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

Friday, May 17, 2013

The Daily Drift

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Today in History

1540   Afghan chief Sher Khan defeats Mongul Emperor Humayun at Kanauj.  
1630   Italian Jesuit Niccolo Zucchi sees the belts on Jupiter's surface.  
1681   Louis XIV sends and expedition to aid James II in Ireland. As a result, England declares war on France.  
1756   Britain declares war on France.
1792   Merchants form the New York Stock Exchange at 70 Wall Street.  
1814   Denmark cedes Norway to Sweden.  
1863   Union General Ulysses Grant continues his push towards Vicksburg at the Battle of the Big Black River Bridge.  
1875   The first Kentucky Derby is run in Louisville.  
1881   Frederick Douglass is appointed recorder of deeds for Washington, D.C.  
1940   Germany occupies Brussels, Belgium and begins the invasion of France.  
1954   The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously rules for school integration in Brown v. Board of Education. 1973   The Senate Watergate Committee begins its hearings.

Non Sequitur


North Carolina may ban Tesla sales to prevent “Unfair Competition”

A car dealership trade union in North Carolina has persuaded the state's Senate Commerce Committee to unanimously approve a law that would prohibit automakers from selling cars.
The bill is being pushed by the North Carolina Automobile Dealers Association, a trade group representing the state’s franchised dealerships. Its sponsor is state Sen. Tom Apodaca, a Republican from Henderson, who has said the goal is to prevent unfair competition between manufacturers and dealers. What makes it “unfair competition” as opposed to plain-old “competition” — something Republicans are typically inclined to favor — is not entirely clear.

The repugican cabal is raffling AR-15 “Sandy Hook”-type rifles as macabre pro-gun stunt

Nothing says “I’m responsible enough to own a gun” than repugicans who mock the deaths of 20 first and second graders by raffling off AR-15s, the very gun used at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.

But that’s what repugicans and pro-gun groups, including repugican cabal members of Congress, are doing nationwide in a macabre show of force for their right to be bear arms that mass-murder children.
Newtown, SandyHook, gun control 
The repugican member of Congress Steve Stockman of Texas got some attention this week for offering a free AR-15 Bushmaster assault rifle as a raffle prize on his campaign email list. In the same email, he calls President Obama a “socialist.” Which in repugican circles means the same thing as “communist,” which also means the same thing to Americans as “Soviet.” In other words, Stockman is actually suggesting that President Obama is a dictator puts his opponents to death. Keep that in mind when you hear repugicans use the term “socialist.” It’s far crazier, and dangerous, a usage than you might even realize.
Here’s Stockman’s email to supporters yesterday.  But keeping reading after the email, because, sadly, Stockman isn’t the only repugican poking the Sandy Hook dead in the eye:

But it’s not just Stockman.
AR-15 gun ban
Earlier this year in February, Ohio repugican Joe “So Six Minutes Ago” the Plumber raffled off an AR-15 to protest discussion of a possible assault weapons ban.
In Maryland, repugican delegate, Don Dwyer, is raffling off an AR-15 and an AK-47 on his campaign Web site.  The site includes a comment from someone quoting Sandy Hook trutherism, namely that Adam Lanza didn’t use an AR-15 because the authorities found it locked in his trunk after the attack.  As Snopes shows, that’s a lie.  They found a shotgun in his trunk, he used the AR-15 to murder the kids.
The Greater Bluffton repugican coven in South Carolina is raffling off an AR-15 too. Of course, local Democrats and police are fine with the raffle.
The Tennessee Firearms Association launched its own raffle only a week before the US Senate took up background check legislation.  The executive director of the association was not pleased by the controversy his raffle has caused:
“These gun control activists, they can always pick the most recent event,” he said. “If you look back through history, there’s a long string of Newtown, Aurora, keep the list going. Under their analysis, you’d never sell a gun because someone got shot in recent history.”
The firearms association head was blissfully unaware of the irony of his statement.
Not all the raffles are political, some are just incredibly inappropriate.
A local little league in Illinois is raffling off an AR-15 to raise money because, as the local Little League commissioner explained, “guns are super hot right now.”  And I love his additional quote: “We’re not afraid to make a political statement, but that’s not what this is designed for.” Why in god’s name would a little league team be making any political statements about anything, ever?
And a girls’ softball league in Oregon also raffled off the AR-15.
Yes, mass murder has a way of doing that.
And even a sheriff’s association in Pennsylvania thought it a good idea to put more guns, especially the ones used at Newtown, in the hands of the public.

The truth hurts

Thursday, May 16

The three realities that have crippled the repugican cabal

Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh salutes as he is introduced as a judge for the 2010 Miss America Pageant in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Many repugicans seem to be breathing a sigh of relief over the past 48 hours as the news media are captivated by various “scandals” involving President Obama's administration. However, these "scandals" may be a temporary distraction for repugicans, because they face three realities that have already effectively kill the repugican cabal’s chances of national success:
1. The repugicans’ Hispanic Problem
Since the November 2012 election ended and it was clear that President Obama and the Democrats won handily, repugicans have been saying that “Hispanic outreach” is the key to their future success. Thus far, that plan isn’t working too well. First, the repugicans trotted out U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida as their savior. However, Rubio crashed and burned with his awkward dry mouth and “Big Gulp” moment, demonstrating literally that Rubio was not ready for prime time.
Then, just two days ago, the repugicans’ Hispanic outreach effort suffered another embarrassing blow as their Director of Hispanic Outreach in all-important Florida, Pablo Pantoja, announced that he was switching to the Democratic Party precisely because of what he termed the repugicans’ “culture of intolerance” that has turned off so many Hispanic and Latino voters.

2. The Backlash Against Lush Dimbulb
Cumulus Media CEO Lew Dickey recently stated that the citizen boycott of advertisers on Lush Dimbulb‘s radio hate show carried on the Cumulus network was responsible for up to $5.5 million in losses to his company. Then, earlier this month, the Dimbulb show’s parent company, Clear Channel, reported a sharply higher loss of $203 million. The Dimbulb ad boycott began in earnest after Dimbulb fired a blast in the repugican “War on Women” when he called Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” for her support of contraception coverage in the Affordable Care Act. Just as Hispanics and Latinos comprise a critical and growing population of American voters, so do women. That’s a problem for repugicans when the lunatic Lush Dimbulb is seen by many as the leading edge of, and one of the most influential people in, the repugican cabal.

3. The Increasing Popularity of Marriage Equality
Just yesterday, Minnesota became the 12th state in the U.S. to legalize same-sex marriage. The last five such states have adopted marriage equality in just the past seven months, continuing a pace of social change which arguably rivals that of any period in U.S. history. It is abundantly clear from these state actions and from the polls that the majority of Americans, and especially the vast majority of young Americans, favor marriage equality. Yet, many repugicans can’t get their heads around gay marriage. At best, same-sex marriage is causing a painful rift in the repugican cabal.
So at the same time the three major cable news networks are focusing on three "scandals," the repugican cabal is facing three massive demographic disadvantages and is alienating three or more major and growing voting blocs. No wonder the repugicans are pushing these “scandals” as hard as they can.

When facts become opinions ...

Facts become opinions when you are ignorant and facts interfere with your prejudices.
Written by Christ Hedges for Truthdig.

"Those who retreat into fantasy cannot be engaged in rational discussion, for fantasy is all that is left of their tattered self-esteem. When their myths are attacked as untrue it triggers not a discussion of facts and evidence but a ferocious emotional backlash."

The repugican cabal Whips Up Scandals to Avoid Facing Obama’s ‘Most Rapid Deficit Reduction since WWII’

If you were wondering why repugicans can’t stop screaming hysterically about fictional persecutions and scandals, it’s because the deficit is no longer their Big Thing. The “emergency” of the deficit – so important that repugicans had to risk global fiscal confidence – took a backseat to constantly shifting, hysterical and unfounded scandals du jour recently. It turns out that ‘the President’s policies are contributing to the most rapid deficit reduction since World War II.’ Ouch. Change subject!
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported a continued decline in the federal budget deficit: “The CBO projects a $642 billion budget deficit for fiscal year 2013, down more than $200 billion from its February estimate and the smallest annual shortfall since 2008. It is the lowest level of deficit spending to date under President Obama, who faced $1 trillion or more in annual deficits during his first term.”
Here’s a real bitter irony for the repugican cabal. At the same time as their ideology took an ugly beating in the reality department, the man they are determined to destroy has a better record at deficit reduction than any of their recent Presidents. In fact, government spending under President Obama has grown at a slower rate than it did under any president since Dwight D. Eisenhower, according to Bloomberg (that’s over 50 years ago, if you’re counting). Ironically, this fact is due in part to their own obstructionism and President Obama’s endless compromises with them.
The White House isn’t averse to rubbing it in. Office of Management and Budget spokesman Steve Posner summed it up in a way that must hurt, “The improvements in this CBO report are yet more evidence that the President’s policies are contributing to the most rapid deficit reduction since World War II.” Is that accurate? Why, yes, actually, it is.
Investors Business Daily reported in November of 2012, “(T)he federal deficit has fallen faster over the past three years than it has in any such stretch since demobilization from World War II.” Of course, IBD goes on to say that any more deficit reduction focus and we risk our economic recovery, “If U.S. history offers any guide, we are already testing the speed limits of a fiscal consolidation that doesn’t risk backfiring. That’s why the best way to address the fiscal cliff likely is to postpone it. While long-term deficit reduction is important and deficits remain very large by historical standards, the reality is that the government already has its foot on the brakes.”
You might be asking yourself why repugicans are so good at cracking the whip on others while they are incapable of personifying even the most remote semblance of fiscal discipline when they are in charge. Good question. For that matter, why can’t Speaker John Boehner get anything done in the House without the help of Democrats? Boehner has only been able to pass Sandy relief and the VAWA (finally on both) because Democrats rescued him from his own party’s extremism. Modern day repugicans are keen on demonstrating repeatedly that they can’t govern and aren’t interested in legislating anything other than women’s bodies.
The repugican lawmakers are very busy trying to bully the IRS into not looking into whether tea party groups are actively trying to influence elections. Also, Benghazi! And repugicans are very busy embracing a short-lived love for first amendment rights. Have no fear, they are still too busy to get any actual work done. But they do have that 37th vote on ObamaCare because they are the party of anti-discipline and fiscal recklessness.
They just keep wasting our money, as Obama tries to save us all from their childishness.

The truth be told

Thursday, May 16

Help make Abercrombie and Fitch synonymous with homelessness

As you know, Abercrombie and Fitch is a horrible shitshow of a company whose owner refuses to make large sized clothes so that "unattractive people" can't wear them, and who burns surplus clothing rather than donating it to charity to keep their clothes off poor peoples' backs. So Gkarber has set out to make the brand synonymous with homelessness, by clearing out thrift shops' supply of A&F and bringing it to skid row and giving it to homeless people. He'd like you to participate by clearing out your closets and donating any A&F to your local homeless charity..

FBI investigates fatal beating of man by deputies; video evidence may have been destroyed

The FBI has launched an investigation into the beating death of a man by sheriff's deputies in Kern County, California. Two cellphones that contained video evidence at one point no longer contain the videos that show officers beating David Silva to death with batons on the head, "even after he was lying motionless on the ground." The deceased was 33, and a father of four. “Our credibility is at stake here,” said Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood “I have seen the video. I cannot speculate whether they acted appropriately or not just by looking at the video.” More: Los Angeles Times

Copyright owners can't sue Google's YouTube as a group

Visitors stand in front of a logo of YouTube at the YouTube Space Tokyo, operated by Google, in Tokyo February 14, 2013. REUTERS/Shohei Miyano
by Nate Raymond
A U.S. judge on Wednesday denied class-action status to copyright owners suing Google Inc over the use of material posted on YouTube without their permission.
U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton in Manhattan denied a motion to certify a worldwide class of copyright owners in a long-running lawsuit over videos and music posted to the popular website.
"The suggestion that a class action of these dimensions can be managed with judicial resourcefulness is flattering, but unrealistic," Stanton wrote.
The case ran in parallel with a $1 billion lawsuit filed in 2007 by Viacom Inc over Google's alleged unauthorized hosting on YouTube of clips uploaded by users from "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," "South Park," "SpongeBob SquarePants."
Stanton threw Viacom's case out on April 18, a year after the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the copyright infringement case.
The proposed class action lawsuit was filed in 2007 and included as named plaintiffs the English Premier League, the French Tennis Federation, the National Music Publishers' Association (NMPA) and individual music publishers.
However, NMPA settled with YouTube in 2011.
One part of the proposed class would have included any copyright owner whose allegedly infringed videos were blocked by YouTube after it received a so-called takedown notice and blocked it.
Another part of the proposed class covered music publishers whose compositions were allowed to be used on YouTube without proper permission.
But Stanton said that while the legal analyses he would have had to apply in the case would have been similar for the various plaintiffs, each copyright owner's case would need to be decided based on facts particular to their individual claims.
"Generally speaking, copyright claims are poor candidates for class-action treatment," he said.
Allowing the case to move forward as a class action would turn it into a "mammoth proceeding," Stanton said. The plaintiffs said the members in their proposed worldwide class action would have numbered in the thousands.
Charles Sims, a lawyer for the plaintiffs at the law firm Proskauer Rose, said his clients were "going to think about their options," including asking the court for permission to appeal.
Abbi Tatton, a spokeswoman for Google, declined to comment.
The ruling marked the second major defeat in recent weeks for litigants suing Google over the unauthorized hosting of copyrighted material on YouTube.
In the Viacom case decided last month, Stanton sided with Google in finding that it was protected from Viacom's copyright claims thanks to the "safe harbor" provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
The 1998 federal law made it illegal to produce technology that could circumvent anti-piracy measures, but also limited the liability of online service providers over copyright infringement by their users.
Viacom has filed a notice of appeal from Stanton's ruling.
The case is Football Association Premier League Ltd et al v. YouTube Inc et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 07-03582.

Reality is ...

Ten gross ingredients you didn't know were in your food

If you're still reeling from the horsemeat scandal, hold on to your hats – there may well be arsenic in your beer and rat hair in your chocolate
Arsenic – fancy a pint?
Since the horsemeat scandal, more of us than ever before are holding a microscope up to what we eat. But no matter how many labels you read, you could still be consuming things you'd rather put on your "do not eat" list. From human hair in our bread to fish bladder in our beer, there are a lot of additives and food processing techniques that employ ingredients and chemicals few would classify as "appetizing". It's a reminder, frankly, that non-processed foods are your best bet.


Traces of arsenic in food are nothing new. The potent human carcinogen arsenic has been known to turn up in everything from rice to cereal to juice, and most recently German researchers found traces of it in beer, noting some levels found were more than twice than what is allowed in drinking water. Traces of arsenic can actually be found in both beers and wine that are clearer in color. That's because they will have been filtered to get rid of plant matter and leftover yeast; most people don't want to drink a cloudy pinot grigio after all. To filter, beer and winemakers use diatomaceous earth, a natural product that contains iron and metals; hence the arsenic. Want less arsenic in your drink? Opt for drinks that are unfiltered.

Human hair

Amino acids are your body's building blocks, and while they can be good for your health, not all amino acids are created equal. L-Cysteine – an amino acid used to prolong shelf-life in products such as commercial bread – can be found in duck and chicken feathers and cow horns, but most that's used in food comes from human hair. It has been reported that most of the hair used to make L-Cysteine comes from China, where it's gathered from barbershops and hair salons. You can avoid L-Cysteine by buying fresh bread from a local baker, as it is not an additive in flour. Steer clear of fast food places such as McDonald's, Dunkin' Donuts and Burger King too, who all use L-Cysteine as an additive.
Human hair  
Human hair … in bread? 


You're not drinking straight antifreeze when you down a soft drink, but if your drink of choice has propylene glycol in it you're consuming a compound that's used for everything from antifreeze to cosmetics to pharmaceuticals to electronic cigarettes. Its properties are many, so it's no surprise that chemical companies such as DOW get excited about its potential in the corporate food world. It's also a minor ingredient in Corexit, the oil dispersant that was used after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Fortunately, if you live in the European Union, propylene glycol is not cleared as a general-purpose food grade product or direct food additive.

Beaver anal glands

If you're eating vanilla, strawberry or raspberry ice-cream, you may just be eating beaver's anal and urine secretions. Castoreum, which comes from the castor sacs of male and female beavers, is an FDA-approved food additive popular in ice-creams, and allowed to be called "natural flavoring", meaning you probably don't know that you are eating it.
Fancy an ice-cream? 

Fish bladder

A round of beers may sound like the perfect way to celebrate with vegetarian and vegan friends alike, but watch what beer you're drinking. Isinglass is a gelatin-like substance produced from the swim bladder of a fish. It's added to cask beers and Guinness, to help remove any "haziness" from the final product - removing any residue yeast or solid particles in the beer – which means you could end up with a trace of fish bladder in your pint glass.

Coal tar

Many processed foods are known for including a long list of dyes, and many of those dyes are derived from coal tar. Yellow #5, also known as tartrazine, was linked to childhood hyperactivity in 2007 and since then any product in the EU that contains it must also come with a warning label. In the US, however, there is no such regulation. Concern over the food coloring recently prompted bloggers to petition Kraft to remove the dyes from their popular macaroni cheese product.
Breast implant  
What's in your nuggets? 

Silicone breast implant filler

Chicken McNuggets from McDonald's aren't known for being the healthiest thing on the planet, but they're not really known for being "chicken" either. The nuggets are actually only about 50% actual chicken; the rest comprises synthetic ingredients, including dimethylpolysiloxane, a chemical used in silicone that can be found in Silly Putty as well as breast implant filler.

Boiled beetle shells

Natural Red #4 may sound harmless, but the food coloring – also known as carmine – is made by boiling female cochineal insect shells in ammonia or a sodium carbonate solution. It takes about 70,000 of the bugs to produce one pound of dye. Coffee giant Starbucks got slammed in 2012 for using the additive in their frappuccinos and eventually binned it, but it's a commonly employed ingredient in many foods. The European Food Standards Authority recently included it as an additive to research more. But while some may feel queasy at the thought of consuming bugs, the synthetic alternatives to this natural dye, such as Red #2 and Red #40, are made from petroleum products. Pick your poison.

Rodent hair

Producing food products in an industrial facility is nothing like cooking at home, and certainly a big warehouse space is sure to be home to a few rodents here and there. Maybe that's why the US FDA allows for certain amounts of rodent hair in various products, something they call an "unavoidable defects": one rodent hair for every 100g chocolate, 22 rodent hairs for every 100g cinnamon and five rodent hairs for every 18oz jar of peanut butter. Yum.


Banned in the US and Canada as a food additive but allowed in the EU, borax is also known for making its way into fire-retardant, anti-fungal compounds and enamel. E285, as it's known in the food world, is used to control acidity in products as well as assist in preservation. You'll find it in some caviars – including those imported to the US – as well as various Asian noodle and rice dishes as it adds a firm, rubbery texture to foods.

Save the Boobies, oh and wash your hands

What are treatment options for women with BRCA gene mutations?
As the FDA considers a ban on a common chemical in antibacterial soaps, research suggests that hand-washing with regular old soap is still your best bet.
Angelina Jolie revealed Tuesday that she has undergone a preventive double mastectomy to reduce her risk of contracting breast cancer.

Does Staying in Non-Smoking Rooms Save You From Cigarette Byproducts?

Cigarette smoke Do you think that just because you're a non-smoker staying in non-smoking room in a hotel, you're safe from cigarette byproducts? Think again:
Non-smoking hotel rooms generally contained more third-hand smoke when they were part of hotels that allowed smoking in other, designated rooms. They had, on average, twice the amount of nicotine on surfaces and seven times as much 3EP (another cigarette byproduct) in the air. In smoking-permitted rooms, of course, the presence of these contaminants was much higher.
The women, after spending the night in a hotel that permitted smoking, even after requesting a non-smoking room, the next morning had significantly more nicotine on their fingers, and five to six times the amount of cotinine -- a biomarker of second-hand smoke exposure -- in their urine.
Lindsay Abrams of The Atlantic summarizes the study: Here | The paper over at Tobacco Control

Criminal Charges Considered After Construction Company Bulldozes 2,300-Year-Old Mayan Pyramids

by Lorraine Devon Wilke Bulldozing history, Mayan ruins; image by Julie Vasquez/Past Horizons @RedOrbit
Bulldozing history, Mayan ruins  
The world stood horrified when the Buddhas of Bamiyan were blown to bits by the Taliban in 2001. The two 6th century statues, one about 125 feet tall, the other around 200, were carved into the side of a cliff in Afghanistan, doomed after the fundamentalist group deemed them to be ‘idols’ and were therefore ordered destroyed by Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar. Anyone paying attention to such events in 2001 found the wanton and unconscionable destruction of a country’s ancient heritage, artwork both breathtaking and sacred, to be a horrifying example of man’s desecration of history. Now, in a surely lesser but similarly shocking incident, a construction company in Belize brought its bulldozers to the location of an ancient Mayan ruin and knocked the entire complex down… for road fill.
It’s hard to say if the destruction would have been any less painful if the back story included wild-eyed Taliban leaders and hordes of soldiers with dynamite, but for the people of Belize, particularly those in the Nohmul complex of Northern Belize where the Mayan pyramid, one of the largest in the Caribbean nation, had stood for over 2,300 years, the loss is incalculable. From RedOrbit:
Jaime Awe, head of the Belize Institute of Archaeology, said the destruction was detected late last week.
“It’s a feeling of Incredible disbelief because of the ignorance and the insensitivity … they were using this for road fill,” Awe said in a statement picked up by Mail Online. “It’s like being punched in the stomach, it’s just so horrendous.”
The pyramid also sat in the middle of a privately-owned sugar cane field, and while it lacked the even stone sides seen in better-preserved pyramids, the mistake should not have occurred, Awe said. “These guys knew that this was an ancient structure. It’s just bloody laziness.”
Awe explained that it’s “mind-boggling” just how ignorant this construction firm could have been. What took years for ancient Mayans to build, using stone tools and materials from stone quarries, took only minutes for modern-day construction workers to undo using sophisticated equipment.
Despite the fact that the structure was on private land, all pre-Hispanic ruins are protected by the Belizean government; currently criminal charges against the construction company are being investigated.
Apparently this disregard for the antiquities of their country has plagued Belize throughout history. It is a country of about 350,000 people with hundreds of ruins, many of which are embedded in the dense jungles that cover and surround the region, and it’s difficult for the government to be as vigilant to the destruction of their ancient heritage as they intend. In fact, the destruction is rampant enough that archeology experts and academicians the world over have spoken out loudly about the issue:
Norman Hammond, an emeritus professor of archaeology at Boston University (BU) who used to do research in the region in the 1980s, said Mayan ruins have been targeted in the past by workers seeking materials.
He told Mail Online via email that destroying Mayan ruins for construction materials is “an endemic problem in Belize (the whole of the San Estevan center has gone, both of the major pyramids at Louisville, other structures at Nohmul, many smaller sites), but this sounds like the biggest yet.”
Others have found the destruction of the Nohmul complex particularly egregious, as it was a large and very obvious structure, tall and covering a significant area of flat land. In other word, impossible to miss.
It is a disturbing scenario, added Arlen Chase, chairman of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Central Florida (UCF). But “there is only a very limited infrastructure in Belize that can be applied to cultural heritage management. Unfortunately, they [destruction of sites] are all too common, but not usually in the center of a large Maya site,” he noted.
Others mourn the specific and irrevocable loss of historic structures the speak to the history of the people and the place. The Nohmul complex was certainly one of those. It was first noted in 1887 by Europeans traveling the region; discovered in a private field in what is called the Orange Walk District, it is spread out over a 12-square mile area and was likely the residence for around 40,000 Mayans during the era of 500 – 250 BC. Its vastness, noted by many stunned by its destruction, made it hard to miss: it was comprised of duel structure clusters abutted by plazas and walking areas and traversed by a overhead causeway, set atop a very flat area of land. Despite comments to the contrary by the construction company, it was unmissable.
And now it is rubble.
All that’s left of 2,300 years of history; image@MirrorUK
All that’s left of 2,300 years of history
Francisco Estrada-Belli, a professor at Tulane University’s Anthropology Department, said, “I don’t think I am exaggerating if I say that every day a Maya mound is being destroyed for construction in one of the countries where the Maya lived.
“Unfortunately, this destruction of our heritage is irreversible but many don’t take it seriously,” he added. “The only way to stop it is by showing that it is a major crime and people can and will go to jail for it.” [Source]
And that’s the result many would like to see. For now the excavation has been halted but clearly it’s too little, too late. Both the landowner and the construction company, D-Mar Construction, are being investigated. The company owner, Denny Grijalva, who is also running for a legislative seat in a local election, claims he “knew nothing about the project” and told reporters to speak to his foreman; no information was forthcoming.
Sadly, while prosecution and conviction of those involved would bring some justice and would, hopefully, deter further destruction, the Nohmul complex is gone after standing for 2,300 years against time and nature. It took human beings to destroy what the ancient Mayans had built.
“We can’t salvage what has happened out here… It is an incredible display of ignorance. I am appalled.” John Morris, the Institute of Archaeology.
Here’s the video:

The BBC discovers the Texas Germans — and a dying dialect

Maggie Koerth-Baker writes:

My great-grandmother, Hedwig Nietzsche Koerth, never spoke English. My Grandpa Gustav didn't learn the language until he entered first grade. But, by the time I was in grade school — and was going through a brief fling of learning German — Grandpa no longer remembered much of what had once been his first language. Today, nobody in my immediate family speaks any German, much less the dying dialect of Texas German that my great-grandmother spoke. The BBC has an interesting story about the history and linguistics of Texas German, which will probably die out in the next couple generations — largely because the German Germans started a couple world wars in a row and changed the idea of what was and wasn't socially acceptable speech in America.

The Honeycomb Conjecture

Hexagon honeycomb of bees
In 36 B.C., Roman scholar Marcus Terentius Varro came up with the answer of why honeycomb cells are hexagons, in what since has been called the Honeycomb Conjecture. Varro guessed that hexagon is the best way to divide a surface into regions of equal area with the least total perimeter - basically, it's the most compact (and therefore efficient) structure - but he couldn't prove it mathematically.
In 1999, two thousand years since Varro came up with the conjecture, University of Pittsburgh professor Thomas C. Hales came up with the mathematical proof. Robert Krulwich of NPR's Krulwich Wonders explains in plain english what it's all about (complete with cute drawings of honeybees - squee!):
For bees to assemble a honeycomb the way bees actually do it, it's simpler for each cell to be exactly the same. If the sides are all equal — "perfectly" hexagonal — every cell fits tight with every other cell. Everybody can pitch in. That way, a honeycomb is basically an easy jigsaw puzzle. All the parts fit.
OK, that explains why honeycomb cells are same-sized. But back to our first question: Why the preference for hexagons? Is there something special about a six-sided shape?
Some shapes you know right away aren't good. A honeycomb built from spheres would have little spaces between each unit ...
... creating gaps that would need extra wax for patching. So can see why a honeycomb built from spheres wouldn't be ideal. Pentagons, octagons also produce gaps. What's better?
"It is a mathematical truth," Lightman writes, "that there are only three geometrical figures with equal sides that can fit together on a flat surface without leaving gaps: equilateral triangles, squares and hexagons."
So which to choose? The triangle? The square? Or the hexagon? Which one is best? Here's where our Roman, Marcus Terentius Varro made his great contribution. His "conjecture" — and that's what it was, a mathematical guess — proposed that a structure built from hexagons is probably a wee bit more compact than a structure built from squares or triangles. A hexagonal honeycomb, he thought, would have "the smallest total perimeter." He couldn't prove it mathematically, but that's what he thought.

Random Photo

X Rated Concerns?

The sun didn't unleash one record-setting solar flare of 2013, it unleashed a hat-trick of awesome eruptions... all within 24 hours!
But, wait ... there's more!
The sun has erupted with another X-class solar flare, adding a fourth huge solar explosion to the 48-hour tally.

Astronomical News

NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler space telescope has shut down due to an apparent problem with its positioning system, suspending indefinitely its science mission.
Because the Manhattan skyline is so iconic, New York City is often the backdrop for implausible imaginary sci-fi futures -- now see an artist's fanciful renderings of NYC on 5 planets of the solar system.
As Star Trek 'Into Darkness' hits movie screens, let's take a look at the plausibility of traveling at warp speed and some of the real physics behind the warp drive.
A rare isotope of iron found in fossilized bacteria under the Pacific ocean gives clues to a near-Earth supernova which exploded 2.2 million years ago.
An exoplanet has been discovered by Kepler using a strange quirk of relativity.

Earth News

Spring flowers are finally in full bloom.
Earth’s inner core may actually be softer than previously thought, and the speed at which it spins can fluctuate over time.

Water, Mud, Ice and Fire

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A meeting of Arctic nations is attracting international attention. But how will countries respond to changes in the region? 
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Extremes of fire and ice ravaged homes on different ends of North America recently.

Human News

In Zimbabwe, a man about to be buried suddenly seemed to come back from the dead. 
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Anthropological News

Ancient structures may be hidden below rainforest canopy.
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The ancient Minoans were genetically European, DNA study reveals.
Forensic geophysicists are developing techniques that may help officials locate clandestine graves, including mass graves where the victims of war crimes are often buried.

In Ancient Russia, Boys Killed Their Pet Dogs to Become Warriors

Chopped dog skull fragments suggest ritual sacrifice in ancient RussiaIn early Russia, dogs weren't just man's best friends - they were also a crucial step in an ancient initiation rites that turn boys into warriors:
At the age of eight, the boys were sent to ritualists, who bathed them, shaved their heads, and gave them animal skins to wear. Eight years later, the initiates underwent a midwinter ceremony in which they ritually died and journeyed to the underworld. After this, the boys left their homes and families, painted their bodies black, donned a dog-skin cloak, and joined a band of warriors.
Brown and Anthony think that similar rites may have taken place at Krasnosamarskoe at the onset of the raiding season, which ran from the winter solstice to the summer solstice. And they speculate that part of the ceremony required the boys to kill their own dogs. The dead canines ranged in age from 7 to 12 years, suggesting that they were longtime companions—possibly even hounds raised with the boys from birth.
"That makes a lot of sense," concludes Brown. To take on the mantle of a warrior, an innocent boy had to become a killer.
National Geographic News has the story: Here.

Animal News

The same swine flu virus that caused a worldwide pandemic in 2009 is found in elephant seals.
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