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If all the salt in the sea were spread evenly over the land, it would be 500 feet thick.

Sweden makes biofuel from dead rabbits.

Nine species have been named after Barack Obama – more than any other US President.

Volkswagen has changed its official language from German to English.

Almost two-thirds of the 33,000 annual gun deaths in America are suicides.

See other: Quite Interesting Facts

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Conversations: Conservatism and Society


Helena
The United States is unique among wealthy democracies in its level of religious adherence; it is also uniquely beleaguered by high rates of homicide, abortion, teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease, and infant mortality.

Sappho
Sadly, the same comparison holds true within the United States itself: Southern and Midwestern states, characterized by the highest levels of religious literalism, are especially plagued by the above indicators of societal dysfunction, while the comparatively secular states of the Northeast conform to European norms.

Lysandra
Hang on, political party affiliation in the United States is not a perfect indicator of religiosity! Continue reading

Conversations: Genocide and Dogma


Helena
Consider the Holocaust: centuries before the mid 20th century, Christian Europeans had viewed the Jews as the worst species of heretics and attributed every societal ill to their continued presence among the faithful. In the 1930’s and 1940’s, while the hatred of Jews in Germany expressed itself in a predominately secular way, its roots were religious, and the explicitly religious demonization of the Jews of Europe continued. The anti-Semitism that built the Nazi death camps was a direct inheritance from medieval Christianity.

Sappho
Examples aplenty, the Vatican itself perpetuated the blood libel in its newspapers as late as 1914. And both Catholic and Protestant churches have a shameful record of complicity with the Nazi genocide.

Galene
Hang on, what is this so-called blood libel? Continue reading

Geographic Illiteracy


Over a decade ago, National Geographic organised a global survey to measure the developed world’s geographic literacy.[1]

On average, fewer than 25 percent of young people worldwide could locate Israel on the map. Only about 20 percent could identify international news hotspots like Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq.

‘Geographically Illiterate: Someone who sucks at geography.’ – Urban Dictionary

More recent research shows no improvement. When the Russian Federation invaded the Ukraine in 2014, the Washington Post conducted a survey which showed that only 16% of Americans was able to locate the Black Sea nation on a map.[2]

More importantly, it was found that this lack of geographic knowledge is related to preferences and decision-making: namely, the farther their guesses were from Ukraine’s actual location, the more they wanted the U.S. to intervene with military force.

Whatever your views on this political squabble, the following conclusion is inevitable: whether people are in possession of a certain geographic fact determines their opinion in a certain way.

As for geography, knowledge of the location of places and the physical and cultural characteristics of those places are a requirement to function more effectively in an increasingly interdependent world.

On top of that, knowledge of the geography of past times and how geography has played an important role in the evolution of a society, their ideas, and its environment are not only prerequisites for historical knowledge, but also necessary for making sound decisions in the present.[3]

“If geography is prose, maps are iconography.” – Lennart Meri

These findings only underline the importance of teaching Geography. However, as always with formal education, it does not tell the whole story: besides teaching Geography as a core subject on the national curriculum, National Geographic researchers found that geographic knowledge also increases through travel and language proficiency.

In the highest-scoring countries of the National Geographic Survey (Sweden, Germany and Italy) at least 70 percent of the young adults had travelled internationally in the last three years, and the majority spoke more than one language (at the time, no less than 92 percent of young people in Sweden).

In the U.S. and Mexico only about 20 percent of young people had travelled abroad during the same period and the majority spoke only one language.

“All I ever wanted was a world without maps.” – Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient

‘Our daily lives are interwoven with geography. Each of us lives in a unique place and in constant interaction with our surroundings. Geographic knowledge and skills are essential for us to understand the activities and patterns of our lives and the lives of others. We move from place to place, aided by transportation and navigation systems. We communicate using global networks of computers and satellites. We strive to live in healthy physical and social environments. We work to avoid the negative consequences of exposure to natural and technological hazards. We search for interesting destinations and vacations. We observe and learn about our own culture and other cultures around the world. We want to lead satisfying lives and contribute to the welfare of our communities. Geographic knowledge and understanding is fundamental to reaching our goals, and in attaining a higher quality of life.’
Why Geography Is Important (2005), Grosvenor Centre of Education


[1] The National Geographic–Roper 2002 Global Geographic Literacy Survey polled more than 3,000 18- to 24-year-olds in Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Sweden and the United States.
According to Robert Pastor, professor of International Relations at American University, in Washington, D.C., “The survey demonstrates the geographic illiteracy of the United States.”
About 11 percent of young citizens of the U.S. couldn’t even locate the U.S. on a map. The Pacific Ocean’s location was a mystery to 29 percent; Japan, to 58 percent; France, to 65 percent; and the United Kingdom, to 69 percent. Less than 15 percent could locate neither Israel nor Iraq.
“War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography.” – Ambrose Bierce

[2] From March 28 to 31, 2014, The Washington Post asked a national sample of 2,066 Americans what action they wanted the U.S. to take in Ukraine, but with a twist: in addition to measuring standard demographic characteristics and general foreign policy attitudes, they also asked the survey respondents to locate Ukraine on a map as part of a larger, ongoing project to study foreign policy knowledge. The newspaper wanted to see where Americans think Ukraine is and to learn if this knowledge (or lack thereof) is related to their foreign policy views. The survey also found that 5 out of 2,066 Americans thought the Ukraine was located in the U.S. corn belt.

[3] The importance of geographic knowledge is of paramount importance, not only for a better understanding of historical and present geopolitical issues, but also as a scientific measuring device to help humans to make better decisions about the environment. Consider the intellectual poverty of young people who are ignorant of:

  • The basic physical systems that affect everyday life (e.g. earth-sun relationships, water cycles, wind and ocean currents).
  • Relationships between the physical environment and society.
  • How the processes of human and physical systems have arranged and sometimes changed the surface of the Earth – and still do.
  • The fact that the Earth is the homeland of humankind and knowledge of that planet provides insight for wise management decisions about how the planet’s resources should be used.

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In the summer of 2013, male train drivers in Sweden circumvented a ban on shorts by wearing skirts to work in hot weather. Because of Swedish anti-sexist laws, men and women are allowed to wear the same clothes to work.

An American could become President of the United States by winning the majority of the votes in just 11 U.S. States.

The tomato has been brought back from the verge of extinction at least three times since it was first domesticated.

The word acalculia describes the inability to do sums.

Hummingbirds, bees and ants spend 80% of their day doing absolutely nothing.

See other: Quite Interesting Facts

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In 40 US States, the highest paid public employee is the States’ leading college football or basketball head coach.

The Archbishop of Manila from 1974-2003 was called Cardinal Sin.

In 2012, the Swedish town Soderhamn paid people to look for work in Norway in an attempt to reduce soaring youth unemployment.

Elephants are the only mammals that can’t jump.

By twelfth grade, 65% of high school students will have engaged in sexual intercourse, and one in five sexually active teens will have had four or more sexual partners. Please note, according research published in 2012 by the non-profit Guttmacher Institute, all sex education delays teen sex.

See other: Quite Interesting Facts

Religiosity and Poverty


In 2006, 2007, and 2008, the Gallup institute asked representative samples in 143 countries and territories whether religion was an important part of their daily lives. Across all populations, the median proportion of residents who said religion is important in their daily lives is 82%. Americans fall well below this midpoint, at 65%.

“Owners of dogs will have noticed that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they will think you are god. Whereas owners of cats are compelled to realize that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they draw the conclusion that they are gods.” ― Christopher Hitchens, The Portable Atheist

Out of the results, one interesting conclusion can be reached, namely: a population’s religiosity level is strongly related to its average standard of living. In fact, Gallup’s World Poll indicates that 8 of the 11 countries in which almost all residents (at least 98%) say religion is important in their daily lives are poorer nations in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. As a general rule, the poorer and underdeveloped a nation, the more religious its inhabitants are likely to be.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the 10 least religious countries studied include several with the world’s highest living standards, including Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Hong Kong, and Japan.

Social scientists have noted that one thing that makes Americans distinctive is our high level of religiosity relative to other rich-world populations. Among 27 countries commonly seen as part of the developed world, the median proportion of those who say religion is important in their daily lives is just 38%. From this perspective, the fact that two-thirds of Americans respond with 65% makes them look extremely devout in relation to their GDP.

What’s more, as Gallup’s Frank Newport recently pointed out, there is wide regional variation in religiosity across the 50 American states. The proportion of those who say religion is important in their daily lives is highest in Mississippi, at 85% – a figure that is slightly higher than the worldwide median (among all countries, rich and poor). Two others, Alabama (82%) and South Carolina (80%) are on par with the worldwide median.

“There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

Lining up these percentages with those on our worldwide list allows us to match residents of the most religious states to the global populations with which they are similar in terms of religiosity. The results produce some interesting comparisons: Alabamians, for example, are about as likely as Iranians to say religion is an important part or their lives. And ironically, Georgians in the United States are about as religious as the Georgians of the Caucasus.

A History of Prostitution‏


Contrary to the old cliché, prostitution is almost certainly not the world’s oldest profession – that would be hunting and gathering, perhaps followed by subsistence farming – but it has been found in nearly every civilization on Earth stretching back throughout all recorded human history. We can say with some confidence that wherever there have been money, goods, or services to be bartered, somebody has bartered them for sex.

18th Century BCE: Hammurabi refers to prostitution

The Babylonian Code of Hammurabi includes provisions to protect the inheritance rights of prostitutes, the only category of women (except for widows) who had no male providers:

‘If a devoted woman or a prostitute to whom her father has given a dowry and a deed therefore […] then her father die, then her brothers shall hold her field and garden, and give her corn, oil, and milk according to her portion […].’

‘If a sister of a god, or a prostitute, receive a gift from her father, and a deed in which it has been explicitly stated that she may dispose of it as she pleases […] then she may leave her property to whomsoever she pleases.’

6th Century BCE: Solon establishes state-funded brothels

Louis-Léopold Boilly (1761–1845).

Woman refusing money offered by a gentleman who has assumed she is a prostitute

Greek literature refers to three classes of prostitutes: pornai, or slave prostitutes; freeborn street prostitutes; and hetaera, educated prostitute-entertainers who enjoyed a level of social influence that was denied to nearly all non-prostitute women. Pornai and street prostitutes, appealing to a male clientele, could be either female or male. Hetaera were always female.

According to tradition, the Athenian statesman Solon established government-supported brothels in high-traffic urban areas of Greece – brothels staffed with inexpensive pornai that all men, regardless of income level, could afford to hire.

Prostitution would remain legal throughout the Greek and Roman periods, though later, Christian Roman emperors strongly discouraged it.

Circa 590: Reccared I bans prostitution

The newly-converted Reccared I, Visigoth King of Spain, banned prostitution as part of an effort to bring his country into alignment with Christian ideology. There was no punishment for men who hired or exploited prostitutes, but women found guilty of selling sexual favors were whipped 300 times and exiled, which in many cases would have been tantamount to a death sentence.

1161: King Henry II regulates but does not ban prostitution

In the medieval era, prostitution was accepted as a fact of life in most major cities. King Henry II discouraged yet permitted it, though he mandated that prostitutes must be single and ordered weekly inspections of London’s infamous brothels to ensure that other laws were not being broken.

1358: Italy embraces prostitution

In 1358, the Great Council of Venice declared prostitution to be:

‘Absolutely indispensable to the world.’

Furthermore, government-funded brothels were established in major Italian cities throughout the 14th and 15th centuries.

1586: Pope Sixtus V mandates death penalty for prostitution

German prostitute, Erotikakademie Berlin

German prostitute, Berlin

Penalties for prostitution (ranging from maiming to execution) were technically in place in many European states, but generally went unenforced. The newly-elected Pope Sixtus V grew frustrated and decided on a more direct approach, ordering that all women who participate in prostitution should be put to death. There is no evidence that his order was actually carried out on any large scale by Catholic nations of the period.

1802: France establishes bureau of morals

Following the French Revolution, the government replaced the traditional bans on prostitution with a new Bureau of Morals – first in Paris, and then throughout the country. The new agency was essentially a police force responsible for monitoring houses of prostitution in order to ensure that they complied with the law, and did not become centers of criminal activity. The agency operated continuously for over a century before it was abolished.

1932: Forced prostitution in Japan

“The women cried out, but it didn’t matter to us whether the women lived or died. We were the emperor’s soldiers. Whether in military brothels or in the villages, we raped without reluctance.”
– Yasuji Kaneko, Japanese WWII veteran

During World War II, the Japanese government abducted between 80,000 and 300,000 women and girls from Japanese-occupied territories and forced them to serve in so-called comfort battalions, militarized brothels that were created to serve Japanese soldiers.

To this day, the Japanese government has denied responsibility and refused to issue an official apology or pay restitution.

1956: India almost bans sex trafficking

Although the Immoral Traffic Suppression Act (SITA) theoretically banned commercialized sex trade in 1956, Indian anti-prostitution laws are generally enforced, and have traditionally been enforced, as public order statutes. As long as prostitution is restricted to certain areas however, it is generally tolerated.

1971: Nevada permits brothels

However Nevada State politicians have consistently held the position that they personally oppose legalized prostitution, they do not believe that it should be banned at the state level. Subsequently, some counties ban brothels and some allow them to operate legally. At the time of writing, it is the only US state where prostitution is legal.

1999: Sweden takes a feminist approach

Although anti-prostitution laws have historically focused on the arrest and punishment of prostitutes themselves, the Swedish government attempted a new approach in 1999. Classifying prostitution as a form of violence against women, Sweden offered a general amnesty to prostitutes and initiated new programs designed to help them transition into other lines of work.