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

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Daily Drift

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Today in History

1513   Henry VIII of England and Emperor Maximilian defeat the French at Guinegatte, France, in the Battle of the Spurs.
1777   France declares a state of bankruptcy.
1780   American troops are badly defeated by the British at the Battle of Camden, South Carolina.
1812   American General William Hull surrenders Detroit without resistance to a smaller British force under General Issac Brock.
1858   U.S. President James Buchanan and Britain's Queen Victoria exchange messages inaugurating the first transatlantic telegraph line.
1861   Union and Confederate forces clash near Fredericktown and Kirkville, Missouri.
1863   Union General William S. Rosecrans moves his army south from Tullahoma, Tennessee to attack Confederate forces in Chattanooga.
1896   Gold is discovered in the Klondike of Canada's Yukon Territory, setting off the Klondike Gold Rush.
1914   Liege, Belgium, falls to the German army.
1945   Lieutenant General Jonathan Wainwright, who was taken prisoner by the Japanese on Corregidor on May 6, 1942, is released from a POW camp in Manchuria by U.S. troops.
1965   The Watts riots end in south-central Los Angeles after six days.
1977   Elvis Presley dies of a heart attack in the upstairs bedroom suite area of his Graceland Mansion in Memphis, Tennessee.

Did you know ...

About the coming Obama landslide

That illegal immigration has remained static since the 1950's

about the mormon leader arrested for sexual assault in penis biting

Non Sequitur


Remember the time Romney said he wouldn't have ordered the raid on bin Laden?

Mitt Romney thinks we
shouldn't be proud for
having caught Osama.

If Mitt Romney were president, Osama bin Laden would still be alive today.

Mitt Romney said in 2007 that he wouldn't have ordered the raid on bin Laden's compound, the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

And now Romney is upset that President Obama is proud that American troops, under his command, killed Osama bin Laden.

The question isn't why President Obama is proud of killing Osama bin Laden.  The question is why Mitt Romney isn't.

What's next, a Romney apology to Al Qaeda?

Mitt Romney has repeatedly shown a reckless lack of understanding of foreign policy and military matters.

Americans are proud that we got bin Laden.  Maybe John Sununu can help Mitt Romney learn how to be a proud American too.

Mrs. Romney: "There's nothing we're hiding" (except our tax returns)

Things must be bad - Mitt is trotting out the Mrs. again to do his dirty work, this time on NBC. Apparently doing her best Nixon, Mrs. Romney proclaimed about their missing tax returns "there's nothing we're hiding."

Then, for good measure, she that she and her husband would continue to hide their tax returns:
The criticism that plagued the Romneys during the 2008 campaign has continued, particularly in regards to their reported $250 million fortune and the issue of their tax returns.

When pressed by Morales, Mrs. Romney stood her ground. "We have been very transparent to what's legally required of us,” she said. “There's going to be no more tax releases given."

Mrs. Romney said if they release any more information, "it will only give them more ammunition."

In regards to their finances, she said "there's nothing we're hiding."
So how exactly does it give the Obama campaign "more ammunition" if "there's nothing" in Romney's hidden tax returns?  Maybe because the Romneys are alleged to have not paid taxes for ten straight years, and can't, or won't, produce any evidence to suggest otherwise.  Or maybe because the Romneys hid money from their church?

And more importantly, who do the Romneys think they are, deciding that they'll be the first presidential campaign in memory to refuse to release its tax returns?

What kind of a precedent does this set for the future, one in which presidential candidates will be less and less transparent about their past and potential conflicts of interest?  This is the same thing Sarah Palin did, refusing to talk to the press, refusing to let herself be vetted by the American people.  It's inherently dishonest, and it suggests a candidate with something to hide.

And finally, Mrs. Romney's assertion that she and her husband are doing "what's legally required of us" sounds an awful lot like "I didn't inhale" and haggling over the definition of the word "is."

How about what's morally required, or ethically required, or even politically required of you, Mrs. Romney?

Americans aren't looking for leaders who merely do what's "legally required."  We're looking for leaders with some kind of actual moral compass, actual character.  And saying "trust me," while continuing to hide tax returns that every other presidential candidate has released for decades, is a pretty poor excuse for character.

Ryan was chosen to "exploit the gullibility and vanity of the news media"

That's Paul Krugman, writing from an undisclosed location (vacation).
So, let me clarify what I believe is really going on in the choice of Paul Ryan as VP nominee.

It is not about satisfying the conservative base, which was motivated anyway by Obama-hatred; it is not about refocusing on the issues, because R&R are both determined to avoid providing any of the crucial specifics about their plans.

It is — as Jonathan Chait also seems to understand — about exploiting the gullibility and vanity of the news media, in much the same way that the shrub did in 2000.
Read the rest; there's quite a bit more. I think he makes his point.

Just wanted to add this data point to the discussion. Will this be the worst year of Mitt Romney's life? If so, I wouldn't want to be the first company Bain Capital "acquires" in 2013 — or the first dog that Romney "acquires."

Howie Kurtz is a barometer that the media isn't buying Paul Ryan

This is a fascinating piece about Paul Ryan from the Daily Beast's DC bureau chief Howie Kurtz, who is also CNN's media critic.

What's particularly interesting is that Howie is no left-wing sap. If anything, I think folks in the liberal blogosphere feel that Howie might even lean a bit right at times (I know he'd deny that he is, I'm simply reporting what the sometime perception is on my side of the aisle). So that's why this article is particularly interesting. It means that even those in the middle are starting to perceive Paul Ryan as "somewhat radical," and that's interesting (it's also not particularly good news from Romney/Ryan).
But watch out: Romney’s choice may look very different in the coming weeks.

It’s not that the mainstream media have ignored Ryan’s long record of wanting to drastically shrink and revamp government programs, especially Medicare and Medicaid, while pushing tax breaks that disproportionately favor the wealthy. But this somewhat radical agenda is wrapped in the gauzy overlay of an earnest young man who genuinely wants to keep the country from marching off a fiscal cliff.
Ryan may have energized the right—Lush Dimbulb and Rupert Murdoch appear ecstatic about his elevation—but the congressman has a long paper trail that could alienate moderate swing voters. If Newt Gingrich could assail Ryan’s Medicare plan as “right-wing social engineering,” little wonder that the Obama team is salivating over the prospect of hanging the Ryan record around Romney’s neck.

Ryan’s plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program, adopted by the House, could wind up costing future retirees $6,000 a year as medical costs outpace the fixed benefits, according to independent studies. Conservatives are pushing back against this assessment, with National Review publishing several pieces Monday on the Democrats’ “Mediscare” tactics.

But the details—that Ryan has changed his original plan, that seniors would have a choice of plans and some would be subsidized by the government—are complicated. Kind of like the way that Obamacare is difficult to explain. And if the voucher plan didn’t cost elderly recipients a dime, how much money would it save?

Ryan’s response is that his plan is preferable to the Democratic approach of doing nothing (though how does that square with the charge he and Romney make that the president wants to cut $700 billion from Medicare?).

Oh, no he didn't ... repugican strategist calls Ryan "Sarah Palin with a PowerPoint presentation"

Meow.  Over three dozen repugican strategists were interviewed by Politico about the feelings on the Ryan VP pick. Most were pessimistic, to put it lightly.  

The article is scathing:
In more than three dozen interviews with repugican strategists and campaign operatives — old hands and rising next-generation wingnuts alike — the most common reactions to Ryan ranged from gnawing apprehension to hair-on-fire anger that Romney has practically ceded the election.
The most cutting criticism of Ryan, shared only by a handful of strategists, is that Ryan isn’t ready to be president — or doesn’t come across as ready. A youthful man who looks even younger than his 42 years, Ryan could end up labeled as Sarah Palin with a PowerPoint presentation, several operatives said.

“He just doesn’t seem like he can step into the job on Day One,” said the strategist, who professed himself a Ryan fan.

And that’s just what it does to the Romney-Ryan ticket. Forget how it plays in close House and Senate races.

“Very not helpful down ballot — very,” said one top repugican consultant.

“This is the day the music died,” one repugican operative involved in 2012 races said after the rollout. The operative said that every House candidate now is racing to get ahead of this issue.
Another strategist emailed midway through Romney and Ryan’s first joint event Saturday: “The good news is that this ticket now has a vision. The bad news is that vision is basically just a chart of numbers used to justify policies that are extremely unpopular.”

Ryan: Team Romney hasn't run the numbers on Romney's own budget plan

Uh, when exactly do they plan on running the numbers? After the election is over? Isn't it customary to run the numbers before you endorse a budget plan, not after it?

From PBS' Newshour:

Ryan also deflected questions about the budget proposal he authored, trying instead to shift the focus to the blueprint Romney has put forward. But when asked by Hume when the Romney plan would balance the federal budget, Ryan could not offer a specific date.

"I don't know exactly when it balances. I don't want to get wonky on you, but we haven't run the numbers on that specific plan," Ryan said.
The Romney campaign hasn't running the budget numbers on Mitt Romney's plan for the budget, but Romney is still running around saying that his plan is better? (Putting aside for a moment that the reason they haven't run the numbers if because Romney has never offered a budget plan.)

That's a bit like a family making up a budget, but not running the numbers to see if the budget even works.

How can Ryan and Romney be pushing a budget plan that they haven't even run the numbers on?  And why haven't they?

Faux News: Ryan budget will increase taxes on poor, middle class

With friends like these.  From Faux News:
While claims that Ryan is slashing the budget are questionable, there are studies to back up claims that the repugicans' tax plans benefit the wealthy more than others.

A June study from the Joint Economic Committee -- which is chaired by a Democrat -- claims middle-class married couples could pay at least an extra $1,300 under Ryan's plan, while those earning more than $1 million a year could see a nearly $290,000 cut.

According to an Aug. 1 study released by the Tax Policy Center, Romney's tax plan would also include cuts that "predominantly favor upper-income taxpayers."

It projected taxpayers making more than $1 million would see tax cuts averaging $175,000. Those making between $75,000 and $100,000 would see an average tax cut of $1,800. And those making under $30,000 would see an average increase of $130, according to the report.

Ryan was for the stimulus after he was against it

Who is John Galt?
Not me!
Guess who asked the federal government to give his constituents some porky socialism from the stimulus bill after he voted against it?

Yup. Mr. Ayn Rand himself.

Great piece from the Boston Globe:
In 2009, as Rep. Paul D. Ryan was railing against President Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package as a “wasteful spending spree,” he wrote at least four letters to Obama’s secretary of energy asking that millions of dollars from the program be granted to a pair of Wisconsin conservation groups, according to documents obtained by the Globe.

The advocacy appeared to pay off; both groups were awarded the economic recovery funds -- one receiving a $20 million grant to help thousands of local businesses and homes improve their energy efficiency, agency documents show.

Ryan’s letters to the energy secretary praising the energy initiatives as he sought a portion of the funding are in sharp contrast to the House Budget Committee chairman’s image as a Tea Party favorite adamantly opposed to federal spending on such programs.
The Globe also reports that Ryan was a bit of an earmark hog as well.

Who exactly vetted this guy?  It's as if the Romney people didn't even know that Ryan authored a budget eliminating Medicare, in addition to wanting to privatize Social Security.  And now we find out taht Ryan was for the stimulus after he was against it.  Priceless.

Military spy blimps used in Afghanistan will now patrol US-Mexico border

The Wall Street Journal reports that the U.S. military and border-patrol officials are teaming up on a new initiative to bring dozens of surveillance blimps from Afghanistan war zones to the Mexican border.
Over the next few weeks, the military will oversee a test in south Texas to determine if a 72-foot-long, unmanned surveillance blimp—sometimes called "the floating eye" when used to spot insurgents in Afghanistan—can help find drug runners and people trying to cross illegally into the U.S.
The project is part of a broader attempt by U.S. officials to establish a high-tech surveillance network along the border and find alternative uses for expensive military hardware that will be coming back from Afghanistan, along with the troops.
In other words, hardware recycling. Read more: Battlefield Blimps to Patrol U.S.-Mexico Borders - WSJ.com.

Hartman's Historical Rock Garden

Hartman's Historical Rock Garden in Springfield, Ohio, USA, is an art project that dates from 1932, when Harry George Hartman lost his job during the Great Depression. The molder occupied his time with creating rock sculptures in his back yard, spanning all sorts of themes. Religion, historic buildings, recreations of famous battles and hundreds of thousands of stones.

Mr. Hartman died in 1944, but his wife Mary took over custodianship of the Rock Garden, welcoming visitors from around the world. When she died in 1997, the garden fell into decline, but was rescued and re-opened in 2010.

F-bomb makes it into dictionary

The term "F-bomb" surfaced in newspapers more than 20 years ago but will land Tuesday for the first time in the mainstream Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, along with sexting, flexitarian, obesogenic, energy drink and life coach.

Driver okay after spectacular crash

A racing driver who flipped about 12 times down the side of a hill in a spectacular crash during the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb walked away unhurt.

Jeremy Foley and his co-driver Yuri Kouznetsov took a corner too fast at the 16 mile mark of the famous rally race held in Colorado over the weekend.

The Mistubishi Evo 8 was ripped to shreds as it flipped continuously down the steep hill. Both men were airlifted to a local hospital and have since been released.

Mr Foley said he was a little bruised by the crash and local media reports suggest he broke his leg while other reports suggest both drivers were not injured in the crash.

New reports of Tibetans burning themselves alive to protest Chinese oppression

Multiple sources: Two (possibly three) more Tibetans self-immolated in protest of Chinese military rule in Tibet. The two confirmed cases involve men in their early twenties, monks in Tibet's Ngaba region.
As of August 8, 45 more Tibetans have resorted to self-immolation inside Tibet, 35 of whom have died, according to the International Campaign for Tibet. The incidents on Monday would bring the total number of self-immolations since February 2009 to 48. Tibetans in exile have also resorted to self-immolation.

Vast underground cannabis factory discovered in central Rome

Police in Rome have sniffed out a cannabis factory in an abandoned metro tunnel built during the rule of Fascist leader Benito Mussolini, in the 1930s. Officers reportedly stumbled across the factory after smelling the pungent crop near an entrance, not far from the Italian central bank. The tunnel, just over half a mile (1km) long, was also being used to cultivate mushrooms.
But behind a makeshift wall, police discovered rows of marijuana plants. Video released by Italy's financial police show an underground greenhouse with thriving marijuana plants lit by halogen lights, and irrigated via a system of underground cisterns. There were also special chambers for drying and processing the crop.

Italy's financial police said the find was among their biggest ever seizures of cannabis - a total of 340kg of the drug with an estimated street value of 3m euros (£2.3m; $3.7m). Some 900 plants were being cultivated across half a hectare in the tunnel. The discovery of the illegal factory, some seven metres below the city, took place near in south-eastern Rome on Saturday. The farm's owner, a man in his fifties, has been arrested.

"We were carrying out checks when, from below - where we later uncovered the entrance to the tunnel - we smelled the incredibly strong and unmistakable smell of marijuana," police chief Stefano Corsi said. Police suspect that the farm may have been part of a larger operation involving more than a dozen people and supplying the drug across the country.

Hearse driver dies while taking body to funeral

Beverly Hills police say a hearse driver who was found dead with a body in the vehicle died while taking the casket to a funeral.

NYPD officer charged with assault

An NYPD detective who survived a shootout while vacationing in Florida last year has been arrested for allegedly resisting arrest after being pulled over for DWI in Manhattan.

Jersey Shore shark attacks that inspired Jaws

 Images Shark-Attack-1916-Jersey-2
On the Jersey Shore during the summer of 1916, four people were killed and one injured by what was likely a single great white shark. The attacks and panic that ensued in the seaside towns inspired Peter Benchley's novel Jaws which, of course, Steven Spielberg brought to the big screen. Since then, great whites, whose populations have been dangerously declining, have sadly become icons of oceanic evil. Smithsonian magazine's Megan Gambino conducted a fascinating interview with ichthyologist George Burgess about the Jersey Shark Attacks. Burgess is curator of the International Shark Attack File at the Florida Museum of Natural History. When a shark attack occurs anywhere in the world, Burgess and his team are on the scene. From Smithsonian:
 Images Shark-Attack-1916-Jersey-1 In newspaper accounts of the 1916 attacks, the shark is referred to as a “sea monster” and a “sea wolf.”
Exactly. It is unfortunate when we still see remnants of that today. I’ll have a little game with you. You drink a beer every time you hear the expression “shark-infested waters.” See how drunk you get. Whenever a boat goes down or an airplane goes down, we hear that kind of thing. I correct folks all the time. Sharks don’t infest waters, they live in them. Lice infest; they are parasites. There is still bias in that sort of thought process today.
What drew the shark close to shore for the attacks?
One of the most popular theories was one that we hear today. That is, there is not enough fish for the sharks to eat, so therefore they are going to eat humans. The people who are most likely to say it today are sport fishermen, who aren’t catching the same amount or the same size fish that they once did. Back in 1916, it was commercial fishermen who were saying it. It’s not a real defensible argument.
There was a guy who wrote in to the editor of the New York Times saying that these sharks were following U-boats across from the Eastern Atlantic. It was almost an implication that it was a German plot. The world was at war in Europe and the anti-German sentiment was high. All kinds of strange things.
Although it is hard to go back in time and always dangerous to make analogies like this, it could have been a shark that was either injured or had some sort of deformity. It became a deranged killer.

How old is post-traumatic stress disorder?

It is very hard, and very weird to try to get a handle on how human health has changed between the 19th century and today. Obviously, the way we live has changed dramatically. But understanding how that impacts health (or doesn't) is complicated by the fact that healthcare, science, and public health research changed dramatically during those years, as well.
And all that science hasn't happened in a vacuum. The names we give various disorders change. Whether or not we consider something to be a disorder, at all, might change. And our cultural understanding changes, too—especially when it comes to mental illness.
At the Mind Hacks blog, Vaughn Bell has an excellent breakdown of two recent studies that try to put the modern diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) into a cultural and historical context. Many people assume that PTSD is just a new name for something that has always existed—look at shell shock, which made it onto Downton Abbey last season. But these new papers suggest that the distinction between what soldiers experienced in the past and what they experience today might go deeper than naming conventions.
The diagnosis of PTSD involves having a traumatic experience and then being affected by a month of symptoms of three main groups: intrusive memories, hyper-arousal, and avoidance of reminders or emotional numbing ... there has been a popular belief that PTSD has been experienced throughout history but simply wasn’t properly recognised. Previous labels, it is claimed, like ‘shell shock’ or ‘combat fatigue’, were just early descriptions of the same universal reaction.
But until now, few studies have systematically looked for PTSD or post-trauma reactions in the older historical record. Two recent studies have done exactly this, however, and found no evidence for a historical syndrome equivalent to PTSD.
A study just published in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders looked at the extensive medical records for soldiers in the American Civil War, whose mortality rate was about 50-80 greater than modern soldiers fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. In other words, there would have been many more having terrifying experiences but despite the higher rates of trauma and mentions of other mental problems, there is virtually no mention of anything like the intrusive thoughts or flashbacks of PTSD.
Read the rest at Mind Hacks
David Dobbs adds some more context to Bell's post at the Neuron Culture blog.

Fake butter popcorn flavor linked to Alzheimer's (also found in wine, margarine, more)

It actually goes far beyond the fake stuff they put on popcorn at the movie theaters.
Diacetyl, already linked to lung damage in people who work in microwave popcorn factories, is also used to produce the distinctive buttery flavor and aroma of margarines, snack foods, candy, baked goods, pet foods, and even some chardonnays.
Margarine? Wine? Pet food? Okay this is rather disturbing. How do these fake chemical flavorings get approved before we know they're safe?

Chemists Create Chocolate With Half the Fat

Researchers in the United Kingdom have managed to cut the amount of fat needed to make chocolate in half, without losing any of the dessert's delectable-ness. Their trade secrets were published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry this week.

Great science chicks from history

From Merit Ptah—Chief Physician of ancient Egypt—to 1st-century BC alchemist Mary the Jewess, the Science Chicks from History Tumblr is dedicated to introducing you to all the science-y ladies you didn't learn about in school.
The image above is titled "Woman teaching geometry”. It comes from an early 14th century translation of Euclid.

Surviving The Worst Winter In The World

Much of Antarctica has endured more than three months of complete darkness - but yesterday, the Sun rose again for the first time over the horizon at French-Italian Concordia Station, an extreme and isolated outpost. Antarctic-based doctor Alexander Kumar, originally from Derbyshire, UK, and now based at the station, describes living through 'the worst winter in the world.'

The desert that creates the rainforest

This is probably the most amazing thing I learned all weekend. The Amazon rainforest—with all its plant and animal life, and all its astounding biodiversity—could not exist as we know it without the patch of African desert pictured above.
The rainforest is amazing, but the soil it produces isn't very nutrient rich. All the minerals and nutrients that fertilize the rainforest have to come from someplace else. Specifically: Africa. Scientists have known for a while that this natural fertilizer is crossing the Atlantic in the form of dust storms, but science writer Colin Schultz ran across a 2006 paper in the journal Environmental Research Letters that not only produces evidence for a much larger trans-oceanic transfer of dust than was previously assumed ... it also pinpoints the exact (and astoundingly small) location where all the fertilizer in the Amazon is coming from.
The research paper, itself, is pleasantly readable, as far as these things go, so I'm going to quote directly from it. One quick note before I launch into this quote. The authors are measuring the mass of the dust in teragrams (or Tg). As you're trying to wrap your head around this, it might be helpful to know that 1 Tg = 1 million tons.
A total of 140 (± 40) Tg is deposited in the Atlantic ocean and 50 (± 15) Tg reach and fertilize the Amazon basin. This is four times an older estimate, explaining a paradox regarding the source of nutrients to the Amazon forest. Swap et al suggested that while the source for minerals and nutrients in the Amazon is the dust from Africa, it was estimated that only 13 Tg of dust per year actually arrive in the Amazon. However, they pointed out that 50 Tg are needed to balance the Amazon nutrient budget.
Here we show a remarkable arrangement in nature in which the mineral dust arriving at the Amazon basin from the Sahara actually originates from a single source of only ~ 0.5% of the size of the Amazon: the Bodélé depression. Located northeast of Lake Chad (17°N, 18°E) near the northern border of the Sahel, it is known to be the most vigorous source for dust over the entire globe.
Basically, these 2006 calculations account for all the fertilization needs of the Amazon, while previous calculations left a weird gap in between the amount of dust the rainforest needed and the amount the scientists thought was getting there.
Also: The place the dust is coming from is a single, highly specific region. As Alexis Madrigal pointed out at The Atlantic, we're talking about a patch of desert only 1/3 the size of Florida supplying the nutrient needs of a jungle that is roughly the same size as all 48 contiguous United States. Mind, blown.
Read the full research paper at Environmental Research Letters
Check out The Atlantic's write up on this, including a satellite photo of the dust storms in question.

All those "Boring" pictures of Mars

I'm with Steve Silberman, who tweeted this image, taken by the Mars Curiosity rover. Silberman, a science journalist, pointed out how amazing it is to be able to have access to photos of Mars that look totally ordinary, decidedly un-exotic, and even a little dull.
There is a delightful irony here. Think of all the work, all the skill, all the serious intelligence that went into getting Curiosity to Mars. This photo is kind of boring. But it represents something truly wonderful and exciting. It's mundane. But it's the mundanity of M*#&$%*!(*%ING MARS.
I dig it. And I'm a little surprised there wasn't already a Tumblr for it.
Check out Steve Silberman's excellent, science-packed Twitter feed

The Maijishan Grottoes

Artistic Treasure Of China's Past
China has four major Buddhist cave complexes - by far the most visited being the Longmen caves. Less well known are the Maijishan Grottoes. Situated in Gansu Province in the northwest of China, this astonishing example of cave architecture hewn from rock consists of over 7,000 Buddhist sculptures not to mention almost 1000 square meters of murals.

Awesome Pictures


A New Human Species Has Been Identified In Africa

Homo erectus was not alone in ancient Africa. Newly discovered fossil evidence, detailed in the latest issue of Nature, strongly suggests that no fewer than three distinct species of early humans from the genus Homo co-existed on the continent between 1.7 and 2 million years ago.
The findings, which run counter to the hypothesis that modern humans evolved linearly out of Homo erectus, provide some of the most compelling evidence to date that there were multiple, parallel lines of evolution early in our genus' history.

Scientists Finally conclude non human animals are concieus beings

From the "Well, duh!" Department:
Didn't we already know this?
Yes we did.

Kangaroo escapes animal park with help from boar and fox

Three kangaroos staged a daring escape from a wildlife park near Frankfurt by going under rather than over the fences - thanks to the work of fox and wild boar accomplices.

Skippy, Jack and Mick made it under the first fence of their enclosure by using a hole dug by a fox, said Michael Hoffmann, assistant head of the Hochwildschutzpark Hunsrück west of Frankfurt.

One got stuck there, but two were brave enough to use a hole dug by a wild boar under the exterior fence to make it to freedom. One of the kangaroos remains at large.

The animal poses no danger to the public, stressed Hoffmann. "He's super friendly, super nice. Absolutely no danger at all." Several people nearby have reported seeing the missing kangaroo, but so far he’s managed to stay one jump ahead of officials.

Severe Abnormalities Found In Fukushima Butterflies

Exposure to radioactive material released into the environment has caused mutations in butterflies found in Japan, a study suggests. Scientists found an increase in leg, antennae and wing shape mutations among butterflies collected following the 2011 Fukushima accident. The link between the mutations and the radioactive material was shown by laboratory experiments, they report.

By comparing mutations found on the butterflies collected from the different sites, the team found that areas with greater amounts of radiation in the environment were home to butterflies with much smaller wings and irregularly developed eyes.

This is not a ladybug

(or "ladybird beetle" for that matter)

It's a spider (Paraplectana sp)(additional photo here).  From a gallery of photos illustrating insect and spider camouflage, by Nicky Bay, assembled at The Telegraph.  From the same collection, here's a photo of a beetle that also mimics a ladybird beetle:

The spider and the beetle are exhibiting Batesian mimicry ("where a harmless species has evolved to imitate the warning signals of a harmful species directed at a common predator").
Batesian mimicry is the most commonly known and widely studied of mimicry complexes, such that the word mimicry is often treated as synonymous with Batesian mimicry. There are many other forms however, some very similar in principle, others far separated. Of note, it is often contrasted with Müllerian mimicry, a form of mutually beneficial convergence between two or more harmful species. However, because the mimic may have a degree of protection itself, the distinction is not absolute. It can also be contrasted with functionally different forms of mimicry. Perhaps the sharpest contrast here is with aggressive mimicry, where a predator or parasite mimics a harmless species, avoiding detection and improving its foraging success.

Virus Causes Mad Snake Disease

A rodent-borne virus can infect a large number of snakes before being detected.
Read more
Virus Causes Mad Snake Disease

Rattlesnake dance, love or fight?

Brendan Collier knows to be alert for rattlesnakes while pedaling trails in the San Jacinto Mountains.


Learn about these strange creatures that are fish shaped like a horse their gestates its babies in the male's body. And better yet, see lovely pictures of seahorses from all over the world at Environmental Graffiti.

Animal Pictures