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

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Daily Drift

The Daily Drift
Those were the days, my friend. We thought they'd never end  ...

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Today in History

1505   On their way to India, a group of Portuguese explorers sack the city-state of Kilwa.
1567   Mary, Queen of Scots, is imprisoned and forced to abdicate her throne to her 1-year-old son James VI.
1701   Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac establishes Fort Ponchartrain for France at present-day Detroit, Michigan.
1704   Admiral George Rooke takes Gibraltar from the Spanish.
1766   At Fort Ontario, Canada, Ottawa chief Pontiac and William Johnson sign a peace agreement.
1791   Robespierre expels all Jacobins opposed to the principles of the French Revolution.
1847   The first members of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) arrive in Utah, settling in present-day Salt Lake City.
1862   The eighth president of the United States, Martin Van Buren, dies at the age of 79.
1897   African-American soldiers of the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps arrive in St. Louis, Mo., after completing a 40-day bike ride from Missoula, Montana.
1941   The U.S. government denounces Japanese actions in Indochina.
1942   The Soviet city of Rostov is captured by German troops.
1950   The U.S. Fifth Air Force relocates from Japan to Korea.
1974   The Supreme Court rules that President Richard Nixon must surrender the Watergate tapes.

Non Sequitur


Nada's Story

Criminal Sex

Eleven-year-old Nada Al-Ahdal lives in Yemen. Nada was raised by an uncle, and didn't even see her parents for  years until she was of an age that men were willing to pay for her hand in marriage. She ran away from her parents' home when she found out she was contracted to be married. Rather than face kidnapping charges, the uncle went to the Ministry of the Interior’s family protection department. After an investigation, the parents relinquished Nada to her uncle's care. In this video, Nada vents her feelings about what she went through, and asks for the world to consider other girls in the same situation. More

Legally binding "buzz-off" letters for debt collectors

Legal News
The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau has released a set of templates for letters to send to harassing debt collectors. These letters contain the binding language required by fair debt collection laws and should cause debt collectors to back off. What's more, they remind debt collectors of the penalties for ignoring such a letter and let them know that you know your rights and are willing to enforce them against the hounds.
New ways to combat harmful debt collection practices

Did you know ...

That hospitals are a place people go to get even sicker

Whoa ... don't fence us out of our public lands

That 21% of homes are responsible for 50% of greenhouse gases



Supreme Court rules Drug Companies exempt from Lawsuits

Lunatic Fringe 
From the "Complete and total Miscarriage of Justice" Department:

In case readers missed it with all the coverage of the Trayvon Martin murder trial and the Supreme Court’s rulings on gay marriage and the Voting Rights Act, the US Supreme Court also made a ruling on lawsuits against drug companies for fraud, mislabeling, side effects and accidental death. From now on, 80 percent of all drugs are exempt from legal liability.
Drug companies failed to warn patients that toxic epidermal necrolysis was a side effect. But the Supreme Court ruled they're still not liable for damages. 
In a 5-4 vote, the US Supreme Court struck down a lower court’s ruling and award for the victim of a pharmaceutical drug’s adverse reaction. According to the victim and the state courts, the drug caused a flesh-eating side effect that left the patient permanently disfigured over most of her body. The adverse reaction was hidden by the drug maker and later forced to be included on all warning labels. But the highest court in the land ruled that the victim had no legal grounds to sue the corporation because its drugs are exempt from lawsuits.  
Karen Bartlett vs. Mutual Pharmaceutical Company
In 2004, Karen Bartlett was prescribed the generic anti-inflammatory drug Sulindac, manufactured by Mutual Pharmaceutical, for her sore shoulder. Three weeks after taking the drug, Bartlett began suffering from a disease called, ‘toxic epidermal necrolysis’. The condition is extremely painful and causes the victim’s skin to peel off, exposing raw flesh in the same manner as a third degree burn victim.
Karen Bartlett sued Mutual Pharma in New Hampshire state court, arguing that the drug company included no warning about the possible side effect. A court agreed and awarded her $21 million. The FDA went on to force both Mutual, as well as the original drug manufacturer Merck & Co., to include the side effect on the two drugs’ warning labels going forward.
Now, nine years after the tragedy began, the US Supreme Court overturned the state court’s verdict and award. Justices cited the fact that all generic drugs and their manufacturers, some 80% of all drugs consumed in the United States, are exempt from liability for side effects, mislabeling or virtually any other negative reactions caused by their drugs. In short, the Court ruled that the FDA has ultimate authority over pharmaceuticals in the US. And if the FDA says a drug is safe, that takes precedent over actual facts, real victims and any and all adverse reactions.
Court ruling
The Court’s ruling a week ago on behalf of generic drug makers is actually a continuation of a ruling made by the same Court in 2011. At that time, the Justices ruled that the original inventors and manufacturers of pharmaceutical drugs, also known as ‘name brand’ drugs, are the only ones that can be sued for mislabeling, fraud or adverse drug reactions and side effects. If the generic versions of the drugs are made from the exact same formula and labeled with the exact same warnings as their brand name counterparts, the generics and their manufacturers were not liable.
The Court ruled, “Because it is impossible for Mutual and other similarly situated manufacturers to comply with both state and federal law, New Hampshire's warning-based design-defect cause of action is pre-empted with respect to FDA-approved drugs sold in interstate commerce."
And that ruling flies in the face of both common sense and justice. And as Karen Bartlett can now attest, it leaves 240 million Americans unprotected from the deadly and torturous side effects of pharmaceutical drugs. As a reminder, the number one cause of preventable or accidental death in the US is pharmaceutical drugs.  
Critics react
Immediately upon the Supreme Court’s ruling, both drug manufacturers and Wall Street investors were celebrating. As one financial analyst pointed out, drug company profits should skyrocket going forward. Not only do the pharmaceutical companies no longer have to worry about safety or side effects, they are exempt from the multi-million dollar court-imposed settlements awarded to victims of their drugs.
One industry critic was quoted by Reuters after the verdict. "Today's court decision provides a disincentive for generic makers of drugs to monitor safety of their products and to make sure that they have a surveillance system in place to detect adverse events that pose a threat to patients," Michael Carome, director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group told the news outlet.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) was quick to react to the ruling by writing a stern letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, "A consumer should not have her rights foreclosed simply because she takes the generic version of a prescription drug.”
But an attorney for the drug companies, Jay P. Lefkowitz, took the opposing position saying, “It makes much more sense to rely on the judgments of the scientific and medical experts at the FDA, who look at drug issues for the nation at large, than those of a single state court jury that only has in front of it the terribly unfortunate circumstances of an adverse drug reaction."
In other words, if the FDA says something is safe, it doesn’t matter if that decision is wrong or the result of lies, fraud or deception on the part of the world’s pharmaceutical companies. And there’s no way to sue the FDA for being wrong and costing millions of unsuspecting Americans their lives. That result leaves 240 million Americans unprotected from an industry responsible for more preventable deaths in the US than any other cause.

The Duplex


The rnc chairman Reince Priebus Says the repugican cabal is a cult

Lunatic Fringe 
From the "Well, I'll be danged, they finally admitted it" Department:
Reince Priebus 
Talking to The Brody File on the christian Broadcasting Network (cBN) yesterday, Reince Priebus assured wingnut christians of every stripe that the repugican cabal stands for god’s own party. After the catastrophic failure of god’s brand in 2012, college repugicans came up with a scheme to get more votes without budging an inch on socially divisive culture war issues. As Salon put it, “Seem Tolerant.”
Priebus reassured his audience, however, that the repugican cabal is “a cult that embraces marriage,” and that he “is a chairman that understands that there’s only one sovereign god and that we ultimately aren’t dependent on what happens in politics, that what ultimately matters in our lives is that we’re salt and light in the world and that we’re honoring god in the things that we do every day.”
There you have it. From the rnc chairman’s mouth. Priebus doesn’t want to seem tolerant. He doesn’t even like the word “tolerant.”
What this means, of course, is that all the bigoted and hateful things repugicans do to minorities, to blacks, to women, to the LGBT community – to the very air we breathe and water we drink – are done to honor god.
Like all the atrocities committed in god’s name throughout sad history of monotheism from Moses onward.
The only difference should be, says Priebus, is that while they’re persecuting the Other, repugicans should smile more and be polite about it, because apparently, this is what the bible says to do while you’re persecuting the hell out of people you don’t like.
Watch courtesy of Right Wing Watch:

Brody: I want to talk to you about this way forward for the repugican cabal. When you use that word “intolerant” in what the rnc put out, Evangelicals start to grab the Excedrin bottles when they hear “tolerance” because they think “oh no the repugican cabal is changing and the whole gay marriage situation.” Why don’t you address this and maybe put evangelicals at ease, or can you put them at ease at all here?
Priebus: Well, one hundred percent. I don’t know if I’ve used the word “tolerance.” I don’t really care fo for that word myself. I don’t have a problem with it. I just think it has another meaning politically that can go the other direction. I happen to believe that our principles are sound. I do believe, and I still will tell you that our party believes that marriage is between one man and one woman. Our cabal believes that life begins at conception. I think those are foundational issues that aren’t going anywhere but what I have said, which I don’t think should be controversial at all and I would think christians and pastors and everyone in between should agree that our principles have to be draped in the concepts of grace, love and respect and that’s not code language, that’s the new testament, so I don’t think there should be any problem with that thinking in our party. That’s all I’ve said. It’s not what you say, I think, it’s sometimes like our moms used to tell us, it’s how you say it; and I think that’s really the issue and quite frankly I think some of that has been overblown. I’m happy to address it but clearly myself and our party haven’t changed on those principles.
So persecuting people they don’t approve us isn’t the problem. I have a feeling the persecuted might want to differ on that point. According to Priebus, it’s how they say the hateful things they say that’s the problem.
Priebus: I happen to believe that our principles are sound. I do believe, and I still will tell you that our party believes that marriage is between one man and one woman. Our cabal believes that life begins at conception. I think those are foundational issues that aren’t going anywhere but what I have said, which I don’t think should be controversy at all and I would think that christians and pastors and everyone in between should agree that our principles have to be draped in the concepts of grace, love and respect and that’s not code language. That’s the New Testament so I don’t think there should be any problem with that thinking in our party.
If you’re looking at the evidence, what you will see is a party that embraces life, a party that embraces marriage and a chairman that understands that there’s only one sovereign god and that we ultimately aren’t dependent on what happens in politics. What ultimately matters in our lives is that we’re salt and light in the world and that we’re honoring god in the things that we do every day. I get that. I think our party gets that and there’s never been a movement away from that.
What is sad for Americans is that the repugican cabal was not always the cabal of intolerance and hate. Social issues were not always foundational principles for the repugican cabal. Our differences with the repugican cabal were truly political rather than religious and the two had not yet become conflated in wingnut imaginations.
But now, what Priebus is telling us, is that the repugican cabal is the cabal only of white wingnut christians, a “political” cabal whose only interest is in “honoring god” according to some narrowly defined, cherry-picked, and misrepresented (sometimes invented) biblical mandates.
He is saying, like Pope Benedict XVI once said, that their capital-T Truth trumps tolerance and that no matter how badly their hateful activities impact them, they should stick to their guns and march onward like christian soldiers, imposing their views on an America whose Constitution forbids such imposition.
Americans cannot vote strictly politics in the early 21st century. Not even if they want to. The repugican cabal says you can’t because to compromise is to defy God; liberals and others can’t because the GOP’s über exclusive cabal platform is less political platform and more religious dogma; dogma that leaves no room for women, ethnic minorities, atheists, secularists, Jews, Muslims, gays, lesbians, or Pagans like me – let alone all those old-fashioned Goldwater era folks.
When Americans vote, therefore, they must recognize that the election is not between two political parties, but between one political party and a religion, a religion which, if it had its way, would ultimately do away with the political party in order that America become some dystopian, corporate-sponsored theocracy.

The repugican Plan for Women: Barefoot, Pregnant, and Economically Dependent

Lunatic Fringe 
Americans tout the blessings inherent with living in a nation founded on equality that fosters individuality they argue is the antipathy of being in a place where one lives under the power or authority of others. In fact, the Declaration of Independence was the Founding Fathers affirmation that colonists had no duty to be in subjection to England as an inalienable right even though they, like conservatives through history, never intended to extend that right to all Americans. Chief among Americans destined to perpetual subjugation under the law is half the population, and despite women’s progress over the past century, repugicans have set returning them to second-class status as one of their primary goals since they rose to power after the 2010 midterm elections. America is, and always has been, controlled by a patriarchal mindset throughout its history, and repugicans have found an incredibly powerful and successful means to put women in their historically subservient place with little opposition from the public and support from an untouchable power source.
The most efficient means to suppress and control a segment of the population is to eliminate their ability to achieve economic independence, and to keep women out of the workforce and dependent on men for their subsistence, repugicans are creating a scenario that either a woman is celibate, or stays in a perpetual state of pregnancy. The attacks on women’s reproductive health choices in repugican-controlled states have no justification that is not founded in patriarchal belief that men are born to control women, and regardless the arguments proffered to regulate women’s reproductive health, it all boils down to keeping them in subjection to men.
The rash of states abolishing women’s right to choose their reproductive health have not given any justification for their actions that are not easily refuted. There is no scriptural justification in the bible to ban abortion or contraceptives, but they have garnered universal support from President Obama, all Democrats, the National Organization of Women (NOW), and even Planned Parenthood who are mortified to cite the unconstitutionality of imposing a religious edict on a specific segment of the population. The unwritten commandment that, regardless the atrocities committed by a religion (except Islam) on half the population, it is a mortal sin to cite the Separation of cult and State’s prohibition on legislating from the bible even though the holy book belies pro-life advocates sanctity of life argument.
There is also absolutely no medical, biological, or scientific justification for banning contraceptives or abortions until a fetus is viable outside the mother’s uterus; not that pro-life fanatics acknowledge biology or medical science. The recent 20-week abortion ban in Texas, soon to be a 6-week ban, denies biological proof that there is zero chance for a fetus’s survival outside the womb at 20-weeks, but viability is not the issue; forcing women to stay perpetually pregnant and giving birth is, and the intended result is forcing them to remain sequestered at home economically dependent on a man. Ohio’s personhood measure defining a zygote as a fetus worthy of 14th amendment rights violates biological reality, subverts a woman’s 14th amendment rights, keeps them out of the workforce, and forced to be stuck at home serving as indentured servants to men.
There is no economic advantage to women, the government, or their families to control when and how often they produce children, and in fact it is economic terrorism to condemn women to an existence as brood mares. The best way to keep women in economic despair is forcing them to give birth several times during their child-producing years instead of working, and the cost of carrying, delivering, and raising even one child for eighteen years can be the difference between a woman living in abject poverty or having a financially secure existence.
The repugicans have spent years opposing equal pay for equal work, the Equal Rights Amendment, gender equity in healthcare costs, and attack teachers’ unions specifically targeting women who make up 82% of all teachers in the nation. The repugicans hate union labor, but they do not attack police officer, firefighter, or correctional officer unions because their ranks are overwhelmingly male. The repugicans have had relative success in blocking Democratic attempts to give women their constitutionally guaranteed equal rights, but repugicans have found the “silver bullet” to women’s rights with their assault on reproductive rights.
It is apparent that women have become too powerful for repugicans to easily control, so they are passing legislation to send half the population back into the home with no means of escape. By neutering women economically, repugicans control half the population and keep their voice out of government. In the past two years, repugicans have questioned the wisdom of “giving” women the right to vote, and the next best thing to eliminating their electoral power is keeping them overwhelmed with childrearing duties or a perpetual state of pregnancy not unlike livestock producers keeping cows, sows, and ewes producing.
America’s women are a threat to repugicans, and dealt them a crushing defeat in the last election due to the sustained attacks that began at the start of the 112th Congress. It is likely that most repugicans could not care less about evangelicals’ so-called sanctity of life frenzy, but they do care about keeping women, all women, out of any position of power that is borne of economic success. There is a contingent of conservatives who believe women should leave the workforce, surrender their jobs to men, and return to their kitchens to subject themselves to their husbands and fulfill the position patriarchs assign them, and repugicans are doing their best to put women “in their place” at home birthing children.
Women are far from powerless, but they are facing an aggressor that sees an opening to set women’s rights back several decades, and they have powerful allies in corporate leaders entrenched in evangelical fanaticism. For example, the retail chain Hobby Lobby convinced a judge that their “belief” that contraceptives are abortifacents, or chemicals that cause abortions, is sincere leading him to rule the owner’s religious belief informs that birth control pills abort fetuses, and although it is patently false, Hobby Lobby prevailed. Large retailers such as WalMart lobby to keep women from earning the same pay as a man, and they prevailed two years ago when the wingnut Supreme Court ruled against women suing for equal pay.
With no religious, economic, and scientific justification for denying women the right to choose their reproductive health, it is obvious the repugican’s goal is exerting control over women. The repugicans are so terrified of the power women have gained they could not care less how they control them, but forcing them to be perpetually pregnant, unable to earn an education, and incapable of economic independence forces them to be in subjection to men’s will and if successful, repugicans will have won the war on women.

New Low: These 14 repugicans Gutted Food Aid While Giving Themselves Farm Subsidies

Lunatic Fringe 
pork barrell politics poor kids 
Congressman George Miller (D-CA) is calling it Pork Barrel politics.
According to a report put out by Miller’s office, 14 repugican members of Congress voted to kill food stamps for 47 million Americans, and also voted to keep their own farm subsidies.
These members:
Are each repugicans;
Have a total net worth of up to $124.5million;
Have received a total of at least $7.2 million in farm subsidies;
Each previously voted to gut the SNAP program by giving states large financial incentives to kick families off SNAP.
So, a combined networth of 124.5 million gutted food aid for the poor while making sure they got their personal pork, which clearly they do not need for survival.
These repugicans voted last week to give themselves subsidies after they managed to split nutritional aid bills from the farm subsidies (diving the country again – urban versus rural) after House repugicans couldn’t get their act together and Boehner refused to lead, again.
That debacle led Nancy Pelosi to refer to House repugicans as amateur hour.
Don’t worry, repugicans did exactly what you imagine they would do in this instance. Now that they got rid of the hungry people, they took their new FARRM Act and figured why not give most of the $196 billion to big agro business:
The repugicans tried to claim that the passage of the farm provisions was done to help family farms, but this Farm Bill is loaded with pork and handouts for the wealthy and corporations. Farmers with incomes over $250,000 will receive one third of the crop insurance money. This repugican House passed windfall for millionaires and corporations comes at a time when net farm income is projected to reach it highest level since 1973.
Representative Miller’s office noted, “14 repugican members of Congress, who each voted for a Farm Bill that excluded a nutrition title for the first time in four decades, have received more than $7.2 million in government farm subsidies, or an average of $515,279 in handouts. At the same time, they have a combined net worth of as much as $124.5 million, according to public records.
In stark contrast, the typical household receiving aid under the farm bill through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), has a gross monthly income of only $744, and their average monthly SNAP benefit—which every member detailed in this report voted against extending— is just $281.”
These Republicans are:
Rep. Robert Aderholt (r-AL)
Rep. Blake Farenthold (r-TX)
Rep. Stephen Fincher (r-TN)
Rep. Vicky Hartzler (r-MO)
Rep. John Kline (r-MN)
Rep. Doug LaMalfa (r-CA)
Rep. Tom Latham (r-IA)
Rep. Frank Lucas (r-OK)
Rep. Cynthia Lummis (r-WY)
Rep Randy Neugebauer (r-TX)
Rep. Kristi Noem (r-SD)
Rep. Marlin Stutzman (r-IN)
Rep. Mac Thornberry (r-TX)
Rep. David Valadao (r-CA)
Miller called this a new low, even for this Congress, saying in a statement, “It’s outrageous that some members of Congress feel it is ok to vote for their own taxpayer subsidies but against critical nutrition assistance for 47 million Americans. It’s bad enough that the House of Representatives didn’t pass a Farm Bill that included authorization for sorely-needed nutrition programs, but to see members of Congress approving their own benefits at the expense of the working poor is a new low, even for this Congress.”
A new low, indeed. Welfare for the wealthy, redistribution for the elite, and nothing for the rest of the country. repugican austerity explained in action.

Walmart Threatens To Shut Down Stores If DC Passes Living Wage Bill

Lunatic Fringe 
Walmart continues to demand that tax payers subsidize their underpaid workers with food stamps, HEAP, health care, and dozens of other governmental programs because Walmart WILL NOT pay a living wage.

From Think Progress...

by Aviva Shen

Walmart fought hard to persuade DC residents to let it open stores in the district. But now the retail giant is threatening to walk away from three planned sites if the DC City Council passes a "living wage" bill that would require all major employers to pay workers a minimum of $12.50 an hour.

Walmart claims that the bill, which applies to retailers with corporate sales of $1 billion or more and stores that are 75,000 square feet or larger, is "arbitrary and discriminatory." In a Washington Post editorial, general manager Alex Barron issued an ultimatum to Mayor Vincent Gray: veto the bill, or Walmart will halt construction on stores at Skyland, Capitol Gateway, and New York Avenue.


Other large stores like Costco, Home Depot, Target, and Macy's would also have to abide by the DC proposal. But the new $12.50 minimum would be an especially dramatic change for Walmart, which currently pays workers 28 percent less on average than other large retailers, even as it reaps profits of nearly $450 billion a year. In contrast, Costco will have no problem meeting DC's requirement if it passes - the average Costco worker currently makes $21.96 an hour.

Income Mobility by Location

For Your Information
Your chances of escaping poverty differ quite a bit by what region of the United States you live in. The map shown plots the chances of a child born into a family in the bottom fifth of income in America rising to the top fifth in income during adulthood. The data is from a study by a group of economists from Harvard and UC Berkeley.
Climbing the income ladder occurs less often in the Southeast and industrial Midwest, the data shows, with the odds notably low in Atlanta, Charlotte, Memphis, Raleigh, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Columbus. By contrast, some of the highest rates occur in the Northeast, Great Plains and West, including in New York, Boston, Salt Lake City, Pittsburgh, Seattle and large swaths of California and Minnesota.

“Where you grow up matters,” said Nathaniel Hendren, a Harvard economist and one of the study’s authors. “There is tremendous variation across the U.S. in the extent to which kids can rise out of poverty.”

That variation does not stem simply from the fact that some areas have higher average incomes: upward mobility rates, Mr. Hendren added, often differ sharply in areas where average income is similar, like Atlanta and Seattle.  
The original study found that intergenerational income mobility is "modestly correlated" with tax expenditures, but a lot of the variation is due to other factors yet to be studied. See more and larger maps at the New York Times.

Men’s bladder problems may herald heart disease, diabetes

In Matters Of Health

Men who regularly get up more than once a night to pee could be suffering from a range of health conditions, many of which can be treated if GPs look for them, according to University [...]

Biggest theremin ensemble world record set in Japan

Odds and Sods
Musicians in Japan have set a new world record for the biggest number of players on the theremin.

In the central city of Hamamatsu, 272 people performed "Amazing Grace". It was organized by Masami Takeuchia, who learned to play the theremin in Russia - where it was invented almost 100 years ago by Leon Theremin.

A spokeswoman for Guinness World Records confirmed that the orchestra was the biggest ever theremin ensemble. As well as producing an ethereal if not eerie sound, Saturday's concert was also an amazing sight.

Theremins are usually box-shaped, but the workings of these particular ones were contained inside small Russian dolls. Their bright colors were in stark contrast to the all-black outfits of the performers, who were sitting in long rows with a conductor on stage.

The Getaway Triathlon

Dumb Crooks
It's the gateaway triathlon: 23-year-old Illinois man named Brion Adam Kriss ran, rode a bike, and swam in the ocean to flee the police.
Kriss was suspect of having a large knife which he had displayed during a prior incident in Delaware. He lost control of his car and crashed into a utility pole in the area of Jamestown Road on Coastal Highway. Due to the crash, one person had to be rushed to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries, police said. Kriss then ran away, stole a bicycle and then dived into a marsh. He assaulted several Police Officers as they tried to arrest him.
For all of his troubles, Kriss got tasered, sicced by a police dog, and fired on by rubber bullets. Oh, and instead of a medal, he won (or technically, he lost the triathlon) handcuffs and incarceration: More

Man stole human ashes thinking they were cocaine

Now that's just Bizarre
An East Nashville man was arrested after he allegedly stole a box full of human ashes that his family said he more than likely believed was a bag full of cocaine. "William thought it was drugs, he thought he'd done found him a box of cocaine is what he thought," explained the man's grandmother, Wanda Allen.

According to a police affidavit, William "Billy" Cantrell took an XBox from his neighbor along with a small box last week. His grandmother said the 28-year-old brought both of the items back to her house but she believes he was not sober at the time of the incident.

"If he gets to drinking and doing drugs he's out there. He needs help. There needs to be more to it than putting him in jail," she said. Allen said the original tie was still on the bag of human ashes and believes her grandson never opened the bag. "On the top of it, it had a white piece of paper taped over it with date of birth, date of death, name and the funeral home," she added.

The ashes belonged to a neighbor, Steven Medley, and the remains were those of Medley's mother. "They just made it sounds like he's a bad, terrible person broke in this house and stole this woman's ashes. I'm not saying he's not guilty but he didn't know what he was stealing," his mother Kathy said about the incident. Cantrell is being held on an aggravated burglary charge.

Man drove wrong car home

Now that's just Bizarre
An man has been left red-faced after driving the wrong car home from the shops. At about 8.30am last Thursday, a man called police after he had seen his grey Hyundai hatchback being driven away from where he had parked it.

Unfortunately, the man had left his keys in the ignition and the car unlocked when he went in to the store in Stansbury, in the Yorke Peninsula, South Australia. Police acted quickly, with backup patrols assisting from Yorketown, Ardrossan, Maitland and Port Wakefield to make sure the (possibly) stolen car would be contained to the Yorke Peninsula area.

Stansbury patrols attended the scene and noticed a grey Toyota hatchback (also unlocked, no keys in the ignition) parked next to where the missing Hyundai had been parked. Several inquiries later, the Hyundai was located in the driveway of a very apologetic Stansbury man, who had driven the wrong car home.

The Hyundai was returned to the man at the shops, and the forgetful driver was taken by police back to his Toyota. No charges were laid in relation to the incident.

Longest Railroad Bridge Destroyed By Tornado

News of the not so positive sort
When it was constructed in 1882 the builders of the Kinzua Aqueduct Bridge boasted that it was the Eighth Wonder of the World. Their hyperbole had some merit: at just over 300 feet it was the tallest railroad bridge on the planet and remained so for a number of years. Then, in 2003, to Pennsylvania came a tornado.

How Long-Forgotten Seawall Fended Off Sandy

News of the positive sort
A buried and forgotten seawall built in 1882 may have significantly weakened Hurricane Sandy's grip on one New Jersey town.

Loss of African woodland may impact on climate

It's Only The Environment After All

Deforestation in parts of Africa could be reversed with changes to land use, a study suggests. A more strategic approach to managing trees across the continent could have a positive impact on the changing climate, [...]

Archaeology uncovers amazing finds in West Sussex

Scientific Minds Want To Know
Bronze Age settlements and Neolithic pottery are some of the finds made by UCL archaeologists during the construction of major new sea defences inland at Medmerry between Selsey and Bracklesham in West Sussex. 
Archaeology uncovers amazing finds in West Sussex
Medmerry beach [Credit: Environment Agency]
Once the fieldwork is complete, the archive of artefacts will be submitted to Chichester Museum.

Sussex has some of the earliest British Neolithic monuments, but recent discoveries have now doubled the number of known features of this date from non-monumental sites on the Sussex coast, heralding an important development in understanding the nature of the Sussex in the Neolithic era.

Other finds include three large and two small circular Bronze-age houses, water management features, and a cremation cemetery. It would appear that a large area of Bronze Age landscape has been preserved at Medmerry under sediments and other deposits and the site has the potential to preserve wooden structures, such as a section of wattle work recorded at the base of a Bronze Age well, which has been carbon dated to c. 1,100 BC. Other features were dated by finds of Bronze Age pottery. 

Interestingly, the Iron Age and early Roman remains uncovered to date are notable for their presence in low numbers, with only one ditch containing any Iron Age pottery. This may suggest that the lower lying areas of the site were regularly flooded during this period making them unsuitable for settlement and other uses which would leave an archaeological signature.

The scheme itself will greatly improve the standard of flood protection for over 300 homes, the water treatment works and the main road into Selsey. It will also create important new wildlife habitat and open up new footpaths, cycleways and bridleways. Work started in September 2011, and is expected to finish in autumn 2013.

Five buildings unearthed at Hadrian’s Villa

Scientific Minds Want To Know
Archaeologists have unearthed five monumental buildings at the Villa Adriana (Hadrian’s Villa) at Tivoli, near Rome.
Five buildings unearthed at Hadrian’s Villa
The ruins of Hadrian's Villa in their present state [Credit: WikiCommons]
Roman Emperor Hadrian constructed the villa as a retreat between 38 AD and 118 AD. After his death in 138 AD, the building complex was used and enlarged by his successors.

Italian newspaper ‘Il Messaggero’ reports that archaeologists have discovered five buildings decorated with large statues. Hadrian designed the complex of structures to creating an idealised landscape garden. Researchers from the Sapienza University of Rome carried out excavations in an area that previously was regarded to be of little interest and in the 1960s became a campsite.

The archaeologists presented their findings at the International Congress of Classical Archaeology Center at Mérida in Spain. Excavation director and Sapienza University researcher Adalberto Ottati said: “What’s been found is just the tip of the iceberg because these structures have never been documented before not even by scholars like [Giovanni Battista] Piranesi who studied the ancients.”

Ottati revealed that prior to the dig the only visible monument was the so-called Republican-era mausoleum, which is a round building dating to 123 AD. In light of the excavations, experts have reinterpreted the structure as a pavilion-museum, whose splendor lies inside not outside. The archaeologists have uncovered rich architectural decorations including a Doric colonnade that refers to Ancient Greek architecture. Ottati suggested that the building contained statues and artworks, and was used as a place to contemplate beauty.

Archaeological surveys reveal there is a further sequence of buildings: a rectangular temple, followed by a second circular pavilion combined with another rectangular temple crowned by a portico. Ottati said that the structures’ arrangement create various viewpoints that play with the relationship between nature and architecture that recreate idyllic Hellenistic landscapes that can be found in paintings from Pompeii.

The archaeologists also found hundreds of marble fragments that form part of a colossal statue. The statue has been re-assembled and experts hypothesize it could be a representation of Hadrian’s wife, Empress Vibia Sabina.

Excavation work will resume at the site in September 2013.

Broken shell provides a glimpse at Neanderthal art

Scientific Minds Want To Know
It may not look like much to modern eyes - a broken shell fossil found in a cave, but to archaeologists it may well be a work of art from an extinct branch of humanity.
Broken shell provides a glimpse at Neanderthal art
The broken Aspa marginata shell (a) from the Mousterian stratigraphic Unit A9 of Fumane Cave and three complete natural fossil shells (b–d) of the same species from Pliocene deposits close to Asti, Piemonte region, Italy [Credit: PloS ONE]
The fossil marine shell, of the species Aspa marginata, was found in a Mousterian layer in the Fumane Cave, northern Italy. It dates from about 47.6 thousand calibrated years before the present, according to the study published in PLoS ONE.

This puts the find well before the oldest available dates for modern humans in Europe. The scientists believe the shell to have been decorated for use as a pendant.

"The attention put to uniformly cover the outer shell surface with good quality red pigment suggests that this action may have been performed to make the object suitable for visual display. The wear detected on the inner lip, made of overlapping groups of striations oriented perpendicular to the shell main axis, is consistent with a sustained friction produced by a cord rich in abrasive particles, such as sinew," the study's authors write.

The scientists also noted that the red ochre was not present in the shell, it was only smeared on the outside.

"This discovery adds to the ever-increasing evidence that Neanderthals had symbolic items as part of their culture. Future discoveries will only add to our appreciation of Neanderthals shared capacities with us," the study concluded.

Rhinos and giraffes roamed northern Greece 9 million years ago

Scientific Minds Want To Know
Rhinos, giraffes, gazelles, ponies and antelopes were living in the plain of Drama nine million years ago, as was revealed by the fossils found in the region Platania of the Municipality of Paranesti in the Regional Unit of Drama, Eastern Macedonia, Greece.
Rhinos and giraffes roamed northern Greece 9 million years ago
Remains of a Mastodon unearthed in northern Greece [Credit: Greek Reporter]
The excavations carried out in the region brought into light some very important paleontological findings, which give new information concerning the history and the geology of the region.

The excavation team of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, led by the Geology-Biology Professor Evangelia Tsoukala, conducted excavation researches over the past seven months.

The real digging began about a year ago, after the suggestion and the encouragement of the Mayor of Paranesti Nikos Kagiaoglou and of the residents of the region who knew about the existence of fossils.

“We believe that these are the most ancient fossils found, not only in the region of Drama, but throughout Eastern Macedonia and Thrace,”. Tsoukala told the Greek news agency AMNA.

“These findings help as to get to know the history of Platania, i.e. to know that nine million years ago, the region was a savanna inhabited by rhinos, giraffes, gazelle’s ponies, mastodons, who are the ancestors of elephants, even antelopes. We found a rich fauna of that era in the region. It is considerably interesting to represent the paleoenvironmnent of this region and to prove its timeless quality.”

According to Mr. Kagiaoglou, there’s a thought to house the findings in the building of an old school, which doesn’t operate anymore and can be turned into an archaeological museum.

“Our aim is to continue the excavations. The municipality will offer any possible support and assistance (whether financial or moral) to our effort. We have decided to address similar requests to the relevant ministries in order to find some financial support, as our aim is to highlight the region and to use it for tourism”, said Mr. Kagiaoglou, who estimates that this excavation research is particularly important for the Municipality of Paranesti, as it offers significant benefits and will create new jobs in the future.

India declares dolphins to be “Non-Human Persons”

Animal News
 by Veronica Foale ·
India is moving to ban all entertainment shows featuring dolphins and orcas in captivity, declaring them to be “non-human persons”.
In a press release, India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests states that they’ve advised any proposal to open a dolphinarium be rejected.
“Whereas cetaceans in general are highly intelligent and sensitive, and various scientists who have researched dolphin behavior have suggested that the unusually high intelligence; as compared to other animals means that dolphin should be seen as ‘non-human persons’ and as such should have their own specific rights and is morally unacceptable to keep them captive for entertainment purpose,”
Cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) are known to be incredibly intelligent, despite not sharing a common language with humans. We know that they form family bonds, grieve their dead and communicate with each other. India declaring them to be non-human persons is a huge leap forwards in hopefully protecting them from wholesale slaughter and exploitation.
When I was a toddler, barely two years old, our family spent a lot of time by the sea. The story goes, I was running hard towards the jetty when I tripped, fell, and chipped my tooth. Screaming in pain, my mother tried to console me, by letting me know that I would upset the dolphins. Sure enough, a dolphin popped up in front of us and looked concerned until my mother reassured it that I was okay.
It’s one of those things isn’t it – a dolphin heard me screaming and surfaced to check that I was okay. Fishermen and divers tell stories their encounters with whales; about the shared connection the eye contact contains. Folklore abounds with stories of shipwrecked men saved by dolphins.
There’s no doubting that animals are intelligent, and that cetaceans are some of the most intelligent creatures out there. Dolphins are one of the few mammals, aside from humans, that engage in intercourse for fun, rather than just for procreation.
Humans are arrogant, as a species. We’d like to think that we’ve got the jump on all other creatures; that our society is the most developed because we have science and technology. What if we’re wrong?
We can’t communicate with dolphins yet. We can’t know what their culture is like; how their brains work.
But with India making this huge step forwards – a step that other countries should be encouraged to emulate, we can begin to lose some of our arrogance. Not all peoples speak the same language, and now it appears that not all peoples are human.
We know we can teach orangutans and apes to communicate through computers, yet we still destroy their homes. We know that dolphins have language and intelligence, yet we still allow atrocities such as those seen in The Cove to occur. We know these things, but I don’t think we have understood them in our souls yet.
This step from India bodes well for our future. The first step to understanding a culture that isn’t ours comes from realising the culture exists. If humans were better at this, the Englishmen landing in Australia for the first time wouldn’t have gone on to slaughter the Aborigines.
The ocean covers 70% of this planet. This gives us only 30% of the space to hold dominion over.
And really, is it so far fetched that cetaceans are non-human persons?

Wet Koala

Animal News
You know what don't mix? Koala and water, as this photo clearly shows:
This koala was sleeping in a tree when it was rudely awakened by a gardener who decided to water his trees. Matt Wilkinson said: "There was a heatwave in Adelaide recently and temperatures reached up to 40C. We use the sprinklers and garden hose to wet the house and surrounding trees when it's hot to avoid a bush fire but when I watered one of the trees, this koala got a bit of a soaking. It was a boiling hot day so i'm sure it helped the koala cool down."

Animal News

Animal News
Mobile mother turtles face threats from shrimp boats and fossil fuel drilling operations. 
It's not just the lack of prey that that makes the Iberian lynx the rarest cat in the world; it's also climate change. But there is still hope.

Animal Pictures


Dad’s watchin the kids…