Welcome to ...

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

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Daily Drift

The Daily Drift
Today's horoscope says:
You're taking care of business in your usual conscientious, disciplined manner, and you're exceedingly pragmatic and grounded right now.
So grounded, in fact, that with your nose to the grindstone like that you might just miss some very enjoyable socializing -- of the romantic variety.
Get your nose out of your work and your projects every so often to check out the human element around you -- and one human in particular.

Some of our readers today have been in:
London, England, United Kingdom
Paris, Ile-De-France, France
Edithvale, Victoria, Australia
Oldenburg, Niedersachsen, Germany
Stuttgart, Badin-Wurttemburg, Germany
Boras, Vastra Gotaland, Sweden
Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Bandung, Jawa Barat, Indonesia
Madrid, Madrid, Spain
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

as well as Ireland, South Africa, Philippines, Romania, Slovenia, Italy and in cities across the United States such as Los Angeles, Marietta, Waukesha, Woodstock and more.

Today is:
Today is Friday, October 22, the 295th day of 2010.
There are 70 days left in the year.
The Moon is Full 
Today's unusual holiday or celebration is:
There isn't one.

Don't forget to visit our sister blog!

A dog and his ice cream


The American Dream today

The answer depends a lot on your income, according to a new survey.  

Life expectancy after age 65

For all the gazillions of dollars spent on health care in the U.S., overall life expectancy is considerably lower than in other Western countries.  This discrepancy is often blamed on firearm and automobile deaths among younger people distorting the average life expectancy.

The graph above shows the gradually improving life expectancy of men aged 65 around the world.  Note that the U.S. (in red) is at the bottom of the group, and actually has been losing ground in the past couple decades.  Found at Yglesias, where there is also an almost identical graph for women at age 65.

Refs in trouble for using pink whistles

High school football referees who blew pink whistles to raise breast cancer awareness may be penalized for being out of uniform.

'Lost' Dr. Seuss work stokes curiosity

Notes on a newly found manuscript give a curious glimpse into the author's mind.  

Fun Facts: Salem, Massachusetts

In 1692, Salem, Massachusetts became the setting for a series of trials in which 19 people were hanged for the crime of witchcraft. Another was pressed under heavy stones until he died, and at least four others died in prison. Over 300 years later, Salem is a very different place. Although some of the very same buildings survive, the residents of the 17th century would not recognize the town it has become.

1. Beginning in the 1970s, Salem began to actively embrace its past as a draw for tourism. The TV series Bewitched recorded six episodes in the town in 1970. As tourists came, more businesses sprung up to accommodate their interest in witches and witchcraft. Practitioners of Wicca and Neo-Paganism moved to Salem, at first to open businesses and later to be among those who shared the same beliefs and lifestyle. A rift grew between the townspeople who wanted to emphasize the town’s historic sites and those who wanted to make money by giving tourists what they want. The controversy came to a head in 2005 when TV Land erected a statue of Samantha Stevens, the lead character of Bewitched, in the town center.

2. Salem has historic sites that have nothing to do with the witch trials. The House of the Seven Gables, also known as the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion, is an actual house built in 1668 that inspired Nathaniel Hawthorne to write his book The House of the Seven Gables. Salem was an important port in the trade with East India, and shipping merchants built lavish mansions in town. One, the Gardner Pingree House, is now by the the Peabody Essex Museum. Both buildings are among many in Salem that are open for tours.

3. Salem is home to several Wiccan and/or Pagan organizations, like the W.E.B., the Witches Education Bureau; P.R.A.N.C.E., The Pagan Resource and Network Council of Educators; the Witches’ League for Public Awareness; and The Witches’ Voice.
4. Salem has three museums in which you can learn the history of witchcraft and the famous trials: The Salem Witch Museum, the Witch Dungeon Museum, and the Witch History Museum. These are in addition to several general history and art museums.

5. Salem takes advantage of its reputation with a dizzying schedule of Halloween events. You can watch a recreation of the events that led to the witch trials performed downtown, enjoy the festival of the dead, or listen to scary stories told at various locations everyday through the weeks leading up to Halloween. Every day in October is jammed with witchy events.

The world's coolest observation decks

At some 4,000 feet, the Grand Canyon Skywalk is arguably the world's highest deck.  


Geliophobia- Fear of laughter.
Methinks this fear be the most dire of them all.
For what would one have to seek each day if one feared thus?

Things you find in the Collection Box

A surprising contribution in the cash box near the New York memorial site leaves a few intriguing clues.

Moon crash reveals water

Findings from a crash into a crater show it may contain enough water to fill 1,500 Olympic pools.  

Grim discovery at Iwo Jima

For decades, many have searched for 12,000 Japanese soldiers missing since the bloody 1945 battle.  

Cholera outbreak threatens Haiti refugees

Aid groups rush to stop an epidemic from reaching quake survivors in tarp cities.  

Awesome Pictures



The Evolution Of The Geek

Per definition, a geek is a technically oriented person. It has typically implied a 'nerdy' or 'weird' personality, someone with limited social skills who likes to tinker with scientific or high-tech projects.

The origin of the term dates back to the late 1800s.

A geek was a carnival performer who bit off the head of a chicken or was part of a freak show.

Finding the Neanderthal within ourselves

By Graham Hancock

Photo by Erich Ferdinand. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
Like a disowned half-brother the Neanderthals keep hammering on our door, forcing us to face inconvenient truths.
In the nineteenth century, fossil remains of powerful, thickset, short-necked human-like creatures with massive skulls and protruding brow ridges were found in Europe and recognized as belonging to an extinct species very closely related to us.
It turns out these "Neanderthals" (named after the German valley where the first examples were excavated) left the human homeland in Africa about 300,000 years ago. They migrated north into Europe and had sole possession of our continent for 250,000 years until people like you and I first arrived here, also from Africa, less than 50,000 years ago.
The two species lived side by side, without conflict, for the next 20,000 years -- an amazing achievement -- until suddenly, around 30,000 years ago, Neanderthals in eastern Europe began to die out. Whatever was killing them spread like a deadly curse. Soon none were left across the whole of Europe east of the Pyrenees. West of the Pyrenees, small populations clung on in isolated refuges in Spain but by 24,000 years ago these last Neanderthals, too, were extinct.
What caused the extinction? It's a great unsolved problem of science. But ever since we started finding the fossils we've been desperate to convince ourselves of one thing. It must have happened because of something inferior, something subhuman, about the Neanderthals themselves. Libraries full of scholarly books tell us they were slow-witted, with brains too simple to handle symbolism or intellectual gymnastics. We're told they had no art, couldn't speak, made inferior stone tools, possessed none of the finer feelings for which we humans pride ourselves and didn't even bury their dead.
So effective has this propaganda been that the word Neanderthal is synonymous for many with bestial, knuckle-dragging stupidity and has been elevated to a noun in wide general use meaning "an unenlightened and ignorant person."
But the picture is changing. We now know that Neanderthal brains were bigger and potentially more sophisticated than our own. There is new evidence that they used body paint, makeup and beads -- sure signs of symbolic thinking -- and that they did bury their dead, sometimes with flowers. The discovery in Slovenia of a Neanderthal flute carved 43,000 years ago from the femur of a cave bear means they had music after all. The notion that they couldn't speak has proved to be based on a misunderstanding of Neanderthal anatomy. And DNA studies have shown that the FOXP2 gene, linked to language in humans, was also present in Neanderthals.
But one old prejudice long remained unchallenged -- the dogma that humans and Neanderthals never interbred. Now the latest DNA evidence, widely reported during 2010, has demonstrated that interbreeding did take place -- and on a significant scale. As much as four per cent of our genes are thought to have come from Stone Age liaisons between Neanderthals and humans.
Why should we be surprised? Despite their robust, powerful physiques and their mastery of Ice Age Europe, the Neanderthals did not attack our ancestors when they first arrived as vulnerable new immigrants 50,000 years ago. On the contrary the two groups managed to live side by side in peace -- and now we know in love -- for 20,000 years.
201010200946 I've placed the mystery of what happened next at the heart of Entangled, my first work of fiction. It's a fantasy-adventure, timeslip novel set part in the twenty-first century, part in the Stone Age. Brindle is a young Neanderthal man and Ria a young human woman living in northern Spain twenty-four thousand years ago at the time of the final extinction. They're caught up in a cosmic battle of good against evil, and supernatural forces bring them together with Leoni, a troubled teen in modern Los Angeles, to confront a demon who travels through time and seeks to destroy mankind.
I felt the essential humanity of the Neanderthals reaching out to me as I wrote, urging me to explore the possibility that they were highly evolved spiritual beings, pure innocence and love -- perhaps less competent with material things than we are, but far ahead of us in matters of spirit. In my story their goodness is raw cosmic power that they use only for healing, to communicate telepathically with one another and to live in balance with the Earth. Beauty and truth shine forth from them but it is precisely these qualities that attract the demon's attention and make him seek their destruction. If he succeeds, the psychic charge he draws from their mass murder will allow him to manifest physically in the twenty-first century and weave the doom of all mankind.
We still don't know how or why the Neanderthals became extinct -- although genocide at the hands of our ancestors remains the most likely explanation. We do know that when they were gone from the earth the long era of peace and harmony ended and the age of turmoil and tribulation in which we still live today began.
Perhaps the big question for the future is this. Are we about to weave our own doom and plunge our beautiful Earth forever into darkness? Or is there still time, now that we know the truth about our genes, to find the Neanderthal within ourselves and reconnect with spirit?

Graham Hancock is the author of the bestsellers The Sign and The Seal, Fingerprints of the Gods, and Heaven's Mirror. His books have sold more than five million copies worldwide and have been translated into 27 languages. His latest book is a novel titled Entangled, published by Disinformation.

Papua New Guinea Greenlights World's First Deep Sea Mineral Mine

papua new guinea sea life photo
Sea life in Papua New Gunea; Photo via Angell Williams
In a move that is highly controversial among environmentalists, scientists and indigenous people, Papua New Guinea has given the go-ahead for a deep sea mineral mine that will extract materials such as copper, zinc and gold. This is a great case-in-point for Stephen's recent post on why nature should not be considered priceless -- while the minerals can fetch a great price on the market, what will be the financial loss stemming from marine life impacted by the mine? With the mine's location pinpointed near hydrothermal vents, the diversity and number of species affected is huge.
Article continues: Papua New Guinea Greenlights World's First Deep Sea Mineral Mine

Wizard of Id


India accuses Colgate of toothpaste recipe theft

A legal dispute between the US and India over a herbal toothpaste is leaving a bitter aftertaste between the two countries, with Colgate Palmolive accused of filing a bogus patent. Colgate, the world’s largest producer of toothpaste, patented a toothcleaning powder in the hope that it would take the multibillion-dollar Indian oral hygiene market by storm. However, Indian activists claim that the patent is bogus because the ingredients - including clove oil, camphor, black pepper and spearmint - have been used for the same purpose for hundreds, "if not thousands", of years on the subcontinent.

The dispute is likely to become a test case for who owns India’s folk medicines - a repository potentially worth billions. The American household goods giant was granted the patent in the US in June for what it claimed was a groundbreaking "red herbal dentifrice". The patent, the Indian activists allege, is the latest act of "biopiracy" - whereby Western corporations plunder techniques, plants or genes used in the emerging world for centuries, for commercial profit.

"This toothpowder is classical in origin," said Devender Triguna, the president of the Association of Manufactures of Ayurvedic Medicines, an Indian body that promotes traditional remedies. It is demanding that the Indian government take legal action against Colgate. The ingredients date back to antiquity. They have been used by the common Indian man for thousands of years. So how can it possibly be patented?" Triguna asked. Colgate did not respond to a request for comment. However, its patent filing argues that the use of red iron oxide, which is less abrasive than ingredients in traditional toothpaste, is new.

The case is the latest to anger India as it becomes increasingly vocal over the alleged pillaging of its ancient knowledge for commercial gain. It is one of 17 nations to form the Group of Like-Minded Megadiverse Countries, an alliance that has accused richer countries of tapping the emerging world’s natural resources for medicines and cosmetics without paying royalties. India is in the process of creating 34 million webpages to document its ancient medicinal techniques to stop them from being claimed by foreign profiteers.

Woman accused of robbing her husband at gunpoint

A Cincinnati woman is accused of robbing a man at gunpoint - her own husband.

Police said Stephanie Fall pointed a gun at her husband, Modou Fall, on Sunday afternoon and demanded money.

Officers said Stephanie Fall threatened to shoot her husband if he didn't comply. Court documents don't indicate if Fall got any money or why she wanted it.

Stephanie Fall is charged with domestic violence. She is due to be arraigned on Monday morning.

Bad Cops

New York college students allege that police shot their friend without cause and then beat them when they tried to give him CPR to save his life

Arizona cop is arrested for domestic violence

Georgia deputy accused of sexual battery

Nevada police officer is arrested on domestic battery charge

Denver police officer accused of coercing woman into performing a sex act

Minnesota deputy charged with domestic battery

Pilot refuses airport full-body scan

Michael Roberts is grounded by the TSA after he protests security measures.

Proving yet again how much of an idiot he truly is ...

http://www.drsputnik.com/sputnik/img/0/sput-49662.jpgGlenn Beck says evolution is false because he has never seen "a half-monkey, half-person"
What?! Do you close your eyes when you look in the mirror then?

Ex Girlfriend breaks her 19-year silence about "Porn Obsessed" Justice Clarence Thomas

Would Thomas have been nominated to the Supreme Court in today's Internet climate? I doubt it. He's lucky to have a job.

For nearly two decades, Lillian McEwen has been silent -- a part of history, yet absent from it.

When Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his explosive 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearing, Thomas vehemently denied the allegations and his handlers cited his steady relationship with another woman in an effort to deflect Hill's allegations.

Lillian McEwen was that woman.

At the time, she was on good terms with Thomas. The former assistant U.S. attorney and Senate Judiciary Committee counsel had dated him for years, even attending a March 1985 White House state dinner as his guest. She had worked on the Hill and was wary of entering the political cauldron of the hearings. She was never asked to testify, as then-Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.), who headed the committee, limited witnesses to women who had a "professional relationship" with Thomas.

Now, she says that Thomas often said inappropriate things about women he met at work -- and that she could have added her voice to the others, but didn't.

Over the years, reporters and biographers approached her eager to know more about Thomas from women who knew him well. But McEwen remained mum. She said she saw "nothing good" coming out of talking to reporters about Thomas, whom she said she still occasionally met. She did not want to do anything to harm her career, she added. Plus, she realized, "I don't look good in this."

Today, McEwen is 65 and retired from a successful career as a prosecutor, law professor and administrative law judge for federal agencies. She has been twice married and twice divorced, and has a 32-year-old daughter. She lives in a comfortable townhouse in Southwest Washington.

And she is silent no more.

She has written a memoir, which she is now shopping to publishers. News broke that the justice's wife, Virginia Thomas, left a voice mail on Hill's office phone at Brandeis University, seeking an apology -- a request that Hill declined in a statement. After that, McEwen changed her mind and decided to talk about her relationship with Thomas.

"I have nothing to be afraid of," she said, adding that she hopes the attention stokes interest in her manuscript.

To McEwen, Hill's allegations that Thomas had pressed her for dates and made lurid sexual references rang familiar.

"He was always actively watching the women he worked with to see if they could be potential partners," McEwen said matter-of-factly. "It was a hobby of his."

McEwen's connection to Thomas was strictly personal. She had even disclosed that relationship to Biden, who had been her boss years earlier.

In her Senate testimony, Hill, who worked with Thomas at two federal agencies, said that Thomas would make sexual comments to her at work, including references to scenes in hard-core pornographic films.

"If I used that kind of grotesque language with one person, it would seem to me that there would be traces of it throughout the employees who worked closely with me, or the other individuals who heard bits and pieces of it or various levels of it," Thomas responded to the committee.

McEwen scoffs softly when asked about Thomas's indignation, which has barely cooled in the 19 years since the hearings. In his vivid 2007 memoir, the justice calls Hill a tool of liberal activists outraged because he did not fit their idea of what an African American should believe.

McEwen's memoir describes her own "dysfunctional" family in the District and, ultimately, a long legal career. She charts how she developed an "inner self" to escape the chaos of her childhood. Her story also includes explicit details of her relationship with Thomas, which she said included a freewheeling sex life.

Given that history, she said Hill's long-ago description of Thomas's behavior resonated with her.

"He was obsessed with porn," she said of Thomas, who is now 63. "He would talk about what he had seen in magazines and films, if there was something worth noting."

McEwen added that she had no problem with Thomas's interests, although she found pornography to be "boring."

According to McEwen, Thomas would also tell her about women he encountered at work. He was partial to women with large breasts, she said. In an instance at work, Thomas was so impressed that he asked one woman her bra size, McEwen recalled him telling her.

Presented with some of McEwen's assertions, Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said Thomas was unavailable for comment.

However bizarre they may seem, McEwen's recollections resemble accounts shared by other women that swirled around the Thomas confirmation.

Angela Wright, who in 1984 worked as public affairs director at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission -- which polices sexual harassment claims -- during Thomas's long tenure as chairman, shared similar accounts with Senate investigators.

Once, when walking into an EEOC seminar with Thomas, he asked her, "What size are your breasts?" according to the transcript of her Senate interview.

Her story was corroborated by a former EEOC speechwriter, who told investigators that Wright had become increasingly uneasy around Thomas because of his comments about her appearance.

But Wright also had problems that made committee Democrats nervous. She had been fired by Thomas, and previously by a member of Congress. She also had quit a third job in government, accusing her boss of incompetence and racism.

Concerned about Wright's credibility, Biden lifted a subpoena for her to testify at the hearing. Instead, transcripts of the interviews with Wright and her corroborator were simply entered into the record, drawing only modest press attention.

Another woman, Sukari Hardnett, who worked as a special assistant to Thomas in 1985 and 1986, wrote in a letter to the Judiciary Committee that "If you were young, black, female and reasonably attractive, you knew full well you were being inspected and auditioned as a female" by Thomas.

For his part, a parade of women who worked with Thomas defended him before the Judiciary Committee, calling it impossible that he would engage in the type of inappropriate behavior described by his accusers.

McEwen recalls writing Thomas a short note before the confirmation hearings, curious about what she should say if she were quizzed about their relationship. She said Thomas preferred that she would take "the same attitude of his first wife," who never talked publicly about their relationship.

In 2007, the Howard University Law School graduate retired and grew reflective on her life. Her career had included stints as an administrative law judge for both the Social Security Administration and the Securities and Exchange Commission. She also had turns as a law professor and a private attorney -- all after her work as a federal prosecutor and Senate Judiciary Committee lawyer.

She spends her days in her Southwest townhouse. She frequently meets up with friends for movies, golf and other outings. Regularly, she stops by the National Museum of the American Indian for lunch.

In her short leather jacket, ankle-high boots and leather cap, she looks younger than her age. And when she talks about Thomas, her tone is devoid of rancor. She sees him mainly as someone who occupied a chapter of her life.

Still, McEwen, a Democrat, acknowledges growing increasingly irritated with Thomas's conservative jurisprudence and his penchant for casting himself as a victim in the Hill controversy.

Thomas himself has obliquely referred to the McEwen both in his 2007 memoir and during his confirmation hearing.

In an exchange with Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), who was then a Republican, he said there appeared to be tension between Hill and him "as a result of the complexion of the woman I dated and the woman I chose as my chief of staff." Both are light-skinned.

McEwen met Thomas in 1979, when both were among a tiny handful of young, black Capitol Hill staffers. A group of them would hold monthly meetings at neighborhood watering holes, and soon enough McEwen and Thomas had struck up a close friendship.

At the time, Thomas was married to his first wife and working for then-Sen. John Danforth (R-Mo.). McEwen, meanwhile, had recently separated from her first husband.

Over time, she said, Thomas would come by her place for drinks. She said the relationship grew intimate after Thomas left his wife in 1981. She said they broke off their relationship in about 1986.

Through the years, McEwen said, she has remained reasonably friendly with Thomas. On two or three occasions, she said, she brought friends to his Supreme Court chambers where they sat for long conversations.

But now, she says, "I know Clarence would not be happy with me."

"I have no hostility toward him," McEwen said. "It is just that he has manufactured a different reality over time. That's the problem that he has."

Repugican candidate says violent overthrow of current US govt is 'on the table'

 Treason - pure and simple
This is what America is on the verge of voting for.
Watson asked if violence would be an option in 2010, under the current government.

"The option is on the table. I don't think that we should remove anything from the table as it relates to our liberties and our freedoms," Broden said, without elaborating. "However, it is not the first option."

Repugicans to hack Social Security benefits

In other words, thanks for sacrificing to help save the financial industry but heavens no, they can't help return the favor. Do less with less. Oh how exciting.
A repugican plan to rein in the rising cost of Social Security would dramatically reduce retirement benefits for middle- and upper-income Americans, especially those now younger than 25, according to an analysis released Wednesday by the program's chief actuary.

The plan, by Paul Ryan (reptile-Wis.), would reduce benefits by gradually raising the retirement age and gradually trimming benefits for the top 70 percent of earners.

Together, the two provisions would slice initial benefits by about a quarter for middle-income Americans who turn 65 in 2050, according to the analysis. Wealthier retirees would see even deeper cuts, losing about a third of scheduled benefits in 2050 and more than half of scheduled benefits if they turn 65 in 2080.
Looks like we really will need the Social Security Protectors.

The truth be told


Ten eye-popping homes for sale

You've never seen anything like these modern masterpieces listing for up to $35 million.  

Tallest building nearly empty

A year after the Burj Khalifa's completion, about 825 of the tower's 900 apartments are empty.  

Save on a computer

Refurbished machines are tested and usually have a warranty, but they cost about 25% less.  

Passing it on

More than a third of parents say they've had to bail out their adult children.  

When to go pro

Changing your own oil isn't so easy for many and may come with a hidden cost. 

Working families on food stamps

In one state, a family can now earn up to $59,328 and still qualify for government aid.  

The five best states for business and careers

Job growth and incomes are actually soaring in these spots across the U.S. 



ZIP codes you never knew existed

A boat and fictional character each have their own, but the coveted 12345 went to someone else.  

What to toss when you've been sick

Using the same toothbrush after having a cold or the flu won't make you ill again.  

Helpful Hints

Most of us leave an open box of baking soda in the refrigerator for much too long.  

Culinary Delites

These choices taste great, have lots of protein, and take no time at all to prepare.  

Eight healthy snacks to keep at your desk

A bowl of high-protein cereal can keep you away from the vending machine. 



Upping the cute factor


Common mistakes pet owners make

Committing any of these 10 blunders will almost guarantee headaches for you and your pet.

Monkey directs and creates her own films

Hey, with some of the 'movies' coming out of Hollywood these days her's are far superior ...

Capucine, a hot new filmmaker, spends her days on sets adjusting equipment, editing clips, communicating orders and enjoying long lunches. Her hard work has paid off, since she's had at least one film, Oedipe, accepted by the Clermont-Ferrand film festival in France.
Capucine would appear to be like any budding young filmmaker, except for the fact that she's a capuchin monkey. Her works are being touted as the first ever to be filmed and directed by a non-human animal.

You can see Capucine barking orders through her megaphone at the website for the Research Center on Animal Language in Japan. A short film on that page also shows the petite primate at work. The monkey filmmaking project is the brainchild of Japanese primatologist and film fanatic Hirokazu Shibuya.

Shibuya says Capucine has "worked in the laboratory for 10 years for the training. That's why she could do that. (Oedipe) is her film. She's the director."

The monkey, along with others at Shibuya's facility, originally underwent training to become service animals for disabled individuals. Capucine was given to a quadriplegic man as his helper. He and others began to notice that the monkey was interested in television and cameras, according to a new documentary, Capucine. Her talent helped to inspire the film-making project at the Japanese primate research center.

Earth's Early Cannibals Caught in the Act

These small, seemingly innocent critters, known as trilobites, had a dark side.    

The real 'little red'

You know the sanitized version it bears little to no resemblance to the original.

Animal News

Dire outlook facing world's tigers

One of the planet's iconic predators may soon disappear if action is not taken, scientists say.  

Rare piglets killed by zoo because they were ‘surplus’

The culling of two piglets by Edinburgh Zoo, because they were surplus to an international breeding program, has sparked outrage and prompted a campaign to help save the lives of others potentially under threat. Red river hogs Sammi and Becca were put down at the age of five months on the recommendation of the European Endangered Species Program (EEP). The zoo said it was advised by the program to cull the piglets rather than re-home them. It said there were no plans to put down the remaining three red river hog piglets born at the zoo last month. Animal activists criticized the move and said alternative homes should have been found for the hogs.

Sammi and Becca were born on August 14 last year, the first to be born since the African mammals arrived at Edinburgh Zoo in 2004. At the time Kathleen Graham, head keeper of hoofstock at the zoo, said: “We are thrilled that the red river hogs have bred this year. We hope that this is the first of many contributions our red river hogs make to the breeding program.” Animal protection charity OneKind – formerly Advocates for Animals – criticized the decision to put the two piglets to sleep and has set up a campaign on the issue of culling the hogs and to save the remaining piglets. Campaigns director Ross Minett said: “At OneKind we believe it is wrong for these healthy, harmless animals to be killed as part of a controlled breeding program.

“Sadly, this sort of practice does take place in zoos; which will surprise many people who believe that zoos are all about keeping animals safe from harm. If zoos are genuinely concerned about the conservation and welfare of animals then they should endeavor to protect them in their natural habitat.” He said that if the zoo was unable to care for the animals they should have been offered to a wildlife sanctuary or an alternative home found for them. A zoo spokeswoman said the pair were culled after the endangered species program “identified a surplus of the species”. She said: “If a species does not have breeding recommendation for the EEP, the EEP will advise the culling rather than re-homing of a species”.

Meanwhile, in a letter to The Scotsman, John Eoin Douglas from Spey Terrace in Edinburgh wrote:

I was most upset to read about the Red River Hog piglets at Edinburgh Zoo which were culled as they were "surplus to requirements".

The zoo's spokesperson described them as having been "euthanised" which of course means that they could not legally enter the human food chain.

It would have been much better if they had been sent for humane slaughter and then fed to staff and visitors – and especially good for the education of the zoo's younger visitors who so rarely get to make a tangible connection between animal and bacon sandwich in these days of pre-packaged supermarket fare.

Your report stated that more pigs were likely to be culled by the zoo so I hope that I will soon be able to enjoy home reared pork in the zoo's own Mansion House restaurant (when it re-opens).

Shot of ants in action claims top wildlife photography prize

An image of leaf-cutter ants silhouetted on a leaf in the Costa Rican rainforest has won Hungarian photographer Bence Máté the 2010 Veolia Environnement wildlife photographer of the year prize.

The winning shot, titled A Marvel of Ants, is a simple yet bold photo showing leaf-cutter ants at work that was selected from tens of thousands of entries from around the world. Chair of the judging panel, Mark Carwardine, said: "The photographer is clearly a master of his craft with an artist's eye."

Máté said: "Photographing leaf-cutter ants in the middle of the night, alone in the rainforest, was an unforgettable experience. I needed my reflexes because the ants were cutting the leaves into pieces very fast."

The 2010 competition received over 31,000 entries from 81 countries. The exhibition of more than 100 prize-winning photographs will open at the Natural History Museum on Friday 22 October and then tour internationally.