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The place where the world comes together in honesty and mirth.
Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.


Friday, December 2, 2011

The Daily Drift

The Daily Drift
Today's horoscope says:
Sometimes, it isn't totally obvious when you have made progress in a relationship.
The other person doesn't give out grades, so it can be hard to tell if you've become more important to them or not.
There are only, from time to time, little tests.
Today, you'll be feeling good when you are able to come to the rescue for a friend at the very last minute.
You will prove that you are dependable and generous -- in short, you'll prove what a good partner you can be.

 Some of our readers today have been in:
Red Deer, Alberta, Canada
Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan, Malaysia
Candiac, Quebec, Canada
Chatswood, New South Wales, Australia
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Rio De Janiero, Rio De Janiero, Brazil
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Paris, Ile-De- France, France
Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
London, England, United Kingdom
Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands
Berlin, Berlin, Germany
Dortmund, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany
Istanbul, Istanbul, Turkey
Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Wellington, Wellington,New Zealand
Annecy, Rhone-Alpes, France
Moscow, Moskva, Russia
Canterbury, England, United Kingdom
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Quezon City, Manila, Philippines
Crawley, England, United Kingdom
Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom
Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
Stockholm, Stockholms Lan, Sweden
Windsor, Ontario, Canada
Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India
Canberra, Australian, Capital Territory, Australia
Belgrade, Belgrade, Serbia
Manila, Manila, Philippines
Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
Ashdod, Hamerkaz, Israel
Oxford, England, United Kingdom
Delhi, Delhi, India
Ballarat, Victoria, Australia
Frankfurt, Hessen, Germany
Georgetown, Demerara-Mahaica, Guyana
Gosford, New South Wales, Australia
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Lille, Nord-Pas-De-Calais, France
San Salvador, San Salvador, El Salvador
Munich, Bayern, Germany
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Basauri, Pais Vasco, Spain
Coffs Harbor, New South Wales, Australia
Rome, Lazio, Italy
Madrid, Madrid, Spain
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

as well as Slovakia, Malta, Bulgaria, Israel, Finland, Austria, Norway, Georgia, Mexico, Peru, Kuwait, Serbia, Bangladesh, Latvia, Greece, Scotland, Hong Kong, Denmark, Wales, Iran, Singapore, Poland, Taiwan, Sweden, Afghanistan, Belgium, Tibet, Croatia, Pakistan, Romania, Paraguay, Sudan, Vietnam, Argentina, Cambodia, Egypt, France, Estonia, Puerto Rico, Maldives, Qatar, Brazil, New Zealand, United Arab Emirates, Slovenia, China, Iraq, Ecuador, Nigeria, Colombia, Chile, Honduras, Paupa New Guinea, Moldova, Venezuela, Germany, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Ireland, Czech Republic, Vietnam, Norway, Finland

and in cities across the United States such as Fawn Grove, Long Beach, Martins Ferry, Thorndale and more!

Today is:
Today is Friday, December 2, the 336th day of 2011.
There are 29 days left in the year.


Today's unusual holiday or celebration is:
National Mutt Day.
  
Don't forget to visit our sister blog!

Non Sequitur

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Editorial Comment

Some of the links to stories provided on this blog have not been maintained by the primary source recently and it has caused consternation among the staff here at Carolina Naturally as to what to do about it.

With the thought that we read somewhere that the average life of a link on the web these days is 1 hour we have toyed with the idea of more or less dropping some sources that do not maintain their links and replacing them with those that do.
We plan to do this while maintaining the commitment to diversity in the stories we post that we have made so our readers more than likely will not notice any changes in content or in source material.

This move to better sources (as well as format tweaks, but more on that later) was planned to begin in 2012 but it looks like December, 2011 will be the time.

Far-Out Friday

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Perhaps it depends on how you define "fraud" ??

From an article by Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone:
Last week, a federal judge in Mississippi sentenced a mother of two named Anita McLemore to three years in federal prison for lying on a government application in order to obtain food stamps... The total "cost" of her fraud was $4,367.

She has paid the money back. But paying the money back was not enough for federal Judge Henry Wingate... He ultimately gave her three years, saying, "The defendant's criminal record is simply abominable …. She has been the beneficiary of government generosity in state court."

Compare this court decision to the fraud settlements on Wall Street. Like McLemore, fraud defendants like Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and Deutsche Bank have "been the beneficiary of government generosity." Goldman got $12.9 billion just through the AIG bailout. Citigroup got $45 billion, plus hundreds of billions in government guarantees.

All of these companies have been repeatedly dragged into court for fraud, and not one individual defendant has ever been forced to give back anything like a significant portion of his ill-gotten gains. The closest we've come is in a fraud case involving Citi, in which a pair of executives, Gary Crittenden and Arthur Tildesley, were fined the token amounts of $100,000 and $80,000, respectively, for lying to shareholders about the extent of Citi’s debt. Neither man was forced to admit to intentional fraud. Both got to keep their jobs...

This is the reason why all of these settlements allowing banks to walk away without "admissions of wrongdoing" are particularly insidious. A normal person, once he gets a felony conviction, immediately begins to lose his rights as a citizen. But white-collar criminals of the type we’ve seen in recent years on Wall Street – both the individuals and the corporate "citizens" – do not suffer these ramifications. They commit crimes without real consequence, allowing them to retain access to the full smorgasbord of subsidies and financial welfare programs that, let’s face it, are the source of most of their profits... 

House Panel Subpoenas Jon Corzine To Testify About MF Global Scandal

A congressional panel has voted to subpoena former Sen. Jon Corzine to compel him to testify at a hearing next week about his role leading the investment firm MF Global, which collapsed after a disastrous bet on European debt.

The repugicans kill the payroll tax cut extension to protect the rich

They choose to raise taxes on the middle class instead

Here's a statement from the President:
Tonight, Senate Republicans chose to raise taxes on nearly 160 million hardworking Americans because they refused to ask a few hundred thousand millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share. They voted against a bill that would have not only extended the $1,000 tax cut for a typical family, but expanded that tax cut to put an extra $1,500 in their pockets next year, and given nearly six million small business owners new incentives to expand and hire. That is unacceptable. It makes absolutely no sense to raise taxes on the middle class at a time when so many are still trying to get back on their feet.

Now is not the time to put the economy and the security of the middle class at risk. Now is the time to rebuild an economy where hard work and responsibility pay off, and everybody has a chance to succeed. Now is the time to put country before party and work together on behalf of the American people. And I will continue to urge Congress to stop playing politics with the security of millions of American families and small business owners and get this done.

The repugican Senators in turmoil ...

The majority vote against repugican’s own plan to extend payroll tax cut

Who says the tea party only runs the House repugicans.
A majority of repugican Senators just voted against the repugican plan to extend the payroll tax cut by cutting the pay of the federal workforce.
It was the repugican's own legislation and a majority of repugicans voted AGAINST it.

Reuters:
The repugican ambivalence toward any extension of the payroll tax cut was evident in the Senate as a majority of the party's 47 senators voted against the repugican plan.
So a majority of repugicans voted against the Democratic plan to extend the payroll tax cut, and a majority of repugicans voted against even the repugican plan to extend the payroll tax cut.

In other words, the repugicans don't want to extend the payroll tax cut at all.  They want to raise taxes on every single working American. Not just the middle class - if you have a job, the repugicans just voted to raise your taxes for Christmas.

What's hard to figure out is what the repugicans are thinking here.  Wouldn't repugicans in Congress want to cut taxes for everyone?  Isn't that what they're always telling us they're for?  Or are they making an exception in this case - an exception that might cost the economy 1.5 percentage points of GDP next quarter - simply because this was Barack Obama's idea, and the repugicans want Obama to lose, so they're willing to hold every single working American hostage.

Merry Christmas to you too.

And PS, what to make of Boehner and McConnell?  It seems their word, and wishes, don't mean much in the repugican caucus.

"President" Bachmann vows to close non-existent US embassy in Iran

When people wonder why the political class is such a failure, look no further than the tea party's "leader" in Congress.
In light of the British Foreign Ministry pulling all U.K. nationals out of the British embassy in Tehran after students stormed the building in protest, repugican presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann told a crowd in Waverly, Iowa, today that she would close the U.S. embassy in Iran.

One small, tiny note: The U.S. hasn’t had an embassy in Tehran since 1980. Following the Iranian Hostage Crisis, where 52 Americans were held for 444 days, the United States cut all diplomatic ties.

According to reports, Bachmann applauded the U.K.’s move, adding, “That’s exactly what I would do [if I were president]. We wouldn’t have an embassy in Iran. I wouldn’t allow that to be there."
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And I Quote

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Dentist makes threat over negative review

Robert Lee went into Dr.Stacy Makhnevich’s New York dentist office for a sore tooth, but the year that followed turned into what one Public Citizen senior lawyer called an “unconscionable practice.”
The controversy began in 2010, when Lee went into Makhnevich’s office for a scheduled dentist’s appointment. Bleary from pain, Lee claimed he was told he had to sign several papers, including a “Mutual Agreement to Maintain Privacy,” before being treated. The form required Lee to agree not to publish any commentary or write anything disparaging about his experience with Makhnevich.
While Lee said he was hesitant to sign such a form, he claimed he was in severe pain and, therefore, gave in to the requirements.
Lee received a bill for $4,766 for the dental work, according to Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization. Lee reportedly asked the dentist to send the necessary paperwork to his insurance company, but she sent it to the wrong company. When he asked for the forms to submit them himself, Makhnevich’s office apparently refused to hand them over and referred him to a third party that required five percent of the total bill for its services.
Fed up, Lee wrote negative reviews about Makhnevich and her practice on Yelp and DoctorBase.
Lee then received a letter from the dentist demanding that he delete the post, warning him that he violated the agreement and threatening to sue for breach of contract. Makhnevich also reached out to both websites, asking for Lee’s comments to be removed, according to Public Citizen.
The sites refused to take down the negative reviews, but Makhneich reportedly claimed that a copyright clause gave her ownership of the harsh words. She then sent Lee an invoice for $100 for each day the criticism remained online.
Makhnevich did not immediately return requests for comment.
“We are now seeking a declaratory judgment from the judge to show that my client was not doing anything wrong,” said Paul Levy, Lee’s lawyer, a senior attorney at Public Citizen. “Doctors and dentists are expected to behave in an ethical manner, and to impose this sort of requirement on people who are having emergencies is unethical.”
The suit argues that the forms that Lee signed should be deemed null and void.
“Facing criticism comes with the turf of these jobs,” Levy said. “If they defame you, then that’s something else. A doctor can sue for that.”
A North Carolina company known as Medical Justice sells the agreement forms to health care providers. The company claims about 3,000 doctors and dentists use the forms, according to Public Citizen.
In response to the lawsuit Public Citizen filed Tuesday night, Medical Justice spokespeople announced the company would stop recommending medical professionals have patients sign such forms, Public Citizen announced.
“This is a form of bullying, and it’s absurd that this could possibly be an enforceable contract,” said Arthur Caplan, chairman of the department of medical ethics at University of Pennsylvania Medical Center.  ”It infringes upon free speech and you can’t just have that waived away on a silence contract.”

While Caplan acknowledged that doctors or dentists can indeed get “bum raps” from bad write-ups online, “someone who is put off by one negative review isn’t a patient you’d want anyway. If there’s a pattern of bad reviews, that’s a different story.”

“This doctor is overreacting and attempting to muzzle patients,” added Caplan. “It is not a desirable reaction at all.”
***
She thinks she had a negative review before ....

Crabby Road

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Has Da Vinci's Lost Work Been Found at Another's Expense?

Has Da Vinci's Lost Work Been Found at Another's Expense?
Researchers have drilled a hole into a frescoed wall which they believe hides a long lost Da Vinci masterpiece known as the "Battle of Anghiari."  

The Twist Bridge Over The Vlaardingse Vaart, The Netherlands

 
This bicycle and pedestrian bridge, alled 'The Twist' bridge for its contorted and sculptural lines, connects the Holy-Zuid district and the Broekpolder in the city of Vlaardingen in the Netherlands. The visitor enters the bridge through a rectangular frame, while the space evolves dynamically into a double-height diamond-shaped tube, through the bridge's centre.

Constructed largely onsite, prefabricated in a temporary shed, the Twist bridge was made of 400 steel tubes, welded together, galvanized and painted red for maximum visual effect.

It came from the sky

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The owners of a Plymouth, Mass., furniture warehouse want to know the origin of a chunk of metal that plunged through the roof. No one was hurt when the six-inch, cylindrical piece of metal weighing about five pounds came through the roof Wednesday or Thursday.

The chunk punched a small hole in the warehouse roof over a storage closet and scattered ceiling-tile debris on the floor.

Federal Aviation Administration inspectors say the piece of metal, broken at both ends, was not an airplane part.

An FAA spokeswoman says the chunk likely came from a piece of heavy machinery, possibly a wood chipper. That still doesn't explain how it came crashing through the roof.

Police are also stumped.

The owner of Michael's Furniture Warehouse says someone could have been killed.

Past Decade Ties for World's Hottest

hot sun
Thirteen of the warmest years recorded have occurred within the last decade and a half.  

Record drought on the Danube exposes sunken WWII battleships, causes water shortages

The waters of the mighty Danube are so low that dozens of cargo ships are simply stuck, stranded in ghostly fog or wedged into sand banks on what is normally one of eastern Europe's busiest transport routes.

Massive Piece Of Driftwood Washed Ashore

A massive piece of driftwood washed ashore recently in La Push, a small community on the northwest coast of Washington's most westerly peninsula. This piece of driftwood is actually called a drift log.

It wasn't measured, but finding trees in the forest between 5 and 10 feet in diameter and a couple hundred feet tall isn't uncommon. Powerful winds accompanied by high tides are required to bring these monsters ashore.

The Hipster's Dictionary

 

Hipsters are a subculture of young, recently settled urban middle class adults and older teenagers with musical interests mainly in alternative rock that appeared in the 1990s. Hipster culture has been described as a 'mutating, trans-Atlantic melting pot of styles, tastes and behavior.'

The term itself was coined during the jazz age, when 'hip' emerged as an adjective to describe aficionados of the growing scene. 'Hip' eventually acquired the common English suffix -ster (as in spinster and gangster), and 'hipster' entered the language.

Here's a copasetic compendium of hep cat hype and swing-era slang.

Words with no etymological roots

In looking at The History of English one finds that some rather common words have an unknown etymology:
A good example is the word dog, etymologically unrelated to any other known word, which, in the late Middle Ages, suddenly and mysteriously displaced the Old English word hound (or hund) which had served for centuries. Some of the commonest words in the language arrived in a similarly inexplicable way (e.g. jaw, askance, tantrum, conundrum, bad, big, donkey, kick, slum, log, dodge, fuss, prod, hunch, freak, bludgeon, slang, puzzle, surf, pour, slouch, bash, etc).

Words like gadget, blimp, raunchy, scam, nifty, zit, clobber, gimmick, jazz and googol have all appeared in the last century or two with no apparent etymology, and are more recent examples of this kind of novel creation of words. Additionally, some words that have existed for centuries in regional dialects or as rarely used terms, suddenly enter into popular use for little or no apparent reason (e.g. scrounge and seep, both old but obscure English words, suddenly came into general use in the early 20th Century).

Sometimes, if infrequently, a "nonce word" (created "for the nonce", and not expected to be re-used or generalized) does become incorporated into the language. One example is James Joyce's invention quark, which was later adopted by the physicist Murray Gell-Mann to name a new class of sub-atomic particle, and another is blurb, which dates back to 1907.
English language enthusiasts will want to browse further down the page at the link to learn about words created by adoption, truncation, fusion, imitation, back-formation, and errors ("refudiate.")

Ziggy

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Why the 'Native' Fashion Trend Is Pissing Off Real Native Americans

Tis the season for buying presents. As you peruse your local mall, you might find yourself drawn to beautiful geometric patterns in vibrant colors, long associated with Navajo rugs, Pendleton 'Indian trade' blankets, and Southwest Native American pottery. They'll be everywhere you look, on sneakers, pricey handbags, home decor, and high-fashion skirts, coats, and jackets.

But many Native Americans are less than thrilled that this so-called 'native look' is trendy right now. The company that's stirred up the most controversy so far is Urban Outfitters, which offered a 'Navajo' line this fall before the Navajo Nation sent the company a cease and desist order that forced it to rename its products. Forever 21 and designer Isabel Marant also missed the memo that the tribe has a trademark on its name; thanks to the Federal Indian Arts and Crafts act of 1990, it's illegal to claim a product is made by a Native American when it is not.

Hungary outlaws homeless people

A new legal regulation has come into force in Hungary making homelessness punishable by a fine of around $600 (£384) or prison. MPs from the ruling conservative party proposed the regulation, on the grounds that Budapest could not cope with the large number of people on the streets.

Critics, including charities for the homeless, say it is unenforceable and that hostels lack sufficient places. The Hungarian capital is said to have some 10,000 homeless people.


According to an amendment to the local government act, passed by a strong majority in parliament last month, those found sleeping on the streets will first receive a warning. They can subsequently be imprisoned or ordered to pay the fine. The move has provoked widespread criticism, including from Hungary's human rights ombudsman.

Miklos Vecsei, deputy head of the Hungarian Maltese Charity Service, said the law had not been passed on the basis of any rational or professional criteria but because the public were fed up with the homeless. Budapest's capacity had been stretched to the limits but deep poverty needed to be cured, not banned, he argued.

Belarus bars man from breathing in public

Belarussian authorities have prohibited a local businessman to breathe in a central square of the city of Baranovichi, saying it would violate the law on public rallies. Nikolai Chernous requested that City Hall allow him a two-hour breathing exercise near the downtown Lenin memorial, human rights center.

But the Baranovichi administration rejected the tongue-in-cheek request, saying it violated several clauses of the law on rallies, without elaborating. Chernous earlier tried to stage a bike rally and a marathon walk "against bureaucracy," but both were also banned.


Updated legislation on public rallies went into effect in Belarus this month despite a huge backlash from local and international rights groups and activists. The law now prohibits all kinds of unsanctioned public events, including pickets and flash mobs.

Law enforcement officials said the law is aimed at boosting public safety, but critics denounced the bill for an attempt to suppress all dissent by the authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko, in power since 1994.

School cuffs burping teen

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A 13-year-old was handcuffed and hauled off to a juvenile detention for burping in class, according to a lawsuit filed against an Albuquerque school principal, a teacher and school police officer.

The boy was transported without his parents being notified in May after he "burped audibly" in PE class and his teacher called a school resource officer to complain he was disrupting her class. The lawsuit also details a separate Nov. 8 incident when the same student was forced to strip down to his underwear while five adults watched as he was accused of selling pot to another student; the boy was never charged.

The suit was one of two filed Wednesday by civil rights attorney Shannon Kennedy, who says she has been fighting the district and police for years over the use of force with problem children. She says a review of school and Bernalillo County records shows more than 200 school kids have been handcuffed and arrested in the last three years for non-violent misdemeanors.

In the second lawsuit filed Wednesday, the parents of a 7-year-old boy with autism accuse a school officer of unlawful arrest for handcuffing the boy to a chair after he became agitated in class. New Mexico law prohibits officers and school officials from restraining children under 11.

The suits come one year after the same attorney settled a class action lawsuit against the district that was prompted by the arrest of a girl who Kennedy said "didn't want to sit by the stinky boy in class." And Kennedy says she has a number of other cases she is preparing over treatment of students in Albuquerque by school officials, school police, city police and sheriff's officers.
"I am trying to get all the stake holders in a room to get people properly trained to prevent this from happening," Kennedy said.
Kennedy said the problem lies with the schools more than with the law enforcement agencies.
"It lands in the lap of the principal. There are good schools and bad schools. The principals ... who are handling their schools properly don't need to have children arrested. It's ridiculous."

A spokesman for Albuquerque Public Schools did not immediately return calls and emails seeking comment on Thursday. A police spokeswoman said the department does not comment on litigation.

One school board member, Lorenzo Garcia, said he had not seen and could not comment on the lawsuits, but he did say he was concerned about what appeared to be schools getting stuck on a "zero tolerance policy."
"Really, in my opinion, this really increases the whole idea of the schools-to-prison pipeline," he said.

Man wearing Frosty the snowman mask causes fear in town

Four 911 callers had alarm in their voices. "He scared a little girl," one said. "There's somebody walking around with a mask," said another. A different person identified what triggered the calls. "Frosty the Snowman." With the remnants of an inflatable snowman over his head and a four-foot candy cane in his hand, "Frosty" was a one-man parade through downtown Vanceboro, North Carolina on Sunday night.

"I thought he was there to rob me," said Christina Squires, who was behind the counter of a tobacco shop when the man wearing a long carrot nose tapped on a store window. Then "he picked up the candy cane to show me it wasn't a weapon," Squires said.


While the sight caused considerable alarm for those interviewed, Vanceboro Police had not determined who was behind the mask. Chief William Turner said he had "more important" things to work on, adding that he was investigating separate cases, including a rape.

Jeffery Acker was behind the appearance. The spectacle was meant to be a merry one, according to the man behind the mask. "Christmas is everything to me. I love it," Acker said. "It was never an intention to be scary." Acker is not accused of doing anything illegal.

British schoolboy reunited with missing pet chicken thanks to Twitter user in America

A schoolboy has been reunited with his missing pet chicken thanks to a Twitter user in America. Tom Cowley, aged 11, found himself asking the age-old question ‘why did the chicken cross the road?’ after discovering Ginger just meters from his home in Park View, Moulton. It turned out the Gingernut Ranger hen had simply crossed the A43 after escaping from the family’s garden.

But it took three days for Moulton School pupil Tom to be reunited with his pet, thanks to social media website Twitter. Tom’s mother, Louise, who runs a bakery business, said: “It was amazing. I was so sad I tweeted on my business account and a follower in America picked it up and retweeted it. We did look for her and asked neighbors but we’d given up.”


Two days after the search began, the retweet was seen by Catherine Inglis, founder of a website created to reunite lost pets with their owners. Catherine contacted Louise through the social media website and created posters, which Tom put up near the family’s home. One of the posters was spotted by Emma Maloret, a nursery worker at Tiny Horizons nursery, on the opposite side of the busy A43 in Park View.

Emma knew Ginger was safe in the nursery’s small farm, after a neighbor had alerted them thinking it was one of theirs. Tom was finally reunited with Ginger last Wednesday. Louise said: “It’s hilarious really. We’re absolutely delighted.”

Shoot Stunning Night Photos Like A Pro

 
When the sun goes down, Scott Martin's job begins. He's a night photographer and instructor in San Antonio, leading workshops to teach curious photogs the nuances of shooting in the dark. In this article, Martin shares a few tips. Try these out the next time you've got the itch to stalk the night with your camera.

Dutch Skywatcher Snaps Photos Of Stranded Russian Mars Probe

The Russian Mars probe has been stranded in low-Earth orbit following an engine failure almost immediately after launch on November 8. Now, a Dutch skywatcher has photographed the troubled probe.

Astrophotographer and veteran satellite spotter Ralf Vandebergh tracked Russia's Phobos-Grunt spacecraft as it passed over the southern Netherlands last Tuesday. Using a 10-inch telescope and a video camera, he snapped a series of images at a range of about 170 miles.

Mind-blowing amateur space photos

This photograph — shot by Rolf Olsen of New Zealand — may appear rather unremarkable at first glance, but it's quickly becoming one of the most popular space pictures of the year. The image shows a new solar system named Beta Pictoris in its very first stages of life. Olsen's achievement marks the first time that an amateur astronomer has captured a solar system being born, and it's a feat that even professional stargazers have a difficult time capturing.
(Photo Courtesy of Rolf Olsen/Tecca)

How To Rate The Habitability Of Other Planets

These days, every exoplanet discovery is still rich with excitement, as astronomers scrutinize each distant world and consider its possible characteristics. But this could get tedious pretty soon, as the number of confirmed exoplanets climbs into the thousands. When that happens, astronomers and especially astrobiologists will have to start sifting planets according to their interestingness.

A new paper to be published next month describes a new two-step ranking system to make this process easier. Unlike other astrobiology criteria, this new system doesn't assume that habitability only applies to a rocky place with liquid water.

Stonehenge Reveals New Clues of Ancient Worship

Stonehenge Reveals New Clues of Ancient Worship
Evidence of ancient worship comes from the discovery of two pits set in celestial alignment at the Stonehenge site.

B.C.

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Turtle Eggs Communicate With Each Other to Coordinate Hatching

It's often said that timing is everything, but for Australia's Murray short-necked turtles, hatching together is a matter of life or death. The turtle eggs coordinate their hatching so they find safety in numbers at their most vulnerable age.
But how do the eggs coordinate their hatchings? Turns out, unhatched eggs can communicate with one another:
Although all the eggs were laid at the same time, in the same nest, they experience radically different environments. Those at the top of the nest, buried in warmer sun-soaked soil, can be up to six degrees Celsius warmer than those at the bottom. That’s a problem because the embryos develop at different rates depending on how hot they are. Given the gradient of warmth in the nest, the topmost turtles should hatch well before their siblings at the bottom.
That’s not what happens. Ricky-John Spencer from the University of Western Sydney has found that the Murray River turtles can tell whether their clutch-mates are more or less advanced, and shift the pace of their own development accordingly. If their peers are racing ahead, they can play catch-up.

Chimpanzees

Why Chimps Eat Dead Wood and Other Plants

Why Chimps Eat Dead Wood and Other Plants
A look at the long list of plants and plant parts that chimps consume and how they help them.
Read more

Chimpanzees Self-Medicate With Food

chimps
Chimps, like humans, learn from each other what foods can help cure what ails them.
Read more

The world's biggest ever insect found in New Zealand

An explorer has found the biggest insect ever on record - so large it can eat a carrot. She's called a Weta Bug and has a huge wing span of seven inches and weighs as much as three mice. Former park ranger Mark Moffett, 55, discovered the cricket-like creature up a tree on New Zealand's Little Barrier Island.

He spent two days searching for the creepy crawly which were thought to be extinct after Europeans brought rats to the island many years ago. American Mark, 53, said: "Three of us walked the trails of this small island for two nights scanning the vegetation for a giant weta. We spent many hours with no luck finding any at all, before we saw her up in a tree.


"The giant weta is the largest insect in the world, and this is the biggest one ever found. She enjoyed the carrot so much she seemed to ignore the fact she was resting on our hands and carried on munching away. She would have finished the carrot very quickly, but this is an extremely endangered species and we didn't want to risk indigestion.

"After she had chewed a little I took this picture and we put her right back where we found her." Mark, from Colorado, added: "We bug lovers hear a lot of people who think insects are inferior in some way because of their size, so it was great to see such a big insect. This became all the more amazing when we realized that this was the largest insect recorded."

Wasps Never Forget a Face

wasps
The findings add to the debate about whether facial recognition skills in people are learned or inborn. Read more 

Albino Dolphin

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Brazilian biologists have found an extremely rare example of an albino dolphin among an endangered species that lives off the southern coast of South America.

The research group, based at Univille university in Santa Catarina, said Thursday that it was the first recorded instance of an albino in the pontoporia blainvillei species, a very shy type of dolphin that rarely jumps out of the water. It's known in Brazil as Toninha and in Argentina and Uruguay as the La Plata or Franciscana dolphin.
Camilla Meirelles Sartori, the lead biologist of Project Toninhas, said she first saw the white calf with pinkish fins at the end of October. Her group photographed him in early November.

"We were surprised, shocked," Sartori said. "It's very small, and the color is really different. We didn't know what it was at first."

Sartori said the baby was with an adult, probably its mother. The young live on their mother's milk until they are six months old and remain dependent on the adult until they're a year old.
The species is endangered. Its dolphins have long, thin snouts and get easily tangled in fishing nets. They can drown or die of stress if not quickly released, Sartori said.

Since Herman Melville created the albino whale Moby Dick in 1851, rare albino marine mammals have held a special fascination.

Albinism is the lack of melanin pigments in the body, giving an individual very light or white skin and hair. Little is known about the genetic predisposition in dolphins because it's so unusual.

Sartori said the rarity of the baby spotted by her group only highlights the need to preserve the Bay of Babitonga in the southern Brazil state of Santa Catarina, where this population of endangered dolphins lives.

"Albino animals generally have fewer chances of survival because they have greater chances of being caught by predators," Sartori said. "Here, in this bay, they don't have natural predators. But there is a lot of environmental degradation from two ports, industrial and residential sewage, tourism. This is an another argument for its protection."

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