UK explorer flown out of jungle

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Media captionIn a recent documentary Benedict Allen described his experiences of living in Papua New Guinea

British explorer Benedict Allen has been flown out of the jungle in Papua New Guinea and is expected home on Sunday.

Mr Allen became disorientated with fever while trying to reach a remote tribe and missed his flight home, the BBC’s Frank Gardner said.

The 57-year-old had taken no means of communication with him, prompting his family to mount a search on Monday.

He was spotted “alive and well” on Thursday near a remote airstrip.

Mr Allen, who had been looked after by Christian missionaries after trekking large distances, was flown by helicopter to the Papua New Guinea capital of Port Moresby on Friday.

His agent, Jo Sarsby, said he was feverish with suspected malaria.

“Benedict looks forward to being reunited with his family and friends but will need some time to get back to full health,” the statement added.

“He would like to send thanks for all the kind messages he has received.”

Mr Allen’s wife, Lenka, told the Daily Mail: “It is such a relief. I’m so happy, it’s amazing.”

Image copyright Frank Gardner
Image caption BBC correspondent Frank Gardner with Benedict Allen in Papua New Guinea last year

The father-of-three had been travelling on his own to try to find the reclusive Yaifo tribe, whom he first met 30 years ago.

In a blog post from September, he wrote: “Just like the good old days, I won’t be taking a sat phone, GPS or companion. Or anything else much. Because this is how I do my journeys of exploration.”

Before setting off, Mr Allen told the BBC he was hoping to make contact with the tribe, who were high up in a cloud forest.

He said he was unsure how they would receive him this time. His last text message read: “What could possibly go wrong?”.

The explorer, from London, has previously crossed the Amazon Basin on foot and in a dug-out canoe, and participated in a six-week male initiation ceremony in which crocodile marks were carved onto his body.

He has filmed a number of his adventures for BBC documentaries and written books on exploration.

Who is Benedict Allen?

First solo adventure: To the Amazon at 22, during which he was shot at by two hitmen

Tough time: An initiation into manhood in Papua New Guinea. He was kept in a “crocodile nest” with 20 others, and repeatedly cut with bamboo blades to leave scars that looked like crocodile scales

Low moment: Eating his own dog to survive

Travel habit: Always keeps loo paper in a back pocket. “You know how it is,” he tells the Lonely Planet.

Philosophy: “For me personally, exploration isn’t about conquering nature, planting flags or leaving your mark. It’s about the opposite: opening yourself up and allowing the place to leave its mark on you.”

Career: Six TV series for the BBC, author, motivational speaker

Family: Lives with family in Czech Republic

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Missing UK explorer ‘alive and well’

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Media captionIn a recent documentary Benedict Allen described his experiences of living in Papua New Guinea

Missing UK explorer Benedict Allen has been seen “alive and well” near an airstrip in Papua New Guinea.

The BBC’s Frank Gardner said Mr Allen had asked to be rescued and efforts were under way to retrieve him, but he was “not out of danger yet”.

A search was mounted for the 57-year-old after his family said he had not taken planned flights home.

Mr Allen was travelling on his own to try to find the reclusive Yaifo tribe, whom he first met 30 years ago.

His agent, Jo Sarsby, said the co-ordinating director for New Tribe Mission in Papua New Guinea, Keith Copley, had confirmed in writing at 17:00 local time that Mr Allen was “safe, well and healthy”, and at a remote airstrip 20 miles north-west of Porgera, Enga Province.

“Confirmation on exact location coordinates are now being confirmed in order to arrange evacuation as soon as possible,” she said.

She said it was understood the airstrip was not accessible by road, so it was hoped a helicopter would be sent on Friday.


By BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner

Benedict Allen was under no illusions about the dangers and difficulties he would face when he chose to march off alone into the jungles of Papua New Guinea, in search of the isolated Yaifo tribe.

This is exactly the sort of challenge he thrives on.

But as well as having to contend with almost impossibly steep and forested terrain, it seems his plans have been disrupted by an outbreak of tribal infighting which often happens in remote areas.

Although foreigners are rarely the target of this violence outside the towns, there is always a risk of being associated with one tribe that is at war with another.

Those now trying to organise a rescue say he chose not to take a satellite phone, made no evacuation plan and left no coordinates of where he intended to end his journey.

They say his only way out is by helicopter or light aircraft.

Mr Allen’s older sister, Katie Pestille, had said it was “out of character” for him to miss his scheduled flight out of Papua New Guinea to Hong Kong.

The explorer, from London, has previously crossed the Amazon Basin on foot and in a dug-out canoe, and participated in a six-week male initiation ceremony in which crocodile marks were carved onto his body.

He has filmed a number of his adventures for BBC documentaries and written books on exploration.

Who is Benedict Allen?

First solo adventure: To the Amazon at 22, during which he was shot at by two hitmen

Tough time: An initiation into manhood in Papua New Guinea. He was kept in a “crocodile nest” with 20 others, and repeatedly cut with bamboo blades to leave scars that looked like crocodile scales

Low moment: Eating his own dog to survive

Travel habit: Always keeps loo paper in a back pocket. “You know how it is,” he tells the Lonely Planet.

Philosophy: “For me personally, exploration isn’t about conquering nature, planting flags or leaving your mark. It’s about the opposite: opening yourself up and allowing the place to leave its mark on you.”

Career: Six TV series for the BBC, author, motivational speaker

Family: Lives with family in Czech Republic

In his last tweet from 11 October, Mr Allen wrote: “Marching off to Heathrow. I may be some time.”

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Search under way for missing UK explorer

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Media captionIn a recent documentary Benedict Allen described his experiences of living in Papua New Guinea

A search has been mounted for British explorer Benedict Allen, whose family say has gone missing during an expedition to Papua New Guinea.

The 57-year-old was travelling on his own to try to find the reclusive Yaifo tribe, whom he first met 30 years ago.

His sister says she was expecting to hear from him by Monday – and he hasn’t taken planned flights home.

A helicopter pilot, who dropped Mr Allen off several weeks ago, is trying to find him, the BBC has learned.

Our security correspondent Frank Gardner, who recently travelled through Papua New Guinea with Mr Allen for a BBC documentary, said he understood the pilot was tracking Benedict’s route from his starting point in a remote place called Bisoria.

They have spoken to local police chiefs, and were looking to locate him by helicopter and get him out, our correspondent said.

‘Ghastly worry’

He added that the former UK high commissioner to Papua New Guinea, David Gordon-Macleod, said “huge areas of the country have no mobile coverage”, meaning that even if Mr Allen had reached a village, he is likely to still be out of contact with the outside world.

Mr Allen’s older sister, Katie Pestille, said it was “out of character” for him to miss his scheduled flight out of Papua New Guinea to Hong Kong.

“It’s ghastly,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“For everybody else, it’s very exciting – all the expeditions and all the things he does, but for his sister and his wife, it’s more of a worry,” she explained.

Who is Benedict Allen?

First solo adventure: To the Amazon at 22, during which he was shot at by two hitmen

Tough time: An initiation into manhood in Papua New Guinea. He was kept in a “crocodile nest” with 20 others, and repeatedly cut with bamboo blades to leave scars that looked like crocodile scales

Low moment: Eating his own dog to survive

Travel habit: Always keeps loo paper in a back pocket. “You know how it is,” he tells the Lonely Planet.

Philosophy: “For me personally, exploration isn’t about conquering nature, planting flags or leaving your mark. It’s about the opposite: opening yourself up and allowing the place to leave its mark on you.”

Career: Six TV series for the BBC, author, motivational speaker

Family: Lives in Twickenham, south-west London, with his wife and three children

Mr Allen, from London, has previously crossed the Amazon Basin on foot and in a dug out canoe, and participated in a six-week male initiation ceremony in which crocodile marks were carved onto his body.

He has filmed a number of his adventures for BBC documentaries and written books on exploration.

The Foreign Office said its staff were assisting family members and were in contact with local authorities.

‘Normal schedules don’t apply’

By BBC Security Correspondent Frank Gardner

Travelling in Papua New Guinea is hugely unpredictable and normal schedules don’t apply, so there is a good chance that Benedict Allen has been detained by natural causes.

Landslides, torrential downpours and sometimes an eruption of fighting between local tribes can all throw itineraries off-course.

Foreign travellers though, are rarely targeted outside the main towns.

Knowing Benedict, it is also quite possible that he has accepted an invitation to stay on longer for a tribal ceremony – it can also be considered an insult to refuse.

The Yaifo tribe who Benedict visited in the 1980s initially greeted him with suspicion and hostility but then accepted him.

He told me last month, just before he set off, that he had no idea how they would receive him, or even if he would be able to find them in such a remote part of the country.

‘Bows and arrows’

In a blog posted in September, Mr Allen described his plan to assemble a group at an abandoned mission station in Bisorio before heading into the remote jungle.

His aim, he said, was to create a brief record of the lives of the Yaifo and track down some of those he met on his last visit.

“Last time, the Yaifo ‘greeted’ me with a terrifying show of strength, an energetic dance featuring their bows and arrows,” he said.

“On this occasion who knows if the Yaifo will do the same, or run off, or be wearing jeans and T shirts traded eons ago from the old mission station.

“But of course I may not even make it there – even aged 26, it was a very hard hike up through rather treacherous terrain.”

He said his journey out of the jungle was unplanned. “Either I must paddle down river for a week or so – or enlist the help of the Yaifo, as I did last time,” he said.

He added that he would be travelling without a satellite phone, GPS or companion, “because this is how I do my journeys of exploration”.

In his last tweet from 11 October, Mr Allen wrote: “Marching off to Heathrow. I may be some time.”

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Best overseas breaks at Christmas and new year: readers travel tips

Our tipsters go cold turkey on the traditional British Christmas in search of ice hotels, a lantern festival, exotic wildlife and traditional markets, from Brittany to the Japanese alps

Winning tip: east African wildlife trip

Last year we spent 25 December in Giraffe Manor, in a suburb of Nairobi, where giraffes poked their heads through the windows looking for breakfast. We then travelled to Ethiopia to celebrate the Orthodox Christmas on 7 January in the Bale mountains, hoping for a sighting of the endangered Ethiopian wolf. We drove and trekked across the Sanetti plateau, but the wolves remained elusive, so we drove up Ethiopias second-highest peak, the 4,377-metre Tullo Deemtu, for views of worlds largest expanse of Afro-alpine moorland and crystal-clear tarns. On the way back to Bale Mountain Lodge, we spotted a lone wolf basking in the sun on the roadside. Santa had been after all.

A tree house in the Japanese alps


Three hours from Tokyo by car there is a stunning chain of mountains on the south eastern side of Lake Shirakaba-ko called Yatsugatake. There, amid a forest, is a restaurant called Canadian Farm, where owner Haseyan has crafted a rustic, charming and cosy tree house. We stayed in this chocolate box setting at Christmas and relished the local traditions of the Japanese equivalent of Valentines Day on Christmas Eve, where locals go for walks with their partner. There was also the surprise delivery of our Christmas Day feast, a KFC chicken bucket! Christmas Day isnt an official national holiday so travel is a breeze, but everyone celebrates anyway, in a jovial way. The tree house in Hara, Suwa District, Nagano, costs about 130 a night in December.

Giant lanterns in the Philippines

Photograph: Alamy

For Christmas magic and wonder, you cant beat the Giant Lantern Festival in San Fernando in the Philippines (an hours drive north-west of Manila). The festival sees beautiful and elaborate multicoloured lanterns lighting up the evenings of the holiday season. The tradition began with villages crafting paper lanterns but has evolved into something even more spectacular, with thousands of electric lights adorning the competitors efforts. Spectators travel here from all over the country: light is a symbol of hope and faith, and the warm festive atmosphere and obvious delight of the crowd are all part of the show. A competition day is held on 16 December, and the lanterns are exhibited every evening through to New Years Eve.

Torontos big bash

Photograph: Alamy

New York would like to claim a monopoly on New Year celebrations but its neighbours over the border certainly give them a run for their money. Every year Toronto puts on a free outdoor party in Nathan Phillips Square, with live music and performances, ice skating and a huge firework display at midnight. As 31 December this year marks the end of Canadas 150th birthday celebrations, the city authorities have promised this bash will be a big one. Public transport will be free from 7pm-3am, too.

Strasbourg Christmas market

Photograph: Alamy

A lifelong Scrooge, I jumped at the chance of getting away from British festivities with a stay in Strasbourg, where I ended up falling in love with the notion of a traditional Christmas, especially because it snowed. The Christmas market, Christkindelsmrik, goes back to 1570 and takes over the cobbled streets round the cathedral. Stalls are festooned with evergreen branches. I really enjoyed bratwurst and gluhwein in the evenings, consumed outside in the cold, around tables shared with smiling strangers. At midnight mass we belted out familiar carols in four different languages. Christmas dinner in our one-room flat was confit de canard from a can. Our live tree, six inches high, was from the market. Next day, a local bar was open and we feasted on pork and sauerkraut.
Janet Holland

Bright lights of Brittany

Photograph: Alamy

Ferry to Saint-Malo, a quiet drive to Rennes and a booking at a city centre logis, where we were offered breakfast in our room. We walked the quiet streets illuminated by lights like droplets of ice on every branch of the footpath trees. The botanic garden was open and we had it to ourselves. There were tickets at the theatre for the ballet Gat Parisienne, which we enjoyed with an enthusiastic audience, then lobster for dinner at a reasonable price. No double charge or unwilling staff: the evening was a delight. Boxing Day is just another working day in France: we drove through light frost to Carnac, finding just one other couple at the ancient stones.
John Pelling

Glhwein and ski jumping, Austria

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Los Angeles is the globe in a small space: author Ryan Gattis

LA is the most diverse city in the US, says the thriller writer. And with regeneration, areas like Downtown are fizzing with cultural mashups and food fusions

When I moved to Downtown LA in 2007, it felt abandoned. Going out at night was a bit like being in a zombie movie it was so empty. Its changed massively: theres so much construction going on now, so many new buildings. If there is a parallel in London, its Kings Cross.

Im part of a street art crew called Uglarworks. I met them through a mutual friend. They had read my first book, All Involved, set during the 1992 LA riots, and liked it. I loved what they did and we wanted to collaborate. They essentially took me on as an intern. I carried their paints at first, then eventually began painting with them.

Ryan Gattis. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Guardian

Being able to prowl the city with the crew gave me access to new neighbourhoods. In places most people never really go to, like Lincoln Heights, I learned so much about the citys past. Theyd say things like: Oh yeah, that serial killer the Night Stalker was caught over there. History is tied to geography in a really specific way here.

Theres a long history of graffiti and street art here. Graffiti by the LA river dates back to the 1920s, done by hobos and later local gangs used the [stark black and white] cholo-style graffiti to mark their territory. One of the first stencil artists, Chaz Bojrquez, worked here in the 1960s, and created the character Seor Suerte long before the art form really took off. LAs always had its own thing going on.

A tour of the LA rivers graffiti, under the 6th Street Bridge. Photograph: Alamy

LA is the most diverse city in America, the globe in a small space. I found it amazing that I could drive 15 minutes and only hear Mandarin, or Urdu, or Armenian. I love the openness to new cultures and ideas, and the collaborations you see everywhere the diversity leads to amazing authentic cultural mashups. You can really see the hybrid culture in the food scene. You get incredible food combinations you wont find elsewhere the Korean taco, for instance, was created in LA.

One thing I find exciting here right now is the new wave of Mexican food. Called Alta California cuisine, it grew out of the fact that every region of Mexico, with all its diverse culinary traditions, is represented in LA in a condensed area, so people share recipes and create new things. Balam in the Lynwood neighbourhood is my favourite place to go for tacos. It does a coconut shrimp taco thats unbelievable. It has won awards, and with good reason.

Unbelievable tacos at Balam.

Theres a lot of history Downtown: some buildings date from the 1800s. The Bradbury building is one of my favourite structures on Earth. It has been in movies like Blade Runner and (500) Days of Summer. The architect designed it by imagining what a building in a Victorian sci-fi novel would look like.

One of the first places I take visitors is Homegirl Caf. Its a great place for Latino food in Downtown run by a Jesuit priest, Father Gregory Boyle, who provides training and careers for at-risk youths, especially from gangs.

The Bradbury Building, 4th and Broadway, Los Angeles. Photograph: Alamy

Theres so much more to LA than what we see in the movies or on TV. So many neighbourhoods that have lives and histories unto themselves. Thats what I write about places with their own culture and character, like Lynwood. Thats where my new novel, Safe, a thriller thats set during the 2008 financial crash, is based. Theres an amazing resurgence going on in Lynwood right now. Its first art gallery opened recently, the Lynwood Union its a really exciting time.

The Little Tokyo area of Downtown is a special place. The Japanese American Museum there is world class and a favourite of mine. The city has one of the most vibrant art scenes in the world: theres lots of opportunity for young artists and great places to see contemporary art, from the Warehouse district Downtown to Culver City and Chinatown or, for more upscale galleries, Beverley Hills and Pasadena.

Whiskey galore Seven Grand bar, in Downtown Photograph: Peter Stanislaus

Im an old man and dont go out much! But there are a couple of old throwback places in Downtown that are great, like The Edison, which is a beautiful old power plant turned into a gorgeous bar. Another place Id recommend is Seven Grand Whiskey Bar, which serves great scotch and bourbon.

The LA river is a gem: they have been revitalising it, allowing wildlife back in. Theres lots of flora now and you can kayak or hike south-east all way to Long Beach.

Ryan Gattiss latest novel, Safe (Picador, 12.99), is out now. To buy a copy for 11.04 including free UK p&p, visit

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10 of the best attractions in Emilia-Romagna: readers travel tips

Fast cars, slow food, hilltop castles and open-air art galleries Our readers pick their highlights of Emilia-Romagna classic Italy without the crowds

Winning tip: open-air gallery, Dozza

On a hilltop between Bologna and Imola is Dozza, a handsome village of classic medieval appearance, with an unexpected twist. The entire village is an open-air gallery with around 100 artworks displayed wherever space allows. Murals adorn walls, doors and archways, showcasing a variety of styles by many different artists. Guided tours must be pre-booked but it is always open and accessible to all. Every two years, notable artists are invited to contribute to the collection, keeping it at the cutting edge of modern art. And in the enoteca regionale, more than 800 wines from Emilia-Romagna are available in the beautiful vaulted cellar of the fort. A fine day out.

Ravenna, gem of the Roman Empire

The fifth-century Palace of Theodoric. Photograph: De Agostini/Getty Images

Ravenna sits on the east coast of Emilia-Romagna, about an hours drive from Bologna airport. There are eight Unesco heritage sites, mostly honouring the fact that the city was the last capital of the Western Roman empire. While plenty of sixth-century buildings were built in honour of King Theodoric the Great, he was later deemed a heretic at the Basilica of SantApollinare Nuovo they replaced the tiles in mosaics in which he features, leaving only his hands. One of the more impressive restaurants is Ca de Ven, a 15th-century palace where piadina, the traditional Romagna flatbread, is prepared at a stove by your table.

Cycle the Destra Po

Photograph: David Ross

The Destra Po cycleway runs the length of the famous river as it flows through Emilia-Romagna. Its easy to reach the riverbanks from the wonderful medieval town of Ferrara, from where you can head downstream towards the village of Ro. Just before it, a famous river mill makes a great spot for a picnic: load up on local meats and cheese before you set out. The flat route allows you to soak up the views across the river and out over surrounding plains. Bikes can be hired cheaply in Ferrara.
David Ross

Foodies tour of Bologna

Photograph: Flavia Morlachetti/Getty Images

Taste Bologna runs highly rated tours, which are eye-opening and mouthwatering. I recommend the classic Bologna food tour (85 adults, 40 children). Over an expertly guided half day, the tour takes in the classic specialities of the region, from the morning coffee to superb gelato to finish off. In between, you can see fresh tortellini being prepared, learn to food shop like a local, and enjoy a lunch of regional highlights accompanied by the balsamic vinegar of Modena and a glass or two of Italian wine.
Annie OConnor

Hillside castles

Bardi. Photograph: Alamy

In the west of the region, fascinating countryside palaces and fortified villages were erected on charming hillsides in the lands once known as Duchy of Parma and Piacenza, which are now just an hours drive from Milan. The areas of CastellArquato, Vigoleno, Soragna and Bardi, to name just four, boast an incredible culinary richness, from wines (try the red Gutturnio and white Malvasia) to cheese and pork delicacies: crudo di Parma to coppa and salame. The area is the birthplace of Giuseppe Verdi and home to the largest labyrinth in the world you might catch a concert there.

The ultimate supercar road trip

1956 Lancia Ferrari D50 in the Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari. Photograph: Alamy

Move fast and you can fit the holy trinity of supercars into a weekend in Emilia-Romagna. Speed over to Museo Ferrari in Maranello, which traces the rise of the racing car under Enzo Ferrari, then nip across to view some of the most revered cars in the world at Modenas Museo Enzo Ferrari. You can get behind the wheel of a Ferrari; our teen did the drive of his life in an F1 simulator for 25 (grownups can burn much more cash driving the real thing on a test track at Maranello). The nearby Lamborghini museum in SantAgata Bolognese showcases the power of the engine. Save the best till last with a factory tour of the wondrous Pagani, in San Cesario sul Panaro, Modena. Youll never want to drive your own car again

Wander Bolognas porticoes

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6 Shocking Ways Your Phone Is Destroying The Planet

We do a lot of things knowing that they aren’t great for the environment. We leave the faucet running while we brush our teeth, we throw out tons of food because it looks misshapen, and we use hairspray even though we know damn well we’ve been bald for over 15 years. But surprisingly, our worse sin might be that we encourage the tech industry to keep churning out slightly better bricks to browse Facebook on, despite the fact that those companies are basically Captain Planet villains with stock tickers. Confused? Allow us to explain:


The Internet Causes 2 Percent Of All Carbon Pollution

We all know that the internet doesn’t simply exist. You’re not reading these words because the Universe willed them into existence on your screen — they’re being provided to you courtesy of a massive data center somewhere. Imagine the warehouse from Raiders Of The Lost Ark, except with never-ending server racks instead of mystical artifacts and shitty alien MacGuffins.

But unlike a warehouse full of boxes, data centers require a lot of lightning juice to keep our memes flowing. Unfortunately, that makes them awful for the environment. Because of their insane energy demands, data centers are responsible for 2 percent of the carbon dioxide we’re farting into the sky. That’s about the same percentage as the entire airline industry, which means our GIF consumption is as destructive for Mother Earth as keeping billions of pounds of metal in the air.

If you masturbated using your imagination instead of porn a couple times a week, you could literally help save the planet.

The problem isn’t that we’re running too many servers, however — it’s that these servers never stop running. Powering a server takes only a pittance of the energy required to constantly cool them down. We can’t merely turn them off for a while, as that would have disastrous consequences — like not being able to check Facebook for a few minutes.

And that 2 percent is only the beginning. It’s been estimated that the amount of energy these data centers consume could triple over the course of the next decade, thanks to innovations like streaming, driverless cars, and our inexhaustible need to attach Bluetooth to everything.


Your Phone’s Battery Is Made From Human Suffering

Contrary to popular folklore, batteries aren’t tiny metal boxes full of electricity. They rely on complex combinations of metals like graphite, cobalt, and lithium reacting and transferring ions, which are then stored and allow you to expend them on powering your vibrator. Isn’t science wonderful? It’s such a shame, then, that these magic metals are mined in a way that maximizes misery and despair every step of the way.

In China, for instance, the mining of graphite has caused entire villages to be contaminated with thick clouds of graphite dust. The processing of the raw recently mined graphite is kicked up into the atmosphere, thus bukkake-ing local villages and dwellings in Mother Nature’s glittery jetsam, which in turn kills crops, poisons water supplies, and contributes to massive disease outbreaks. As you’d also expect, neither the government nor the company responsible give a hoot. Every local cleanup effort so far has failed, not because it’s too big to handle but because the suits figured out that it’s cheaper PR to violently suppress journalist investigations than to clean up their mess.

In the Congo, the mining of cobalt — a vital ingredient in every battery ever — is a massive part of the economy, employing 100,000 people to mine up to 25 percent of the world’s supply. However, cobalt miners work for little to no pay in “artisanal mines,” a fancy Starbucks term for a type of mine that has no safety features and is dug purely by hand. (You’ll notice that there were no upsides in that sentence.) Oh, and a significant portion of the miners are children. We probably should have mentioned that earlier. One study by UNICEF estimated that 40,000 children are employed in cobalt mining, by sheer virtue of the fact that kids are a) tiny and b) hilariously expendable in an industry that already doesn’t value human life.

In Chile, meanwhile, lithium mining has resulted in the exploitation of indigenous groups. Very similar to how our nation was bought from Native Americans for some beads and a lot of violence, techbros and mining companies are sweeping up ancestral lands belonging to the Atacamas. In exchange for extracting billions of dollars in “white gold,” these companies gave the Atacamas a handful of schools, sewage systems, and other public amenities … only to cheat them out of so much money that they can’t afford to maintain all of their new infrastructure. But the good news is that this doesn’t really matter, as all the mining screws with the local water supply so much that it might make the land barren and eventually uninhabitable in the very near future anyway.

But hey, check out the battery life on our phone! 16 hours and only at 54 percent! Totes worth it.


Silicon Valley Is Built Atop A Toxic Dumping Ground

In the early days of computing, the place that we call Silicon Valley didn’t exist. There were no upstart tech companies, no mood rooms or beanbag chairs — it was nothing but a boring industrial estate full of companies with boring names like Fairchild and Raytheon producing boring components like computer chips. You know what they didn’t do that was boring, however? Spill a bunch of dangerous chemicals into the ground.

Unlike creating software in your mom’s garage, the process for making physical computer chips is still industrial. A whole litany of solvents and degreasers are involved — chemicals like trichloroethylene, which are super-dangerous to human health and shouldn’t under any circumstances make their way into groundwater. Which is of course exactly what happened. By failing to fix leaky tanks and other vital chemical infrastructures, companies like Intel allowed thousands of gallons of these chemicals to seep into the groundwater of the area — something which was discovered in the 1980s and led to the EPA (back in the days when we had one) blanketing the area in warning signs and red tape.

But that’s all in the past, right? It’s not like dozens of tech millionaires and billionaires are now walking around on toxic soil, right? Nope, the chemicals are still in the groundwater, and unfortunately for the companies that have made Silicon Valley their home, they have an awful habit of returning to totally disrupt people’s immune systems. This is achieved via a process known as “vapor intrusion,” wherein the chemicals circulate through the ventilation systems of buildings. But you try convincing a bunch of Silicon Valley coders that vaping is bad for you.

You know that cutesy statue garden that Google built to celebrate having made a phone, because that’s what we do nowadays? That used to be the site of a chip manufacturer called CTS Printex, Inc. Quite curiously, a thousand Google employees working next door were found to have been dosed with “excessive levels” of trichloroethene over the course of two months as a result of a problem with the building’s ventilation system.

But hey, at least “everyone’s getting brain-damaged” is a good excuse for why so many bad ideas are coming out of Silicon Valley. Time to wheel in some healthy nerds.


Mongolia Has A Toxic Lake Because Of Your Phone’s Electronics

It’s unlikely that you’re ever going to visit the town of Baotou in Mongolia, but we’ve got some travel tips for you if you do: Don’t. The only tourist attraction is the local lake, and unless you’re a mutant who loves to bathe in muddy concoctions of acid, industrial effluent, and radioactive sludge, you should stay several hundred miles away from it.

Like everything else bad in this world, Baotou’s artificial poison lake is a direct result of your smartphone. Almost every rare earth mineral necessary for us to have everything mildly technological, from magnets to touchscreens, comes from Baotou. Its Bayan Obo mines contain 70 percent of the world’s reserves, which is one of the main reasons China can buy us a hundred times over.

Mining these minerals, however, is a pain in the ass that creates nightmarish vistas. Even after you’ve thrown enough people at the mine to retrieve the minerals, there’s still the small matter of processing them into a salable state. That’s where the chemicals come in. Cerium, for instance, can only be extracted by being crushed and dissolved in sulfuric and nitric acid. To then get rid of the runoff, China dammed off a river and flooded farmland to create a “tailings pond” — a body of water primarily used to dump toxic sludge in. Imagine the devil’s septic tank, and you’re halfway there.

Liam Young/Unknown Fields
Lake Baotou: Come for the scenic views, stay because you’ve died of toxic exposure.

Over the years, the lake became more toxins than water. Drinking its water, or just living and breathing its sticky air, have contributed to a ton of illnesses in the region, including nausea, migraines, and arthritis. One study of the lake’s mud even found traces of radioactive material, which certainly goes a long way toward explaining the area’s suspiciously high number of people with leukemia. Oh, that dam that’s at least keeping this hellish landscape contained to the damned of Baotou? It was so shoddily built that even the slightest tremor could bring it toppling down and trigger the ecological end of days. But maybe there’s a silver lining. Maybe the mutations will give us all cool tails.


Your iPhone’s Screen Is Poisoning Chinese Workers

In the days of yore, there was a group known as “the radium girls” — a group of factory workers who were unknowingly spending their days painting watch faces with radium, an insanely lethal chemical we only realized was dangerous after people started glowing in the dark. This incident is now mainly used as a silly anecdote about how primitive and stupid old-timey people. Nothing like that could ever happen today. Most of us don’t even wear watches anymore, we use our phones to … oh.

The production of your iPhone is split between several companies you’ve never heard of. The screens, for instance, are made by a company called Fangtai Huawei Electronic Technology, based in Guizhou, China. There, they pay workers a pittance to clean touchscreens with a concoction informally known as “banana oil” — a very cutesy name for a substance that put 30 workers in the hospital.

Unbeknownst to the workforce, their banana fun time fluid was laced with n-hexane, a cleaning agent derived from crude oil so toxic that being near it can cause headaches, nausea, fatigue, and irreversible damage to the central nervous system. Anyone working with this solvent was meant to be working in a well-ventilated area and wearing an industrial-strength mask, but shockingly, high safety standards do not a cheap iPhone make. So the workers were given paper masks for breathing, and the only ventilation they got was from the foreman yelling at them for trying to crack a window.

Surely, because we overpay hundreds of dollars per iPhone each year, that left the company with plenty of profits to pay workers compensation, right? Unfortunately, they prefer to spend their winnings “convincing” health officials that there is no link between the many sick workers and the factory conditions. Fangtai Huawei Electronic Technology will, however, buy a bus ticket for anyone too sick to work so they can fuck off back home to their village. They’re nice like that.


Your Phone Is Unrecyclable

Recycling is good. That’s something thousands of hours of Saturday morning cartoons and reruns of the crying Native American PSA has taught us. So if, for instance, you were in charge of inventing the latest iteration of a gadget that next to everyone on the planet is guaranteed to own, it’d stand to reason to make that shit recyclable. Yes? Congratulations! You’re officially smarter than everyone in the R&D departments of Apple, Samsung, Google, and every other tech giant that ever made a smartphone.

Now, to be fair, your smartphone isn’t unrecyclable because those guys don’t care about the environment; it’s because we don’t want recyclable smartphones. Retrieving the many rare metals that go into a smartphone is a complex matter, so it has always been a choice between focusing on increased recyclability or increased functionality, and we have always gone for the one that lets us watch the whole of The Defenders on the can in one go.

It’s a market problem that was thrown into smart relief most recently when Samsung accidentally built and then recalled 4.3 million potential smart bombs. Unable to be repaired, refurbished, or resold to consumers who don’t want to browse Twitter dressed like they’re in The Hurt Locker, they needed to find a way of disposing of them that isn’t setting them on fire, i.e. something environmentally conscious. Too bad we haven’t figured that one out yet.

via CNN Money
“We’re trying to to work the ‘not setting our users on fire’ part …”

There are 50 rare elements in each phone, from indium (for the touchscreen) to neodymium (for the speakers) to cobalt (for batteries). Of those 50, it’s only currently possible to recycle roughly a dozen of them. That’s not just a kick in the pants for Samsung’s profit margin, but also a slap in the face for all the people who had to suffer so that those phones could get made. Sure, they were only ever destined to be used for dumb games or sexting, but it’s better than a landfill, y’know?

And it’s not like we can make some new smartphone materials if we run out of these. Most of these elements aren’t replaceable. Once they’re gone, they’re gone for good. Even worse, when Yale University looked for viable replacements for the metals and elements that go into smartphones, it discovered that there were no viable replacements that could be switched in once we run out. We have “Meh” replacements and “Are you kidding me?” replacements, but nothing that performs as well as the materials that we’re currently using. It’s a burgeoning crisis that’ll force us into reconsidering how we consume electronics — or even, at the grander level, the self-destructive nature of consumerism. A discussion that we’re positive will happen any day now.

Adam Wears is on Twitter and Facebook. He also has a newsletter about depressing history, if you’re into that sort of thing.

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Northern Lights will be visible across much of continental U.S.

On Wednesday evening, thanks to a very powerful sun storm, folks living as far south as Ohio and Indiana will likely catch an exceedingly rare glimpse of the Northern Lights.

As explained, on Labor Day the sun “blasted out a huge cloud of superheated plasma known as a coronal mass ejection (CME).” The CME, which is harmless to humans, is expected to reach Earth overnight on Wednesday, as it is traveling at the breakneck speed of about 200 miles per second. When it does reach our atmosphere it will trigger an incredibly strong “geomagnetic storm,” which happens to cause the Earth’s auroras to light up.

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Disney’s Candy Corn Soft Serve Is The Halloween Treat You Need On Your Radar

‘Tis the season of all-pumpkin everything. From coffee to chocolate — and even unusual items like deodorant — the flavor reigns supreme. It’s easy to overlook other seasonal favorites like apples and cinnamon because of the pumpkin craze, but one thing you’re not going to want to miss this year is candy corn. Disney’s candy corn soft serve is taking a classic and turning it on its head, so hold the PSL for a moment.

Though the snack is not terribly new, it’s managed to go unnoticed in comparison to other treats (so it goes during the pumpkin season). From Aug. 25 to Nov. 1, Mickey’s Not-So Scary Halloween Party will run on select nights, so obviously this treat is a must for such an occasion. Side note: Any organization that’s willing to celebrate Halloween in August is OK in my book. Bring on the spooks.

The orange-vanilla cone comes complete with a candy corn on top of the swirl. It definitely puts customers in a trick-or-treat mood. If you happen to be visiting Storybook Treats in Fantasyland, or Auntie Gravity’s Galactic Goodies in Tomorrowland, snag a taste for yourself. What better way to ring in this creepy, kooky, mysterious, and spooky time of year?

Though this order is sure to be a go-to this season, Disney visitors must stay informed about the park’s conditions following Hurricane Irma. In a somewhat historic move, Disney World and its attractions closed its gates on Sept. 9, 10, and 11 due to inclement weather from Irma.

A statement from Disney outlined its emergency plans, saying,

Based on the latest forecasts for Hurricane Irma and keeping safety top of mind, Walt Disney World Resort will be closing early on Saturday, September 9 and will remain closed through Monday, September 11. Resort hotels will remain open. We hope to resume normal operations on Tuesday, September 12. We will provide regular updates to our guests on all operational changes. Please continue to check this page for updates.


Though Hurricane Irma approached Orlando — the theme park’s home — in a weakened state as a Category 1 storm, 70 mph winds struck the city’s airport from 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. ET on Sept. 11, and that’s certainly not something to disregard. Irma might be “packing less of a punch” than some originally predicted for central Florida, according to the , but that doesn’t mean the conditions should be overlooked. Disney plans to get up and running as soon as possible, but its Sunshine State neighbors might be facing more difficulty. If you want to find out a way to help, look here.

Once things get on track and Florida starts to recover from the destruction, you can look forward to a spooky (or not-so-spooky) Disney visit. A candy corn cone will be a welcomed refreshment. But for those who cannot make it to the theme park — or those who are just too wary of straying away from pumpkin — there are certainly plenty of fall options to choose from. Morning cereal, bread, and even the granola for your yogurt is getting a taste of pumpkin, so why not kick fall into high gear and give everything a try?

While you’re snacking on something that screams “autumn,” start getting those creative juices. It’s never too early to start thinking about the Halloween costume you want to wear for the big day. Good news is Elite Daily provides simple yet effective costume suggestions for those who want to make a statement but are too preoccupied trying to figure out what type of candy they are going to receive instead — with this year’s variety, that sentiment is totally understandable.

Whether at Disney or not, don’t forget about the holiday’s classic sweet: candy corn.

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Airlines are giving away miles in exchange for Harvey disaster relief donations

Hurricane Harvey swept into Texas over the weekend, causing at least two fatalities and billions of dollars in damage.

The hurricane paralyzed much of the Houston metropolitan area and several counties in southeast Texas. While the worst of the storm was over by mid-day Saturday, many parts of the state remain under a flash flood wash through Wednesday. Brock Long, the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, predicted that the areas affected would be “uninhabitable for weeks or months.”

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