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jueves, noviembre 24

'Ebola is man-made', and other crazy conspiracy theories

(A text writen by Will Storr at The Daily Telegraph on 8th November, 2014)

Is Obama behind the Ebola outbreak? Are planes poisoning us? Is Lady Gaga part of an evil Illuminati plot? The five conspiracy theories you won't believe people believe.

The best conspiracy theories are like enchanting mazes of logic whose thresholds, once crossed,
are hard to return from. As ludicrous as they can appear from a distance, the closer you get, the
stronger their gravity and the greater the danger of being sucked in. How else to describe the
extraordinary rebirth of David Icke? Best known to some as the former BBC sports presenter who
appeared on Wogan in a turquoise tracksuit implying he might be the son of God, to the post-Twin
Towers generation he’s the visionary master of conspiracy, performing his unscripted 10-hour
lecture about the secret forces that rule the world to sell-out crowds at Wembley Arena.

A 2011 BBC poll found that 14 per cent of Britons believed 9/11 was an inside job. Just as
conspiracy websites are flourishing, so are those dedicated to undermining them, such as Snopes,
The Skeptic’s Dictionary and Skeptoid. The number one debunking podcast on iTunes, The
Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe, claims a weekly listenership of 120,000 and tens of millions of
downloads since its 2005 launch.

Icke often describes his work as “dot connecting”. But connecting dots is precisely how all sorts of mistakes about reality arise. “Our brains evolved to spot patterns in the environment and weave
them into coherent stories,” says psychologist and conspiracy theory expert Dr Rob Brotherton.
“We’re all conspiracy theorists because of the way our minds work. It’s how we make sense of the
world. But it’s easy to connect dots that shouldn’t be connected.”

So humans are rampant dodgy dot connectors, and they also suffer from an array of biases that
make them susceptible to faulty belief. “We’re biased towards seeing intentions in the world, to
think things were done deliberately instead of being chaotic,” says Dr Brotherton.

“There’s also a proportionality bias, so we want to think that when something big happens in the
world it has a big explanation. In the case of JFK, you don’t want to believe some guy you’ve never
heard of killed the most important man in the world and changed the course of history. Another is
confirmation bias – when we get an idea in our head it’s very easy to find evidence that seems to
support it. It takes a very unusual mind to de-convince itself. We’re made to believe.”

And some of the theories out there at the moment really take some believing. Here are five:

1. The Ebola virus is an escaped bioweapon
Some believe the Ebola outbreak started with sinister armed men poisoning wells, a successful
attempt at mass murder that led to arrests in Liberia. Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam,
reckons the virus has been designed to affect only black people. “If you are black or brown, you are
being selected for destruction.”

Others believe it’s an escaped military bioweapon. This theory’s chief proponent is Prof Francis
Boyle, a noted scholar of biowarfare and international law at the University of Illinois. In the US
Prof Boyle literally wrote the rules of biowarfare. He was a member of the government’s Committee
of Military Use of Biotechnology and principal author of the Biological Weapons Anti Terrorism
Act of 1989 which was signed into law by George Bush Snr. “This isn’t normal Ebola at all,” he
says. “I believe it’s been genetically modified.”

Boyle points to the existence of US government laboratories in Africa that are creating bioweapons
under the guise of innocently working on cures. “What they tell you is, ‘We can imagine some
exotic disease out there that could be used as a biological weapon, so therefore we have to look into
it. The first step is to weaponise the disease so we can develop a vaccine for it.’ ” What diseases are
they working on? “Every type of biowarfare agent you can possibly imagine, including dengue
fever and Ebola.”

One of these laboratories, says Boyle, is in Kenema, Sierra Leone. “Kenema is the absolute
epicentre of the outbreak. Something happened there. It could have been an accident in the lab or
they might have been testing an experimental vaccine [on the population] using live genetically
modified Ebola and calling it something else.” The proof, for Boyle, that this is a modified form of
Ebola is in both the speed of its spread and the number it is killing. “In the other outbreaks it’s a 50
per cent fatality rate and it was contained. Right here, we’re dealing with a 70 per cent and it’s not
contained. All the evidence I’ve been able to locate leads me to believe it came out of the Kenema
lab.” How high does the cover-up go? “I think the people at the top know. Probably Obama too.”

Critics of the theory observe that if this was an altered version of the disease, the changes to its
structure would be observable to scientists. However, DNA analysis of samples sourced from 78
individuals affected by the current outbreak was recently published in the journal Science. It found
this subtly different variant likely diverged from central African lineages around 10 years ago
before spreading into west Africa in May. It is, in other words, perfectly natural.

2. Aeroplanes are killing us
We are being sprayed by sinister aeroplanes. We are being poisoned, en masse, from the heavens.
You can tell by looking up. Why is it that some condensation trails, or contrails, left by commercial
craft dissipate after a short amount of time, whereas others remain for hours and expand? And why
is it that these suspected chemical trails, or “chemtrails”, tend to be laid out in rows of the same
direction, as if they’re part of a meticulously planned pattern?

The Chemtrails Project UK is one of hundreds of websites devoted to the popular chemtrails theory.
It confidently asserts the streaks are “highly toxic trails left by jet planes” that “contain high levels
of heavy metals”. Their purpose? It’s a geo-engineering project, perhaps an attempt to control global
warming. Others say they’re brain-numbing chemical agents used to control the population.

Of course, there are sceptics. In October, 41-year-old Chris Bovey rather uncharitably pranked the
believers with a video upload (above) of a plane dumping excess fuel. Despite his admission that it
was nothing sinister it’s been viewed more than 90,000 times. In the US, the Federal Aviation
Administration has politely pointed out that in conditions of high humidity, ice particles form in the condensation trails that aeroplanes make. These tiny dots of ice grow in size as they absorb moisture
from the air around them. Such trails can linger for hours. And the sinister parallel rows of trails?
They tend to point in the direction of an airport…

3. Israel uses spy vultures

In December 2012, in the Sudanese town of Kereinek, officials arrested a vulture for spying. The
evidence? Electronic equipment attached to its leg that, they suspected, enabled it to broadcast
images back to its Israeli HQ. Had the Mossad begun recruiting agents from the vulturine world,
eager to capitalise on their ability to fly 375 miles a day in virtual silence? Or was the truth, as
Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority insisted, that they were merely tracking the birds with GPS for
scientific study?

It wouldn’t be the last time such suspicions were raised. In July 2013 Turkish authorities detained a
mysterious kestrel that was tagged “24311 Tel Avivunia Israel”. After X-rays found no evidence of
listening devices on its body, the kestrel was declared not guilty. A month later, the Egyptians
arrested a stork. In 2010, a Zionist vulture was the centre of an investigation by security forces after
a hunter discovered a tag reading “Tel Aviv University”. The same year, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt,
a run of shark attacks was blamed on Israel. “What is being said about the Mossad throwing the
deadly shark (in the sea) to hit tourism in Egypt is not out of the question, but it needs time to
confirm,” a cautious but not-that-cautious-at-all-really South Sinai Governor, Mohamed Abdel Fadil
Shousha, told local reporters.

4. The Middle Ages never happened
What’s not a secret is that, at some point prior to the 16th century, we all got a bit muddled up with
our timings. The problem was our dates were falling out of sync with the astronomical cycles. Since
around 45BC, we’d been using the simplistic Julian calendar, which gave us a leap year every four
years. By the time the slightly more complex but superior Gregorian calendar was formulated, in
1582, it was reckoned we had “lost” around 10 days. That drift was corrected – we jumped from
October 4 to October 15 – and we carried on anew. But if you do the maths, something strange will
become apparent.

You’ll see that it would have taken 1,257 years for us to accumulate those 10 days of error. And if
you subtract those 1,257 years from the year in which we changed to the new calendar, you’ll find
yourself not in 45BC, when we began using the old calendar and the drifting began, but AD 325.
We have, it seems, lost more than three centuries.

Researchers such as German scholars Heribert Illig and Dr Hans-Ulrich Niemitz believe it’s not
2014, right now, but 1717. Postulating a complex conspiracy between Byzantine Emperor
Constantine VII and his relative Holy Roman Emperor Otto III, who they say wanted the records to falsely show that he was reigning at the symbolic fall of the first millennium, they’ve concluded that
the Middle Ages never happened. After all, wouldn’t this explain why, following the fall of the
Roman Empire, nobody in the west really did anything? For 300 years, there weren’t really any
wars or works of literature or technological advances. Were we asleep? Stoned? Tying our
shoelaces? Or were the Dark Ages dark because they didn’t actually exist?

Critics of what’s known as the “phantom time hypothesis” claim the theory’s grand error is that the
correction, back in 1582, wasn’t actually for the purposes of correcting for 10 days. Rather, the
intention was to put Easter back in the right place. It was the Council of Nicea that originally
decided where Easter should be and its position was set in 325BC – which, boringly, means the
maths add up.

5. Lady Gaga is an Illuminati puppet
The splendid irony about the shadowy group of dukes, diplomats and intellectuals known as the
Illuminati is that their mission was, in part, to counter superstition. Founded in 18th-century
Bavaria, they existed for less than a decade, fading into the fog following an order of abolishment
for all secret societies by the Prince Elector, Charles Theodore. Or did they? Could it be that they
actually went underground, as some suspected at the time, and conspired to cause the French
Revolution? Worse, does the Illuminati still exist? Is it silently manipulating the minds of the young
through the seductions of modern pop music?

“Mass media conducts a large-scale mind-control project, which starts at birth with Disney movies
and continues with Hollywood flicks and music videos,” says concerned website The Vigilant
Citizen. The site goes on to allege that pop singer Lady Gaga is an “Illuminati Puppet”. “Her
vacuous, robotic and slightly degenerate persona embodies all the ‘symptoms’ of a mind-control

The evidence? You’ve only got to look at her name: “Gaga refers to absent-mindedness… this state of mind is achieved after successful mind control.” And her logo: “A headless female body with a
bolt of lightning going through her and exiting her genitalia… implies that her thoughtless body has
been ‘charged’ with a force that gives it life.” And what about that famous Illuminati symbol known
as the All Seeing Eye? “You only need to look at a couple of Lady Gaga pictures or videos to notice
that she is constantly hiding one of her eyes.” And her first appearance in her tour video? “Lady G
is talking in a vaporous and robotic way, as if she was lobotomised, singing about a man who
‘swallowed her brain’… If this is not about mind control, I have no idea what it’s about.”

It’s not only Gaga. Didn’t Rihanna once wear a T-shirt that said “Daughter of the Illuminati?”
Didn’t Beyoncé once wear a pair of shoes that were each decorated with a single eyeball? And what
of her and Jay Z’s child, Blue Ivy? An odd name. Until you realise it’s an acronym for “Born Living
Under Evil, Illuminati’s Very Youngest”.

But what’s the actual mission of these powerful pop puppets? What are the practicalities of the evil
plot they’re engaged in? Alas, such details aren’t entirely clear, and the mysterious “Vigilant
Citizen” failed to respond to the Telegraph’s emails. Hardly surprising, what with us being
mind-warped shills spreading misinformation to the sheeple masses on behalf of our shadowy
Illuminati bosses, who are secretly ruling the world from their lizard kingdom inside the hollow

The Heretics, by Will Storr, is published by Picador, priced £8.99


jueves, noviembre 17

Diez estúpidas maneras de morir por culpa de una autofoto

(Un texto de Álvaro Hernandez en el Confidencial del 4 de diciembre de 2015. Dignos finalistas de los premios Darwin, la verdad.)

Las hay de todos los colores: por culpa de la electricidad, desde las alturas e incluso contra un inodoro. Las muertes provocadas por una autofoto son cada vez más frecuentes y, a la vez, más absurdas.

Tanto es así que, en lo que va de año, la cámara frontal de los smartphones ha provocado más muertes que laspeligrosas mandíbulas de los sanguinarios tiburones. Mientras que los escualos han acabado con la vida de ochopersonas en este 2015, ya han sido doce las que han llegado al fin de sus días por culpa de un autorretrato.En este amplio catálogo de muertes absurdas encontramos multitud de disparatadas situaciones. Cables de altatensión, trenes, cuartos de baño y otros elementos se reúnen en torno al afán de dejar constancia de nuestro pasopor el mundo para provocar las formas más estúpidas de morir.

1.- Posando cerca de unos cables de alta tensión 
A sus 18 años, su manía por conseguir el selfie perfecto llevó a Anna Ursu hasta la estación de la ciudad rumana de Iasi para subir al techo de un tren y hacer desde esa altura una autofoto. Por desgracia, Ursu recibió una descarga de 27.000 voltios al acercarse a los cables de alta tensión del tren y entrar en contacto con ellos. Lo mismo le sucedió a un joven de 21 años de Andújar (Jaén), que rozó una catenaria al subirse a un tren para hacerse un selfi y falleció en el acto.

2.- Abriéndote la cabeza contra el váter
El culmen de las muertes absurdas por culpa de un selfie llega de la mano de Oscar Reyes, un joven que murió intentando recrear su autofoto más original. Colgado literalmente de la puerta del baño, con los pies apoyados en el pomo y una mano sosteniendo el móvil, el joven se resbaló y se golpeó la cabeza contra el inodoro, muriendo desangrado. El más difícil todavía le salió muy caro.

3.- Pegándose un tiro
Posar para un selfie con una pistola apuntando a tu sien no es una buena idea, sobre todo si accionas el gatillo para darle más realismo al asunto. Ya han sido varios los casos en que estas fotos han terminado con dos disparos: el fotográfico y el del arma. Si bien hay quien ha sobrevivido (al usar una pistola que dispara pelotas de goma), un joven mexicano acabó con su vida al dispararse a sí mismo en la cabeza.

4.- Convirtiendo el 'paloselfie' en un pararrayos
El paloselfie se ha convertido en el peor enemigo para muchos: prohibido en monumentos, museos y estadios y luchando contra un duro competidor como el panoselfie, el dichoso instrumento para hacer autofotos ha llegado a provocar alguna muerte. Es el caso del hombre que falleció en el parque Brecon Beacons, al sur de Gales, por utilizar el paloselfi en plena tormenta. El invento atrajo un rayo y su propietario acabó electrocutado.

5.- Arrollado por un tren
En realidad, darle uso a la cámara frontal de un móvil no tiene nada de malo. Sin embargo, en determinados lugares no es lo más aconsejable. Por ejemplo, en las vías del ferrocarril. Con solo 19 años, Varsha Alva no tuvo mejor idea que hacerse un selfie junto a las vías mientras volvía de una fiesta en Puttur (India). Sus cálculos a la hora de disparar la foto no fueron acertados y murió atropellada por un tren.

6.- Ahogado
El agua y las autofotos tampoco son buenos amigos. No porque pueda estropear la cámara de tu móvil de última generación, sino porque al prestar demasiada atención a lo que aparece en la pantalla del smartphone podemos no percatarnos de lo que sucede a orillas del mar. Esto fue lo que le ocurrió a una niña que fue arrastrada por las olas mientras se retrataba en una playa peruana. La violencia del agua la empujó e hizo que se golpease en la cabeza con una roca, perdiese el conocimiento y muriese ahogada.
Lo mismo que le ocurrió al bailarín georgiano Guiorgui Mshvenieradze. Pese a su corpulencia y su fortaleza, nada pudo hacer cuando perdió el equilibrio al borde de un embalse mientras intentaba hacer el que sería, a la postre, su último selfie. Cayó ladera abajo y las heridas le impidieron regresar a la orilla.

7.- Cayendo desde un puente
Una de las muertes más clásicas provocadas por un selfie es la que tiene lugar desde las alturas. Desde lo alto de un puente, un noveno piso, un acantilado o un simple balcón han sido ya escenarios de caídas mortales que empezaron con una inocente fotografía. Hacer equilibrismo y encontrar el mejor encuadre parecen no ser compatibles. 

8.- De un infarto
Una variación de la caída mortal fue lo que se llevó la vida de un turista japonés en pleno Taj Mahal. El hombre, de 66 años, cayó por unas escaleras del imponente monumento mientras intentaba hacer un selfie. El sorprendente impacto le provocó un ataque al corazón que, finalmente, acabó con su vida.

9.- En un accidente de tráfico
Intentar hacer un selfie al volante es tan peligroso como cualquier otra distracción con el teléfono móvil de por medio. Una llamada, una aplicación o una autofoto pueden tener el mismo trágico final. Courtney Sanford compartió en Facebook el selfie que se hizo mientras conducía y, un minuto más tarde, la policía recibió la primera llamada que avisaba del accidente en el que Sanford murió.

10.- En tu primera cita
Cheynne Holloway recibió en Sudáfrica al que era su novio a distancia desde hacía un tiempo. Él, británico, voló hasta el país africano para poder conocerse en persona de una vez por todas y, obviamente, la ocasión merecía no pocos selfies. Un acantilado, una puesta de sol y una roca inestable fueron los causantes de una muerte que, si bien es la enésima variación de un fallecimiento provocado por una autofoto desde las alturas, al ser en su primera cita le añade un toque digno de mención. Podían fallar muchas cosas, pero a nadie se le hubiera ocurrido que fuera el 'selfie'.


jueves, noviembre 10

Seis peinados icónicos de los últimos 100 años

(Un texto de L.R.Bastida en la revista Mujer de Hoy del 13 de septiembre de 2014)

Su peinado casco en negro ala de cuervo fue el ‘look’ de los años 20. Cincuenta años después, Liza Minelli se inspiró en ella para crear su personaje Sally Bowles en Cabaret.

El primero lo creó Leonard en Londres, en el año 1966. Le llevó ocho horas conseguir el color y el estilo perfecto. El segundo data de 1968 y siempre se había atribuido a Vidal Sassoon; porque así lo explica el personaje de Mia Farrow, Rosemary, en la mítica película La semilla del diablo. Pero la actriz aseguró el año pasado a The New York Times que, en realidad, el corte se lo había hecho ella misma y que la explicación formaba parte de la novela en la que se basa el filme y el guión.

La primera vez que el pelo perfecto deja de ser el objetivo es cuando las mujeres se enamoraron de la melena de la actriz francesa en 1965. Con un volumen que parecía creado sobre la almohada tras una noche de juerga y un flequillo ultralargo.

Se lo inventó su peluquero. Kenneth Batelle, y consiste en cardar por debajo para crear un volumen artificial por encima de la coronilla. Es heredero de los peinados pouf y pompadour del XVIII, de la aristocracia francesa.

Cortada estratégicamente para enmarcar su rostro y peinada con cepillo redondo, ambos lados de su larga y dinámica melena estaban pensados para comportarse como plumas al viento, según su creador, el peluquero Allen Edwards.

Debutó en televisión en 1995 y arrasó en las peluquerías de todo el planeta. Con volumen en la coronilla y capas más largas por delante, Aniston confesó después que era horrible.

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miércoles, noviembre 9

Todo sobre tu pelo: canas

(Un texto de L.R.Bastida en la revista Mujer de Hoy del 13 de septiembre de 2014)

[…] ¿por qué se producen? La respuesta nos la da María Castán, experta científica global de Wella.

El cabello natural contiene pigmentos naturales llamados melanina. La melanina se produce en la raíz del cabello por unas células especializadas llamadas melanocitos, que geineran nuestro color. La cana o cabello blanco aparece cuando los melanocitos dejan de producir melanina.

La razón por las que las células dejan de producir melanina es un complejo sistema que aún no se conoce en profundidad, pero si sabemos que está regulado por los genes.

No es cierto que por arrancar una cana, vayan a crecer más. Cada cabello nace de un folículo, así que, si se arranca la cana solo se puede reemplazar por un cabello que va a nacer del mismo folículo.

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