, sex and drugs to convert people. When that doesn&rsquo;t work, it says, the church kidnaps, brainwashes and tortures people into forcible conversions.</p> <p>China&#39;s state-owned news source, The Global Times, reported on Monday that 37 &quot;cult&quot; members were detained for &ldquo;brainwashing&quot; people &quot;into believing the end of the world is near.&quot; The newspaper wrote that Eastern Lightening was sending out mass text messages, distributing leaflets and handing out CDs on buses, parks and other public areas foretelling the end of days.</p> <p>&quot;Great tsunamis and earthquakes are about to happen around the world,&quot; read an alleged line of an Eastern Lightening text message, wrote the Beijing-based daily.</p> <p>Hundreds of members of the group, which is estimated to have up to a million followers, clashed with security officers in three provinces over the past week, The Guardian reported.</p> <p>&ldquo;While there does seem to a very real public safety risk posed by this group and others like it in China, it also doesn&rsquo;t hurt the Party to let everybody know it&rsquo;s still in charge and that it doesn&rsquo;t pay to spit at the throne,&rdquo; said George Chang, a sociologist as National Taiwan University.</p> <p>Spit at the throne indeed.</p> <p>State-run Xinhua reported that: &quot;Police said local residents should abide by the law and refrain from spreading doomsday rumours. Punishments will be given to those who disseminate rumors in order to cause trouble, defraud others or disturb social order.&quot;</p> <p>Somewhat counterintuitively, Beijing&#39;s strict controls over religion make it easier for groups such as Eastern Lightening to take root in China, according to Chang.</p> <p>&ldquo;Most people don&rsquo;t realize that rural China in particular has much more demand for priests and churches than it has supply. It allows these underground and seemingly bizarre splinter religions to flourish,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">Apocalypse Soon, a series</a></strong></p> <p>Bizarre splinter group or not, fascination with Dec. 21, the date the Mayan calendar says the world will end, has long gripped the country.</p> <p>The Hollywood movie &ldquo;2012,&rdquo; which starred John Cusak and depicted the Mayan apocalypse, was a box-office smash in China. In &quot;2012,&quot; humanity is given another shot at survival when the Chinese government comes through by building massive arks.</p> <p>In real life, the Chinese public doesn&rsquo;t seem assured the government will be there for them. Media have reported unrest, hoarding and panic-buying as anxiety heightens before the looming date. Entrepreneurs are offering buoyant survival pods equipped with food, water, oxygen, medical kits and petrol.</p> <p>According to the Daily Telegraph, a farmer in Hebei province built seven 14-person pods in his garage, which he&rsquo;s hoping to sell for about $50,000 each. The paper wrote that another Doomsday entrepreneur in Zhejiang &ldquo;received 21 orders for his high-quality, custom-made arks,&rdquo; and one &ldquo;sold for almost &pound;500,000.&rdquo;</p> <p>But while the Church of the Almighty God faces another crackdown and state-run media lampoons the survivalists, Beijing, some critics say, has been quick to capitalize on the date for its own ends.</p> <p>Xinhua reported Monday that the suspect in Friday&#39;s attack at an elementary school in central Henan was &ldquo;driven to commit the crime by predictions of the end of the world.&rdquo;</p> End of the World Asia-Pacific World Religion China Offbeat Tue, 18 Dec 2012 17:10:21 +0000 Cain Nunns 5729515 at How to survive the end of the world <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Just spend Dec. 21 in the Turkish town of Sirince, where "positive energies" are sure to keep you safe. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Suzanna Koster </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>SIRINCE, Turkey &mdash; For most of us, if you believe the doomsday theory, the world <a href="">will end on Dec. 21</a>.</p> <p>The whole world, that is, except two small, seemingly random villages. Since some believe they possess high levels of &ldquo;positive energy,&rdquo; Sirince in Turkey and Bugarach in France will be spared the Armageddon.</p> <p>For Sirince, a town of just 650 people, such beliefs are good for business.</p> <p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a big event for Sirince. We could make it a tradition,&rdquo; said a cheerful Ahmet Kocak, the owner of a boutique hotel here, as he sat on the hotel terrace overlooking the village&rsquo;s historic Greek cottages.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost: <a href="">The essential end-of-the-world playlist</a></strong></p> <p>For the first time ever in the history of his hotel, all of his rooms were booked eight months ahead of time &mdash; all by Americans.</p> <p>As Kocak took phone calls asking for availability, he said one American offered &ldquo;any price&rdquo; for a room on the 21st. He would refer the inquires to others, but all the hotels in the village are fully booked.</p> <p>Ayhan Boyaci, the region&rsquo;s governor, said he expects up to 15,000 visitors. The Turkish media believes there could be as many as 50,000. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re all welcome. Sirince is a charming place,&rdquo; the governor said.</p> <p>Believers think the world will cease on Dec. 21 because that&rsquo;s when the <a href="">Mayan long-count calendar</a>, which spans more than 5,000 years, ends. As end of the world theories go, the Mayan theory is among the most prevalent. The rumors are so strong that NASA felt the need to debunk the predictions in a video. &ldquo;The whole thing was a misconception from the beginning,&rdquo; it said.</p> <p>The idea that Sirince and Bugarach are safe from Armageddon stems from an organization called the Blue Energy Group. The collection of believers says the two villages are the site of &ldquo;positive energy&rdquo; that can protect from whatever is to come.</p> <p>Ali Gulumser, a seller in a local silver shop, said whatever the reason, he&rsquo;s glad they are coming.</p> <p>&ldquo;The Blue Energy Group says there is a positive energy coming to the world and you can get it here,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We also believe you can get energy here, but because of the fresh air.&rdquo;</p> <p>New age groups like Blue Energy have been coming to Sirince since the 1980s.</p> <p>Grace Sears, a Canadian spiritual teacher, lived in Sirince from 2006 to 2010. She now lives in the more modern Turkish city of Bodrum. Sears said Sirince and Bugarach, which she also visited, do have special energies.</p> <p>&ldquo;Some people moved to Sirince because of this whole story of the energy, but I don&rsquo;t know how it got so condensed into this dramatic thing for Dec. 21,&rdquo; she laughs.</p> <p>A friend advised Sears to stay near her bed and keep an extra flash light battery and water nearby just in case. But she won&rsquo;t pay heed to it.</p> <p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think anything major is going to happen,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;A cycle is not going to end on one day. A cycle will fade out over time and the energy of a new cycle will take stronger hold.&rdquo;</p> <p>Whatever happens on Dec. 21, some locals here are finding every way they can to cash in.</p> <p>Tanju Tiftikai, 52, has prepared a special wine bottle called &ldquo;Judgment Day.&rdquo; He smiles as he gets one from behind the counter. The label shows a human being with wings ascending in a blue light. The dry red wine is 20 Turkish liras ($11), 5 liras more than the average.</p> <p>Kemal Gurbuz, 34, said the restaurant where he sells his wine has prepared a special menu for Dec. 21. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t believe in it. In this village nobody believes in it, but it&rsquo;s good for the income.&rdquo;</p> <p>The governor said his administration would keep a close eye on the prices to see that hotel and restaurant owners don&rsquo;t overcharge. Sevan Nisanyan, another hotel owner who fled to Berlin to avoid the doomsday madness but will return just before the 21st, said his guests stay for free on the auspicious night.</p> <p>Nisanyan also planned a party for the occasion, but after thousands of people said they wanted to attend, he canceled it. &ldquo;I became very scared because logistically we cannot handle so many people,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p>Gulumser said that he wasn&rsquo;t comforted that his little village is the safest place to be on Dec. 21.</p> <p>&ldquo;People say: &lsquo;You&rsquo;re so lucky, when Armageddon comes you&rsquo;ll survive!&rsquo; Then I ask: I&rsquo;m going to be happy when everybody dies and I stay alive?&rdquo;</p> End of the World Travel/Tourism World Religion Culture & Lifestyle Offbeat Turkey Tue, 18 Dec 2012 07:27:39 +0000 Suzanna Koster 5729397 at Vietnam: invasion of the mystery worms <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Unidentified creatures must be killed with fire </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Patrick Winn </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>Courtesy of <a href="">Vietnam</a>'s Tuoi Tre newspaper, a wildlife mystery surrouding <a href="">worms that can withstand blades</a> and lime but not fire.</p> <p>Even village elders can't identify a worm-like creature that has suddenly appeared in central Quang Binh province. A couple whose house has been beset by the tiny, wriggling insects tells Tuoi Tre that the beings are strangely resilient. (Photos of the worms can be seen <a href="">here</a>.)</p> <p>At first, they tried to destroy the worms with pesticide.</p> <p>The worms lived.</p> <p>Then they tried to destroy the worms with lime.</p> <p>The worms lived.</p> <p>Then they tried to destroy the worms with scissors.</p> <p>But, when cut in half, both severed parts continued to live.</p> <p>Can anyone identify accurately identify the species of this mystery worm?</p> <!--break--><!--break--><p class='u'></p> Travel/Tourism Asia-Pacific Wildlife News Culture & Lifestyle Offbeat On Southeast Asia Vietnam GlobalPost Blogs Tue, 18 Dec 2012 03:09:18 +0000 Patrick Winn 5729447 at The White House hosts first same-sex marriage proposal <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> US Marine Corps Captain Matthew Phelps made history at the weekend when he proposed to his partner Ben Schock at the White House. </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Allison Jackson </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>US Marine Corps Captain Matthew Phelps made history in the White House at the weekend.</p> <p>In front of a Christmas tree, Phelps went down on one knee and proposed to his partner Ben Schock, <a href="" target="_blank">Gawker reported.</a></p> <p>The White House&#39;s first same-sex marriage proposal was caught on camera.&nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;Thanks for all the wonderful greetings and messages, and thanks to Barack Obama and Michelle Obama for lending us your home for the occasion!&rdquo; <a href=";set=a.252764428077760.62830.219835711370632&amp;type=1" target="_blank">Phelps wrote on his Facebook page </a>underneath a photo of the historic moment. &nbsp;</p> <p>Phelps also posted two photos of the happy couple on <a href="" target="_blank">his personal website </a>where he thanked everyone for the &ldquo;well wishes.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;Such a wonderful night for us, and it&rsquo;s received so much attention on Facebook, Reddit, imgur, BuzzFeed, Gawker, and Towleroad! Really, the only thing on my mind was making it a memorable and unforgettable night for Ben. Thank you all for the well wishes!!&rdquo; Phelps wrote.</p> <p><strong>More from GlobalPost:</strong>&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Supreme Court to take on gay marriage cases</a></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <style id="_clearly_component__css" type="text/css"> #next_pages_container { width: 5px; hight: 5px; position: absolute; top: -100px; left: -100px; z-index: 2147483647 !important; }</style><style id="_clearly_component__css" type="text/css"> #next_pages_container { width: 5px; hight: 5px; position: absolute; top: -100px; left: -100px; z-index: 2147483647 !important; }</style><p class='u'></p> Americas Culture & Lifestyle Offbeat United States Mon, 17 Dec 2012 20:50:53 +0000 Allison Jackson 5729388 at Vietnam: dog abbatoirs rabidly opposed to new law <div class="field field-type-text field-field-subhead"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Rabies law pits bureaucrats against dog farmers </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-type-text field-field-byline1"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Patrick Winn </div> </div> </div> <!--paging_filter--><p>The Vietnamese government's campaign to eradicate rabies by 2015 is clashing with a fringe agricultural demographic: dog farmers.</p> <p>As if running a dog farm wasn't difficult enough.</p> <p>As I found out in 2009, when researching the series <a href="">"Dog Meat Mafia,"</a> there are reasons most cultures don't farm dogs that run deeper than moral hangups.</p> <p>Unlike cows, dogs don't just gently plod around and munch grass. Corralled into close quarters, they fight. They swap skin diseases. They reek.</p> <p>To all that, add a new worry for <a href="">Vietnam</a>'s dog farmers: notifying the government every time a dog is bought, sold or killed. To track and stamp out rabies, Vietnam's government <a href=" ">wants a full headcount of every canine occupying homes and farms</a>, the Thanh Nien newspaper reports. Farmers are telling the outlet that this new rule amounts to a bureaucratic nightmare.</p> <p>Vietnam copes with recurring spikes in rabies cases. The state-run Vietnam News counts a whopping 240 deaths in northern provinces since 2010 and contends that <a href="">"increased public awarness"</a> is vital in stemming the disease's spread.</p> <p>Part of the problem is that, while dog-borne rabies spreads to humans in most societies through bites, it also spreads in Vietnam through consumption. Eating an unvaccinated dog -- even after cooking -- appears to pose a rabies transmission risk,<a href="">according to a study</a> backed by the South East Asia Infectious Disease Clinical Research Network.</p> <p>A hospital case study offered by the report is worth quoting at length:</p> <!--break--><!--break--><p><em>"Two months before admission, the patient had butchered and consumed a dog that had been killed in a road traffic accident. The patient took the dog's carcass home where he first extracted all the teeth with a knife. He mentioned he did this as a preventive measure against rabies, as he was aware of the presence of rabid dogs in his neighbourhood. He then singed the hide to remove the hair. This was followed by opening the skull to remove the brain, which was then steamed in leaves and eaten. During this butchering, the patient wore workman's gloves but no other protective equipment. The patient did not recall receiving any cuts or other injuries during preparation of the dog. Others who ate parts of the same dog remained well. All parts of the dog were cooked prior to being eaten." </em></p> <p>The sad price paid for that free meal?</p> <p><em>"Six days after admission, the patient was taken home by his family to die." </em></p> <p class='u'></p> Business Asia-Pacific Emerging Markets Food & Drink Culture & Lifestyle Global Economy Offbeat On Southeast Asia Vietnam GlobalPost Blogs Thu, 13 Dec 2012 23:26:46 +0000 Patrick Winn 5728890 at