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Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.


Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Daily Drift

Oops, the truth about today and the reason we celebrate it comes out.

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Today in History



1282   The great massacre of the French in Sicily The Sicilian Vespers comes to an end.
1547   In France, Francis–king since 1515–dies and is succeeded by his son Henry II.
1776   Abigail Adams writes to husband John that women are "determined to foment a rebellion" if the new Declaration of Independence fails to guarantee their rights.
1779   Russia and Turkey sign a treaty by which they promise to take no military action in the Crimea.
1790   In Paris, France, Maximilien Robespierre is elected president of the Jacobin Club.
1836   The first monthly installment of The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens is published in London.
1862   Skirmishing between Rebels and Union forces takes place at Island 10 on the Mississippi River.
1880   The first electric street lights ever installed by a municipality are turned on in Wabash, Indiana.
1889   The Eiffel Tower in Paris officially opens on the Left Bank as part of the Exhibition of 1889.
1916   General John Pershing and his army rout Pancho Villa's army in Mexico.
1917   The United States purchases the Virgin Islands from Denmark for $25 million.
1918   Daylight Savings Time goes into effect throughout the United States for the first time.
1921   Great Britain declares a state of emergency because of the thousands of coal miners on strike.
1933   To relieve rampant unemployment, Congress authorizes the Civilian Conservation Corps .
1939   Britain and France agree to support Poland if Germany threatens to invade.
1940   La Guardia airport in New York officially opens to the public.
1941   Germany begins a counter offensive in North Africa.
1945   The United States and Britain bar a Soviet supported provisional regime in Warsaw from entering the U.N. meeting in San Francisco.
1948   The Soviet Union begins controlling the Western trains headed toward Berlin.
1949   Winston Churchill declares that the A-bomb was the only thing that kept the Soviet Union from taking over Europe.
1954   The siege of Dien Bien Phu, the last French outpost in Vietnam, begins after the Viet Minh realize it cannot be taken by direct assault.
1960   The South African government declares a state of emergency after demonstrations lead to the deaths of more than 50 Africans.
1966   An estimated 200,000 anti-war demonstrators march in New York City.
1967   President Lyndon Johnson signs the Consular Treaty, the first bi-lateral pact with the Soviet Union since the Bolshevik Revolution.
1970   U.S. forces in Vietnam down a MIG-21, the first since September 1968.
1980   President Jimmy Carter deregulates the banking industry.
1991   Albania offers a multi-party election for the first time in 50 years.

Non Sequitur

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When and Why Did We Stop Crucifying People?

vIf crucifixion as a means of capital punishment hadn't died out in the ancient world, it would labeled cruel and unusual punishment, and would never fly in the civilized world. The common wisdom is that the practice ended with the reign of Constantine, the first christian emperor of Rome (306 to 337 CE). However, some accounts of crucifixion appear after he converted in 312.
Even if Constantine did, in fact, end the practice of crucifixion, it’s not clear that he did so out of respect for jesus’ alleged execution. Aurelius Victor, the earliest historian to claim that Constantine banned crucifixion, explained that the emperor was motivated by a sense of humanity rather than piety. Crucifixion is a pretty gruesome way to go—significantly worse than the New Testament makes it seem. Although jesus reportedly expired in a matter of hours, many crucifixion victims clung to life for days. Even in Roman times, it was considered an exceptionally cruel punishment, reserved mainly for those who challenged state authority, such as insurgents and enemy soldiers. (Joel Marcus of Duke described crucifixion as “parodic exaltation,” because it gave rebels the fame they sought, albeit in a grotesque form.) By some accounts, Constantine replaced crucifixion with hanging, a less painful execution method. Constantine’s supposed ban on crucifixion came as part of a package of reforms, further suggesting that he was merely exercising human mercy. Branding prisoners’ faces, for example, was also prohibited around the same time—a reform that had nothing to do with jesus’ alleged execution.
Read more about the history of crucifixion at Slate.

Zombie houses

There's 300K+ in America
A survey by RealtyTrac reports that America is home to 301,874 zombie houses -- houses that have been abandoned by their owners, but not foreclosed upon by the banks. They effectively have no owners, but their erstwhile owners are theoretically on the hook for maintenance and liability. Florida has the largest zombie infestation (90,556!), followed by Illinois and California. Zombie houses are considered a blight because they attract vandalism and crime. In a rational world, neighborhood associations would be able to take these places over and turn them into community centers or shelters or some similar social beneficial purpose. Instead, they're just the subject of unending litigation that will likely only finish when the houses are razed.
Reuters revealed the plight of people who walked away from their homes not realizing that their names remained on the deed and that they were financially liable for taxes and other bills related to the abandoned property.
In some cases, homeowners vacated after receiving a notice from the bank of a planned foreclosure sale, only to find out later the bank never followed through.
Zombie properties can be easy to spot as they deteriorate into neighborhood eyesores and havens for criminal activity.
While Florida leads in volume of zombie properties, Kentucky, with less than 1,000 zombie properties, leads in percentage; zombies represent 54 percent of its total foreclosure inventory, Blomquist said.



 

Did you know ...

That a tea party group is boycotting Faux News for being too liberal


About how the NRA secretly protects people who commit crimes with guns

Pat, You're Not Helping

North Carolina repugican Gov. Closes State Latino Offiice
Gov McCrory
What to do if you have a tense relationship with the Latino community and your party is trying to rebrand itself as not the party of haters? If you’re the repugican governor of North Carolina, you eliminate the Office of Hispanic/Latino affairs, which was created in 1998. Yes, that ought to make things better.
The Latino community is none too pleased with Gov. McCrory closing down the office, especially after Governor McCrory (reptile-NC) signed off on the “pink licenses” for immigrants.
Closing the Hispanic/Latino State Office is being seen as confirmation that the Latinos in North Carolina don’t matter. Jess George, executive director of Latin American Coalition in Charlotte, said, “The message from Raleigh is that Latinos in North Carolina don’t matter. To close the office of Hispanic affairs only goes to confirm what many people suspect in our state, which is that, despite movement with the repugican cabal at the national level towards more bipartisan solutions around comprehensive immigration reform, North Carolina wingnuts don’t seem to have gotten the same memo.”
The pink-striped license plan was so egregious that Jewish leaders wrote to the governor to ask him to reconsider. They wrote in part, “We write to you as Jewish leaders dismayed and disappointed that undocumented immigrants in North Carolina who qualify for the Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will be singled out by having to carry driver’s licenses marked with a pink design and distinct from other North Carolina licenses.”
The pink licenses were shut down at the last minute, but the Governor just defended them in a March 6th presser. McCrory tried to explain that they are not scarlet letters by using the ever-helpful those people, “Those people don’t think it ought to have any identification regarding legal status versus legal presence.. and there is a legal distinction between legal status and legal presence.”
The licenses now read in bold red ink: “LEGAL PRESENCE / NO LAWFUL STATUS” and “LIMITED TERM”. The ACLU has promised to keep their eye on the impact of “NO LEGAL STATUS.”
Apparently McCrory, who received a presidential appointment by the pretender the shrub to serve on the United States Homeland Security Advisory Council between 2002-2006, thinks this extra expense will keep all of those non-existent voter fraud cases from finally manifesting. We wouldn’t want those people to vote. Not to worry, North Carolina repugicans filed two bills to restrict early voting and same-day registration in the state.
Thomas Stith, the Governor’s chief of staff, tried to explain in a statement that eliminating the office doesn’t mean they don’t care, “We are committed to serving the needs of all of North Carolina’s citizens. We don’t segment our constituents by race or cultural background any more than we separate them by age or gender. In addition, the Governor’s Advisory Council on Hispanic/Latino Affairs is a valuable resource to help us address culturally sensitive issues.”
Still, they eliminated the Office of Latino affairs, after they tried to target immigrants with scarlet lettered licenses. They just can’t help themselves.

The repugicans Won’t Fund Roads or Schools But Funded Two Wars to Benefit the Rich

infrastructure-report-card-31
Credit is based on trust which allows one party to provide resources to another party where that second party does not reimburse the first party immediately, but arranges either to repay or return those resources at a later date. However, some resources cannot be returned in lieu of repayment and when a government spends borrowed money its citizens should see some benefit because they are responsible for repaying the debt the government incurs. Most Americans do not object to their tax dollars being used to pay debts when they receive something in return such as decent roads, schools, and infrastructure all citizens enjoy, but a great deal of America’s debt is for wars in which no-one benefits except the military industrial  complex. The repugicans refuse to fund, borrow, or spend one penny on projects or programs that benefit 99% of the population, but they have no problem creating debt that benefits the rich and their corporations and forcing the American people to pick up the tab.
On Friday, President Obama brought out a two-year old set of proposals and tax incentives worth $7 billion for a $21 billion infrastructure improvement program, but Speaker of the House John Boehner balked and said “It’s easy to go out there and be Santa Claus and talk about all the things you want to give away, but at some point somebody has to pay the bill.” Boehner is right, taxpayers will have to pay the bill, but in return they will get a fraction of America’s crumbling roads, rails, 67,000 bridges and ports repaired to bring the country closer to some developing nations’ infrastructure standards. As it is, America’s infrastructure now ranks 25th  overall for infrastructure quality below Spain and Chile that are considered among the worst in the world, but according to repugicans, America is exceptional and too broke to invest in infrastructure that will cost the nation over $3.1 trillion in economic growth within 5 years without immediate spending to bring the country up to standards rivaling the poorest European nations.
It is not just major world organizations citing that the richest country in the history of the world suffers a rapidly crumbling and decrepit infrastructure that needs immediate improvements. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) recently released a new report on America’s current infrastructure status that gave this exceptional nation a D grade, and that is after the President’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (stimulus) funded repairs for a fraction of America’s substandard roads and highways. The repugicans opposed the stimulus as sheer waste even though it created over 4 million jobs and saved the economy from repugicans’ 8 year deregulation and spending spree. According to the ASCE, unless America invests an additional $3.6 trillion in infrastructure between now and 2020, the U.S. will lose $1.1 trillion in trade, $3,100 per year drop in personal disposable income, $2.4 trillion in lost consumer spending, and a little over 3.1 million jobs. It is bad news for Americans and the economy, but it is good news for repugicans as they ramp up their four-year assault on the government, jobs, and the economy.
The ASCE reported that in all aspects of infrastructure; energy, aviation, dams, water, levees, roads, schools, and hazardous waste disposal, America is failing despite repugican claims the richest country on Earth is exceptional, but broke because of grave debt they never considered worthy of attention until an African American became President. In January of 2009, the deficit repugicans created in 8 years became unsustainable and the sole reason for killing jobs, eliminating domestic programs, and giving the rich and corporations greater tax cuts that persists to this day. Unfortunately for Americans, the repugicans succeeded infecting all of Washington, including President Obama, with a debt and deficit reduction frenzy that threatens Social Security, Medicare, and nearly every domestic program that helps all Americans.
During the shrub junta, repugicans regularly parroted their man-turned-god Ronald Reagan’s famous words that “deficits don’t matter” as they racked up debt for tax cuts for the rich, a prescription plan for the pharmaceutical industry, and two very expensive wars. In fact, Americans will be shouldering crushing debt for decades to repay an estimated $6 trillion for the two wars that provided nothing whatsoever to the American people except thousands of dead Americans and tens-of-thousands of wounded Veterans.  A recent report revealed the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will be the most expensive in America’s history and according to the study’s author, “The legacy of decisions taken during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will dominate future federal budgets for decades to come,” and instead of charging the oil industry, weapons manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, and wealthiest Americans for the resources and money they received on credit, repugicans are forcing 99% of the population to pay with tax dollars and services for decades to come.
A great share of the debt for the two wars is $60.45 billion in Iraq and more than $100 billion in Afghanistan for infrastructure repairs after they were decimated as a result of the shrub’s invasion and subsequent wholesale destruction, and the spending went directly to repugican’s favorite corporations such as KBR and Halliburton. However, the single largest accrued liability of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is the cost of providing medical care and disability benefits to war Veterans that historically comes due many decades later. For example, the report noted the peak year for compensating World War I veterans was 1969, and World War II veterans saw the largest payments from the government in the late 1980s. Vietnam and the first Gulf War Veterans’ payments are still rising and are not expected to peak for a couple of decades.
The repugicans have accrued quite a distinguished record for destroying economies and infrastructures, but unlike Iraq and Afghanistan, they oppose spending any money to repair America’s crumbling infrastructure.  At $21 billion, the President’s infrastructure improvement proposal is meager and insufficient, but Republicans will oppose it the same way they opposed spending $1 billion that was funded to help returning Veterans find jobs after serving in the shrub’s two wars Americans will be paying for over the next several decades.
Americans do not object to repaying debts they incurred, but they should see some benefit and they certainly do not expect to pay the debt for other countries’ infrastructure improvements when their roads, bridges, dams, schools, and ports are falling apart before their eyes. For eight years, repugican piled up enormous debt to pay the rich, pharmaceutical industry, and war machine the American people will have to repay, and for four years they have refused to spend one penny on America, its people, or the crumbling infrastructure because their war, tax cuts, and pharmaceutical industry’s debt and deficit are unsustainable. They must be rejoicing though, because by opposing even minimal infrastructure repairs, they will cost Americans over 3.1 million jobs, $1.1 trillion in trade, $3,100 per year drop in personal disposable income, and $2.4 trillion in lost consumer spending, and combined with $6 trillion for their unfunded wars, will keep America in debt for several decades and Americans will have nothing to show for it.

The repugicans Try to Handle Future Gaffes By Sending Drones To Rape Boot Camp

rape-mention
The repugicans are sending campaign staffs to boot camp to teach them how to put out the fire after one of their candidates comes out in support of rape.
Buried in a Washington Post story about repugican plans to retake the Senate in 2014 was this little gem, “The nrsc is planning at least eight boot camps for staff in states with competitive races. Kevin McLaughlin, a veteran operative hired to work with campaign staff around the country, will run the communications schools with an eye toward preventing mishaps. He will also be in charge of a kind of campaign fire department, charged with quickly putting out blazes once mistakes are made.”
There are so many things wrong with this.
Instead of teaching their candidates and campaigns that rape is a bad thing, repugicans have decided that what they need is better damage control. The cabal is conceding that they are still going to nominate pro-rape whack jobs, but they are going to try to do a better job convincing the country that electing a pro-rape/rapist repugican to the United States Senate is no big deal.
The repugican cabal is still treating the symptoms instead of the disease. It is all part of the mindset that it is the message, not the party’s ideas, that is the problem. A much easier method of dealing with this would be to stop nominating candidates who believe that a raped woman can’t get pregnant, and in such things as legitimate rape. If the party would stop nominating socially conservative extremists, they wouldn’t need to worry about having a rapid response team in place to deal with the fallout when their candidates declare themselves pro-rape.
It isn’t that the repugican cabal has been slow to react to the comments. It is that these should have never been said in the first place. This isn’t a difficult concept. Rape is a crime. People who commit rape are criminals. A cabal should not be diminishing a heinous and violent crime, or supporting the perpetrators.
This isn’t hard repugicans. Voters will like you more if you stop supporting rape.
The repugican cabal remains absolutely, utterly, absurdly clueless as to why they keep losing elections.

Stop the NRA Lies

Mother arrested for slapping wrong child at school after mistaking him for her son

The mother of a middle school student in South Carolina who was being suspended is facing charges after deputies say she walked into the school office and slapped the wrong child. Fairforest Middle School Principal Ty Dawkins called deputies to the school on Wednesday morning. Dawkins said that 36-year-old Tyshekka Collier had gone to the school to pick up her son, who was being suspended.


Dawkins said when Collier walked into the office, she saw a boy sitting in the office with his head down, and she mistook him for her son and slapped him in the face. Dawkins said the boy was sick, and was sitting on a couch waiting for his mother to pick him up. Dawkins said once Collier realized she had slapped the wrong boy, she apologized, and then walked over to her son and began to slap him for getting in trouble. The arrest warrant said that Collier hit her son in the head and face, knocking him to the ground.

Collier was arrested and charged with disturbing school and two counts of assault and battery. Spartanburg County sheriff's Lt. Tony Ivey said, "She did apologize to the child she did hit, and we understand that, and that's a good thing there. But in speaking with the parents and all the interviews that were done - the two charges for the assaults and disturbing school, we felt were the most appropriate means to go with."



"I'd try to control your emotions a little bit when it comes to children and especially in public atmospheres here," he said. "Sometimes it's better to count to 10 or go off and cool off for a little bit, then go back with a level head before you start to discipline your children." Collier's three children have been put in protective custody.

There's an interview with the mother of the accidentally slapped child here.

Swedish pizzeria used rusty cement mixer to make salad dressing

A pizzeria in southern Sweden has come under fire after a screw turned up in a customer's food, with a follow-up inspection revealing an even more bizarre cooking technique. A patron of the restaurant started the ball rolling when he found a screw in his kebab meal in early March.

The customer returned the next day to complain, but was surprised to hear that it wasn't the first time a diner had found such an object in their food. "The screw was part of some tongs that we always use with the salad and it eventually came loose and fell in the kebab tray," the restaurant owner said. "The screw is black and the kebab is black - it isn't so easy to see it."


But the plot thickened when the customer alerted the local council's environmental office. Inspectors discovered that the restaurant owners were using a cement mixer that had been painted blue for making salad dressing and sauces. The owners were unable to explain what had happened with the pieces of paint that had flaked away and fallen off the machine.

"When I took over the restaurant, the previous owner told me that everything had been approved," the owner said, adding that he was new to the restaurant business and unaware of the rules. "When health inspectors pointed out that the cement mixer wasn't acceptable, I threw it out and bought a rust-free mixer the very same day."

Pothole Crew Suspended for Fixing Pothole

vThree County Cork road workers were returning from a job in Carrigaline, Ireland, when they saw a pothole. They stopped and repaired the pothole. A Health and Safety worker saw them, and the three men were consequently suspended from their jobs because they had not filed the proper paperwork for this particular pothole before repairing it.
Councillor John Mulvihill Snr, a former mayor of Cork, said health and safety was of vital importance.

He said that in recent times three road workers had died in accidents. The result was that the council was enforcing legislation rigorously.

"Health and safety is number one and you cannot put people's lives at risk," he said.

"The law says it was not safe. You need three or four people to fill in a pothole including two with 'Stop and Go' signs.
Mulvihill acknowledged that the three men had exemplary records and 90 years of experience between them, and suggested a warning could have been enough. The workers' union has gone to bat to protest the suspensions. More

US Border Patrol uses horses to secure Mexican border

"Immigration enforcement and drug smuggling continue to be top priorities for the Department of Homeland Security, and the Border Patrol's budget has swelled accordingly, increasing from just $262,647 in 1990 to over $3.5 million dollars in the 2012 fiscal year," reports photojournalist Erin Siegal of ABC/Univision, in Mexico.
"They've added more agents, more technology, and higher fences.
But they've also got horses. "Coyotes" (human-smugglers) and narcotraffickers have moved further into mountain and desert terrain, in response to law enforcement's more aggressive patrolling of urban areas. And in remote areas, horses help.

Celtic Women

Ancient Celtic women served as both warriors and rulers. Girls as well as boys could be trained to fight with swords and other weapons. One of the most prominent training schools in Gaelic mythology was run by Scathach (pronounced “sca-hah” or “skya”), a woman warrior from what is now Scotland. She trained the greatest hero of Irish legend, CĂșchulainn (pronounced “koo-hull-in” or “koo-khull-in”, with the “KH” as in Scottish loch). This most famous of her pupils went on to fight entire armies alone and perform other great deeds. Scathach’s female rival, Aife (or Aoife), was considered one of the fiercest warriors alive. Both of these women led armies.

Random Celebrity Photo

The World's Newest Radio Telescope Set To Reveal Secrets Of The Universe

High up on Chile's cold, dry Chajnantor Plateau, 66 giants stand under the starry night sky. They gaze upwards, moving with the celestial objects on which they have set their sights. These are the powerful antennas of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array.

The setup has been operational since March 2013, and together the antennas make up the newest, largest, strongest and most expensive radio telescope currently operating on Earth. The images they produce have 10 times the clarity of those yielded by the Hubble Space Telescope.

The Last Victorian Leviathan Steam Ship

The Great Eastern was an iron sailing steam ship designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and built by J. Scott Russell & Co. at Millwall on the River Thames, London. She was by far the largest ship ever built at the time of her 1858 launch, and had the capacity to carry 4,000 passengers around the world without refueling.

Brunel knew her affectionately as the 'Great Babe.' He died in 1859 shortly after her ill-fated maiden voyage, during which she was damaged by an explosion. After repairs, she plied for several years as a passenger liner between Britain and America before being converted to a cable-laying ship and laying the first lasting transatlantic telegraph cable in 1866. Finishing her life as a floating music hall and advertising hoarding in Liverpool, The Great Eastern was broken up in 1889.

When US money was nice to look at

US currency was beautiful, once upon a time, when it sported images of animals and symbolic statuary, rather than deifying its citizen-rulers by putting presidents on the money as though they were kings. This 1901 $10 note (available on Wikimedia Commons in a 33.34MB, 6,454 × 5,784 JPEG!) is a case in point.
United States $10 Banknote, Legal Tender, Series of 1901 (Fr. Ref#114), depicting Meriwether Lewis and William Clark of the Lewis & Clark Expedition. The central portrait is a depiction of an American bison. Part of the National Numismatic Collection, NMAH, Smithsonian Institution.

Magnetic Putty Eats a Cube




A lump of magnetic putty totally engulfs a rare-earth magnet in slow motion. The actual sequence is eight times longer than this video shows. The putty will not rest until the magnet is at the center of the glob. What is this "magnetic putty"? From the YouTube link:
The putty looks and feels like regular silly putty, but the difference lies in the fact that it has been infused with millions of micron-sized ferrous particles (most often iron oxide powder). The magnetic putty is not actually magnetic by itself, since the infused particles are made of iron powder.

The presence of the strong neodymium iron boron magnet (the silver cube in the video) magnetizes the ferromagnetic particles in the putty. When this happens, the ferrous particles align with each other and this alignment generates north and south magnetic poles, making the putty into a temporary magnet. Once magnetized, the putty will remain magnetized even after the rare-earth magnet has been removed from the putty. This effect persists for a few hours until thermal agitation shakes the particles and they lose their alignment.
Scott Lawson has other videos about magnetic putty at his YouTube channel.

Funny Pictures

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UFO memo the FBI's most viewed

An unconfirmed report of a UFO over New Mexico is the most popular item in the FBI's online reading room, the agency reports. Russell Contreras with the AP:
Vaguely written, the memo describes a story told by an unnamed third party who claims an Air Force investigator reported that three flying saucers were recovered in New Mexico, though the memo doesn't say exactly where in the state. The FBI indexed the report for its files but did not investigate further; the name of an "informant" reporting some of the information is blacked out in the memo.
http://media.kboi2.com/images/130329_ufo_memo_vertical.jpg

Astronomers discover new kind of supernova


Supernovae were always thought to occur in two main varieties. But a team of astronomers including Carnegie’s Wendy Freedman, Mark Phillips and Eric Persson is reporting the discovery of a new type of supernova called [...]

Random Photo

Controversial worm keeps its position as the progenitor of mankind

Researchers are arguing about whether or not the Xenoturbella bocki worm is the progenitor of mankind. But new studies indicate that this is actually the case. Swedish researchers from the University of Gothenburg and the [...]

Hunting Deer in a Walmart Parking Lot

vArcangelo Bianco Jr. of Blairsville, Pennsylvania, was arrested on charges of reckless endangerment, hunting without a license, and other charges after he shot at a deer in a Walmart parking lot. A representative of the Pennsylvania Game Commission explained the incident.
According to the commission, Bianco fired several rounds at a hapless white-tailed deer from within the Burrell Township store’s parking lot and bagged the animal on the other side of Old William Penn Highway (Old Route 22) one afternoon last November.

The most serious of the charges he faces is a misdemeanor count of reckless endangerment. He also was slapped with five summary offenses, all hunting law violations, including hunting without a license, shooting on or across highways and unlawful killing or taking of big game.

“Obviously, we can’t have someone running through a Walmart parking lot shooting at a deer,” said Jack Lucas, the wildlife conservation officer who investigated the incident.
The deer has was seized as evidence. Biano's actions were also recorded on the store's security camera. More

What Made Fairy Circles

What causes fairy circles, those circular barren patches of land found in the grasslands of Southern Africa? German scientist Norbert Juergens found the answer: termites.
These so-called fairy circles have variously been pinned on the presence of other, poisonous plants, on ants, and even toxic gases rising from below.
But Norbert Juergens says the one ever-present factor is sand termites.
The creatures have engineered the rings to maintain a supply of water in their environment, he tells Science magazine. [...] He reports how the invertebrates (Psammotermes allocerus) first clear a patch of ground by eating the roots of short-lived, annual grasses.
This bare, sandy earth then becomes an effective rain trap - with no vegetation, water cannot be lost through transpiration (the evaporation of water from plants).
Instead, it collects, oasis-like, just below the surface where it can sustain the termites and a supply of perennial grasses at the margins of the circles. These are available to eat even in the driest seasons.
Jonathan Amos of the BBC News' Science & Environment has the story: Here.

True Facts About The Naked Mole Rat

The more you know about the naked mole rat, the weirder this animal gets. They live a very long time, which almost seems like a punishment with the lifestyle that comes with living naked underground. This video is the latest in Ze Frank's True Facts series.

Terrifying Frog Breaks Its Own Bones to Produce Claws When Threatened

frogTrichobatrachus robustus is the Wolverine of the amphibian world. You'll know when you've crossed the line because he'll gladly break his own bones to produce weapons to break yours. New Scientist reports on the findings of zoologist David Blackburn and his colleagues:
Trichobatrachus robustus actively breaks its own bones to produce claws that puncture their way out of the frog's toe pads, probably when it is threatened. [...]
At rest, the claws of T. robustus, found on the hind feet only, are nestled inside a mass of connective tissue. A chunk of collagen forms a bond between the claw's sharp point and a small piece of bone at the tip of the frog's toe.
The other end of the claw is connected to a muscle. Blackburn and his colleagues believe that when the animal is attacked, it contracts this muscle, which pulls the claw downwards. The sharp point then breaks away from the bony tip and cuts through the toe pad, emerging on the underside.

Animal Pictures