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10 Attempts To Better People’s Lives That Fail Horribly

Whether you frame them as instances of the law of unintended consequences or proof that no good deed goes unpunished, backfires are the bane of well-intentioned behavior. In a hierarchy of help to the needy, protection for the vulnerable, or health care for the sick, it’s the unforeseen circumstances and logistic flaws that emerge like apex predators on the prowl, determined to devour whatever good was hoped for and sometimes hope itself. And unfortunately, sometimes the fallouts from those failures are devastatingly drastic and widespread.

10 Amazonian Job Opportunities Create Joblessness And Disease

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In the 1980s, the World Bank reached into its unfathomably deep coffers and pulled out $485 million to aid Brazil in its plans to convert large tracts of Amazon forest into viable farmland. The crown jewel of this development project was the 1,500-kilometer (900 mi) BR364 highway that extended through the Amazonian state of Rondonia and would serve as the main artery along which struggling sharecroppers and other financially challenged Brazilians would travel in hopes of receiving the warm kiss of economic prosperity. However, many found that their hopeful puckers were rebuffed with cold-shouldered hardship and unfulfilled aspirations.

The demand for land significantly outweighed the availability of land leases. As a result, more than 10,000 families who had made a hopeful trek to Rondonia were left empty-handed. But as disappointed as those landless families must have been, many who did obtain land tasted a far bitterer defeat. Thousands of would-be farmers discovered that the soil was ill-suited for traditional food staples like rice and corn. As a result, many found themselves jobless after making the long journey and clearing acres of land to set up shop.

Adding to the severity of the situation was the ever looming threat of conflict and disease. In addition to being unable to make a living off the land, many migrants to Rondonia were stricken with malaria and cholera. Because the land had been inhabited by indigenous tribes, many of them were driven away. The once hopeful venture had become an ordeal that cost hundreds of millions of dollars and saw more than 14 million acres of forest destroyed. The project was so unsuccessful that the World Bank lent additional funds to undo the mess it had unwittingly financed.

9 Tobacco Marketing Regulations Increase Appeal To Teens

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Whether you’re into cigarettes or not, it’s probably safe to assume that you’re not okay with tobacco companies lying about the toxicity of their smokes or marketing them to children. However, tobacco companies have found cleverly corrupt ways to get around restrictions on both of these practices. It all boils down to exploiting the vagueness of language and basic human psychology.

Since 2010, tobacco companies have been legally barred from applying such labels as “light” and “low tar” to cigarettes due to the false impression that those products were less dangerous than normal cigarettes and the resulting disinclination to quit smoking. To circumvent the restriction, companies renamed their cigarette varieties after easily identifiable colors such as gold or silver, which consumers already associated with the deceptive tar labels. In the ensuing years, investigations into the consumer habits and beliefs of smokers showed that as many as 89–91 percent were able to identify banned cigarette labels by their new color-themed appellations. Even worse, since small cigars don’t fall under the same rigorous regulations as cigarettes, tobacco companies simply affixed the banned cigarette names to cigars to perpetuate the health misconceptions.

The legislative leeway companies have with small cigars also allows them to make headway with teenagers through the use of deceptive labels, colorful packaging, and desert-like flavors such as “Dreamsicle” and “Apple Blitz.” As a result, the sale of little cigars has skyrocketed while “light cigarette” sales have gone unchanged. Between 1997 and 2007, consumption of the less regulated tobacco products increased by 240 percent with 80 percent of sales accounted for by flavored cigars. More distressingly, as many as 40 percent of smokers in middle and high school reportedly used flavored cigars and showed a higher intention to keep smoking than the overall population of cigar smokers. With nearly 90 percent of surveyed smokers believed to have begun smoking before age 18, the implications are dire.

8 Japanese Work Program Fosters A System Of Indentured Servitude

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When Japan implemented an international training program in the 1990s, it undoubtedly struck government officials and business owners alike as an attractive mix of philanthropy and lucrative pragmatism. For a fee, foreigners from developing countries like China would temporarily live and work in the country, learning skills that could generate wealth back home while the Japanese economy would be bolstered by an influx of laborers. But much in the same way that sheltered workshops attracted opportunists who saw fit to exploit the disabled, what was supposed to be Japan’s mutually beneficial stab at international aid became fodder for ruthless business sharks on the hunt for low-wage employees in a country with a dwindling workforce.

Instead of receiving an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work, many foreign trainees found themselves receiving little to no pay for days of work. Because migrants lacked the legal protection afforded by the average Japanese citizen, they were regularly forced to perform such tasks as assembling cell phone parts for as long as 16 hours a day with inadequate breaks. The toll on overtaxed workers was tremendous. According to Japan’s Justice Ministry, at least 400 foreign trainees died from the effects of work-related exhaustion between 2005 and 2010. And in that time they were underpaid by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Rather than providing a boon for hardworking people from developing nations, Japan had essentially ushered in a modern era of indentured servitude; trainees toiled away in exchange for a limited stay in the country. Pressed by the United Nations and other groups to crack down on workplace corruption, Japan’s government has since attempted to strengthen the rights of noncitizens while prohibiting such business practices as withholding migrants’ passports. Some critics, however, believe that the ship for ethical practices sailed too long ago for offending businesses to change course now.

7 UN Peacekeepers Provide Firearms To The Congo

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The late 1990s heralded an era of unprecedented bloodletting on the continent of Africa with the Congolese Civil War. Sometimes referred to as Africa’s World War, the conflict engulfed five different countries and lasted for five years. The unending parade of infighting and starvation that persist have contributed to millions of deaths and rendered the war’s official endpoint a moot demarcation. To help quell the incessant violence and mayhem, the United Nations sent peacekeepers to disarm warring rebels and maintain a sense of order. But in towns like Mongbwalu, where Pakistani peacekeepers were situated, the United Nations’ presence appears to have ultimately enhanced the killing capacity of warring factions.

According to BBC investigators, after initially maintaining relative stability in Mongbwalu, stationed United Nations troops ultimately began trading guns to the people they were supposed to be disarming in exchange for gold. Militia commanders such as the outrageously named Kung Fu and Dragon openly admitted to receiving arms from Pakistani officials while members of Mongbwalu’s mining community attested to witnessing the shady deals take place. An investigative team arrived on the scene in 2006 to assess accusations of corruption but was rebuffed with a barbed wire barrier and armored vehicles when they got too close to a computer that allegedly contained incriminating evidence.

Ultimately, the United Nations backed down and appeared to attempt a cover-up as a means of maintaining good relations with Pakistan, which sends large numbers of people to help on missions. In the aftermath, a single officer was charged with gold smuggling and all talk of weapons trading was dismissed. Later, similar accusations of illicit weapons deals arose against Indian troops stationed in Congo. The United Nations found evidence of gold trading, but nothing that would implicate its troops in facilitating death. The number of guns reshuffled onto Congolese battlefields by UN troops is anybody’s grim guess.

6 Laws To Protect Romanian Orphans Make Adoption Virtually Impossible

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Among the darker chapters of Communism was the reign of Nicolae Ceausescu, a Romanian dictator bent on building an army of subservient workers by requiring all women to bear at least five children and prohibiting contraception. Unable to meet the material demands of such large families, many Romanian mothers began leaving their children at orphanages. After Ceausescu’s 1989 disposal, the world learned about these orphanages and was so horrified by the squalid conditions in which the children lived that many international families leapt at the chance to adopt them. But the fast-and-loose fashion of many of these adoptions stoked concern in the European Union, which encouraged Romania to tighten its laws in order to protect vulnerable orphans. The resulting law was a logistical nightmare.

The Romanian government set out to keep families together and children out of state care by mandating that no child under two years old be admitted to an orphanage and that no adoption was permissible without the signed consent of the mother or next of kin, independent of the length of time spent separated from the child. International adoptions were discontinued altogether. Romanian mothers responded to the changes by using hospitals as surrogate orphanages, abandoning their babies at maternity wards in the tens of thousands. Those old enough to be adopted were trapped in an excruciating limbo, since a parent intent on maintaining parental ties could simply visit the child at a hospital and deny adoption opportunities. Children who had been abandoned had no one to give consent.

With the moratorium on international adoptions preventing hundreds—if not thousands—of adoptions annually and restrictions shackling the process domestically, Romania still had nearly as many orphans as it did in 1989 by 2012. With only a tiny fraction of these roughly 70,000 children eligible for adoption, Romania has attempted to loosen its laws to promote more adoptions. But to truly make headway, the cycle of child abandonment must also be broken.

5 The Environmental Protection Agency Increases Lead Exposure In Mexico

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As America grapples with its fear of Mexican immigrants crossing the border, Mexico is increasingly inundated by a foreign presence that brings tidings of neurological and organ damage. Thanks to regulations set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reduce the amount of lead pollution produced during battery recycling, American companies are simply exporting batteries to Mexico, where lax standards translate into lower costs and processing methods.

The economics of the situation are inescapably obvious. Companies looking to save money fare better by shipping their batteries to a foreign facility where people will handle them with hammers than by investing in more costly complex methods. Consequently, from 2004 to 2011, Mexico—where companies are permitted to release 20 times more lead into the atmosphere than in the United States—saw imports of spent lead-acid batteries increase between 449 and 552 percent. With tens of millions of car and industrial batteries crossing the border, communities surrounding battery processing centers are increasingly exposed to hostile air and soil.

Many Mexican parents in affected communities have observed developmental delays and other telltale signs of lead poisoning in their children. A lack of direct research prevents parents and doctors from being able to directly tie increases in lead poisoning cases to the recycling plants, but the evidence is disconcerting. To provide a window into the possibility, the New York Times sampled a playground located not far from a Mexican battery recycler and found lead levels five times greater than what the United States considers acceptable. Worse yet, as the battery recycling business migrates to Mexico, American facilities are closing down, portending a net increase in lead exposure as safer practices are increasingly abandoned for the sake of economic expediency and possibly dooming generations of people to poisoning.

4 Loopholes In Coal Mining Safety Regulations Seriously Endanger Miners

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With occupational hazards like contracting black lung by inhaling dusty air and being snuffed out like a flame by way of mine explosion, it’s natural to think of the words “safety” and “coal mining” as an oxymoronic pairing. To parry these perils, the United States Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) passed various regulations from the 1950s onward. Despite initial declines in respiratory ailments and accidents, cases of black lung are once again on the rise in America’s bedrock of industrial mining, West Virginia, and 2010 saw the deadliest coal mine explosion since 1970. Tragically, these modern horrors are made possible in part by catastrophic flaws in the very policies intended to prevent them.

Among the many glaring weaknesses in MSHA regulation, mining companies are permitted to assess the quality of their own air using dust pumps. Managers find shifty ways to circumambulate the rules. According to miners interviewed by the West Virginia Gazette, dust pumps are sometimes stored in lunch boxes and mine offices to mask the severity of the air’s coal dust saturation. When inspectors are on site to evaluate working conditions, mines are allowed to reduce their work rate by as much as 50 percent, sparing the lungs of the inspector but also making it incredibly difficult to gauge firsthand what kind of respiratory beating miners regularly receive. Mining companies are allowed to retest the air, which provides opportunities to send inaccurate but compliant air samples as well as numerous extensions on compliance deadlines.

A similar problem prevents the MSHA from prosecuting mining companies whose locations are determined to be structurally unsafe or otherwise too dangerous for workers. While the MSHA has mandated harsher penalties for violations, it allows mining companies to contest the charges, delaying fines and corrective action. Moreover, a 24-month statute of limitations prevents violations older than two years from being pursued. Seizing an opportunity to game the system, companies like Massey Energy repeatedly contest cases brought against them. A mounting backlog of cases accumulates, and the protections put in place to protect miners are rendered impotent in the face of imminent abuses.

3 Antidepressant Warning Labels Increase Suicide Risk

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In 2003, the media caught wind of a harrowing pharmacological trend; some antidepressants on the market appeared to increase the risk of suicide. Faced with this awful irony, the FDA and other regulatory bodies began to issue warnings about the increased risk of self-harm. However, researchers—the skeptical animals that they are—questioned whether the alarm had been sounded prematurely at the risk of harming patients seeking help for depression by discouraging potentially valuable treatment. Scientific investigations would ultimately suggest that those concerns are not only valid, but that issuing suicide warnings had the devastating effect of increasing suicide attempts among depression sufferers.

One of those studies was a 2008 analysis into the behavior observed in 265,000 depression patients based in Manitoba during the nine years before and two years after Health Canada cautioned the public about the use of certain depression medications. The results were as drastic as they were demoralizing. While not all patients were adversely affected, children and adolescents were 25 percent more likely to commit suicide after the warnings were posted. This also coincided with a 14 percent drop in antidepressant prescriptions for those groups and up to a 40 percent decrease in the use of most new antidepressants. The warnings appeared to achieve the exact opposite of their aim.

A more recent study conducted by Harvard Medical School examined 2.5 million teenagers and young adults over the span of a decade. Echoing the Manitoba findings, the Harvard researchers also observed dramatic leaps in attempted suicides with teenagers becoming 22 percent more likely and young adults becoming 34 percent more likely to attempt ending their lives following the medicine warnings. Once more, antidepressant prescriptions declined steeply, darkly delineating a scenario in which depression patients who try to defend against harmful medicine ending up spiraling deeper into despair and eventual self-destructiveness. The fact that this resulted not from some theoretically avoidable moral hazard or loophole to be closed, but an earnest effort to save lives, is perhaps the bitterest pill to swallow.

2 Mandatory Arrest Laws In Domestic Abuses Cases Decrease Reporting And Increase Homicide

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Domestic violence is arguably the unkindest of cruelties—a harm suffered at the hands of someone that the victim is tethered to emotionally and sometimes monetarily. It is also an offense the United States and other legal systems have done a historically abysmal job of addressing adequately. In 1984, America saw a push to correct this shortcoming by implementing mandatory arrest laws. Relying on a small study which suggested that rates of violence would drop if officers arrested abusers, states all over America began requiring officers arriving at the scene of violent domestic disputes to arrest the offending party regardless of whether the victim requested it. History, however, did not bear out the encouraging implications of the domestic violence study.

What legislators and scientists alike hadn’t anticipated was a drastic drop in reporting among women—the primary victims of domestic violence—who lived in states with mandatory laws. Whether impeded by fear of reprisal or guilt, women were silenced by a reluctance to see their significant others incarcerated. The starkness of the trend is unsettling, with rates of homicide 50 percent higher in states that have mandatory arrest laws than in states without. Even more alarmingly, the decrease in domestic violence reports has also been observed abroad. According to magistrates in the United Kingdom, a 2008 law requiring domestic violence to be treated as a criminal offense rather than a civil matter seemed to precipitate a 25 to 30 percent decline in protection orders from victims.

In a volley to enhance much-needed protections for people under threat from the ones they should be able to trust most, legislators may have inadvertently increased their vulnerability through forced arrests. But this should not be taken as a rebuke of those efforts. The urgency of separating violent attackers from the people they prey upon is paramount. Unfortunately, the empirics of domestic violence suggest that the solution will be far more complicated than automated justice can achieve.

1 A Bid For Clean Drinking Water Results In Mass Poisonings

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Bangladesh has long had an intimate and at times acrimonious relationship with water. Its annual floods bring tidings of agricultural opportunity while simultaneously threatening to wash away crops and endanger lives. The country is situated by water, and yet many people are unable to drink safely due to surface water being tainted with sewage and bacteria. To rectify the problem of surface water potability, the Bangladeshi government in conjunction with UNICEF added a million drinking wells in the 1970s and ’80s. Testing by British geologists concluded in 1992 confirmed the waters’ nontoxicity, and with that began what the World Health Organization once deemed “the largest mass poisoning of a population in history.”

This was not a case of negligence. The British Geological Survey (BGS) appeared to have done its due diligence in testing water toxicity, but no one anticipated that the rocks along which Bangladesh’s well water flowed were tainted with arsenic. Within three years of the BGS’s assurances, people began developing the skin lesion characteristic of arsenic poisoning. By 2006, as many as 35 million Bangladeshis were thought to have consumed arsenic-laced water. By 2010, the estimated number of people who consumed dangerous levels of the poison reached as high as 77 million, with a study of 12,000 Bangladeshis suggesting that up to 20 percent of deaths were related to arsenic’s deleterious effects.

At least two separate attempts were made to sue the BGS for failing to test Bangladesh’s water for arsenic, but the British high court struck down the lawsuits on the reasonable but nonetheless heartrending rationale that the group could not be held accountable for what it failed to assess. Now, for all its hopes and endeavors, Bangladesh is a country that thirsts for relief from the water it so hopefully sought.

Publisher: A. C. Grimes

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10 Photos Of Unity Between Opposing Sides

We’ve seen the terrible cost of war, stood witness to the tragedies wrought by human atrocity, and through it all, we’ve discovered something within ourselves that no act of inhumanity can break. The will to go on in the face of unspeakable horror is the hallmark of human nature, because beneath the suffering and outrage, we are all simply people, destined to live and fail and triumph together. Despite differences of race, religion, or creed, we all laugh the same, and we all cry the same.

10 Punk And Monk

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The Ananda temple was built around A.D. 1100 and is one of the many surviving temples in Bagan, Myanmar. According to legend, the monks who built the temple were killed by the king so that they could never create its equal. And every year, Bagan welcomes travelers into this sacred temple with open arms for a two-week-long celebration known as the Ananda Pagoda Festival.

During the festival, the streets and courtyards of the temple become a bustling marketplace. Brightly colored clothing hangs from shop ceilings, the scent of sticky rice and ginger fills the air, wares are hawked, prices bartered, and, in the background, the rhythmic chanting of 1,000 monks falls over everything like a blanket.

The diversity of the event is breathtaking, and the converging cultures lend themselves to photos like the one above, taken by Roger Stonehouse of National Geographic.

9 The Riot Pianist

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Photo via BBC

Ukraine smashed into 2014 in a violent state of political unrest. The BBC called early February 2014 its “bloodiest week in decades” as protesters clashed with riot officers after the government decided to strengthen ties to Russia rather than move toward European integration. For weeks, the city burned. Every altercation left more people dead, and even as the bodies piled up, the protesters grew in strength.

And in the middle of it all, one man played Chopin.

On January 25, the crowd fell silent as Markiyan Matsekh wheeled an upright piano in front of a line of riot police, calmly sat down, and began belting out classical tunes. It could easily be argued that this display of peaceful protest did nothing for the cause, as the most violent riots were still to follow, but it showed the world that not everybody in Ukraine wanted to attack the government’s policies with pitchforks and Kalashnikovs. With a few well-placed keystrokes, one man became a symbol for change by way of peace and reasoning.

8 Keshia Thomas

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Photo credit: Mark Brunner

The division of black and white has tainted human history for centuries, and only in the past few decades have we stepped up to put a stop to such a superficial prejudice. Although we still have a long way to go, we’re moving in the right direction.

At least, it seems that way on the outside. But for every hateful stance taken by a group, there’s always going to be an individual who disagrees in spectacular fashion. Keshia Thomas was still in high school when a Ku Klux Klan rally was formed in her hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan. It was 1996, and the Ann Arbor community had done their best to dispel the racial tensions that afflicted so many other communities in small-town America. But, in the face of that, there they were: the KKK.

Citizens lined up outside the rally to protest, and police stood by in case things got ugly. Keshia was one of the many African Americans at the rally, and she remembers hearing a woman with a megaphone shout, “There’s a Klansman in the crowd.” Soon, he was running, and the crowd was after him. Whether or not he supported the KKK, nobody knows. All they knew was that he wore a Confederate flag shirt and had an “SS” tattoo on his shoulder.

Soon, he was on the ground in the fetal position while blows and kicks rained down on him amid cries of “Kill the Nazi!” Keshia Thomas stepped in. With no thought for ideological differences, no thought of race or historical grievance, she threw her body over his to shield him from the blows, just one human protecting another. When asked why she did it, she said simply, “I knew what it was like to be hurt. The many times that that happened, I wish someone would have stood up for me.”

7 A Christian Apology

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Photo credit: Michelle Gantner

The Chicago Pride Festival is an annual celebration held in Chicago to bring awareness to the gay community. Every summer, nearly a million people flock to the two-day festival to show their support.

In 2010, photographer Michelle Gantner stepped out onto the crowded, rainbow-decked streets to snap a few photos of the event. What she grabbed became one of the seminal online images of the decade: a group of Christians offering an emotional hug to a gay man participating in the parade.

The group was organized by Andrew Marin, a Chicago resident trying to reconcile differences between the Christian community and the LGBT population of Chicago’s Boystown neighborhood, a state-recognized gay community within the greater Chicago area. The group appeared holding signs proclaiming, “I’m sorry for how the church has treated you.”

6 The Iranian Riots

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The aftermath of the 2009 Iranian election was a scene of mayhem. With 60 percent of the vote, hard-line incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad retained his presidency amid cries of protest that he’d rigged the results. Supporters of losing candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi took to the streets in a chaotic protest that left anywhere from 20 to several hundred protesters dead, depending on whom you ask.

Public opinion on the riot police working for the new president was shaky at best. Many had seen their friends and family members shot down by uniformed men, and many of those victims were never properly laid to rest. But when this unidentified Mousavi supporter (you can tell by the green shirt) saw an injured police officer, he stepped in to get him out of harm’s way before protesters could hurt him any further.

5 Reunited In Death

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In a secluded corner of an old cemetery in Roermond, Netherlands are two gravestones on opposite sides of a high cement wall. One grave belongs to Colonel J.C.P.H. Of Aeffderson, an officer in the Dutch army and a Protestant. The other belongs to his wife, J.W.C van Gorkum, a Dutch noble and a Catholic.

The two were married for 40 years, and when the Colonel died, he was buried in the Protestant plot of the Het Oude Kerkhof, Dutch for “Old Cemetery.” According to tradition, his wife would be buried in the family tomb, across the wall in the larger Catholic section of the cemetery.

But van Gorkum didn’t see eye to eye with tradition. Before her death, she had a gravestone erected directly on the other side of the wall from her husband’s then had a hand built out from each one to reach over the wall. To this day, the lovers’ graves are still clasped in a final, eternal embrace.

4 Harmony In Cairo

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Photo credit: Nevine Zaki

Cairo was a tough place to be religious in 2011. Despite being a purely secular movement, guided only by a desire for political change, the Muslim Brotherhood found themselves at the receiving end of a series of attacks, likely due to then-President Mubarak’s frequent statements on the dangers of an Islamic takeover.

In return, Coptic Christians, who make up a little more than 10 percent of Egypt’s population, were also targeted by Islamic extremists in several attacks. It seemed that even in a secular conflict, religion still couldn’t bow out of the fight.

And then came a touching scene: In Tahrir Square in Cairo, Christians formed a ring around Muslim protesters as they knelt in prayer. Mubarak’s government had previously carried out attacks on vulnerable groups of praying Muslims, and this nearly unprecedented show of solidarity drove home that, even in a region embroiled in religious differences, these protests had nothing to do with matters of religion. As Egyptians, they could stand together.

Later that week, a group of Muslims returned the favor, holding hands to protect Christian worshipers at Sunday Mass.

3 An American Medic And A Nazi

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Long, brutal, and forever ingrained in the public consciousness, World War II epitomized the perceived struggle between good and evil. Even long after the last rifle was laid into a dusty veteran’s trunk, the villainy of the Nazis remains a catch-all for unfocused hate. We saw undeniable evidence of that in the KKK entry above—a gathering of housewives and schoolchildren transformed into a mob intent on murder at the drop of a hat. “Kill the Nazi” is our rallying cry against oppression, because there can be no wrong with such a thing.

But the above photo is difficult to reconcile with our worldview: It humanizes a Nazi. It transforms that weeping boy into every other child who was handed a gun and forced into a war that he may or may not have understood. Who is he? Did he commit previous atrocities? Did he go on to commit further ones? We don’t know because his life is now a mere snapshot, and in that fragment of time, he’s lost, alone, and scared. He’s merely one of us.

2 Roses Through Barbed Wire

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An image from the 1967 antiwar march on the Pentagon depicts a young, long-haired hippie placing a carnation into the barrel of a National Guardsman’s rifle. Since then, “flower power protests” have become nearly as iconic as that historic photo. Those nonviolent objects—the flowers, toys, and flags—were meant to signify a protest that wasn’t based on anger or hate.

In the above photo, taken in 2013, a protester uses the same tactic that inspired a nation nearly 50 years ago. The photo was taken at an anti-government rally in Bangkok, Thailand. Framed through a tunnel of razor wire, this photo carries the same weight as any other image showing military might held back—even if just for a moment—by the diaphanous frailty of peace.

1 No Idea How To Hate

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Photo credit: Todd Robertson

At what age do you look at a person and decide to hate them? That’s the stark tragedy offered by this photo—a toddler, too young to understand hate, brought to a place where hate is the main event. The mind recoils from the possibilities of what this child’s life went on to become. Indoctrinated so powerfully at such a young age, did he ever have a chance?

The photo was snapped by Todd Robertson at a KKK rally in Gainesville, Georgia in 1992. To hear him describe it, the moment was simple in its innocence: “One of the boys approached a black state trooper, who was holding his riot shield on the ground. Seeing his reflection, the boy reached for the shield.”

Immediately afterward, according to Robertson, the boy’s mother (also in Klan regalia) grabbed the boy and whisked him away. And that was it. For a single, cautious moment, two drastically different creeds met at a crossroads, pulled together against all odds by the touch of a curious child.

Publisher: Andrew Handley

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10 People Ripped Out Of A Fantasy Story

You don’t need J.K. Rowling or C.S Lewis to enter a world full of magic. You just need to walk down the street. While there aren’t any real-life fairies or trolls lurking about, planet Earth is full of crazy characters who seem like they were ripped straight out of the pages of a fantasy novel.

10 The Mushroom Musician

Magic forests are a pretty common trope in fantasy, especially if you’re reading anything by J.R.R. Tolkien. However, trees aren’t the only enchanted organisms growing in the woods. If you listen long enough, you might hear music coming from the forest floor. And who’s responsible for this woodland melody? The mushrooms, of course. Well, that’s what Vaclav Halek believed, anyway. Whenever this Czech composer spotted a black morel or a toadstool, suddenly the whole world was filled with mycological music. And we’re not talking simple inspiration. Halek really thought the mushrooms were singing.

His odd relationship with fungi started in the 1980s, during a mushroom hunt outside of Prague. Halek was preparing to take a photo of a lone fungus when he heard the sounds of string instruments and flutes. Ecstatic, the musician grabbed a notepad and started taking dictation, visiting every mushroom in the forest and listening to its unique song. Soon, he had an entire mushroom symphony. According to Halek, every mushroom has its very own melody. “I think that every mushroom has its own idea which the Creator breathed into it,” he once said, “and that it’s possible to hear this idea if we’re modest enough and if we ask the mushroom nicely to sing it for us. I’ve always been able to hear it.” That’s why Halek spent his days wandering parks and forests, picking mushrooms and jotting down their little songs.

During his lifetime, the man composed over 5,000 different pieces of music, all based on mushrooms, and each song has its own important meaning. According to Halek, one is about “enjoying freedom but knowing that it will end soon” while another sounds like “the neverending cosmos, like you can see in the deep space pictures taken by the Hubble telescope.” Ultimately, Halek wanted to glorify God and capture a sense of wonder about the universe. Sadly, the mushroom musician passed away in 2014, leaving the world a little less magical.

9 The Wandering Goat Man

Okay, we’re not talking about the axe-wielding monster that attacks cars in Maryland. We’re talking about Charles “Ches” McCartney, a kind of real-life Radagast the Brown. While McCartney wasn’t magic, he sported an impressive beard, was an eccentric loner, and relied on an unusual method of transportation. While the Brown Wizard used Rhosgobel Rabbits, McCartney traveled across the US in a ramshackle wagon pulled by goats.

The story goes, he was born in Iowa in 1901 and ran away from home at 14. He eventually ended up in New York, where he married a knife-thrower 10 years his senior, a lady who earned her living by chucking daggers at our hero. In 1935, he got a job clearing forests for the Works Progress Administration, only one of those trees nearly crushed him to death. Legend has it McCartney didn’t wake up until the mortician tried to inject him with embalming fluid. Whether or not that’s accurate, McCartney’s life radically transformed after his near-death experience. He became a fire-and-brimstone preacher, ready to save the US from its sins. So he bought a wagon, loaded it with pots, pans, and aluminum signs, and hooked his carriage to a team of 12–30 goats. He was ready to hit the open road.

McCartney and his four-legged friends made their way across the back roads of America, blocking traffic and spreading the gospel. As you might expect, the preacher lived a rather unusual lifestyle. He rarely showered and drank a whole lot of goat’s milk. He spent his free time reading the Bible and Robinson Crusoe, and whenever he ran across strangers, he’d regale them with stories and try to sell them postcards of the “Goat Man” himself. During his travels, McCartney visited Canada and 49 states (sorry, Hawaii). Wherever he went, he’d let his special two-legged goat sit up front with him on the buckboard.

Eventually, McCartney started a mission in Jeffersonville, Georgia that served as his base. Of course, life was dangerous for a man on the road, and McCartney was mugged multiple times. Once, some crooks even killed two of his goats. His wandering days finally ended in 1985, when he went to California to marry the actress Morgan Fairchild. Only when he showed up in Los Angeles, he was severely beaten and sent back to Georgia. Ches McCartney spent his final days in a southern nursing home where he passed away at 97 . . . though some say he was over 120.

8 The Right-Handed King Of Hohoe

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Photo credit: Koenig Bansah

If you spotted Cephas Bansah walking down the street, you’d probably think he was just a normal guy. He’s 66, married, and runs a garage in the city of Ludwigshafen, Germany. Bansah seems like an average, run-of-the-mill working man . . . well, during the day, anyway. At night, after he’s closed up the garage, Bansah transforms from a mechanic into a monarch. Bansah originally hails from Ghana, but during his teenage years, he left his homeland for Europe where he went to school as a foreign exchange student. After meeting his future wife, he decided to stay in Germany and was probably content to spend the rest of his life working as a mechanic . . . only fate had slightly different plans for Mr. Bansah.

As it turns out, Cephas has royal blood coursing through his veins. His grandfather was king of the Hohoe area of southeastern Ghana, but after he passed away in the late ’80s, there was some dispute about who should take his place. Normally, Bansah’s dad or his older brother would get the job, only there was one problem. Both men were left-handed. Lefties have had it pretty rough, historically speaking, and in Bansah’s tribe, southpaws were considered unclean and dishonest. So with the elder Bansahs out of the way, the job fell to right-handed Cephas. (The fact he lived in Germany and could use his connections to send supplies back to Ghana probably was a factor as well.) However, Bansah didn’t really want to move back to Africa, so he rules his country from his home in Ludwigshafen. After a long day at work, he speaks to his people via Skype and makes decisions on tribal arguments.

In addition to mediating disputes, Bansah has done quite a bit of good for his 200,000 subjects. He’s supplied his people with water purification equipment, ambulances, generators, and doctors. He visits his empire about six times a year, has helped pay tuition for schoolchildren, and was even responsible for building a much-needed bridge. And yes, King Togbe Ngoryifia Cephas Kosi Bansah even has his own crown and royal golden chains. Sadly, thieves broke into his home last year and made off with the royal jewels, but no crook can keep the right-handed king of Hohoe from effectively ruling his kingdom

 7 The Great American Rainmaker

Charles Hatfield was either a genuine magician or the greatest con man of all time. As a young man in the 1900s, Hatfield worked in his father’s Los Angeles sewing machine company. He was a door-to-door salesman, expecting to take over the family business someday. Only Hatfield had much bigger plans. He spent his free time reading up on shamanic rituals and combing through books like “The Science of Pluviculture.” “Pluviculture” is just a fancy way of saying “rainmaking.”

Loaded with a library full of knowledge, Hatfield started experimenting and soon developed the perfect recipe of 23 mysterious chemicals. With the help of his brother Paul, Hatfield would erect 6-meter-tall (20 ft) towers, climb up to the top, and cook his chemical soup in a cauldron. As the broth evaporated, Charles claimed the chemicals would cause clouds to precipitate, and then . . . cats and dogs would start to fall. Soon, Hatfield was known across America as a genuine rainmaker. He traveled from California to Mississippi, bringing rain to drought-stricken towns everywhere he went. Newspapers praised his name, and desperate people gladly shoveled out thousands upon thousands of dollars for his services. And Hatfield always delivered. Wherever he went, the rain showed up, but critics claimed he was tracking the weather and knew when and where to show up.

Eventually, Hatfield was given the opportunity to silence his haters forever. The city of San Diego was experiencing a horrible drought that was killing crops, wrecking the economy, and jeopardizing an upcoming exposition. Willing to take a gamble, the city council offered Hatfield $10,000 to fill the Lake Morena Reservoir . . . and did they ever get their money’s worth. On January 1, 1916, Charles and Paul built multiple towers and filled multiple cauldrons with their magic broth. And that’s when the heavens broke loose. Winds of up to 100 kilometers per hour (60 mph) tore through the city, gallons of rain fell from the sky, and massive floods wiped away entire houses. Giant waves crashed through the streets, telephone poles collapsed, and somewhere between 20–50 people were drowned.

When the rain was done, and Hatfield showed up to collect his check, the San Diego officials were not pleased, especially since so many citizens were filing millions of dollars in claims. The authorities refused to pay Hatfield his $10,000 . . . unless he took full responsibility for the results of the storm. Infuriated, Charles admitted it was all just a big coincidence and returned to his job as a sewing machine salesman. Eventually, the rainmaker died in 1982, leaving behind an incredibly strange tale that inspired a movie starring Burt Lancaster. No one ever discovered what chemicals Hatfield used in his rainmaking recipe.

6 Headmaster Of The Icelandic Elf School

As we’ve read before, people in Iceland take elves very seriously. According to a poll conducted in 2006, 56 percent of Icelanders think these pointy-eared creatures might actually exist. Some people keep little elf homes in their gardens in case the sprites need a place to sleep, and a highway construction project was once held up thanks to activists worried the roads might disturb elf habitats.

One such elf aficionado is Magnus Skarphedinsson. He’s spent over 30 years interviewing hundreds of people who’ve experienced close encounters of the elfin kind. One witness claims a rock outside his farm transformed into a magical church, complete with a handsome priest. Another alleged an elf stole her scissors only to return them a week later. As for Skarphedinsson, he’s never actually seen an elf himself but claims he can tell the difference between all 13 species, to say nothing of gnomes, trolls, and fairies.

Fortunately, Skarphedinsson wants to share his knowledge with the world. That’s why he opened an elf school in Iceland’s capital of Reykjavik. Located on Sidumuli Street—for any interested travelers or natives–—Skarphedinsson’s classroom is full of mystical books, fiber-optic plants, and stereotypical elf statues which, according to the headmaster himself, don’t actually look anything like real elves. Classes start at three in the afternoon every Friday and generally last around three or four hours. Students learn about how elves spend their time fishing and farming, are pretty good at predicting the future, and once warned mankind about the differences between good and evil. In addition to lecturing about the mysterious world of the Hidden People, Skarphedinsson hands out study books and diplomas if you pass the course.

Of course, you’re probably wondering why Skarphedinsson believes in elves if he’s never actually seen one. Believe it or not, this actually troubled the headmaster himself, and he asked a clairvoyant friend what was going on. Well, according to the psychic, all the elves agreed to never reveal themselves to Skarphedinsson because he’d probably ask them too many questions.

5 The Real-Life Willy Wonka

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He doesn’t enslave green-haired dwarves or drown children in chocolate rivers, but those details aside, Charlie Harry Francis is essentially the real-life Willy Wonka, complete with top hat. Only instead of candy, Francis specializes in ice cream. Francis is the mad genius behind Lick Me I’m Delicious, possibly the most magical ice cream company on the planet. The flavors Francis churns out make Ben & Jerry’s look like McDonald’s. If you can think of a flavor, Charlie can conjure it up. He’s created ice cream that tastes like roast beef, cheddar cheese, and brussels sprouts, but that’s just scratching the surface of his culinary craziness.

One of his wildest treats is the ice cream that glows in the dark. The secret ingredient is calcium-activated proteins extracted from bioluminescent jellyfish. When you lick the ice cream, it lights up in the dark, like some sort of deep-sea sorbet. As you might expect, it’s pretty pricey, with one scoop costing $225.22, but this is nothing compared to his most infamous concoction . . . “The Arousal.” This adult dessert was commissioned by an anonymous celebrity who seems to have had a little bit of trouble in the bedroom. Each scoop of “The Arousal” comes with 25 milligrams of Viagra and tastes just like champagne. Originally, Francis wanted this edgy ice cream to taste like oysters, only when he actually tried it out, it was reportedly quite disgusting.

Francis claims he’s currently working on the world’s hottest ice cream. The idea is to create a scoop that’s served at 54 degrees Celsius (129 °F) while on fire and full of chillies that will absolutely murder your taste buds. Whether it’s possible (or whether he’s joking) remains to be seen, but if there’s anyone who can do it, it’s the Edible Inventor.

After all, he’s the guy responsible for the nitro ice cream buggy, an icy cold carriage that uses a nitrogen injection system to create instant ice cream. He’s also assembled an edible mist machine that produces flavorful fog. Stick out your tongue, and you might taste apple pie, chocolate cookies, or even lemon meringue. A few of his other amazing inventions include an ice cream pottery wheel, an instant lollipop maker, and a washing machine that makes chicken soup. Hopefully, one day Mr. Francis will launch a golden ticket contest, because we really want to take a tour through his factor.

4 The Warrior Woman Of Asgarda

Back in the days of ancient Greece, you didn’t want to screw around with the Amazons, especially if you were a dude. These female fighters were said to cut off their breasts so they could fire arrows with more accuracy and supposedly castrated their male children. Long thought to be a myth, recent archaeological discoveries indicate the Amazons might’ve actually existed outside the pages of Greek mythology. But according to Katerina Tarnouska, they’re still around today.

Tarnouska is a Ukrainian preschool teacher, but that’s just her side job. Her real mission is to train a new generation of warrior women, and she’s more than equipped for the task. Tarnouska is a kickboxing world champion and—according to her—a descendant of the Amazons. She believes the Amazons once resided in the Ukraine and says their spirit lives on in modern-day Ukrainian women. Hoping to show other females the path to Amazon enlightenment, she’s opened a training camp in a valley near the Carpathian Mountains, where women spend their summers studying martial arts.

The women call themselves the Asgarda, and since 2002, over 1,000 women have trained under Tarnouska’s tutelage. Each day starts off with an early morning run, yoga, and a bath in a nearby stream. Afterward, Tarnouska lectures the girls on subjects like Ukrainian history and the importance of females in society. Of course, the highlight of the day is martial arts practice. Their fighting style is based on the traditional Hopak dance and employs all sorts of weapons like swords, nunchakus, and scythes. According to Tarnouska, it’s the only martial arts developed specifically for women.

However, while these ladies could kick your head off your shoulders, there’s one significant difference between the Asgarda and the Amazons. Tarnouska and her band don’t actually hate men. In fact, the Asgarda are all about finding a “warrior man,” getting married, and making warrior babies. Tarnouska believes mothering a generation of tough Ukrainians is the key to saving her country. Of course, she thinks women should pursue a career if they want, but after they find fulfillment, they should find a husband and settle down. It’s an odd philosophy for someone who claims the title of “Amazon” . . . but we wouldn’t say that to her face.

3 The Dollmaker Of Nagoro

Once upon a time, the Japanese town of Nagoro was a thriving little community, but as the years went by, more and more people disappeared, leaving the village for bigger cities and better jobs. Soon, Nagoro was nothing more than a ghost town, home to just 35 lonely souls. If you visited the town today, you’d find empty homes, deserted streets, and an abandoned school.

And hundreds of life-size dolls.

The dolls lean against houses and sit on park benches. Some are busy plowing fields, while other spend their time fishing. A few wear business suits, others are dressed like construction workers, but almost all of them stare at the world through black button eyes, like something out of a Neil Gaiman novel.

Where did these dolls come from, and why are they there? Well, you should probably ask Ayano Tsukimi. She was born in Nagoro, and like many of her neighbors, she eventually packed her bags and moved to Osaka. However, after years away from home, she finally went back to care for her elderly father. When she returned to Nagoro, Tsukimi tried her hand at gardening and decided to create a life-size scarecrow that resembled her dad. And that’s when Tsukimi started making dolls in earnest. Inspired by the scarecrow, she wanted to sew one doll for every person who’d left the village or passed away. Today, there are around 350 dolls in Nagoro, some perched in trees, others huddled together outside shops, and some sitting at their desks in the creepiest schoolroom in the world.

However, Tsukimi doesn’t see her dolls as eerie. When she talks about her uncanny creations, her voice is actually full of nostalgia, because these aren’t just dolls. They’re memories. “That old lady used to come and chat and drink tea,” she says, describing one of her button-eyed neighbors. “That old man used to love to drink sake and tell stories. It reminds me of the old times, when they were still alive and well.”

2 The Man Who Grows Grapes With Magic

Nicolas Joly is not your ordinary vintner. Located in Savennieres, a commune nestled in France’s Loire Valley, Joly’s vineyard produces some of the greatest white wine in the world. Only Joly’s methods for producing top-notch alcohol are a little . . . unusual. This French winemaker—who actually prefers to be called a “nature assistant“—doesn’t rely on modern methods. Instead, Joly uses magic.

Before he was interested in grapes, Joly was an investment banker in New York and London. However, in 1977, he grew tired of the financial game, returned to his parents’ vineyard in France, and took over the family business. Only Joly planned on shaking things up a bit. After reading a book by Rudolf Steiner, a 19th-century philosopher who blended science and spirituality, Joly was inspired to practice biodynamic farming. Basically, biodynamics eschews modern agricultural techniques in favor of harnessing cosmic forces. For example, Joly times his plantings in accordance with the Sun, Moon, and planets. He also puts a lot of thought into making the best manure possible. That’s why he stuffs cow horns full of cow dung and buries the bones during the winter. While they’re under the ground, the horns absorb the “life force” from the Sun, which turns the dung into awesome fertilizer.

Joly also relies on other special preparations—like oak bark, chamomile, and dandelion—to soak up forces emanating from other planets. Similar to the cow dung, Joly puts these preparations in various animal body parts (chamomile goes inside cow intestines, oak inside a sheep’s skull) and buries them across his property. Of course, all these preparations are mixed with water beforehand and spun in a massive machine, a process that dynamizes his mixtures by allowing the physical world to interact with the world of “energies.” Once the wine is bottled, Joly plays music to his alcohol, and if he’s like most other biodynamic farmers, chances are good his cellar is free of metals. Proponents of biodynamics believe that metal causes electric pollution, and that’ll spoil the wine. Sure, it sounds weird, but Joly doesn’t care if you think he’s crazy. And since his wines are generally considered the best of their kind, he must be doing something right.

1 The Man At The Center Of The World

Jacques-Andre Istel has talked to a dragon, lives at the center of the world, and has built his very own pyramid. If that doesn’t sound like someone ripped out of a fantasy novel, then we don’t know what does. Istel was born in Paris in 1929, but when the Nazis rolled into town, his family fled to America. Istel eventually became a stock analyst, but soon left Wall Street to open a series of skydiving schools. But while parachutes were his passion, his dream was to build a town. In the 1980s, Istel sold his skydiving business and moved out to California, where he’d purchased 2,600 acres in the middle of the desert. The Frenchman christened his little empire “Felicity” and soon declared his town was the center of the world. Only Istel wanted the government to recognize his claim, so he devised a truly wacky scheme.

Hoping to sway the county board of supervisors, Istel wrote his very own children’s book titled Coe: The Good Dragon at the Center of the World, a story about a dragon who winds up in Felicity and meets Istel himself. Next, he donned a tuxedo, hired several high school trumpeters to announce his presence, and showed up in front of the council, claiming he was the “ambassador of all good dragons.” Armed with the book, Istel implored the council to declare Felicity the center of the world . . . which they did.

Next, the Frenchman built a 21-story pyramid to mark the middle of the globe. In addition to the pyramid, he elected himself mayor of Felicity, built 12 apartments for anyone who wanted to live in his town, and erected a little white chapel atop a man-made hill, even though he’s not religious. He constructed a spiral staircase that leads to nowhere, a sundial that looks like Michelangelo’s Arm of God, and even opened a post office. To mark the occasion, he asked a Chinese diplomat to give a speech in Mandarin.

Of course, nothing compares to his “history of the world.” Located in the center of Felicity are lines of granite panels, each anchored 1 meter (3 ft) into the ground so they’ll stand for 4,000 years. Istel has decorated these monuments with an eclectic collection of historical moments. There are images of Vincent Van Gogh paintings, Sandra Day O’Connor, and inventions like the safety pin. He’s recorded details about Viking funeral rites, cooking instructions from Julia Child, and 19th-century political cartoons. And every panel is complete with long passages of explanation, explaining the history of the world for curious visitors who’ll visit Felicity thousands of years in the future.

 

Publisher: Nolan Moore

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10 Amazing Coincidences Involving Long-Lost Family Members

For some people, the limbs of their family tree are shrouded in mystery. Adopted children may never know their biological parents. Children separated at birth may never even know they have a sibling. These 10 stories are about people who never knew they had a long-lost relative, only to find them again under extraordinary circumstances.

10  Steve Flaig And Christine Tallady

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On October 5, 1985, Christine Tallady gave birth to a boy whom she planned to give up, since she wasn’t ready to be a single mother at that time in her life. Years later, she would get married and have two more children, but she never forgot about that first little baby boy.

When the boy was adopted, he was given the name Steve Flaig. When Flaig turned 18, he began looking for his birth mother, who had left the adoption records open in case the child ever wanted to contact her. However, he couldn’t find any record her, and his life, as lives tend to do, continued on. When he was 20, he started working at a Lowe’s in Grand Rapids, Michigan, as a delivery truck driver.

In October 2007, Flaig made a crucial realization. While searching for his mother over the past four years, he had been spelling her name wrong. He had been writing “Talladay” instead of “Tallady.” When he searched her name with the correct spelling, he found out that Christine Tallady lived close to him and even closer to the Lowe’s where he worked. So he went into work and asked his boss if he knew a Christine Tallady. His boss responded that yes, he knew who that was. It was Chris, the head cashier who had been hired at the same store a few months earlier. Flaig had only known her in passing.

For the next two months, Flaig was unsure what to do. So in December, just before Christmas, he went to the adoption agency and asked for some help. A worker there placed a call to Christine saying that her adopted son wanted to get a hold of her, and would she mind? Christine agreed to the meeting and was told that her son was Steve Flaig, the delivery truck driver at the Lowe’s where she worked.

The story made national headlines, and Flaig and Tallady appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Ellen sent them, along with Tallady’s husband and her two children, on a Caribbean cruise.

9  Jordan Dickerson And Robin Jeter

Jordan Dickerson was adopted at three months and grew up in Washington, DC. In 2012, she was 17 and joined the track team for the first time. At a track meet in January 2013, Dickerson’s friends noticed that there was another young woman from a different school who looked just like her. One of Dickerson’s friends said that she knew who the girl was and that her name was Robin Jeter. Upon hearing the name, Dickerson burst into tears—the name of her biological family was Jeter.

Eventually, the girls talked at the meet and exchanged phone numbers. Later that night, they spoke on the phone and Dickerson told Jeter that she was her sister who had been adopted when she was three months old. Jeter, who is about nine months older than Dickerson, grew up in foster care in DC. Jeter wasn’t aware that she had a sister, only that she had a brother.

Since meeting, Dickerson and Jeter have grown closer and have spent a lot of time catching up. On Mother’s Day 2013, Dickerson met her biological mother for the first time.

 8  Duncan Cumming And Ron Cole1- cumming and cole
In the early 1940s, a woman living in Ottawa, Canada, gave birth to two sons, both of whom were taken into the custody of the Children’s Aid Society. One of the boys was adopted and given the name Ron Cole. Cole grew up in Ottawa, but eventually moved west to be a farmer. In his forties, he started looking for his biological mother. He learned that his mother had died, but in the process he found out that he had a brother and a sister.For over 25 years, Cole searched for his family. As part of his search, he contacted a volunteer organization called Parent Finders Ottawa, and they spent years piecing together information on Cole’s biological siblings. Then, in 2013, Cole received a call from Parent Finders. They said they had found out the identity of his brother, a man named Duncan Cumming. Surprisingly, Cole recognized Cumming’s name: They’d gone to grade school together in Ottawa and had lived five blocks away from each other. The two didn’t look similar, so no one ever thought they might be related. Cole found Cumming’s contact information and found that he was living in Guernsey, an island in the English Channel. Cole called up his old friend and dropped the news: They were long-lost brothers.In 2014, Cumming, who was 72, and Cole, who was 71, met in Ottawa after not seeing each other for almost 60 years. They had lost touch around the ages of 12 or 13. However, both had kept a picture of themselves together on the beach from 60 years earlier. The brothers are currently looking for their sister, Diane Beattie, who was born in Ottawa in 1952.

7  Lizzie Valverde And Katy Olson

Nearly 35 years ago, a troubled teenager living in Tampa, Florida, named Leslie Parker first gave birth to a girl. A year later, she gave birth to another girl, and both were given up for adoption. The elder daughter was named Lizzie Valverde and grew up in New Jersey. The second daughter was named Katy Olson and grew up in Florida and Iowa.Around the age of 30, both of them moved to New York City and enrolled in Columbia University’s School of General Studies. Once enrolled, the two sisters signed up for the same literary reporting class. At the beginning of the class in January 2013, the instructor had the students introduce themselves, and Valverde explained that she was adopted, that she was from Florida, and began to share a few other pieces of personal information with the class. Almost immediately, Olson knew that the woman sitting across the room from her was her sister.

The two long-lost sisters met after class and immediately started sharing their lives with each other. They are close now and have even gotten in contact with their birth mother.

6  Tommy Larkin And Stephen Goosney

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In 1969, an unidentified woman gave birth to a son in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada. A year and a half later, she gave birth to another boy. Both of them were given up for adoption. Tommy Larkin, the elder boy, grew up in Crook’s Harbor, while his younger brother, Stephen Goosney, grew up in Woody Point. Both are small towns in Newfoundland. At some point, Larkin moved to Corner Brook, and while living there he began searching for his biological family.

Finally, in March 2010, Larkin got a breakthrough in the search for his family. He was talking to someone from the adoption agency, and she gave him the name of his brother, Stephen Goosney. She then kept asking if he recognized the name or knew him, but Larkin didn’t. The woman said that if he signed some papers, he could probably meet his brother by the end of the week.

On March 24, 2010, Larkin got a call from the adoption agency giving him the address of his brother’s house. The address of the house was almost directly across the street; Larkin could see Goosney’s house from his own home as he spoke on the phone with the agency. Goosney had moved almost directly across the street seven months prior, but the two brothers had actually lived on the same street for years. Even though they had been neighbors for several months, they never saw much of each other and had never spoken to one another.

Goosney was out of town the day Larkin got the call, but the next day, Larkin kept an eye on Goosney’s house and waited until he could see his car in the driveway. Larkin called him on the phone once he saw that he was home. They met and immediately hit it off. After the story became news, Goosney and Larkin’s two sisters also cont5Adriana And Leandroacted them.

 5  Adriana And Leandro

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Unfortunately, not all family reunions have a particularly normal ending. One such example is Adriana and Leandro from Sao Paulo, Brazil. Adriana had been looking for her mother, Maria, after being abandoned by her 38 years earlier when she was just one year old. In August 2014, Adriana went on the radio program The Time Is Now, which is a show that specializes in reconnecting long-lost relatives. On the show, she talked to her estranged mother, Maria, and Maria mentioned that she’d also had a son, whom she had also abandoned. He was a year younger than Adriana, and his name was Leandro.

The amazing and unfortunate coincidence in this case was that Adriana’s husband of 10 years, with whom she had a daughter, was a man who was a year younger than her and who had a mother named Maria who’d abandoned him. And yes, his name was Leandro. The two siblings had married each other without either of them knowing that they were brother and sister.

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After the revelation, the couple decided to stay together.

4  Gary Nisbet And Randy Joubert

In 2009, 35-year-old Gary Nisbet had been working as a delivery man for a retail bedding company in Waldoboro, Maine, for seven years. In June of that year, he got a new delivery partner named Randy Joubert. The pair had a striking resemblance to each other, and when the employees at the store took notice, the two movers just thought they were being teased. But then customers began asking if they were brothers. Over the next couple months, the two delivery partners got to know each other. They had gone to rival high schools and had lived in towns that neighbored one another in Maine.

Randy had been looking into his own adoption files for years. By the end of the summer, he learned that he did, in fact, have a brother, but the only information the agency could give him about his brother was his date of birth and his first name, which was Gary. After learning the information, Randy and Gary were making deliveries and Randy asked Gary if he was adopted. Gary said that he was. Then, Randy asked if he knew his parents’ names—they were the same as Randy’s. Finally, to confirm everything, Randy asked Gary when his birthday was. This answer sealed the deal, and Randy told Gary that he was his long-lost brother.

Gary was shocked because he didn’t even know he had a brother. The two brothers and their half-sister had been taken away from their parents 35 years earlier.

After the initial attention, a woman named Joanne Campbell from nearby Warren, Maine, showed up at the store where the brothers worked with a birth certificate. It turned out that she was their missing half-sister.

3  Rick Hill And Joe Parker

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In April 2011, Rick Hill, his partner Maureen, and his three children, who lived in Lunenburg, Massachusetts, were on vacation in Hawaii. They weren’t planning on visiting Waikiki Beach, but on April 25, that’s where they found themselves. Also on the beach that day was Joe Parker, who also wasn’t supposed to be there. He was an event planner and had only gone to the beach to book a last-minute surfing lesson for a client.

On the beach, Parker saw Maureen trying to take a picture of the family and offered to take the picture for them so Maureen could be in it. Parker also noticed Hill’s accent and instead of telling the Hills to say “cheese,” he told them to say “Leominster,” which is the town next to Lunenberg where Parker grew up. After taking the picture, Parker explained that he was from Leominster, but had moved to Hawaii. After discovering that they were from the same area, Parker and Hill began dropping names, seeing if they knew anyone in common. Then Parker said “Dickie Halligan,” and Rick Hill knew who that was—his father. Amazingly, it was also Parker’s father. Parker and Hill were half-brothers.

Parker had grown up in foster care, believing Halligan to be his uncle. When he was 21, Parker saw an ad that Halligan put in the paper that said he was looking for him. Parker contacted him and Halligan told him that he was actually his father, not his uncle, and that he had a half-brother. Hill, on the other hand, was raised by his mother and stepfather and knew his father when he was young.

After meeting on the beach, Hill spent some time with his half-brother, and they celebrated Parker’s 38th birthday, which was just days after they met on the beach. They said that if they hadn’t met there on that day, there’s a good chance they would have never met at all.

2  Anais Bordier And Samantha Futerman

Anais Bordier was born in South Korea and was adopted as an infant. She grew up in Paris before moving to London to study fashion. She turned 25 years old in December 2012. One day, her friend posted a screenshot from a YouTube video on Bordier’s Facebook wall, saying that the woman in the image looked just like her. She watched the video, but there were no credits, so she didn’t follow up any further. Months later, Bordier again saw the woman from the video. This time she was in the trailer for the film 21 and Over, and she checked the credits for the film. Her doppelganger was named Samantha Futerman.

So Bordier did some searching and found out that Futerman had been raised in Verona, New Jersey. She also discovered that Futerman had been born in the same town in South Korea and on the exact same day as her. There were enough coincidences that Bordier felt compelled to send Futerman a Facebook friend request.

The two talked and eventually got a DNA test, which confirmed that the girls were actually twin sisters. Neither of them knew the other one existed until Bordier’s friend posted the YouTube screenshot on her wall. They met in London a short time later and discovered that they had the same laugh. They are close, and both girls have met each other’s adopted families. They wrote a book about their experience, with each twin taking turns writing alternating chapters. It’s called Separated @ Birth: A True Love Story of Twin Sisters Reunited. They also produced a documentary about their journey called Twinsters.

1 Zephany Nurse And The Nurse Family

On April 28, 1997, in Cape Town, South Africa, Celeste Nurse gave birth to a baby girl which she and her husband, Morne, named Zephany. Just a few days later, on April 30, an unidentified woman kidnapped the infant while Celeste was asleep. The Nurse family was devastated at losing their newborn, and it wasn’t until 2010 that they began coming to terms with the fact that Zephany was gone and probably never coming back. There was a good chance that she was dead.

But Zephany was alive and well, and closer than they could have imagined. In January 2015, Zephany was a senior in high school when she and her friends noticed that there was a striking similarity between her and a girl who had just started eighth grade. That girl was Cassidy Nurse, Celeste and Morne’s daughter, whom they’d had after Zephany.

Cassidy went home and told her father about the 17-year-old girl who looked just like her. Morne became excited, thinking that this could be his long-lost daughter, so he went and met Zephany at McDonald’s while Zephany and Cassidy were hanging out. After talking to her a few times, he was convinced. He called the police and a DNA test was performed. The results of the DNA test showed that Zephany was indeed the long-lost daughter of the Nurses.

Zephany was taken into a safe house, and the woman who kidnapped her was arrested for the kidnapping. Her identity hasn’t been revealed.

t and immediately hit it off. After the story became news, Goosney and Larkin’s two sisters also contacted them.

Robert Grimminck is a Canadian freelance writer. You can friend him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, or visit his website.

 

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Want to help world hunger just by Clicking

Freerice is an ad-supported, free-to-play website that allows players to donate to charities by playing multiple-choice quiz games. For every question the user answers correctly, 10 grains of rice are donated via the World Food Programme. The available subjects include English vocabulary (the original subject with which the game launched), multiplication tables, pre-algebra, chemical symbols (basic and intermediate), English grammar, SAT, foreign language vocabulary for English speakers (French, German, Italian, Latin, and Spanish), human anatomy, geography (flags of the world, world capitals, country identification, and world landmarks), the identification of famous artwork, literature, quotations, and world hunger. A user’s total score is displayed as a mound of rice and the number of grains.

In its first ten months of operation, Free rice donated over 42 billion grains of rice. One month after the inception of the viral marketing program, users had earned enough points for one billion grains of rice. The United Nation’s World Food Program stated that this amount could feed 50,000 people for one day,[5] since it takes 400 grams or about 19,200 grains of rice to feed one adult for a day.[6] Using this calculation, enough rice was donated in 2008 to feed over 6,000 people daily for each day of that year.[7] Since its inception, as of April 3, 2013, Free rice players had earned sufficient rice for over 10 million meals, assuming 2 meals per day.

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Does Your Business Have…a Monkey Disclaimer?

 

“Basically, it takes hard work to earn a monkey in this business, and some people will earn no monkeys at all.”

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