Thursday, August 9, 2012

Drug Turns People Into Walking, Rotting Corpse

I thought I had blogged about this drug before, but I can't find it among my older posts. Oh, well:
A horrific drug known as krokodil has nearly become an epidemic in Russia -- it rots the flesh off its abusers turning them into real-life zombies. The "zombie apocalypse" has been on the tip of everyone's tongue and now the world is getting a look at a substance that transforms healthy individuals into the "walking dead."

Krokodil is three time more potent and a tenth the price of heroin, BuzzFeed said, making Russian youths susceptible to trying it. Its use has spread rapidly.

Krokodil (crocodile) is a desomorphine, a synthetic opiate that is created from a complex chain of mixing and chemical reactions, which addicts will perform numerous times a day to get high, The Independent reported.

It's a drug for the poor that is a mixture of codeine-based "headache" pills and other cheap household ingredients like gasoline, paint thinner, iodine, hydrochloric acid and red phosphorus, Fox News reported.

"Crocodile" gets its reptilian name because the toxic ingredients in the drug make user's skin turn scaly, but that's only the beginning. After longer use, addicts will develop rotting sores.
Full story here.

"Why We Love Zombies"

Op-ed from the San Jose Mercury News explains why we like zombies:
Simply put, the rise of zombies in pop culture reflects our creeping sense of anxiety about the state of the world. On the most basic level, horror movies are an outlet to express our unspoken fears. We live vicariously through the characters in these stories, experiencing their desperation and their capacity to endure. When they triumph over all odds, so do we -- and that's quite a thrill. When they get gobbled, we confront our own mortality. The squeamish ones, like me, also look away. Briefly. Until we can't bear the suspense.

Let's face it, there is a lot of scary news out there these days. From the economy to the environment, it can seem like the end of the world as we know it, and it's hard to feel fine about it.

Abandoned Villas in Italy

A grand staircase lies in ruins - the steps have crumbled; its ornate railings covered in dust. On the decaying, bare walls, a splash of coloured panelling provides the last vestige of splendour.

This once-great Italian villa would most likely have been home to nobility during the Renaissance - but now, it and many others have been abandoned.

Yet there is still beauty to be found - frescoes depicting angels and rustic scenes, and vaulted ceilings which have managed to ward off the ravages of time.

To document their sad demise, photographer Thomas Jorion has roamed the north of the country - from Piedmont and Lombardy to Tuscany and Emilia Romagna - for his gallery series, entitled Forgotten Palaces.

* * *

For the most part, the villas lie in economically distressed areas with poor communications.

However, there are cases where family tensions have been the cause of the residences' downfall.

In one instance, the construction of a nuclear power plant nearby led to the abandonment of the village and the house master.

There are believed to be more than 300 Italian ghost villages, or 'paesi fantasma', many dating from medieval times.

Residents have left such villages - many dating from medieval times - for reasons ranging from landslides to migration to big cities.
Full story and more photos here.

British Explorer Closes in on Lost Treasure

Pirates. Sailing ships. Marooned on a mysterious island. Over $200 million in gold buried somewhere on the island. It makes for a great story. From Business Insider:
Shaun Whitehead is leading an archaeological expedition to Cocos Island, the supposed hiding place of the “Treasure of Lima” – one of the world’s most fabled missing treasures.

The haul – said to be worth £160 million – was stolen by a British trader, Captain William Thompson, in 1820 after he was entrusted to transport it from Peru to Mexico.

He is said to have been stashed his plunder on the Pacific island, from where it has never been recovered.

An original inventory showed 113 gold religious statues, one a life-size Virgin Mary, 200 chests of jewels, 273 swords with jewelled hilts, 1,000 diamonds, solid gold crowns, 150 chalices and hundreds of gold and silver bars.

The site, credited by some as the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, is uninhabited and around 350 miles off the coast of Costa Rica, of which it is a part.

* * *

Mr Whitehead, who has previously led a project to explore uncharted shafts inside the Great Pyramid of Giza, said: “Given the amount of treasure, it would have been too heavy to carry far from sea level and stories suggest the use of caves. We can also rule out where others have looked, dug up and detected – like on the beaches.

“If it is there, it will be in a natural cave which was hidden by one of the many landslides that occur on the island.

"It is not a case of following a map and “X” marking the spot. It is about using a bit of logic to establish the likelihood of some areas where it could be.”

The team’s research will concentrate on the areas around three of the island’s four bays, which have been most used by visitors.

The team plan to use a small, unmanned helicopter, fitted with specialist cameras, to fly above the nine mile square island, which will enable them to make a computer-generated 3D map of the landscape.

They will then use a snakelike robot that can be dragged across the parts of island and, using ground penetrating radar, detect voids and cavities up to a depth of around 60ft. This data will be added to the 3D map to identify any likely concealed caves.

After this, a team will use a specialist “keyhole” drill, which can reach more than 100ft, to dig down into the cave. A probe camera can be sent down through the 1in diameter.

The 10-day expedition will also involve extensive archaeological, geological and ecological research and Mr Whitehead is at pains to stress they are not simply going there on a treasure hunt.

* * *

The treasure could be worth at least £160 million. If any of it is found, the team plans to pass it on to the Costa Rican authorities, which would be expected to pay a fee for its salvage.

The treasure had been amassed by the Spanish authorities in Lima, in what is now Peru, but facing a revolt, the city’s viceroy, José de la Serna, entrusted the riches to Captain Thompson for transport to Mexico, also a Spanish colony, and it was transferred to his ship, the Mary Dear.

After leaving the port of Callao, near Lima, Thompson and his crew killed the Viceroy’s six men and sailed to Cocos, where they buried the treasure.

Shortly afterwards, they were apprehended by a Spanish warship. All of the crew – bar Thompson and his first mate – were executed for piracy.

The two said they would show the Spaniards where they had hidden the treasure in return for their lives, but after landing on Cocos, they escaped into the forest.

They are said to have been picked up by a passing ship a year later, but without the treasure.