Iceland Named Safest Country in the World for the 11th Year in a Row

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Each year, an Australian think tank called the Institute for Economics and Peace analyzes the political situation in 163 countries to come up with the Global Peace Index, a ranking of how peaceful different regions of the world are. As Business Insider reports, for the 11th year in a row, Iceland took the top spot in the 2018 rankings, making it officially the most peaceful country on Earth.

According to the institute’s rankings, which take into account factors like government functioning, levels of corruption, violent crime rates, incarceration rates, terrorist attacks, weapons imports and exports, and military expenditures, Europe is the safest region in the world. Six of the top 10 safest countries in the world are located in Europe—Iceland (No. 1), Austria (No. 3), Portugal (No. 4), Denmark (No. 5), the Czech Republic (No. 7), and Ireland (No. 10). New Zealand, Canada, Singapore, and Japan also made the top 10 list.

A ranking of the top-ranking countries on the peace index
Institute for Economics and Peace

A color-coded map showing the state of peace in each country
Institute for Economics and Peace

Overall, the report found that as a whole, global levels of peace have fallen for the fourth year in a row. Ninety-two countries have seen their rankings fall, while 71 countries improved their standing.

The U.S. was one of those 71 countries that moved up in the rankings, but overall, it had a pretty poor showing. Though Americans may see their homeland as a relatively safe place, by the institute’s rankings, it’s not even in the top 100 safest countries in the world. It ranks 121st, up one spot from last year. The report cites increasing political polarization, the presence of nuclear weapons, high rates of incarceration, weapons exports, and involvement in external conflicts as some of the factors that have kept the U.S.’s score low. On the bright side, the report notes that the country’s homicide rates have fallen substantially over the last decade.

Contrast that with our Nordic friend Iceland. While Iceland has a relatively high rate of gun ownership—“access to small arms” is one of the negative factors the index analyzes—it also has some of the lowest rates of violent crime in the world. The country doesn’t have a military force, and police deploy weapons so infrequently that it made international news when, in 2013, Icelandic police shot a man to death for the first time in the country’s history as an independent republic. Most of the police force isn’t even armed. And, of course, the government takes elves' wishes into account while building new roads. (OK, maybe the report didn't include the elf factor in its analysis.)

Sounds like it's time to move to Iceland.

Read the whole report here.

[h/t Business Insider]

You Can Buy an Extinct Volcano in Devon, England, for $60,000

People buy private islands, so why not buy a private volcano? Posbury Clump, a 250-million-year-old inactive volcano located in Devon, England, could be yours for the seemingly reasonable price of about $60,0000.

As Smithsonian reports, the volcano is 500 feet tall at its peak and surrounded by 4.9 acres of woodland (holly, oak, and ash trees), so you get sweeping views of the English countryside. The wooded outcrop and rolling hills make Posbury Clump look less like a volcano and more like a forest. Architects used the basalt stone from a former on-site quarry to build two of the area's most famous structures: Crediton Church and Medland Manor.

Because of its unique potassium-rich lava and other rare geological features, Posbury Clump has been designated a site of scientific interest, and as such has been formally marked for conservation.

Currently, only a few houses reside in the area, but Posbury—settled during the Iron Age, between about 800 BCE and AD 100—once housed convent Posbury St Francis, which was a part of the Posbury Clump estate. Those interested in possibly purchasing the volcano can contact agent Jackson-Stops. The cost is £50,000, or around $60,800, which is about what you'd pay to rent a studio apartment in New York City's Tribeca neighborhood for one year.

Just remember: If you do buy the volcano, you won't be the first person to purchase such a thing. According to Atlas Obscura, famed cartoonist-turned-oddities-collector Robert Ripley tried to purchase Parícutin (a baby volcano that suddenly sprung up from a cornfield in Mexico) in 1943, but was beaten to the punch by muralist Gerardo Murillo. Several individuals have privately owned New Zealand's active Whakaari volcano, and people privately own volcanoes in California and Oregon, too.

Reality Bites: A Humongous Tick That Chases Its Prey Has Been Found in the Netherlands

ironman100/iStock via Getty Images
ironman100/iStock via Getty Images

Humans have long been discouraged from tolerating the parasitic behavior of the tick. These pathogen-ridden arachnids latch onto their hosts for a blood buffet while transmitting a variety of diseases through their bites. Typically, ticks in infested areas wait for their hosts to stand or pass by and hope a bare leg presents itself.

But not all ticks are so passive. In the Netherlands, there have been reported sightings of Hyalomma marginatum, a kind of Andre the Giant of ticks that are twice the size of a more common species, Ixodes ricinus (sheep tick). Worse, they don’t sit idle. If they want to bite you, they’ll run after you.

The non-native species has been spotted twice in the past month. One was in Drenthe, a province in the northeastern part of the country, and the other was found in Achterhoek. They measure up to 0.2 inches but can grow to 0.7 inches when engorged with the blood of their hosts. The ticks are known to hide in brush. When they spot a potential meal, they run toward it. H. marginatum can detect a victim from up to 30 feet away and track it for 10 minutes before abandoning pursuit.

The species is typically found in northern Africa and Asia as well as parts of southern and eastern Europe. How did they get to the Netherlands? Researchers theorize they hitchhiked on migratory birds. And while their appearances have been scarce, they’re still a cause for concern. H. marginatum is known to harbor the virus that causes Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, which lists uncontrolled bleeding among its undesirable symptoms. The ticks, which were collected for analysis, tested negative for that disease but one was positive for the bacteria Rickettsia aeschlimannii, which causes spotted fever.

There have been no sightings of H. marginatum in the U.S., but native ticks remain a perpetual concern. If you’re outdoors, it’s always a good idea to monitor yourself for ticks and take steps to remove them safely.

[h/t LiveScience]

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