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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, February 18, 2013

The Daily Drift


Some of our readers today have been in:
Mykolayiv, Ukraine
Pretoria, South Africa
Tunis, Tunisia
Kabul, Aghanistan
Sofia, Bulgaria
Ankara, Turkey
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Nairobi, Kenya
Luxembourg, Luxembourg
Kiev, Ukraine
Warsaw, Poland
Minsk, Belarus
Jakarta, Indonesia
Belgrade, Serbia
Cape Town, South Africa
Cairo, Egypt
Bau, Germany
Doha, Qatar
Karachi, Pakistan
Khartoum, Sudan

And across Malaysia in cities such as: Johor Bahru, Kuala Lumpur, Sandakan, Puchong and Klang

Today is  Cow Milked While Flying in an Airplane Day
Elm Farm Ollie became the first cow to fly in an airplane on this day in 1931. During the flight she was milked and the milk was sealed in paper containers and parachuted over St. Louis, Missouri.
It is also Pluto Day

Don't forget to visit our sister blog!

Today in History

1478 George, the Duke of Clarence, who had opposed his brother Edward IV, is murdered in the Tower of London.
1688 Quakers in Germantown, Pa. adopt the fist formal antislavery resolution in America.
1813 Czar Alexander enters Warsaw at the head of his Army.
1861 Victor Emmanuel II becomes the first King of Italy.
1861 Jefferson F. Davis is inaugurated as the Confederacy's provisional president at a ceremony held in Montgomery, Ala.
1865 Union troops force the Confederates to abandon Fort Anderson, N.C.
1878 The bitter and bloody Lincoln County War begins with the murder of Billy the Kid's mentor, Englishman rancher John Tunstall.
1885 The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, is published in New York.
1907 600,000 tons of grain are sent to Russia to relieve the famine there.
1920 Vuillemin and Chalus complete their first flight over the Sahara Desert.
1932 Manchurian independence is formally declared.
1935 Rome reports sending troops to Italian Somalia.
1939 The Golden Gate Exposition opens in San Francisco.
1943 German General Erwin Rommel takes three towns in Tunisia, North Africa.
1944 The U.S. Army and Marines invade Eniwetok Atoll in the Pacific.
1945 U.S. Marines storm ashore at Iwo Jima.
1954 East and West Berlin drop thousands of propaganda leaflets on each other after the end of a month long truce.
1962 Robert F. Kennedy says that U.S. troops will stay in Vietnam until Communism is defeated.
1964 The United States cuts military aid to five nations in reprisal for having trade relations with Cuba.
1967 The National Art Gallery in Washington agrees to buy a Da Vinci for a record $5 million.
1968 Three U.S. pilots that were held by the Vietnamese arrive in Washington.
1972 The California Supreme Court voids the death penalty.
1974 Randolph Hearst is to give $2 million in free food for the poor in order to open talks for his daughter Patty.
1982 Mexico devalues the peso by 30 percent to fight an economic slide.

Non Sequitur


Scans reveal intricate brain wiring

Brain image of Pallab GhoshScans reveal intricate brain wiring

Scientists will soon release the first batch of data from a project designed to create the first map showing the detailed connections in the human brain.
Mind mapping: Inside the brain's wiring

Did you ...

About the dehumanization of education

About hate and hashtags: twitter's speech problem

About the crony capitalist blow-oit

The 20 words we owe William Shakespeare

Illinois woman killed same day sister sat behind Obama


An 18-year-old Chicago woman was killed the same day her sister had sat on the stage behind President Barack Obama, listening to him push for gun control legislation.
Janay Mcfarlane was shot once in the head around 11:30 p.m. Friday in North Chicago, Lake County Coroner Thomas Rudd told the Chicago Sun-Times (http://bit.ly/12Uoh9b). Mcfarlane, a mother of a 3-month-old boy, was in the Chicago suburb visiting friends and family.
North Chicago police said two people are being questioned in connection with Mcfarlane's death, but no charges have been filed.
"I really feel like somebody cut a part of my heart out," Angela Blakely, Mcfarlane's mother, said.
Blakely said the bullet that killed Mcfarlane was meant for a friend.
Hours earlier, Mcfarlane's 14-year-old sister was feet from Obama at Hyde Park Career Academy, where he spoke about gun violence and paid tribute to Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old honor student fatally shot last month in a South Side park. Police have said it was a case of mistaken identity, and two people have been charged.
Pendleton's death was one of more than 40 homicides in Chicago in January, a total that made it the deadliest January in the city in more than a decade. Pendleton, a drum majorette, had recently performed during Obama's inauguration and the slaying happened about a mile from his Chicago home.
Blakely told the newspaper that Janay Mcfarlane had been affected by Pendleton's death.
"She always said after Hadiya Pendleton got killed, 'Momma that's so sad,'" Blakely said. "She was always touched by any kid that got killed. She was always touched by mothers who couldn't be there for their babies because they were gone."
Mcfarlane was supposed to graduate from an alternative school this spring, Blakely said, and wanted to go into the culinary arts.
"I'm just really, truly just trying to process it — knowing that I'm not taking my baby home anymore," Blakely said.

The Mainstream Media Finally Challenges repugican Lies

The mainstream finally stepped up today,and on separate Sunday shows, challenged the lies and talking points of repugicans Paul Ryan and John McCain.
Paul Ryan tried to rewrite history on the sequester, but he ran into a brick wall named Jonathan Karl on ABC.

RYAN: The Senate hasn’t passed a bill to replace the sequester. The president gave a speech showing that he’d like to replace it, but he hasn’t put any details out there. So that is why I conclude I believe it’s going to take place.
But take a step back. We are here because the president back in the last session of congress refused to cut spending in any place and therefore we wound up with the sequester.
KARL: But Congressman, I’ve heard you say this and a talking point for repugicans for a long time. This was the president’s idea on and on and on, but let’s look at your own words. What you said right after the law putting this in place was passed in August of 2011. These are your words. You said “what conservatives like me have been fighting for, for years are statutory caps on spending, literally legal caps in law that says government agencies cannot spend over a set amount of money and if they breach that amount across the board sequester comes in to cut that spending. You can’t turn it out without a supermajority. We got that into law.
Now it sounds to me there like if you weren’t taking credit for the idea of the sequester, you were certainly suggesting it was a good idea.
A bigger surprise occurred when David Gregory confronted John McCain about his Benghazi cover up conspiracy theory.
The following post has full story, but the confrontation went in part,
JOHN MCCAIN: So there are many, many questions. And we have had- a massive cover-up on the part of-
DAVID GREGORY:But a massive cover-up of what?
DAVID GREGORY:-I mean, Susan Ri- wait a minute-
DAVID GREGORY:Susan Rice said there was a lot of-
JOHN MCCAIN: Do you care-
DAVID GREGORY:-confusion.
JOHN MCCAIN: Do you care-
DAVID GREGORY: I’m asking you-
JOHN MCCAIN: Do you care to-
DAVID GREGORY:-what is the repugican way-
JOHN MCCAIN: I’m asking you, do you care- I- I’m- I’m asking you, do you care whether four Americans died? Or do you- the reasons for that? And- and shouldn’t pe- people be held accountable for the fact that four Americans died-
DAVID GREGORY: Well, what you said was the cover-up-
DAVID GREGORY: A cover-up of what?
John McCain seemed quite surprised and then immediately enraged when he realized that David Gregory, whose standard reply to repugican talking points is a serious look and then the expression mmhmm, would actually challenge him on something that he said.
It is unusual for a repugican guest to be challenged once on any one of the Sunday talk shows. The repugicans never seem to get challenged twice, and mainstream media repugican darlings like John McCain and Paul Ryan never get challenged at all.
There are a few different possible explanations for why this happened. Maybe the mainstream media is beginning to catch on to the fact that the 65 million people who voted for Barack Obama in 2012 represent the majority. I have grave doubts that this sort of earth shaking epiphany actually reached the corporations that control our mainstream media.
A more likely explanation is that repugicans have gone too far. Imaginary conspiracies to justify filibustering a defense secretary nominee, and completely revising history in order to eliminate your role in it may be a bridge to far for the mainstream media. (The mainstream press has been allowing repugicans to invent their own facts for years, so why start trying to enforce a standard of truth on repugicans now?)
For whatever reason, we were treated to glimpse of what it would look like if our media held repugicans accountable for their lies and false statements. When Karl confronted Paul Ryan he got that familiar eyes glazed over deer in headlights look that we all know so well from the 2012 campaign. Over on Meet The Press, John McCain looked like he was ready to go all North Vietnam on David Gregory for daring to question him.
The repugican are used to being softballed by the corporate media Sunday shows, that Ryan and McCain fell apart as soon as they pushed at all. If the mainstream media would do this everyday, repugicans would be held accountable for their lies, and maybe if the political price was high enough, they would choose to join the rest of us in reality.
If this what the mainstream media could be, it is time for viewers to vote with their remotes and demand a media that challenges and informs.

John McCain Cracks Up After David Gregory Calls Out His Benghazi Conspiracy

When John McCain peddled his Benghazi cover up conspiracy theory on Meet the Press, things didn’t go as he expected. Even his old friend David Gregory will no longer stand confidently on the rickety timber of McCain’s bitterness.
Gregory pushed back, demanding facts and specifics, “I’m asking you, a cover up of what?” This led to John McCain exploding in an ad hominem attack accusing Gregory of not caring that four Americans died, as if there were no middle ground between believing John McCain in spite of the evidence and caring about the deaths of Americans.
Video via NBC News:
Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Transcript from Meet The Press:
JOHN MCCAIN: So there are many, many questions. And we have had– a massive cover-up on the part of–
DAVID GREGORY:But a massive cover-up of what?
DAVID GREGORY:–I mean, Susan Ri– wait a minute–
DAVID GREGORY:Susan Rice said there was a lot of–
JOHN MCCAIN: Do you care–
DAVID GREGORY:–confusion.
JOHN MCCAIN: Do you care–
DAVID GREGORY: I’m asking you–
JOHN MCCAIN: Do you care to–
DAVID GREGORY:–what is the repugican way–
JOHN MCCAIN: I’m asking you, do you care– I– I’m– I’m asking you, do you care whether four Americans died? Or do you– the reasons for that? And– and shouldn’t pe– people be held accountable for the fact that four Americans died–
DAVID GREGORY: Well, what you said was the cover-up–
DAVID GREGORY: A cover-up of what?
JOHN MCCAIN: Of the information– concerning the deaths of four brave Americans. The information has not been forthcoming. You can obviously believe that it has. I know that it hasn’t. And I’ll be glad to send you a list of the questions that have not been answered, including what did the president do and who did he talk to the night of the attack on Benghazi?
And why was it? Why was it that we– that the f– the people who were evacuated from the– from the consulate the next day were not interviewed the next day. And then they would’ve known that it was not a spontaneous demonstration. Why did the president for two weeks, for two weeks during the heat of the campaign continue to say he didn’t know whether it was a terrorist attack or not?
When John McCain has lost even David Gregory, it might be time for him to reboot. The Arizona Senator seems unable to get over his 2008 bitterness, and is wallowing in self-pitying rage that he still expects the media to buy sans any proof. The press has been McCain’s “base” for so long that being assertively questioned by them and asked to provide specifics must have been shocking. McCain didn’t come prepared with details or facts, because for years he hasn’t needed either.
McCain peddled his conpsiracy as far as he could, even managing to continue long after he embarrassed himself by sqwaking about how he needed more information while skipping a briefing on Benghazi. Only John McCain seems to be unable to get over his dashed hopes of a conspiracy cover up when faced with facts. Even the Hillary Clinton Benghazi hearing schooling failed to awaken the Senator to reality.
We witnessed history today as David Gregory pushed back against John McCain’s Benghazi conspiracy theory. The repugicans have taken the crazy so far that even David Gregory refuses to carry their Benghazi conspiracy water.
Meanwhile, because of John McCain’s irrational grudges against Chuck Hagel and Barack Obama, the once proud Country First presidential candidate has left the nation without a sitting Secretary of Defense during a time of war.

The repugicans Want to Take Away Healthcare from 30 Million to Pay for More Military Spending

Sen. Lindsey Graham spoke for many of his repugican colleagues today when he proposed avoiding the military cuts in the sequester by taking healthcare away from 30 million Americans.
Transcript of Graham on Faux News Sunday via Think Progress:
CHRIS WALLACE: “Let me just ask you one more question about the sequestration before we let you go, Senator. You know if we go into the sequester, the president is going to hammer repugicans, the White House already put out a list of all the things, terrible things that will happen if a sequester kicks in, 70,000 children losing Head Start. 2100 fewer food inspectors and small business will lose $900 million in loan guarantees and you know, Senator, the president will say your party is forcing this to protect tax cuts for the wealthy.”
GRAHAM: “Well, all I can say is the commander-in-chief thought — came up with the idea of sequestration, destroying the military and putting a lot of good programs at risk. It is my belief — take Obamacare and put it on the table. You can make $86,000 a year in income and still get a government subsidy under Obamacare. Obamacare is destroying health care in this country and people are leaving the private sector, because their companies cannot afford to offer Obamacare and if you want to look at ways to find $1.2 trillion in savings over the next decade, look at Obamacare, don’t destroy the military and cut blindly across the board. There are many ways to do it but the president is the commander-in-chief and on his watch we’ll begin to unravel the finest military in the history of the world, at a time when we need it most. The Iranians are watching us, we are allowing people to be destroyed in Syria, and I’m disappointed in our commander-in-chief.”
Graham is not alone. House repugicans have twice tried to dodge the military cuts in the sequester by passing bills that would have immediately cut healthcare and food for hundreds of thousands of children and seniors. The repugican plan to eliminate healthcare for 30 million Americans is nothing news. House repugicans have attempted to repeal Obamacare 34 times. Each of these attempted repeals, if they had been successful, would have eliminated healthcare for 30 million Americans.
All Sen. Graham did was tie two repugican favorites together. (Sort of like an anti-Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of bad public policy. Two horrible things that should never be put together.)
Graham’s argument ignores the fact that repealing Obamacare would increase the deficit.
According to the CBO, repealing Obamacare would increase the deficit by $109 billion. The end result of Graham’s proposal would be 30 million people without healthcare, and over a hundred billion dollars added to the deficit. But hey, maybe this will keep Graham from facing a tea party challenger when he is up for reelection next year?
It is not a coincidence that Lindsey Graham floated this scheme on Faux News. In an attempt to avoid a tea party primary challenge next year, Graham has gone batshit crazy. Because he is terrified of being primaried from the right, Graham has thrown reality out the window.
The repugicans now try to sprinkle the words immigration and the middle class into their comments, but nothing has really changed. Attempting to take away healthcare from 30 million people is just business as usual for the repugican cabal.

Facebook getting a $429m tax refund even though it owes $559m

Despite a bungled IPO, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is still suddenly a billionaire and quite a few Facebook employees are worth a mint.
Because of that new found wealth, Facebook uses the tax law to the fullest, and counts the stock in a way that makes the books look as though the company faced a loss. Facebook actually owes $559 million in federal taxes, but because of a cute accounting trick, they’re writing off their stock options and getting a rebate.The end result is a whopping $429 million tax refund.
Anyone else think the US tax law is a mess and tilted in favor of the 1%? Usually it’s the bankers that are squeezing the system for all its worth but this time, it’s everyone’s favorite social tool.
Business Week:
Even though Facebook (FB) reported $1.1 billion in pre-tax profits from U.S. operations in 2012, it will probably pay zero federal and state taxes—and even receive a federal tax refund of about $429 million—according to a Feb. 14 statement from Citizens for Tax Justice.
The tax-research and -lobbying organization says companies such as Facebook should treat stock options the same in their reports to shareholders as they do in their tax filings. Citizens for Tax Justice calls the tax footnotes in Facebook’s Jan. 30 financial statement “an amazing admission,” but there’s nothing illegal about the breaks the company is claiming. Companies like Facebook are allowed to treat the cost of non-cash compensation, such as stock options, as an expense that reduces profits, essentially the way they treat cash compensation such as salaries.
Whether it’s gaming the tax law this time or claiming ownership of your own photos, the history of this company is pretty clear. While I can see the benefits of using Facebook in certain circumstances, the annoying behavior that will never go away outweighs the benefits for me, which is why I closed my account. Buyer beware.

Bangladesh amends war crimes law, mulls banning Islamists

A boy waves a Bangladesh national flag as he chants a slogan before a mass funeral as the body of Rajib Haider, an architect and blogger who was a key figure in organising demonstrations, arrives at Shahbagh intersection in Dhaka February 16, 2013. More than 100,000 Bangladeshi protesters, angered by the killing of one of their leaders, poured back onto the streets of the capital on Saturday to demand the death penalty for those found guilty of war crimes in the 1971 independence conflict. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj   
Bangladesh's parliament, meeting demands of protesters thronging the capital, amended a law on Sunday allowing the state to appeal any verdict in war crimes trials it deems inadequate and out of step with public opinion. Tens of thousands of demonstrators jamming central Shahbag Square for the 13th day burst into cheers amid driving rain as the assembly approved the changes.
The protesters have been demanding the death penalty for war crimes after a tribunal this month sentenced a prominent Islamist to life in prison in connection with Bangladesh's 1971 war of independence from Pakistan.
The life sentence pronounced on Abdul Quader Mollah, assistant Secretary General of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, for murder, rape and torture had stunned many Bangladeshis.
The amendment will "empower the tribunals to try and punish any organizations, including Jamaat-e-Islami, for committing crimes during country's liberation war in 1971", Law Minister Shafique Ahmed said after the change was approved.
Lawyers said the amendment sets a timetable for the government to appeal against Mollah's sentence and secure a retrial. The previous law did not allow state prosecutors to call for a retrial except in the case of acquittals.
Adoption was quick -- less than a week after the amendment was approved by the cabinet in the overwhelmingly Muslim country of 150 million.
Opposition benches were empty as the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (the BNP) of former premier Begum Khaleda Zia and its allies have been boycotting sessions almost since her arch rival, Sheikh Hasina, leader of the Awami League, took office in 2009.
On Sunday, BNP leaders and activists held a rally outside the party's central office in the capital, calling for the next parliamentary election in January 2014 to be held under a non-party caretaker administration.
"The government is trying to use the protests over the war crime trials to divert attention from critical national issues such as our demand for election under a caretaker authority to ensure a clean and unbiased vote," BNP's acting Secretary-General, Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, told the rally.
Other BNP leaders urged the demonstrators at Shahbag to speak out against "corruption, politicization of the administration ahead of the polls and tampering the judiciary to persecute rivals."
Hasina and Khaleda have rotated as prime minister of the south Asian country since 1991 and their unending enmity has earned them a reputation as the "Battling Begums."
The two are likely to face off again in the next polls, party officials said.
The BNP also accuses the prime minister of using the war crimes tribunal as a weapon against her opponents. Hasina denies the accusation.
In its first verdict last month, the tribunal sentenced a former Jamaat leader, Abul Kamal Azad, also an Islamic preacher, to death in absentia for killing, murder and torture.
Eight other Jamaat leaders, including its current and former chiefs, are being tried by the war crimes court that Hasina set up in 2010 to investigate abuses during the 1971 conflict. Three million people were killed and thousands of women were raped.
The government is facing growing pressure from the protesters to ban Jamaat-e-Islami, the country's largest Islamist party, and groups linked to it.
Law minister Shafique Ahmed told reporters the government was considering such a ban.
Jamaat activists have called a country-wide strike for Monday, but demonstrators and many shopkeepers have pledged to resist any attempt to enforce such a stoppage.
The authorities deployed paramilitary soldiers in the capital on Sunday evening trying to prevent violence during and ahead of the strike.
Bangladesh became part of Pakistan at the end of British rule in 1947 but broke away in 1971 after a war between Bangladeshi nationalists, backed by India, and Pakistani forces.
Some factions in what was then East Pakistan opposed the break with Pakistan. Jamaat denies accusations that it opposed independence and helped the Pakistani army.

French, Malian troops secure rebel strong-point near Gao

French and Malian troops secured the north Mali town of Bourem on Sunday, tightening their control over areas where Islamist insurgents have been launching guerrilla attacks to harass the French-led military operation."Bourem is a bastion of Islamists," said a military official from an African military contingent called AFISMA.
African troops in this contingent are being deployed behind the French forward lines in the five-week-old intervention by Paris in its former Sahel colony.
Located by the Niger River, Bourem is about 80 km (50 miles) north of Gao at a crossroads between Timbuktu to the west and Kidal to the north, both of which are now under French and Malian government control.
"All the current problems in Gao come from Bourem," said the official, who asked not to be named. He said there had been no real fighting to take the town.
French leaders have said they intend to start pulling out the 4,000 French troops in Mali in March to hand over security to the Malian army and to the U.N.-backed AFISMA force, which is expected to exceed 8,000 soldiers and is drawn mainly from Mali's West African neighbors.
Last week two suicide bombers struck at the same checkpoint on the road coming into Gao from Bourem, while insurgents also launched a surprise raid in Gao battling French and local troops.
The attacks, two weeks after Gao was liberated from al Qaeda-allied rebels who had held it for 11 months, surprised the French and the Malian soldiers there and raised the prospect of a laborious counter-insurgency task for Paris' forces.
After driving the jihadist rebels from main northern towns such as Gao and Timbuktu, French warplanes and special forces are searching for rebel hideouts in the remote and mountainous northeast, where Paris believes the insurgents may be holding French hostages sized in the Sahel and Nigeria.
The United States and Europe back the French-led operation against al Qaeda and its allies in Mali, hoping it will ward off the threat of jihadist attacks in Africa and elsewhere.
But while providing logistical and intelligence support in Mali, the American and European governments have ruled out sending their own ground troops, and analysts say the French may be left with a messy anti-guerrilla war on their hands.

Desperate man reduced to living in his car jailed for trying to get benefits he was entitled to

In a classic example of how Britain's most vulnerable people are being treated by the Government, a man who doused himself with petrol and tried to set himself alight in a job center after a dispute over benefits he was due has been jailed for 20 months. Stuart Jones had a grievance against the Department for Work and Pensions and went to the job center with a can of petrol at about 2:45pm  on 3 October, 2012.

Jones, 44, of Wrexham, but living in his car at the time, was owed £1,100 and told staff at the town's job center he would set himself on fire unless he got it. He shouted: "I want my money," adding: "Nobody is listening to me. I am going to set myself on fire." The court heard that he held a lighter upside down and it failed to ignite. Staff raised the alarm and got blankets and a fire extinguisher as a precaution. Security staff calmed him down, police negotiators were called in, and he was in fact handed three checks totaling £1,100 which, it was established, he was owed.

Stephen Edwards, defending, said that his client had physical issues following a motorcycle accident when he was young, and mental health issues, both of which entitled him to an enhanced disability allowance. He was desperate and had been to the Job Center earlier to try and sort matters out, had enlisted the help of CAB which tried to help him, but he felt no one was listening and that he was being fobbed off.

Jones, who had no previous convictions, had previously worked as a welder and as a door supervisor, was unable to work because of his condition, was homeless and living out of his car, had to ask his mother for money and was desperate. But Mr Edwards said he wished to stress that his client did not wish to harm anyone else. “It was just himself,” he said. The defendant later told a psychiatrist that he did not regret what he had done. He had been handed £1,100 before he left the Job Center after his protest. At Mold Crown Court on Thursday Jones was jailed for 20 months after he admitted threatening to destroy property and possessing articles intending to destroy property.

Mercury shows off its colorful side

Scientists working on Nasa's Messenger probe to Mercury show off a stunning new colour map of the innermost world of the solar system.

Mosh Pit Physics

vCornell graduate student Jesse Silverberg observed mosh pit activity at a heavy metal concert, and was inspired to study the movements of the dancers. Those movements turned out to be a lot like how gas particles move.
To investigate, the team simulated a mosh pit with a few basic rules: the virtual moshers bounce off each other when they collide (instead of sticking or sliding through each other); they can move independently; and they can flock, or follow each other, to varying degrees. Finally, the team added a certain amount of statistical noise to the simulated moshers' movements – "to mimic the effects of the inebriants that the participants typically use", says co-author Matthew Bierbaum.

They found that by tweaking their model parameters – decreasing noise or increasing the tendency to flock, for instance – they could make the pit shift between the random-gas-like moshing and a circular vortex called a circle pit, which is exactly what they saw in the YouTube videos of real mosh pits. Their simulation is available online.

"These are collective behaviours that you wouldn't have predicted based on the previous literature on collective motion in humans," Silverberg says. "That work was geared at pedestrians, but what we're seeing is fundamentally different."

"The fact that human beings are very complex creatures, and yet we can develop a lifeless computer simulation that mimics their behaviour, really tells us that we're understanding something new about the behaviour of crowds that we didn't understand before," says co-author James Sethna.
Read more about the research at New Scientist.

The Beau Street hoard

In November 2007, during a routine archaeological excavation in advance of building work in Beau Street, Bath (a stone’s throw from the famous Roman Baths themselves), archaeologists came upon what was clearly a very large number of coins contained within a cist (a stone-lined box). Upon further excavation, they quickly came to realise they were looking at one of the largest coin hoards found in the UK, representing quite a tumultuous time in Roman Britain – about AD 270.  In order to preserve its shape and context, the archaeologists cut around the hoard and lifted it in a soil block.
The initial report was posted in May of 2012.   Last week there was a followup, with some post-conservation photos and data.
We have been able to sort and count seven of the eight Roman money bags contained within the hoard – one is still undergoing conservation. The total so far is 14,646 coins, but as the final bag is large we expect this to go up to over 16,000 coins...

This glass fish was made 1900 years ago!

Not in 1900.  1,900 years ago, in about 100 A.D.  In Afghanistan.
The exhibition Afghanistan: Crossroads of the Ancient World contains nineteen of the roughly 180 glass vessels found in the ancient Kushan storerooms at Begram. Many have very close parallels from the Roman world which also support a date of about 100 AD for the sealing of the rooms. These include mosaic glass and ribbed bowls, facet-cut beakers, a drinking horn, a jug decorated with gold foil, another that appears almost black, and a stunning series decorated with scenes painted in brightly coloured vitreous enamels. All functioned as tablewares but, whereas some are very common, others were probably relatively expensive.

However, some of the vessels found at Begram remain something of a mystery and these include as many as twenty-two which are in the shape of fish and other creatures. Three of these are shown in the exhibition. They were made by inflating the glass while it was hot and adding trails of glass to the body, and sometimes in a different colour, to create very distinctive fins. The composition of the glass resembles that of Roman glass made in Egypt yet there are no known parallels, either complete or fragmentary, for these vessels from the Roman world.
You can read more details at The British Museum's blog,

The Soft Drink Borders

Soft drink borders

Chronic pain alters DNA marking in brain

Injuries that result in chronic pain, such as limb injuries, and those unrelated to the brain are associated with epigenetic changes in the brain which persist months after the injury, according to researchers at McGill University. Epigenetics explores how the environment – including diet, exposure to contaminants and social conditions such as poverty – can have a long-term impact on the activity of our genes.
The team led by Prof. Laura Stone, a professor at the Faculty of Dentistry and the Alan Edwards Center for Research on Pain, and Prof. Moshe Szyf, a professor at the Faculty of Medicine’s Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, have discovered a mechanism that embeds the memory of an injury in the way the DNA is marked in the brain by a chemical coating called methyl groups or DNA methylation. The researchers report in the journal PLOS One, that if the symptoms of chronic pain are attenuated, the abnormal changes in DNA methylation could be reversed.
800px A DNA B DNA and Z DNA 150x150 Chronic pain alters DNA marking in brain 
Research pioneered at McGill has previously shown that experiences and not solely chemicals alter the way genes are marked epigenetically, impacting our behavior and well-being. DNA methylation, an epigenetic mark on the gene itself, can therefore serve as a “memory” of an experience that will alter the way the gene functions long after the original experience is gone. The crucial difference between “genetic” and “epigenetic” causes for disease is that genetic changes are inherited and fixed, while epigenetic changes in contrast are possibly reversible.
The McGill research is the first to link chronic pain to genome-wide epigenetic changes in the brain. “Injury results in long-term changes to the DNA markings in the brain; our work shows it might be possible to reverse the effects of chronic pain by interventions using either behavioral or pharmacological means that interfere with DNA methylation, says Prof. Szyf. ”Our findings have the potential to completely alter the way we treat chronic pain.”
In this study, the researchers show that behavioral interventions that reverse chronic pain also remove differences in DNA methylation in the brain.
The team report alterations in global DNA methylation are observed in the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and amygdala of mice many months following injury to a nerve, and that environmental enrichment reduces both the pain and the pathological changes in PFC global methylation. They also found that the total amount of global methylation in the PFC significantly correlates with pain severity.
“These results suggest that epigenetic modulation mediates chronic pain-related alterations in the central nervous system (CNS), forming a “memory trace” for pain in the brain that can be targeted therapeutically, says Stone. Since epigenetics respond to environmental changes, these mechanisms represent a mind-body link between chronic pain and the brain at the genomic level. “The implications of this work are wide reaching and may alter the way we think about chronic pain diagnosis, research and treatment”.

Look to Neanderthals to understand today’s health problems

Bunions bothering you? How about lower back pain, or impacted wisdom teeth? As we humans evolved over the millennia to walk on two legs, grow larger brains and shorter jaws, bear big babies and live longer, we’ve also experienced some negative consequences on our way to becoming the world’s most successful primate, at nearly 7 billion strong. But keeping our evolutionary history in mind can help us better deal with issues from obesity to difficult childbirth in a much more productive way, according to Karen Rosenberg, professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Delaware.
Neandertaler im Museum 150x150 Look to Neanderthals to understand todays health problems 
Rosenberg co-organized and spoke on the “Scars of Human Evolution” panel at one of the largest scientific gatherings in the world–the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) on Friday, Feb. 15, in Boston.
The panel’s title originated from a 1951 Scientific American article by Wilton Krogman that highlighted how our evolutionary history can account for many of the problems associated with the current human condition. Rosenberg and her co-panelists examined areas ranging from obstetrics and orthopedics, to dentistry, gerontology, diet and nutrition.
“We need to understand our evolutionary history in order to understand why we have some of the maladies that we have,” Rosenberg says. “They either helped us in a previous environment, or they are trade-offs from adaptations that did confer important advantages like our obstetrical and orthopedic problems that are side effects of walking on two legs rather than four.”
Today, the industrialized world faces rising obesity rates. Yet eons ago, food was scarce, and foraging was a constant activity to survive. The more fats and sugars that could be gained from food back then, the more energy to fuel those ever-expanding hominid brains.
The cavewoman of 100,000 years ago didn’t have 10-pound babies, take drugs, smoke, or have hypertension, diabetes and other problems associated with a modern lifestyle, Rosenberg notes.
But, Rosenberg asserts, our prehistoric ancestors likely gave birth with others present for protection and encouragement, a practice still important in today’s world where ever-larger babies squeeze through a “twisty-turny” birth canal, and infant mortality is still a serious problem in many nations.
“Studies show that women who give birth with a doula present — to provide emotional support — have significantly lower rates of obstetric intervention and shorter labors,” Rosenberg notes. “This maternal care during birth and the help we give in caring for children of family and friends comprise some of the most important aspects of our humanness.”
Although some may interpret the word “evolve” to mean we are moving toward perfection, Rosenberg reminds us that there is no direction to evolution.
“What’s best today, probably won’t be in the future,” she says. “There’s no inevitable directionality to it. Evolution is a tinkerer, not a designer. I would never be willing to predict where we will go next. Knowing what is advantageous in today’s world doesn’t tell us what will be advantageous in the future.”

Demand for cow urine medicine on the rise in India

Demand for 'Gomutra Arka', a medicine distilled out of cow urine, is on the rise in India. An arka manufacturer on the outskirts of Mangalore in Karnataka, south-western India, who supplies around 10 liters a day, claims that even the educated are using the ayurvedic preparation regularly to prevent diseases.

Govanithashraya Trust manufactures gomutra arka at its goshala (cow shelter) in Beejaguri at Pajeer, 26 km from the city. Goshala in-charge Santhosh Kumar said that they have plans to expand the manufacture unit as the demand for gomutra arka is increasing.

"We take care of more than 300 cows of various breeds. "Gomutra arka is effective in checking 109 types of diseases if consumed regularly as per the prescribed dosage. It increases resistance power, life span and purifies the blood, reduces cholesterol and checks obesity. It is also effective in skin diseases, acidity, kidney ailments and other diseases," he claimed, adding that even doctors use it routinely to prevent diseases.

Cow urine collected from local breeds like malenadu gidda, hallikaru and kankrej are used to make arka. There are other manufacturers, who also market arka," he added. Santhosh underwent training in making organic products from panchagavyas (cow urine, cow dung, milk, ghee and curd) at a goshala in Devarapur in Nagpur.

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Strange home intruder surprises police officers

Sheriff's deputies in Bartow County, Georgia responded to a residential break-in call in White on Thursday. When they arrived, they found something they never expected: a 30-pound wild turkey standing in the living room. "As I walked in, I saw feathers floating everywhere and saw broken glass," said Deputy Megan Kincer.

"I've been doing this for 10 years and I've never had anything similar." Arlene Shook was leading a field trip at the Georgia Aquarium when she got the phone call that someone had broken into her home. Kind of. "Oh, I definitely was relieved that it wasn't a person, until I got home and saw the mess that was made!" she laughed.

But the story gets even stranger: Deputy Kincer trapped the turkey in the master bedroom, closed the door and called animal control. But when they arrived moments later, the turkey was nowhere to be found. "We probably searched for maybe 45 minutes," said Arlene's son Todd Shook. "They looked under the bed, behind TVs ... we couldn't find it anywhere."

Arlene says she believes the turkey mistook the trees' reflection in the glass for its home. She said there are about 15 wild turkeys that frequent the trees around their backyard. Aside from a new window and a houseful of turkey droppings, the Shooks said they're no worse for the wear and laugh about the new story they have to tell. The turkey is still at large.

Kind police officer shut down busy road to save dog with bad hip

A police officer in La Porte, Texas, helped save a dog that was in trouble on a busy freeway on Monday. Cujo’s a jittery rat terrier with a bad hip who spends his days hanging around his house; but, that all changed on Monday. "I would describe him as a Napoleon-type of dog,” said Jeremy Zapalac, one of his owners. “He's very short, but with a very big ego." Still, it was surprising when Cujo ducked out of an open door and wandered away from home.

The Zapalac family spent much of the day searching their neighbourhood, calling in help from relatives to scour the area for their missing pet. “We spent the whole morning, about an hour, looking for him,” Zapalac said. “It started pouring down rain. And he hates water." As it turned out, Cujo drifted all the way up to Spencer Highway, a short drive in a car, but a long walk for a little dog with a hip that forces him to toddle around with a slight waddle. Somehow he crossed the busy road and started walking in a moving lane of traffic.

Cujo’s story might have ended right then and there, but the shivering pooch caught a lucky break. “He’s not going to make it if I don’t do something,” said Kyle Jones, a La Porte police officer who happened to be driving by. Jones made a quick decision: He spun his car around and blocked traffic on the busy highway to save the life of a lost dog. “When I saw it and saw the size of it, I immediately hit my lights and shut all the lanes off,” Jones said. The officer stepped out of his patrol car and bent over, calling out to the dog.

“You know how Chihuahuas are,” Jones said with a chuckle. “You're not really sure if you can trust 'em or not. But he kind of looked at me and said, 'Man, I'm glad you're here.' He let me pick him right up. Stuck him in the back seat of the patrol car." Jones turned the dog over to an animal control officer. Luckily, the Zapalac family had put an identification tag on Cujo’s collar. The animal control officer knocked on the family’s door and returned him home on Monday evening. "He was all wet,” Zapalac said. “He was soaked. We got him in wrapped him up, dried him up and he just slept in his bed all day."

Wiring the oceans for live feeds of animals

For most people, the sea is a deep, dark mystery. That is changing, though, as scientists find innovative ways to track the movements of ocean-going creatures. Stanford marine sciences professor and Stanford Woods Institute Senior Fellow Barbara Block is using technology to enable live feeds of animal movements relayed by a series of “ocean WiFi hotspots.” This could help protect marine ecosystems by revolutionizing how we understand their function, population structure, fisheries management and species’ physiological and evolutionary constraints.
Dasyatis americana bonaire 150x150 Wiring the oceans for live feeds of animals 
Block will explain how she is studying pelagic creatures with telemetry tags, and how she plane to “wire” the ocean at the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) meeting in Boston. Her talk, “Building a Wired Ocean With Electronic Tagged Animals and Mobile Gliders,” will be part of a symposium called “Networks of Discovery: Delivering Unsurpassed Insight Into Changing Global Ecosystems” from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 17 in room 312 of the Hynes Convention Center.
The miniaturization of sensors for tags, combined with acoustic receiver-carrying mobile glider platforms and instrumented buoys, has vastly expanded our capacity to obtain data from oceans at levels as small as bacteria and as large as blue whales. Block’s work is part of a larger effort to establish a global network of instruments to more comprehensively study the biosphere as it is altered – at unprecedented rates – by human activity and climate change.
Block’s project, the Blue Serengeti Initiative, builds on the Tagging of Pacific Predators program, part of the global Census of Marine Life, a decade-long study that invested $25 million in electronic tagging, enabling marine scientists from five nations to map ocean hot spots within the California Current.
At the AAAS meeting in Boston, Block will discuss her new project and explain how she uses wireless devices track the comings and goings of key ocean species.

Whale shark tangled in rope seeks help from humans

A few weeks back we posted an amazing video of a dolphin seeking help from a scuba diver, but this is every bit as interesting, and heart-warming.Besides approaching the boat and practically calling for help, the whale shark (which is technically a shark) steadies itself along the surface for minutes so that the snorkeler can breath while cutting the thick rope tied around the body.  The shark actually waited the entire time for the man to do his work.
This is a stock photo of a whale shark, just to give you a sense of what these amazing animals look like:
Whale shark (stock photo) via Shutterstock 
There’s a podcast interview with the man who saved the shark, Joe Scibberas.
Here’s the description of the video on YouTube:
A whale shark – a true shark that is in no way related to whales – has the distinction of being the largest fish in the ocean. It is a filter-feeder and would never swallow a human being. This remarkable story is of a roped whale shark that sought help from three fishermen off the coast of Australia just south of Sydney in March, 2003.
The documentary is narrated by Mark Spencer with music and production support by Roger Faynes. You can also hear an interview with Joe Sciberras (the fisherman helping the shark) on Brisbane’s ABC radio (with Warren Boland) here.
Here’s another great stock photo of divers with a whale shark, the video follows:
Whale shark (stock photo) via Shutterstock

Feral Cat Hunting

Clip from BBC documentary series Earthflight showing a feral cat, a wild descendant of a domestic cat, hunting birds. As the narrator explains, her hunting skills equal that of any tiger.

Guppies And The Value Of Ugly Friends

Researchers at Italy's University of Padua have found that guppies find true value in hanging out with ugly friends. It's all part of a natural selection process that the fish use to ensure procreation and the survival of the species.

No male wants to face a lot of tough competition when he can look like Prince Charming among the dwarfs. According to an article published this week by Britain's Royal Society male guppies purposely position themselves among drabber, less colorful comrades to get the girl.

Why Does A Dog Lick Its Nose?

When dogs are in their training stage a question that comes up a great deal is why do dogs lick their noses? While it's tempting to simply go with the old chestnut of an answer - because they can - there are a number of reasons why a dog might lick its own nose.

One thing is for certain sure, however: while they are doing it they often bring a smile to the faces of their human companions. As you can see from this spread of pictures, it's sometimes difficult to resist this particular canine photo opportunity.

Animal Pictures