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

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Daily Drift

Ever had one of those days ...

Some of our readers today have been in:
Ljubljana, Slovenia
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Manila, Philippines
Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
Midrand, South Africa
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Cape Town, South Africa
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Today in History

1306 King Wenceslas of Poland is murdered.
1570 Charles IX of France signs the Treaty of St. Germain, ending the third war of religion and giving religious freedom to the Huguenots.
1636 The invading armies of Spain, Austria and Bavaria are stopped at the village of St.-Jean-de-Losne, only 50 miles from France.
1648 Ibrahim, the sultan of Istanbul, is thrown into prison, then assassinated.
1786 Jacques Balmat and Dr. Michael-Gabriel Baccard become the first men to climb Mont Blanc in France.
1844 Brigham Young is chosen to head the Mormon Church, succeeding Joseph Smith.
1863 Confederate President Jefferson Davis refuses General Robert E. Lee's resignation.
1876 Thomas Edison patents the mimeograph.
1899 The first household refrigerating machine is patented.
1925 The first national congress of the Ku Klux Klan opens.
1937 The Japanese Army occupies Beijing.
1940 The German Luftwaffe attacks Great Britain for the first time, begining the Battle of Britain.
1942 U.S. Marines capture the Japanese airstrip on Guadalcanal.
1944 U.S. forces complete the capture of the Marianas Islands.
1945 The Soviet Union declares war on Japan.
1950 U.S. troops repel the first North Korean attempt to overrun them at the battle of Naktong Bulge, which continued for 10 days.
1963 The "Great Train Robbery"
1974 President Richard Nixon resigns from the presidency as a result of the Watergate scandal.

Non Sequitur


French Demand Compensation for the Execution of the Last Plantagenet King of England

Portrait of Edward PlantagenetThe House of Plantagenet ruled England, among other lands, from 1154 through 1485.  In 1499, Edward Plantagenet was beheaded in the Tower of London, bringing his line to an end. The French city of Angers, the ancesteral home of the Planganets, is still peeved over the affair. It wants compensation from the current occupant of the English throne. Specifically, it wants Queen Elizabeth II's crown jewels:
 “As redress for the execution of Edward, Angers today demands that the Crown Jewels of England be transferred to Angers,” reads a petition posted on the city’s official website.
Recalling 25-year-old Edward’s “unfair and horrible death” at the hands of henchmen working for Henry VII, England’s first Tudor king, the city believes it is owed an apology and 513 years’ worth of compensation.
This would amount to billions in today’s currency, but Angers is prepared to accept the jewels to cover it all.

Woman tries to steal newborn from Calif. hospital

A woman disguised in scrubs was caught trying to steal a newborn girl from a Southern California hospital in a tote bag after sensors attached to the baby alerted employees, Garden Grove police said.

Did you know ...

That 100 law professors think objecting to providing birth control on religious grounds is illegal

A handcuffed marijuana offender was shot and killed in police car

Just how do people spend their money?

The cost of the Olympics vs. The cost of the exploration of Mars

Olympics vs mars
And NASA is in danger of further funding cuts!?

Faux News is concerned that America's (black) Olympians aren't patriotic enough

Because nothing says love of country like meaningless bling.
You have to keep in mind that Faux News is nothing more than the propaganda arm of the repugican party. It's the repugican party's Pravda.  So you always have to look deeper whenever you see any story on Faux, and look to the motivation - what made them put this story on?  Being "news" is not an option.

In this case, rather than use any of the white American medalists as a poster girl for un-patriotism, Faux chose the black one, Gabby Douglas, who just happens to be the first African-American woman to win an all-around gold medal in the Olympics.  Racism isn't always subtle.

Faux also artfully chose a black Tea Party loyalist to be the one delivering the hate, so as to cover their behind.  Faux does this a lot. You see, so long as they get someone gay, or black, to deliver the bigotry, it doesn't count as hateful, in their eyes.

Back to the bling.

Faux News is concerned that America's athletes aren't wearing enough American flags, or piercing their noses with copies of the Constitution, or something.  The repugicans have a bit of a fetish for patriotic bling, but less so for patriotism itself.  They love the flag, but don't particularly love what the flag stands for (they can't stand our system of government, particularly the judiciary, but really any branch that stands in their way).  They claim to "love" the troops, but then when a service member runs for president they mock him for having received a purple heart (a medal he got for being wounded in battle and saving his fellow service members).

In other words, repugicans are much more into objects of democracy than democracy itself.  It's why they're far more concerned about kids saying prayers in school than they are the same kid getting a school lunch, or keeping the kid away from automatic rifles (lest that interfere with the child's constitutional right to die in a meaningless blaze of gunfire at the movies).

So, to Faux, it doesn't matter that these athletes have given their all, since childhood, for this one chance to represent their country at the Olympics.  That's not patriotism.  What's patriotic is stopping by the local gun shop and buying a $2.00 flag pin along with an uzi, before heading home to beat your wife, and disown your kid for being gay.

The repugicans forced the Depatment of Homeland Security to stop studying white supremacist terror threat

Oops.  From ThinkProgress:
The gunman in the shooting at a Sikh temple over the weekend has been labeled a potential domestic terrorist — defined as one who incites politically-motivated violence against his or her own country. In Wade Michael Page’s case, that political motivation was likely white supremacy, a growing problem in the United States.

But when, in 2009, the Department of Homeland Security reported that white supremacy is the US’s biggest threat for domestic terror, it was met with harsh criticism. Conservatives blasted the department for defining terror threats too broadly, instead of focusing on potential Islamic terrorists. Then-House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner (r-OH) was one of those who berated DHS, saying that they weren’t focusing on the real threats the US faces.
One Democrat's "terrorist" is a repugican's "freedom fighter."

What's even worse, I reported last year that Homeland Security gutted the department looking into domestic terror, particularly white supremacists, after the repugicans complained:
Daryl Johnson, who headed the DHS unit responsible for analyzing security threats from non-Islamic domestic extremists, was the principal author of the April 7, 2009, report "Right-wing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment."

Johnson, who was interviewed for the upcoming summer issue of the SPLC’s Intelligence Report, said that following the controversy, the DHS dismantled the intelligence team that studied the threat from right-wing extremists and that the department no longer produces its own analytical reports on that subject. When the 2009 report was written, there were six analysts in the unit, including Johnson. Today, he said, there is one.

"DHS stopped all of our work and instituted restrictive policies," said Johnson, who has since left the department. "Eventually, they ended up gutting my unit. All of this happened within six to nine months after the furor over the report. Since our report was leaked, DHS has not released a single report of its own on this topic. Not anything dealing with non-Islamic domestic extremism – whether it’s anti-abortion extremists, white supremacists, 'sovereign citizens,' eco-terrorists, the whole gamut."
Not unlike how the shrub gutted the CIA office in charge of hunting down bin Laden so that the shrub could instead those resources to force an invasion of Iraq (note: It took a Democrat to finally have the balls to actually catch America's biggest mass murderer, the repugicans simply weren't interested - remember, the repugican party talks tough about national security and love of country, but they don't really care about either when it comes to actually doing something about it).

The repugican party, with the help of religious whack-jobs and gun nuts who now control the repugican party, stopped Homeland Security from investigating the domestic terror threat.  And now people are dead, again.

So, we let the repugicans, the religious lunatics and the gun nuts yet have their way, and they proved themselves yet again incapable of stopping nutjobs from getting access to guns and killing innocent Americans.  How long do we have to keep doing this the repugican/nra way before people simply admit that the repugicans and the nra have failed to keep America safe?

And what's Mitt Romney, who just held a fundraiser a few days ago with the head of the nra, have to say about all of this?

NRA fundraises for semi-automatic weapons right after they're used to mow down Colorado moviegoers

Three days after a gunman calling himself the Joker from the Batman series shot dead 12 people in a suburban Denver movie theater, the National Rifle Association sent out a letter asking for money.

“The future of your Second Amendment rights will be at stake,” the letter said. “And nothing less than the future of our country and our freedom will be at stake.”

The letter dated July 23, which was sent to NRA supporters including to people in Colorado, doesn’t mention the gunfire during the showing of the new Batman movie July 20 in Aurora, Colorado.
The solicitation letter says that Obama’s re-election would result in the “confiscation of our firearms” and potentially a “ban on semi-automatic weapons.” The suspect in the Aurora, Colorado killings, 24-year-old James Holmes, had four semi- automatic weapons at the theater, police said.
Funny they don't mention the Aurora massacre.

The truth be told

Romney Sista Souljah's Israel, suggests Israeli Jews are socialists like Obama

Mind you, these are the same Israeli Jews who Romney was crowing about just a few days ago during his visit to Israel. You'll recall that during the trip, after embarrassing himself in London, Romney praised what he claimed was Jews' innate ability to succeed at business (he apparently also liked their horns).
And now, after all that gushing, Romney takes a potshot at Israel.

And, it's only days after Romney comes out with an ad accusing President Obama of not being a true friend of Israel.  Romney then Sista Souljah's Israel in order to win over conservatives in America, who supposedly like Israel.

Is this guy on meds or something? Because this is downright erratic behavior.

And don't let anyone claim that Romney didn't just accuse Israel Jews of being socialists, aka communists, aka Soviets.  He tied Israel to his standard attack on President Obama in which he insinuates that the President is a socialist, aka a communist, aka a Soviet.  

From Buzzfeed:
At a fundraiser today in Chicago — barely a week after visiting the Holy Land — Romney took a shot at the Israeli Kibbutz movement, a product of the early socialist zionist movement and integral to the story of the founding of the State of Israel.

“It’s individuals and their entrepreneurship which have driven America," Romney said. "What America is not a collective where we all work in a Kibbutz or we all in some little entity, instead it’s individuals pursuing their dreams and building successful enterprises which employ others and they become inspired as they see what has happened in the place they work and go off and start their own enterprises.”
Yeah, I mean what do those commie Israelis know about people pursuing their dreams?

But again, what's even odder is that Romney was just there. He was just criticizing President Obama for not being friend enough to Israel. And now Romney's taking potshots at Israel, saying they're just like Obama in not understanding how freedom enterprise, how America, how freedom works.

So Israel doesn't understand freedom, Mitt?

This will of course tick off Israel - bringing Romney's disastrous foreign trip to a perfect trifecta of ruined relations.

Either the man isn't entirely well, or he's intentionally alienating all of America's top allies because of some bizarre notion that it will help him in the election. It's not entirely clearly how attacking Israel and the UK helps Romney win votes at home. If anything, the erratic and contradictory nature of the attack makes one wonder whether Romney isn't completely all there.

What if his tax returns somehow aren't hiding a lack of payment of taxes, but rather hiding some kind of health problem?

Faux News analyst calls Senate Majority Leader "kook," "congenital liar"

On Faux, you're only biased if you criticize a conservative.

She's referring to the head of the rnc, Reince Priebus, calling Harry Reid a "dirty liar" for saying that a well-placed Bain source told him that Mitt Romney had paid taxes in ten years. Romney still refuses to release his taxes, which all other presidential candidates before him have done.

What's particularly interesting about Priebus calling Reid a liar is that just yesterday, Priebus tweeted this outright lie that has already been debunked by Politifact, among others:

Actually, Obama is trying to open up voting for everyone, including military - but that particular truth would be inconvenient for the repugicans, so Priebus and Romney simply lie (which is something that apparently the Mormons in particular embrace as a part of their faith, it's called "lying for the lord" - and it's something the Mormons have used to confuse people about their ongoing attempts to forcibly convert the souls of dead Jewish Holocaust victims, among others).

Independent fact-checker Politifact calls Priebus' claim "simply dishonest." But that hasn't stopped Romney and Priebus from repeating the claim over and over again in the hopes to trick our members of the military into voting repugican.  Because at their core, Romney and Priebus think our service members are stupid, gullible, and easily misled.  Heck of a way to treat Americans in combat.

Let's just say it ...

The repugicans and the media are the problem.

Lindsey Graham: Contractors Should Lay Off Workers Before Election

by Beth
Senator Lindsey Graham (r-SC)
I know I am not alone when I say that the repugican party has been doing their damnedest to sabotage the economy and the jobs situation for political gain. If you’ve been paying attention, even in the slightest, it’s a pretty straightforward fact. Since the 2010 midterms, we’ve not seen one inch of movement on the repugican side to alleviate the jobless morass the country has fallen into. Instead, we’ve seen a reigniting of the culture wars, from opposition to marriage equality to the war on women, but jobs? Eh, not so much.
So it should come as no surprise that Senator Lindsey Graham (r-SC) has called on government contractors to layoff personnel just before the election, in protest of the scheduled mandatory defense budget cuts slated for the first of the year, due to the 2011 Budget Control Act. From First Read (emphasis added):
“Politicians, you know, quite frankly respond to pressure,” Graham said about the cuts set to begin in 2013 under the so-called sequestration budget.
“I’m urging every defense industry that could be affected by sequestration to put your employees on notice before November,” he continued. “The more it becomes real to us as to what comes the nation’s way, the more likely we are to solve the problem.”
I cannot tell you how much that makes my blood boil. That entire statement is a slap in the face to every voter, every citizen, every worker, every employee, every employer, every taxpayer, in this country.
The more it becomes real to you?
Are you serious?
Apparently, while the rest of us have been slogging through the Second Great Depression, Graham has been living in some parallel world/ fantasy land, where everything is sunshine and teddy bears. But to call for politically-based layoffs, in my opinion, is grounds for immediate dismissal from the Senate, because that statement makes it crystal clear that Graham has no vested interest in the economic health of this country at best, and it’s cutting off your nose to spite your face at worst. Whatever people may feel about the bloated defense budget, calling for summary layoffs to make a political point is on the warmer side of treachery in my book.
Now, before somebody crawls up my ass about how “the left hates government contractors,” let me be clear on one thing: not every government contractor is a Blackwater or a Haliburton, and government contracts are not awarded to companies based solely in the business of war; hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of small businesses contract with the government on projects on a daily basis, from road repair and other infrastructure, to nursing home construction and laying cables for phone and internet access.
But here’s the other thing that just really gets under my skin:
“Politicians, you know, quite frankly respond to pressure.”
In other words, until you actually pressure us to do something, we’re just going to sit on our asses and twiddle our thumbs.
What are you? A bunch of five-year-olds in need of a flippin’ babysitter? You are elected officials (supposedly adults) voted into office to represent your constituents and govern the country. We pay your salary (and your posh government benefits to boot), we are your bosses, and we’re paying you to do your job.
That being said, as one of Lindsey Graham’s bosses, I think he should be fired…yesterday.

Random Celebrity Poto

Anne Sheridan

Skara Brae

Skara Brae is a large stone-built Neolithic settlement, located on the Bay of Skaill on the west coast of Mainland, Orkney, Scotland. It consists of ten clustered houses, and was occupied from roughly 3180 BC–2500 BC. Europe's most complete Neolithic village, Skara Brae gained UNESCO World Heritage Site status as one of four sites making up "The Heart of Neolithic Orkney."a Older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids, it has been called the "Scottish Pompeii" because of its excellent preservation.

Skara Brae's inhabitants were apparently makers and users of grooved ware, a distinctive style of pottery that appeared in northern Scotland not long before the establishment of the village. The houses used earth sheltering but, being sunk into the ground, they were built into mounds of pre-existing domestic waste known as "middens". Although the midden provided the houses with a small degree of stability, its most important purpose was to act as a layer of insulation against Orkney's harsh winter climate. On average, the houses measure about 400 sq ft) in size with a large square room containing a hearth which would have been used for heating and cooking. Given the number of homes, it seems likely that no more than fifty people lived in Skara Brae at any given time.
Skara Brae Prehistoric Village on Orkney

Caffeinated 'Vomit Drink' Nauseated First City

Caffeine-loaded black drinks apparently dominated the heartland of America earlier than once thought, but they weren't coffee or soda.  
Caffeine-loaded black drinks apparently dominated the heartland of America earlier than once thought, but they weren't coffee or soda.

We're Caffeinating the Pacific

The coffee-drinking residents of the Pacific Northwest are putting enough caffeine into their waste water to pollute the seas with caffeine contamination. Read more 

Science News

Children of U.S.-born Latinas more likely to get retina cancer

In a large epidemiologic study, researchers at UCLA’s Jonsson Cancer Center found that babies of U.S.-born Latinas are at higher ...
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New study helps predict impact of ocean acidification on shellfish

An international study to understand and predict the likely impact of ocean acidification on shellfish and other marine organisms living ...
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With vacant lots greened, residents feel safer

Greening vacant lots may make neighborhood residents feel safer and may be associated with reductions in certain gun crimes, according ...
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The Brain of Hoarders

You've probably watched A&E's series Hoarders, which feature homes of suffer from compulsive hoarding. It's a fascinating show, probably because we all can relate to being messy, but these people just take it to a whole 'nother level.
To find out how their brains are different, David Tolin of Yale University School of Medicine subjected hoarders to fMRI brain scans. He found something quite interesting: hoarders don't particularly love stuff, instead they're deathly anxious of making the wrong decision to throw things out, so they keep them all instead.
As Tolin and his co-authors noted, hoarders are not necessarily eager to keep everything they possess, but rather “the disorder is characterized by a marked avoidance of decision-making about possessions.” And the extra activity in the anterior cingulate cortex and insula while evaluating what to do with their own items “may hamper the decision-making process by leading to a greater sense of outcome uncertainty,” the researchers noted. In other words, hoarders might often feel that they are at risk of making a wrong decision—and that that decision could bring with it greater risk than it actually would. “The slower decision-making may be a central feature of impaired decision making in hoarding,” the researchers noted.
Katherine Harmon of Scientific American's Observations blog has more

Nostril Dominance

People are either right-handed or left-handed. But are people also left-nostriled and right-nostriled? Yes, they are — as reported in an article published in the journal Laterality (Mar 2005). From the study:
we sought to determine which nostril has the greater airflow most of the time. In line with the notion of a biological preparedness for sidedness consistency, it was hypothesised that left-handers have their left nostril as the dominant one (defined as the nostril with the greater airflow) significantly more often than their right nostril. For right-handers the opposite was predicted: the right nostril would most often experience the greater airflow...

Result: The present data support these predictions: for both left-handers and right-handers the nostril that had the significantly greater airflow was ipsilateral to the preferred hand almost 60% of the time.

The researchers also discovered that people are pretty much useless at self-determining their own nostril dominance. (i.e. It's very hard to tell which nostril you're breathing more air through.) So they used a gadget that measured airflow into each nostril to get an accurate measure of nostril dominance.

Daily Comic Relief

Rare snowfall stuns Johannesburg

People have poured out of offices, pointed mobile phone cameras to the sky and opened their mouths to taste a rare snowfall now blanketing South Africa's city of Johannesburg.

Venezuela's Everlasting Lightning Storm

The Catatumbo Delta in Venezuela experiences more lightning than anywhere else on Earth; indeed, thunderstorms rage here continually, practically every night of the year. More

Dormant Volcano Erupts Without Warning

New Zealand's Mt Tongariro erupted yesterday (August 7)  for the first time in over 100 years taking volcanologists by surprise.  
Mt Tongariro

A volcano killed thousands of British people in the 13th century

In the 1990s, archaeologists found a mass grave in London, filled with more than 10,000 skeletons. There have been plenty of things over the centuries that could wipe out tons of Londoners en-masse—the Black Death, famine, fires, you name it. But this grave has turned out to be filled with victims of a far more unlikely natural disaster. Scientists now think those people were killed by a volcano.
Not a volcano in England, of course. But a massive eruption thousands of miles away.
Scientific evidence – including radiocarbon dating of the bones and geological data from across the globe – shows for the first time that mass fatalities in the 13th century were caused by one of the largest volcanic eruptions of the past 10,000 years.
Such was the size of the eruption that its sulphurous gases would have released a stratospheric aerosol veil or dry fog that blocked out sunlight, altered atmospheric circulation patterns and cooled the Earth's surface. It caused crops to wither, bringing famine, pestilence and death.
Mass deaths required capacious burial pits, as recorded in contemporary accounts. In 1258, a monk reported: "The north wind prevailed for several months… scarcely a small rare flower or shooting germ appeared, whence the hope of harvest was uncertain... Innumerable multitudes of poor people died, and their bodies were found lying all about swollen from want… Nor did those who had homes dare to harbour the sick and dying, for fear of infection… The pestilence was immense – insufferable; it attacked the poor particularly. In London alone 15,000 of the poor perished; in England and elsewhere thousands died."
The really interesting bit: Nobody is sure yet where that volcanic eruption actually happened.

Martian Mt. Sharp vs. Mt. McKinley

Philip Bump put together this great comparison of Earth's Mt. McKinley and Mars' Mt. Sharp (as photographed by the Curiosity rover).
Officially, it's Aeolis Mons, and it stands 18,000 feet above the crater floor. Here's how that compares to Mount McKinley, America's tallest peak at 20,320 feet. The sea levels / floor levels are roughly comparable. But this is just an approximation. Do not make wagers based on this.

Awesome PIctures

Ned Kelly's Bones

Ned KellyThe remains of Australian outlaw and folk hero Ned Kelly have been identified and will be returned to his family, 132 years later. Kelly was executed by hanging in 1880, then buried in a mass grave. Remains of many prison inmates were moved in 1929, and then exhumed in 2009. DNA testing identified Kelly's bones, but the skull is still missing.
Property developers of the site had hoped to retain possession of Kelly’s remains to display in a museum, but Australia’s Victoria state government on Wednesday issued a new license for the bones, which instead returned them to his family. “The Kelly family will now make arrangements for Ned’s final burial,” Ellen Hollow, the great-great granddaughter of the outlaw’s sister said in a statement. “We also appeal to the person who has the skull in their possession to return it… so that when the time comes for Ned to be laid to rest his remains can be complete.”

The Pooping Duck Automaton

More than two centuries ago, French engineer Jacques Vaucanson built the Digesting Duck automaton, a mechanical duck that could eat and digest grains, and then ... poop them out!The 18th century was the golden age for a type of self-moving mechanical device called the automaton, and Vaucanson was the era's most famous creator. When he was 18 years old, Vaucanson built automata that served dinner and cleared tables for guests. Later, he built a breathing, flute-playing automaton, as well as one that could play the fife-and-drum. But Vaucanson's most popular creation was undoubtedly the defecating duck he built in 1733-1734.
Vaucanson's gold-plated copper duck could not only move and quack like a duck, but it could eat like one, too. The duck swallowed kernels of grain, and as Vaucanson explained, digested the food in its chemical stomach, then poop them out through a mechanical sphincter.

(L) Vaucanson, from Illustrierte Geschichte der Medizin/Richard Toellner (M) Photograph of lost original or imitation in ruined state/Musée du Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers, Paris
(R) Reproduction in Musée des Automates de Grenoble
There was no shortage of viewers, who each paid a week's wage to see the duck. Voltaire even mused that "without the shitting duck of Vaucanson, you will have nothing to remind you of the glory of France."
After Vaucanson became a rich man, he sold all of his automata to collectors and the duck was soon lost to history ... until it was found languishing in a pawnbroker's attic more than a hundred years later. The discoverer brought the duck to a magician named Jean-Eugène Robert-Houdin (who's now considered the father of modern magic, and from whom Houdini took his name). Robert-Houdan found out that the duck was actually a clever hoax: Vaucanson had built a special chamber inside it to store a preparation of dyed green breadcrumbs that people thought was duck poop!

Hamburger Mary's Serves Up "Hate-Free" Chicken Sandwich

Hamburger Mary's is a popular bar and grill known for serving gourmet half-pound burgers with a "side of sass." With a flare for wit, Mary's is adding her voice to the increasing number of campaigns to counter Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy's controversial public stance against marriage equality - by offering a southern-style chicken sandwich while ...

Scorpions and Worms are served as toppings for pizza

Pizza - It originated from Italy and became famous over time. Now, the world recognizes this dish and adopted it as part of their own by adjusting some ingredients and putting different kinds of toppings but there are just some things that are too weird for the eyes to see. But who knows, these pizzas may be the right taste for your tongue!

Fossil Dealer Claims Disputed Tyrannosaur

A Florida fossil dealer who attempted to sell a fossilized tyrannosaur skeleton at an auction before Mongolia's president intervened has made it clear he wants it back.  
T. bataar

The Warsaw Basilisk

The ancient legendary creature called the basilisk was feared in Europe and North Africa. It was a combination snake,rooster, bat, and sometimes other animals, that was born from an egg laid by a rooster and incubated by a toad. And it was so venomous, birds flying over it would die! Pliny the Elder wrote about it, and accounts from the Middle Ages blamed basilisks for plague outbreaks and murders. Once a rooster was caught trying to lay an egg, and was convicted and executed for his unnatural act. But the most famous incident is the Warsaw basilisk hunt of 1587, which is a the best-documented of all the basilisk hunts. It started when two children and a maid fell down dead in a cellar.
Many people thought the air felt unusually thick to breathe and suspected that a basilisk was hiding in the cellar. Confronted with this deadly threat to the city of Warsaw, the senate was called into an emergency meeting. An old man named Benedictus, a former chief physician to the king, was consulted, since he was known to possess much knowledge about various arcane subjects. The bodies were pulled out of the cellar with long poles that had iron hooks at the end, and Benedictus examined them closely. They presented a horrid appearance, being swollen like drums and with much-discoloured skin; the eyes “protruded from the sockets like the halves of hen’s eggs.” Benedictus, who had seen many things during his fifty years as a physician, at once pronounced the state of the corpses an infallible sign that they had been poisoned by a basilisk. When asked by the desperate senators how such a formidable beast could be destroyed, the knowledgeable old physician recommended that a man descend into the cellar to seize the basilisk with a rake and bring it out into the light. To protect his own life, this man had to wear a dress of leather, furnished with a covering of mirrors, facing in all directions.
Benedictus did not, however, volunteer to try out this plan himself.
Read the rest of the fascinating story at Past Imperfect blog.

Elephants May Be Knocking Over Too Many Trees

"Save an Elephant, Kill a Tree" isn't exactly a catchy conservation phrase.  
Read more
Elephants May Be Knocking Over Too Many Trees

The Plight of Mongolia's Reindeer Herding People

Fall camp of the Dukha in the taigaDukha woman with reindeerDukha pole houseColorful Dukha clothsGombo, Dukha tribe leaderWhittling reindeer antlers
For millennia, the Dukha of Mongolia's taiga region have herded reindeer in harmony with their environment. Now that way of life is under threat. More

U.S. Army Funding Research To Control Living Insects To Use As Drones

Haaretz reports:
In a Technion aeronautics laboratory, a pair of scientists are conducting experiments funded by the U.S. Army that would allow them to control the flight of insects from afar, as if they were mechanical flight vehicles. [...]
Research in this field has developed considerably over the past decade thanks to advances in electronic equipment. The Technion lab is one of some five laboratories around the world conducting similar research. The University of Michigan team has been particularly successful, having managed to control the flight of insects from afar, for allotted periods of time. In the Haifa laboratory, researchers have gained control of the flight of insects that are connected to a simulator. They can give a series of commands that control the flight movements of insects for a few minutes. [...]
Do the insects suffer? “I don’t know, and I don’t know whether anyone knows for sure,” says Ribak. “But the experiments which we conduct are extremely non-invasive. In comparison to experiments conducted on animals, this is child’s play,” he says. “The Helsinki agreements for experimentation on animals do not apply to insects. Insects are not regarded as important,” says Weihs. “After the electrodes are implanted, we don’t think there can be any pain, since the electric signal is a natural sign produced by the insect itself. We just tell the insect when it should make a movement, using these signals.”

Animal Pictures