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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.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Daily Drift

Into the Gloaming
Some of our readers to day have been in:
Sanitago, Chilie
Cape Town, South Africa
Warsaw, Poland
Johannesburg, South Africa
Athens, Greece
Male, Maldives
Moscow, Russia
Ankara, Turkey
Belgrade, Serbia
Nicosia, Cyprus
Erbil, Iraq
Bangkok, Thailand
Port-Of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
Vienna, Austria
Jakarta, Indonesia
Manila, Philippines
Guayaquil, Ecuador
Saint Petersburg, Russia

And in Malaysia some of our readers today have been in:
Bayan Lepas
Johor Bahru
Kota Kinabalu
Kuala Lumpur
Petaling Jaya

Of course right here in the USA some of our readers today have been in:
Camano Island

Don't forget to visit our sister blog!

Today in History

1626 The Danes are crushed by the Catholic League in Germany, marking the end of Danish intervention in European wars.
1776 The Americans are defeated by the British at the Battle of Long Island, New York.
1793 Maximilien Robespierre is elected to the Committee of Public Safety in Paris, France.
1813 The Allies defeat Napoleon at the Battle of Dresden.
1861 Union troops make an amphibious landing at Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.
1862 As the Second Battle of Bull Run rages, Confederate soldiers attack Loudoun County, Virginia.
1881 New York state's Pure Food Law goes into effect to prevent "the adulteration of food or drugs."
1894 The United States congress passes an income tax law as part of a general tariff act, but it is found unconstitutional.
1910 Thomas Edison demonstrates the first "talking" pictures–using a phonograph–in his New Jersey laboratory.
1912 Edgar Rice Burrough's Tarzan of the Apes first appears in a magazine.
1916 Italy declares war on Germany.
1928 Fifteen nations sign the Kellogg-Briand Peace Pact, outlawing war and calling for the settlement of disputes through arbitration. Forty-seven other countries eventually sign the pact.
1941 The Prime Minister of Japan, Fumimaro Konoye, issues an invitation for a meeting with President Roosevelt.
1945 B-29 Superfortress bombers begin to drop supplies into Allied prisoner of war camps in China.
1963 Cambodia severs ties with South Vietnam.
1979 Lord Mountbatten is killed by an Irish terrorist bomb in his sail boat in Sligo, Ireland.
1989 Chuck Berry performs his tune Johnny B. Goode for NASA staff in celebration of Voyager II's encounter with the planet Neptune.

Non Sequitur


Pentre Ifan

The mysterious Neolithic burial site of Pentre Ifan is associated with small fairy folk dressed like soldiers
The most popular megalithic site in Wales, Pentre Ifan is a splendid burial chamber with a huge capstone delicately poised on three uprights. Once known as Arthurs' Quoit, Pentre Ifan means Ivan's Village. This monument, dating back to about 3500 BC and unusually oriented north-south, stan

ds on the slopes of a ridge commanding extensive views over the Nevern Valley. The elegant capstone weighs over 16 tons; it is 5m (16ft 6in) long and 2.4m (8ft) off the ground. The stones of the chamber are all of local igneous rock; on the portal stone there is a faint decorative cupmark.
Excavations in 1936-7 and 1958-9 showed that the burial chamber originally lay within a shallow oval pit, and that the trapezoidal mound of earth covering it was up to 36m (120ft) long. The semi-circular façade, as in the Irish court-tombs, was marked by two upright stones on either side of the south-facing portal. The forecourt was blocked with rows of tightly wedged stones; some of the original kerbstones around the barrow can still be seen. Within the cairn were a number of enigmatic features: a slumped stone, deliberately felled before the cairn was built, an irregular line of small stone-holes and a pit with signs of burning.
No trace of burials was found here, but we may assume that such a large tomb would have been used for collective burial over many years. The number of artefacts discovered was very small; a recent analysis suggests that Pentre Ifan may be a structure built in two periods: the original portal dolmen tomb could have been later embellished by a cairn and a façade.
Local lore says that sometimes fairies are seen here: they are described as 'little children in clothes like soldiers' clothes and with red caps'

NASA's Curiosity Photos Show Mars Teeming With UFOs

According to the fringe sector of the Internet, Mars is practically teeming with aliens. Since NASA's Curiosity rover touched down on the Red Planet two weeks ago and powered up its cameras, it has already managed to photograph several alleged UFOs and other anomalies in the surrounding landscape.

From classic flying saucers to an absurdly out-of-place fossilized human finger, here's a rundown of what UFO believers claim to have found in Curiosity photos so far.

Only 2% of Canadians deny climate change

Only 2% of Canadians deny climate change
Only two per cent of Canadians believe climate change is not occurring, a new important survey released today by IPAC-CO2 ...
Continue Reading

The Evolution Of Business Cards

Business cards are cards bearing business information about a company or individual. They are shared during formal introductions as a convenience and a memory aid. A business card typically includes the giver's name, company affiliation and contact information.

Traditionally many business cards were simple black text on white stock; today a professional business card will sometimes include one or more aspects of striking visual design.

A History of the Exclamation Point!

exclamation pointExclamation points are useful for communicating emphasis! But where did this punctuation mark come from?!
The current running theory is that it comes from Latin. In Latin, the exclamation of joy was io, where the i was written above the o. And, since all their letters were written as capitals, an I with an o below it looks a lot like an exclamation point.
But it wasn’t until 1970 that the exclamation point had its own key on the keyboard. Before that, you had to type a period, and then use the backspace to go back and stick an apostrophe above it. When people dictated things to secretaries they would say “bang” to mark the exclamation point. Hence the interobang (?!) – a combination of a question (?) and an exclamation point (!). 

The Best Book Review Money Can Buy

"Five Star!" the book review gushes, but deep down, you wonder whether it's real. Welcome to the world of fake book review service, where enthusiastic reviews are bought and sold like any other two-bit market commodity.
The New York Times has the story of the rise and fall of one such service:
[Todd Rutherford] was part of the marketing department of a company that provided services to self-published writers — services that included persuading traditional media and blogs to review the books. It was uphill work. He could churn out press releases all day long, trying to be noticed, but there is only so much space for the umpteenth vampire novel or yet another self-improvement manifesto or one more homespun recollection of times gone by. There were not enough reviewers to go around.
Suddenly it hit him. Instead of trying to cajole others to review a client’s work, why not cut out the middleman and write the review himself? Then it would say exactly what the client wanted — that it was a terrific book. A shattering novel. A classic memoir. Will change your life. Lyrical and gripping, Stunning and compelling. Or words to that effect.
In the fall of 2010, Mr. Rutherford started a Web site, GettingBookReviews.com. At first, he advertised that he would review a book for $99. But some clients wanted a chorus proclaiming their excellence. So, for $499, Mr. Rutherford would do 20 online reviews. A few people needed a whole orchestra. For $999, he would do 50.

Man assaulted girlfriend before and after anger-management classes

Police have charged a Sharpsville, Pennsylvania, man with assaulting his live-in girlfriend twice on his 37th birthday — once before and then again after he returned from court-ordered anger-management classes. Robert A. Green Green is accused of leaving a fight with his live-in girlfriend to report to his first anger management class of the day. Police said Green pushed his girlfriend and grabbed her around the neck during an argument on Wednesday.
The 21-year-old woman told police Green’s behavior has worsened since attending the anger management lessons which were ordered after an April incident between the two of them. “He has gotten very verbal, very mean, saying things he wouldn’t before,” the woman told police. “He used to walk away; now he keeps arguing.” That was the problem this week. Police were called to the couple’s home twice on Wednesday. The first call came just after 8 am The woman said she and Green had been arguing through the night.

He then called the woman several names, and when she said she was moving out, Green left the room to retrieve two handguns, and told her if she was leaving she wasn’t taking “his guns” – two handguns she had bought for him. She thought Green would take the guns with him when he left for work, but when she called 911, he left without the weapons. The woman asked Police Chief Keith Falasco to remove the guns from the house. He took both of the weapons, which were unloaded, along with a box of ammunition. About 9 1/2 hours later, police again were called to the couple’s home for a domestic disturbance. The woman said she and Green again had been arguing, and this time he started to come after her.

She then said Green grabbed her by the throat and threw her onto the couch, which caused her to hit her head on the back of the couch, compounding an existing injury.Green left the house but returned while police still were there. He told police he had just come from a court-ordered anger management class stemming from an earlier arrest. He was charged with simple assault, disorderly conduct and harassment, in addition to possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of a small amount of marijuana after police found he had a pipe and small amount of marijuana.

Man had over 15 kilos of dead caterpillars hidden under false bottom of suitcase

An African man munched his way through hundreds of dead black caterpillars after they were discovered in his luggage by border guards at Switzerland's EuroAirport outside Basel.

Adrian Onobanjo, 47, had more than 15 kilos of dead black caterpillars in plastic bags hidden in his luggage when he was stopped and searched after arriving on a plane from Togo. Border guard spokesman Patrick Gantenbein said: "Even border guards hardened by the bizarre things we have had to deal with were shocked by this particular case.

"The man obviously knew he shouldn't have been trying to bring them into the country as they were hidden under a false bottom in his suitcase and only discovered with an X-ray. He tried to tell us that it was a special type of root, but some of them were still moving. "Then he claimed that as they were for personal use he should still be allowed to bring them into the country because they were a snack, and he was addicted to them."

Border Guard section chief Martin Leuenberger who was on duty at the time said: "The smell from the caterpillars that were mostly dead was pretty unbearable but it didn't seem to bother the man – and when he was told they would be kept and destroyed he grabbed as many as he could and started munching them. He said they were a delicacy and should not be wasted." The remainder of the caterpillars were stored in a sealed container in the fridge overnight and are due to be destroyed.

Random Celebrity Photo

Grace Kelly

Did you know ...

That Paul Ryan and family benefit from $45 billion oil subsidies in his budget

That Todd Akin pissed off some grannies

How Facebook design tricks people into trading away privacy

On TechCrunch, Avi Charkham provides an excellent side-by-side comparison of an older Facebook design and the latest one, showing how the service has moved to minimize the extent to which its users are notified of the privacy "choices" they make when they interact with the service. The Facebook rubric is that people don't value their privacy ("privacy is dead, get over it,") and we can tell that because they demonstrate it by using Facebook. But really, Facebook is designed to minimize your understanding of the privacy trades you're making and your ability to make those trades intelligently.
All privacy offers on FB are take-it-or-leave-it: you give up all your privacy to play Angry Birds, or you don't play Angry Birds. There's no "give up some of your privacy to play Angry Birds" offer, or "here's a game that's 95% as fun as Angry Birds but requires that you only yield up the most trivial facts of your life to play it" that we can test the market against.
Charkham's five examples from the visual interface design are very good evidence that FB isn't a harbinger of the death of privacy; rather, it's a tribute to the power of deceptive hard-sell tactics to get people to make privacy trade-offs they wouldn't make in a fair deal.
#3: The Tiny Hidden Info Symbol Trick
In the old Design Facebook presented a detailed explanation about the “basic” information you’re about to expose to the apps you’re adding. In the new design they decided to hide that info. If you pay careful attention you’ll see a tiny little “?” symbol and if you hover over it you’ll discover that this app is about to gain access to your name, profile pic, Facebook user ID, gender, networks, list of friends and any piece of info you’ve made public on Facebook. Quite a lot of info for a 20×10 pixel tiny hidden info symbol don’t you think?!
Of course, the interface is only a small part of the tactics used to manipulate privacy decisions on FB. More insidious and likely more effective is the use of the proprietary algorithms to apply intermittent social reward for disclosure, driving users to greater and greater disclosures -- something well documented in The Filter Bubble, Eli Pariser's 2011 book on the subject.
5 Design Tricks Facebook Uses To Affect Your Privacy Decisions

TPP: the Son of ACTA will oblige America and other countries to throw out privacy, free speech and due process for easier copyright enforcement

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is the son of ACTA, a secretive copyright and trade treaty being negotiated by the Pacific Rim nations, including the USA and Canada. As with ACTA, the secretive negotiation process means that the treaty's provisions represent an extremist corporate agenda where due process, privacy and free expression are tossed out the window in favor of streamlined copyright enforcement. If this passes, America will have a trade obligation to implement all the worst stuff in SOPA, and then some. The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Carolina Rossini and Kurt Opsahl explain:
TPP article 16.3 mandates a system of ISP liability that goes beyond DMCA standards and U.S. case law. In sum, the TPP pushes a framework beyond ACTA[1] and possibly the spirit of the DMCA, since it opens the doors for:
* Three-strikes policies and laws that require Internet intermediaries to terminate their users’ Internet access on repeat allegations of copyright infringement
* Requirements for Internet intermediaries to filter all Internet communications for potentially copyright-infringing material
* ISP obligations to block access to websites that allegedly infringe or facilitate copyright infringement
* Efforts to force intermediaries to disclose the identities of their customers to IP rightsholders on an allegation of copyright infringement.
Incredibly, it gets worse:
If the copyright maximalists have their way, the TPP will include a “side-letter,” an agreement annexed to the TPP to bind the countries to strict procedures enabling copyright owners to insist material are removed from the Internet. This strict notice-and-takedown regime is not new—in 2004, Chile rejected the same proposal in its bi-lateral trade agreement with the United States. Without the shackles of the proposed requirements, Chile then implemented a much more balanced takedown procedure in its 2010 Copyright Law, which provides greater protection to Internet users’ expression and privacy than the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)’s copyright safe harbor regime.
Instead of ensuring due process and judicial involvement in takedowns, the TPP proposal encourages the spread of models that have been proven inefficient and have chilling unintended consequences, such as the HADOPI Law in France or the DMCA.
TPP Creates Legal Incentives For ISPs To Police The Internet. What Is At Risk? Your Rights.

Senate repugicans Block Another Jobs Bill, Face Backlash From American Public

senate, republicans, block, another, jobs, bill,, face, backlash, from, american, public,
Senate repugicans Block Another Jobs Bill Face Backlash From American Public 
The method repugicans have used to block all jobs legislation in the past two years is the same. A jobs bill comes up, it is filled with positive things for the economy, repugicans filibuster debate, this shields them from having to make floor speeches on why they don't want tax breaks for small businesses... etc.
Why? Well, if the economy recovers too strongly before an election, repugicans will lose power. If jobs numbers look too good, people will want to keep the same party. By repugicans blocking all jobs legislation and keeping jobs numbers from improving they believe this is their ticket to power.
In other words, if you and other Americans suffer just long enough it will pay off for repugicans.
They sacrifice the citizens' jobs with the hopes that they will create more repugican jobs in Congress.

The truth be told

Romney's latest excuse for not releasing taxes: I'm a Mormon


Besides making his Mormon faith now an issue in the campaign, Romney is ignoring both his own recent history of releasing a few years of returns as well as the precedent that his own father set when he released twelve years of tax returns.

Were Mitt Romney and his own father bad Mormons when they previously released tax documents, and if it was fine with their religion before why is it not fine now?  Did the Mormons change their minds in order to influence the 2012 election?

Then again, considering what's already been found in the Bain tax document, the more likely explanation for hiding his returns is that Romney would prefer that voters not know how much he has gamed the tax system. If people saw the full returns, there would surely be even more questions and more unpleasant surprises for voters. The tax filings may or may not be legal (though there is a strong argument that they were not legal), but they're also everything that is wrong about the one-sided tax law written for the Romney Class.

Once again, what is Mitt Romney hiding?  From Salon:
After months stonewalling on releasing more tax returns, Mitt Romney invoked a brand-new explanation for demurring in an interview with Parade magazine set to hit newsstands this weekend: religion. “Our church doesn’t publish how much people have given [to the LDS Church]. This is done entirely privately. One of the downsides of releasing one’s financial information is that this is now all public, but we had never intended our contributions to be known. It’s a very personal thing between ourselves and our commitment to our God and to our church,” Romney told the magazine when asked about his returns, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
Well that's interesting. What else won't his religion permit a President Romney to do? It's one thing to invoke your religion in private life, but to suggest that America should change the way it elects presidents because the Mormons don't like it, is quite another. Mitt Romney, in a very real way, is forcing the rest of America to live by Mormon standards - he's telling us that we are no longer permitted to have a full vetting of our presidential candidates because the Mormons don't like it.

The Mormon leadership is always trying to jam its religion down our throats and force us to live our lives according to their rules. So perhaps it's not a surprise that now America at large is expected to permit the Mormons to change the rules of our electoral process in order to suit their needs.

Of course, Mitt Romney is lying. This has nothing to do with his being a Mormon, or his father, who was even higher in the Mormon faith than Mitt, would never have released so many years of his taxes when he ran for president.

This latest episode does show one thing: Mitt Romney is desperate to do anything to stop the release of his taxes. If Romney is now invoking his Mormon faith, a topic he's avoided like the plague during this campaign, then his taxes must contain something pretty awful for Romney to now "go there."

Akin for the Truth: How Are US Religious Fundamentalists Any Different Than Middle Eastern Ones?

By Shirin Sadeghi,

Congressman Todd Akin.Congressman Todd Akin.In the American media, the news from Iran, Pakistan, Egypt, Afghanistan and elsewhere generally runs along the same themes: scary, violent and religious nutsos. But isn't it time the US media and the American public agreed that America isn't much different? America has just as many religious fundamentalists and nut jobs, and they are making public statements just as often - if not more often - than the religious fundies elsewhere.
Are we to believe that a fundamentalist in a suit is less scary than a fundamentalist in a beard, even if both are spouting hatred against women?

Missouri repugican Congressman Todd Akin's recent comments about how women can't become pregnant from what he called "legitimate rape" was just the latest in a long line of pronouncements from American leaders with strong religious backgrounds who believe they are an authority on women's needs and health. Akin is no different than the numerous Iranian clerics who've said such ridiculous things as women who have extramarital sex "cause earthquakes," or the Egyptian cleric who first said that a husband and wife cannot be completely naked while having sex. (This was then modified by scholars, and it was agreed that the most important thing is that no one look at the vagina at the scene of the sex act.) Or the fatwa after fatwa about men and women working together, schooling together and all the rest (sounds a lot like segregation, doesn't it America?).
In the early days of the Taliban, before they began their habit of bombing girls' schools, they too, started out with making ridiculous comments about women and sexuality. It's only just escalated to the violence we've become familiar with.
The truth is, Akin and his fellow religious fundamentalist men the world over are very much the same when it comes to women: they know more about women than women do. In their minds, of course. Because none of them know what it's like to have a period or to give birth or to suffer the tragic and deeply disturbing decision to abort a baby. (Many women don't even know what it's like to suffer through a decision about an unwanted baby.) Further, no man knows what it's like to live in a world where women are second-class citizens - although that is a fact even in the most "civilized" and modern countries. None of them know what it's like to work just as hard as a man and not get the job, or not get the promotion, or, certainly, not get the same amount of pay.
Sure, there are a lot of female fundamentalists, too. It is deeply troubling when women take views against women, but at least we cannot accuse them of speaking out of turn, and you'll be hard-pressed to find any woman - even the most conservative and devoutly religious - who shares all the views of a biased man when it comes to women's rights, health care and needs. She would, after all, be speaking against herself.
But no man knows what it is like to be a woman, even though too many of them think they do. And too many of them attain public positions that give them a platform to spout their sexism. It is extraordinary that we don't hear female politicians make the same blanket statements about men, yet it makes a great deal of sense: in the patriarchy of world gender dynamics, a woman should focus on her area of expertise and leave the rest to the men.
Akin, a graduate of the Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri - he has a master of divinity - has gathered along the way, largely due to societal cues, that he is an authority on things that he is not, because he is a man. Like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who recently spoke on behalf of all the women in the repugican cabal when he said that his female colleagues "don't see any evidence" of a war on women, it never struck Akin that he is not qualified to speak for women, particularly when he is attacking their rights.
And he is not the first. It was just this year that Wisconsin state senator Glenn Grothman said that, "money is more important for men," as he argued against a Wisconsin state equal pay act. In his view of the matter, there is no pay discrimination because women simply don't want to be paid as much as men do, particularly when they are married and more focused on raising kids (as he duly noted). Grothman, a devout Christian, also made headlines this year when he said that "unwanted and mistimed pregnancies" are "a choice" that women make and are not actually accidents.
Incidentally, Grothman has never been married and does not have kids.
Or what about Idaho state senator Chuck Winder, who just this year said that women may not actually know the difference between rape and the normal course of sexual relations in marriage (something Winder believes involves a woman being obligated to have sexual relations with her husband even when she does not want to): "I would hope that when a woman goes into a physician, with a rape issue, that that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps her marriage. Was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage, or was it truly caused by a rape?" He went on to imply that many women are using rape as an excuse for abortion.
And then there is the totality of what many people are simply referring to as the war on women in America: the attitudes, statements, media bias and campaign platforms that together work to denigrate women and take away their rights simply because of the physical realities of their bodies. The war on women refers, primarily, to the Republican Party - a party largely consisting of devout men whose understanding of religion provides them the context and confidence to make statements and decisions about women's body parts, sexual relations and reproduction, in addition to women's role in society (and in the home), and their right to equality in employment and pay.
A great many of these male politicians allow themselves to address these issues because of their religious qualifications: either they are, in fact, ordained ministers and divinity school graduates, or they are so devout in their religion that they are above reproach when it comes to being pious.
All of the petty statements by these sexist men would amount to just words in the air, except that in America's male-dominated Congress (women hold less than 20 percent of seats in Congress, and state legislatures don't look much more equal either) - just as in the governments of those Middle Eastern and South Asian nations that are vilified in the US media - bill after bill, law after law has been presented, passed and signed that depletes women's rights. American women need just as much protection from their religious fundamentalist men as women anywhere else do - the problem is, not enough of them know it.

Could Identical Twins Get Away With Murder?

twinsWhat happens when a crime is committed and the suspect blames it on an identical twin? The fact that they look alike throws a monkey wrench into eyewitness accounts, and their DNA is identical, too. Often such cases -and there are plenty of real-life cases- end up with no one convicted. But that might change with new advanced chemical tests that delve even further into a twins genetic makeup.
A new kind of genetic evidence may come to play a role in these cases. Epigenetics refers to chemical modifications to DNA that may change how genes are expressed. A study released earlier this year showed that the epigenetic profiles of identical twins differ at birth, presumably because of small differences in the twins’ uterine environments. While no prosecutor has yet used epigenetic evidence to distinguish a guilty twin from his innocent sibling, the findings should put would-be criminal twins on notice.
Being an identical twin was never a "get out of jail free card," anyway. Don't do the crime, because science will eventually catch up with you. More

Science and Race

The study of race from a scientific perspective has always been controversial. In the 19th century, studies of skull structure were used to “prove” that different races were at different rungs on the evolutionary ladder – the “inferior” races being more ape-like.

Some scientists believed that Africans were a missing link between apes and “true”  (i.e. European) humans; this resulted in  Africans being placed in zoos.
In The Mismeasure of Man, Stephen J. Gould contends that the results of some of these studies were falsified to fit with society’s preconceived notions of white racial superiority.
Today, we know that it is impossible to distinguish physical differences between races because race cannot be defined scientifically. Tens of thousand of years of human migration and interbreeding throughout the world means that it is impossible to divide humanity into a few genetically distinct “races”.   Studies of the human genome prove this.
A recent genetic study has revealed that three hunter-gatherer populations in Africa show evidence of interbreeding with an unknown group of hominin that diverged from humans and Neanderthals between 20,000 and 80,000 years ago, further evidence that when it comes to sex, humans don’t always stick to their own kind.
There are small, genetically isolated human populations in which certain medical conditions and diseases are more prevalent than in the general human population, but these groups are usually thought of as being too small to be considered separate races.
Race is, in fact, a concept that is defined by culture, and racial definitions vary from culture to culture. Definitions of race differ according to culture.
A person who is considered mixed race in one culture may be thought of as black, white or Asian in another.  This can be very important when laws treat people defined as mixed race differently than people defined as being purely of one race.
“Hispanic” is a racial term used in the United States to categorize people with a wide variety of genetic backgrounds whose ancestors spent some time in Latin America.
In America, people of South Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi) ancestry have sometimes been classified legally as Asian and at other times as white.
Having been born in America myself, I was raised to think of South Asians as white; the Asian race consists of people whose ancestors are from East Asia. (Yes, Americans do realize that the Indian subcontinent is part of Asia.)
When I moved to the UK, I was surprised to find that people from South Asia are considered non-white.
Because today’s scientists realize that race cannot be defined scientifically, they no longer study the differences between races or attempt to create a hierarchy of races.
Now, scientists are examining our attitudes toward race and trying to understand how and why these attitudes develop.
Evolutionary biologists looking at race focus on the human tendency to form large social groups and to divide human beings between members of one’s own group and outsiders (us vs. them).
They look at antecedents to racism in other primates.  A 2011 study shows that macaques spend a longer time looking at photos of unfamiliar macaques than at photos of macaques in their social group.  The researchers who performed this study interpreted the results as meaning that the macaque subjects viewed the strange macaques as more threatening than the macaques that they knew well.
Chimpanzees take the tendency to prefer members of their own group to outsiders to extremes; male chimpanzees within a troop will sometimes form a coalition that works together to attack and kill members of another group.
Nevertheless, even if humans have inherited a tendency toward racism, we are not necessarily destined to be racist.
Studies examining the neurobiological bases for racism in humans have found that when someone looks at a photo of a member of another race, activity increases in the amygdala, which is associated with fear and with learning to be afraid of things. (Racism can be encouraged by social conditioning.)
However, the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) are also activated.
The ACC is associated with error detection and dealing with conflicting information; it is activated during the Stroop test.  The ACC may be activated when people are presented with photos of members of other races because they experience conflict between an instinctive or learned fear of people who are different and the knowledge that they should treat all people equally.
The DLPFC is believed to play a part in regulating behavior.  While the amygdala may be signaling someone to behave negatively toward a member of another race, the DLFPC prevents them from acting on that behavior.
Thus, our human brains allow us to overcome our primate racism.
Implicit Association Test
The Implicit Association Test (IAT) is supposed to determine whether people have racist feelings, and if they do, how intense these feelings are.
During the IAT, subjects separate words (such as “happy” or “disgusted”) into positive and negative categories by clicking on one of two keys on a computer keyboard.
At the same time, they click on the same two keys to separate photos of human faces into two racial groups.
Test results seem to show that the majority of people are inherently racist, as they are more likely to associate negative words with members of the group that they do not identify with.
Before I took the IAT online myself, I was warned that it was likely that I would discover that I was at least slightly racist, and if I couldn’t deal with it, I shouldn’t take the test.
In fact, my results showed that I have no preference for one race over the other. – Apparently, this is unusual.
One flaw in the test is that it may actually prime people to identify a particular race with good or bad qualities.
When I took the test (which was designed for Americans and identified people as either European-American or African-American),  I first had to click on one key if I either read a “good” word or saw a photo of a European-American and click on another key if I  read a “bad” word or saw a picture of an African-American.
Although the categories are later switched – African-Americans and good words get one key, while  European-Americans and bad words get another – by that time the test may have already primed the subject to associate African-Americans with negative qualities and European-Americans with positive ones.
Some studies have shown that changing the names of the racial categories on the IAT can affect the outcome of the IAT.
Additionally, people who score as very racist on the IAT often show no signs of racist behavior.

Cambodia Mass Grave Discovery Raises Ghosts From The Past

It was four gray skulls resting on a bed of jumbled bones that again triggered Chea Nouen's memories: breast-feeding her baby with her hands and feet shackled; her husband thrown into a pit to be turned into human fertilizer, her own marches to the killing fields where she was saved three times by an executioner.

Canadian border guards stop looking for dope exporters, focus on stolen cars and fissiles

The Canadian Border Service Agency has been ordered to stop hunting for illegal drug exporters and worry instead about catching nuclear material and stolen car smugglers. Lee Berthiaume writes for Postmedia News:
The directive, contained in an internal memo to Canada Border Service Agency managers that was obtained by Postmedia News, is unlikely to make officials in the United States and other countries very happy.
But analysts say that in an age of finite resources, the agency has decided it makes more sense to target areas where it thinks it can make a difference.
The article goes on to quote Eugene Oscapella of the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy, describing how hard it is to catch dope smuggling, versus big things like cars and radioactive things like uranium.

Police wounded New York shooting victims

All nine people injured in Friday's shooting in front of the Empire State Building were wounded by police gunfire, New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told reporters Saturday.

Excellent Idea of the Day

Smart Stitches

Hi-tech sutures monitor wounds and deliver heat to help speed up healing.  
Read more
Researchers develop sutures that monitor wounds and deliver heat to help speed up healing.

Message in a bottle

In the 22nd century?

R.I.P. Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the surface of the moon, has died. He gave the world a quote on that occasion on July 20, 1969, that will live in history:  "That is one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind." Armstrong's family released a statement through NASA. Here is a small portion:
Neil Armstrong was also a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job. He served his Nation proudly, as a navy fighter pilot, test pilot, and astronaut. He also found success back home in his native Ohio in business and academia, and became a community leader in Cincinnati.

He remained an advocate of aviation and exploration throughout his life and never lost his boyhood wonder of these pursuits.

As much as Neil cherished his privacy, he always appreciated the expressions of good will from people around the world and from all walks of life.

While we mourn the loss of a very good man, we also celebrate his remarkable life and hope that it serves as an example to young people around the world to work hard to make their dreams come true, to be willing to explore and push the limits, and to selflessly serve a cause greater than themselves.
The cause of death was complications after a cardiovascular procedure. Armstrong was 82. More

Robot Mars

The First (Ever) Rover Tracks on Mars

Fifteen years ago, Sojourner rolled down a specially engineered ramp to leave the first ever rover tracks on Mars. Read more
The First (Ever) Rover Tracks on Mars

Alien Robots That Left Their Mark on Mars

We are slowly invading Mars with our robotic explorers, but how have they left their mark? Read more
Alien Robots That Left Their Mark on Mars

How Would the Sun Look From ...

How big would the sun look while standing on another planet?  
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How Would the Sun Look From...:Gotta-See Video

An American In Siberia

1959. Bratsk, Siberia. These people are going to see a foreigner for the first time in their lives. Children from a summer camp, builders, teachers... They are standing on the dock, so excited and happy, as if they are meeting a long-awaited close relative... The guest is William Averell Harriman, an American Democratic party politician, businessman, and diplomat. That's what we call a warm welcome. More

The City Of The Dead

Visiting ghost-towns must be an exciting experience. But once you decided to go to such a place, you'd better hurry up and see as much as possible before the sunset. Who knows what may happen after? More

Tokyo Rail System as Designed by Slime Mold

How do you design an efficient rail system? Of course you can hire a team of dedicated engineers ... or you can simply ask a slime mold:
When presented with oat flakes arranged in the pattern of Japanese cities around Tokyo, brainless, single-celled slime molds construct networks of nutrient-channeling tubes that are strikingly similar to the layout of the Japanese rail system, researchers from Japan and England report Jan. 22 in Science. A new model based on the simple rules of the slime mold’s behavior may lead to the design of more efficient, adaptable networks, the team contends.
Every day, the rail network around Tokyo has to meet the demands of mass transport, ferrying millions of people between distant points quickly and reliably, notes study coauthor Mark Fricker of the University of Oxford. “In contrast, the slime mold has no central brain or indeed any awareness of the overall problem it is trying to solve, but manages to produce a structure with similar properties to the real rail network.”

Ape 'Genius' Smarter Than the Average Chimp

Geniuses exist among non-humans, but no one attribute constitutes intelligence.  


What Ants and the Internet Have In Common
 Quick: what do ants and the Internet have in common? A Stanford ant biologist and a computer scientist came up with the answer:
On the surface, ants and the Internet don't seem to have much in common. But two Stanford researchers have discovered that a species of harvester ants determine how many foragers to send out of the nest in much the same way that Internet protocols discover how much bandwidth is available for the transfer of data. The researchers are calling it the "anternet."
Deborah Gordon, a biology professor at Stanford, has been studying ants for more than 20 years. When she figured out how the harvester ant colonies she had been observing in Arizona decided when to send out more ants to get food, she called across campus to Balaji Prabhakar, a professor of computer science at Stanford and an expert on how files are transferred on a computer network. At first he didn't see any overlap between his and Gordon's work, but inspiration would soon strike.
"The next day it occurred to me, 'Oh wait, this is almost the same as how [Internet] protocols discover how much bandwidth is available for transferring a file!'" Prabhakar said. "The algorithm the ants were using to discover how much food there is available is essentially the same as that used in the Transmission Control Protocol."

Deep-sea Squid has Spiked Tentacles

The squid named Galiteuthis armata isn't particularly big, but it has a feature that gives it star billing in your nightmares. There are rows of sharp hooks on the ends of its tentacles. This is one squid you don't want to anger! See more pictures, including a close-up of those spikes, at Deep Sea News

Chupacabra Hunting Season

A strange animal was shot in Ukraine. Local vets and zoologists can't attribute it to any species of animate beings. But local dwellers are sure that the creature is the very legendary bloodsucker Chupacabra. It is dark brown, with rare harsh wool, a long tail and a long neck. Its weight is about 11 lb, length - 1,8 feet. The animal was shot in the Mikhailovsky district of the Zaporozhe when it was trying to sneak into a hen house. More

The Bermuda Triangle for Pigeons

If you're a pigeon fancier in England, then you probably already knew about the mysterious "Bermuda Triangle" area encompassing Thirsk, Wetherby and Consett:
In the latest episode, only 13 out of 232 birds released in Thirsk last Saturday by a Scottish pigeon racing club made it back to Galashiels in the Scottish Borders. [...] Scottish pigeon racer Austin Lindores said: “When they fly down to the Thirsk, Wetherby and Consett area we call it the Bermuda Triangle because something always seems to happen.
Theories include summer rains that send the birds off course, high solar activity that distorted the magnetic fields the birds use to navigate, problems with birds of prey, and even signals from a local monitoring station. More

Moth Trails at Night

Steve Irvine captured this amazing long exposure photo of moth trails at night. The National Geographic explains:
Fluttering wings leave lacy trails as moths beat their way to a floodlight on a rural Ontario lawn. The midsummer night’s exposure, held for 20 seconds, captured some of the hundreds of insects engaged in a nocturnal swarm.

Ribbon Eel

This is the most amazing thing you'll see today: a ribbon eel filmed swimming in the oceans off Lembeh, Sulawesi, Indonesia.
(YouTube link)

Animal Pictures