Welcome to ...

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.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Daily Drift


Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful; a meaningful friend - or a meaningful day.
~Dalai Lama~
We're back ...

Carolina Naturally is read in 192 countries around the world daily.
Kissing is fun ...

Today is International Kissing Day 

Don't forget to visit our sister blog: It Is What It Is

Today in History

1415   Jan Hus, a Czech who spoke out against Church corruption, is burned at the stake as a heretic.
1519   Charles of Spain is elected Holy Roman emperor in Barcelona.
1535   Sir Thomas More is beheaded in England for refusing to swear allegiance to King Henry VIII as head of the Church.
1536   Jaques Cartier returns to France after discovering the St. Lawrence River in Canada.
1685   James II defeats James, the Duke of Monmouth, at the Battle of Sedgemoor, the last major battle to be fought on English soil.
1770   The entire Ottoman fleet is destroyed by the Russians at the battle of Cesme.
1788   10,000 troops are called out in Paris as unrest mounts in the poorer districts over poverty and lack of food.
1836   French General Thomas Bugeaud defeats Abd al-Kader's forces beside the Sikkak River in Algeria.
1835   John Marshall, the third chief justice of the Supreme Court, dies at the age of 79. Two days later, while tolling in his honor in Philadelphia, the Liberty Bell cracks.
1854   The Republican Party is officially organized in Jackson, Michigan.
1885   Louis Pasteur gives the first successful anti-rabies innoculation.
1944   Lieutenant Jackie Robinson of the U.S. Army, while riding a civilian bus from Camp Hoo, Texas, refuses to give up his seat to a white man.
1945   B-29 Superfortress bombers attack Honshu, Japan, using new fire-bombing techniques.
1945   Operation Overcast begins in Europe–moving Austrian and German scientists and their equipment to the United States.
1982   President Ronald Reagan agrees to contribute U.S. troops to the peacekeeping unit in Beruit.

Non Sequitur


"Smoking" Alcohol

Dangerous viral trend threatens teens

If you’ve never heard of “smoking alcohol,” chances are your teenager has; YouTube videos show how to vaporize alcohol and inhale the fumes in order to get drunk. NBC’s Jeff Rossen investigates.
It's the dangerous new way teens are getting drunk -- and it's going viral. Now doctors say it could be deadly.
It's called "smoking alcohol." You don't drink the booze, you inhale it. Sounds bizarre, but those vapors give you an instant high.
Here's the problem: Doctors say it's incredibly dangerous and can be extremely addictive. Pure alcohol shooting into your brain. Doctors are issuing an urgent warning: Don't try this at home.
Chances are your teenager has seen it on YouTube, where hits are exploding into the millions: vaporizing alcohol. It looks like a game, but doctors say it can be deadly. One video shows teens putting a small amount of vodka into a plastic bottle, pumping it with air, and sucking in the potent fumes. They do it with beer, whiskey, Champagne, the list goes on. And within seconds, they say, they're drunk.
"These videos scare the hell out of me," says Steve Pasierb, who runs the partnership at drugfree.org. "It's binge drinking in an instant. It's like doing five or six shots into your bloodstream right away."
Here's the danger: When you drink alcohol normally, the liquor takes time to affect you, first going into your stomach, then slowly processed in your liver, and about 20 minutes later, into your bloodstream. But smoking alcohol is absorbed instantly into the lungs, racing to the brain. And, doctors say, it can poison you faster.
"The normal sensation when you drink and you are getting more drunk is to vomit: It's your body's way of expelling alcohol," explained Dr. Robert Glatter of Lenox Hill Hospital. " However, when you inhale alcohol, your brain has no way of expelling it."
And there's more. Experts say some of these videos lure teens in with false promises, like "this can help you lose weight." Or that you can hide your drunkenness from police and your parents.
"It's in your lungs, it's on your breath," Steve Pasierb told us.
"Then you can get a DUI from it?" we asked.
"Absolutely. You can get a DUI. It will be in your blood system."
As for the weight-loss claim, Pasierb said, "When you're consuming alcohol, you are consuming calories, period."
Another myth out there is that smoking alcohol isn't illegal, because you're not drinking. Not true. We checked with criminal defense lawyers who told us that no matter how you consume alcohol, it's illegal under 21.
This is so new that there are no hard numbers yet on how many kids have ended up in the hospital from smoking alcohol. But doctors say it may be hard to tell when someone is sick from regular drinking or this: They test your blood and it shows you have alcohol poisoning, but doesn't say whether you drank it or smoked it. But ER doctors tell us they're watching for it now.

Son turned in bank-robbing mother after recognizing her from surveillance photos

A Michigan man says he turned his mother into the police after realizing she was wanted for a bank robbery. Dean Badger saw Dee Ann Sanders, 55, in surveillance pictures on the news. He says hours earlier she had given him $300 for groceries.

Did you know ...

That stalagmites could help understand climate change

About the world food prize, brought to you by Monsanto

The the U.S. conference of mayors tells Feds to respect local marijuana laws

Government Officials Won't Add a Wheelchair Ramp to Their Building, So Paraplegic Man Builds Them One

1Samuel Nobile de Oliveira of Juína is paralyzed. He visits the local public health building in Brazil for medical care. But because it lacks a wheelchair ramp, doctors have to come outside to meet with him. Local government officials wouldn't build a ramp, so on Monday, Oliveira showed up with wood, stone, cement and the determination to build one himself.

North Carolina House passes abortion education bill 68-42

 A bill requiring North Carolina schools to teach that abortions and other activities put women at risk of later premature births passed the state House on Thursday.Lawmakers approved the bill mostly along party lines after repugicans agreed to an amendment calling abortion and other dangers “risks” rather than “causes” of premature birth. The two parties dispute the scientific basis for linking abortion to later preterm birth, which can lead to developmental complications and even the death of the infant.
The bill already passed the Senate, which will have to approve the House’s changes. The bill won some Democratic support in the Senate after repugicans agreed to broaden the list of risk factors from induced abortion to include smoking, alcohol consumption, drug use and inadequate prenatal care.
Schools would have to add the risk factors to their mandatory health curriculum starting with the seventh grade. Lawmakers narrowly approved an additional comprehensive sex education program in 2009 that is optional for students.
The repugican lawmakers base their support of the bill on a study from the state’s Child Fatality Task Force, which found more than 120 reports linking abortion to preterm birth. The group recommended teaching that abortion puts women at risk of later premature births, though some members noted that many health organizations don’t recognize any link between the two and premature birth is often better explained as a phenomenon of poverty and other factors.
Democrats have made similar arguments, noting the lack of support for the conclusion among groups such as the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They also said the word “cause” was medically inaccurate and the bill is an attempt to inject a political agenda into classrooms.
Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, said few other states have taken this step, and neither teachers nor children are equipped to handle the issue.
“It may be fair if there was a consensus on the medical science, but there’s not,” he said. “It may be fair if this was at least age-appropriate information, but it’s not.”
Rep. Paul Stam, r-Wake, said middle-school students already have the opportunity to learn about sexually transmitted diseases and contraception. Glazier noted that students can opt out of that section of instruction, but the premature birth program would apply to all students.
The repugicans tabled an amendment from Rep. Marvin Lucas, D-Cumberland, that would have gutted the bill. The amendment would have required schools only to “make available sample educational materials relating to the avoidance of preterm birth.”

Bernie Sanders Gets repugican asshat To Admit He Wants To Abolish The Minimum Wage

During a hearing on raising the minimum wage, Sen. Bernie Sanders got the ranking repubgican on the committee to admit that he wants to abolish the minimum wage.
During a debate on Sen. Tom Harken’s legislation that would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour at a hearing of Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, the ranking repugican on the committee admitted that he wants to abolish the minimum wage.

Sanders said, “There are certain conservatives who do not believe in the concept of the minimum wage. The concept of the minimum wage. In other words, if the economy as such, and I offer you three dollars an hour.”
Ranking repugican on the committee Lamar Alexander jumped in, and it led to this telling exchange:
Sanders: So you do not believe in the concept of the minimum wage?
Alexander: That’s correct.

Sanders: You would abolish the minimum wage?
Alexander: Correct.
Sanders: If someone had to work for two bucks an hour, they would work for two bucks an hour?
Sen. Alexander compared the minimum wage to welfare, and said that he would use a “targeted” approach through increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit. Raising the EITC won’t do anything for people who are living week to week and paycheck to paycheck working minimum wage jobs, so in reality, Alexander would do nothing.
Alexander’s objections were not based on economic reasons. They were based on myth an ideology. Sen. Sanders argued with data that raising the minimum wage does not hurt the economy. Sen. Alexander argument against the existence of a minimum wage was based on the idea that it is like welfare, and welfare is bad.
The minimum wage issue is toxic poison to repugicans, but they keep thumping their chests with an air of superiority and telling people how their hard work doesn’t deserve to be paid a living wage.
A few weeks ago, President Obama called for the minimum wage to be increased to a living wage. Sen. Harken’s (D-IA) does exactly that. In large cities like New York, there would still be a small gap between the minimum and the living wage, but Harkin’s legislation would significantly narrow the difference between what minimum wage pays and the amount that minimum wage workers need to earn in order to survive.
Democrats, and Independents like Sen. Sanders, need to keep pushing this issue to the top of the agenda. The Democratic/progressive/liberal position is popular with voters, and repugicans are so blinded by their own ideology that they have no idea how much they hurt themselves every time they talk about the subject.
Bernie Sanders demonstrated how easy it is get a repugican to open mouth and insert foot on the minimum wage issue. Democrats everywhere should learn this lesson for 2014.

The truth hurts

‘We Don’t Waste Time Talking about Clarence Thomas. Everybody Knows It’s a Deep Tragedy’

 Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are none too impressed with the Clarence Thomas’ vote to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. When asked by the Huffington Post what his thoughts were on the matter, Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia said that Clarence Thomas’s vote was worse than what Snowden did, because Thomas, as a black person, was “legally aware of the consequences” of striking down integral parts of the Voting Rights Act but did it anyway.
Johnson told HuffPo that caucus members are used to Thomas harming the black community, “We don’t waste time sitting around talking about Clarence Thomas. Everybody knows it’s a deep tragedy.”
Just days ago, Clarence Thomas compared affirmative action to slavery and further suggested that diversity offers no benefits for students’ eduction, “As should be obvious, there is nothing ‘pressing’ or ‘necessary’ about obtaining whatever educational benefits may flow from racial diversity.” Tragic indeed. Thomas’ very conservative ideology seems to be, let the “free market” fix what systemic, lawless tyranny destroyed.
Johnson, a Buddhist, was an outspoken critic of the Iraq War. After Bush’s State of the Union Address in 2007, Johnson said, “This war has proven to be one of the gravest missteps in the recent history of our country. It is time for President Bush to face the music and respond to the urgent demands of a frustrated country.” He was also a Judge in the Magistrate Court of DeKalb County, Georgia for over 10 years and received his law degree from Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law in 1979.
Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) called the decision “ghastly” and Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) said the court “put a dagger in the heart of the Voting Rights Act.”
In 1991, the Congressional Black Caucus had the foresight to oppose Thomas (19-1) for a seat on the high court, even though he would be just the second black to serve on the court. (This should assist Republicans in their belief that blacks only voted for Obama because he’s black, but we all know they aren’t listening to reality right now.)
The lone dissenting voice on the caucus vote over Thomas was the only black Republican. This is further proof that policies matter, because the caucus opposed Thomas after reviewing his civil rights record.
Johnson is correct, Thomas is indeed the personification of a deep tragedy.
By gutting section 4, which provides the formula for determining which states must have any changes to their voting laws pre-approved by the Justice Department, the court left the matter up to this congress. (No wonder everyone is so dispirited.)
The Voting Rights Act needs to be strengthened via legislation, as Al Franken suggested on Tuesday, and Section 4 rewritten to provide more oversight, not less — especially given the recent repugican attempts to violate voting rights across the nation.

The truth be told

SCOTUS Gives Employers a Blueprint to Discriminate

Although most of the media attention yesterday focused on the Supreme Court’s affirmative action decision in Fischer v. University of Texas, the Court’s more troubling decisions came in a pair of cases on workplace discrimination. Individually, each case might seem benign. But the Court knew about both as they decided each, and taken together the decisions offer employers a blueprint for discrimination.
Vance v. Ball State University
This case involved a lawsuit filed Maetta Vance, a black woman working in food service at Ball State University. In her suit, Vance alleged that she was subjected to race-based harassment by a white colleague, Saundra Davis. The case turned on the standard of liability for her employer, Ball State University, and whether Davis was Vance’s “supervisor.”
In cases of peer-to-peer workplace harassment, an employer is liable only if the employer was negligent. This is a two-part test: (1) whether employer knew or should have known about the harassment; and (2) whether the employer failed to take remedial action to stop it.
That standard changes if the harasser is a “supervisor,” whom the law considers an agent of the employer. Simply, the employer is presumed to know when a supervisor harasses an employee, and the employer is liable unless he can prove an affirmative defense such as having taken remedial action.
The five conservative Justices held that, for purposes of determining the liability standard in workplace harassment, a “supervisor” must have the authority to:
… take tangible employment actions against the victim, i.e., to effect a “significant change in employment status, such as hiring, firing, failing to promote, reassignment with significantly different responsibilities, or a decision causing a signifi­cant change in benefits.”
Although she sometimes directed Vance’s activities, Davis did not have authority to take those “tangible employment actions.” Thus she was not Vance’s “supervisor,” the Court held, and Ball State would only be liable for discrimination if they were negligent: knew or should have known, and failed to take remedial action.
Vance had filed complaints about other actions by Davis, and the university had responded to those complaints. Both the Seventh Circuit and the Supreme Court found that the university was not negligent in the specific incidents alleged in Vance’s lawsuit. Basically, the Court concluded that the university would have responded to these specific incidents, had Vance filed complaints about them.
University of Texas Southwest Medical Center v. Nassar
This case involved Naiel Nassar, an Arab Muslim physician on the faculty at a University of Texas teaching hospital. In 2004, Beth Levine became Nassar’s ultimate (though not direct) supervisor. She made several derogatory comments about Nassar’s background and religion. Nassar complained to Gregory Fitz, Levine’s supervisor, and began negotiating with the university to work at the hospital without remaining on the faculty. Nassar thought they had reached an agreement to that effect, and in 2006 he resigned from the faculty and accepted a staff position with the hospital. In his resignation letter to Fitz, Nassar cited Levine’s “religious, racial and cultural bias against Arabs and Muslims.”
Fitz was upset by Nassar’s letter, which he said had “publicly humiliated” Levine, and wrote to the hospital saying it as “very important that she be exonerated.” The hospital reviewed its affiliation agreement, determined that hospital staff doctors must be university faculty, and withdrew Nassar’s job offer.
The trial court found the university liable for constructive discharge – they made Nassar uncomfortable enough to quit – and had retaliated after his discrimination complaint by urging the hospital to withdraw his job offer. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held there was insufficient evidence to support the constructive discharge claim, but that Nassar had proved the university retaliated against him and that was a contributing motive in their actions.
Here the issue was whether proving retaliation as a “contributing motive” was enough to establish liability, or whether Nassar was required to meet the stricter “but for” test. The stricter test allows an employer to escape liability of they can show some other, legitimate reason for the action. If that other reason exists, under the “but for” test, the retaliation motive becomes legally irrelevant.
Congress specified the “contributing motive” standard in a 1998 amendment to the Civil Rights Act. However, the Court held that Congress had only specified that standard for five other employment decisions – such as hiring, firing, or promotion – and not for retaliation. Thus, the Court held, the stricter “but for” standard must be applied for charges of retaliation.
The Court held that the affiliation agreement requiring hospital staff to be university faculty was a legitimate reason for the university to object to the hospital offering Nassar a staff position. Thus, while Fitz and the university were plainly retaliating for Nasser’s discrimination complaint, they could have acted on other grounds … and their retaliation was legally irrelevant.
Putting the pieces together
The Court deliberated on Vance and Nassar at the same time, and released the cases on the same day. Thus, we should consider how the two cases may be read together. And together they offer a blueprint for discrimination:
  • Allow workplace harassment, while documenting any harassed employees’ actions that might justify dismissal.
  • If the employee files no complaint at work, but instead quits and files a case with the EEOC, cite Vance and get the case dismissed.
  • If the harassed employees file a complaint, fire them in retaliation – and for those other documented actions – and cite Nassar.
Together, these cases offer excellent cover for employers who want to discriminate … and precious little protection for employees.

The truth is ...

Wednesday, June 26

Lush Dimbulb's Terrible Day Gets Worse With Claim Nobody Ever Denied Right to Marry

Floundering wingnut radio hate-speech show host Lush Dimbulb continues to make an ass of himself despite his regular claims to have "talent on loan from god."
In his defense, it was a rough morning on Wednesday, as Dimbulb heard about the Supreme Court decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act while drinking his morning glass of endangered clouded leopard milk:
So maybe Lush didn't bring his A game to the golden microphone.  But when a caller defended gay marriage, Dimbulb made a claim that most middle school students could refute:
"Nobody has ever been denied the right to get married.  Not a single person."
Audio here Even worse, Dimbulb's ludicrous claim came AFTER the caller attempted to explain something about the history of bans on interracial marriage in the United States:
CALLER:  ...miscegenation laws back in the fifties and sixties... I'm sure a lot of people were in favor of that, too, but it was wrong. It was wrong then; it's wrong now.
LUSH:  The what laws back in the fifties and sixties?
CALLER:  Miscegenation.
LUSH:  Miscegenation laws?
CALLER:  Yeah, miscegenation.  It's when white and blacks couldn't marry. It was the law in 26 states.
Had Dimbulb been paying attention in school, he would have learned about Loving v. State of Virginia, the 1967 Supreme Court case that overturned bans on interracial marriage. But, then again, El Lushbo has never been big on accuracy and truth.

Daily Comic Relief

Friday, June 28

Who's watching you?

Can you believe that it could be your TV or gaming device? Verizon isn't content with "can you hear me now"....they want to "see you now."

A couple of lawmakers say that people should know if their electronic devices can watch them undress, pick their nose or scratch their groins, among other things. and, yes....there is a bi-partisan bill brought forth.
The bill, called the we are watching you act of 2013, would prohibit video service operators from collecting visual or audio data from the vicinity of the device without express permission from the consumer. tor viewers that opt in, the monitoring company would have to display a "we are watching you" message on the screen and provide to the consumer what types of information is being collected and how it will be used.

While such big brother TV monitoring hasn't yet been deployed, Verizon last year filed a patent for monitoring technology that would use infrared cameras and microphones to track and collect consumer behavior in the vicinity of a TV or mobile device. according to the patent application, the technology could detect ambient action, like people eating, exercising, reading, sleeping and more.

"This may sound preposterous but it's neither a joke nor an exaggeration," capuano said in a statement. "these dvrs would essentially observe consumers as they watch television as a way to super-target ads. it is an incredible invasion of privacy." - More

Some interesting statistics

From Daily Kos...

Here are a few excerpts from the latest edition of Harper's Index:

• Number of U.S. retail jobs Doritos Locos tacos created in the past year, according to Taco Bell: 15,000

• Number of retail jobs created worldwide by Apple in that same period: 400

• Percentage of college professors teaching online courses who do not believe students should receive credit for them: 72

• Number of bills strengthening gun control that have been signed into law since the Sandy Hook shooting: 14

• Number weakening gun control: 37

• Percentage of criminal suspects asked to waive their Miranda rights and speak to police who do so: 84

• Number of early deaths in China in 2010 that have been attributed to air pollution: 1,200,000

PayPal Is Going To Space

Many people know how to buy things in cyberspace. But what about doing business in outer space? That's the question PayPal says it wants to answer. Citing the looming era of space tourism, the company is creating the project along with the SETI Institute, to help make universal space payments a reality.

The two organizations announced their new joint effort yesterday, saying they hope to help solve the big questions that arise with commerce in space.

The Bicheno Blowhole

Geology At Its Most Playful

Nature may often be cruel but from time to time it can also be almost sublimely daft. Close to the small town of Bicheno on the east coast of the Australian island of Tasmania, a rare geological feature known as a blowhole provides endless hours of fun for visitors.

Each time the blowhole 'erupts' you never quite know what you are going to get in terms of the shape and size of the water. One thing is for sure, though: you are going to get wet.
  Bicheno blowhole
Near the town of Bicheno on the Australian island of Tasmania is a geological oddity that will let you think that you're standing on a whale. The Bicheno blowhole is a channel that reaches from the surface of the rocky shore down to the ocean. When waves crash into shore, water spurts out of the blowhole.

From Legend to Reality

Discovering the Sunken City of Heracleion

Little was known about the legendary city of Heracleion. Then a marine archaeologist and his team stumbled on its ancient submerged ruins. More

Newly revealed Maya farming hotspots hold key to ancient culture

BYU researchers have dug up new evidence from an ancient Maya city that may help solve the mystery of just how many people lived in the civilization.
Newly revealed Maya farming hotspots hold key to ancient culture
Ancient Maya pyramids tower above the forest at Tikal, Guatemala [Credit: BYU]
Using soil chemistry, combined with advanced remote sensing and satellite imagery, the researchers have pinpointed for the first time where Maya farmers in Tikal, Guatemala, carried out some of their most significant crop production.

The location of the prime farmland indicates that the Maya population at Tikal may have been much different than previously thought.

“Our soil analysis is finding that Mayas did not grow maize heavily on the hillsides, but rather along the borders of the low-lying wetlands called bajos,” said BYU soil scientist Richard Terry. “Knowing where they grew corn gives us a clearer picture about their civilization unknown until now.”

Newly revealed Maya farming hotspots hold key to ancient culture
BYU soil scientists work at the ancient Maya location near Tikal, Guatemala [Credit: BYU]
The finding in Guatemala comes at the same time separate researchers have discovered a lost Maya civilization in the Mexican jungle.

Terry and his team analyzed the carbon isotope signatures of 185 soil cores taken in and around Tikal. Combined with data from radar and satellite imagery, the carbon signatures allowed researchers to create a model that maps the areas where the Maya planted – and didn’t plant – corn.

One of the most unexpected findings was the lack of maize residue in the fertile upland soils, said coauthor David Webster, a professor of anthropology at Penn State. Archeologists have long believed the Maya used the hillsides primarily for corn (maize) agriculture, much like modern inhabitants of the region.

Newly revealed Maya farming hotspots hold key to ancient culture
Ancient Maya pyramid at Tikal, Guatemala [Credit: BYU]
Relying primarily on the deep soil zones near the wetlands (called bajos) for maize production, as the research indicates, has significant bearing on the amount of people that could be supported. Experts currently estimate Tikal’s population was between 30,000 and 62,000 inhabitants.

Next spring Terry and his team will pursue additional research in Tikal to determine if the bajos themselves were used for maize agriculture.

“We’ve discovered an important piece of data that was missing in the equation to determine the size and scope of the Maya population,” said BYU grad student Chris Balzotti, lead author of the study published in the International Journal of Remote Sensing. “Archeologists will be able to take our model and apply it to what they know to determine better population estimates.”

Newly revealed Maya farming hotspots hold key to ancient culture
BYU soil scientist Richard Terry works in the forest canpy at the ancient Maya
location near Tikal, Guatemala [Credit: BYU]
Terry has led environmental science students to ancient Maya ruins annually for the past 15 years. Six years ago, research led by Terry used soil chemical residues to detect a large marketplace in a Maya city on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. The findings were the first strong evidence that the ancient Maya had a market economy similar to societies today.

The latest round of research also suggests new information about how the ancient Maya managed their rainforests.

While some experts believe the forests were cleared for farming, and others believe they were left and crops were grown beneath the canopy, the model shows it was a combination of both: Portions of the forest were cleared while larger portions of the forest were left standing.

“Dirt analysis may not be as sexy as digging up a jade mask from a former Maya king, but now we can answer more questions about the regular people that made up this ancient civilization,” Balzotti said.

Unlooted Tomb of the Wari is Filled with Treasures and Human Sacrifice

Wari artefact
Archaeologists have discovered something truly stunning, the first unlooted imperial tomb of the Wari, an ancient civilization in South America that existed between 700 and 1000 A.D. The tomb, located in modern day Peru, is filled with treasures, precious artefact and - cue the ominous music - human sacrifice:
Tomb robbers had long dumped rubble on the ridge. Digging through the rubble last September, Giersz and his team uncovered an ancient ceremonial room with a stone throne. Below this lay a large mysterious chamber sealed with 30 tons of loose stone fill. Giersz decided to keep digging. Inside the fill was a huge carved wooden mace. "It was a tomb marker," says Giersz, "and we knew then that we had the main mausoleum." [...]
As the archaeologists carefully removed the fill, they discovered rows of human bodies buried in a seated position and wrapped in poorly preserved textiles. Nearby, in three small side chambers, were the remains of three Wari queens and many of their prized possessions, including weaving tools made of gold. "So what were these first ladies doing at the imperial court? They were weaving cloth with gold instruments," says Makowski.
National Geographic Daily News has the scoop: Here.

Voyager surfs Solar System's edge

Voyager surfs Solar System's edgeVoyager artist impression

The veteran Voyager-1 space probe is close to making the jump to interstellar space, but no-one can say for sure when it will finally happen.

Random Photos


Adriana Lima

Bizarre 500-million-year-old creature unearthed

A new fossilized, cigar-shaped creature that lived about 520 million years ago has been unearthed in Morocco.
Bizarre 500-million-year-old creature unearthed
The 520-million year old fossilized creature that is one of the earliest known echinoderms
with fivefold symmetry [Credit: Andrew Smith, Proc. Royal Soc. B]
The newfound species, Helicocystis moroccoensis, has "characteristics that place it as the most primitive echinoderm that has fivefold symmetry," said study co-author Andrew Smith, a paleontologist at the Natural History Museum in London, referring to the group of animals that includes starfish and sea urchins. Modern echinoderms typically have five-point symmetry, such as the five arms of the starfish or the sand dollar's distinctive pattern.

The primitive sea creature, described today (June 25) in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, could even change its body shape from slender to stumpy. Researchers say it is a transitional animal that could help explain how early echinoderms evolved their unique body plans, Smith said.

Cambrian explosion

In 2012, Smith and his colleagues were excavating in sediments dating to about 520 million years ago in the Anti-Atlas Mountains in Morocco, when they uncovered several specimens of the strange fossil.

Bizarre 500-million-year-old creature unearthed
Artist's reconstruction of  the Helcocystis moroccoensis flourished
[Credit: Andrew Smith]
The creature lived on the ancient supercontinent called Gondwana during the Cambrian Explosion, a period when all creatures inhabited the seas and life on the planet diversified dramatically.

One of the oldest known echinoderms, Helicoplacus — first unearthed in the White Mountains in California — had a spiral but asymmetrical body plan. And all modern echinoderms start off as larvae with bilateral symmetry, raising the question of how and when the creatures' distinctive five-point body plan originated.

New creatures

H. moroccoensis, named after the country where it was found, had a cylindrical body that extended up to 1.6 inches (4 centimeters) long. The echinoderm's mouth was on the top of its body, and it sported a cup made of checkered plates with a small stem at its base. It had a latticelike skeleton made of calcite.

"It's a cigar-shaped beast, and it was able to expand and contract that cigar shape," Smith told LiveScience. "Sometimes it could be short and fat, and sometimes it could be long and thin."

The tiny sea creatures changed shape using a spiraling arrangement of five ambulacra, or grooves coming from the mouth that opened and closed to capture bits of food floating in the water.

The newly discovered species is the oldest known echinoderm with five ambulacra, and could shed light on how echinoderms evolved their unique body plans, Smith said.

H. moroccoensis was also found in sediments containing several other bizarre echinoderms, many of which had wacky body plans, ranging from completely asymmetrical to bilaterally symmetrical. That wide variety suggests the creatures were going through a period of dramatic diversification around that time period, Smith said.

"The important thing about the whole fauna is that there is already, by this time, a remarkable diversity in body form," Smith said. "And yet this is only 10 [million] to 15 million years after the calcite skeleton evolved."

Exploring dinosaur growth

Tracking the growth of dinosaurs and how they changed as they grew is difficult. Using a combination of biomechanical analysis and bone histology, palaeontologists from Beijing, Bristol, and Bonn have shown how one of the [...]

New species of hornless Rhino from Late Miocene found in Thailand

New species of hornless Rhino from Late Miocene found in Thailand

In the Tha Chang area, Nakhon Ratchasima Province, Thailand, several sand pits previously have yielded fossils. The area is 220 km northeast of Bangkok, and the sand pits are located next to the Mun River. The sedimentary sequence of these sand pits consists of unconsolidated mudstone, sandstone, and conglomerate, deposited by the ancient Mun River. 

New species of hornless Rhino from Late Miocene found in Thailand
Reconstruction of the Late Miocene habitat of Aceratherium piriyai
at Tha Chang [Credit: Chen Yu]
Almost all the fossils have been found and collected by local villagers working in these sand pits, and they have been brought to public institutions such as Nakhon Ratchasima Rajabhat University. Consequently, precise field information is unavailable for most of the fossils from the Tha Chang area, including the type mandible of the recently described new hominoid Khoratpithecus piriyai.

Dr. DENG Tao from Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP), Chinese Academy of Sciences, and his Thai colleagues from Nakhon Ratchasima Rajabhat University studied the rhino fossils collected from the Tha Chang sand pits and described them as a new species of the subfamily Aceratheriinae, Aceratherium piriyai sp. nov. Its holotype is an adult skull without premaxillae and the anterior portion of nasals, and its paratype is an almost complete mandible. Her Royal Highness Princess Sirindhorn of Thailand was interested in this study and watched the holotype of A. pirayai when Dr. Deng and his Thai colleagues studied these fossils in Nakhon Ratchasima. The study is published online June 26, 2013 in Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Cuvier (1822) created the species Rhinoceros incisivus based on an isolated first upper incisor of large size from the Middle Miocene locality of Weisenau in Germany, but the tooth unambiguously belongs to a genus of the tribe Teleoceratini. Kaup (1832) described two skulls of a hornless rhinoceros from the Late Miocene locality of Eppelsheim in Germany, and he created a new genus Aceratherium for them, but used Cuvier’s species. The prevailing usage of Aceratherium incisivum Kaup, 1832 is conserved in fact. Since Kaup (1832), many rhinoceroses, at least 83 species, have been described as species of Aceratherium, relegating this genus to a wastebasket taxon. Later, however, most of the species were referred to other genera within the subfamily Aceratheriinae or to other rhino groups.

New species of hornless Rhino from Late Miocene found in Thailand
Holotype skull of Aceratherium piriyai sp. nov. [Credit: IVPP]
A. piriyai has several characters that are more derived than in A. incisivum and A. depereti, such as very broadly separated parietal crests, a straight nuchal crest, and longer metalophs on M1-2. But A. piriyai also has some more primitive characters than A. incisivum, such as narrow zygomatic arches, a progressive anterior tip of the maxillary zygomatic process, and absence of the medifossette on P4.
The very broadly separated parietal crests, an important derived character in the morphological evolution of aceratheres, indicate that the age of A. piriyai must be later than the ages of the time-successive Aceratherium depereti-A. incisivum. 

A. depereti came from the Lower Miocene deposits of the Turgai region in Kazakhstan, and A. incisivum was distributed in MN 9-10 of the early Late Miocene of Western Europe. As a result, the age of A. piriyai should be the late Late Miocene. The stegolophodonts from the Tha Chang sand pits are more primitive than Stegodon in northern China, suggesting that the Tha Chang sand pits are older than 6 Ma. Based on other mammalian fossils from the Tha Chang area, the age of the fossiliferous deposits in Tha Chang Sand Pit 8 has been estimated to be 9-7 Ma, and later, 7.4-5.9 Ma. A. piriyai indicates that the age of 7.4-5.9 Ma should be reasonable for the Tha Chang sand pits.

On the other hand, while A. piriyai has a mixture of derived and primitive character states compared to A. incisivum, it is not more primitive than A. depereti. As a result, A. depereti could be the ancestor of both A. incisivum and A. piriyai. A. depereti was distributed in Central Asia, so its descendents, A. incisivum and A. piriyai would have dispersed westward to Europe and southward to South Asia, respectively, evolving different derived characters in different evolutionary trends from A. depereti.

New species of hornless Rhino from Late Miocene found in Thailand
Location and section of Tha Chang in Nakhon Ratchasima Province,
northeastern Thailand [Credit: IVPP]
The occipital surface of A. depereti is vertical or apparently feebly deflected backward, which is a primitive character compared to the posteriorly inclined occiput of A. incisivum. The occipital surface of the Tha Chang rhino is slightly inclined posteriorly or nearly vertical, and the cheek teeth are subhypsodont, both indicating a woodland habitat. This result is identical with the paleobotanical evidence for the Tha Chang sand pits, which indicates the occurrence of wet and tropical forest environments.

This work was supported by the National Basic Research Program of China, the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the National Natural Science Foundation of China. 

Papilloma virus may explain the "jackalope" legend

The photo is one of three images of a diseased rabbit, explained at Reddit as suffering from a viral infection:
The cottontail rabbit papilloma virus (CRPV), or Shope papilloma virus, is a type I virus under the Baltimore scheme, possessing a nonsegmented dsDNA genome. It infects rabbits, causing keratinous carcinomas, typically on or near the animal’s head. These tumors can become large enough that they interfere with the host’s ability to eat, eventually causing starvation.
The Wikipedia entry adds:
The virus is also a possible source of myths about the jackalope, a rabbit with the antlers
of an antelope, and related cryptids such as the wolpertinger. Stories and illustrations of horned rabbits appear in scientific treatises dating back many years, such as the Tableau encyclopédique et méthodique, from 1789 [image at right]

Animal Pictures

Prowling Fox by Ross Forsyth - tigerfastimagery on Flickr.