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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.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Daily Drift


Philosophy can be a troubling thing ...

Carolina Naturally is read in 192 countries around the world daily.
repugicans don't like today - they have to tell the truth and it is mortally painful for them to do so ...

Today is Tell The Truth Day 

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Today in History

1742   A Spanish force invading Georgia runs headlong into the colony's British defenders.The battle decides the fate of a colony.
1777   American troops give up Fort Ticonderoga, on Lake Champlain, to the British.
1791   Benjamin Rush, Richard Allen and Absalom Jones found the Non-denominational African Church.
1795   Thomas Paine defends the principal of universal suffrage at the Constitutional Convention in Paris.
1798   Napoleon Bonaparte's army begins its march towards Cairo from Alexandria.
1807   Czar Alexander meets with Napoleon Bonaparte.
1814   Sir Walter Scott's novel Waverly is published anonymously so as not to damage his reputation as a poet.
1815   After defeating Napoleon at Waterloo, the victorious Allies march into Paris.
1853   Japan opens its ports to trade with the West after 250 years of isolation.
1863   Confederate General Robert E. Lee, in Hagerstown, Maryland, reports his defeat at Gettysburg to President Jefferson Davis.
1925   Afrikaans is recognized as one of the official languages of South Africa, along with English and Dutch.
1927   Christopher Stone becomes the first British 'disc jockey' when he plays records for the BBC.
1941   Although a neutral country, the United States sends troops to occupy Iceland to keep it out of Germany's hands.
1943   Adolf Hitler makes the V-2 missile program a top priority in armament planning.
1966   The U.S. Marine Corps launches Operation Hasting to drive the North Vietnamese Army back across the Demilitarized Zone in Vietnam.
1969   The first U.S. units to withdraw from South Vietnam leave Saigon.
1981   Sandra Day O'Connor becomes the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court

Non Sequitur


The Guitarist Who Got Kicked out of Nirvana and Soundgarden, Then Joined the US Army Special Forces

Jason Everman had the honor of being hired and fired from not just one, but two famous bands. After drifting for a while with other bands, he enlisted in the Army:
When he arrived for basic training at Fort Benning, his hair was cut, his nose ring was removed; he was as anonymous as every other recruit. At 26, he wasn’t an old-timer, but he was close to it. Training had been going on for about a month when Cobain committed suicide and Everman’s rock past was discovered, which gave more ammunition to the drill sergeants. There was a lot of “O.K., rock star, give me 50.” Everman insists he didn’t expect anything else.
A fellow soldier named Sean Walker told me that Ranger instructors begin by asking recruits to quit now to save time. “You had to pass a 12-mile road march in three hours or less,” Walker said, “run 5 miles in 40 minutes or less, complete the combat-swimmers test, as well as other evils the cadre decided to throw at you.” Half the recruits quit. But Everman refused to let himself be left behind this time. He completed every last requirement.
Everman became a Ranger and then made it into the elite world of the Special Forces. He saw action in Iraq, Afghanistan and other places that he can't talk about. In a way, he became a rock star again:
In the war, Everman seemed to have found his place. The cloud didn’t go anywhere; it just didn’t matter anymore. As one of his Special Forces colleagues (who is still on active duty and requested that his name not be published) told me: “He would get moody sometimes, but it didn’t interfere with the task at hand. I would rather work with somebody who is quiet than ran their suck constantly.” In Everman’s cabin, I saw medal after medal, including the coveted Combat Infantryman Badge. “Sounds kind of Boy Scouty,” he said. “But it’s actually something cool.” I saw photos of Everman in fatigues on a warship (“an antipiracy operation in Asia”). A shot of Everman with Donald Rumsfeld. Another with Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal. And that’s when it hit me. Jason Everman had finally become a rock star.
“The way I look at it, life is meaningless,” Everman said the last time I saw him. “The meaningfulness is what you impart to it.” The words sounded an awful lot like those of a philosophy undergrad, which is the latest iteration of Jason Everman’s life. He was talking about Jack Kerouac; he had to reread “On the Road” for one of his classes. We were standing in front of Butler Library on the Columbia University campus in New York. Everman looked rested and content, a backpack over his shoulder. After he left the military in 2006, he used the G.I. Bill to apply to two places: Seattle University and Columbia University. He says he threw Columbia in almost as a joke. General McChrystal wrote a letter of recommendation. To Everman’s shock, he was accepted. “It’s almost like a dare that went too far — and it keeps going.” At 45, he just received his bachelor’s degree in philosophy.

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North Carolina Becomes First State to Disqualify Itself for Federal Jobless Benefits

.From Crooks and Liars

The wingnuts are really running wild in North Carolina. A new law taking effect over the weekend will cut unemployment benefits for new claims and disqualify the state from receiving federal funds for the long-term jobless.

According the The Associated Press, lawmakers passed the bill in February to accelerate the repayment of $2.5 billion federal debt by cutting jobless benefits and increasing taxes on businesses. Because the bill cuts benefits to those who are newly unemployed, the state also disqualified itself from receiving federally funded Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC).

The U.S. Labor Department has estimated that about 170,000 out-of-work North Carolinians stand to lose $700 million in EUC payments.

The truth be told

Thirty-Five Founding Father Quotes religio-wingnut christians Will Hate

by Stephen D. Foster Jr
three of our founding fathers: George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson
The separation of cult and state is one of the cornerstones of America’s foundation. Wingnut christian fundamentalists have sought to crush this cornerstone in the hopes of establishing christianity as the state religion, an action that would threaten the rest of the foundation that makes up the Constitution. These conservatives contend that the Founding Fathers dreamed of making America a Christian state at the expense of those who practice other religions or none at all.

So here are 35 quotes from the Founding Fathers. Perhaps your first thoughts are the first four Presidents and maybe Benjamin Franklin, but there were many other Founding Fathers. Many were signers of the Constitution and The Declaration of Independence. They were lawyers, judges, soldiers, merchants, farmers, and some were even clergy. And the great majority of them signed the Constitution knowing that matters of government and matters of religion would be separate.

1. “If I could conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.”
~George Washington, letter to the United Baptist Chamber of Virginia, May 1789

2. “Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by a difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought to be deprecated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society.”
~George Washington, letter to Edward Newenham, October 20, 1792

3. “We have abundant reason to rejoice that in this Land the light of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition… In this enlightened Age and in this Land of equal liberty it is our boast, that a man’s religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the Laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining and holding the highest Offices that are known in the United States.”
~George Washington, letter to the members of the New Church in Baltimore, January 27, 1793

4. “The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.”
~John Adams, “A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America” 1787-1788

5. “The Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.”
~1797 Treaty of Tripoli signed by John Adams

6. “Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind.”
~John Adams, “A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America” (1787-88)

7. “We should begin by setting conscience free. When all men of all religions shall enjoy equal liberty, property, and an equal chance for
honors and power we may expect that improvements will be made in the human character and the state of society.”
~John Adams, letter to Dr. Price, April 8, 1785

8. “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state.”
~Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802

9. “In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own. It is error alone that needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself.”
~Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Horatio Spofford, 1814

10. “Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, then that of blindfolded fear.”
~Thomas Jefferson, letter to Peter Carr, August 10, 1787

11. “I am for freedom of religion and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another.”
~Thomas Jefferson, letter to Elbridge Gerry, January 26, 1799 

12. “History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.”
-Thomas Jefferson: in letter to Alexander von Humboldt, December 6, 1813 

13. “Because religious belief, or non-belief, is such an important part of every person’s life, freedom of religion affects every individual.
State churches that use government power to support themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of the church tends to make the clergy unresponsive to the people and leads to corruption within religion. Erecting the “wall of separation between church and state,” therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society. We have solved … the great and interesting question whether freedom of religion is compatible with order in government and obedience to the laws. And we have experienced the quiet as well as the comfort which results from leaving every one to profess freely and openly those principles of religion which are the inductions of his own reason and the serious convictions of his own inquiries.”
~Thomas Jefferson: in a speech to the Virginia Baptists, 1808

14. “Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.”
~Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814,

15. “The civil government functions with complete success by the total separation of the Church from the State.”
~James Madison, 1819, Writings, 8:432, quoted from Gene Garman, “Essays In Addition to America’s Real Religion” 

16. “And I have no doubt that every new example will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.”
~James Madison, letter to Edward Livingston, July 10, 1822 

17. “Every new and successful example of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters is of importance.”
~James Madison, letter, 1822

18. “Strongly guarded as is the separation between Religion and Government in the Constitution of the United States, the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies, may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history.”
~James Madison; Monopolies, Perpetuities, Corporations, Ecclesiastical

19. “It is only when the people become ignorant and corrupt, when they degenerate into a populace, that they are incapable of exercising the sovereignty. Usurpation is then an easy attainment, and an usurper soon found. The people themselves become the willing instruments of their own debasement and ruin. Let us, then, look to the great cause, and endeavor to preserve it in full force. Let us by all wise and constitutional measures promote intelligence among the people as the best means of preserving our liberties.”
~James Monroe, First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1817

20. “When a religion is good, I conceive it will support itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it so that its professors are obligated to call for help of the civil power, it’s a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.”
~Benjamin Franklin, letter to Richard Price, October 9, 1780

21. “Manufacturers, who listening to the powerful invitations of a better price for their fabrics, or their labor, of greater cheapness of provisions and raw materials, of an exemption from the chief part of the taxes burdens and restraints, which they endure in the old world, of greater personal independence and consequence, under the operation of a more equal government, and of what is far more precious than mere religious toleration–a perfect equality of religious privileges; would probably flock from Europe to the United States to pursue their own trades or professions, if they were once made sensible of the advantages they would enjoy, and were inspired with an assurance of encouragement and employment, will, with difficulty, be induced to transplant themselves, with a view to becoming cultivators of the land.”
~Alexander Hamilton: Report on the Subject of Manufacturers December 5,

22. “In regard to religion, mutual toleration in the different professions thereof is what all good and candid minds in all ages have ever practiced, and both by precept and example inculcated on mankind.”
~Samuel Adams, The Rights of the Colonists (1771) 

23. “That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forebearance, love, and charity towards each other.”
~George Mason, Virginia Bill of Rights, 1776

24. “It is contrary to the principles of reason and justice that any should be compelled to contribute to the maintenance of a church with which their consciences will not permit them to join, and from which they can derive no benefit; for remedy whereof, and that equal liberty as well religious as civil, may be universally extended to all the good people of this commonwealth.”
~George Mason, Virginia Declaration of Rights, 1776

25. “A man of abilities and character, of any sect whatever, may be admitted to any office or public trust under the United States. I am a friend to a variety of sects, because they keep one another in order. How many different sects are we composed of throughout the United States? How many different sects will be in congress? We cannot enumerate the sects that may be in congress. And there are so many now in the United States that they will prevent the establishment of any one sect in prejudice to the rest, and will forever oppose all attempts to infringe religious liberty. If such an attempt be made, will not the alarm be sounded throughout America? If congress be as wicked as we are foretold they will, they would not run the risk of exciting the resentment of all, or most of the religious sects in America.”
~Edmund Randolph, address to the Virginia Ratifying Convention, June
10, 1788

26. “I never liked the Hierarchy of the Church — an equality in the teacher of Religion, and a dependence on the people, are republican sentiments — but if the Clergy combine, they will have their influence on Government”
~Rufus King, Rufus King: American Federalist, pp. 56-57

27. A general toleration of Religion appears to me the best means of peopling our country… The free exercise of religion hath stocked the Northern part of the continent with inhabitants; and altho’ Europe hath in great measure adopted a more moderate policy, yet the profession of Protestantism is extremely inconvenient in many places there. A Calvinist, a Lutheran, or Quaker, who hath felt these inconveniences in Europe, sails not to Virginia, where they are felt perhaps in a (greater degree).”
~Patrick Henry, observing that immigrants flock to places where there is no established religion, Religious Tolerance, 1766

28. “No religious doctrine shall be established by law.”
~Elbridge Gerry, Annals of Congress 1:729-731

29. “Knowledge and liberty are so prevalent in this country, that I do not believe that the United States would ever be disposed to establish one religious sect, and lay all others under legal disabilities. But as we know not what may take place hereafter, and any such test would be exceedingly injurious to the rights of free citizens, I cannot think it altogether superfluous to have added a clause, which secures us from the possibility of such oppression.”
~Oliver Wolcott, Connecticut Ratifying Convention, 9 January 1788

30. “Some very worthy persons, who have not had great advantages for information, have objected against that clause in the constitution
which provides, that no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States. They have been afraid that this clause is unfavorable to religion. But my countrymen, the sole purpose and effect of it is to exclude persecution, and to secure to you the important right of religious
liberty. We are almost the only people in the world, who have a full enjoyment of this important right of human nature. In our country every man has a right to worship God in that way which is most agreeable to his conscience. If he be a good and peaceable person he is liable to no penalties or incapacities on account of his religious sentiments; or in other words, he is not subject to persecution. But in other parts of the world, it has been, and still is, far different. Systems of religious error have been adopted, in times of ignorance. It has been the interest of tyrannical kings, popes, and prelates, to maintain these errors. When the clouds of ignorance began to vanish, and the people grew more enlightened, there was no other way to keep them in error, but to prohibit their altering their religious opinions by severe persecuting laws. In this way persecution became general throughout Europe.”
~Oliver Ellsworth, Philip B Kurland and Ralph Lerner (eds.), The Founder’s Constitution, University of Chicago Press, 1987, Vol. 4, p.

31. “Persecution is not an original feature in any religion; but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law. Take away the law-establishment, and every religion re-assumes its original benignity.”
~Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man, 1791

32. “God has appointed two kinds of government in the world, which are distinct in their nature, and ought never to be confounded together; one of which is called civil, the other ecclesiastical government.”
~Isaac Backus, An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty, 1773

33. “Congress has no power to make any religious establishments.”
~Roger Sherman, Congress, August 19, 1789

34. “The American states have gone far in assisting the progress of truth; but they have stopped short of perfection. They ought to have given every honest citizen an equal right to enjoy his religion and an equal title to all civil emoluments, without obliging him to tell his religion. Every interference of the civil power in regulating opinion, is an impious attempt to take the business of the Deity out of his own hands; and every preference given to any religious denomination, is so far slavery and bigotry.”
~Noah Webster, calling for no religious tests to serve in public office, Sketches of American Policy, 1785

35. “The legislature of the United States shall pass no law on the subject of religion.”
~Charles Pinckney, Constitutional Convention, 1787

These are hardly the words of men who allegedly believed that America should be a christian nation governed by the bible as wingnuts constantly claim. On the contrary, the great majority of the Founders believed strongly in separation of cult and state. So, keep in mind that this country has survived for over two centuries under the principle of separation and it is only now when wingnuts are attempting to destroy that very cornerstone that we find America becoming ever more divided and more politically charged than ever before. If this wingnut faction has their way, America as we know it will cease to exist and the freedoms we have enjoyed because of the Constitution will erode. The Founding Fathers had a vision of this
nation and trusted that the people would protect that vision and improve upon it. Now is not the time to fail them. Because the day the people fail, so does America.

Good Question

Wingnut Groups Lied To The IRS By Failing To Report Their Political Spending

Perjury There are myriad ways to lie, but one particularly devious act of mendacity is willfully swearing a false oath, or falsifying an affirmation to tell the truth whether spoken or in writing concerning matters material to an official proceeding and technically it is perjury. Perjury is considered a serious offense because it usurps the power of the courts resulting in miscarriages of justice and, in America, Federal law classifies perjury as a felony providing a prison sentence of up to five years. The recent furor over the Internal Revenue Service scrutinizing applications for social welfare, tax-exempt organizations, has revealed that the IRS was doing its due diligence in screening political activists’ applications, and one aspect going unnoticed is the level of perjury most of the conservative groups are guilty of just filing false declarations.  However, many of the groups are also guilty of perjury for failing to report, or under-reporting, their political spending on tax forms filed with the IRS.
The rash of wingnut political activist groups posing as social welfare nonprofits are forbidden from having political campaign activity as their primary purpose, and it is the IRS methodology of how they measured such activity while screening the groups’ social welfare applications that has repugicans in an uproar over the IRS’s treatment of patriot and teabagger groups. There are very specific questions asking for details on any campaign spending on forms social welfare non-profits are required to file with the IRS, and many conservative groups illegally use the social welfare designation to conceal dark money being injected into political campaigns. Some groups are reporting political donations to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), but to maintain their “social welfare” designation they are deliberately lying to the IRS and committing perjury by signing tax forms claiming they did not spend any money on political campaigns.
In just one example likely out of thousands, a dark money group, A Better America Now, based a couple of miles off the beach near Jacksonville, Florida promised on its 2011 application for “social welfare” tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service it did not plan to spend any money on elections. In the last election cycle, A Better America Now reported to the FEC it spent about $65,000 for mailers and TV advertising in a highly contested race for Texas’ 23rd congressional district seat. However, in its tax return recently filed with the IRS, the group claimed it did not spend any money on “direct or indirect political campaign activities” even though return was signed “under the penalty of perjury” by the group’s president and accounting firm preparing the tax return. Apparently, it is a common occurrence with conservative groups with tax-exempt “social welfare” designation to inject dark money into political campaigns to influence elections without revealing their donors. It is the only reason the groups seek “social welfare” designation in the first place and why repugicans are attempting to quash IRS scrutiny into wingnut dark money groups.
It is not the first time A Better America Now, a Florida-based outfit, has injected anonymous money into repugican campaigns in different parts of the country, and according to Craig Holman of Public Citizen, “This type of inaccurate reporting by electioneering nonprofit groups has a long history, and it is rooted in the fact that the IRS almost never holds these groups accountable for such false declarations.” However, it is not just “inaccurate reporting” or “false declarations,” it is blatant perjury and it presents two prescient questions that demand an answer; why are these groups allowed to apply for or keep their social welfare designation, and why are they not prosecuted for perjury and imprisoned for “up to five years” as required by Federal law? In the A Better America Now case, it is not that there is a question of whether the dark money social welfare group lied to the IRS on its 501(c) application, because the contradiction between the FEC filing and 501(c) application is blatant. It is also obvious the group deliberately omitted the money it spent on a direct political campaign in Texas and signed, “under penalty of perjury,” a Federal document swearing “the statements are true, correct, and complete” and filed with the Internal Revenue Service.
During last year’s presidential campaign, it was revealed that Willard Romney committed perjury on various filings with the SEC and FEC, and yet despite an appeal to investigate and prosecute the false statements and clear case of perjury, Romney is not under investigation, indicted, or sitting where he belongs; in prison. One thing is certain, if a middle class American commits perjury on an IRS tax return they would be punished to the full extent of the law and it is another indication that in America, political lying and perjury are not only unpunished, but they are rewarded and there are indications they will continue breaking federal law as repugicans are attempting to neuter the IRS’s ability to hold political groups accountable for their illegal activities.
Religious organizations are also breaking the law with impunity by campaigning from the pulpit in violation of their IRS agreement to avoid paying taxes, and it goes far beyond just paying income taxes. Cults are exempt from paying property taxes regardless they are sitting on prime real estate and using the services the rest of the community funds, and clergy double-dips on personal income tax liability through their shadowy compensation schemes other Americans are forbidden from using. It is high time the Internal Revenue Service is given the support and authority they need to hold religious and political groups accountable for their illegal machinations to influence elections and avoid paying their fair share like the rest of the population.
America is a nation founded on the rule of law, but along the way two of the most powerful groups in the country are flaunting the law with impunity and when the IRS did attempt to do its due diligence and scrutinize purely political activities, they have been reviled by repugicans. There is no  specific law against outright lying that repugicans are notorious for, but there are Federal statutes defining perjury as “willfully swearing a false oath, or falsifying an affirmation to tell the truth whether spoken or in writing concerning matters material to an official proceeding,” and at the least, signing an IRS tax return with false information is perjury. However, dark money groups posing as “social welfare” non-profits exceed just committing perjury in signing a tax return, and they deserve a thorough investigation by the Department of Justice to revoke their tax-exempt status, reveal their outside anonymous donors, and at the least imprison them for five years for each instance of filing false documents.

Reality Bites ...


Qatari Bank Issues Diamond-Studded Credit Card

Want a credit card that will show off how much money you have to burn? The Qatar National Bank issues one that comes encrusted with real diamonds:
The invitation only QNB Private World Elite MasterCard credit card is an “experience-based service platform” for the bank’s jet-set crowd.
The card has no pre-set spending limit and owners get personal travel advisors, around-the-clock dedicated luxury lifestyle concierge, bespoke personal shopping experiences at various destinations, and invitations to mysterious “insider priceless experiences”.

Dragons and Slaves

"Dragon" found in toilet

A shopper fled from an Asda supermarket in Edinburgh, Scotland, after being confronted by a "dragon" in the toilet—a creature that turned out to be a harmless monitor lizard. The lizard was rescued by animal welfare officers, who have named it Lulu.

"Slave" freed in Wales, 13 years after disappearance 

"An Englishman who mysteriously vanished on holiday more than a decade ago has been reunited with his family after he was discovered allegedly working as a slave on a Welsh farm for the last 13 years." 

Daily Funny

What Are the Weirdest Languages in the World?

According to Idibon, a company that makes language processing applications, these are the weirdest languages on different continents:
In North America: Chalcatongo Mixtec, Choctaw, Mesa Grande Diegueño, Kutenai, and Zoque; in South America: Paumarí and Trumai; in Australia/Oceania: Pitjantjatjara and Lavukaleve; in Africa: Harar Oromo, Iraqw, Kongo, Mumuye, Ju|’hoan, and Khoekhoe; in Asia: Nenets, Eastern Armenian, Abkhaz, Ladakhi, and Mandarin; and in Europe: German, Dutch, Norwegian, Czech, and Spanish.
But is weirdness relative? Maybe the World Atlas of Language Structures provides a source for objective evaluation. Here's what Idibon did with it:
For each value that a language has, we calculate the relative frequency of that value for all the other languages that are coded for it. So if we had included subject-object-verb order then English would’ve gotten a value of 0.355 (we actually normalized these values according to the overal entropy for each feature, so it wasn’t exactly 0.355, but you get the idea). The Weirdness Index is then an average across the 21 unique structural features. But because different features have different numbers of values and we want to reduce skewing, we actually take the harmonic mean (and because we want bigger numbers = more weird, we actually subtract the mean from one). In this blog post, I’ll only report languages that have a value filled in for at least two-thirds of features (239 languages).

Cave Art Reveals Ancient View of Cosmos

Some of the oldest art in the United States maps humanity's place in the cosmos, as aligned with an ancient religion.

Archaeology vs. Space

18th c. plantation site may block commercial spaceport construction

Archaeologist Dot Moore, right, and historian Roz Foster, in hat, excavate the Elliott Plantation site. Photo: National Park Service
Space Florida, the aerospace economic development agency for the state of Florida, plans to construct a commercial spaceport next to Kennedy Space Center. Local business, government officials, and laid-off Space Coast aerospace workers who lost their jobs when the shuttle program ended love the idea.

But the past sometimes reaches out to trip the future. The property along the Volusia-Brevard county line where Space Florida wants to build its spaceport turns out to be already occupied. It contains the ruins of an 18th century English plantation, complete with slave villages, a sugar factory and a rum distillery. National Park Service officials have declared it "one of the most significant properties in North America."
The Elliott Plantation, built in the late 1760s, spans some 2,500 acres and "contains the remains of a complete sugar works factory … two overseers' homes and two slave villages," according to a March archaeological report filed by the National Park Service. "This is one of the most significant and well-preserved African-American landscapes known, and is unique in its quality of preservation."
The ruins were fully explored and documented by archaeologists five years ago, according to archaeologist Dot Moore. "They should have known," she said.
The existence of the plantation site is noted in this NPS publication from 2008.

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Caucasian man's skull dating to 1600s found in eastern Australia

When police were called to reports of human remains found on a river bank they prepared themselves for a grim murder investigation.
Caucasian man's skull dating to 1600s found in eastern Australia
The skull uncovered near Taree, New South Wales which is thought
to date back to the 1600s [Credit: Daniel Cummins]
But their CSI-style detective work has deepened the mystery - and questioned whether Captain Cook really was the first white man to set foot on the east coast of Australia.

The cold case began in November 2011 when a perfectly intact skull was found at Manning Point, near Taree, on the state's north coast.

Police were called in and an anthropologist said it possibly belonged to a young female. But further scientific testing - the results of which came back last week - revealed the skull to be a white male, with an 80 per cent chance of it dating back to the 1600s, decades before Captain James Cook arrived aboard Endeavour.

"The DNA determined the skull was a male," Detective Sergeant John Williamson said. "And the anthropologist report states the skull is that of a Caucasoid aged anywhere from 28 to 65."

The carbon dating results put the skull - dubbed Taree - as being from two time periods, the 1600s or late 1700s.

"It's fascinating," Dr Stewart Fallon, of Australian National University, said. "Using carbon dating on bone fragment and looking at enamel from a tooth, there are two possible time periods from when the person was around."

Dr Fallon said the first period would mean the male was born between 1650 and 1660 and died 40 to 50 years later. "The second period suggests the skull belongs to someone born anywhere from 1780 to 1790 and died between 1805 and 1810."But he said his data suggested there was an 80 per cent chance the skull came from the mid-17th century.

He said it was impossible to be more exact but he was carrying out his own tests to try to establish the geographical origins of the skull.

While fascinated, archaeologist and historians are cautious. "Before we rewrite the history of European settlement we have to consider a number of issues, particularly the circumstances of the discovery," renowned Australian archaeologist Adam Ford said.

"The fact the skull is in good condition and found alone could easily point to it coming from a private collection and skulls were very popular with collectors in the 19th century."

No other skeletal remains were found with the skull, making its origin debatable.

"Being found near a river bed after heavy rains means it could come from anywhere, even the remains of a relative stored on a farm. But having said that it warrants further examination and could be a significant find."

The fate of "Taree" is now in the hands of the NSW Department of Planning.

"The coroner has deemed that since the skull is over 99 years old he has no jurisdiction; it is covered by the Heritage Act it is considered a relic," Sgt Williamson said.

Australia And New Zealand Inside History editor Cassie Mercer said the find was exciting: "If the skull does pre-date British settlement, it may be a tragic yet fascinating clue to the little-known history of early interactions between First Australians and the outside world.

"It's intriguing the skull was discovered in NSW, far from the northern and western coastlines that have yielded archaeological evidence of interaction between indigenous people and Dutch, Portuguese, Javanese and Chinese traders."

Inscribed stelae found in Chactun provide new data about the ancient city

The 19 steles found in the ancient Mayan city of Chactun, recently discovered in the southeast of Campeche, will allow archaeologists to collect new data about the ancient inhabitants of this region, located north of the River Bec, of which we know little about. The archaeologist and epigraphist Octavio Esparza Olguin signaled that epigraphic registries are not abundant in this region, which is why the pieces found are of such importance.
Inscribed stelae found in Chactun provide new data about the ancient city
Detail of Stele 1 [Credit: INAH]
The expert in epigraphy, who is part of the expedition endorsed by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), and who advanced deep into the Biosphere Reserve of Calakmul, explained that from the pieces found at the site, three are in a good state of conservation, and seven still allow the observation of hieroglyphic writing, although its conservation state is so precarious that events and precise dates are difficult to appreciate. Another nine remain severely eroded.

Inscribed stelae found in Chactun provide new data about the ancient city
Stele 18 [Credit: INAH]
Esparza Olguien said that it’s exceptional that Stele 1 still has stucco remains, because this material is rarely conserved in tropical weather after so long. The piece gives name to the place, since it makes reference to a “Red Stone” or “Big Stone”, which was set up by a character named K’ihnich B’ahlam, in the year 751 AD.

Inscribed stelae found in Chactun provide new data about the ancient city
Detail of Stele 18 [Credit: INAH]
Octavio Esparza, from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), said that many of the pieces found at the site –which flourished in the Late Classic period (600 through 900 AD)– were reused some time later. “The majority of the fragments were placed in the ball courts and the plazas in the West and Southeast”.

Inscribed stelae found in Chactun provide new data about the ancient city
Stele 14 [Credit: INAH]
The epigraphist mentioned that Stele 14 is a clear example of how this site was used by later civilizations, since it was buried and a wall was attached to its front, which prevents archaeologists from seeing the character clearly, although a long calendar date corresponding to 731 AD and part of a lunar cycle can be distinguished.

Inscribed stelae found in Chactun provide new data about the ancient city
Stele 2 [Credit: INAH]
They also found remains of late offerings in some monuments, such as the case of Stele 1, where it was possible to rescue some ceramic censers that were deposited towards the end of the Late Classic period or beginning the Posclassic period (900 through 1200 AD). “Many of these pieces –added the expert– where placed by people who were on a pilgrimage as an act of respect, although they probably didn’t understand the meaning of the hieroglyphic texts”.

Head of Roman god found in ancient rubbish dump

An 1,800-year-old carved stone head of what is believed to be a Roman god has been unearthed in an ancient rubbish dump. Archaeologists made the discovery at Binchester Roman Fort, near Bishop Auckland, in County Durham.
Carved head of Roman god found in ancient rubbish dump
The late Roman stone head was found by Durham University archaeologists at Binchester Fort, County Durham, UK [Credit: Durham University]
First year Durham University archaeology student Alex Kirton found the artefact, which measures about 20cm by 10cm, in buried late Roman rubbish within what was probably a bath house.

The sandstone head, which dates from the 2nd or 3rd century AD, has been likened to the Celtic deity Antenociticus, thought to have been worshipped as a source of inspiration and intercession in military affairs. A similar sandstone head, complete with an inscription identifying it as Antenociticus, was found at Benwell, in Newcastle upon Tyne, in 1862.

Dr David Petts, Lecturer in Archaeology at Durham University, said: “We found the Binchester head close to where a small Roman altar was found two years ago. We think it may have been associated with a small shrine in the bath house and dumped after the building fell out of use, probably in the 4th century AD. It is probably the head of a Roman god – we can’t be sure of his name, but it does have similarities to the head of Antenociticus found at Benwell in the 19th century. We may never know the true identity of this new head, but we are continuing to explore the building from which it came to help us improve our understanding of late Roman life at Binchester and the Roman Empire’s northern frontier in Northern England. Antenociticus is one of a number of gods known only from the northern frontier, a region which seems to have had a number of its own deities. It's also an excellent insight into the life and beliefs of the civilians living close to the Roman fort. The style is a combination of classical Roman art and more regional Romano-British traditions. It shows the population of the settlement taking classical artistic traditions and making them their own.”

Dr David Mason, Principal Archaeologist with the site’s owner, Durham County Council, said: “The head is a welcome addition to the collection of sculpture and inscriptions from Binchester. Previous religious dedications from the site feature deities from the classical pantheon of gods and goddesses such as the supreme god Jupiter and those associated with healing and good health such as Aesculapius, Salus and Hygeia. This one however appears to represent a local Romano-Celtic god of the type frequently found in the frontier regions of the Empire and probably representing the conflation of a classical deity with its local equivalent. The similarity with the head of Antenociticus is notable, but this could be a deity local to Binchester.”

The Binchester head is African in appearance, but Dr Petts, who is also Associate Director of Durham University’s Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, said experts were unsure whether these features were deliberate or coincidental.

He explained: “This is something we need to consider deeply. If it is an image of an African, it could be extremely important, although this identification is not certain.”

Dr Mason added: “The African style comparison may be misleading as the form is typical of that produced by local craftsmen in the frontier region.”

The find was made as part of a five year project at Binchester Roman Fort which is shedding new light on the twilight years of the Roman Empire.

The Binchester dig is a joint project between Durham University’s Department of Archaeology, site owner Durham County Council, Stanford University’s Archaeology Centre and the Architectural and Archaeological Society of Durham and Northumberland.

Each summer, undergraduate archaeology students from Durham and the United States are joined by volunteer members of the public to painstakingly reveal more fascinating details from Binchester’s past.

Farming Sprang Up In Multiple Places

A jackpot of artifacts and plant remains show that people 11,000 years ago began the early stages of farming at about the same time around the Near East.



Fossil insect traces reveal ancient climate at La Brea Tar Pits

The La Brea Tar Pits have stirred the imaginations of scientists and the public alike for over a century. But the amount of time it took for ancient animals to become buried in asphalt after [...]

Sea Life Off World's Remotest Island

This past month, a team of researchers trekked to Tristan da Cunha, an island in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean, to find out.

Octopus Found on Highest Mountain in England

If you're afraid of being attacked and eaten by octopuses, you might think that you'd find safety on higher ground. Not true. David Ascough found this menacing cephalopod on Scafell Pike, which, at 3,209 feet, is the highest mountain in England.
I wonder if it's related to the Pacific Northwest tree octopus?

Why Do Army Ants Commit Suicide?

There's a price for blindly following those in front of you. Take army ants for instance. These aggressive insects have a dangerous tendency to commit mass suicide just because they're following the leader.

This bizarre phenomenon - in which ants circle around and around until they all drop dead of exhaustion - is called an 'ant mill.' More colloquially, it's often referred to as an 'ant death spiral.' It happens when a group of army ants separated from the main foraging party lose the pheromone track and begin to follow one another, forming a continuously rotating circle.

Turtles have fingerprints?

For 220 million years they have roamed the seas, denizens of the bustling coral reef and the vast open ocean. Each year, some emerge from the pounding surf onto moonlit beaches to lay their eggs. Throughout human history, we have revered them, used them, and worked to protect them, but we have only begun to understand these ancient, iconic creatures. Now, with all five of the sea turtle species in the U.S. threatened or endangered, knowledge is more crucial than ever.
Turtles have fingerprints?
Leatherback hatchling on nesting beach, St. Croix, USVI [Credit: Kelly Stewart]
NOAA scientist Dr. Peter Dutton leads a team that's trying to answer some important questions about marine turtles. What will happen as sea levels rise, covering the nesting beaches turtles have used for hundreds of years? Which turtle laid this mysterious clutch of eggs on a remote beach? Where in the ocean do they mate, and how big is this population?

Thanks to a recent breakthrough in the genetics lab, Dutton and his colleagues have a clever way to find answers. Like detectives, they have learned that fingerprints help solve the puzzle…genetic fingerprints. For decades, most sea turtle studies and conservation efforts have focused on nesting females and hatchlings, because they're easiest for humans to access. Male sea turtles, which don't come ashore, are elusive characters.

Dutton's team has pioneered a technique that allows them to fill in the blanks using tiny DNA samples from nesting females and hatchlings. As Dutton and his colleague Dr. Kelly Stewart wrote in a recent article, Hidden in a hatchling's DNA is its entire family history, including who its mother is, who its father is, and to what nesting population it belongs.

This innovative tool is opening up new avenues in marine turtle conservation. Population recovery goals are based on how long turtles take to reach maturity, and genetic fingerprinting can help reveal this key piece of information, which may be different for each population. Dutton's team developed the technique while studying endangered leatherbacks on St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. In the last four years, they have sampled 20,353 hatchlings there, and discovered the genetic identity of the fathers, even when multiple males have sired a single clutch of eggs; how often individual turtles mate and their reproductive success; and the ratio of males to females among the breeding turtles.

On Padre Island National Seashore in Texas, critically endangered Kemp's ridley turtles have been leaving scattered nests along remote beaches, but females are often long gone by the time monitors find the nests. There, NOAA's Southwest Fisheries Science Center and the National Park Service are using the technique to match mystery nests to mother turtles. Identifying who's nesting where and when, survival rate, and breeding success over many years will help us monitor this small population and gauge the impact of major events like disasters.

In the most surprising news yet, green turtles have begun nesting in the main Hawai'ian islands for the first time in generations. Green turtles, or honu, have nested in the remote Northwest Hawai'ian Islands, primarily on the quiet, low-lying beaches of French Frigate Shoals, a coral atoll about 500 miles from Honolulu.

Genetic fingerprinting shows that about 15 untagged females have become "founders" on the main Hawai'ian islands, boldly nesting where no one has nested before…at least not for hundreds of years. It's possible that this pioneer population could provide a kind of buffer as sea level rise threatens to shrink their traditional nesting beaches. Many questions remain, but for now science is giving turtles, and those who care about them, reason to hope.

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