Tag Archives: UK

The Story of Henry “Box” Brown: The Slave Magician Who Mailed Himself to Freedom In A Crate

Henry “Box” Brown was born into slavery in 1816. He and his family worked on a plantation in Louisa County, Virginia.

Henry’s experience as a slave was one of the better ones. In his autobiographry, he describes his slave master as, “…uncommonly kind, (for even a slaveholder may be kind),” and added that he was revered almost as a god amongst the slaves.

But one day, after Henry had grown up, married and had kids of his own, things took a bad turn. After the plantation sold his wife and children off to a different slave owner, Henry remembers having a “heavenly vision” that told him to mail himself to freedom.

In 2012, Virginia approved a historical marker honoring Henry “Box” Brown in Louisa County. Click to enlarge

So, with the help of abolitionist C. A. Smith and a sympathetic local shop keeper, Henry devised a plan to ship himself to a free state via the Adams Express freight and cargo company.

Henry paid $86 (more than half of all of his savings) to Smith to set everything up. Smith contacted a pastor in Philadelphia who suggested that they mail the crate to the offices of a Quaker merchant known as Passmore Williamson.

Quaker abolitionist Passmore Williamson. Click to enlarge

When the day arrived to put the plan in motion, Brown burned his hand down to the bone with sulfuric acid to get out of work for the day. Then, he slipped off to meet up with Smith and begin his harrowing journey.

Henry was in the crate for a harrowing 27 hours. During this time, the 3-foot long crate traveled by wagon, railroad, steamboat, wagon again, railroad, ferry, and railroad again before finally making the last leg of its trip in a delivery wagon.

Although the crate was marked with “this side up” and “handle with care”, Henry reported that the crate was often handled roughly and even stored upside down a few times.

But despite all of the trauma, Henry was able to avoid detection, making it to Philadelphia relatively unscathed.

When he emerged from the crate in the office of Passmore Williamson, he said,”How do you do, gentlemen?”, and then proceeded to sing a Bible psalm that he had chosen for his first taste of freedom.

“The Resurrection of Henry Box Brown at Philadelphia”, a lithograph depicting the end of Henry’s journey, by Samuel Rowse. Click to enlarge

Henry went on to play a major role in the abolition movement until the Fugitive Slave Act forced him to flee to England in 1850. While in England, Henry became an entertainer, performing as an illusionist and conjurer, among other mystical and magical acts.

He remarried while in Britain, and returned to the United States in 1875 with a full family magic act. There is no record of Brown’s death, but the last known record of his life comes from a newspaper article dated February 26, 1889 talking about a recent show Brown had put on in Ontario.

Years later, while describing the daring plan that eventually led to his freedom, Henry explained why he was willing to take on such huge risks:

“If you have never been deprived of your liberty, as I was, you cannot realize the power of that hope of freedom, which was to me indeed, an anchor to the soul both sure and steadfast.”

A close up of the historical marker in Louisa County, Virginia. Click to enlarge
A close up of the historical marker in Louisa County, Virginia. Click to enlarge
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New Study: Just 7 Minutes of Running per Day Cuts Your Risk of Dying from Heart Disease In Half

Most people know that exercising regularly reduces your risk of heart disease, but a new study suggests that even a seemingly insignificant amount of exercise can have huge benefits for heart health.

The study, which will be published in the August edition of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, was a joint project. It included researchers from Iowa State, USC, and LSU, as well as the University of Queensland Medical School in Australia.

The results are based off of data from more than 55,000 adults (with an average age of 44 years) gathered over the span of 15 years. At the beginning of the study, none of the participants had ever had a heart attack, a stroke or cancer.

Over the next 15 years, researchers kept track of which participants passed away as well as what the causes were. Then, they compared this data to information about which of the study participants reported running in their leisure time, even if it was only for short periods.

The researchers found that the participants who ran even somewhat regularly saw a significant decrease in heart-related illness and death, regardless of how fast, how long, or how far they ran.

In fact, the “modest runners” (people who ran about 51 total minutes per week, or just over 7 minutes a day) saw a 55% decrease in the risk of cardiovascular-related death, as well as a 30% decrease in the risk of death from any cause.

So stop using the “I don’t have time to workout” excuse. Just seven minutes of running every day, no matter how fast or how far you go, could potentially save your life.

Read more from the National Health Service of the UK here.

Lego Asks British Government to Stop Using Their Toys In Anti-Scottish Independence Ads

On September 18th, Scottish citizens will vote in a referendum to decide whether to remain part of the United Kingdom or to break away and become independent.

Though only about a third of the Scottish population is in favor of leaving the UK, the British government has been leading a campaign to discourage voters from choosing independence.

Scottish Prime Minister Alex Salmond, who proposed the separation when he was elected back in 2012 (Photo: Reuters)

A cornerstone of the British government’s pro-unity argument is their claim that staying part of the UK will make the average Scotsman better off by £1,400 UK ($1,900 USD) per year, as compared to if the country were to separate.

To illustrate this point, the British Treasury Department made a BuzzFeed style list of the “12 things that £1,400 UK Dividend could buy”, using legos to illustrate each entry. They have since removed most of the images, but you can check out some of the original entries below:

Unfortunately for  Britain’s PR team, the plan backfired. Many people accused the government of patronizing the Scottish with suggestions like, “Scoff [eat] 280 hot dogs at the Edinburgh Festival,” or, “cover your family’s yearly shoe habit for about the next 6 years”.

On top of that, the Lego company (which is based in Denmark) asked the government to remove the images, saying,

“We have requested that the images are removed due to our neutral political stance. We are a children’s toy company and therefore all of our communication is targeted towards children. People all over the world use Lego to depict stories and scenarios – some of it not to our knowledge. We maintain our position as being a politically neutral company.”

Read more from The Guardian here.

What’s In Your Drinking Water? Cocaine and Caffeine, If You’re British

A group of experts from the British Drinking Water Inspectorate recently carried out a series of tests to see what chemical compounds were in British drinking water. Even after intensive purification treatments, the scientists found traces of cocaine.

Specifically, the scientists found benzoylecgonine, which is the form that the compound takes after being metabolized in the body. It’s the same compound that is looked for in urine when testing a person for cocaine use.

Steve Rolles of the Transform think tank

Steve Rolles of the drug policy think tank Transform believes that this finding is reflective of Britain’s rapidly growing drug use. In an interview with the British Sunday Times recently, he said,

“We have the near highest level of cocaine use in western Europe. It has also been getting cheaper and cheaper at the same time as its use has been going up.”

According to the charity DrugScope, England has 170,000 crack cocaine-dependent addicts, and an estimated 700,000 British citizens aged 16-59 use cocaine at least once every year.

Click to enlarge

But cocaine wasn’t the only thing found in the water. The inspectors also found traces of the common painkiller acetaminophen and the epilepsy drug carbamazepine. There were also significantly higher levels of caffeine in the water.

Public Health England recently published a report which assessed the health risks associated with these recent findings. Their report concluded that the levels of cocaine in the water after it was treated were 4 times lower than before treatment, and that the dosage (~4 nanograms/liter) was unlikely to pose a serious threat to public health. The report stated,

“Estimated exposures for most of the detected compounds are at least thousands of times below doses seen to produce adverse effects in animals and hundreds of thousands below human therapeutic doses.”

Click to enlarge

However, little research has been done into whether or not constant, regular exposure to these pharmaceuticals, even in small doses, can cause cumulative effects over time.

Read more from The Independent here.

Two Guys Swallowed Pieces of Film. The Images They Recovered Are Other-Worldly

Luke Evans and Josh Lake are graphic design students at Kingston University in London. At the end of their first year in 2012, they wanted to do something creative for their final project.

The subject brief for the project was “outdoor”, so the duo chose to take a creative approach to the concept. They would bring their “insides” to the outside by swallowing individual frames of 35mm film, recovering it (yes that means digging through their own poop), and seeing how their bodies’ chemical processes had affected the film.

They called the project, “I turn myself inside out”.

Click to enlarge

Evans explained,

“Wanting to bring something on the inside to the outside, we chose to investigate how we could use our bodies to alter materials. As the project evolved, we decided to use a material that is synonymous with image making, it was a very logical process. There is a physicality to film that we wanted to explore: the soft emulsion layer, its thickness, the way it reacts to touch and temperature. At this point we were really excited because there was absolutely no way to envision how the results would look, and that no two would be the same: would the film’s gelatin content be completely digested by enzymes? Would we ever get the film back?”

Click an image to enlarge.

Evans summed up it this way:

“This project isn’t ‘photography’ in the traditional sense, in some ways it’s image making about photography. Film has a huge history and set of rules surrounding it, but who is to say that it must be approached in such a way?”

Read more from Wired here.

Oh, Just A Busy Intersection In Ethiopia… With NO Traffic Lights (Video)

This video shows the busy intersection at Meskel Square in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. Cars, trucks, bicycles and pedestrians all move simultaneously through the square with no help from any kind of traffic signals or signs.

Don’t let the whimsical music fool you: Ethiopia’s traffic problem is a serious one.

In 2010, when Ethiopia launched the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP), the country’s vehicle mortality rate was around 100 deaths per 10,000 vehicles.

The GTP’s stated goal was to reduce traffic-related mortality by 80% in 5 years. However, this rate has only dropped to about 72 per 10,000 since the GTP was enacted.

To compare, Kenya has 19 deaths per 10,000 vehicles and the UK has just 2 per 10,000. Traffic accidents cost Ethiopia an estimated $65 million every year.

Read more from Zegabi East Africa News here and the Sudan Tribune here.

Why Are American Eggs Illegal In Britain and British Eggs Illegal In America?

It all comes down to the debate over whether or not it’s a good idea to wash eggs before putting them on the shelves. In the United States, USDA standards require that all eggs must be washed before being sold to consumers.

The standards specify that American eggs must be washed with an odorless detergent and water that is at least 90°F and a minimum of 20°F warmer than the internal temperature of the egg. The eggs must then be thoroughly dried.

This last step is where a lot of the controversy arises. A completely dry egg is almost completely impervious to bacteria, but even a thin layer of moisture facilitates the flow of bacteria into the egg.

Eggs being washed

Health officials in Europe are worried that washing eggs may do more harm than good, fearing that the drying process won’t be meticulously carried out every single time.

They also fear the possibility that some eggs could end up soaking in cold sanitizing water that hasn’t been changed out in a while. Cold water causes eggs to contract inwards- this contraction pulls liquid from the shell’s surroundings into its interior. If this liquid happens to be old, cold water, there is a high chance it contains bacteria.

Then there’s a little something known as the cuticle. As a hen is laying an egg, she applies a thin, mucous-like coating to the outside of the shell. It is wet for the first few minutes, but it quickly dries and creates a protective layer that keeps out carbon dioxide and moisture which can spoil and contaminate the egg.

Anatomy of the egg (cuticle is in the SHELL section)

The EU’s egg regulators say that the egg’s natural cuticle provides,

“an effective barrier to bacterial ingress with an array of antimicrobial properties.”

This is one of the main reasons why they oppose the washing of eggs, which often removes part or all of the cuticle layer.

Finally, there’s the issue of refrigeration. In Europe eggs are on non-refrigerated shelves and stay close to room temperature from the time they are collected to the time they are bought and consumed.

This is because when you take a cold, refrigerated egg out into warmer air, moisture in the air condenses on it. According to the EU regulations, this facilitates the growth bacteria both outside and inside the shell.

So why would we refrigerate eggs in the United States? The answer in related to another major difference between American and British eggs: salmonella vaccination.

Salmonella is the main bacterial culprit of contaminated eggs. It can come from feces getting on the egg,  but it can also come from feces getting into the hen’s reproductive tract before the shell even forms. When this happens, the salmonella is inside the egg from jump- no amount of washing can de-contaminate it.

During an outbreak in the late 90s, thousands of people in the UK got salmonella poisoning in a very short period time. Ever since then, British farmers have been vaccinating their hens against salmonella to avoid the costs of being the source of a health crisis. While hen vaccination is not required by law, farmers must do it if they want their eggs certified by Britain’s official Lion Quality Mark.

Today, 90% of all eggs in the UK are from vaccinated hens, and most of the remaining 10% come from small farmers who don’t sell their eggs to retail chains. Reported cases of salmonella poisoning in the UK dropped from 14,771 in 1997 to just 581 in 2009.

Here in the United States, there’s no vaccination requirements. Consequently, we have about 142,000 cases of illness from consuming salmonella-contaminated eggs every year.

So back to refrigeration. A study in the early 90s showed that non-refrigerated eggs didn’t experience any significant salmonella growth in the first 21 days. After that, however, the eggs quickly became contaminated. More research has shown that storing eggs in colder temperatures inhibits the growth of bacteria over a much longer period of time.

So, to keep eggs from our unvaccinated American hens on the shelves longer, we refrigerate them. What do you think?

Read more from Forbes here.