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

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Daily Drift

The Brain: genius or insane ...

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Today in History

1788 After having been dissolved, the French Parliament of Paris reassembles in triumph.
1789 Congress passes the Judiciary Act of 1789, establishing a strong federal court system with the powers it needs to ensure the supremacy of the Constitution and federal law. The new Supreme Court will have a chief justice and five associate justices.
1842 Branwell Bronte, the brother of the Bronte sisters and the model for Hindley Earnshaw in Emily's novel Wuthering Heights, dies of tuberculosis. Emily and Anne die the same year.
1862 President Abraham Lincoln suspends the writ of habeas corpus against anyone suspected of being a Southern sympathizer.
1904 Sixty-two die and 120 are injured in head-on train collision in Tennessee.
1914 In the Alsace-Lorraine area between France and Germany, the German Army captures St. Mihiel.
1915 Bulgaria mobilizes troops on the Serbian border.
1929 The first flight using only instruments is completed by U.S. Army pilot James Doolittle.
1930 Noel Coward's comedy Private Lives opens in London starring Gertrude Lawrence and Coward himself.
1947 The World Women's Party meets for the first time since World War II.
1956 The first transatlantic telephone cable system begins operation.
1957 President Dwight D. Eisenhower sends federal troops into Little Rock, Arkansas, to protect nine black students entering its newly integrated high school.
1960 The Enterprise, the first nuclear powered aircraft carrier, is launched.
1962 The University of Mississippi agrees to admit James Meredith as the first black university student, sparking more rioting.
1969 The "Chicago Eight," charged with conspiracy and crossing state lines with the intent to incite a riot, go on trial for their part in the mayhem during the 1968 Democratic Party National Convention in the "Windy City."
1970 The Soviet Luna 16 lands, completing the first unmanned round trip to the moon.
1979 CompuServe (CIS) offers one of the first online services to consumers; it will dominate among Internet service providers for consumers through the mid-1990s.
1993 Sihanouk is reinstalled as king of Cambodia.
1996 Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty signed by representatives of 71 nations at the UN; at present, five key nations have signed but not ratified it and three others have not signed.
2005 Hurricane Rita, the 4th-most intense Atlantic hurricane ever recorded, comes ashore in Texas causing extensive damage there and in Louisiana, which had devastated by Hurricane Katrina less than a month earlier.
2009 LRAD (Long Range Acoustic Device) "sonic cannon," a non-lethal device that utilizes intense sound, is used in the United States for the first time, to disperse protestor at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh, Penn.

Non Sequitur


DragonCon cosplayers who dressed up as Marriott carpet get a cease-and-desist for their fabric offering

There's widespread consensus that the best cosplayers at this year's Dragoncon were the people who dressed up in bodysuits patterned after the notoriously bizarre institutional carpet at the Atlanta Marriott hotel, one of the event's venues. But when one of the cosplayers offered to supply carpet-camo to other attendees, Couristan Inc (the company that designed the carpet) sent them a legal threat.
Of all the things to get a Cease and Desist over, of ALL the replicas I've made over the years, I've received one from Couristan Inc., designers if the Marriott Marquis Atlanta hotel carpet. Spoonflower has pulled the design, as is their right, so sorry everyone who wanted some fabric of their own!
The absurdity is palpable.

Did you know ...

About the Koch brothers' secret bank

That navy sexual assault reports rise 50%

That wal-mart workers plan massive strikes for black Friday 2013

WTF is this thing?? Nobody knows ...

Taliban abduction left her 'even braver'

In this Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013 photo, Afghan lawmaker Fariba Ahmadi Kakar speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in Kabul, Afghanistan. Since July, several prominent women have been attacked in Afghanistan. Among them: two police officers who were killed in the south, an Indian author living in eastern Afghanistan who was killed years after her memoir about 1990s life under Taliban rule became a Bollywood film; and a senator who was wounded in an ambush. These and other attacks on female leaders in recent years have generally been blamed on the Taliban, though the Afghan militant group, mindful of cultural sensitivities, usually does not admit to targeting women. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)
The Taliban kidnappers moved her to at least 13 homes, made her sleep on the ground, and kept asking where she'd been, what she'd done and whom she knew. Every few days, she would be given a chance to call her family.
Still, the militants would push her only so far — they knew they needed to keep their bargaining chip in good shape.
Fariba Ahmadi Kakar's four-week ordeal ended this month after the Afghan government gave in to her captors' demands to free some prisoners. In an interview with The Associated Press, the 39-year-old Afghan lawmaker gave a rare account of what it's like for a woman to be held captive by the Islamist insurgents.
"I wasn't tortured. I wasn't under constant stress. But I wasn't free," Kakar said.
She's also lucky to be alive.
Since July, several prominent women have been attacked in Afghanistan. Among them: two police officers who were killed in the south, an Indian author living in eastern Afghanistan who was killed years after her memoir about 1990s life under Taliban rule became a Bollywood film; and a senator who was wounded in an ambush.
These and other attacks on female leaders in recent years have generally been blamed on the Taliban, though the Afghan militant group, mindful of cultural sensitivities, usually does not admit to targeting women. The assaults have added to growing fears that what few gains Afghan women have made since the U.S. toppled the Taliban government in 2001 could be erased once American-led foreign troops finish withdrawing next year.
Being a woman in the public eye is a special challenge in Afghanistan, where tribal and conservative Islamic mores have long subjected women across the social spectrum to violence and discrimination.
The spotlight can be a shield, making men think twice about mistreating a woman and perhaps even guaranteeing that she'll be assigned a bodyguard. At the same time, it can make a woman a more attractive target for insurgents hoping to spread fear and weaken confidence in the Afghan government.
Kakar is one of 69 female lawmakers in the 249-seat lower house of parliament, and she's never been naive about the danger she and other prominent Afghan women face. Still, her initial encounter with her kidnappers was so swift and shocking it's still something of a blur today.
Kakar, her four children, her bodyguard and her driver were traveling from southern Kandahar province to Kabul, the Afghan capital, when a handful of armed militants on motorbikes appeared ahead of them on the outskirts of Ghazni city. The gunmen made the driver turn off the highway onto a bumpy, dirt road that led to a small village.
The militants put the group in the home of an Afghan Taliban family, separating the men from the women and saying little. Kakar, though, quickly began pleading with the captors to free her three daughters and son, ages 2 to 20.
She tried to calm her children but did not downplay what was happening. "I told them, 'This is the situation in this country. I will try to make sure you are safe,'" she said.
The Taliban fighters let her call her family. Within a couple of days her children were released to her mother and brother. Kakar, though, was shifted from place to place and kept separate from her driver and bodyguard.
Just days before the kidnapping, a fellow female legislator was wounded in an ambush by suspected Taliban gunmen not far from where Kakar was seized. Sen. Rouh Gul Khairzad's young daughter was killed, as was a bodyguard, while other family members also were wounded.
The militants who kidnapped Kakar had a different goal: They wanted the government to release some prisoners, and Kakar was their leverage.
In recounting her ordeal, Kakar wavered from calm to anger to wariness, and wouldn't always delve into details. At times she looked faint, but then she'd break into a sudden grin. When asked what she did all day in the various homes in which she was held captive, she smirked and said, "Nothing!"
She had only a vague idea of what was happening between her captors and authorities seeking to free her.
Kakar had a couple of female minders, whom she called "the doctor's mother" and "Zolaikha," but she wouldn't go into specifics about them. She said, however, that most of the women she encountered would tell her, "We have no power or authority to talk to you."
The men, like many Taliban, were hard-line Muslims who tried to avoid interacting with women outside their families. They would tell her their commanders were dealing with the details of her case.
Now and then, Kakar would be interrogated by the militants — usually three or four of them, and they didn't hide their faces. They'd ask her questions about her travels, her political activities and if she had met President Hamid Karzai. Nonetheless, they always treated her with "full respect," she said, even cutting short the questioning if they saw she was getting tired.
Kakar leads a privileged life compared to most Afghans, and she was deeply troubled by the poverty and ignorance around her. There were no beds to sleep on, the food was often "inedible," and there was no sense of any government presence. When she needed medicine, she'd give the militants some of her own money so they could buy it for her.
"The people in these villages don't even know what vaccines are," said Kakar, a former development worker whose constituency is in Kandahar city.
In early September, the captors told Kakar it would be just days before she'd be free. That same week, militants dragged Indian author Sushmita Banerjee out of the home she shared with her Afghan husband in eastern Afghanistan and fatally shot her. Banerjee's 1990s tale of life under the Taliban was the basis for the 2003 movie "Escape from Taliban."
Kakar was freed Sept. 7. Her bodyguard and driver were released separately. But there are conflicting accounts about whom the government freed in exchange.
Zholina Faizi, secretary of the Ghazni provincial council and one of the few in the government willing to discuss the matter, told the AP that seven male insurgents and one woman were released.
But the Taliban, in a statement announcing Kakar's release, said the prisoners were "four innocent women and two children." The militants also emphasized they had treated Kakar "in a very Islamic and humane way."
Kakar said government officials told her four women and 10 children from Taliban families were let go, including babies born in prison. She said she was told the women's husbands made them transport explosive materials, but that the women were unaware what it was they were carrying and were taken into custody.
The ordeal has left Kakar even more determined to pursue her political activism, especially in light of next year's presidential election, which she says will be a "lie" when so many Afghans lack access to government services or basic information.
"I am even braver than before," she said. "I will defend Afghanistan, especially the women, until the last drop of my blood."
As Kakar spoke, the news was rapidly spreading that suspected Taliban gunmen in southern Helmand province had shot and killed one of Afghanistan's top policewomen, some two months after a fellow female officer was slain.

While Persecuting Everyone Else, the religio-wingnuts Cry Persecution

It is interesting that at the same time House repugicans are supporting a “Marriage and Religious Freedom Act” that would allow them to persecute same-sex couples on the basis of religion, Liberty Counsel’s Matt Barber turns truth on its head when he claims that the Obama administration holds a “pagan worldview” and that that the administration is discriminating against christians – particularly those same evangelicals who are backing legislation that would persecute everyone who does not share those evangelical religious beliefs. Acceding to Barber, the Obama administration is the “modern-day equivalent” of ancient Rome, where each citizen is made to worship Caesar with progressivism.
Is there perhaps just a little bit of hypocrisy involved here?
“It’s the same thing; it’s pagan sexual morality. It’s a Pagan view of the world that is a secularist view of the world that is inherently hostile toward not just any religion but particularly christianity.”
Factually, this is absurd, and there are a few points I wish to make:
  1. Obama is a christian and his policies prove it. If he were a Pagan he would hardly have continued and even expanded upon the shrub’s faith based initiatives. And in keeping it, had he been Pagan, he would certainly have added at least a few Pagans to it rather than giving it a monotheistic leadership panel. No, not much evidence of Paganism in the Obama administration.
  2. Barber’s claims about ancient Rome are even more laughable, since Rome did not discriminate against christians outside of perhaps 7 to 10 years in a three century span. As Thomas Jefferson observed, “had not the Roman government permitted free inquiry christianity could never have been introduced.”
  3. And Roman citizens were not made to worship Caesar.
  4. Paganism is not secularist and never has been. Paganism is not hostile toward religion. It cannot be and remain Paganism. Nor was Paganism historically hostile to christianity, despite all the attempts of historical christianity to pretend to be persecuted – a pretense that continues today.
    This attempt to make everything outside of itself Paganism is a pathetic demonization of the Other as old as christianity itself.
  5. Sacrifices were to the genius – guardian spirit – of Caesar, not to Caesar himself. And they were not coerced. For the Romans, sacrificing to the genius of Caesar was much like the Pledge of Allegiance is today for Americans – an expression of loyalty. Yet in another example of hypocrisy, while denouncing Roman devotion to Caesar, these evangelicals want to coerce Americans to worship their god through the old “under god” line they got added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954.
Apparently, Barber believes that since christianity has always – until the Enlightenment – coerced worship of jesus, that every other religion must also have coerced its believers.
I’m sorry, Mr. Barber, but if that is the only way you can GET believers, then maybe there is something wrong with your religion.
So-called christians like Barber are busily trying even now to coerce worship of jesus by legislating his beliefs in violation of the U.S. Constitution. While crying persecution and defending freedom of religion, these religio-winuts are denying freedom of religion to millions of Americans, demanding that their own beliefs be legislated into law and the rest of us forced to go along with them, giving up our own freedom to have different beliefs of our own.
This is like repugicans saying liberals are both Nazis and Communists, or Communists and islamists. It’s nonsensical and seemingly meaningful only to a repugican mind.
But without lies and distortion and hypocrisy and invented history, what would the religio-wingnutst have?
Not much at all.

The truth be told

This Is How Private Prison Companies Make Millions Even When Crime Rates Fall

We are living in boom times for the private prison industry. The Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation's largest owner of private prisons, has seen its revenue climb by more than 500 percent in the last two decades. And CCA wants to get much, much bigger: Last year, the company made an offer to 48 governors to buy and operate their state-funded prisons. But what made CCA's pitch to those governors so audacious and shocking was that it included a so-called occupancy requirement, a clause demanding the state keep those newly privatized prisons at least 90 percent full at all times, regardless of whether crime was rising or falling.
Occupancy requirements, as it turns out, are common practice within the private prison industry. A new report by In the Public Interest, an anti-privatization group, reviewed 62 contracts for private prisons operating around the country at the local and state level. In the Public Interest found that 41 of those contracts included occupancy requirements mandating that local or state government keep those facilities between 80 and 100 percent full. In other words, whether crime is rising or falling, the state must keep those beds full. (The report was funded by grants from the Open Society Institute and Public Welfare, according to a spokesman.)
All the big private prison companies—CCA, GEO Group, and the Management and Training Corporation—try to include occupancy requirements in their contracts, according to the report. States with the highest occupancy requirements include Arizona (three prison contracts with 100 percent occupancy guarantees), Oklahoma (three contracts with 98 percent occupancy guarantees), and Virginia (one contract with a 95 percent occupancy guarantee). At the same time, private prison companies have supported and helped write "three-strike" and "truth-in-sentencing" laws that drive up prison populations. Their livelihoods depend on towns, cities, and states sending more people to prison and keeping them there.
You might be wondering: What happens when crime drops and prison populations dwindle in states that agreed to keep their private prisons 80 percent or 90 percent full? Consider Colorado. The state's crime rate has sunk by a third in the past decade, and since 2009, five state-run prisons have shuttered because they weren't needed. Many more prison beds remain empty in other state facilities. Yet the state chose not to fill those beds because Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper and CCA cut a deal to instead send 3,330 prisoners to CCA's three Colorado prisons. Colorado taxpayers foot the bill for leaving those state-run prisons underused. In March, Christie Donner, executive director of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, estimated that the state wasted at least $2 million in taxpayer money using CCA's prisons instead of its own.
That's just one example of how private prison companies keep the dollars rolling in, whether crime is rising or waning. Not surprisingly, In the Public Interest's report calls on local and state governments to refuse to include occupancy requirements and even ban such requirements with new legislation. "With governmental priorities pulling public funds in so many different directions, it makes no financial sense for taxpayers to fund empty prison beds," the report says.

Will An Inverted Jenny Turn The Stamp World Upside Down Again?

Sunday, September 22, 2013, the William H. Gross Stamp Gallery at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum opened to the public. The gallery has been in the works since the fall of 2009, when Gross, who made his billions as the founder of the Pimco Total Return bond fund, donated $8 million to the National Postal Museum.

Among the 20,000-plus items on display is a block of four 24-cent Inverted Jenny stamps, so named because the blue intaglio vignette of a Curtiss JN-4-H biplane in the 1918 stamp was printed upside down in relation to its carmine-colored frame.

Pilot Makes Emergency Landing on Downtown Chicago Street

He Used Traffic Signal to Time His Descent
John Pedersen's single engine plane suffered damage while he flew it this morning. He couldn't make it the O'Hare or Midway Airports. So he landed in downtown Chicago on Lake Shore Drive. Pedersen did his best to avoid hitting cars:
Pedersen. who said he had been flying for five years, had decided the drive was his best landing spot. If timed correctly, he figured, he could bring down the plane while traffic was stopped at a red light.
"You pick a landing spot that's not going to jeopardize anybody else," he said.
When the light on East Balbo Avenue turned red, he brought the plane down in the northbound lanes, its nose facing north.
It was a tricky landing, but he stuck it, Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said admiringly.
Two cars actually hit the airplane after it landed – and then, mysteriously, sped off, Pedersen said. One can only imagine what their drivers were thinking.

Daily Comic Relief



Blotevoetenpad is Dutch for Barefoot Path. It's situated in Belgium in a place called Zutendaal. When walking the blotevoetenpad you can sense with your feet the special incentives of wood, stone, tree clippings, grass, loam and water on a controlled route that is only accessible barefoot.

You can sense hot and cold, moist and dry, feel pleasant, excited and stimulated on a route of almost 2 km in Lieteberg. There are water hazards, sand hills, and steep slopes. There's also a wooden watchtower, a maze, and a suspension bridge.

Chinese-Style Giant Camping Festival

Forget about quiet, unspoiled countryside or venturing out into the wild-unknown - this is camping Chinese style! Over 15,000 people from around the world transform a hillside near Mount Wugongshan in China's Jiangxi province into a kaleidoscope of coloured tents for the 2013 International Camping Festival.

Jiangxi Province, located in the eastern part of the country, is considered by many to be home to China's most beautiful countryside due to its natural ecology, as well as its long history and tradition.

A Standing Version of the Seesaw

(Photo: Winfield Parks/National Geographic)
This photo from 1964 shows an unusual and awesome seesaw in Tokyo. One child pulls down and the other flies into the air.
Okay, I understand why most kids were never allowed to play on these risky toys. But now that I'm legally an adult, can I have one? Please?

What Did Barney Rubble Do For A Living?

In 1960, the first ever prime-time animated TV series took to the air, The Flintstones. Fred Flintstone was a blustery, quick-tempered, loud-mouthed, blowhard. Fred's best friend and next door neighbor was the affable and always loyal Barney Rubble.

Fred Flintstone is a bronto-crane operator at the Slate Rock and Gravel Company. But Barney's occupation is, for the most part of the series, unknown, though later series depict him working in the same quarry as Fred. But what exactly did Barney Rubble do for a living?

Why Didn't People Smile in Old Photographs?

Why are people in Nineteenth Century photos usually grimacing? This newlywed couple looks like they've just been sentenced to hard labor. American author Mark Twain explains their expression:
A photograph is a most important document, and there is nothing more damning to go down to posterity than a silly, foolish smile caught and fixed forever.
Twain wasn't alone. He supported a traditional though fading belief that smiling made you look stupid. The Atlantic cites scholar Nicholas Jeeves:
Twain wasn’t the only believer in the idiocy of the style. Look back at painted portraiture — the tradition photography inherited — and you’ll rarely see a grinning subject. This is, in fact, Jeeves’s subject. “By the 17th century in Europe,“ he writes, “it was a well-established fact that the only people who smiled broadly, in life and in art, were the poor, the lewd, the drunk, the innocent, and the entertainment.”
Indeed, not only were smiles of the middling sortthey breached propriety. In 1703, one French writer lamented “people who raise their upper lip so high… that their teeth are almost entirely visible.” Not only was this discourteous, he asked: Why do it at all? After all, “nature gave us lips to conceal them.”
Portraits represented an ideal. It’s easy to mock them — they were the profile pictures of the aristocracy, in a sort of way — but they were crucial, tied to mortality, a method of preserving a person’s visage and affect. Jeeves puts it well: “The ambition [with portraiture] was not to capture a moment, but a moral certainty.” Subjects never looked exactly like their picture, yet their portraits were how they appeared. Portraits had permanenceYou did not want to commit a permanent faux pas



The Origins Of The Periodic Table

The periodic table is a tabular arrangement of the chemical elements, organized on the basis of their atomic numbers, electron configurations, and recurring chemical properties.

As early as 330 BCE, Aristotle created a four-element table: earth, air, fire, and water. But it wasn't until the late 1700s that Antoine Lavoisier, a French nobleman and chemist, wrote the first list of 33 elements. He classified them as metals and nonmetals, though we now know that some were compounds or mixtures.

Scientists discover cosmic factory for making building blocks of life

Scientists have discovered a 'cosmic factory' for producing the building blocks of life, amino acids, in research published today in the journal Nature Geoscience.
Scientists discover cosmic factory for making building blocks of life
A recent study shows that the basic building blocks of life can be assembled anywhere
in the Solar System and perhaps beyond [Credit: Imperial College London]
The team from Imperial College London, the University of Kent and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have discovered that when icy comets collide into a planet, amino acids can be produced. These essential building blocks are also produced if a rocky meteorite crashes into a planet with an icy surface.

The researchers suggest that this process provides another piece to the puzzle of how life was kick-started on Earth, after a period of time between 4.5 and 3.8 billion years ago when the planet had been bombarded by comets and meteorites.

Dr Zita Martins, co-author of the paper from the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial College London, says: "Our work shows that the basic building blocks of life can be assembled anywhere in the Solar System and perhaps beyond. However, the catch is that these building blocks need the right conditions in order for life to flourish. Excitingly, our study widens the scope for where these important ingredients may be formed in the Solar System and adds another piece to the puzzle of how life on our planet took root."

Dr Mark Price, co-author from the University of Kent, adds: "This process demonstrates a very simple mechanism whereby we can go from a mix of simple molecules, such as water and carbon-dioxide ice, to a more complicated molecule, such as an amino acid. This is the first step towards life. The next step is to work out how to go from an amino acid to even more complex molecules such as proteins."

The abundance of ice on the surfaces of Enceladus and Europa, which are moons orbiting Saturn and Jupiter respectively, could provide a perfect environment for the production of amino acids, when meteorites crash into their surface, say the researchers. Their work further underlines the importance of future space missions to these moons to search for signs of life.

The researchers discovered that when a comet impacts on a world it creates a shock wave that generates molecules that make up amino acids. The impact of the shock wave also generates heat, which then transforms these molecules into amino acids.

The team made their discovery by recreating the impact of a comet by firing projectiles through a large high speed gun. This gun, located at the University of Kent, uses compressed gas to propel projectiles at speeds of 7.15 kilometres per second into targets of ice mixtures, which have a similar composition to comets. The resulting impact created amino acids such as glycine and D-and L-alanine.

The Supertrees Of Singapore

They look like a set from a forthcoming science fiction movie but these supertrees in Singapore are very much of this world. A collection of eighteen of these trees, varying in size from 80 to 160 feet (25 and 50 meters), creates an amazing backdrop for Singapore's central business district. What is more, they actually mimic real trees.

The 'Underwater Waterfall' Illusion At Mauritius Island

Mauritius is an island nation in the Indian Ocean about 1,200 miles (2,000 kilometres) off the southeast coast of the African continent. Located at the Southwestern tip of the island you will find a fascinating illusion.

When viewed from above, a runoff of sand and silt deposits creates the impression of an 'underwater waterfall.' Satellite views are equally dramatic, as an underwater vortex seemingly appears off the coast of this tropical paradise.

Awesome Pictures

Uros people of Peru and Bolivia have distinctive genetic ancestries

New genetic research led by the Genographic Project consortium shows a distinctive ancestry for the Uros populations of Peru and Bolivia that predates the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores and may date back to the earliest settlement of the Altiplano, or high plain, of the central Andes some 3,700 years ago.
Uros people of Peru and Bolivia have distinctive genetic ancestries
Uros people of Peru and Bolivia found to have distinctive genetic ancestries
[Credit: National Geographic/Eduardo Rubiano Moncada]
Despite the fact that the Uros today share many lineages with the surrounding Andean populations, they have maintained their own divergent genetic ancestry.

The Uros are a self-identified ethnic group, about 2,000 of whom live in Peru, many of them on artificial floating islands on Lake Titicaca. Another 2,600 individuals live beside lakes and rivers of Bolivia. According to some anthropologists, the Uros are descendants of the first settlers of the Altiplano -- the Andean plateau -- yet their origin has been subjected to considerable academic debate.

Those from Peru have long claimed to descend from the ancient Urus (Uruquilla speakers), using their differentiated ethnic identity to assert rights and prerogatives for their use of Titicaca's natural resources. The Uros have historically been the target of discrimination by the pre-Inca, Inca and the Spanish, and this continues today.

Some people have alleged that the Uros disappeared a long time ago and that the new islanders have conjured up an ancient heritage in order to attract tourists and receive special recognition and rights.

Neanderthal diet more varied than previously thought

Why did anatomically modern humans replace Neanderthals in Europe around 40,000 years ago? One hypothesis suggests that Neandertals were rigid in their dietary choice, targeting large herbivorous mammals, such as horse, bison and mammoths, while modern humans also exploited a wider diversity of dietary resources, including fish. This dietary flexibility of modern humans would have been a big advantage when competing with Neanderthals and led to their final success. 
Neanderthal diet more varied than previously thought
New evidence challenges the hypothesis of evolutionary advantage of modern humans
over Neanderthals on basis of dietary choice [Credit: WikiCommons]
In a joint study, Professor Hervé Bocherens of the University of Tübingen, Germany, together with colleagues from the Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Saint Petersburg, Russia and the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels, Belgium have found at a cave in the Caucasus Mountains indirect hints of fish consumption by Neanderthals. The scientists challenge the hypothesis of evolutionary advantage of modern humans on basis of dietary choice. Bone analyses ruled out cave bears and cave lions to have consumed the fish whose remains were found at the Caucasian cave.

The hypothesis on dietary differences between modern humans and Neanderthals is based on the study of animal bones found in caves occupied by these two types of hominids, which can provide clues about their diet, but it is always difficult to exclude large predators living at the same time as being responsible for at least part of this accumulation. One such case occurs in a cave located on the northern slopes of the Caucasus Mountains, called Kudaro 3. 

Neanderthal diet more varied than previously thought
The map shows the location of the Kudaro 3 cave in the Caucasian Mountains
[Credit: H. Bocherens/University of Tübingen]
There, the bone fragments of large salmon, migrating from marine water to their freshwater spawning places, were found in the Middle Palaeolithic archaeological layers, dated to around 42 to 48,000 years ago, and probably deposited by Neanderthals. Such remains suggested that fish was consumed by these archaic Humans. However, large carnivores, such as Asiatic cave bears (Ursus kudarensis) and cave lions (Panthera spelaea) were also found in the cave and could have brought the salmon bones in the caves.

To test this hypothesis, the possible contribution of marine fish in the diet of these carnivores was evaluated using carbon, nitrogen and sulphur isotopes in faunal bone collagen, comparing these isotopic signatures between predators and their potential prey. The results indicate that salmons were neither part of the diet of cave bears (they were purely vegetarian, like their European counterparts) or cave lions (they were predators of herbivores from arid areas).

“This study provides indirect support to the idea that Middle Palaeolithic Hominins, probably Neanderthals, were able to consume fish when it was available, and that therefore, the prey choice of Neanderthals and modern humans was not fundamentally different,” says Hervé Bocherens. He assumes that more than diet differences were certainly involved in the demise of the Neanderthals.

Giant prehistoric elephant slaughtered by early humans

Research by a University of Southampton archaeologist suggests that early humans, who lived thousands of years before Neanderthals, were able to work together in groups to hunt and slaughter animals as large as the prehistoric elephant.
Giant prehistoric elephant slaughtered by early humans
Elephant tusks at Ebbsfleet [Credit: University of Southampton]
Dr Francis Wenban-Smith discovered a site containing remains of an extinct straight-tusked elephant (Palaeoloxodon antiquus) in 2003, in an area of land at Ebbsfleet in Kent, during the construction of the High Speed 1 rail link from the Channel Tunnel to London.

Investigation of the area was carried out with independent heritage organisation Oxford Archaeology, with the support of HS1 Ltd.

Excavation revealed a deep sequence of deposits containing the elephant remains, along with numerous flint tools and a range of other species such as; wild aurochs, extinct forms of rhinoceros and lion, Barbary macaque, beaver, rabbit, various forms of vole and shrew, and a diverse assemblage of snails. These remains confirm that the deposits date to a warm period of climate around 420,000 years ago, the so-called Hoxnian interglacial, when the climate was probably slightly warmer than the present day.

Since the excavation, which took place in 2004, Francis has been carrying out a detailed analysis of evidence recovered from the site, including 80 undisturbed flint artefacts found scattered around the elephant carcass and used to butcher it. The pre-historic elephant was twice the size of today's African variety and up to four times the weight of family car.

Dr Wenban-Smith comments: "Although there is no direct evidence of how this particular animal met its end, the discovery of flint tools close to the carcass confirm butchery for its meat, probably by a group of at least four individuals.

"Early hominins of this period would have depended on nutrition from large herbivores. The key evidence for elephant hunting is that, of the few prehistoric butchered elephant carcasses that have been found across Europe, they are almost all large males in their prime, a pattern that does not suggest natural death and scavenging. Although it seems incredible that they could have killed such an animal, it must have been possible with wooden spears.. We know hominins of this period had these, and an elephant skeleton with a wooden spear through its ribs was found at the site of Lehringen in Germany in 1948."

These early humans suffered local extinction in Northern Europe during the great ice age known as the Anglian glaciation 450,000 years ago, but re-established themselves as the climate grew warmer again in the following Hoxnian interglacial.

An ability to hunt large mammals, and in particular elephants, as suggested by the Ebbsfleet find, would go some way to explaining how these people then managed to push northwards again into what is now Britain. The flint artefacts of these pioneer settlers are of a characteristic type known as Clactonian, mostly comprising simple razor-sharp flakes that would have been ideal for cutting meat, sometimes with notches on them that would have helped cut through the tougher animal hide.

The discovery of this previously undisturbed Elephant grave site is unique in Britain -- where only a handful of other elephant skeletons have been found and none of which have produced similar evidence of human exploitation.

Dr Wenban-Smith explains the Ebbsfleet area would have been very different from today: "Rich fossilised remains surrounding the elephant skeleton, including pollen, snails and a wide variety of vertebrates, provide a remarkable record of the climate and environment the early humans inhabited.

"Analysis of these deposits show they lived at a time of peak interglacial warmth, when the Ebbsfleet Valley was a lush, densely wooded tributary of the Thames, containing a quiet, almost stagnant swamp."

The layer of earth containing the elephant remains and flints is overlain by a higher level of sediment, rich in so-called Acheulian tool types -- handaxes of various forms from later in the same interglacial. Controversy surrounds whether or not these represent a later wave of colonisation of Britain, or whether the Clactonians themselves evolved a more sophisticated tool-kit as they developed a more sustained occupation.

Come On ...





This incredible photo marks the end of Matador Torero Alvaro Munera’s career. He collapsed in remorse mid-fight when he realized he was having to prompt this otherwise gentle beast to fight. He went on to become an avid opponent of bullfights. Even grievously wounded by picadors, he did not attack this man.
Torrero Munera is quoted as saying of this moment: “And suddenly, I looked at the bull. He had this innocence that all animals have in their eyes, and he looked at me with this pleading. It was like a cry for justice, deep down inside of me. I describe it as being like a prayer - because if one confesses, it is hoped, that one is forgiven. I felt like the worst shit on earth.”

I’ve reblogged this at least two other times but this is possibly one of my favorite photos ever.
This incredible photo marks the end of Matador Torero Alvaro Munera’s career. He collapsed in remorse mid-fight when he realized he was having to prompt this otherwise gentle beast to fight. He went on to become an avid opponent of bullfights. Even grievously wounded by picadors, he did not attack this man.
Torrero Munera is quoted as saying of this moment: “And suddenly, I looked at the bull. He had this innocence that all animals have in their eyes, and he looked at me with this pleading. It was like a cry for justice, deep down inside of me. I describe it as being like a prayer - because if one confesses, it is hoped, that one is forgiven. I felt like the worst shit on earth.”

This could be the smallest marlin ever caught

East Coast angler hand-captures the itsy-bitsy billfish in what's described as an 'extremely rare' encounter; out of admiration he sets critter free
Baby blue marlin image is courtesy of Richard Brackett. Baby sailfish image (below) is courtesy of The Billfish Foundation
Most Atlantic blue marlin encountered by fishermen are large and ferocious, highly prized for their strength and acrobatics at the end of a line. They can reach weights of nearly 1,500 pounds and wage battles lasting hours.
But the blue marlin landed recently by Richard Brackett was unique in that it was not gargantuan or ferocious, but super cute and tiny enough to fit in the palm of a hand.
In fact, Brackett used both cupped hands to scoop up the mini-marlin after an encounter The Billfish Foundation described as highly unlikely. “The chance in encountering a blue marlin is quite a feat, but seeing one this small is extremely rare,” the group stated Friday on its website.
(Note: This has been verified by TBF biologists as a blue marlin, even though it looks more like a sailfish because of its broad dorsal fin. Apparently, baby blue marlin begin life with this type of fin, which narrows as the fish grows and develops, and a stout bill. Baby sailfish—pictured at right—feature much longer bills.)
Brackett and Joey Cagle were trolling out of Charleston, South Carolina, en route to the swordfish grounds, and had battled a couple of sailfish before the sun began to set.
They then began to drift for swordfish and that’s when Brackett noticed the baby blue marlin swimming in the light behind the transom.
Brackett shares the rest of the story:
“After an hour or so, I saw what we thought to be a juvenile sailfish in the transom lights. Being such a last-minute trip, I forgot the dip net so I had to resort to option two.
“I filled the bucket with water, opened the transom door, and scooped him up with my hands and set him in the bucket. I have to say even at this small size they are crazy aggressive. I got him in my hands in the bucket … and we snapped a quick picture so we could release it as quickly as possible.”
It’s a big, cruel world out there, but Brackett and Cagle are hopeful that their itsy-bitsy billfish will survive long enough to become a top-level predator to be reckoned with.
To read more about this catch, which has been a hot topic in fishing circles, visit The Billfish Foundation’s Facebook page.

Animal Pictures