Friday, 31 January 2014


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6 Sneaky Ways Countries Try to Win Hearts and Minds
By Chris Stokel-Walker,
Mental Floss, 30 January 2014.

The spread of propaganda is as old as society itself - but not all propaganda techniques are garish posters or august news reports on television or in print. Some are more subtle attempts to besmirch an enemy or to promote one’s own cause.

1. Renaming things

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"Freedom Fries" at a US House of Representatives cafeteria. Credit: Ieverhart/Wikimedia Commons.

One propaganda technique of some notoriety was the U.S. government’s decision to rename french fries "freedom fries" in Congress kitchens, a pointed attack on the French army’s reticence to enter the invasion of Iraq. During World War I, some in the U.S. started calling German measles "liberty measles" and dachshunds "liberty hounds."

2. Toys

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Credit: iCollector

Who is more impressionable than the very young? That may be the reason that Nazi Germany attempted to smuggle pro-German movies into early cinematic toys sent to the UK that were meant to show simple cartoonish shorts. When the scam was uncovered in August 1939, contemporary news reports said that “the films were found to include such Jew baiting scenes in Germany as aged women being forced to sweep streets while a large crowd laughed. Other scenes showed outdoor Nazi meetings, close ups of Hitler giving the Nazi salute and shots of Hitler and Mussolini.”

3. Cartoons

Some propaganda efforts aimed at children were more overt - and perhaps more sinister for it. During World War II, while Nazi Germany was trying to smuggle in anti-western propaganda, governments were contracting big studios such as Walt Disney to produce propaganda aimed at the other side. Nine out of 10 Disney employees during the war were tasked with producing the films, 68 hours of which were produced. Some of Disney’s most famous characters, including Donald Duck, were tasked with reminding kids and adults alike of the evils of the Nazi empire.

4. Social media

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DPRKdaily may well be one of the strangest Instagram feeds out there on the internet. A state-operated propaganda arm, it posts a torrent of photographs of notable North Koreans and gleaming buildings, often with long photo captions that stretch Instagram’s systems to breaking points. Sometimes photo captions spill over into multiple comments on photos, with the whole feed designed to assure social media-savvy watchers that all is well in the secretive state.

5. Video games

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The U.S. Army allowed its immersive video game training programs to be modified and released generally for gamers to play worldwide in 2002, while China’s People's Liberation Army (PLA) co-developed a first person shooter, "Glorious Mission," in which players shot at U.S. and Japanese soldiers. North Korean game developers have opted for a soft power expression of propaganda, developing "Pyongyang Racer," a browser game, for Koryo Tours (who operate trips to the country). Rather than shooting people, you pootle along empty roads, taking in the pixellated sights of Pyongyang.

6. Presents from the sky

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Korean War Operation Moolah leaflet 1953. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The dropping of leaflets broadcasting information one country may not want its people to see is a standard propaganda technique, but airborne presents are another thing altogether. The U.S. Air Force has dropped all sorts of items, from miniature radios turned to the Voice of America into Vietnam in the 1970s, to cigarettes, matches, calendars, and chess boards in North Korea in the 1950s. The aim, of course, is to demonstrate that the opposition - portrayed as evil by domestic propaganda - is not as bad as the home government says they are.

Top image credit: Getty Images.

[Source: Mental Floss. Edited. Some images and links added.]


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10 Murderous Russian Criminals
By Pauli Poisuo,
Listverse, 31 January 2014.

The mighty country of Russia is home to many kinds of people, and not all of them are particularly nice. In fact, there are a surprisingly large amount of serial killers and murderous criminals running around that vast country.

Language barriers and Russia’s historical reluctance to report its troubles to other countries have prevented most Western people from hearing about these ruthless monsters. That is, until now...

10. Valery Asratyan

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Valery Asratyan, also known as “The Director,” was the worst nightmare of an aspiring actress. From 1988 to 1990, this Moscow maniac habitually posed as an influential director (hence the nickname), luring unwitting girls to him with empty promises of riches and fame.

Asratyan was mostly interested in sexual crimes, but he eventually entered serial killer territory as he attempted to cover up his tracks. During his active years, he raped dozens of victims, killing at least three of them in the process. Not wanting to attract attention, he used a different method of killing every time so the police would not suspect the killings were the work of one man.

Astrayan was very intelligent and had a background in psychology. His preferred method was to lure his victim to his home with his director act (complete with a fake ID), then knock them unconscious with a drug cocktail and keep them as his play things, often for many days. The ones that survived were eventually set free, which proved to be the criminal’s downfall.

Some of the victims remembered the events rather better than the Director had intended and were able to point out the general neighbourhood where the crimes had taken place. After some careful detective work, the police were able to locate and arrest Astrayan, ending his reign of terror. He was shot to death in 1992, in the aftermath of the collapse of Soviet Union.

9. Alexander Bychkov

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Photo credit: Penzanews

To say Alexander Bychkov did not like alcoholics and vagabonds is an understatement. In fact, he was so infuriated by them that he took to killing as many of them as he could. Bychkov started calling himself “Rambo” after Sylvester Stallone’s famous character, equipped himself with a large knife and a hammer, and started roaming the streets.

Between 2009 and 2012, “Rambo” lured at least nine unfortunate victims in deserted areas, where he attacked and mauled them, then dismembered their bodies and hid them. Every one of these attacks were meticulously recorded in a journal he called “The bloody hunt of a predator born in the year of the dragon.” He also claimed to have eaten at least two of his victims’ hearts, although no evidence of this was ever found.

Bychkov was only 24 years old when he was caught. His only explanation for his actions was a desire to impress a girlfriend who had dumped him by “acting like a lone wolf.” It is probably safe to say that flowers would have been a better choice.

8. Anatoly Slivko

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For many years, a monster stalked the town of Nevinnomysk. Every once in a while, a boy disappeared from the area, never to be seen again. The police did their best to investigate, but no serious clues were ever found.

In 1985, the culprit was finally caught. Anatoly Slivko was an influential leader of the local Chergid Club (a Soviet version of the boy scouts), who had been abusing his position to gain the trust of his young underlings. In his youth, Slivko had witnessed a terrible car accident where a boy in a Young Pioneer uniform had died in an inferno of burning gasoline. He found the scenario strangely arousing, and it haunted him into his adulthood. After securing a position in the Chergid Club, he started trying to recreate this terrible scenario. He rendered boys who trusted him unconscious, placing them in compromising positions and filming them. However, sometimes he wasn’t happy just looking at them. Every once in a while, Slivko got carried away and ended up killing the child, dismembering and burning the remains.

The method he used to make the boys unconscious was chilling: He explained to them that he was making a film about Nazis torturing children (a strangely popular theme in the Soviet Union at the time), and that they could star in the film by letting him hang them until they were unconscious. The boys trusted Slivko so much that they agreed to do this. Not all of them woke up.

Even after he was captured and sentenced to death, Slivko’s behaviour remained strangely friendly. He was extremely helpful and courteous with the authorities until the very end. When the police were hunting another serial killer, he even happily gave criminal profilers a Hannibal Lecter–style interview...just hours before his execution.

7. Sergey Golovkin

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Horse breeder Sergey Golovkin was a quiet outsider who stood with a slump and rarely willingly interacted with other humans. Although he was fairly reclusive and shy, he had a habit of making people nervous with a single glance. It seems like such a cliché to assume that a guy like him would become a ruthless killer, but that’s exactly what happened. He became a serial killer known as “Boa” or “The Fisher,” depending on who was telling the story.

Between 1986 and 1992, Golovkin murdered and molested up to 11 people. He was notorious for first strangling his victims, then mutilating their bodies in a disgusting manner straight out of a horror movie. He sliced, diced, disembowelled, and burned the corpses in a number of ways. He made keepsakes from his victims’ remains. He even tried some experimental cannibalism, but found he didn’t like the taste of human flesh very much.

Unluckily for Golovkin (but luckily for the rest of Russia), the police had recently had to investigate plenty of serial killers. By the Nineties, they were able to link his first, clumsy killings to the methodical slaughter of his later spree. After that breakthrough, profiling and catching him was easy. He was executed in 1996.

6. Maxim Petrov

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Doctor Maxim Petrov is not the only person known as “Dr. Death,” but he is certainly one of the scariest. A completely remorseless and twisted killer, he specialized in stalking his elderly patients before finally “euthanizing” them in order to gain access to their money and valuables.

Dr. Petrov is thought to have killed over 50 people. His methods were rather more brutal than one would assume from a medically trained murderer. Although he usually administered injections to his victims, they were not always lethal, but mere sedatives to keep them in place while he turned their apartments into death traps. One survivor recalls waking up with his home on fire; another had his flat slowly filling up with gas from the oven. Some victims were choked with stockings, and people who happened to interrupt the good doctor were stabbed with a screwdriver.

Petrov eventually settled on a nice pattern of lethal injections and evidence-destroying house fires, but he had gotten too greedy. The police soon noticed the pattern of elderly people with similar diseases dying in the exact same way, so they put together a list of 72 potential future victims and arrested Petrov when he was visiting one of them in 2002. The court was able to link Petrov to 12 of the murders he was accused of. He is currently serving a life sentence in prison.

5. Sergei Martynov

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For some people, prison is a correctional facility. For others, it’s merely where they pass the time in between doing what they love the most. These people often return to their criminal activities the second they’re released.

Sergei Martynov was part of the latter group. He had already served 14 years in prison for murder and sexual assault when he was released in 2005. This had done nothing to satisfy his bloodlust, though. He immediately started touring the country and stalking more victims.

For the next six years, Martynov resumed his murderous ways. He travelled in ten different regions, leaving a trail of sexual assaults and murdered victims in his wake. His victims were mostly women and girls, and although the officials did not discuss his methods of killing, they were described as “gruesome.”

Martynov’s trail of destruction was ended when he was finally caught in 2010. As he was charged with “at least” eight murders and numerous assaults in 2012, it looks like he is not going to be released from prison again.

4. The Academy Maniacs

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Photo credit: Murderpedia

Thrill killers are a dangerous class of criminals. They are as unpredictable as they are cruel, and although the signs can often be seen in hindsight, they are fairly difficult to recognize before they actually start killing.

Nikita Lytkin and Artem Anoufriev were two young punks who dabbled in neo-Nazism, dressed in black, and were active members (Anoufriev in particular) of various hard-core music- and fascism-related online communities. They were known online under names like “Peoplehater,” and moderated social media groups such as “We are gods, we alone decide whom to live and who will die.” In other words, the signs were there.

Lytkin and Anoufriev eventually identified with the Dnepropetrovsk Maniacs, famous spree killers with similar life views to their own. They became copycat killers known as ”The Academy Maniacs.” Between December 2010 and April 2011, the two killed six to eight people. Luckily, the two were fairly bad at covering their tracks, so their trail of destruction didn’t last too long. The Academy Maniacs were promptly arrested and brought to trial, with no one but their mothers to mourn them.

3. Vladimir Mukhankin And The Rostov-On-Don Killers

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Photo credit: doofies

The fact that even the cruellest killers only receive passing mention in Russian media is a testament to how common these frightening criminals are in the massive country. A perfect example of this is Vladimir Mukhankin, a misfit from Rostov-on-Don whose sentence was reduced to a passing mention in the Moscow Times. His crime? He had just murdered eight women in the span of four months.

This nonchalant attitude may in part be because these things apparently happen in Rostov-on-Don all the time. The area is famous for the Rostov Ripper, one of the most notorious Soviet-era serial killers. Also, there’s the fact that both before and after Mukhankin, many other ruthless murderers have haunted the Rostov area.

According to officials, the strange frequency of serial killing in Rostov-on-Don doesn’t mean the community is particularly deadly - only that its police force is particularly efficient. According to the deputy chief prosecutor of the area, it’s not that other Russian regions don’t have these murderous monsters running around. It’s just that they’re never caught.

2. Irina Gaidamachuk

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Photo credit:

When your criminal nickname is “Satan in a Skirt,” chances are you’re not the nicest person in the world. Irina Gaidamachuk earned this nickname to the fullest. For seven years, she visited the elderly citizens of the Sverdlov region posing as a social security worker. Once she gained their trust and was allowed inside, she murdered the senior citizens by smashing them over the head with a hammer or an axe. After that, she stole their money and valuables and left the scene as if nothing had happened.

The most terrifying thing about Gaidamachuk is that she was never an anti-social loner, or (according to psychological reviews) even all that crazy. She was a married mother of two children who liked to drink a bit too much and hated the idea of working. So she came up with killing people as an alternative method of making money. However, this was not too lucrative: None of her hauls were bigger than US$495. So she kept doing it again, and again, and again. As she stated to the police in her confession: ”I just wanted to be a normal mum, but I had a craving for drink. My husband Yury wouldn’t give me money for vodka.”

1. Vasili Komaroff

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Vasili Komaroff was the 1920s equivalent of a used car salesman: A horse dealer with an eye for a good deal. Unlike most used car salesmen, though, his idea of a ”good deal” was luring prospective customers away from the marketplace to ”see the horses” and murdering them for their money.

Between 1921 and 1923, Moscow was plagued by ”The Wolf of Moscow,” a ruthless murderer who strangled or bludgeoned people to death and dumped their bodies in sacks all over the city’s slums. The Wolf was, of course, Komaroff. He was not particularly smart in his actions, though. Once the authorities realized the killings were tied to the days and areas of the horse market, they quickly homed in on him as a suspect. Although he seemed like a loving, innocent family man at first, it was soon found that he was actually a violent and brutal man who had even tried to kill his eight-year-old son once.

Although Komaroff attempted to escape the hand of law at first, he was soon captured. The man confessed to the murders of no less than 33 customers and, as a result, was sentenced to death by firing squad. However, he did not go alone: As his last act of cruelty, he named his (possibly innocent) wife as an accomplice.

+ Vasiliy Kulik

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Vasiliy Kulik, better known as the ”Irkutsk Monster,” was not a very nice man.

Ever since his childhood, Kulik had a morbid fascination with violence and sexuality. He was prone to torturing animals and acting like an overly masculine male stereotype. In his teens, he had many girlfriends and developed an insatiable appetite for sex. His mental health had always been very shaky, but when a girl he loved moved to another city, it took a turn for the worse.

Between 1984 and 1986, Kulik brutally assaulted and killed 13 people. His victims were either older women or young children, and his methods of mayhem varied: He was known to use at least firearms, strangulation, and knives fairly often, though he also had other ways of dispatching his victims. The oldest of his victims was 73 years old. The youngest was a two-month-old baby.

Kulik was caught on the day of his 30th birthday. Although his crimes were monstrously revolting, the police found the man extremely (frighteningly) courteous and polite. From the second of his arrest to the day of his execution three years later, he maintained a civilized and friendly image: Throughout the last years of his life, this brutal man enjoyed writing poetry, giving interviews, and musing on the nature of life and death to journalists.

[Source: Listverse. Edited.]


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Mobile Security & Malware Protection Infographic
Bull Guard.

Did you know Smartphones are the most popular new target for threats such as malware and data theft? Our illustrators have been busy coming up with this snazzy infographic - loads of interesting info in there and some stats that might surprise you!

Android seems to have attracted the most attention from malicious code writers due to its popularity, but all platforms are potentially at risk. You’ll find info on what could potentially happen if a phone is infected, what’s happened so far, how we’re being targeted and how to avoid becoming a statistic with some handy dos and don’ts on modern phone use. Not meant to scare! Just meant to inform. And it can’t hurt to stay one step ahead! Also, bear in mind that you’re not alone. You can always count on us to get rid of and keep away digital threats. Here’s our Mobile Security software to help you do just that.

Mobile Malware Infographic
Infographic by Bull Guard

Top image via

[Source: Bull Guard. Edited. Top image added.]


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Masters of Deception: 9 Ultimate Hackers
By Cara Giaimo,
Simpli Safe, 21 January 2014.

They can swipe military secrets from miles away, bypass steel doors with a single click, and break into your bank account without breaking a sweat. Magicians? Supervillains? No - hackers!

Since the world went online, tech-savvy people have been taking advantage of the web's twists and turns to get rich and get powerful - or just to see how much of a mess they can make. We combed through the internet's history and found nine hackers who had huge impacts. Read on to see who did the most damage - and then maybe change your wireless password, just in case.

Top image via Daily Dot.

[Source: Simpli Safe. Edited. Top image added.]


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8 Places To See Exotic Marine Animals On Dry Land
Mother Nature Network, 29 January 2014.

Spotting sea creatures

Some of the most exotic creatures on Earth live on or under the surface of the ocean. The problem for us humans is that it’s nearly impossible to see the most interesting marine animals up close. Sure, there is scuba, but in reality, that’s a commitment of training, time and money that makes this an impractical option for most.

There are some places, however, where casual wildlife watchers can see marine animals without even getting wet, where sea creatures step out of their watery world and into ours (and they are a lot more accessible than the Galapagos Islands). Here are eight places where you can encounter amazing marine creatures on land. (Text: Josh Lew)

1. Sea Lion Island, Falkland Islands

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Photo: Rick Segal/Flickr

Sea Lion Island, the southernmost inhabited island in the Falklands, is rich with wildlife that drop in on the sandy bays, sandstone cliffs and loads of shoreline. Many animals that spend the majority of their time in the sea, including elephant seals and sea lions, choose to come ashore on Sea Lion Island. Smaller land masses near the main island also have haul-out sites, where seals come out of the water en masse. There have also been sightings of three species of penguins on the main island, and during the November breeding season, killer whales are often sighted on the surface of the water just offshore.

Sea Lion Island is one of the most eco-friendly destinations on our list. The Sea Lion Lodge boasts wind and solar power, and the island's status as a national nature reserve means that it has strict rules that protect the local animal population (including laws that are meant to keep the island free of rodents and domestic pets).

2. Crystal River, Florida Gulf Coast, USA

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Slow-moving manatees, nicknamed “sea cows,” are not the most elusive marine mammals. They float in shallow waters and are pretty easy to spot if you know where to go and when to look. However, they are aggressively protected due to their endangered status and their inability to defend themselves.

The Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, near its namesake town about an hour and a half north of Tampa, is a major destination for manatees migrating during the wintertime. Several park programs allow people to snorkel alongside the manatees, but you can also see them from viewing points along the roads and on the bridges inside the refuge. Since they float near the surface of the water, manatees are very easy to see from land without the aid of binoculars.

3. Kangaroo Island, Australia

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Photo: Domenico Salvagnin/Flickr

Australia's third largest island, Kangaroo Island sits off the southern coastline about 70 miles from Adelaide. Sparsely inhabited and with well-protected animal populations, the island is sometimes called Australia's version of Galapagos. Australian sea lions and fur seals can be seen on the island's beaches, and there is also a colony of little penguins. These small flightless birds are very elusive since they come ashore only at night and hide along the rocky sections of the coast until it is time to return to the water.

Over half of the island has never been cleared for agriculture, so native plants still thrive on land. Sea lion colonies can be visited at Seal Bay Conservation Park, though visitors are permitted to walk on the beach only as part of a guided tour. New Zealand fur seals congregate at several points around the island, mostly near the picturesque rock formation known as Admiral's Arch, inside the island's main national park.

4. Georgia barrier islands, USA

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Photo: UGA College of Ag/Flickr

Probably not the first place you think of for nature viewing, the barrier islands off the mainland coast of Georgia are actually teeming with marine wildlife. Loggerhead turtles have recently begun to nest along the Georgia barrier islands in much greater numbers, demonstrating a resurgence of this still endangered species. There have even been manatee sightings in the shallow brackish waters on several islands and along the mainland coast.

Cumberland Island National Seashore has 18 miles of beaches that draw turtles during the summer nesting season. Shore birds and wading birds, like egrets and herons, are a common sight along the beaches, as well. If you really want to immerse yourself in this natural setting, you can apply for an internship locating and monitoring sea turtle nesting zones. Neighbouring Jekyll Island, meanwhile, is home to the Georgia Sea Turtle Centre, which specializes in rehabilitating injured or ill loggerheads.

5. St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

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Photo: Ken Clifton/Flickr

The U.S. Virgin Islands are a haven for sea turtles. The island of St. Croix is home to nesting areas for three species of these amazing shelled creatures. Hawksbills, leatherbacks and green turtles all lay their eggs on the sandy shores at different times of the year. Leatherbacks, which can weigh up to 800 pounds, lay their eggs early in the springtime. Unfortunately, these turtles are critically endangered, so there are tight restrictions on visiting nesting areas. The smaller green and hawksbill turtles nest later in the year. At some point between March and November, at least one of these species of turtle nests on virtually every beach on St. Croix.

Both the Buck Island Reef National Monument and Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge are protected areas where all the turtle species nest. Strict regulations about everything from noise levels to digging holes on the beach make certain that the turtles' needs are balanced with those of human visitors.

6. Cape Town, South Africa

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Photo: darkroomillusions/Flickr

The southern city of Cape Town, South Africa, is a hub for people who want to explore the rugged coastline that characterizes this part of the continent. Boulders Beach (pictured) on False Bay (not far from Cape Town), is home to a large African penguin colony. The beach is a popular tourist attraction, but it is managed by South Africa's National Park Service, so you have to pay a fee to enter. The small remote-feeling De Hoop Nature Preserve boasts a large number of land-based animals, but the biggest draw during the winter migration season are the southern right whales that can be seen easily from the park's beaches and trails. During the day, you maybe be able to see as many as a dozen right whales at a time while standing on the beach.

Closer to Cape Town, Hout Bay is home to a large seal population. The seals congregate on an offshore island that is off limits to humans (you have to see the seals while on a boat). These mammals also draw a large number of fearsome great white sharks, who feed on the marine mammals - sometimes right in front of stunned seal watchers.

7. Point Reyes, California, USA

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Photo: JD Lasica/Flickr

The Point Reyes National Seashore is one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in California. Located only 30 miles to the northwest of San Francisco, this area is easy to access and therefore a popular tourist destination. It not only receives a high number of human visitors, but it is also a hotspot for elephant seals. Once hunted to near-extinction, the seals began making a comeback in the area in the 1970s. A colony now thrives along the seashore. In fact, the seals are doing so well that they have spread out to neighbouring beaches and often come face to face with sunbathers, hikers and picnickers.

During the mating and pupping seasons, when the elephant seals congregate on the beaches at Point Reyes, the National Park Service allows people to observe the aquatic mammals from a sea-cliff vantage point called Chimney Rock. From this altitude, it is also possible to see migrating grey whales swim just offshore. Point Reyes has become so popular that the park now operates a shuttle service from exterior parking lots to special seal-viewing areas along the shoreline.

8. Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

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Photo: Keith Wills/Flickr

No matter where you go in Hawaii, the ocean is nearby. Though the world's largest marine mammals don't actually come ashore, you can get a very clear view of them from the shoreline. It is estimated that some 8,000 humpback whales come to the calm waters on Maui's south and west coasts each year to breed. Near the west coast town of Lahaina, you can often view several whale groups at the same time.

With or without binoculars, people on shore can see these mammoth creatures surfacing to breathe, flashing their tail fin as they prepare to dive, and also breaching (jumping partially out of the water). If you go down to the water, you can sometimes put your head under the surface (with the aid of a snorkel) and listen to the songlike whale calls.

Top image: Australian sea lion and its pup - Seal Bay, Kangaroo Island, Australia. Credit: Didier B/Wikimedia Commons.

[Source: Mother Nature Network. Edited. Top image added.]


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10 More Fascinatingly Rare Disorders
By Shelby Hoebee,
Listverse, 30 January 2014.

Humans are the product of millions of intricate processes that shape their lives from the moment of conception until their last breath. Most of the time these processes go on without a hitch, but other times they go awry. This list compiles some of the rarest and most bizarre disorders that afflict both infants and adults.

10. Epidermolysis

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Known as an incredibly rare birth defect, epidermolysis (also known as the Butterfly Disease) causes the skin to basically slough off when disturbed. Because of the skin’s fragility, it’s common for sufferers to be covered in painful blisters and open wounds. These wounds frequently become infected, filling with pus and mucus. The skin is so sensitive that even something as simple as a temperature change can cause debilitating damage.

Children that suffer from the Butterfly Disease tend to look like burn victims because of their bodies’ inability to produce collagen. If this disease doesn’t already sound horrible enough, the disorder isn’t exclusive to only the body’s outside tissue. Places like the mouth, esophagus, and stomach can be infected too, which keeps many sufferers from being able to eat and function properly. The disease is hereditary, but affects only about one in 50,000 babies. Aside from the obvious symptoms of epidermolysis, not much is known about the disorder and there is currently no cure for it.

9. Ectopia Cordis

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Every one in 100,000 babies are born with the birth defect known as ectopia cordis, where the baby’s heart is basically born outside the body. One of the oddest things about those who suffer from the disease is their appearance. In this disease, the functional, beating heart develops outside the chest cavity and is therefore prey to any number of risks and dangers.

Unfortunately, many sufferers don’t have very long life expectancies, if they are even born at all. There is one miracle case of a man known as Christopher Wall, who was able to live and function properly with the condition for an incredible 33 years. Most cases of ectopia cordis can be diagnosed prior to birth via ultrasound, though some cases do slip past. There is unfortunately no cure and no possibility for surgery due to the delicate nature of the heart.

8. Hydrocephalus

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Translated as “water on the brain,” hydrocephalus is a condition where cerebrospinal fluid accumulates in the ventricles of the brain. With the increase of fluid, the pressure on the brain and skull is increased as well. This usually results in skull enlargement, mental retardation, seizures, and tunnel vision. There have been several treatments developed to decrease the amount of fluid in the brain, though there is still no way to cure it completely.

In India, an extreme case of hydrocephalus has been reported in a girl named Roona Begum, whose head has swollen to 94 centimetres (37 in) in circumference. Just for reference, the circumference of an average baby’s skull is about 35.5 centimetres (14 in). Her head got to the point where she could barely move, because she was carrying an extra five litres of fluid in her head.

She was being taken care of in a two-room hut in India by her 18-year-old father, who was making a little more than US$2 a day. Her head had grown so large she was unable to see because her eyelids had stretched so far upwards. Thankfully, over US$60,000 has since been raised for Roona to receive the necessary surgery to release the liquid in her head.

7. Uner Tan Syndrome

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Uner Tan syndrome is a rather recent and rare disorder that was first seen in a case study of the Ulas family in Turkey. There have been some critics of the disorder, who claim that it’s not medically valid. Despite that, the symptoms of the Ulas family can’t seem to be explained. It was named after evolutionary biologist Uner Tan, who claimed this disorder to be one of evolutionary origins. Those afflicted with this disease tend to crawl on all fours like an animal, speak in grunts, and suffer from severe mental retardation. It’s also thought that people with Uner Tan syndrome actually suffer from cerebellar ataxia, though their sustained tendency to walk on all fours doesn’t fit the symptomology.

Another odd aspect of those who suffer from Uner Tan syndrome is that it affects the whole family unit, and they seem to have adapted unnaturally well to walking on all fours. All four families that suffer from the syndrome can be found in Turkey, and there is still research being done to learn more about the disorder. A documentary was also filmed for BBC in 2006 known as The Family That Walks on All Fours to show their story to the public.

6. Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome

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Lesch-Nyhan syndrome in and of itself isn’t particularly remarkable, but the behaviours that it causes in those who are afflicted make it a very interesting disease. Lesch-Nyhan syndrome is a hereditary disorder with no known cure that’s characterized by a build-up of uric acid in all bodily fluids. This build-up leads to gout, bad muscle control, and kidney problems. Motor disturbances similar to those experienced by people with Huntington’s disease are also seen in people who suffer from this disorder.

But the most remarkable behaviour is the uncontrollable acts of self-mutilation that it causes. This behaviour isn’t apparent in all cases of Lesch-Nyhan syndrome, but it is very common and behaviours range from head banging to severe forms of nail, finger, and lip biting. Sometimes the self-injurious behaviour becomes so bad that patients must have their nails or teeth removed for their own safety.

People with Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome have also been observed gouging out their own eyes and scratching or hitting their faces. Thankfully, this is a very rare disorder that effect only one in about every 380,000 live births. With the correct restraint, precautions, and treatments, Lesch-Nyhan Syndrome can be controlled reasonably well.

5. Hypohidrotic Ectodermal Dysplasia

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Also known as the vampire disorder, people who suffer from Hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia often have pointed teeth, making them look eerily similar to the blood-sucking creatures of fiction. This disorder can also affect hair, skin, and nails. Severe cases of HED are characterized by thin, pale bodies with dark circles under and around the eyes, pointed or missing teeth, no hair, and signs of premature aging.

Most people who suffer from HED must constantly manage and check their body temperature, while remaining out of the sunlight and heat for long periods of time due to their lack of sweat glands. This is the most common form of ectodermal dysplasia, affecting one in every 17,000 people, including actor Michael Berryman.

4. Lamellar Ichthyosis

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Lamellar ichthyosis is a rare birth defect that causes babies to shed their skins like a reptile. When the babies with this disorder are first born, they are covered in a shiny, smooth skin known as a collodion membrane, which they later shed - leaving behind their actual skin, which is scaly and cracked. Risk of infection, dehydration, or hypothermia is high in babies with this disorder because of their lack of a protective outer layer and normal sweat glands.

The scales - which closely resemble those of fish - tend to increase as the child grows older and cluster around places like the armpits and groin. While this doesn’t seem to put the baby in any sort of pain, it can have lasting psychological effect on the child due to their bright red, scaly skin. The disorder can also cause ectropion in the sufferer, which is the outward turning of the lips and eyelids.

While this is a very rare skin disease, an even rarer form of it, known as bathing suit icthyosis, is showing up in people in South Africa. So far there have been less than 20 known cases. In bathing suit icthyosis, sufferers develop the same scaly lesions, though instead of appearing in the soft joints like the armpits, genitals, or elbows, they appear on much larger parts of the body, like the stomach, back, and head. There’s no known cure for this hereditary disorder, and more research is still being done to try and treat it.

3. Harlequin Ichthyosis

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Photo credit: OTIS Archive 1

Harlequin ichthyosis, the most severe form of ichthyosis, is when the keratin layer of the baby’s skin hardens and cracks. Most of the infant’s limbs may also be contracted or missing completely. This can also happen to the ears, nose, eyes, and penis. Because of the large scales of cracked skin, much of the baby’s range of motion is limited. There’s usually a very grim prognosis for those that are diagnosed with harlequin ichthyosis due to complications with infections that develop in the fissures.

If the infants don’t die from infection or their inability to move, they usually succumb to dehydration or respiratory failure. In some rare cases, there are sufferers that make it past infancy, which is a feat in and of itself. A girl named Hunter Steinitz has made it to the remarkable age of 18 with this disease, though every day is a battle. She must constantly keep her skin moisturized with oils to decrease the cracking, and there is no cure for this hereditary condition.

2. Polymelia

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Polymelia is a bizarre disorder in which the sufferer is born with an unusual number of limbs. There have been cases of these limbs being useful as well as non-functioning. Polymelia can occur for a number of reasons, including the incorrect splitting of limbs or the reabsorbance of a conjoined twin back into the body. Now, an extra arm or leg here and there may not seem like anything to get particularly excited about, but it’s the more extreme cases of polymelia that make it such a fascinatingly bizarre disorder.

In Pakistan there was a case of a baby born with six legs, which was the result of a parasitic twin. Polymelia can result in an unusual number of any extremity - including the penis, in some cases - and proves to be a hassle for most sufferers. There are surgeries to remove the extra limbs, but some people find that their extra extremities - especially fingers - are actually quite useful. This condition can also be found in several types of animals.

1. Pseudomamma

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Pseudomamma basically occurs when breast tissue develops in places other than the breast. This will usually occur along the milk line or other spots of the abdomen. In rare cases, however, pseudomamma will occur on stranger parts of the body - like the face. Recently, a very odd case of pseudomamma surfaced when a 22-year-old girl went to the doctor complaining of an odd growth on the bottom of her foot. Upon closer examination, the doctors found the growth to be a nipple, complete with an areola, hair, eccrine, and sebaceous glands.

Most growths have no negative effects on their hosts, though they are usually removed for aesthetic purposes. Not all cases of pseudomamma are present at birth, and some develop randomly over a lifetime.

Top image via Neurological Disorders

[Source: Listverse. Edited. Top image added.]