Notes and shorts from around the world


The naked mole rat's amazing abilities
They do not get cancer, are resistant to many forms of pain and show few signs of ageing. Now naked mole rats have been found to have another superpower. The creatures can survive without oxygen for 18 minutes. Most mammals need oxygen to turn glucose into the energy that powers their major organs. Without it, energy stores are rapidly depleted and cells die. Without oxygen, humans suffer irreversible brain damage within about five minutes. Examination of mole rats suggests that they, however, have a back-up system. If they have no oxygen, they simply use the fructose in their bodies to power their cells, which unlike glucose can be metabolised without oxygen – for a short time, at least. Mole rats live in large colonies in crowded burrows, so it was likely they had adapted to cope with oxygen deprivation. To test the theory, researchers put them in containers with 5% oxygen (as opposed to the 21% found in the air). The mole rats were fine five hours later. At 0% oxygen, the mole rats soon lost consciousness but survived, in a state of suspended animation, for 18 minutes and recovered when oxygen was restored.
Modern slave markets
Migrants from sub-Saharan Africa are being sold as slaves or hostages in Libya for as little as US$200, according to a new report from the International Organisation for Migration. There were already numerous reports of migrants trafficked through Libya en route to Europe being enslaved, beaten and tortured. The latest evidence suggests the trade in human beings – centred on Sabha, a smuggling hub in south-west Libya – has become so great that they are now being bought and sold in public. The migrants, mostly from Nigeria, the Gambia and Ghana, are often tortured by their 'buyers' until their families pay a ransom, or they die, but this has not stemmed the flow of migrants.
Fakers rumbled
Tanzania's President, John Magufuli, has ordered the immediate dismissal of nearly 10,000 public servants after a government inquiry into fraudulent qualifications in the public sector revealed that their educational certificates had all been faked. “These people occupied government positions but had no qualifications … they robbed us just like other common criminals,” said Magufuli. He urged local officials to name and shame offenders who had not yet been rumbled by the government, and the press to publicise their crimes. If convicted of fraud, the 9,932 officials could each face up to seven years in gaol. Last year, Tanzania removed 19,700 so-called ghost workers from its public sector payroll in another crackdown on corruption. Payments to the non-existent employees had been costing the government more than $2.64 million a month.
Bons mots
“People waste years of their lives not being willing to waste hours of their lives.” – Michael Lewis, author and financial journalist, USA

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