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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Daily Drift

 Nuff Said ...

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Today in History

118   Hadrian, Rome's new emperor, makes his entry into the city.
455   Avitus, the Roman military commander in Gaul, becomes Emperor of the West.
1553   Maurice of Saxony is mortally wounded at Sievershausen, Germany, while defeating Albert of Brandenburg-Kulmbach.
1609   Emperor Rudolf II grants Bohemia freedom of worship.
1755   General Edward Braddock is killed by French and Indian troops.
1789   In Versailles, the French National Assembly declares itself the Constituent Assembly and begins to prepare a French constitution.
1790   The Swedish navy captures one third of the Russian fleet at the Battle of Svensksund in the Baltic Sea.
1850   U.S. President Zachary Taylor dies in office at the age of 65. He is succeeded by Millard Fillmore.
1861   Confederate cavalry led by John Morgan captures Tompkinsville, Kentucky.
1900   The Commonwealth of Australia is established by an act of British Parliament, uniting the separate colonies under a federal government.
1942   Anne Frank and her family go into hiding in the attic above her father's office in an Amsterdam warehouse.
1943   American and British forces make an amphibious landing on Sicily.
1971   The United States turns over complete responsibility of the Demilitarized Zone to South Vietnamese units.

Blood of the Irish

DNA Proves Ancestry of the People of Ireland

The red-hair gene is most common in Irish blood.
The red-hair gene is most common in Irish blood.

Blood of the Irish

The Blood in Irish veins is Celtic, right? Well, not exactly. Although the history many Irish people were taught at school is the history of the Irish as a Celtic race, the truth is much more complicated, and much more interesting than that ...
Research done into the DNA of Irish males has shown that the old Anthropological attempts to define 'Irish' have been misguided. As late as the 1950s researchers were busy collecting data among Irish people such as hair color and height, in order to categorize them as a 'race' and define them as different to the British. In fact British and Irish people are closely related in their ancestry.
Research into Irish DNA and ancestry has revealed close links with Scotland stretching back to before the Ulster Planation of the early 1600s. But the closest relatives to the Irish in DNA terms are actually from somewhere else entirely!

Medieval  map of Ireland, showing Irish tribes.
Medieval map of Ireland, showing Irish tribes.

Irish origin myths confirmed by modern scientific evidence

One of the oldest texts composed in Ireland is the Leabhar Gabhla, the Book of Invasions. It tells a semi-mythical history of the waves of people who settled in Ireland in earliest time. It says the first settlers to arrive in Ireland were a small dark race called the Fir Bolg, followed by a magical super-race called the Tuatha de Danaan (the people of the goddess Dana).
Most interestingly, the book says that the group which then came to Ireland and fully established itself as rulers of the island were the Milesians - the sons of Mil, the soldier from Spain. Modern DNA research has actually confirmed that the Irish are close genetic relatives of the people of northern Spain.
While it might seem strange that Ireland was populated from Spain rather than Britain or France, it is worth remembering that in ancient times the sea was one of the fastest and easiest ways to travel. When the land was covered in thick forest, coastal settlements were common and people travlleled around the seaboard of Europe quite freely.

Irish Blood: origins of DNA

The earliest settlers came to Ireland around 10,000 years ago, in Stone Age times. There are still remnants of their presence scatter across the island. Mountsandel in Coleraine in the North of Ireland is the oldest known site of settlement in Ireland - remains of woven huts, stone tools and food such as berries and hazelnuts were discovered at the site in 1972.
But where did the early Irish come from? For a long time the myth of Irish history has been that the Irish are Celts. Many people still refer to Irish, Scottish and Welsh as Celtic culture - and the assumption has been that they were Celts who migrated from central Europe around 500BCE. Keltoi was the name given by the Ancient Greeks to a 'barbaric' (in their eyes) people who lived to the north of them in central Europe. While early Irish art shows some similarities of style to central European art of the Keltoi, historians have also recognized many significant differences between the two cultures.
The latest research into Irish DNA has confirmed that the early inhabitants of Ireland were not directly descended from the Keltoi of central Europe. In fact the closest genetic relatives of the Irish in Europe are to be found in the north of Spain in the region known as the Basque Country. These same ancestors are shared to an extent with the people of Britain - especially the Scottish.
DNA testing through the male Y chromosome has shown that Irish males have the highest incidence of the haplogroup 1 gene in Europe. While other parts of Europe have integrated contiuous waves of new settlers from Asia, Ireland's remote geographical position has meant that the Irish gene-pool has been less susceptible to change. The same genes have been passed down from parents to children for thousands of years.
This is mirrored in genetic studies which have compared DNA analysis with Irish surnames. Many surnames in Irish are Gaelic surnames, suggesting that the holder of the surname is a descendant of people who lived in Ireland long before the English conquests of the Middle Ages. Men with Gaelic surnames, showed the highest incidences of Haplogroup 1 (or Rb1) gene. This means that those Irish whose ancestors pre-date English conquest of the island are direct descendants of early stone age settlers who migrated from Spain.

The Kingdom of Dalriada c 500 AD is marked in green. Pictish areas marked yellow.
The Kingdom of Dalriada c 500 AD is marked in green. Pictish areas marked yellow.

Irish and British DNA : a comparison

I live in Northern Ireland and in this small country the differences between the Irish and the British can still seem very important. Blood has been spilt over the question of national identity.
However, the lastest research into both British and Irish DNA suggests that people on the two islands have much genetically in common. Males in both islands have a strong predominance of Haplogroup 1 gene, meaning that most of us in the British Isles are descended from the same Spanish stone age settlers.
The main difference is the degree to which later migrations of people to the islands affected the population's DNA. Parts of Ireland (most notably the western seaboard) have been almost untouched by outside genetic influence since hunter-gatherer times. Men there with traditional Irish surnames have the highest incidence of the Haplogroup 1 gene - over 99%.
At the same time London, for example, has been a mutli-ethnic city for hundreds of years. Furthermore, England has seen more arrivals of new people from Europe - Anglo-Saxons and Normans - than Ireland. Therefore while the earliest English ancestors were very similar in DNA and culture to the tribes of Ireland, later arrivals to England have created more diversity between the two groups.
Irish and Scottish people share very similar DNA. The obvious similarities of culture, pale skin, tendency to red hair have historically been prescribed to the two people's sharing a common celtic ancestry. Actually it now seems much more likely that the similarity results from the movement of people from the north of Ireland into Scotland in the centuries 400 - 800 AD. At this time the kingdom of Dalriada, based near Ballymoney in County Antrim extended far into Scotland. The Irish invaders brought Gaelic language and culture, and they also brought their genes.

How DNA reveals ancestry

This hub explains really well how DNA origins can be traced through the male Y chromosome:
The-Y-Chromosome-Ancestry-Genetics-and-the-Making-of-a-Man

Read more about the origins of the people of Ireland

Click on a title to read more about the history of the Irish people:

Irish Characteristics and DNA

The MC1R gene has been identified by researchers as the gene responsible for red hair as well as the accompanying fair skin and tendency towards freckles. According to recent research, genes for red hair first appeared in human beings about 40,000 to 50,000 years ago.

These genes were then brought to the British Isles by the original settlers, men and women who would have been relatively tall, with little body fat, athletic, fair-skinned and who would have had red hair. So red-heads may well be descended from the earliest ancestors of the Irish and British.
A spoof (and very funny) exploration into the characteristics of all Irish-blooded males can be read at this link: www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/weekend. Identified genes include IMG or the Irish Mother Gene and the GK (MF) S Gene Kelly-Michael-Flately-Syndrome which explains the inability of the Irish man to move his hips while dancing!

Non Sequitur

http://media.zenfs.com/en_us/News/ucomics.com/nq130709.gif

Did you know ...

That documents show FBI planned to kill 'occupy' leaders if necessary

That an idiot replaces confederate flag w/Nazi flag until Obama is impeached

That popular resistance is building up, from hunger strikes to democracy protests across the globe

About the 10 dumbest things ever said about global warming

Democratic Missouri Governor Smacks Down NRA Gun-Nuts, Vetoes Gun Bill

Missouri’s Democratic governor, Jay Nixon, stood his ground versus Missouri’s bought-and-paid-for NRA stooges, vetoing legislation that would have made it a crime for law-enforcement agents to enforce federal gun laws in the state and could have put journalists in jail simply for publishing photos or names of gun owners–even those who consented so they could display their hunting kills.
As a justification for his veto, the Democratic governor correctly stated that the bill violated the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution, which gives preference to any and all federal laws that are in conflict with state laws.  In addition, he made it clear that the bill also infringed on the First Amendment rights of the free speech of the  press.
While supporters of the legislation are championing it as one of the most Second Amendment-friendly bills ever passed by a state legislature, other Missourians were dubious of the provisions it contained–including invalidating a 1934 federal law that imposes a tax on transferring machine guns or silencers, making it a crime to publish the names and photos of hunters displaying their game and allowing school teachers and administrators with concealed gun permits and special training to double as “school protection officers” capable of carrying hidden guns into schools.   It also would have lowered the concealed carry permit age to 19 instead of the current 21.
“Under this bill, newspaper editors around the state that annually publish photos of proud young Missourians who harvest their first turkey or deer could be charged with a crime,” the governor said in a written statement announcing the veto.
In order to override Gov. Nixon’s veto when they return to session in September, Missouri legislators would need a two-thirds vote in both chambers, a tall order in today’s divided political scene.
This is precisely the type of unconstitutional and ill-advised gun bill being pushed across many state legislatures as well as in the halls of Congress by the repugican cabal.  Thank you, Governor Nixon, for standing up to them and doing what’s right to keep your constituents safe.

The repugicans Expect the Elderly, Poor and Unemployed to Pay Off Their Debt

Debt-Ceiling-what-now-352 
Most Americans fail to recall when the elderly, poor, and unemployed Americans blew up the nation’s debt and deficit with two unfunded and unnecessary wars, huge tax cuts for the rich, and Wall Street greed that contributed to crashing the economy, killing millions of Americans’ jobs, and ushering in the Great Recession of 2008. For some curious reason, only repugicans remember that it was the poor, public sector workforce, and retirees who created the country’s economic malaise, and subsequently they are duty-bound to make them pay restitution with Draconian measures to enrich the insurance industry, satisfy Wall Street’s lust for the Social Security Trust, as well as provide the wealthy with a new round of tax cuts. To see their punitive measures through to fruition, Republicans are preparing a laundry list of their most coveted programs to eliminate for President Obama to choose from in exchange for raising the nation’s debt limit to repay the GOP’s debt and deficit they put on the nation’s credit card from 2001-2009 (the 2009 budget was George Bush’s).
As repugicans anticipate holding the nation’s creditworthiness hostage again in exchange for raising the debt ceiling, they fundamentally picked the most Draconian measures in Paul Ryan’s Heritage Foundation budget and will demand the President choose which demographic is going to suffer the most or force the nation into its first credit default in history. The repugicans are big on historical firsts, and it was in 2011 that after 50 years of automatically raising the debt limit that they first demanded offsetting spending cuts for every dollar the debt limit was increased creating America’s first credit downgrade. For historical perspective, and to demonstrate the repugican cabal’s criminal, and unconstitutional, economic hostage taking, The repugicans raised the debt limit for the shrub seven times without slashing one penny from the budget. They did, however, specifically raise the debt limit in May 2003 to pay for $350 billion in tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, and it is that type of debt repugicans are now insisting the elderly, poor, and infirm repay through loss of benefits they paid for during their working lives.
The repugicans were not always prone to criminal tactics to force innocent Americans to repay the repugican cabal’s debt that enriched the wealthy, military industrial complex, and oil industry, because during the shrub junta they held that raising the debt ceiling was absolutely crucial to keep the nation’s economy running. However, circumstances changed when an African American won the presidency, and the full faith and credit of the United States becamea hostage worth ransoming” according to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. After repugicans successfully caused S&P to downgrade America’s stellar credit rating, kill a million jobs, and cost the economy $19 billion, McConnell saidhe could imagine doing this again,” and chuckled as he promisedhe will do so.”
The repugican leadership abandoned the 2011 hostage demand of dollar-for-dollar budget cuts in exchange for raising the debt limit, and is demanding the President concede to mandatory Medicare privatization, slashing food stamps, cutting Medicaid, and drastic cuts to Social Security. The repugicans are specifically targeting mandatory benefit programs they have lusted to eliminate for 80 years when destroying New Deal provisions became their raison d’ĂȘtre, and Paul Ryan, in concert with the Heritage Foundation devised a cruel budget that fictional writer Ayn Rand would be proud of to hasten Social Security and Medicare’s demise. However, one may wonder if the American people are willing to pay the ransom repugicans are demanding to raise the debt limit and if polls are any indication, they are not in the frame of mind the repugican criminals think they are.
According to polling, the drastic Medicare and Social Security privatization, raising the retirement age, or even cuts that repugicans, unelected corporate CEOs and Wall Street titans demand are so far afield from the American peoples’ desires for the programs it is stunning they are willing to demand them as ransom in a public forum. In a survey by the National Academy of Social Insurance, 82% believe it is critical to preserve Social Security regardless it means increasing Social Security taxes, and 87% insist that Social Security is preserved for future generations even if it means raising taxes paid by the rich. Contrary to repugican contentions, 84% believe current Social Security benefits do not provide enough income for retirees, 89% said Social Security benefits are more important than ever, and 75% said increase benefits so Americans can retire at age 62 and not be poor. Everything the overwhelming majority of the American people demand is in stark contrast to chained-CPI proposals, raising the retirement age, or handing over trillions of dollars in the Social Security Trust to Wall Street and the insurance industry in a privatization scam.
That Republicans are even considering holding the debt ceiling hostage again is in violation of the oath of office they swore to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. So help me god.” The 14th Amendment of the Constitution that every repugican swore to defend and support against domestic enemies like corporate CEOs and Wall Street executives says, “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law…shall not be questioned,” and yet holding the public debt that repugicans created as a hostage to reward the rich, punish the people, and enrich the private insurance industry is questioning the validity of the debt, and by any stretch of the imagination approaches criminal abrogation of their oath of office.
President Obama warned repugicans he is not going to negotiate (read pay a ransom) over raising the debt limit and cautioned repugicans against threatening the credit-worthiness of the United States by “bartering over the borrowing limit.”  The repugicans are certain the President will concede defeat and pay whatever ransom criminal repugicans demand, but without an election looming, it is doubtful he is bluffing. Apparently their worst fear is that the President will wait until the last minute and make a bipartisan deal with the Senate and dare House repugicans to accept an unfavorable agreement or take responsibility for a credit default and another downgrade on the U.S. credit rating, but even making a deal is paying a ransom for a constitutionally mandated action repugicans followed without deviation during the shrub junta. However, repugicans have demonstrated time and time again that there are no bounds to the damage they will wreak on the people, the economy, and the nation, and based on their behavior over the past four-and-a-half years, it is just as likely they will let the nation default as raise the debt limit. Let’s face it, a credit default will create an incredibly larger amount of hardship on the people than their ransom demands, and if there is only one thing repugicans love more than tax cuts for the rich, it is creating hardship on the people; especially for electing an African American as President twice.

The Expendables

The Destruction our nation.

Just like the robber barons of the late 1800s and early 1900s built huge fortunes at the expense of the average worker, we're allowing it to happen again. Here's a story of one way in which the wealthy are treating you like shit so they can buy the mammoth mansion and the huge yacht. We could pass laws to stop this.  You should feel like a tool for accepting it.

From Crooks and Liars

By Michael Grabell

It's 4:18 a.m. and the strip mall is deserted. But tucked in back, next to a closed-down video store, an employment agency is already filling up. Rosa Ramirez walks in, as she has done nearly every morning for the past six months. She signs in and sits down in one of the 100 or so blue plastic chairs that fill the office. Over the next three hours, dispatchers will bark out the names of who will work today. Rosa waits, wondering if she will make her rent.

In cities all across the country, workers stand on street corners, line up in alleys or wait in a neon-lit beauty salon for rickety vans to whisk them off to warehouses miles away. Some vans are so packed that to get to work, people must squat on milk crates, sit on the laps of passengers they do not know or sometimes lie on the floor, the other workers' feet on top of them.

This is not Mexico. It is not Guatemala or Honduras. This is Chicago, New Jersey, Boston.

The people here are not day laborers looking for an odd job from a passing contractor. They are regular employees of temp agencies working in the supply chain of many of America's largest companies - Walmart, Macy's, Nike, Frito-Lay. They make our frozen pizzas, sort the recycling from our trash, cut our vegetables and clean our imported fish. They unload clothing and toys made overseas and pack them to fill our store shelves. They are as important to the global economy as shipping containers and Asian garment workers.

Many get by on minimum wage, renting rooms in rundown houses, eating dinners of beans and potatoes, and surviving on food banks and taxpayer-funded health care. They almost never get benefits and have little opportunity for advancement.

Across America, temporary work has become a mainstay of the economy, leading to the proliferation of what researchers have begun to call "temp towns." They are often dense Latino neighborhoods teeming with temp agencies. Or they are cities where it has become nearly impossible even for whites and African-Americans with vocational training to find factory and warehouse work without first being directed to a temp firm.

The truth be told

U.S. Citizenship, Our Constitution and When Life Begins

A Situation repugicans Can’t Answer

Many repugicans are often adamant about their beliefs that life begins at the moment of conception and we must have strict laws on immigration.
And for this argument, let’s just say that they’re absolutely right on both issues — life does begin at conception and we need to have much stricter laws when it comes to immigration and becoming an American citizen.
Giving them the victory on both of those arguments, I now present them with the following hypothetical situation:
A German citizen (male) and a Spanish citizen (female) meet during a layover in Japan — on their way to Los Angeles.  During their time in Los Angeles they go out a few times and end up having sex, which results in an unplanned pregnancy
Nine months later she has the baby while visiting her parents, who now live in Italy.
Being that we’ve allowed repugicans the victory in defining life at the very moment of conception, and that we must have stricter guidelines on citizenship, I would love for them to answer the following question:
Should the baby be considered an American citizen?
If repugicans want to argue that life begins at conception — well, then this hypothetical life “began” on American soil when the woman became pregnant in Los Angeles.
Except it wasn’t born in the United States and neither parent is an American citizen.
Yet if life begins at conception, it was conceived on American soil.
But then, how could someone prove where conception happened?  Couldn’t every birth that occurs 9 months after a trip to the United States by foreign citizens then be put into question based on the parameters for which Republicans want to define life?
And then, if we recognize life beginning at conception, wouldn’t that encourage more “anchor babies” (as repugicans like to call them)?  Only this time, it’s with people rushing over here to become pregnant just to say their child was conceived on American soil — thus making it an American citizen.
Oh you know what, there’s really no need to present repugicans with these kinds of situations.
Our Constitution clearly defines citizenship.  In fact, it defines when life begins — at birth.
As our Fourteenth Amendment states:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.
This clearly shows that our Constitution (you know that document repugicans claim they support) clearly defines life as beginning at birth by stating that citizenship for a fetus begins the moment it is born in the United States.
Let’s say a woman came over here on a temp work visa, then her boyfriend from Australia came for a visit, during which they had sex resulting in a pregnancy.  She proceeded to stay here just until birth, then went back home and gave birth.  Even though the child was conceived here and carried to term 98% of the time here — it would still not be an American citizen, because it was not born here nor did it have citizens as parents.
Even if a woman becomes pregnant here, carries the pregnancy 95% of the way on American soil, neither parents were citizens nor was the baby born on American soil.
All of this clearly shows that life, and citizenship, begins at birth — not conception.


Life At Conception Act Would Outlaw Abortion

rand, paul, abortion, bill:, life, at, conception, act, would, outlaw, abortion,
Rand Paul Abortion Bill: Life At Conception Act Would Outlaw Abortion
Senator Rand Paul (r-Ky.) has been become a key player these days in helping the repugican cabal appeal to the millennials. And so far, between his 13-hour filibuster, his speech at CPAC which won him the wingnut straw poll, and his PolicyMic op-ed, he’s been fairly successful.
However, Paul may just have alienated a large chunk of the millennial base he has been trying to reach out to with his latest “fetal personhood” legislation, the Life at Conception Act, which would fully outlaw abortion in the United States.
Paul has been gaining momentum through his pledge to ensure liberty for all, in every way. In fact, in his speech this weekend at CPAC, Paul indicated that “The new repugican cabal, the repugican cabal that will win again, will need to embrace liberty in both the economic and personal sphere.”
However, the Life at Conception Act doesn’t embrace liberty in the personal sphere for women — instead, it takes their choice away from them and demonstrates that while Paul may be talking a good game, his actions contradict what he says.
According to a press release from the Senator, the legislation he is introducing would declare that human life begins at conception and therefore would provide fertilized eggs the same legal status as a born person, as guaranteed by the 14th amendment.
In a statement, Paul said that “the Life at Conception Act legislatively declares what most Americans believe and what science has long known- that human life begins at the moment of conception, and therefore is entitled to legal protection from that point forward.”
However, while Paul isn’t incorrect in asserting that most Americans are pro-life, they are only so by a slight margin and the trend seems to flip-flop on a yearly basis.  More importantly, the demographic that Paul and his other repugican cabal colleagues are trying to appeal to, millennials, certainly don’t overwhelmingly believe that human life begins at the moment of conception. In fact, although millennials’ stance on the morality of abortion is pretty equally divided, six in 10 millennials believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
Moreover, not only does Paul believe that abortion should be completely illegal and that the practice is “taking the life of an innocent human being,” he also will stop  the “flow of tax dollars to groups like Planned Parenthood, who perform or advocate abortions,” according to his official U.S. Senate website.
I don’t exactly see either one of these things sitting well with the majority of millennials — especially not young women whose individual rights and liberties are being affected the most.
For all of his talk about reducing the size of government and granting freedom of choice and liberty to all as is guaranteed to us in the constitution, Paul’s words are clearly at odds with his actions. Legislation such as this is clearly propelled by Paul’s own personal convictions regarding morality and religion, and it does exactly what he has promised he wouldn’t do, and what he believes the government shouldn’t do — allows the government to interfere in an individual’s personal choice and freedom.
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Missouri Contemplates Return of Gas Chamber to Execute Inmates

Missouri State Penitentiary Gas Chamber
Facing a shortage of the lethal drugs necessary to execute death row inmates, the state of Missouri is contemplating a return to using the gas chamber as a means for executing condemned convicts. Attorney General Chris Koster (D) is trying to expedite the execution of two inmates, Joseph Paul Franklin and Allen Nicklasson, before the state’ supply of propofol expires. The state has just three lethal doses of propofol available but the first will expire October of this year and the last will expire in 2015. The state switched to propofol as their lethal drug of choice after supplies of other drugs became scarce. Missouri is the only state that calls for administering a single drug rather than injecting a “lethal cocktail” that mixes multiple drugs.
However, Missouri’s executions have been placed on hold until the state supreme court determines whether the new execution protocol violates the US Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The new protocol that is pending the court ruling, calls for using 15 times the normal surgical dose for propofol, and it has been challenged by 21 death row inmates on the grounds that if administered, it would likely cause an excruciating amount of pain before killing the inmate.
The shortage of lethal injection chemicals has resulted because many pharmaceutical companies in the United States, Europe and Asia have refused to sell certain drugs to US correctional facilities on ethical grounds. In addition, the European Commission has imposed strict restrictions preventing the importation of most potentially lethal anaesthetics, including pentobarbital and sodium thiopental to the United States.  These restrictions have created a shortage of ingredients for the lethal cocktails used by states to execute death row convicts.
The shortage of ingredients has prompted Attorney General Koster to plead with judges to be allowed to execute death row inmates before the state’s supply of propofol expires and cannot be used. It has also prompted him to discuss restoring the only other form of execution constitutionally permitted by the state of Missouri, the gas chamber.
The gas chamber has not been in use in Missouri since 1965. Thirty-eight inmates were executed in gas chambers between 1938 and 1965. Hanging was used prior to 1938. From 1965 to 1989, the state carried out no executions, but since 1989, 68 men have been executed by lethal injection in the state of Missouri.  Since the state resumed executions in 1989, only Texas, Virginia, Oklahoma and Florida have executed more inmates than Missouri.
Despite being one of the leading five states for executing inmates, Missouri also remains among the top ten states for homicide rate, ranking 9th with a per capita murder rate of 6.1 per 100,000 residents in 2011. Missouri has a higher murder rate than any of the eight states that border it. The bordering state with the lowest murder rate is Iowa, Missouri’s only neighbor that does not have the death penalty, with a rate of 1.5 per 100,000.

The last time the gas chamber was used in the United States was when Walter Lagrand was gassed to death in Arizona on March 3, 1999. It took him eighteen minutes to die. Missouri may be the first of many states to experience a shortage of execution supplies.  Unable to mix a lethal cocktail, the state has resorted to mega-dosages of the drug that killed Michael Jackson, only to have their plans thwarted by delays from the state’s Supreme Court.  As time runs out to administer the dwindling supply of propofol, the Attorney General is contemplating reinstating the gas chamber. However, without an operating gas chamber in the state, rebuilding the apparatus of a functioning gas chamber could be an expensive proposition, and it could spur more court challenges regarding the state’s choice of execution methods.
Chris Koster is appealing to have the state speed up the execution of some of its prisoners before Missouri ‘s supply of death syrup expires. Barring that Koster is asking to resume the possible use of the gas chamber for executions.  Missouri Governors and Attorney Generals, both Democrats and Republicans, have been eager to carry out executions for the past two and a half decades. Now however, the death penalty in Missouri is desperate to find a way to continue the executions. With their efforts to circumvent court-impose delays, the state is willing to turn to an archaic and barbaric method of execution, by considering a return to the gas chamber. If they are unable to find a court-sanctioned method of execution, the death penalty itself may soon be gasping for air in the state of Missouri.

California Prisons Illegally Sterilized Hundreds of Female Inmates

pregnant-prison 
A report by the Center For Investigative Reporting (CIR) uncovered the shocking details, “Doctors under contract with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation sterilized nearly 150 female inmates from 2006 to 2010 without required state approvals, The Center for Investigative Reporting has found. At least 148 women received tubal ligations in violation of prison rules during those five years – and there are perhaps 100 more dating back to the late 1990s, according to state documents and interviews. From 1997 to 2010, the state paid doctors $147,460 to perform the procedure, according to a database of contracted medical services for state prisoners. The women were signed up for the surgery while they were pregnant and housed at either the California Institution for Women in Corona or Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla, which is now a men’s prison.”
In the 21st Century, in one of the most liberal states in the country, women were coerced into being sterilized like animals if prison officials thought they were at high risk of returning to prison in the future.
One of the doctors who did the surgeries called them a smart economic decision for the state, and defended the amount he was paid to do them. “Over a 10-year period, that isn’t a huge amount of money,” Dr. James Heinrich said, “compared to what you save in welfare paying for these unwanted children – as they procreated more.”
The problem is that women should not be treated like they are animals. We all think of eugenics as something that was associated with the Nazis, but America also has a dark history of selective sterilization. At one time, 33 states had programs that sterilized 65,000 Americans into the 1980s. Forced or coerced sterilizations aren’t something that just happens in other countries. They are happening in the United States of America.
The defenders of the secret sterilization program that was going on in California describe it as empowering the female inmates. This is the same kind of language that repugicans use to promote legislation that takes away a woman’s right to choose. People have never been empowered by the loss of a choice or a right. It goes against all logic that less self determination makes an individual more free.
In the greatest country in the world, women are/were being sterilized without the required state approval.
And they say that there’s no such thing as a war on women and the poor.

Massachusetts mom in Brazil: Custody dispute stranded me

by Bridget Murphy


Image
This March 2013 family photo provided by Lindsey DeFilipi shows Shauna Hadden, left, and her daughter Ava Machado, both of Agawam, Mass. Hadden, a Massachusetts mom says she and her 6-year-old daughter are stranded in Brazil after police seized their passports because of a custody battle with the child?s father.

Police in Brazil have seized passports belonging to a woman and her 6-year-old daughter, stranding them in South America for more than a month in an international custody dispute with the child's father.
Thirty-three-year-old Shauna Hadden and her daughter, Ava Machado, have been in Brazil since late May, when they began a trip Hadden said was intended to connect the girl with the father she hadn't seen in more than three years.
Hadden's mother, Linda, said Friday the pair had already arrived in Rio de Janiero on her way to visit Ava's father, 32-year-old Donizete Machado, when her daughter received a phone call from a mutual friend warning her that Machado planned to keep the girl.
Instead of taking a flight to southern Brazil to meet Machado, Shauna Hadden and her daughter flew north to stay with friends in the northeastern city of Fortaleza, Linda Hadden said.
Then federal police seized Shauna Hadden's passport along with her daughter's in early June.
On Friday, a lawyer for Machado confirmed the passports were confiscated following a request by the girl's father but denied he wants custody of the girl, whom Hadden has had full custody of since the couple split in 2009.
Attorney Isabel Feijo said Machado sought seizure of their passports because Hadden skipped his scheduled meeting with Ava.
"He wants her to visit him and his family, and if the mother agrees to that, the request to seize the passport will immediately be withdrawn, we'll drop the case," Feijo said Friday.
Feijo said Hadden — using tickets purchased by her ex-husband — arrived in Rio de Janeiro on May 21 and was supposed to meet Machado in the city of Florianopolis before traveling together to the town of Criciuma, about 125 miles (200 kilometers) to the southeast.
Feijo said mother and daughter were scheduled to return to the U.S. on June 11. When Hadden and Ava had not met with Machado by June 8, Feijo filed Machado's request to block them from leaving Brazil.
In court filings, Feijo alleged Hadden never intended to allow her daughter to see Machado and instead used the tickets to meet a man she'd met online.
Hadden's family called that claim ridiculous, but in a Facebook post from April 16 — six weeks before her trip — Hadden told the man named in Feijo's complaint that she planned to meet him in Fortaleza, the town she's staying in now.
Image
This 2013 family photo provided by Lindsey DeFilipi shows Ava Machado, left, with her mother Shauna Hadden, of Agawam, Mass. Hadden, a Massachusetts mom says she and her 6-year-old daughter are stranded in Brazil after police seized their passports because of a custody battle with the child?s father.
Machado, who works as a house painter, had been expelled from the U.S. because he entered the country illegally through Mexico, his attorney confirmed.
Alessandro Saraiva, a Brazilian federal court spokesman, said he couldn't provide details because the case involves a minor and falls under secrecy laws. Brazil's federal police declined to comment. The U.S. Embassy in Brasilia would confirm only that Hadden is in Fortaleza and is receiving consular services.
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Richard Neal, both of Massachusetts, say they've been trying to intervene in an effort to get mother and daughter back to the United States.
It's common in Brazil for officials to confiscate the passports of parents if a judge feels there is a chance that a mother or father may try to take a child out of the country without the other parent's permission.
This is not the first time that parents from Brazil and the United States have become embroiled in a custody dispute attracting international attention.
In 2009, a five-year custody battle involving a boy with family in New Jersey and Brazil ended with the 9-year-old Sean Goldman's return to the United States with his father David Goldman.
The case had pitted David Goldman against his son's Brazilian stepfather, who had cared for the boy after his mother died in childbirth. The boy's mother had brought him to her native Brazil for what was supposed to be a vacation, but she stayed before divorcing her son's father and remarrying. The boy's stepfather had temporary custody of him, before the conclusion of a case that strained relations between Brazil and the United States.
When the boy's handover was blocked shortly before the custody dispute ended, the U.S. Senate put a hold on a trade deal worth about $2.75 billion a year to Brazil. The dispute prompted high-level discussions involving President Barack Obama and his then-counterpart, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Shauna Hadden has a Facebook page called "Trapped in Brazil" that she is updating as she waits for the case to be resolved.
In an email  on Friday, she said she and her daughter are stressed and want to come home.
"Ava is tired and having a hard time," she said.

Egypt overthrow shakes Islamists in the region


The military's overthrow of Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood's fall from power in Egypt have sent Islamist parties around the region scrambling to preserve gains made in the Middle East and North Africa as a result of the Arab Spring uprisings.

Brazilian soccer fans kill and quarter ref who stabbed player to death

Brazilian soccer fans kill and quarter ref who stabbed player to death

Da Silva was killed after stabbing a player to death over a dispute.

Police say enraged spectators invaded a soccer field, stoned the referee to death and quartered his body after he stabbed a player to death.
The Public Safety Department of the state of Maranhao says in a statement that it all started when referee Otavio da Silva expelled player Josenir Abreu from a game last weekend. The two got into a fist fight, then Silva took out a knife and stabbed Abreu, who died on his way to the hospital.
The statement issued this week says Abreu’s friends and relatives immediately “rushed into the field, stoned the referee to death and quartered his body.”
Local news media say the spectators also decapitated Silva and stuck his head on a stake in the middle of the field.
Police have arrested one suspect.

Superman Arrests Shoplifter

Luke Junior--not Clark Kent--was working as a costumed mascot in Sheffield, UK when he saw a store manager chasing a shoplifting suspect. That's when Superman flew into action:
Mr Junior, who works as a security guard at a shopping centre but hopes to become a fireman, said: "The last thing you want to do is run straight into Superman.
“He was going nowhere but the police station.
"He tried to run away from the manager so I grabbed him again and he was kicking off. Then I ended up physically restraining him against the window.
"The two policewomen were very professional. They didn't even crack a smile but I can imagine they might have done when they got to the police station later that night.
"But everyone else was cheering and clapping. Then the Superman music came on.
“I went back to the children and, as Superman would, I told them to always stay on the right side of the law.”
You can watch a video at the link.

Astronomical News

Enjoy some of the most inspiring, beautiful and down-right stunning photos from our adventures in space this past week.
Can the hunt for the Higgs boson finally be laid to rest? No -- physicists have only just begun.
The UK SETI Research Network (UKSRN) is eying government funds to create a large-scale effort to seek out intelligent signals from deep space.
Astronomers have discovered micro-bursts of radio waves from beyond the galaxy -- and for now, they're a mystery.
Astronomy lets us peer into some of the strangest corners of physics in a way that are incredibly hard (or impossible) to reproduce in a laboratory setting. For example, a recent discovery of pulsations from a massive white dwarf star … 
Mars rover Curiosity may have a busy schedule of science while exploring Gale Crater, but that doesn't mean it can't enjoy the view once and a while.
In a first, NASA personnel on the International Space Station control an Earth-bound rover.
How early in our Universe's evolution did planets begin to form? By looking at a galaxy 11 billion light-years away, astronomers think they might have a clue.

Seven Ways Drugs Ain't What They Used to Be

Illicit drugs become more potent and more unpredictable than ever.

Opium Warlord Lo Hsing Han dies

A former drug kingpin and business tycoon known as the original Opium Warlord has died in his home in Myanmar's main city, a source close to the family said Sunday.
Lo Hsing Han died Saturday in Yangon, the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he did not have authorisation to speak to the media, said, citing a relative of the former drug kingpin. Lo Hsing Han was believed to be in his mid-70s. The cause of death was not immediately known.
Lo Hsing Han's involvement in the drug trade began more than four decades ago.
In exchange for heading a local militia set up by then-dictator Ne Win in the 1960s to help fight local communists in the region of Kokang, Lo Hsing Han was given permission to engage in the trafficking of opium and heroin, said Bertil Lintner, author of "The Golden Triangle Opium Trade: An Overview."
With one of the best-armed militias in Myanmar, he quickly became one of the region's most powerful drug kingpins.
Thai police arrested Lo Hsing Han in northern Thailand in 1973. He was handed over to the Myanmar government and sentenced to death - commuted later to life in prison - for treason.
He was released in 1980 as part of a general amnesty, Mr Lintner said.
In 1992, Lo Hsing Han and his son Stephen Law founded the conglomerate Asia World, allegedly as a front for their ongoing dealings in the drug trade, the author said.
They quickly became two of Myanmar's biggest business tycoons, helping prop up the military junta, winning contracts to run ports, build highways and oversee airports.
The US Department of Treasury, dubbing Lo Hsing Han the "Godfather of Heroin," put him on the financial sanctions list in 2008.

The Forbidden Island


 
The following is an article from Uncle John's 24-Karat Gold Bathroom Reader.
Ever heard of North Sentinel Island? Probably not …even thought's one of the most unusual places on Earth. What makes it so odd? The people -they've been there a long time, completely cut off from the rest of the world.

MAROONED

Late on the night of August 2, 1981, a Hong Kong freighter navigating the choppy waters of the Bay of Bengal ran aground on a submerged coral reef. The ship, called the Primrose, was hopelessly stuck. But there was no danger of it sinking, so after radioing for assistance, the captain and crew settled in for a few days' wait until help arrived.

The following morning, as it became light, the sailors saw an island a few hundred yards beyond the reef. It was uninhabited, as far as anyone could tell: There were no buildings, roads, or other signs of civilization there -just a pristine, sandy beach and behind it, dense jungle. The beach must have seemed like an ideal spot to wait for a rescue, but the captain ordered the crew to remain aboard the Primrose. It was monsoon season, and he may have concerned about lowering the men into the rough sea in tiny lifeboats. Or perhaps he'd figured out just which tiny island lay beyond the reef: It was North Sentinel -the deadliest of the 200 islands in the Andaman Island chain.

SOME WELCOME

A few days later, a lookout aboard the Primrose spotted a group of dark-skinned men emerging from the jungle, making their way toward the ship. Was it the rescue party? It seemed possible …until the men came a little closer and the lookout could see that every one of them was naked.

Naked …and armed, but not with guns. Each man carried either a spear, a bow and arrows, or some other primitive weapon. The captain made another radio distress call, this one much more urgent: "Wild men! Estimate more than 50, carrying various homemade weapons, are making two or three wooden boats. Worrying they will board us at sunset."

A WORLD APART
After a tense standoff lasting a few more days, the crew of the Primrose were evacuated by helicopter to safety. They were lucky to get away: It was their misfortune to have run aground just offshore of one of the strangest islands on Earth, and probably the very last of its kind. Anthropologists believe the men who appeared on the beach that morning in 1981 are members of a hunter-gatherer tribe that has lived on the island for 65,000 years. That's 35,000 years before the last ice age, 55,000 years before the great woolly mammoths disappeared from North America, and 62,000 years before the ancient Egyptians built the pyramids at Giza. These people are believed to be the direct descendants of the first humans out of Africa.

The outside world has known about North Sentinel Island for centuries, but the islanders have been almost completely cut off from the rest of the world all that time, and they fiercely maintain their isolation to this day. No one knows what language they speak or what they call themselves -they have never allowed anyone to get close enough to find out. The outside world calls them the "Sentineli" or the "Sentinelese," after the island. It's estimated the the 28-square-mile island (slightly larger than Manhattan) is capable of supporting as many as 400 hunter-gatherers, but no one knows how many people live there.

HOME ALONE

North Sentinel Island is amazingly well suited to both support and isolate a tribe like the Sentinelese. It's too small to interest settlers or colonial powers, especially when there are bigger, better islands within a few hours' sailing time. And unlike many of those islands, North Sentinel has no natural harbors, so there's no good place for a ship to take shelter from a storm. Furthermore, the island is surrounded by a ring of submerged coral reefs that prevent large ships from approaching. This was especially true during the age of sail, when ships had no way of quickly maneuvering out of harm's way once they realized that the reefs were there. Narrow openings in these reefs allow small boats to slip through and land on the beach, but these are passable only in good weather and calm seas, which occur as infrequently as two months out of the year. For the remaining ten months, the island cannot be safely approached from the sea.

SELF-SUFFICIENCY
At the same time that they keep strangers out, the coral reefs help keep the Sentinelese in, because the reefs create several shallow lagoons that are teeming with sea life. The food provided by these lagoons is so plentiful that the Sentinelese have never needed to fish in the deep sea waters beyond the coral reefs. They propel their dugout canoes through the shallow lagoons by poling along the bottom, but they cannot navigate in water deeper than the length of the poles. They've never invented oars, without which they cannot leave the island.

The Andaman Islands, North Sentinel included, sit at the crossroads of ancient trade routes between Europe, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia. Ironically, this may have further encouraged the isolationist tendencies of the Sentinelese, because their dark skin and African appearance would have made them the targets of any slave traders who might have tried to land on the island over the centuries. Periodic contact with such outsiders would have only intensified the tribe's hostility toward the outside world and their desire to be left alone.

WHO ARE YOU WEARING?

One more thing that has protected the Sentinelese from outsiders: the age-old belief that all Andaman Island tribes were cannibals. There is no evidence that any of them were, except that some tribes wore the bones of their ancestors as jewelry (including the skulls), which they wore strapped to their backs. It would have been easy to mistake such people for cannibals. Who'd stick around long enough to find out that they weren't?

By the time the Greek astronomer Ptolemy wrote of an "Island of Cannibals" somewhere in the Bay of Bengal in the second century AD, sailors were already giving the Andamans a wide berth. Marco Polo didn't help matters in the 1290s when he described the Andamanese as "a brutish and savage race… [who] kill and eat every foreigner whom they can lay their hands upon." Claims like these certainly did help to keep strangers away. And considering how fiercely the Sentinelese and other Andaman tribes defended their islands, it's probably a lucky thing they did.

STRANGERS BEARING GIFTS


The first real threat to the natives of North Sentinel Island appeared in 1858, when the British established a penal colony at Port Blair on nearby South Andaman Island, and set out trying to pacify the local tribes -the Great Andamese, the Onge, the Jarawa, and eventually the Sentinelese. One technique the British used was to kidnap a member of an unfriendly tribe, hold him for a short period, treat him well, and then shower him with gifts and let him return to his people. In doing so, the British hoped to demonstrate their friendliness. If the first attempt didn't work, they'd repeat the process with as many tribesmen as it took to turn an unfriendly tribe into a friendly one.

In 1880 a large, heavily-armed party led by 20-year-old Maurice Vidal Portman, the British colonial administrator, landed on North Sentinel and made what is believed to be the first exploration of the island by outsiders. Several days passed before they made contact with any Sentinelese, because tribe members disappeared into the jungle whenever strangers approached.

Finally, after several days on the island, the party stumbled across an elderly couple who were too old to run away, and several small children. Portman brought the two adults and four of the children back to Port Blair. But the man and the woman soon started to get sick and then died, probably from exposure to Western diseases like smallpox, measles, and influenza, to which they would have had little or no resistance. So Portman returned the four children to North Sentinel Island and released them with gifts for the rest of the tribe. The children disappeared into the jungle and were never seen again.

INDIA'S TURN

After this experience, the British left the Sentinelese more or less alone, and focused their pacification efforts on the other tribes. When India won its independence from Great Britain in 1947, the Andaman Islands were handed over to India, but the Indians ignored the Sentinelese, too, for about 20 years.

Then in 1967, the Indian government launched its own large-scale expedition to North Sentinel Island, complete with plenty of armed policemen and naval officers for protection. The visit was less aggressive than the British had been 87 years earlier (no kidnapping), and it was more scientific (an anthropologist named T.N. Pandit was a member of the party). But they never made contact with a single Sentinelese soul -once again, the tribe members vanished deeper into the jungle whenever the outsiders approached.

RE-GIFTING

That began a decades-long policy of "contact visits" by the Indian government to North Sentinel Island. From time to time during the short calm-weather season, an Indian naval vessel would anchor outside the coral reefs and dispatch small boats through the openings in the reefs to approach the beaches. Approach the beaches, but not land. The boats had to be sure not to come within an arrow's flight of the beach or risk being attacked by the Sentinelese.

These strangers, like the British before them, came bearing gifts -usually bananas and coconuts, which do not grow on the islands, and sometimes other gifts, including bead necklaces, rubber balls, plastic buckets, and pots and pans. Once the visitors approached as closely as they felt was safe, they would toss the items overboard to wash upon the beach. Or, if the party were large enough to frighten the Sentinelese into retreating into the jungle, it might even land on the beach, but only long enough to drop off the gifts and beat it out of there before the Sentinelese attacked. When a National Geographic film crew lingered too long during one such visit in 1975, a Sentinelese warrior with a bow and arrow shot the director in the thigh, and then stood there on the beach laughing at his accomplishment.

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS

It wasn't until the early 1990s, after more than 20 years of such visits, that the Sentinelese finally relaxed their guard -just a bit- and allowed the boats to come closer. Sometimes unarmed tribesmen stood on the beach while the people on the boats tossed the coconuts overboard. A few times, they even waded out in the water to collect the coconuts in person. Even so, they did not allow the visitors to stay long. After just a few minutes, the Sentinelese would signal with menacing gestures or "warning shots" -arrows fired with no arrowheads attached- that the visit was over.

LEAVE 'EM ALONE

That was about as close as the Sentinelese ever came to opening up to the outside world. In the mid-1990s, the Indian government decided that its policy of forcing contact with the Sentinelese made no sense, and it ended the visits in 1996.
The visits made no sense to India, but they were actually dangerous for the Sentinelese. With so little resistance to Western diseases, the islanders risked not just the death of individuals with each contact with outsiders, but the extinction of the entire tribe. That was the experience with other Andaman Island tribes: When the British established their penal colony on South Andaman Island in 1858, the native population of the Andaman Islands was nearly 7,000 people. But the British arrival was followed by a succession of epidemics, including pneumonia, measles, mumps, and the Russian flu, which decimated the tribes. After more than 150 years of exposure to Western diseases, their numbers have dropped to fewer than 300 people, and continue to decline. Some tribes have gone completely extinct. The Sentinelese, by refusing contact with the outside world, are the only tribe that has avoided this fate.

WAVE GOODBYE

The Sentinelese even survived the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the deadliest in recorded history, with few or no casualties. Thought the tsunami killed more than 230,000 people in surrounding countries, it appears that the Sentinelese were able to sense the coming of the tsunami and escape to higher ground before it arrived. When an Indian Navy helicopter arrived three days after to check on their well-being and drop food parcels on the beach, a Sentinelese warrior came out of the jungle and warned the helicopter off with a bow and arrow, a clear sign that the Sentinelese did not want help from outsiders.

KEEP OUT

Today the Indian government enforces a three-mile exclusion zone around North Sentinel Island with regular sea and air patrols. Heavy fines and jail time await anyone caught trespassing in the zone. And if that isn't enough of a deterrent, the Sentinelese continue to defend their island as fiercely as ever. In 2006 two poachers who'd spent the day fishing illegally inside the exclusion zone dropped anchor near the island and went to sleep, apparently after a night of heavy drinking. Sometime during the night the anchor came loose and the boat drifted onto the coral reefs. The Sentinelese killed both men and buried their bodies on the beach. At last report the bodies are still there; when an Indian Navy helicopter tried to recover them from the beach, the Sentinelese fought it off with bows and arrows.

EYE IN THE SKY

Today anyone with a laptop and internet access can use Google Earth to spy on places that are not meant to be seen by outsiders. You can look at satellite photos of Area 51, the secret military air base in the Navada desert. You can look at Mount Weather, a secret facility in Virginia that is rumored to be the place that members of Congress are evacuated in times of national emergency. You can even peer down on secret watersides on the outskirts of Pyongyang, North Korea, that are the playground of that country's Communist Party elite.
But when you look down on North Sentinel Island in the Bay of Bengal, all you can make out is the wreck of the Primrose, still stuck on the reef where it ran aground in 1981. You can't see the Sentinelese, their dwellings, or anything else that might shed light on how many people there are on the island, or how they live their lives. The dense jungle canopy that covers every inch of the island except the beaches conceals everything: Even when viewed from outer space, the Sentinelese remain free from prying eyes.

Mysterious Toe Rings Found on Ancient Skeletons

The discovery leaves open the question of whether the rings were worn for fashion or magical reasons.

Dinosaur-Era India, Australia and Antarctica Mapped

The map could indicate new sources of oil and gas deposits, such as those along southern Australia. 

Random Photos

Estate agent fired for dumping dead animals on neighbor's property

Two Pennsylvania realtors have been cited for disorderly conduct and harassment after reportedly scattering dead mice and snakes onto their neighbor front yard. Jonathan and Andrea Straub were caught on a security camera tossing dead animals, cutting branches off trees, and knocking over their neighbor “For Sale” signs, Lower Merion police say. The high-powered realtors had put their own home up for sale and allegedly didn’t appreciate their neighbor tacky attempts at marketing.


Both of the houses on Booth Lane are listed for at least $1 million. Neighbor Mary Martell’s home sits directly behind the Straub’s home. She was trying to sell the house by herself. Andrea Straub, on the other hand, was born into the real estate industry. Her father is a top builder and developer while her mom worked as a broker. The award-winning real estate agent graduated from New York University with honors and handled multi-million dollar home sales for Prudential Fox & Roach.

On her website, she calls herself a skilled negotiator and a “people person.” But her negotiating skills failed to win over her neighbor. Straub’s lawyers say the squabble started over Martell’s “For Sale” signs, which the real estate couple claimed violated township codes. When the Straubs tried to forcibly remove the signs, the neighbor caretaker became confrontational. After Martell was hospitalized for an unrelated condition, her house sitter noticed that someone had been knocking over the signs and stealing the real estate flyers advertising the home. Martell then had a security camera installed on her property and managed to catch the Straubs red-handed. When police played the tape for the Straubs, they didn’t deny the allegations, said Lower Merion spokesman Tom Walsh.



The Straubs’ lawyers call the charges “absurd.” They say the couple never confessed to the crime and that the people in the surveillance footage aren’t even recognizable. “This is spun out of control,” said lawyer Anthony List Jr., adding that dead mice and garden snakes are a common sight in residential neighbourhoods. Straub was fired from her job at Prudential Fox & Roach on Friday. Her husband Jonathan is a part-time real estate agent who has a bottle packaging business. Defamation lawyer George Bochetto said that the Straubs will have a press conference next week to “divulge previously unreported facts in the case.” "The Straubs are victims of horrible falsities and we will prove it in the court of law," Bochetto said in a statement.

Surfer knocked out by whale at Bondi Beach

A surfer has been knocked unconscious by a 15-m humpback whale that flicked him off his board at Sydney's Bondi Beach. The whale was frolicking in the water among surfers about 70m offshore on Sunday morning when it got too close to Bishan Rajapakse, a 38-year-old doctor from Bondi, and knocked him off his board.


Dr Rajapakse lost consciousness for about 10 seconds and other surfers managed to help him back to the beach. He was treated by paramedics and lifeguards before being taken to St Vincent's Hospital in a stable condition. Despite his injuries, Dr Rajapakse said his encounter with the whale was a “very beautiful experience”. “I’ve seen a few whales in Bondi before, just walking, but this was the biggest I’ve seen and we were so close to it.”



Dr Rajapakse said the whale seemed to be curious about him and a number of other surfers who paddled closer to the giant creature to get a closer look. “You felt like you were in the whale’s turf. He or she was not afraid at all,” Dr Rajapakse said. Bondi lifeguard Adrian Kovacic says lifesavers had spotted the whale in the water and had been aware of the potential for injury. "The whale came heaps close to shore and then the surfers were heaps close to it," Mr Kovacic said.



"We sent our lifeguard to make a big radius around the whale to get everyone away, and while he was doing that one guy got too close and got hit by the tail. We treated it as a spinal, and then he went to hospital." One witness said the whale was "the size of a bus". "I mean, it was 40 feet long - it was huge," Lachlan Harris said. "They were playing and the whale was frolicking with them and having a lot of fun and sort of popping its head out. It just flicked its tail and some surfers were in the wrong (place) and the next thing, you know, a surfboard is flying in the air...  It was unbelievable."

All about Octopi

Octopi survive in temperatures between -1 and 30 degrees Celsius. The blue pigment, called hemocyanin, allows the animal to receive oxygen even when the water is ice cold. 

Animal News

The seas off China have been hit by their largest-ever growth of algae, with vast waves of green washing onto the shores.
Starfish have eyes on their arms that help them to see their beautiful and food-rich coral reef environment.
Nesting seagulls are dive-bombing residents in a Cornwall town. 
Even low doses of a new kind of insecticide is weakening honey bees, perhaps leading to death.
Hawkmoths ultrasonically scream their way out of becoming dinner.
Here are 10 animal behaviors you can blame on the moon, from sex to killing.
These 12 seemingly harmless animals show a dangerous side when pestered.
Seattle resident lands what might be the oldest rockfish ever discovered.