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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.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Daily Drift

The Daily Drift

Methinks, Thor be a wee bit testy today ...! 
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Non Sequitur

Daily Comic Relief
Daily Comic Relief

Today in History

Today in History
1306 King Wenceslas of Poland is murdered.
1570 Charles IX of France signs the Treaty of St. Germain, ending the third war of religion and giving religious freedom to the Huguenots.
1636 The invading armies of Spain, Austria and Bavaria are stopped at the village of St.-Jean-de-Losne, only 50 miles from France.
1648 Ibrahim, the sultan of Istanbul, is thrown into prison, then assassinated.
1786 Jacques Balmat and Dr. Michael-Gabriel Baccard become the first men to climb Mont Blanc in France.
1844 Brigham Young is chosen to head the Mormon Church, succeeding Joseph Smith.
1863 Confederate President Jefferson Davis refuses General Robert E. Lee's resignation.
1876 Thomas Edison patents the mimeograph.
1899 The first household refrigerating machine is patented.
1925 The first national congress of the Ku Klux Klan opens.
1937 The Japanese Army occupies Beijing.
1940 The German Luftwaffe attacks Great Britain for the first time, beginning the Battle of Britain.
1942 U.S. Marines capture the Japanese airstrip on Guadalcanal.
1944 U.S. forces complete the capture of the Marianas Islands.
1945 The Soviet Union declares war on Japan.
1950 U.S. troops repel the first North Korean attempt to overrun them at the battle of Naktong Bulge, which continued for 10 days.
1963 England's "Great Train Robbery;" 2.6 million pounds ($7.3 million) is stolen
1974 President Richard Nixon resigns from the presidency as a result of the Watergate scandal.
1978 Pioneer-Venus 2 launched to probe the atmosphere of Venus.
1979 Iraq's president Saddam Hussein executes 22 political opponents.
1983 Brigadier General Efrain Rios Montt is deposed as president of Guatemala in the country's second military coup in 17 months.
1988 Angola, Cuba and South Africa sign cease-fire treaty in the border war that began in 1966.
1989 NASA Space Shuttle Columbia begins its eighth flight, NASA's 30th shuttle mission.
1990 Iraq annexes the state of Kuwait as its 19th province, six days after Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait.
2000 Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley raised to surface, 136 years after it sank following its successful attack on USS Housatonic in the outer harbor of Charleston, South Carolina.
2007 An EF2 tornado hits Brooklyn, New York, the first in that borough since 1889.
2008 Georgia invades South Ossetia, touching off a five-day war between Georgia and Russia.

Boy Passes Away After Being Parents' Best Man

Pulling Heartstrings
Logan Stevenson passed away on Monday, August 5. The family released the following statement to the Associated Press: "Logan passed away at 8:18 yesterday evening, surrounded by his family and loved ones. He was very comfortable." His mother also broke the sad news on Facebook, writing, "He is with angels and he's in no more pain."
Bride Christine Swidorsky carries her ill son down the aisle at her wedding. 
Bride Christine Swidorsky carries her ill son down the aisle at her wedding.
Two-year-old Logan Stevenson wasn't your typical best man. Instead of holding the rings for safekeeping, he clutched his favorite teddybear, "Bun Bun," during the ceremony; he couldn't give a toast at the reception, and in fact, he slept through most of it. But his presence alone surpassed all of the bride and groom's hopes.
You see, Logan is terminally ill and suffers from a rare disease called Fanconi anemia, along with leukemia and other medical complications. His parents, Christine Swidorsky and Sean Stevenson, originally planned to wed in July 2014. However, after receiving a diagnosis that their precious son has a mass in his only remaining kidney (and weeks to live), they decided to get married as a family - while Logan is still with them.
In just a week, they organized their new backyard nuptials - which took place in Jeanette, Pennsylvania on Saturday, August 3 - thanks to a tremendous outpouring of support from their local community. Swidorsky and Stevenson were also joined by their two daughters, Isabella and Savannah. "This is our dream come true, all our family together, and we're all together celebrating. The celebration of my son's life and the celebration of our marriage," the bride told NBC affiliate WPXI.
The bittersweet occasion marked a high point after a challenging summer, including a Make-A-Wish trip to Disney World in Florida back in June that was cut short after Logan came down with septic shock and hydration shock. Despite all of the setbacks, the newlyweds are determined to make their son's final days happy ones. "He loves Elvis Presley. Every time Elvis comes on, he just starts dancing. And he loves spaghetti," his mom revealed to The Today Show last week.
The couple's celebration of life is testament to their unconditional love for their son: "As a mother, you stay strong and you focus and you will do whatever you can to take care of your child," Swidorsky told The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, which first reported the story.

Did you know ...

Did You Know ...
That the U.S. government is the biggest offender for giving away veterans' jobs

About the 10 worst terror attacks by christians and white men

And meanwhile, the Boston bomber had literature about white supremacy and gun rights

The Queen's Speech for World War III

Paranoia Strikes Deep 
It's an apocalyptic scenario: In 1983, Ronald Reagan denounced the communist country as an "evil empire" and announced his plans for a space-based "Star Wars" ballistic missile shield. The Soviet Union retaliated by denouncing the US as an imperial superpower seeking to dominate the entire world. Shortly thereafter, the war of words became an actual war when someone launched chemical attacks, followed by nuclear strikes. The world plunged into World War III.Thankfully, that didn't happen. But it could have. In any case, the Queen was ready with a speech, drafted by the British government, to urge Britons to remain united and resolute against "the madness" of nuclear war:
The document, released by the government under the 30-year rule, was drawn up as part of a war-gaming exercise in the spring of 1983, which worked through potential scenarios. [...]
Although it was only a simulation, the text of the Queen's address - written as if broadcast at midday on Friday 4 March 1983 - seeks to prepare the country for the ordeal of World War III.
The script, which starts off by referring to the Queen's traditional Christmas address, reads: "The horrors of war could not have seemed more remote as my family and I shared our Christmas joy with the growing family of the Commonwealth.
"Now, this madness of war is once more spreading through the world and our brave country must again prepare itself to survive against great odds. [...]
"Not for a single moment did I imagine that this solemn and awful duty would one day fall to me.
"But whatever terrors lie in wait for us all, the qualities that have helped to keep our freedom intact twice already during this sad century will once more be our strength." [...]
"If families remain united and resolute, giving shelter to those living alone and unprotected, our country's will to survive cannot be broken."
The speech concludes by saying the Queen's message to the nation was "simple".
It adds: "As we strive together to fight off the new evil, let us pray for our country and men of goodwill wherever they may be. God Bless you all.
Read the entire speech over at the BBC.

The truth be told

Pictures say a thousand words
Typical repugican

The repugicans Are Behaving Like Unhinged Tyrants Who Realize Their Policies are Failing

Lunatic Fringe
There is beginning to be a consensus among political pundits that repugicans are succeeding at creating chaos in Washington to hasten the federal government’s entropy as part of their war on America. There are those who think repubgicans are in disarray and cannot garner the support to impose their Draconian policies on the people, and they may have a valid point, but it has not stopped repugicans from going forward with their plans to ravage the people with more cuts to crucial domestic programs despite the damage to the economy and particularly jobs. In a way, repugicans are behaving like evil tyrants who realize their policies are failing and instead of adjusting their message or changing their course, they have adopted a mindset that if they are bound to fail they will take the nation down with them. It is not that repugicans do not know their policies are damaging the country because they do; they are just unwilling to change because in the final analysis eliminating the government is their goal as their “war against Washington” crusade informs.
At this point, it is not that repugicans are intransigent and creating nationwide damage just to oppose President Obama, although as he noted two weeks ago, there are some in Washington who oppose anything he supports because he “had the gall to win the presidency.” No, repugicans are creating damage to the nation and its people as part of their bent to shrink the federal government and create a libertarian paradise with no central authority to give wealthy plutocrats free rein to operate without restriction or regulation. It is true that the repugican addiction to austerity is in part to make room for greater tax cuts for their corporate and wealthy sponsors, but as they openly admit; weakening the federal government’s ability to function is their primary goal. They will spend the next month convincing their supporters that crucial to shrinking government is eliminating funding for domestic programs despite the damage to the people, economic recovery, and the federal government.
Over the past month and a half repugicans have suffered defeats and failed to impose their economic agenda on the people because some in their ranks see the damage austerity is wreaking on the people and economic recovery. In June, House repugicans failed to produce a farm bill that exposed the level of inhumanity inherent in the extremist wing of the cabal who could not garner deep enough cuts in the bill so they eliminated funding for SNAP (food stamps). This past week, House  repugicans discovered that the Ryan budget they champion as America’s economic salvation is unworkable when they attempted to pass a bill to fund the departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development. The repugicans could not gather enough votes to pass the bill because abiding Ryan’s budget cuts on top of cuts in the sequester were too damaging for some repugicans including House Appropriations Committee chairman Hal Rodgers.
Rodgers lashed out at repugican leadership and said, “With this action, the House has declined to proceed on the implementation of the very budget it adopted just three months ago, thus, I believe that the House has made its choice: sequestration – and its unrealistic and ill-conceived discretionary cuts – must be brought to an end.” The repugicans could repeal the sequester with a simple vote, but they instead voted for the 40th time to repeal the Affordable Care act prior to heading home for a month to marshal support for holding the budget and upcoming debt ceiling increase hostage unless President Obama pays the ransom of enacting the Ryan budget.
If there is chaos in repugican ranks it is minimal because the effects of their economic austerity policies, including the sequester cuts, produce the very results they expected and were warned would happen. It is important to remember the mindset repugicans cling to when they know their cuts destroy jobs and slow economic growth that Speaker John Boehner expressed in early 2011 when he learned repugican cabal spending cuts would destroy over a million jobs; he said “so be it.” Boehner gives lip service to easing the sequester’s damage, but in 2011 he said “he was pretty happy” about them and repugicans as a group celebrated their enactment in March of this year despite predictions they would kill millions of jobs and slow GDP growth beginning at the end of this year.
The sequester damage is bearing fruit as nearly 200,000 federal jobs are being reduced in a blatant display of  failed repugican economic policy they limit to severe austerity. Most Americans are already aware of the number of poor Americans who are destined to sink deeper into poverty, hunger, and homelessness as a result of sequestration, including repugicans who made cruel and inhumane treatment of Americans their policy of choice. Unfazed by the damage they wrought, repugicans are gearing up for a budget fight predicated on deeper spending cuts, deregulation, and corporate tax cuts to reduce revenue and bring the government closer insolvency, and if they cannot have their way, they will shut down the government. There is always the threat of another continuing resolution, but even that creates doubt and mistrust about the nation’s ability to be governed.
The repugicans are not in a state of chaos, but the federal government is and it fulfills their two year goal and they have no intent to alter their course despite the damage they have already caused. The idea of a government in chaos is the reason S&P gave for downgrading the nation’s credit, and they laid the blame solely at the feet of repugicans for obstructing governance. Let’s be clear, repugicans know what it takes to govern, grow the economy, and create jobs, but it means having the integrity to tell their supporters that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land, the sequester is killing jobs, the bible is not the Constitution, and that their entire economic policy is an utter failure. Instead they will pursue their current course and create a nation that is, for all intents and purposes, ungovernable and in chaos.
The state of America’s government is exactly what repugicans have sought since Barack Obama was first elected President and their contention that the President is not willing to compromise is false, especially if one considers that regardless the concessions he has made, and continues to make, they have been rejected out of hand. The repugicans successfully made the 112th Congress the least effective in decades, and they are on pace to exceed their dismal record in the 113th session with a view to creating another economic crisis when they return from their month-long vacation. What repugicans are demanding informs that their goal is a nation in economic crisis, because on one hand they admit their policies are unworkable and will damage the economy, but threaten that if the President does not enact their policies they will shut down the government or cause a default. Either way, they intend to succeed in creating another economic crisis and it is not governance or chaos; it is sheer evil.

The truth hurts

Pictures say a thousand words
First Day repugican Indoctrination

The repugican cabal threatens CNN, NBC

Lunatic Fringe 
The repugican cabal wants control over what they broadcast

Rinse Prettyboy is threatening not to partner with NBC and CNN on future presidential debates unless they halt production of recently announced programs about Hillary.

NBC announced in July that the network would air a four-hour miniseries called “Hillary,” and CNN Films is producing a documentary about her as well.

In letters addressed to NBC and CNN on Aug. 5, Prettyboy warned that RNC members intend to vote on a resolution at their party-wide meeting later this month to shut out the networks from partnering with the party on repugican primary debates if they do not cancel the programs.

"Out of a sense of fairness and decency and in the interest of the political process and your company's
reputation, I call on you to cancel this political ad masquerading as an unbiased production,” Prettyboy wrote.
"If you have not agreed to pull this programming prior to August 14, I will seek a binding vote of the RNC stating that the committee will neither partner with you in 2016 primary debates nor sanction primary debates which you sponsor

Correct response: "Blow it out your ass, Prettyboy."

The repugicans Seek to Decriminalize Rape and Other Crimes Against Women

Lunatic Fringe
America is home to a misogynistic sect that holds women in such low esteem that, despite making up over half the population, women are systematically treated as second-class citizens and complicit in their maltreatment are repugicans and evangelical christians. Although women are subjected to institutionalized discrimination in the labor force, teaching, healthcare, and insurance industry, it is the nation’s love affair with the culture of rape that defines America’s hostility toward women. Rape culture is a concept which links rape and sexual violence to the ethos of a society in which prevalent attitudes and practices normalize, excuse, tolerate, or even condone rape in all its forms. Since teabaggers helped repugicans take control of the House and several state legislatures, they have established themselves as the primary progenitors of America’s rape culture with their words and deeds.
For two-and-a-half years repugicans sought to assuage the crime of rape whether it was redefining it to prevent women from abortion services, claiming it is a blessing from a malevolent deity, or legislating medical instrument rape to teach women their place and dissuade them from choosing their own reproductive health. This week another form of rape was exposed and it is little surprise it occurred in Texas where Republicans have made it their business to insert themselves into women’s vaginas against their will and deny them the right to choose when they give birth.
There are multiple reports of Texas highway patrol officers captured by dashboard cameras performing unconstitutional cavity searches on women’s genitals during traffic stops that lawyers and civil rights advocates claim are all too common. In two separate cases hundreds of miles and six weeks apart, women reported, and video-tapes confirm, that Texas state troopers pulled women over for questionable traffic violations and summoned female troopers to perform anal and vaginal cavity searches hunting for marijuana. To make matters worse, the trooper-rapes were committed on camera on public highways, and are deemed illegal by Texas law and any civilized human being outside conservative misogyny circles. According to the Texas Penal Code Section 22.011, Sexual Assualt; “(a) A person commits an offense if the person: (1) intentionally or knowingly: (A) causes the penetration of the anus or sexual organ of another person by any means, without that person’s consent.” In the Penal Code it specifically cites the illegality of a “public servant who coerces the other person to submit or participate,” and it makes both the physical rapist and the trooper directing the rape guilty of what Texas Penal Code labels “sexual assault” that is legalese for “forcible rape.”
The particulars of why the Texas troopers called in reinforcements to commit the actual rape are inconsequential and dubious, but suffice it to say the rapes were committed without the women’s consent and under “color of authority” that makes the crimes all the more heinous. There is also the violation of the women’s 4th Amendment rights at play and in each case the trooper who directed the sexual assaults clearly had no reason to believe the women hid marijuana in vaginas or anal cavities. The fact that the incidents were not isolated and committed by different troopers at different times and locations across Texas suggest a pattern despite there is no written policy directing troopers to forcibly violate women during traffic stops.
In one graphic video taken from a state trooper’s “dash cam” two women are probed in their vaginas and rectums by a female officer wearing gloves after a routine traffic stop near Dallas. Within a week a second video surfaced revealing a similar scenario during a traffic stop just outside Houston and with completely different Texas state troopers; there are at least five other reported incidents. In the first incident the women were pulled over for allegedly throwing a cigarette out of the window, and in the second two women were pulled over for allegedly speeding; all four women were subjected to body cavity searches by a female officer summoned to the scene by a male trooper. In the second video with clear audio, the women can be heard yelling as the female trooper shoves her gloved finger inside one woman, and in both rapes the female troopers did not change gloves between probes.
It is possible that the Texas troopers were devotees of the repugican belief that there is such a thing as “legitimate rape” and regarded rape under color of authority legal. Obviously if they were comfortable putting the sexual assaults on video, they truly believed they were well within their authority to summon and direct a female trooper to conduct the actual rape. For some reason, the culture of rape in America is much more prevalent than people living in a modern society want to believe, and there is a segment of the population (mostly men) who consider it their holy right to violate women. Last year when the Steubenville rape gang’s crimes were exposed a phalanx of men came to the rapists’ assistance to defend their actions and slander the victim; it is a common practice repugicans have spent the past two years encouraging.
Besides repugicans in Congress attempting to redefine rape as either legitimate or spurious, several repugican-controlled states have mandated medical professionals conduct “rape by medical instrument” or face the prospect of losing their license to practice as well as face possible jail time. In fact, repugicans have made inserting themselves into women’s vaginas their primary responsibility at the urging of the religious right, and it is all predicated on their belief that women are commanded by their deity to subject themselves to a man’s will. The deeply-held belief that women must subjugate themselves to men is part and parcel of the culture of rape a frightening number of men subscribe to, and is perpetuated by repugicans who could barely be bothered to pass the Violence Against Women Act while they promoted the vile concept of “legitimate rape.”
What is astonishing, and incomprehensible, is the number of women who vote for and support repugicans convinced their authority as men justifies mandating intrusion into a woman’s body as if it is their dog-given duty. One is hard-pressed to understand why any woman would support repugicans who regard women as livestock to be manipulated and abused, and it may be that they are so entrenched in the “women are subservient” mindset that they fail to see the atrocity of men violating women. It is also a mystery why any man would support and condone repugicans legislating that their wives, sisters, daughters, and mothers are free-game to other men, but it is possible they too are mesmerized by the thought that women exist as mere objects for men to abuse.
The incidents in Texas are not isolated and are rape under any interpretation of the law regardless it is during a traffic stop on a public highway, or in a doctor’s office to satisfy perverse repugicans and their evangelical support group.  The culture of rape in America is but one expression of the ideology that men have a right to dominate women and it is high time that decent men stand up and fight alongside America’s women for their rights. Regardless it is the right to equal pay for equal work, equity in healthcare expense, or freedom to drive in Texas without fear of being raped by state troopers, the misogyny and culture of rape plaguing America must end

Judge Calls 13-Year-Old Girl Who Was Sexually Assaulted by a 41-Year-Old "Predatory"

Say What! 
A judge calls a 13-year-old a predator, a rape "prevention" campaign targets women. 
The victim-blaming continues.
You know the number one thing you can do to stop sexual assault? Don’t sexually assault anybody. Sounds easy enough, right? So why is the main responsibility for avoiding abuse still so often placed on victims and potential victims?
Recently Jennifer Stephens, a battalion commander in the Ohio National Guard, noticed a sign in the women’s restroom at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base declaring that“Preventing sexual assault is everyone’s duty!” That duty, according to the base’s sexual assault prevention and response program, includes the warning to “Avoid becoming a victim.” How? With tips like “Socialize with people who share your values,” “Pay attention to your surroundings” and “Don’t leave a group situation with someone you don’t know well.”  That’s all sound, common sense advice. The problem is that, as with so many prevention programs, it suggests that preventing abuse is not “everyone’s duty” at all.
Stevens told Business Insider, “I think this is part of the reason victims are afraid to report incidents. If you’re a victim and you’ve done one of the things on that list, you now feel like it’s your fault that you were sexually assaulted.”  And she wrote a letter to the SARC Office, asking, “Instead of practicing victim blaming by making a list of all the things people should do to avoid becoming a victim, how about you make a list of all the places that a victim can go to find safety and help in their time of crisis?” She added, “This type of rhetoric only serves to promote the current rape culture that is entrenched in the military today by putting the spotlight on the victim instead of nailing the perpetrator to the wall.” She signed it, “A concerned citizen and Military Sexual Trauma survivors advocate.” In a statement, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base vaguely responded, “We have implemented robust training for all Airmen designed to both deter potential offenders as well as give Airmen the awareness and tools they need to step in and stop assaults from taking place.” But Stevens says, “In all my years in the military, I’ve never heard anyone say anything about what’s being done to stop the perpetrators. It is absolutely alarming.”
The policy of asking potential victims to figure it all out is hardly unique. Earlier this year, Shaw Air Force Base made headlines for its “Sexual Assault Prevention and Response literature,” with its notes to “be careful” because rapists often target those who are “are young (na├»ve)” or “emotionally unstable.” Yet even the appalling, accountability-deflecting warnings on how to avoid sexual assault pale in comparison to the regular supply of flat-out blame that victims far too often face.
This week in the UK, Judge Nigel Peters gave a suspended sentence to 41 year-old Neil Wilson after he pleaded guilty to “making extreme pornographic images and one count of sexual activity” with a 13 year-old girl. The judge explained his leniency as stemming from the fact that “the girl was predatory and was egging you on.” During the trial, the prosecution had declared the girl was “sexually experienced” and that “She appeared to look around 14 or 15 and had the mental age of a 14 or 15 year old despite being younger than that. There was sexual activity but it was not of Mr. Wilson’s doing, you might say it was forced upon him despite being older and stronger than her.” Law enforcement also found “a stash of images and videos depicting child abuse and bestiality” in Wilson’s home, but sure, the 13 year-old girl is the predator here.
Preventing assault has to be a game of both offense and defense. We are all potential victims, and we all need to know how to minimize risk. But there is a growing trove of evidence to suggest that when we also work to minimize assault itself, when we address potential rapists directly; we can drastically reduce the incidence of rape. Preventing sexual assault really is everyone’s duty. So how much longer before “everybody” realizes it?

Montreal woman fined $219 for not paying bus fare with exact change

Officialdom Gone Bad 
When Pauline Tantost was kicked off a Montreal city bus last week for not paying her fare with exact change, she was shocked. And then a transit inspector handed her a ticket with a $219 fine for not paying her fare. With her two-year-old son, Xavier, in her arms, she had boarded the bus home to Verdun at around 10 p.m. after having spent five hours at the Montreal Children’s Hospital.

She searched through her purse for $3 in change for the fare, but only came up with a $5 bill. She said she offered it to the driver, who refused because the fare machine doesn’t accept bills. He warned her that failure to pay a fare could be bad news if the bus was to get inspected. Then the bus took off with Tantost and her son on board, while she clutched the $5 in her hand. Two inspectors boarded the bus several stops before Tantost’s home. An employee of the STM later told her that it was purely a coincidence that the bus was inspected. “I find that suspicious,” Tantost said.

A passenger on the bus, Darlene Cousins-Larsen, said one inspector entered the bus by the front door while another boarded through the back.“They went right to the woman who was sitting behind the bus driver with the child. She had to get off the bus,” Cousins-Larsen said. She said another woman on the bus with an invalid ticket was given a warning. Cousins-Larsen approached the bus driver and offered to pay the woman’s fare, but was shrugged off by the driver and inspectors. “He said, ‘No no, it's OK, it's free.’ And I thought, ‘Oh, OK, they were just giving her a warning,’” she said.

YouTube link.

Instead, Tantost was handed a $219 fine for not paying her fare. Embarrassed, she got off the bus with her son and stood on the sidewalk in tears. She walked the rest of the way home. “I think they showed a lack of humanity and a lack of kindness,” she said. Tantost said she told the inspectors she would contest the fine, words that according to her were met with a laugh and a comment about how the only benefit of that would be the overtime the STM employee treating the file would earn.

Random Celebrity Photos

Pictures say a thousand words
>Hilary Duff
Hillary Duff

Bad Economics - Bad Parents?

Scientific Minds Want To Know
An examination of data from a large study shows a link between macroeconomic downward trends and the way moms parent:

Psychotherapy via Internet as good as if not better than face-to-face consultations

Scientific Minds Want To Know
Online psychotherapy is just as efficient as conventional therapy. Three months after the end of the therapy, patients given online treatment even displayed fewer symptoms. For the first time, clinical researchers from the University of [...]

Health News

For Your Health

The painful, red skin that comes from too much time in the sun is caused by a molecule abundant in the skin’s epidermis, a new study shows. Blocking this molecule, called TRPV4, greatly protects against […]

Patients like it and so do health organizations, but electronic communications in clinical care will likely not be widely adopted by primary care physicians unless patient workloads are reduced or they are paid for the […]

The scientific name of the timber rattlesnake, Crotalus horridus, is a sign of the fear and loathing this native North American viper has inspired. But research by a team of University of Maryland biologists shows […]

Eyes are half a billion years old

Scientific Minds Want To Know

Look after your eyes – they are at least half a billion years old, and a good deal older than your brain.

Eyes are half a billion years old
Around 500 million years ago species already had light-detecting cells that represented
the cone cells of our modern eyes [Credit: Tatiana Makotra/Shutterstock]
The eyes are one of our most remarkable and precious organs, yet their origins have been shrouded in mystery until quite recently, explains Professor Trevor Lamb of The Vision Centre and Australian National University, who has devoted more than 30 years to investigating their secrets.

Prof. Lamb has just published a major scientific review of the origin of the vertebrate eye and vision, summarizing the findings of hundreds of scientists round the world.

"There are profound questions about the eye which are still not easy to answer because it appeared so very long ago," he says. "Why did the eye develop? Why are there many different kinds of eye, including one for insects and crustaceans – and one for vertebrates like us?

"What kinds of animals needed these incredible seeing machines and how did they use them? How deep into time do the roots of vision go? How has the eye influenced our subsequent development?"

The deep origins of 'sight' go back more than 700 million years when the earth was inhabited only by single-celled amoeba-like animals, algae, corals and bacteria. At this time the first light-sensitive chemicals, known as opsins, made their appearance and were used in rudimentary ways by some organisms to sense day from night.

Ancient cells already had signalling cascades that sensed chemicals in their environment, and the advent of opsins allowed them to sense light. "But these animals were tiny, and had no nervous system to process signals from their light sensors," he explains.

Over the following 200 million years those simple light-sensitive cells and their opsins slowly and progressively became better at detecting light – they became more sensitive, faster, and more reliable – until around 500 million years ago they already closely resembled the cone cells of our present day eyes.

"The first true eyes, consisting of clumps of light-sensing cells, only start to show up in the Cambrian, about 500 million years ago – and represent a huge leap in the evolutionary arms race," Prof. Lamb says. "Creatures that could see clearly had the jump on those that couldn't.

"For example there is Anomalocaris, a meter-long predator like a giant scorpion - the "Jaws" of its day - which had eyes the size of marbles, with which to navigate the ancient seas and locate its prey. This beast, which employed the 'insect eye' model with many facets, had no fewer than 16,000 facets containing vision cells, in each eye.

"This generates an avalanche of information, known as optic flow, running from the eyes and along the creature's nervous system. This all has to be processed, so we also begin to see the rapid development of a central nervous system able to cope with such immense amounts of data, continually provided by the eyes and other sensory organs from the world around the animal.

"For the first time animals begin to 'see' the complex landscape which they inhabit."

Our type of eye, a single globe packing in millions of photoreceptors, first starts to emerge between 500-600 million years ago. This was the crucial moment for our vision system, Prof. Lamb contends.

"Baby sea squirts have a simple eyespot called an ocellus, which is basically a bundle of photoreceptors. The adult animal loses this, as it becomes immobile, so vision is not important. This organ appears to date back at least 600 million years.

"The hagfish has a patch of translucent skin on each side of the head where you'd expect to see its eyes, and buried beneath are a pair of very simple 'eyes' with light sensing cells and a simple optic nerve – but no muscles, lens or iris. Hagfish ancestors go back more than half a billion years, so this crude light sensing organ seems to have been the start of something big."

Lampreys also appeared around 500 million years ago, and have a pair of camera-style eyes remarkably similar to our own. These appear to be direct forerunners of the vertebrate eye, which we have inherited through our fish ancestry, says Prof. Lamb.

"From this we can say that the vertebrate-style eye has been around at least 500 million years – and although its light-sensors and signalling systems are very similar to those of insects and other invertebrates, its optical system evolved quite independently from the insect-style eye with its many facets."

Paired eyes also appear to feature in the strange 'crest animals' found by Chinese scientists in rocks that are around 500my old. From then on the basic plan of the vertebrate eye becomes more settled, being used with innumerable refinements by fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals and, eventually, us.

"The advent of spatial vision provided immense survival value to the creature that had it - but the process occurred slowly, over countless steps, with the transition from a simple eye spot to the vertebrate-style camera eye possibly taking as long as 100 million years," he concludes.

Historical News

Scientific Minds Want To Know
The 1000-year old hospital was comprised of different wings and departments according to the nature of the illness and the condition of the patient -- similar to modern hospitals.

Ancient treasures found at Russian burial site

Scientific Minds Want To Know
Archaeologists have found the intact burial chamber of a noble woman from a powerful tribe that roamed the Eurasian steppes 2,500 years ago in southern Russia, an official said Tuesday.
Ancient treasures found at Russian burial site
The woman's skeleton covered with jewelry and decorations [Credit: State Teachers
Training University of Bashkortostan]
The Sarmatians were a group of Persian-speaking tribes that controlled what is now parts of southern Russia, Ukraine and Central Asia from around 500 BC until 400 AD. They were often mentioned by ancient Greek historians and left luxurious tombs with exquisite golden and bronze artifacts that were often looted by gravediggers.

But the burial site found near the the village of Filippovka in the Orenburg region has not been robbed – and contained a giant bronze kettle, jewelry, a silver mirror and what appears to be containers for cosmetics, said history professor Gulnara Obydennova who heads the Institute of History and Legal Education in the city of Ufa.

“The find is really sensational also because the burial vault was intact - the objects and jewelry in it were found the way they had been placed by the ancient nomads,” she told RIA Novosti.

The vault – located 4 meters (13 feet) underground – was found in the “Tsar Tumulus,” a group of two dozen mounds where hundreds of golden and silver figurines of deer, griffins and camels, vessels and weapons have been found since the 1980s.

The woman's skeleton was still covered with jewelry and decorations, and her left hand held a silver mirror with an ornamented golden handle, Obydennova said.

The descendants of the Sarmatians include Ossetians, an ethnic group living in the Caucasus region, who speak a language related to Persian.

Large votive relief of Zeus unearthed in Bulgaria

Scientific Minds Want To Know
A team of Bulgarian archaeologists led by Dr. Ivan Hristov has discovered an unusually large votive relief of the ancient Greek God Zeus near the Bulgarian village of Starosel. The news was announced by the National History Museum for the Bulgarian News Agency Focus.
Large votive relief of Zeus unearthed in Bulgaria
Excavations at the ancient fortress Kozi Gramadi uncovered a large votive relief
of the ancient Greek God Zeus [Credit: National History Museum]
The archaeological team uncovered the votive relief which was much bigger than the ordinary ones and thus it was allegedly the center part of an ancient temple.

A large rock eagle appeared flying round when the archeological team was about to uncover the artifact. As the ancient Greek god Zeus was commonly featured as a rock eagle, some of the archaeologists jokingly concluded that god Zeus should have come to look over his sanctuary.

The votive relief was uncovered while the archaeologists were excavating the Kozi Gramadi mount in the Sredna Gora mountain, in the village of Starosel, close to the resort town of Hissar in central Bulgaria.

The fortress, located on the Kozi Gramadi mount , was built in the sixth and fifth centuries BC and it used to be the capital of ancient Thracian tribe living in central Bulgaria.

The archaeologists believe that the region was the power center of Ancient Thrace in the 4th century BC. It was destroyed during the rise of the Macedonian state of Philip II in 342-341 BC.

Blaming Aliens

Scientific Minds Want To Know
Why, when something weird or unexplained happens, do we immediately blame aliens?! Crop circles, missing persons, even animal mutilations -- ET's been blamed for 'em all! Trace explores why we're so quick to hop on the "aliens did it" bandwagon.

A Guide To The Undulatus Asperatus Cloud

Scientific Minds Want To Know
Undulatus asperatus is a cloud formation, proposed in 2009 as a separate cloud classification by the founder of the Cloud Appreciation Society. If successful it will be the first cloud formation added since cirrus intortus in 1951. The name translates approximately as 'roughened or agitated waves.'

The breathtaking undulatus asperatus cloud looks very much like stormy ocean waves, and is rather disorientating to see as these waves are upside down in the sky.


Daily Comic Relief
Wednesday, August 7
Some have all the luck - Not! Edition

Don't let the Bed Bugs bite

Animal News

A new pitfall trap designed to capture bed bugs is more effective than those currently on the market, according to the authors of an article appearing in the next issue of the Journal of Economic […]

Man's new truck is haunted with ghost ants

Animal News
Josh Wise from Canton in Georgia had to have his new Nissan truck shipped in from Florida. Soon after getting delivery of it he started to notice ants. Lots of them. Wise has no idea exactly how many. He just knows when his truck sits still or night time falls, they come out. They don't walk in line, like most ants, instead these run randomly across his truck. The ants are so small, less than a millimeter long, if his truck weren't white you wouldn't see them, at least not until they started to swarm.

Ten Crazy Sports Invasions From The Animal Kingdom

Animal News
You're a professional sports player, deep in the throes of a crucial game, when suddenly you're faced with a plucky member of the animal kingdom. What do you do? Stop to give the thing a cuddle, or move it out of the way?

Animals raiding sports matches aren't as uncommon as you might think. Here's a pick of ten of the most well-known limelight-grabbing creatures. Whether you view them as big annoyances or sweet internet sensations, these unruly beasts make for some pretty impressive images.
ded since cirrus intortus in 1951. The name translates approximately as 'roughened or agitated waves.'

Malaysian villager finds strange rare creature

Animal News

A villager was shocked when he saw a creature that looked like a tiger prawn, crab and scorpion combined when he was in the jungle to collect palm leaves.
Ismail Jusoh, 49, from Kampung Alor Tuman in Marang said he found the creature on the palm leaves and was shocked to see its unique shape.
“It has eight legs and the front portion looks like crab while the back like prawn. It also looks like a scorpion,” he said.

Ismail said he brought the crustacean back and kept it in a tank of water. The creature is known as ngoang in Sarawak or jabot in Johor. It is seldom found and is said to be near extinction.

Animal News

Animal News
The two young boys, aged five and seven, were at a sleepover at a friend's apartment in a small town in Canada.
The iconic, critically endangered fish is frequently sold as 'shark' in fish markets or reeled in and mounted on walls.
Costa Rica says it wants to free animals from their cages at both of its public zoos. 
A bizarre ancient ape whose gait has stumped researchers for decades walked on all fours and swung from the trees, new research suggests.

Animal Pictures

Animal Pictures
The Lynx or as we call it around these parts a 'super-turbo charged insane rip your ass off wildcat'