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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, November 19, 2012

The Daily Drift

November Eclipse

Some of our readers today have been in:
Zagreb, Croatia
Tallinn, Estonia
Sibu, Malaysia
Hagatna, Guam
Istanbul, Turkey
Chisinau, Moldova
Tirana, Albania
Karachi, Pakistran
Cambridge, England
Kiev, Ukraine
Cali, Colombia
Bekasi, Indonesia
Nairobi, Kenya
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Tbilisi, Georgia
Malang, Indonesia
Waterloo, Canada
Ankara, Turkey
Bogota, Colombia
Warsaw, Poland
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Hanoi, Vietnam
Johannesburg, South Africa
Lahore, Pakistan
Bangkok, Thailand
Birmingham, England
Tripoli, Lybia
Berlin, Germany
Rawalpindi, Pakistan
Sampaloc, Philippines

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Today in History

1620   The Pilgrims sight Cape Cod.
1828   In Vienna, Composer Franz Schubert dies of syphilis at age 31.
1861   Julia Ward Howe writes "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" while visiting Union troops near Washington.
1863   Lincoln delivers the "Gettysburg Address" at the dedication of the National Cemetery at the site of the Battle of Gettysburg.
1885   Bulgarians, led by Stefan Stambolov, repulse a larger Serbian invasion force at Slivinitza.
1873   James Reed and two accomplices rob the Watt Grayson family of $30,000 in the Choctaw Nation.
1897   The Great "City Fire" in London.
1905   100 people drown in the English Channel as the steamer Hilda sinks.
1911   New York receives first Marconi wireless transmission from Italy.
1915   The Allies ask China to join the entente against the Central Powers.
1923   The Oklahoma State Senate ousts Governor Walton for anti-Ku Klux Klan measures.
1926   Leon Trotsky is expelled from the Politburo in the Soviet Union.
1942   Soviet forces take the offensive at Stalingrad.
1949   Prince Ranier III is crowned 30th Monarch of Monaco.
1952   Scandinavian Airlines opens a commercial route from Canada to Europe.
1969   Apollo 12 touches down on the moon.
1973   New York stock market takes sharpest drop in 19 years.
1976   Patty Hearst is released from prison on $1.5 million bail.
1981   U.S. Steel agrees to pay $6.3 million for Marathon Oil.

Non Sequitur


The Hazards of Growing Up Painlessly

vAshlyn Blocker is 13 years old and has never felt pain -physical pain that is. She has “congenital insensitivity to pain,” meaning that although she can feel pressure and temperature up to a point, but not pain. Her condition is thought to be caused by a gene mutation. While the inability to feel pain may sound like a nice disability, it's caused all kinds of problems for a child growing up without feedback in an injurious world.
There was the time she burned the flesh off the palms of her hands when she was 2. John was using a pressure-washer in the driveway and left its motor running; in the moments that they took their eyes off her, Ashlyn walked over and put her hands on the muffler. When she lifted them up the skin was seared away. There was the one about the fire ants that swarmed her in the backyard, biting her over a hundred times while she looked at them and yelled: “Bugs! Bugs!” There was the time she broke her ankle and ran around on it for two days before her parents realized something was wrong. They told these stories as casually as they talked about Tristen’s softball games or their son Dereck’s golf skills, but it was clear they were still struggling after all these years with how to keep Ashlyn safe.
Ashlyn's parents founded Camp Painless But Hopeful in Georgia, to connect others with the condition, a few who also tell their stories in this article at the New York Times.

Ascendant Brasila

Excerpts from an eye-opening article in the Washington Post:
Brazil is expected next year to dethrone the United States as the world’s largest producer of soybeans. With so much land available for cultivation, that status will probably become permanent...

As the result of a 2009 WTO ruling, Brazil now receives about $17 million in monthly payments from U.S. taxpayers — money being used to advance the Brazilian cotton industry with research on best practices, pest management and other issues...

State-backed research since the 1970s has turned the Cerrado — once considered unproductive scrubland — into a vast farm belt. Still mostly unplanted, and comfortably distant from Brazil’s environmentally sensitive Amazon region, the Cerrado has become a new frontier in the green revolution that made U.S. farmers the most productive in the world. Just as the vast plains of the American Midwest helped keep down world food prices for the last half of the 20th century, the Cerrado may do the same in the 21st... 

Of seven new factories that John Deere said it plans to build worldwide, two are in Brazil — with three in China and one each in India and Russia. “It is a tricky issue,” said a U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment publicly. “U.S. companies are doing all this investment in an agriculture superpower that is a huge competitor...

Farmers here say the major constraint — a notoriously slow and expensive transportation network — can be fixed over time. Compared with this country’s unlocked potential... “the U.S. is at its limits.”  

Absurd licensing terms imposed on public domain works by libraries and museums

Dee says, "Keneth Cerws' published studies take copyfight to libraries and museums where restrictive - often absurd - copyright claims and licensing terms are forced on those requesting images of art works and scans of books and documents where the original work long ago entered the public domain, often decades or centuries ago. This raises relevant questions about fair use, academic and research use and how we treat copyright for new images and renderings, often digital images, of old works that many consider vital pieces our common human history, heritage and cultural commons."
Museums face steady demand for images of artworks from their collections, and they typically provide a service of making and delivering high-resolution images of art. The images are often intellectually essential for scholarly study and teaching, and they are sometimes economically valuable for production of the coffee mugs and note cards sold in museum shops and elsewhere. Though the law is unclear regarding copyright protection afforded to such images, many museum policies and licenses encumber the use of art images with contractual terms and license restrictions often aimed at raising revenue or protecting the integrity of the art. This article explores the extent to which museums have strained the limits of copyright claims and indeed have restructured concepts of ownership and control in ways that curtail the availability and use of art images far beyond anything that may be grounded in the law. This article examines the relevant copyright law applicable to the making and use of reproductions of art images, and it identifies the challenging pressures that museums face as they strive to make policies in the context of law but that also serve the multiple competing interests coming to bear on officials and decision makers inside museums. The article analyzes selected policies from major museums and provides an original construct of forms of “overreaching” that often appear in written standards offered by museums for the use of images. The analysis of policies also demonstrates that museums have choices in the shaping of institutional policies, and that breaking away from familiar policy terms can sometimes better serve institutional and public interests.
Copyright, Museums, and Licensing of Art Images

And you know it's true ...

Mexican billionaire eyes deal to buy Hostess icon

Hostess Brands going out of business but it's possible company's most iconic sugary confection -- Twinkies -- could be bought by Mexican business.
Hostess Brands is going out of business and it’s possible the company’s most iconic sugary confection – Twinkies -- could be bought by a Mexican business.
Mexico’s Grupo Bimbo, the world's largest bread-baking firm, could be on the short list for acquiring some of the Texas-based Hostess’ foodstuffs, according to Forbes. Grupo Bimbo already owns parts of Sara Lee, Entenmann’s and Thomas English Muffins.

The truth hurts


Wal-Mart fights back on Black Friday strike

Retailer files complaint with federal agency

Walmart store

As Wal-Mart workers prepare to stage a walkout on Black Friday, the world's largest store is fighting back.

Wal-Mart has filed a complaint with a federal agency accusing one of the largest labor unions in the country of unlawfully organizing picket lines, in-store "flash mobs" and other demonstrations in the past six months.
In its complaint Thursday, Wal-Mart said the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and it's subsidiary known as OURWalmart, of trying to force it into collective bargaining even though it is not the official union for Wal-Mart's employees. The UFCW represents over 1 million meat packers and food industry workers.
The complaint comes just days before Wal-Mart workers' plan to stage nationwide walkouts on Black Friday, arguably the biggest holiday shopping day for any U.S. store. Union-backed groups OUR Walmart and Making Change at Wal-Mart, along with a watchdog group Corporate Action Network are calling on the country's largest employer to end what they call retaliation against employees who speak out for better pay, fair schedules and affordable health care.
The planned walkouts build on an October strike that started at a Wal-Mart in Los Angeles and spread to stores in 12 other cities. More than 100 workers joined in the October actions.
Wal-Mart spokesman David Tovar pointed out in a statement that the number of workers participating in the walkout is a "very small minority" of its 1.3 million workforce. Tovar said that Black Friday is like the "Superbowl" for retailers and that Wal-Mart is ready.
"If [the store employees] are scheduled to work, we expect them to show up and do their job. If they don't, depending on the circumstances, there could be consequences," said Tovar.
In a letter to UFCW's general council sent on Friday, Wal-Mart said the workers' ongoing actions violate the National Labor Relations Act, which prohibits picketing for any period over 30 days without filing a representation petition. The retailer said the actions have disrupted business.
"The UFCW has orchestrated numerous pickets, mass demonstrations, flash mobs and other confrontational activities both inside and outside Wal-Mart facilities in support of its bargaining and recognition demands," wrote Wal-Mart lawyer Steven Wheeless. "Now, with the busiest shopping season of the year just days away, the UFCW is openly orchestrating and promoting attempted mass disruptions of Wal-Mart's customer shopping experience."
OURWalmart organizers say they have 1,000 events planned this week. Support for the campaign, which has been gaining momentum across social media platforms, is mounting: The organization's Facebook page now has more than 28,000 'likes' and its accompanying YouTube video has been watched over 103,000 times.

George Will to Mitt Romney: “Quit despising the American people”


Funny how the Republicans never spoke out against despising the American people before the election.

Good for George Will for calling out Mitt Romney on his latest “I hate half the country” gaffe, but at the same time, spare me.I don’t recall any repugicans speaking out when Mitt Romney repeatedly tried to label President Obama a Castro-loving communist and/or European socialist (which in America’s small political mind means communist (which, here, actually means “Soviet”) during the campaign, and thus, the 51% of us who voted for Obama must, of course, support communism too since we voted for one.
I also don’t recall repugicans speaking out when their failure of a repugican cabal chair Reince Priebus attempted the same thing sotto voce, trying to label the President as some kind of foreign European socialist type black thing – and finally got called out on it by Chris Matthews.
I also don’t recall any repugicans speaking out when Marco Rubio also intimated that President Obama was a communist, and thus, once again, anyone for supports the President – that would be half the country – must support communism too.
The repugicans have hated the voters for a long time.
  • Gays: The baptists who run the repugican cabal hate them, as do the mormons who almost ran the repugican cabal, and the rest of the repugican leadership is more than happy to throw their civil rights to the sharks when it serves their purposes.
  • Women: Legitimate rape, forcible rape, god-gifted-rape-babies, self-cleansing rape, and no-such-thing-as-threat-to-the-life-of-the-mother rape all come to mind.
  • Blacks: baptists have quite a history as do mormons, and most southern states, many of which still hate blacks (remember, a plurality of repugicans in Mississippi are still opposed to inter-racial marriage, of the heterosexual variety even).
  • Jews: Folks on the right pretend to love Israel, but that’s only so that they can preserve Israel long enough to watch 2/3 of all the world’s jews die in a blaze of glory when jesus comes back – yes, they love Israel to death. And let’s not even get started with the Mormons’ sordid record of desecrating the souls of Jewish Holocaust victims.
  • Catholics: the baptists think catholics worship Satan, and call the catholic Virgin Mary a “whore”).
  • Latinos. I don’t even need to explain that one.
The list goes on.  Fortunately, the list of which Americans the repugicans despise is so long that it now makes up 51% of the country.
The current repugican leadership hates Americas.  They’ve hated our system of government for a long time, which is why it’s always repugicans who are trying to undermine the presidency, and the courts, and the media – any system of checks and balances is a bad thing if you, at your core, think freedom and truth have a liberal bias, and that you can’t win if the fight is fair.
The repugicans talk a lot about how much they love America – the same way they talk about how much they love the troops, then send the troops to die in needless wars based on a lie, then ignore those same trips when they come home needing help – but in practice, it’s not terribly clear that the current extremists running the repugican cabal like much of anything or anyone in this country.
So, I’m not going to get too excited about the repugican cabal’s sudden concern about members of their own party who hate the voters.  The repugicans have hated a lot of us for a very long time.  And now their hate may have made them a permanent minority party.

The truth be told

South Africa judge finds accused triggerman guilty in honeymoon slaying of Swedish bride

Xolile Mngeni, centre, accused of the slaying of Anni Dewani, sits in the dock, in a courtroom, in Cape Town, South Africa, Monday, Nov. 19, 2012, as he awaits the court's verdict. Mngeni,was arrested for the killing of 28-year-old Anni Dewani. Prosecutors say Mngeni was hired by Dewani's British husband to carry out the November 2010 killing, which was made to look like a car hijacking.

A South African accused of being the triggerman in the 2010 honeymoon slaying of a Swedish bride was found guilty Monday, ending his long-delayed trial as the woman's husband continues to fight extradition over the killing.
Judge Robert Henney gave his verdict Monday in the trial of Xolile Mngeni, charged with killing 28-year-old Anni Dewani. Prosecutors say Mngeni was hired by Dewani's British husband to carry out the November 2010 killing, which was made to look like a carjacking.
Mngeni, who had surgery in June 2011 to remove a brain tumour, has suffered seizures and black outs and has troubles remembering things, his lawyer has said. His poor health has slowed his trial and he appeared skinnier than he had at previous hearings Monday, wearing a white button-up shirt with blue flowers on it. Mngeni needed a walker to make his way into court and he sat without betraying much emotion during the proceedings, looking straight ahead at the judge as he spoke and a translator offered his words in Xhosa.
In his ruling, Henney dismissed claims by Mngeni's lawyer that his client had been set up for the killing. Henney found Mngeni guilty of murder and robbery charges, while acquitting him of kidnapping charges.
In August, Mngeni's alleged accomplice Mziwamadoda Qwabe pleaded guilty to charges over the killing, receiving a 25-year prison sentence. Zola Tongo, the taxi driver that police say husband Shrien Dewani asked to plot the killing, earlier pleaded guilty to charges over the slaying and received an 18-year prison sentence. Both Tongo and Qwabe have said Dewani wanted it to look like he wasn't involved his wife's slaying and they planned to have the attack look like a carjacking in Cape Town's impoverished Gugulethu township.
In a statement provided as part of his plea deal, Qwabe said that after he and Mngeni staged the fake hijacking, he drove the car as Mngeni kept a 7.62 mm pistol pointed at Anni Dewani in the backseat and then pulled the trigger, the fatal shot going through her neck. Panicked, Qwabe said he stopped the car and got out, helping Mngeni find the spent bullet casing. He threw the casing into a sewer as they ran away into the night.
Officials at first thought the crime was robbery in South Africa, where violent crime is high but attacks on foreign tourists are rare.
Shrien Dewani has denied he hired anyone to kill his wife and was allowed by authorities to leave South Africa for the United Kingdom, where he was later arrested. In March, a U.K. High Court ruled that it would be "unjust and oppressive" to extradite Dewani to South Africa, as his mental condition had worsened since his arrest there. Dewani's lawyer told the court in a hearing July 31 that he needed at least a year to recover from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder before being potentially sent back to South Africa.

Car Thief Carjacked

police carIn 2008, a man in Salinas, California stole a truck. He made a bad decision and ended up with even worse luck:
Thirty-three-year-old Edward Bishop told police he stole the pickup Saturday, then, while sitting outside a convenience store, a man with a gun hopped in and ordered him to start driving.
Then it got even worse...or better, depending on your point of view:
The pickup ran out of gas and the gunman ordered Bishop to get out and push, but Bishop ran away and called police.
Both thieves were later arrested.

A Family of Bank Robbers

Some families golf together, others go camping together. This family, however, is a bit unique: they rob the bank together. And you know what they say about a family that robs a bank together. They go to jail together:
A father, son and daughter may be responsible for robbing as many as seven banks in two states, according to authorities.
Ronald Scott Catt, 50, and his two children, 20-year-old Hayden and 18-year-old Abby were arrested last week on charges they robbed a credit union in Katy, Texas.
Deputies with the Fort Bend Sheriff’s Office in Texas say the family, which recently moved to the area, could also be responsible for several other robberies in Texas and their native Oregon.

FBI releases Stalin's daughter files

FILE - In this undated photo provided by Icarus Films, shows Soviet dictator Josef Stalin with his daughter Svetlana Alliluyeva. Newly declassified files show the FBI was gathering details from informants on how Alliluyeva's arrival in the United State was affecting international relations after her high-profile defection in 1967. Alliluyeva, or Lana Peters, Stalin's only daughter, died in a Wisconsin nursing home in 2011. She was 85. (AP Photo/Courtesy Icarus Films, File)
Newly declassified documents show the FBI kept close tabs on Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's only daughter after her high profile defection to the United States in 1967, gathering details from informants about how her arrival was affecting international relations. The documents were released Monday to The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act following Lana Peters' death last year at age 85 in a Wisconsin nursing home. Her defection to the West during the Cold War embarrassed the ruling communists and made her a best-selling author. And her move was a public relations coup for the U.S.
One April 28, 1967, memo details a conversation with a confidential source who said the defection would have a "profound effect" for anyone else thinking of trying to leave the Soviet Union. The source claimed to have discussed the defection with a Czechoslovak journalist covering the United Nations and a member of the Czechoslovakia "Mission staff."
"Our source opined that the United States Government exhibited a high degree of maturity, dignity and understanding during this period," according to the memo, prominently marked "SECRET" at the top and bottom. "It cannot help but have a profound effect upon anyone who is considering a similar solution to an unsatisfactory life in a Soviet bloc country."
FILE - This April 13, 2010 file photo shows Lana Peters, or Svetlana Alliluyeva, on a rural road outside Richland Center, Wis. Newly declassified files show the FBI was gathering details from informants on how Peters' arrival in the United State was affecting international relations after her high-profile defection in 1967. Peters, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's only daughter, died in a Wisconsin nursing home in 2011. She was 85. (AP Photo/Wisconsin State Journal, Steve Apps/file)
When she defected, Peters was known as Svetlana Alliluyeva, but she went by Lana Peters following her 1970 marriage to William Wesley Peters, an apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright. Peters said her defection was partly motivated by the Soviet authorities' poor treatment of her late husband, Brijesh Singh, a prominent figure in the Indian Communist Party.
Another memo dated June 2, 1967, describes a conversation an unnamed FBI source had with Mikhail Trepykhalin, identified as the second secretary at the Soviet Embassy in Washington, D.C.
The source said Trepykhalin told him the Soviets were "very unhappy over her defection" and asked whether the U.S. would use it "for propaganda purposes." Trepykhalin "was afraid forces in the U.S. would use her to destroy relationships between the USSR and this country," the source told the FBI.
An unnamed informant in another secret memo from that month said Soviet authorities were not disturbed by the defection because it would "further discredit Stalin's name and family."
Stalin, a dictator held responsible for sending millions of his countrymen to their deaths in labor camps, led the Soviet Union from 1941 until his death in 1953. Stalin's successor, Nikita Khrushchev, denounced him three years later as a brutal despot.
And even though Peters denounced communism and her father's policies, Stalin's legacy haunted her in the United States.
"People say, 'Stalin's daughter, Stalin's daughter,' meaning I'm supposed to walk around with a rifle and shoot the Americans," she said in a 2007 interview for a documentary about her life. "Or they say, 'No, she came here. She is an American citizen.' That means I'm with a bomb against the others. No, I'm neither one. I'm somewhere in between."
Another FBI source, reporting on a 1968 May Day celebration in Moscow, said "the general feeling" is that she defected "because she was attracted by the material wealth in the United States."
George Kennan, a key figure in the Cold War and a former U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, advised the FBI that he and Alliluyeva were concerned Soviet agents would try to contact her, a December 1967 memo reveals. The memo notes that no security arrangements were made for Peters and no other documents in the file indicate that the KGB ever tracked her down.
Many of the 233 pages released to the AP were heavily redacted, with the FBI citing exemptions allowed under the law for concerns related to foreign policy, revealing confidential sources and releasing medical or other information that is a "clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy."
An additional 94 pages were found in her file but not released because the FBI said they contain information involving other government agencies. Those pages remain under government review.
More than half of the pages released to AP were copies of newspaper articles and other media coverage of her defection.
In one somewhat humorous exchange, a person whose name was redacted wrote directly to then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover asking that Hoover forward a letter on to "Joe Stalin's daughter." The author tells Hoover he can feel free to censor, alter or delete any portion of his letter to her as needed.
"I believe, Svetlana has given us (FREE NATIONS) the greatest opportunity to enlighten (and educate) the RUSSIAN people (and also those within the Communist controlled nations), as to what they are losing in continuing their impossible, or unacceptable present governmental system of Administration," the letter to Hoover said.
The file contains Hoover's terse three-sentence response denying his request, saying the FBI does not forward mail.
"I trust you will understand," Hoover wrote.

Scottish dig unearths '10,000-year-old home' at Echline

Artist's impression of the house 
The remains of what is believed to be one of Scotland's earliest homes have been uncovered during construction works for the new Forth crossing.
The site dates from the Mesolithic period, about 10,000 years ago.
Archaeological excavation works have been taking place in a field at Echline in South Queensferry in preparation for the Forth Replacement Crossing.
A large oval pit nearly 7m in length is all that remains of the dwelling, along with hearths, flint and arrowheads.
'First settlers' Rod McCullagh, a senior archaeologist at Historic Scotland, said: "This discovery and, especially the information from the laboratory analyses adds valuable information to our understanding of a small but growing list of buildings erected by Scotland's first settlers after the last glaciation, 10,000 years ago.
"The radiocarbon dates that have been taken from this site show it to be the oldest of its type found in Scotland which adds to its significance."
As the glaciers melted after the last Ice Age, the first settlers moved north through the new forests of Caledonia.
At Echline in South Queensferry at least one family stopped.
The site now is unassuming but clues in the soil paint a vivid picture of a prehistoric home.
Wooden posts probably supported walls and a turf roof.
Inside it was apparently cosy, with several hearths, while the discovery of flint arrowheads and charred shells suggests a diet which included meat and roasted hazelnuts.
Excavation work is continuing on the shores of the Forth, giving a glimpse of life 8,000 years before the birth of Christ, in the emerging shadow of a 21st Century bridge.
The remains feature a number of postholes which would have held wooden posts to support the walls and roof, probably covered with turf.
Several internal fireplace hearths were also identified and more than 1,000 flint artefacts were found, including materials which would have been used as tools and arrowheads.
Other discoveries included large quantities of charred hazelnut shells, suggesting they were an important source of food for the occupants of the house.
Archaeologists believe the dwelling would have been occupied on a seasonal basis, probably during the winter months, rather than all year round.
Ed Bailey, project manager for Headland Archaeology, the company that carried out the excavation works, said: "The discovery of this previously unknown and rare type of site has provided us with a unique opportunity to further develop our understanding of how early prehistoric people lived along the Forth.
"Specialist analysis of archaeological and palaeoenvironmental evidence recovered in the field is ongoing. This will allow us to put the pieces together and build a detailed picture of Mesolithic lifestyle."
Transport Minister Keith Brown said: "This ancient dwelling, which was unearthed as part of the routine investigations undertaken prior to construction works, is an important and exciting discovery.
"We now have vital records of the findings which we will be able to share to help inform our understanding of a period in Scotland's ancient history."

Random Photo

Greenland Loses 200 Million Tons Ice Per Year

Greenland is losing more ice, faster, and it's going to have a big impact on sea levels.  

New Zealand Fears 'Mount Doom' Eruption

A New Zealand volcano that featured as Mount Doom in "The Lord of the Rings" movies is in danger of erupting as pressure builds in a subterranean vent. Read more NZ Fears 'Mount Doom' Eruption: DNews Nugget

Astronomical News

Giant Sun Eruption Captured in NASA Video

The sun unleashed a monster eruption of super-hot plasma in back-to-back solar storms captured on camera by a NASA spacecraft. Read more


'White Widows' May Spawn Supernovae

What happens when you combine a white dwarf with an M dwarf star? A possible answer to a supernova mystery. Read more

'White Widows' May Spawn Supernovae

Awesome Pictures

Scrappy Mammal Survived Dinosaur Extinction

The mammal, which had an upturned snout, a sturdy body and short, wide legs likely survived thanks to its underground lifestyle. Read more Scrappy Mammal Survived Dinosaur Extinction

Even apes have 'midlife crises,' study finds

FILE - In this Feb. 1, 2011 file photo, chimpanzees sit in an enclosure at the Chimpanzee Eden rehabilitation center, near Nelspruit, South Africa. A study of chimps and orangutans released on Monday, Nov. 19, 2012, finds the same pattern of changes in happiness through life as many studies find in people. (AP Photo/Erin Conway-Smith, File) Chimpanzees going through a midlife crisis? It sounds like a setup for a joke. But there it is, in the title of a report published Monday in a scientific journal: "Evidence for a midlife crisis in great apes."
So what do these apes do? Buy red Ferraris? Leave their mates for some cute young bonobos?
Uh, no.
"I believe no ape has ever purchased a sports car," said Andrew Oswald, an author of the study. But researchers report that captive chimps and orangutans do show the same low ebb in emotional well-being at midlife that some studies find in people.
That suggests the human tendency toward midlife discontent may have been passed on through evolution, rather than resulting simply from the hassles of modern life, said Oswald, a professor of economics at the University of Warwick in England who presented his work Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
A second study in the journal looks at a younger age group and finds that happiness in youth can lead to higher income a few years down the road.
More on that later. Let's get back to those apes.
Several studies have concluded that happiness in human adults tends to follow a certain course between ages 20 and 70: It starts high and declines over the years to reach a low point in the late 40s, then turns around and rises to another peak at 70. On a graph, that's a U-shaped pattern. Some researchers question whether that trend is real, but to Oswald the mystery is what causes it.
"This is one of the great patterns of human life. We're all going to slide along this U for good or ill," he said. "So what explains it?"
When he learned that others had been measuring well-being in apes, "it just seemed worth pursuing the hunch that the U might be more general than in humans," he said.
He and co-authors assembled data on 508 great apes from zoos and research centers in the U.S., Australia, Canada, Singapore and Japan. Caretakers and other observers had filled out a four-item questionnaire to assess well-being in the apes. The questions asked such things as the degree to which each animal was in a positive or negative mood, how much pleasure it got from social situations, and how successful it was in achieving goals. The raters were even asked how happy they would be if they were the animal for a week.
Sounds wacky? Oswald and his co-authors say research suggests it's a valid approach. And they found that the survey results produced that familiar U-shaped curve, adjusted to an ape's shorter lifespan.
"We find it for these creatures that don't have a mortgage and don't have to go to work and don't have marriage and all the other stuff," Oswald said. "It's as though the U shape is deep in the biology of humans" rather than a result of uniquely human experiences.
Yes, apes do have social lives, so "it could still be something human-like that we share with our social cousins," he said. "But our result does seem to push away the likelihood that it's dominantly something to do with human life."
Oswald said it's not clear what the evolutionary payoff might be from such discontent. Maybe it prods parents to be restless, "to help find new worlds for the next generation to breed," he said.
Frans de Waal, an authority in primate behavior at Emory University, cautioned that when people judge the happiness of apes, there may be a "human bias." But in an email he called the results "intuitively correct" and said the notion of biological influence over the human pattern is "an intriguing possibility."
Even happiness researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky of the University of California, Riverside, who thinks the U-shaped pattern in people is a statistical mirage, says she can't write off the ape result the same way. "I'm not really sure what it means," she said. "I am finding this very intriguing." Maybe it will spur more thinking about what's going on in both apes and humans, she said.
Oswald is also an author of a second report in the journal that finds new evidence that being happy can help young people earn more money later on. Prior research had also reached that conclusion, but Lyubomirsky and University of Virginia psychology professor Shige Oishi called the new work the best evidence yet.
"Wow," Oishi said in an email. "This is a very strong paper" in its approach.
Researchers drew on data from a huge sample of young Americans who were surveyed repeatedly. They were asked to rate their positive feelings such as happiness and hopefulness at age 16 and again at 18, and their satisfaction with life at 22. Researchers then compared their ratings with their income around age 29. The data came from nearly 15,000 participants at age 16, and at least 11,000 at the latter two ages.
Higher income at age 29 was consistently linked to greater happiness at the earlier ages. The least happy 16-year-olds, for example, went on to average about $10,000 a year less than the happiest. That disparity shrank by about half when the researchers statistically removed the effect of other influences such as ethnicity, health and education.
A happiness effect even appeared between siblings within their own families.
What's going on? Most likely, happiness raises productivity and helps a person work effectively with others, factors that promote success in the workplace, Oswald said. The study found that happier people were more likely to get a college degree and get hired and promoted.
Ed Diener, an authority on happiness research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said optimism probably plays a role because it helps people persist in their efforts and take on difficult goals. Since several studies, including his own, have now linked happiness to later income, that idea seems reliable, he said.
Parents should recognize that "the psychological well-being of their children is important in how well the kids will do in simple dollar terms later on," Oswald said. And unhappy people should realize that they might have to strive harder than others to focus on work and promotion rather than their unhappiness, he said.

Breathtaking Murmurations Of Starlings

A flock of starlings is called a murmuration. For some it may look as a romantic spectacle of nature, others associate it with a horror movie scene, while for street sweepers it just means a lot of crap to clean. The way they all suddenly change direction or speed still remains the secret of nature, but there are theories to support both the scientific and the supernatural side of it.

No matter what, it's a magical sight which occurs in February and November.

Colorful Animals

The Costa Rican Variable Harlequin Toad, also known as the clown frog.

Rare White Whale Spotted

A rare white whale, reminiscent of Moby Dick, is spotted off the Norway coast. Read more Rare White Whale Spotted: DNews Nugget

Dolphins being killed with screwdrivers, shot in Alabama, Louisiana

Authorities don’t yet know who is doing the killing and mutilating of dolphins along the Gulf Coast of the US, but the reports have been trickling in for a few months.  And they’re gruesome.The IMMS (Institute for Marine Mammal Studies) and NOAA are looking for answers. Killing a dolphin is a federal offense that involves a considerable fine, as well as jail. Let’s hope they find the sick person(s) sooner than later.
Sun Herald.com:
On Friday, a team from the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport found a dolphin on Ship Island with its lower jaw missing.
Last weekend, IMMS responded to a dead dolphin found along the Ocean Springs/Gautier coastline with a 9mm bullet wound. “It went through the abdomen, into the kidneys and killed it,” said Moby Solangi, IMMS executive director.
In Louisiana, a dolphin was found with its tail cut off.
“Animals don’t eat each other’s tails off,” Solangi said.
Ah yes, proud Red Staters exercising their constitutional right to kill stuff.
What kind of messed up person kills dolphins?  And like this?
This is part of a larger concern about a recent upswing in dolphin deaths:
Dolphin deaths also are being investigated as part of an “unusual mortality event” in which more than 700 dolphins have died since February 2010.
“The unusual mortality event investigation began two months before the oil spill, and it has been a rare event in that we have never seen an unusual mortality event investigation last as long or involve so many dolphins.
“We can’t definitely say the oil spill played a role or contributed to that, but it is one of the likely causes that we are investigating very closely,” Zink said.

Endangered four-month-old spectacled bear cub rescued from poachers in Peru

Authorities in Peru have saved a four-month-old spectacled bear cub from poachers after her mother was attacked by hunters. The endangered bear cub, who may have been destined for the illegal pet trade, was rescued from poachers by Peruvian forestry officials and national police in the city of Chiclayo.

The four-month-old cub is now recovering in Lima's Huachipa Zoo and is receiving specialist care after being caged by hunters for ten days. According to vet Celia Diaz the young cub was christened Juanita by zoo officials. "The story of this four-month-old bear cub is really very tragic ... villagers wounded his mother with two cubs.

"She was able to flee, probably injured, with one of the cubs and she abandoned the other, who stayed behind." The villagers caught the cub and kept her in captivity for about ten days. Perhaps because of the food the animal had during this time, she was dehydrated," Diaz said. According to zoo official Lizette Bermudez, cubs like Juanita are highly-prized items in Peru's lucrative black-market of rare animals.

YouTube link.

The spectacled bear is the only bear native to South America and can be found in northern and western areas of the continent from Venezuela to northwestern Argentina. The World Wide Fund for Nature has said that as few as 6,000 spectacled bears are estimated to remain in the northern Andes, with hundreds hunted down each year in the region.

Animal Pictures


I really think theyre adorable.

FISHER. Hide your pets. They are Bad Ass.