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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Daily Drift

The Daily Drift
 
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Today in History

1540 Thomas Cromwell is beheaded on Tower Hill in England.
1627 Sir George Calvert arrives in Newfoundland to develop his land grant.
1637 King Charles of England hands over the American colony of Massachusetts to Sir Fernando Gorges, one of the founders of the Council of New England.
1664 Wealthy, non-church members in Massachusetts are given the right to vote.
1793 The French garrison at Mainz, Germany, falls to the Prussians.
1803 Irish patriots throughout the country rebel against Union with Great Britain.
1829 William A. Burt patents his "typographer," an early typewriter.
1849 German rebels in Baden capitulate to the Prussians.
1863 Bill Andeson and his Confederate Bushwackers gut the railway station at Renick, Missouri.
1865 William Booth founds the Salvation Army.
1868 The 14th Amendment is ratified, granting citizenship to African Americans.
1885 Ulysses S. Grant dies of throat cancer at the age of 63.
1894 Japanese troops take over the Korean imperial palace.
1903 The Ford Motor Company sells its first automobile, the Model A.
1944 Soviet troops take Lublin, Poland as the German army retreats.
1962 The Geneva Conference on Laos forbids the United States to invade eastern Laos.
1995 Two astronomers, Alan Hale in New Mexico and Thomas Bopp in Arizona, almost simultaneouly discover a comet.

Non Sequitur

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Congress Members Move to Restore Voting Rights Act

News of the positive sort
Leaders of the Civil Rights March on Washington, including John Lewis (second from right), gathered at the Lincoln Memorial August 28, 1963.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers is taking steps to reinstate the civil-rights law invalidated by the Supreme Court.
by Cole Stangler
 
'The vote is precious, it is almost sacred. It is the most powerful non-violent tool we have,' Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) said at the hearing. 'Those who sacrificed everything—their blood and their lives—and generations yet unborn, are all hoping and praying that Congress will rise to the challenge and get it done again.'
Fifty years ago this August, the young chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), John Lewis, spoke alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. to one of the largest crowds ever assembled at the National Mall. A key demand was the “protection of the right to vote,” something that was enshrined in the Voting Rights Act (VRA) two years later.
Yesterday, weeks after the Supreme Court struck down a critical section of that piece of legislation, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) found himself before the Senate Judiciary Committee making what must have felt like a surreal plea for congressional action to once again protect voting rights.
“The vote is precious. It is almost sacred. It is the most powerful non-violent tool we have,” Lewis said. “Those who sacrificed everything—their blood and their lives—and generations yet unborn, are all hoping and praying that Congress will rise to the challenge and get it done again.”
The Supreme Court's decision to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act last month in Shelby County v Holder sounded to some like a death knell for the landmark piece of civil rights legislation. True, the court’s ruling did not invalidate Section 5, the key provision of the law. Jurisdictions with proven legacies of voter discrimination cannot change their voting laws without approval from the Justice Department or a federal court. But the Supreme Court ruled that the “preclearance” formula, which determines the (mostly Southern) jurisdictions covered by the VRA, is outdated, rendering Section 5 inoperable.
The Justice Department can still litigate alleged discrimination on a case-by-case basis, but without the pre-clearance mechanism—which John Lewis called “the heart and soul” of the legislation—any jurisdiction can change its laws at will. Several Southern states have already seized that opportunity. Only hours after the Shelby County decision, for instance, officials in Texas and Mississippi announced plans to move forward with voter ID bills that had been blocked as racially discriminatory by the Justice Department under Section 5.
Cities, too, are freed to change local election laws without federal approval. Decatur, Alabama, for example, could renew its plans to scale back African-American representation on the city council, warns a recent report from the Brennan Center for Justice Analysis—and supporters of similar redistricting to disenfranchise non-white populations could be emboldened.
For the VRA to actually have any teeth, Congress will need to come up with a new formula. And in today’s Congress, which is characterized by a historic inability to pass legislation and an increasingly extremist repugican cabal, the prospects for restoring the effectiveness of the Voting Rights Act may seem slim.
However, Congress members from both sides of the aisle have taken the first small steps to try and restore the law’s power. Wednesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the importance of the Voting Rights Act, which featured testimony from Lewis and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (r-Wis.), signaled that a group of bipartisan legislators is interested in restoring some kind of pre-clearance coverage. Along with Lewis, Sensenbrenner—who helped ensure repugican support for the 2006 renewal of the VRA as chair of the Judiciary Committee—will likely to be at the cornerstone of any new coverage formula that emerges in the House.
A spokesperson for Rep. Sensenbrenner tells In These Times that the congressman has been communicating about the legislation with the Attorney General Eric Holder, the Senate Judiciary Committee and a group of House repugicans. At Wednesday’s hearing, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said that he hoped an eventual proposal could make its way forward by the fall.
The contours of that proposal, however, remain uncertain at this point. “It’s going to be something that’s completely bipartisan,” says Sensenbrenner's spokesperson. “It’s going to comply with the objections of the Supreme Court, and it’s something that’s going to take time.”
“From our perspective, it doesn’t have to be geographically based. It could be based on certain types of voting changes that are problematic,” says Deborah Vagins, a senior legislative counsel for the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office, which will be involved in crafting an eventual proposal. “Basically you want to revive and restore the hallmark of Section 5, so you want something that will get at recent and egregious voting rights changes that have a discriminatory purpose or effect based on race, national origin and language minority status. You want to make sure that you are re-instituting a process that can stop discriminatory changes before they are implemented.”
Vagins stresses the need for any proposal to come from bipartisan cooperation for it to stand to any chance of success. She says reaching that goal will be difficult, but that she is optimistic. “I firmly believe we can do this, it’s just a question of timing and what the ultimate legislation will look like.”
192 House repugicans voted in favor of renewing the VRA in 2006. The ACLU, NAACP and other supporters of the law will likely begin by targeting those of the 192 who are still in Congress. But with the emergence of the roughly 60-member strong tea party voting block and the ongoing lunatic fringe drift of the cabal, it may be hard to find enthusiastic supporters.

Did you know ...

That a former repugican strategist: the repugican cabal needs to de-kookify itself

That wal-mart doesn't want you to see these true stories from its employees

That Elizabeth Warren and John McCain introduced bill to break up big banks

That 5,000 military families are slated to lose food stamps

These 5 gorgeous landmarks threatened by rising seas

That the new bird flu could spark a new pandemic

That the oldest known writing was discovered in china

These 15 surprisingly dangerous animals

The repugican cabal leaders agree on $20.6 billion NC budget

Lunatic Fringe 
The repugican cabal's headlong dash to turn NC into SC continues apace.
North Carolina State Legislative Office Building
 
Leaders in the North Carolina House and Senate announced they have reached agreement on a $20.6 billion budget that will end teacher tenure and allow taxpayer money to be spent for private school tuition.
Highlights of the budget negotiated by the Republican majority were issued in a news release. The actual appropriations bill was not expected to be made available to the public until late Sunday night.
Both chambers have previously passed their own spending plans, but Republican leaders wrangled for weeks to come to a consensus even as the July 1 start of the 2013-2014 fiscal year came and went.
The budget increases overall state spending by 2.5 percent while instituting tax cuts for corporations and individuals. The plan scraps the longstanding teacher tenure system in favor of employing educators on contracts that are renewed based on performance reviews. The budget would also allow families that meet income guidelines to get state money to pay private school tuition starting in 2014.
"Republicans in the General Assembly have produced a state budget that reduces taxes and right-sizes state government," said House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg), according to the release. "This budget is another crucial step in putting North Carolina's fiscal house in order."
State spending on Medicaid is increased by $1.5 billion to cover what Republicans term as cost overruns. A special provision would allow the administration of GOP Gov. Pat McCrory to develop a Medicaid reform plan in the coming months.
The budget also supports McCrory's plan for overhauling the North Carolina Highway Trust Fund, which prioritizes and pays for transportation infrastructure projects over the next 10 years.
The plan restores funding that had been previously cut for 69 positions within the State Highway Patrol, as well as another 22 magistrates and 175 probation and parole officers.
The budget meets the state's obligation to fund the state retirement system and state health plan, while providing state employees with 5 additional days of leave. The release makes no mention of any raise for state employees, whose salaries have remained largely stagnant for years.
The release also said living victims of a state-sponsored eugenics program that ended in the 1970s will receive a one-time compensation payment, but it did not say how much that payment will be.
North Carolina forcibly sterilized about 7,600 people who the state deemed feeble-minded or otherwise undesirable between 1929 and 1974. Some of the victims were as young as 10 and chosen because they were promiscuous or did not get along with their schoolmates.
While many states had similar eugenics programs, most of them were abandoned after the practice was associated with the Nazis after World War II. But North Carolina actually expanded its program after the war.
A group set up to help North Carolina victims estimated up to 1,800 were still living last year, though it had only verified 146 of them.
The Legislature has debated whether to compensate eugenics victims for years, but the proposal didn't gain much traction until 2012. A bill to pay each victim $50,000 passed the House with the support of then-Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue and Speaker Tillis, but stalled in the Senate.
The budget also eliminates state funding for the nonprofit Rural Economic Development Center, which was stung by a negative audit last week, triggering the resignation of its long-time president. In its place, the legislature is creating a new division within the N.C. Department of Commerce to focus on improving services to the state's rural counties.
"Together, members of the House and Senate have carefully crafted a plan that smartly invests in key priorities like education and public safety while fulfilling our shared commitment to fiscal responsibility and accountability in state government," said Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham), according to the release.

Ohio zoo tries to mate rhino siblings

Animal News
In this Wednesday, July 17, 2013 photo, Suci, a female Sumatran rhino, sniffs the air at the Cincinnati Zoo in Cincinnati. Her brother, Harapan, is in a separate area next to hers. With the global population of Sumatran rhinos plunging at an alarming rate, Cincinnati Zoo experts who have some success with captive breeding are trying something they admit is a desperation effort _ bringing back the brother of a female rhino in hopes they will mate. (AP Photo/Al Behrman) 
With the survival of a species on the line, Cincinnati Zoo scientists are hoping to mate their lone female Sumatran rhino with her little brother.
The desperation breeding effort with the rhino siblings follows a recent crisis summit in Singapore where conservationists concluded as few as 100 of the two-horned, hairy rhinos might remain in their native southeast Asia. The species numbers have fallen by up to 90 percent since the mid-1980s as development takes away habitat space and poachers hunt them for their prized horns.
Rhinos overall are dwindling globally, and the Sumatran species descended from Ice Age woolly rhinos is one of the most critically endangered.
The Cincinnati Zoo has been a pioneer in captive breeding of the rhino species, producing the first three born in captivity in modern times. Its conservationists this month brought back the youngest, 6-year-old Harapan, from the Los Angeles Zoo and soon will try to have him mate with the zoo's female — his biological sister — 8-year-old Suci.
"We absolutely need more calves for the population as a whole; we have to produce as many as we can as quickly as we can," said Terri Roth, who heads the zoo's Center for Research of Endangered Wildlife. "The population is in sharp decline and there's a lot of urgency around getting her pregnant."
Critics of captive breeding programs say they often do more harm than good and can create animals less likely to survive in the wild. Inbreeding increases the possibility of bad genetic combinations for offspring.
"We don't like to do it, and long term, we really don't like to do it," Roth said, adding that the siblings' parents were genetically diverse, which is a positive for the plan. "When your species is almost gone, you just need animals and that matters more than genes right now — these are two of the youngest, healthiest animals in the population."
The parents of the three rhinos born in Cincinnati have died, but their eldest offspring, 11-year-old Andalas, was moved to a sanctuary in Indonesia where he last year became a father after mating with a wild-born rhino there.
The first coordinated effort at captive breeding began in the 1980s, and about half the initial 40 breeding rhinos died without a successful pregnancy. Roth, who began working on the rhino project in 1996, said it took years just to understand their eating habits and needs and decades more to understand their mating patterns. The animals tend not to be interested in companionship, let alone romance.
"They're definitely difficult to breed because they're so solitary," Roth said. "You can't just house them together. So the only time you can get a successful breeding is if you just put them together when the female is going to be receptive."
Mating between such close rhino relatives might happen in the wild, Roth said, but it's difficult to know because the animals are so rare. If the offspring of such a mating then bred with an unrelated rhino, the genetic diversity would resume in the next generation, she said.
Harapan, who weighs about 1,650 pounds, will be kept separate from his sister, who is a little smaller. On a recent morning at the zoo here, he slathered himself in a mud hole, then ambled over to settle down in a pool of water.
When the time is right to reintroduce the rhinos, the zoo team won't dim the lights or play mood music. Instead, they will use a system of gates to bring the pair together. If they begin to fight or show other behavior indicating things aren't going well, the team will try to separate them, using bananas for distraction.
Before then, Roth and the other scientists will have measured Harapan's testosterone levels while using ultrasound and other monitoring to know when Suci is ovulating.
"You should use the science to guide you," Roth said. "We have really relied on the science."
If the breeding is successful, the zoo will be celebrating a fourth Sumatran rhino birth about 16 months later. If not, other efforts will continue.
Indonesian conservationists have been trying to mate Andalas, the oldest brother, with two other females there after last year's success. His semen has also been banked, but there have been no reported successful artificial inseminations yet.
At the Singapore summit, Indonesian and Malaysian authorities pledged to work together more closely on species survival efforts. Conservationists say special rhino protection patrols have thwarted poachers who kill rhinos to take horns that can be worth tens of thousands of dollars on the black market. The horns are sought for medicinal and other uses — by legend, rhino horns are said to have aphrodisiac powers.
While the Sumatran rhino isn't a particularly popular or even recognizable animal to the public at large, Roth said, the species contributes to the global need for healthy forests with its role in the ecosystem clearing small saplings and brush, and helping spread seeds and make trails smaller animals use. Also, the rhinos don't threaten humans nor damage their crops.
"There's no human-rhino conflict," Roth said. "Are we going to put enough value in wildlife to share the earth with this ancient, peaceful, noninvasive species? If we let the Sumatran rhino die, what are we going to save?"

Indian customs seize over 10,000 endangered turtles found in the luggage of two passengers

Animal News
More than 10,000 live exotic turtles have been found in the luggage of two passengers at an Indian airport on Thursday.


Two Indian nationals were arrested at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International airport in Kolkata after customs officials discovered the reptiles packed in their suitcases.


"10,043 numbers of exotic varieties of the turtles have been seized from two passengers, residents of Chennai, who were coming from China to Singapore, and landed at Kolkata airport," said assistant commissioner of Airport Customs, Nabnit Kumar.



The turtles were in three bags waiting to be picked up from a conveyor belt when they aroused the suspicion of customs officials. According to the World Wildlife Fund, nearly all species of sea turtle are classified as endangered and many are at risk of extinction due to human activities. An investigation has been launched into the attempted smuggling case.

Detroit Sinks Deeper Into Hell As It Faces Wingnut Utopian Fantasies

Lunatic Fringe 
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This week, David Atkins and Lynn Parramore, writing at Alternet, each told the story of the downfall of Sears. Once an American institution with over a century of successfully providing goods and services to the nation, Sears has fallen into a state of business failure free fall. The company has been hemorrhaging customers, seeing its profits plummet, and its reputation nosedive. If there is anyone who deserves credit for the company’s demise, it is the Ayn-Rand loving, libertarian Eddie Lampert, recently ranked #2 on the Forbe’s list of America’s worst CEOs. Mr. Lampert’s decision to embrace the economic philosophy of Friedrich von Hayek, beloved among libertarian conservatives, means that he scorns investment in infrastructure, education, or the labor force. Instead, his concerns are always with austerity, budget reduction, and the bottom line. He believes in the free-market, corporate largesse, and greedy self-interest. These beliefs led him to implement an organization of his company whereby he broke it into over 30 smaller components and then basically told them that they needed to compete with each other in a cutthroat atmosphere to earn more profits. The result? Individual units within the corporation began undermining each other. Parramore notes, “Units competed for ad space in Sears’ circulars, and since the unit with the most money got the most ad space, one Mother’s Day circular ended up being released featuring a mini bike for boys on its cover.” Yes, that sounds like excellent business acumen; mini-bikes are famously popular gifts for mothers. Employees became disheartened to the point where Sears was ranked the 6th worst place to work in America by AOL Jobs.
Meanwhile, this week also brought news that the City of Detroit tried to file for bankruptcy under the direction of its state-appointed, anti-democratic “emergency manager,” only to be rebuffed by a judge’s ruling. How does Detroit’s situation relate to Sears’s sad demise? Both are facing the specter of Randian objectivism, free market fanaticism, dehumanization of ordinary people, and an abdication of corporate responsibility. As the workers at Sears have been forced into cutthroat competition, so too, have Detroit’s residents been asked to compete over insufficient and scant resources.
There is no question that Detroit has been struggling for decades. As a rust-belt city dependent on manufacturing, it has faced the same woes as many other cities in the region as our country’s manufacturing jobs were shipped overseas. However, the historical dependence of Detroit on the auto industry has meant that its well-being has been tethered to the whims and welfare of the American auto corporations. As the business infrastructure of the city aged, rather than investing in and developing new factories, these corporations opened up plants in other parts of Michigan, Ohio, Canada, etc. They left behind massive, abandoned factories that not only pepper the city with dangerous, broken-down eyesores, but also left the city with a dramatic loss of jobs. With little other choice remaining, residents of the city departed by the millions seeking employment. Many of those who remained were simply too poor to relocate. The city government was left with an ever-decreasing tax base to maintain its functioning, falling more and more into debt. Instead of taxing the remaining corporations and businesses within the city, Detroit was essentially blackmailed into giving them colossal tax breaks under threat of seeing the businesses pick up and move. The State of Michigan has also been withholding funds that it is supposed to give Detroit through revenue-sharing, restricting their access even further to necessary resources.
The commonalities between what is happening to Sears and what is happening to Detroit are that both are now being subjected to right wing ideology, Ayn Rand philosophy, and von Hayek’s austerity economics. The results for each are similar. People will unnecessarily suffer. Damage will eventually need to be undone. And people will have to learn the hard way what a failure these poisonous schools of thought really are.
According to reports, the emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, and his cohorts, wealthy businessmen and corporations, have big plans for Detroit. They can’t wait to implement their conservative fantasies of privatizing and cutting city services, busting unions, selling off public assets, and laying off public employees. The citizens of Detroit have already seen 20% of their city’s workforce cut by their Democratic, multi-millionaire mayor, David Bing. In a place that suffers from a severe lack of jobs (there is one job for every four residents), more layoffs is just what the community needs. Among the upcoming plans approved by Orr are service shut-offs to neighborhoods determined to be too poor or under-populated for private investment to be profitable. The city’s unsung assets, including the Detroit Institute of Arts, Belle Isle Park, and even the animals at the Detroit Zoo, have all been appraised and are ready for sale to private interests. Public services ranging from transportation to garbage collection and water treatment will soon be privatized and in the hands of for-profit corporations.
The winners in the bankruptcy filing will be Detroit’s creditors on Wall Street. Orr has already made arrangements to pay Bank of America, UBS, and Merrill Lynch 75 cents on the dollar, allowing them to take in $340 million. If you are a bank or other financial institution that has done business with Detroit, this bankruptcy will not nullify Detroit’s obligation to pay you. Arrangements have been made. The same level of concern for ordinary citizen creditors who are owed money via their pensions is non-existent. The bankruptcy is expected to include a dismissal of obligations to pension holders. Other winners in Detroit’s bankruptcy include the wealthy investors bribing a limping city for its last penny. Detroit is actually going to subsidize businesses that want to build upscale housing and chip in $286 million to the building of a sports arena for the Little Caesar’s owner, Mike Ilitch, whose net worth is nearly $3 billion. Meanwhile, there is no demand by the city to fine corporations for the miles and miles of land soaked in industrial pollution (Detroit’s 48217 zip code is the third most polluted in the country).
Detroit’s situation is ugly. It has had corrupt leaders in the past. It has dealt with exorbitantly high unemployment rates. The infrastructure is crumbling. Any potential tax revenues it might have been able to collect to fill empty coffers are unavailable, because unconcerned and exploitative businesses jockey for subsidies rather than being willing to actually chip in to benefit the city. Wealthy vultures circle the city’s many assets. And instead of hope, the city has Governor Rick Snyder, an emergency manager, suspended democracy, corporate scavengers, widespread unemployment and poverty, and Wall-Street friendly bankruptcy efforts. Alarmingly, as we noted, Detroit is just a test-case for the right wing to begin spreading this ideology far and wide.

The Evolution of American Barbecue

Culinary DeLites
The particularly American form of cooking we call the barbecue has a long history -in fact, it was well established long before Europeans arrived. Since the early explorers passed the technique around to colonists, different styles sprang up, now loosely categorized as Carolina, Texas, Memphis, and Kansas City. The differences can be traced to what was available and what flavors one's ancestors liked. For example, Southerners often insist that real barbecue is made of pork. It's tradition.
Unlike cows, which required large amounts of feed and enclosed spaces, pigs could be set loose in forests to eat when food supplies were running low. The pigs, left to fend for themselves in the wild, were much leaner upon slaughter, leading Southerns to use the slow-and-low nature of barbecue to tenderize the meat. And use it they did. During the pre-Civil War years, Southerners ate an average of five pounds of pork for every one pound of cattle. Their dependence on this cheap food supply eventually became a point of patriotism, and Southerners took greater care raising their pigs, refusing to export their meat to the northern states. By this time, however, the relationship between the barbecue and pork had been deeply forged.
But Texas is a different story. And barbecue sauce reflects the traditions that immigrants brought from the Old World. Read how these factors came together at Smithsonian's  Food and Think blog.

Vermont and 8 other states allow hemp growth

Just the News
In this June 24, 2013 photo, John Vitko picks strawberries in Warren, Vt. Vitko would like to grow hemp to feed his chickens. Vermont has passed a law allowing farmers to grow hemp used for everything from rope to clothing. But the law clashes with federal rules that ban cultivation of the plant that is a distant cousin of marijuana. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)  
Some Vermont farmers want to plant hemp now that the state has a law setting up rules to grow the plant, a cousin of marijuana that's more suitable for making sandals than getting high.
But federal law forbids growing hemp without a permit, so farmers could be risking the farm if they decide to grow the plant that the Drug Enforcement Agency basically considers marijuana.
Hemp and marijuana share the same species — cannabis sativa — but hemp has a negligible content of THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana. Under federal law, all cannabis plants fall under the marijuana label, regardless of THC content.
To grow marijuana for industrial purposes or research, a grower must register with the DEA and meet specific security requirements, such as installing costly fencing for a field of hemp.
A national nonprofit group is pushing to change current law and move regulation of hemp farming from the DEA to the state. In the meantime, the group, Vote Hemp, does not recommend growing hemp while state and federal laws conflict.
"It's literally betting the farm," said Tom Murphy, national outreach coordinator for the group. Farmers who grow it, or even conspire to grow it and import the seeds face jail time and the forfeiture of their land, he said. But it's unclear how seriously the DEA will enforce it.
Murphy said he's heard that people have planted hemp on leased land in Colorado.
"Now if somebody chooses to do it as civil disobedience, knowing full well what's going to happen, then that's on them," he said.
So far, 19 states have passed hemp legislation, including nine that allow its production. Eight states have passed bills calling for the study of hemp, while three states passed bills setting up commissions or authorizing the study of it, according to Vote Hemp.
The states hope to nudge the federal government to change its law.
John Vitko would like to grow hemp on his Vermont farm to use as feed for his chickens now that Vermont has passed a law setting up rules to grow it. He doesn't know where to find any seed and knows he would be breaking federal law if he finds some and grows a small amount of the plant.
With the cost of feed continually rising, he said hemp provides an economical way to feed and provide bedding for his 100 birds, whose eggs are used in the custard-based ice cream he sells to restaurants and in a dessert shop in Waitsfield.
"It's one of the few things that are manageable for a small farmer to handle," he said of hemp, which doesn't require large equipment to plant and harvest like corn does.
"It's complete protein," he said. "It has all their amino acids. It's a seed which birds like."
Hemp has been grown in the U.S. in the past to make rope, fabric and even the paper that used to draft the Declaration of Independence. The country even launched a "Hemp for Victory" campaign during World War II as supplies for other overseas fibers dwindled.
Now most hemp products in the U.S. are imported from Canada, China and Europe and some farmers think the U.S. is missing out on a lucrative crop.
U.S. Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado was granted a request to fly an American flag made of hemp over the capitol in Washington on the Fourth of July. He held the flag during the U.S. House debate in over a hemp amendment to the farm bill that he introduced with Republican Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon. The measure would have allowed colleges and universities to grow hemp for research in states where its cultivation is permitted. The amendment passed but the farm bill failed.
"Support for our recent farm bill amendment demonstrated that there is growing consensus to revisit the antiquated drug laws that now keep U.S. farmers from participating in the $300 million hemp retail market," Blumenauer said. "A hemp flag flown over the Capitol on the Fourth of July is a powerful symbol of this reform movement."
The figure Blumenauer referenced comes from a Congressional Research Service report that says the industry estimates that U.S. retail sales of hemp-based products may exceed $300 million per year.
The bill that Democratic Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin signed into law last month is intended to push the federal government to change its law after Canada reintroduced industrial hemp in the late 1990s.
"The reason we want to push for a change is that hemp is potentially a valuable crop," said Democratic Rep. Caroline Partridge, chairwoman of the Vermont House Committee on Agriculture and Forest Products. "People want to grow it. Hemp oil is a valuable product, and there's so much of the hemp plant that can be used for very, very productive purposes,"
The Vermont law sets up procedures and policies for growing hemp. A grower must register with the state agriculture secretary and provide a statement that seeds used do not exceed a certain concentration of THC.
The grower also must allow the hemp crops to be inspected and tested at the discretion of the Agriculture Agency, which warns growers that cultivating and possessing hemp in Vermont is a violation of federal law.
It's too late this growing season in Vermont for Vitko to grow hemp, but he hopes to plant just an acre of the plant next spring if the rules are worked out.
"I'm going to be a little farmer that's growing hemp, they've got bigger problems than me," he said of the DEA.

Man arrested after punching himself in the face

Now that's just Bizarre
A Fairbanks man has been hit with charges by Alaska State Troopers, after he allegedly tried to incriminate a neighbor by punching himself in the face. According to AST, troopers responded to a reported assault at about 10:30pm last Sunday on Happyjack Street in Fairbanks, where they found 50-year-old Tony Gesin.

“(Gesin) called 911, reported being assaulted by a neighbor and began punching himself in the face to cause injury,” troopers wrote in a dispatch. “(Gesin) reported being assaulted to responding Troopers as well but ultimately admitted to punching himself in the face and reporting it in an attempt to get his neighbor arrested for assault.”


AST spokesperson Megan Peters says the call was the latest development in a matter where the neighbors were seemingly unable to reach resolution. “Apparently the two neighbors have an ongoing dispute in regard to property,” Peters said. According to Peters, troopers and other police agencies investigate fake calls just as diligently as they do real ones.

“I think what that report highlights to people is that if you file a false report, there are repercussions,” Peters said. “And then you have to face the embarrassment of punching yourself in the face and people finding out about it.” Gesin was arrested and charged with making a false report to law enforcement.

Police put an end to hubcap-adorned man’s early morning office chair ride

Now that's just Bizarre
At around 2:30 on Thursday morning, Seattle police got a call about a man rolling down the western side of Capitol Hill in an office chair.

When officers contacted the man, who was carrying a set of drum sticks, had a hubcap tied to his arm, and was wearing motorcycle goggles and several scarves and purses, he sat down in his chair and told police he was “late for a gig.”


The 29-year-old man initially gave police a fake name and then told officers to handcuff him. After obliging the man’s request, officers sat the man back down in the chair and rolled him over to the kerb. The man then rolled himself back into traffic and fell out of his chair but was caught by one of the officers.

As police helped the man over to the curb and sat him down again, he spat at an officer. The man missed the officer, but warned his salvo of spittle was simply a “warning” shot. Officers then searched the man and found he was carrying a 12″ crowbar, and had stuffed a belt buckle and necklace into his gloves. Officers took the man to Harborview for a mental health evaluation.

A can of pork and beans leads at arrest in Hawaii

Dumb Crooks
A can of pork and beans thrown at the truck of masked burglars as they fled a robbery led police in Hawaii to arrest two suspects. The can was hurled at the truck's window by victim Claudine Prados, but bounced off and landed in the back bed of the vehicle. Less than half an hour later police found a truck matching the description provided by Claudine, with the can of pork and beans still in the back.
Police arrested suspects Jack Vaughn, of Kailua-Kona, and Dustin Jose, of Kealakekua, for assault, burglary and robbery. They are still seeking a third suspect. Claudine had been watching TV at her home when the burglars burst in wearing ski masks. She grabbed a meat cleaver from the kitchen to protect her son, but two of the intruders attacked the boy's father.
Claudine told a local newspaper: "It was like a total waste of time for them. All they left with was a purse with no money and a kid's backpack with clothes.

Woman trapped between walls mistaken for ghost

Now that's just Bizarre
A Chinese woman has been rescued after spending the night stuck between two walls because she tried to take a shortcut on her way home.


Locals heard the unnamed woman's screams in Anhui Province but assumed it was the voice of a ghost and steered clear.

It wasn't until seven hours later that a passer-by realized the voice was not from the dead and called for help. Firefighters spent half an hour breaking down one of the walls to free her.



The woman had reportedly tried to squeeze through the gap but didn't realize the passage between the walls became narrower and narrower as it went on.

How A Shipyard Worker Hammered Artillery Shells Into Art

Miscellanea
Dirk van Erp was born in 1860 in the Netherlands. His father and other family members were coppersmiths. He immigrated to the United States in 1886, and came to San Francisco in 1890. Considered today the leading Arts and Crafts coppersmith of the early 20th century, Dirk van Erp produced everything from coal buckets and fireplace sets to candlesticks, vases, and lamps, all hand-hammered in studios on both sides of San Francisco Bay.

During his 25-year career, Dirk van Erp taught several generations of coppersmiths the tricks of the trade, helping to make the San Francisco Bay Area a center for copper objects and design.

High-End Stores Use Facial Recognition Tools To Spot VIPs

Tech Savvy
by Brenda Salinas
 Hey, isn't that ...? New facial recognition software is designed to help store employees recognize celebrities like Mindy Kaling — and other bold-faced names.  
Hey, isn't that ...?
New facial recognition software is designed to help store employees recognize celebrities like Mindy Kaling — and other bold-faced names.

When a young Indian-American woman walked into the funky L.A. jewelry boutique , store manager Lauren Twisselman thought she was just like any other customer. She didn't realize the woman was actress and writer .
"I hadn't watched The Office," Twisselman says. Kaling both wrote and appeared in the NBC hit.
That is precisely the kind of situation the VIP identification technology designed by is supposed to prevent.
The UK-based company already supplies similar software to security services to help identify terrorists and criminals. It works by analyzing footage of people's faces as they walk through a door, taking measurements to create a numerical code known as a "face template," and checking it against a database.
In the retail setting, the database of customers' faces is comprised of celebrities and valued customers, according to London's . If a face is a match, the program sends an alert to staff via computer, iPad or smartphone, providing details like dress size, favorite buys or shopping history.
The software works even when people are wearing sunglasses, hats and scarves. Recent tests have found that facial hair, aging, or changes in weight or hair color do not affect the accuracy of the system.
The technology is being tested in a dozen undisclosed top stores and hotels in the U.S, the U.K, and the Far East. NEC hasn't responded to our requests for an interview, so it hasn't addressed why the stores that are testing the software are staying quiet about it.
Privacy Questions
A consultant for retail agency TPN Inc., says the technology isn't new, it is just a more sophisticated version of , which allows users to find photos that are similar to other images. But he says facial recognition verges on dangerous territory — Google had to from Google Glass over privacy concerns.
When Nordstrom disclosed that customers were being tracked through Wi-Fi signals on their smartphones, and had to stop. Brick-and-mortar stores are juggling with wanting to increase their revenue through analytic-based marketing.
Chris de Silva, NEC IT Solutions vice president, told the Sunday Times that the company had addressed privacy concerns and found that most high-profile customers are "quite happy to have their information available because they want a quicker service, a better-tailored service or a more personally tailored service."
Too Gimmicky?
But Almagro says the service is gimmicky — and not very cost effective.
"There are so many easier ways to use things like a mobile phone, which everyone already has, in a retail location and do the same thing and actually get more information," he says.
Stores like Family Dollar, Benetton and Warby Parker are using data from customers' smartphones to analyze store layouts and offer customized coupons. Retailers argue that they are doing no more tracking than what's .
"The level of convenience may outweigh the privacy concerns," Almagro says. "But I think there is going to have to be some legislation that has to catch up to it." He says that ideally, tracking technology would have to be something customers opt in to.
He says he's less concerned about stores keeping his information than who gets that information after the retailers do.
Back at the jewelry boutique, store manager Twisselman says she could never see it happening at her store, since there is nothing like old-fashioned customer service — for everyone.
"I like to think that we treat all our customers like VIPs," Twisselman says.

Gold rush-era discards could fuel cellphones, TVs

Tech Savvy
  • In this December 2012 photo provided by the U.S. Department of Energy, Ames Laboratory, materials scientist Ryan Ott, left, and research technician Ross Anderson examine an ingot of magnesium and rare-earth metals as part of a project to optimize the process to reclaim rare earths from scraps of rare-earth-containing magnets in Ames, Iowa. Across the West, early miners digging for gold, silver and copper had no idea that one day something even more valuable would be hidden in the piles of dirt and rocks they tossed aside. Now thereís a rush in the U.S. to find key components of cellphones, televisions, weapons systems, wind turbines, MRI machines and the regenerative brakes in hybrid cars, a group of versatile minerals on the periodic table called rare earth elements and old mining tailings piles just might be the answer. (AP Photo/U.S. Department of Energy Ames Laboratory)In this December 2012 photo provided by the U.S. Department of Energy, Ames Laboratory, materials scientist Ryan Ott, left, and research technician Ross Anderson examine an ingot of magnesium and rare-earth metals as part of a project to optimize the process to reclaim rare earths from scraps of rare-earth-containing magnets in Ames, Iowa. Across the West, early miners digging for gold, silver and copper had no idea that one day something even more valuable would be hidden in the piles of dirt and rocks they tossed aside. Now there ís a rush in the U.S. to find key components of cellphones, televisions, weapons systems, wind turbines, MRI machines and the regenerative brakes in hybrid cars, a group of versatile minerals on the periodic table called rare earth elements and old mining tailings piles just might be the answer.
  • In this 1905 photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey is a channel in bedrock worn by tailings of the Cherokee hydraulic mine in Butte County, Calif. Across the West, early miners digging for gold, silver and copper had no idea that one day something even more valuable would be hidden in the piles of dirt and rocks they tossed aside. Now there’s a rush in the U.S. to find key components of cellphones, televisions, weapons systems, wind turbines, MRI machines and the regenerative brakes in hybrid cars, a group of versatile minerals on the periodic table called rare earth elements and old mining tailings piles just might be the answer. (AP Photo/U.S. Geological Survey)In this 1905 photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey is a channel in bedrock worn by tailings of the Cherokee hydraulic mine in Butte County, Calif. Across the West, early miners digging for gold, silver and copper had no idea that one day something even more valuable would be hidden in the piles of dirt and rocks they tossed aside. Now there’s a rush in the U.S. to find key components of cellphones, televisions, weapons systems, wind turbines, MRI machines and the regenerative brakes in hybrid cars, a group of versatile minerals on the periodic table called rare earth elements and old mining tailings piles just might be the answer.
  • In this undated photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey is a rock sample being analyzed in a Denver laboratory consisting of quartz, fine grain (microscopic) pyrite, galena and sphalerite. The USGS Mineral Resources program is looking at samples from previously mined ore that may contain critical minerals including rare earth elements. Across the West, early miners digging for gold, silver and copper had no idea that one day something even more valuable would be hidden in the piles of dirt and rocks they tossed aside. Now there's a rush in the U.S. to find key components of cellphones, televisions, weapons systems, wind turbines, MRI machines and the regenerative brakes in hybrid cars, a group of versatile minerals on the periodic table called rare earth elements and old mining tailings piles just might be the answer. (AP Photo/U.S. Geological Survey)In this undated photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey is a rock sample being analyzed in a Denver laboratory consisting of quartz, fine grain (microscopic) pyrite, galena and sphalerite. The USGS Mineral Resources program is looking at samples from previously mined ore that may contain critical minerals including rare earth elements. Across the West, early miners digging for gold, silver and copper had no idea that one day something even more valuable would be hidden in the piles of dirt and rocks they tossed aside. Now there's a rush in the U.S. to find key components of cellphones, televisions, weapons systems, wind turbines, MRI machines and the regenerative brakes in hybrid cars, a group of versatile minerals on the periodic table called rare earth elements and old mining tailings piles just might be the answer.
  • In this 1905 photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey are tailings from hydraulic mines on Spring Creek in Nevada County, Calif. Across the West, early miners digging for gold, silver and copper had no idea that one day something even more valuable would be hidden in the piles of dirt and rocks they tossed aside. Now there’s a rush in the U.S. to find key components of cellphones, televisions, weapons systems, wind turbines, MRI machines and the regenerative brakes in hybrid cars, a group of versatile minerals on the periodic table called rare earth elements and old mining tailings piles just might be the answer. (AP Photo/U.S. Geological Survey)In this 1905 photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey are tailings from hydraulic mines on Spring Creek in Nevada County, Calif. Across the West, early miners digging for gold, silver and copper had no idea that one day something even more valuable would be hidden in the piles of dirt and rocks they tossed aside. Now there’s a rush in the U.S. to find key components of cellphones, televisions, weapons systems, wind turbines, MRI machines and the regenerative brakes in hybrid cars, a group of versatile minerals on the periodic table called rare earth elements and old mining tailings piles just might be the answer.
  • In this undated photo released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture are rare-earth oxides, clockwise from top center: praseodymium, cerium, lanthanum, neodymium, samarium, and gadolinium. Across the West, early miners digging for gold, silver and copper had no idea that one day something even more valuable would be hidden in the piles of dirt and rocks they tossed aside. Now there’s a rush in the U.S. to find key components of cellphones, televisions, weapons systems, wind turbines, MRI machines and the regenerative brakes in hybrid cars, a group of versatile minerals on the periodic table called rare earth elements and old mining tailings piles just might be the answer. (AP Photo/U.S. Department of Agriculture, Peggy Greb)In this undated photo released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture are rare-earth oxides, clockwise from top center: praseodymium, cerium, lanthanum, neodymium, samarium, and gadolinium. Across the West, early miners digging for gold, silver and copper had no idea that one day something even more valuable would be hidden in the piles of dirt and rocks they tossed aside. Now there’s a rush in the U.S. to find key components of cellphones, televisions, weapons systems, wind turbines, MRI machines and the regenerative brakes in hybrid cars, a group of versatile minerals on the periodic table called rare earth elements and old mining tailings piles just might be the answer.
Across the West, early miners digging for gold, silver and copper had no idea that one day something else very valuable would be buried in the piles of dirt and rocks they tossed aside.
There's a rush in the U.S. to find key components of cellphones, televisions, weapons systems, wind turbines, MRI machines and the regenerative brakes in hybrid cars, and old mine tailings piles just might be the answer. They may contain a group of versatile minerals the periodic table called rare earth elements.
"Uncle Sam could be sitting on a gold mine," said Larry Meinert, director of the mineral resource program for the U.S. Geological Survey in Reston, Va.
The USGS and Department of Energy are on a nationwide scramble for deposits of the elements that make magnets lighter, bring balanced hues to fluorescent lighting and color to the touch screens of smartphones in order to break the Chinese stranglehold on those supplies.
They were surprised to find that the critical elements could be in plain sight in piles of rubble otherwise considered eyesores and toxic waste. One era's junk could turn out to be this era's treasure.
"Those were almost never analyzed for anything other than what they were mining for," Meinert said. "If they turn out to be valuable that is a win-win on several fronts — getting us off our dependence on China and having a resource we didn't know about."
The 15 rare earth elements were discovered long after the gold rush began to wane, but demand for them only took off over the past 10 years as electronics became smaller and more sophisticated. They begin with number 57 Lanthanum and end with 71 Lutetium, a group of metallic chemical elements that are not rare as much as they are just difficult to mine because they occur in tiny amounts and are often stuck to each other.
Unlike metals higher up on the table such as silver and gold, there's no good agent for dissolving elements so closely linked in atomic structure without destroying the target. It makes mining for them tedious and expensive.
"The reason they haven't been explored for in the U.S. was because as long as China was prepared to export enough rare earths to fill the demand, everything was fine — like with the oil cartels. When China began to use them as a political tool, people began to see the vulnerability to the U.S. economy to having one source of rare earth elements," said Ian Ridley, director of the USGS Central Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center in Colorado.
Two years ago, China raised prices — in the case of Neodymium, used to make Prius electric motors stronger and lighter, from $15 a kilogram in 2009 to $500 in 2011, while Dysprosium oxide used in lasers and halide lamps went from $114 a kilogram in 2010 to $2,830 in 2011. It's also about the time China cut off supplies to Japan, maker of the Prius, in a dispute over international fishing territory.
That's when the U.S. government went into emergency mode and sent geologists to hunt for new domestic sources.
"What we have is a clash of supply and demand. It's a global problem. A growing middle class around the world means more and more people want things like cellphones," said Alex King, director of the Critical Materials Institute of the Department of Energy's Ames Research Lab in Iowa. "Our job is to solve the problem any way we can."
At the University of Nevada-Reno and University of Colorado school of mines, USGS scientists used lasers to examine extensive samples of rocks and ore collected across the West during the gold rush days by geologists from Stanford University and Cal Tech.
"If we could recycle some of this waste and get something out of it that was waste years ago that isn't waste today, that certainly is a goal," said Alan Koenig, the USGS scientist in charge of the tailings project.
One sample collected in 1870 from an area near Sparks, Nev., where miners had searched for a viable copper vein, has shown promise and has given researchers clues in the search for more. They have found that some rare earths exist with minerals they had not previously known occur together.
"The copper mine never went into production, but now after all of this time we've analyzed it and it came back high with Indium, which is used in photovoltaic panels. It never economically produced copper, but it gives us insight into some associations we didn't previously recognize," Koenig said.
Indium also has been found in the defunct copper mine that dominates the artsy southern Arizona town of Bisbee.
Koenig and his colleagues are working to understand the composition of all of the nation's major deposits sampled over the past 150 years. In some cases, the mines were depleted of gold or copper, but the rocks left piled alongside mines and pits could hold a modern mother lode.
"We're revisiting history," he said.
They are compiling data from 2,500 samples to better understand whether it's possible to predict where rare earths might be hiding based on the presence of other elements there, too.
"If I had to venture a number, I'd say we have found several dozen new locations that are elevated in one or more critical metals," Koenig said. "With this project the goal would be to have this large data base available that would allow us to predict and to form new associations."
Currently there is only one U.S. mine producing rare earths— at Mountain Pass in the Southern California desert. Molycorp Inc.'s goal in reopening the defunct mine is 20,000 metric tons of rare earth elements by this summer, including cerium oxide used to polish telescope lenses and other glass.
The USGS is counting on companies like Molycorp to use the information they've gleaned to uncover other easy-to-reach deposits sitting on federal land and elsewhere.
"Without rare earths we'd be back to having black-and-white cellphones again," said the USGS's Ridley.

A White Night in Norway

Planet Earth

A White Night is when the sun only dips a bit below the horizon and then comes back up. This happens in midsummer in places that are near the Arctic Circle. Redditor uspn took this photograph at 1AM local time, and explained that dusk and dawn are at the same time, so the night never got completely dark. The lake is named Lysvatnet, on the Norwegian island of Senja. The original photograph is much larger: Here.

Physicist Explains Why Scientists Won't Discuss Their UFO Interests

Scientific Miscellanea
eric davis ufos are real 
For a very long time, the scientific community has been wary of studying UFOs, and the scientists themselves hesitate to talk about their beliefs of unexplained aerial phenomena.
But that attitude is changing, and many scientists are joining the discussion without fear of ridicule.
"UFOs are real phenomena. They are artificial objects under intelligent control. They're definitely the craft of a supremely advanced technology," says physicist Eric Davis, a researcher of light-speed travel.
Davis, a research physicist at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Austin, studies propulsion physics, which he hopes will one day allow humans to travel easily and quickly through our galactic neighborhood.
He's aware of the public perception -- mostly from skeptics and debunkers -- that no legitimate scientists would ever touch the subject of UFOs.
"They're wrong, naive, stubborn, narrow-minded, afraid and fearful. It's a dirty word and a forbidden topic. Science is about open-minded inquiry. You shouldn't be laughing off people. You should show more deference and respect to them ... Scientists need to get back to using the scientific method to study things that are unknown and unusual, and the UFO subject is one of them."
Davis is one of several scientists who are presenting their views this weekend on a variety of UFO-related topics at the 2013 MUFON Symposium in Las Vegas.
The physicist, who recently won an award from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics for his study, "Faster-Than-Light Space Warps, Status and Next Steps," knows many colleagues who quietly study UFOs.
"There are scientists who are aware of evidence and observational data that is not refutable. It is absolutely corroborated, using forensic techniques and methodology. But they won't come out and publicize that because they fear it. Not the subject -- they fear the backlash from their professional colleagues. The impact on their career might be detrimental and they'd get bad publicity.
"It's not an acceptable, funded line of research. The National Science Foundation does not accept UFOs as a subject for scientific study."
It may come as a surprise that many scientists have been interested in UFOs for decades.
For 20 years, astronomer J. Allen Hynek was the U.S. Air Force scientific consultant on UFOs during its famous Project Blue Book UFO study that ended in 1969.
Davis believes that the domain for UFO investigations doesn't really belong in the hands of scientists.
"It's the domain of military intelligence," he suggests. "The fact that [unknown] craft are flying around Earth is not a subject for science -- it's a subject for intelligence-gathering, collection and analysis. That's because UFOs are not a natural phenomenon, and that's what science studies."

World's Oldest Calendar Discovered in Scotland

Scientific Minds Want To Know
A series of large pits were dug by Mesolithic people to track the cycle of the moon. An illustration of a calendar-like series of pits.
Archaeologists working in Scotland have uncovered what they believe to be the world's oldest lunar calendara series of 12 large, specially shaped pits that were designed to mimic the various phases of the moon. The pits aligned perfectly on the midwinter solstice in a way that would have helped the hunter-gathers of Mesolithic Britain keep accurate track of the passage of the seasons and the lunar cycle.
At nearly 10,000 years old, these curious lunar-cycle-marking pits in Aberdeenshire are by far the oldest "calendar" ever discovered, pre-dating by several thousand years the Bronze Age monuments in Mesopotamia that until now had had that distinction.
"What we are looking at here is a very important step in humanity's earliest formal construction of time, even the start of history itself," said Vincent Gaffney, professor of landscape archaeology at Birmingham University, who led the team that analyzed the pits and revealed their purpose.
The pits were dug in the shapes of various phases of the moon. "Waxing, waning, crescents, and gibbous, they're all there and arranged in a 50-meter-long (164-foot) arc," said Gaffney.
"The one representing the full moon is big and circular, about two meters (roughly seven feet) across and right in the center."
Intriguingly, this arc is aligned perfectly with a notch in the landscape where the sun would have risen on the day of the midwinter solstice 10,000 years ago. This was important, says Gaffney, because not only does this give further compelling evidence for the purpose of the moon-shaped pits, but also because without some form of calibration with the solar year a calendar based on 12 lunar months would soon be out of sync with the sun and become meaningless.
"Positioning their calendar in the landscape the way they did would have allowed the people who built it to 'recalibrate' the lunar months every winter to bring their calendar in line with the solar year."
And this is something they appear to have done, since the geophysical evidence suggests the pits had been maintained and periodically reshaped many dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of times over the succeeding millennia until at last the calendar-monument seemed to fall out of use around 4,000 years ago.
Keeping track of time and the seasons would have had enormous significance for the hunter-gatherer societies of Mesolithic Britain for both cultural and economic reasons, whether it was enhancing the perceived power of shamans and their ability to predict or "make happen" certain astronomical events, or knowing when the game would start to migrate or the salmon begin their run up the Dee River.
"The Dee Valley, where these pits are located, was an important crossroads and meeting area for a very long time," said Simon Fitch, a Mesolithic archaeologist who was involved with the discovery.
The pits themselves were first discovered by aerial photography in 2004, but it was only recently—using the latest-generation remote-sensing technology and specially developed software that worked out the positions of sunrises and sunsets in the landscape 10,000 years ago—that their significance was recognized.
"It shows that Stone Age society was far more sophisticated than we have previously believed, particularly up north, which until lately has been kind of a blank page for us," said Richard Bates, a geophysicist from University of St. Andrews who did much of the remote-sensing work for the project.
"This shows us that the people up here had the means and the need to be able to track time across the years and the seasons, and the knowledge that they would need to correct their lunar calendar with the solar year," said Bates. "It is an important step in the history of time."

Excavations underway at ancient city of Xanthos

Scientific Minds Want To Know
The famous archeological site in the Antalya district of Kaş, Xanthos, is currently undergoing a new excavation project. The excavations have started at the site for the summer and the aim is to unravel the hidden artifacts in Xanthos this year.
Excavations underway at ancient city of Xanthos
Archaelogists are hoping to find new artifacts in Xanthos this season [Credit: DHA]
Xanthos dates back to the 4th century B.C, and was important for both the ancient Lycians and Greeks. It entered the UNESCO list in 1988. Its most important artifacts are its symbol and frescoes, and also its “Harpy statues” that are currently on display at the British Museum in London.

Currently the Lycia tombs, which are at the ancient city’s church and kept in private, are the other important parts of the city. As the center of ancient Lycia and the site of its most extensive antiquities, Xanthos, has been a Mecca for students of Anatolian civilizations since the early 19th century. Many important artifacts were found at the city. Two tombs, the Nereid Monument and the Tomb of Payava, are now exhibited in the British Museum. The Harpy Tomb is still located in the ruins of the city. A sanctuary of Leto, called the Letoon, is located on the outskirts of the city to the southwest.

The excavations of Xanthos have continued since 1950. The excavations were conducted by the French Archeology Institute. However, in 2010 Turkish archeologists took over the excavation work. Since 2011, the Akdeniz University Archaeology department and the academic Burhan Varkıvanç have been leading the excavations. This year, the excavations will continue for 2.5 months.

Varkıvanç said there were many artifacts still hidden in Xanthos. “Xanthos ancient city is one of the most important city groups of Lycia and is famous for its size,” he said.

This year a part of the excavations will be at the Lyca Acropolis, the Rome Agora, and Nereid. There will also be cleaning works, he said, adding that Xanthos was a center of culture and commerce for the Lycians, and later for the Persians, Greeks, Macedonians, and Romans who in turn conquered the city and occupied the adjacent territory. By the time of the fall of the Byzantine Empire in the 15th century, the ancient city had long since been abandoned.

Varkıvanç said the archeological excavations and surface investigations at Xanthos had yielded many texts in Lycian and Greek, including bilingual texts that are useful in the understanding of Lycian. One monument, the Xanthian Obelisk, is a trilingual recording of an older Anatolian language conventionally called Milyan.

The river of the city

Strabo reports the original name of the river as Sibros or Sirbis. During the Persian invasion the river is called Sirbe which means “yellow” like the Greek word “xanthos,” which also means yellow. The river usually has a yellow hue because of the soil in the alluvial base of the valley. Today the site of Xanthos overlooks the modern Turkish village of Kınık. Once over 500 meters long, the Roman Kemer Bridge crossed the upper reaches of the river near the present-day village of Kemer.

Greek fort of Aigosthena to be fully restored

Scientific Minds Want To Know
The Central Archaeological Council has decided to completely restore the ancient fortress of Aigosthena in Porto Germeno, overlooking the Gulf of Corinth as well as the Alkyonides Gulf.
Greek fort of Aigosthena to be fully restored
The southeast tower of the citadel from the NW [Credit: WikiCommons]
The southeastern tower of the ancient fortress, which is now being fully restored, is not an isolated monument of the 4th century BC but represents one of the oldest stone-built fortifications in Greece.

Greek fort of Aigosthena to be fully restored
Fallen blocks of the southeast tower being lifted to their original positions [Credit: To Vima]
Xonstructed along the contours of a small hill, the fortified citadel of Aigosthena consists of two fortification walls with eight artillery towers connecting the acropolis to the sea .

The strategic location of Aigosthena, historically the northernmost city of the Megaris, saw the town pass from the Megarians to the Athenians and briefly the Boeotians. The town was occupied well into the Byzantine era.

No, Stonehenge Wasn't Built by Druids

Scientific Miscellanea

The Myth:
Stonehenge, the mysterious giant monument in England that looks like a drunken domino game played by God, is a work of the druids -- the priestly caste of an ancient Celtic tribe -- for use in their mysterious ceremonies. This Stonehenge/druid connection pops up everywhere, from the Spinal Tap movie to real-life seasonal druidic ceremonies at Stonehenge, which have been going on since the early 20th century and offer a slightly more socially acceptable way to dress up in white robes and call yourself a wizard.

They're also not afraid to cut any Harry Potter fans who encroach on their turf.
But Actually ...
The fact is, no one knows much about the people who built Stonehenge. The builders didn't leave any written documents or little self-portraits carved into the rocks or anything. We do know one thing, though: It wasn't the druids. Carbon dating puts the finished monument centuries before the Celtic tribe with druid priests even arrived in Britain, and since it took over 1,000 years to build, we're pretty sure that means they weren't around during the initial building consultations.
This isn't exactly surprising, though, because everything we know about druids has them worshiping in oak groves, not in open plains more suitable for picnicking.

Real druids weren't much into the whole "dancing naked under rocks" thing. They hadn't invented Ecstasy.
So how did the monument become so connected with druidism? We can thank 18th century archaeologist William Stukeley, who popularized the theory. Stukeley was a member of a historical re-enactment club in which he played a druid called Chyndonax, and in his spare time was fond of re-enacting druidic ceremonies with his wife (as weird as you think it is, trust us, it's weirder).
So, given that this druid-obsessed dude was basically the 18th century version of the Ancient Aliens Guy, it wasn't surprising that when it came to Stonehenge, his opinion was "Screw it, probably druids." He was the kind of guy who probably thought druids were behind everything.

"I'm telling you, it was the druids who left an upper-decker in your toilet, Steve."