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

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Daily Drift

The truth be told ...

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Today in History

1197 Emperor Henry VI dies in Messina, Sicily.
1399 Richard II of England is deposed. His cousin, Henry of Lancaster, declares himself king under the name Henry IV.
1493 Christopher Columbus leaves Cadiz, Spain, on his second voyage to the new world.
1513 Spanish explorer Vasco Nunez de Balboa discovers the Pacific Ocean.
1789 Congress votes to create a U.S. army.
1833 A civil war breaks out in Spain between Carlisists, who believe Don Carlos deserves the throne, and supporters of Queen Isabella.
1850 Mormon leader Brigham Young is named the first governor of the Utah Territory.
1864 Union troops capture the Confederate Fort Harrison, outside Petersburg, Virginia.
1879 Dissatisfied Ute Indians kill Agent Nathan Meeker and nine others in the "Meeker Massacre."
1932 A five-day work week is established for General Motors workers.
1939 Germany and the Soviet Union reach an agreement on the division of Poland.
1941 30,000 Jews are gunned down in Kiev when Henrich Himmler sends four strike squads to exterminate Soviet Jewish civilians and other "undesirables."
1943 Adolf Hitler's book Mein Kampf is published in the United States.
1950 Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev repeatedly disrupts a UN General Assembly meeting with his violent outbursts over intervention in the Belgian Congo, US U2 spy planes, and arms control.
1960 General Douglas MacArthur officially returns Seoul, South Korea, to President Syngman Rhee.
1962 Canada launches its first satellite, Alouette 1.
1962 The popular Argentinian comic strip Mafalda beings publication, in the weekly Primera Plana; focusing on a six-year-old girl (Mafalda) and her friends, it has been called the Argentinian Peanuts.
1966 Chevrolet introduces the Camaro, which will become an iconic car.
1971 Oman joins the Arab League.
1979 John Paul II becomes the first pope ever to visit Ireland.
1990 The YF-22, later named F-22 Raptor, flies for the first time.
1992 Brazilian President Fernando Collor de Mello impeached for corruptions; he was the youngest president in the nation's history, taking office at age 40 in 1990.
2008 Dow Jones Industrial Average plummets 777.68 points in the wake of Lehman Brothers and Washington Mutual bankruptcies, the largest single-day point loss in Wall Street history.
2009 An 8.1 earthquake causes a tidal wave that claims 189 lives in Samoa, American Samoa, and Tonga.

Non Sequitur


Students defeat iPad restrictions, LA school officials have a cow

The Los Angeles Unified School District has decided not to award 300 students for cleverness after the students figured out how to access YouTube and Facebook on the locked-down iPads the district gave them. Instead, the district "put an end to home use of the devices, and district sources say the misbehavior may delay the rollout of the full program."

Keith Alexander affirms his intention to collect all Americans' data

At Thursday's Senate Intelligence Committee hearings, NSA boss Keith Alexander and top spy James Clapper evaded, blocked, and dodged questions from elected reps, making a mockery of the idea that there's any adult supervision of America's spooks. A telling moment came when Mark Udall asked if they ended to collect the records of all Americans, and Alexander said, "I believe it is in the nation's best interest to put all the phone records into a lockbox – yes."
Wyden and his fellow Democrat Mark Udall used the public hearing to press the intelligence chiefs on aspects of the top-secret surveillance infrastructure.
Asked by Udall whether it was the NSA's aim to collect the records of all Americans, Alexander replied: "I believe it is in the nation's best interest to put all the phone records into a lockbox – yes."
He would not be drawn on any past attempts or plans to store cell site data for security reasons. The NSA director evaded repeated questions from Wyden over whether the NSA had either collection of cell site phone data, or planned to do so. Alexander eventually replied: "What I don't want to do senator is put out in an unclassified form anything that is classified."

Did you know ...

That Afghan policewomen say sexual harassment is the norm

That more Americans define themselves as "lower class"

That the rich are getting richer even faster than you think

speaking of rich, the elder shrub was a witness for a gay wedding in Kennebunkport, Maine

The Forgetful Elephant

The Forgetful Elephant:  A Quick History Lesson for Today’s GOP

A Quick History Lesson for Today’s repugican cabal

Today's repugican cabal reminds us of another political party in our nation's history. The repugicans should be cognizant of this history.…

Boner - The Dick In A Box

Lawmakers face a midnight Monday deadline to complete a stopgap spending bill to avoid a partial government shutdown that would keep hundreds of thousands of federal workers off the job, close national parks and generate damaging headlines for repugicans.

The timeline is daunting since House repugican cabal leaders appear all but certain to reject the Senate's attempt at a simple, straightforward stopgap spending bill like those routinely passed since the 1995-96 government shutdowns that screwed repugicans sideways and strengthened the once-at-39% President Bill Clinton.

A 21-hour talkathon by Sen. Ted Cruz, our next president, whipped up the repugican cabal's teabaggers even as it complicated efforts by House repugican cabal leaders to assemble rank-and-file support for a
temporary spending measure.

Cruz wants to derail the spending bill to deny Democrats the ability to strip out the anti-Obamacare provision, a strategy that has put him at odds with sane repugicans who say the move won't work and fear it would spark a shutdown and repugican cabal backlash.

This is one of the slowest moving trainwrecks in recent memory.

can see what's about to happen, but the repugican cabal is still going to crash.

Can you say "Democratic House?" 

The repugican Fascists Will Stop at Nothing Less Than Ending Our Representative Democracy

The threat of a government shutdown and credit default repugicans promise are not about spending, debt and deficit, or even the ACA; it is about ending the…
America’s government is far from perfect, but it worked relatively well until 2009 when repugicans’ raison d’être became neutering the legally elected government at all costs to punish the electorate for choosing an African American man as President. Throughout the President’s tenure, repugicans fabricated one phony debt crisis after another to cripple the government’s ability to operate and keep the economy stagnating regardless the damage to the people. In fact, it is safe to say obstructing governance has been the repugicans’ only goal for four straight years.
Now that the government is due to run out of operating funds and hit its debt limit, repugicans have created another crisis over funding the government, paying the nation’s debt, and a three year-old health law they claim is an existential threat to the nation. However, the looming threat of a government shutdown and credit default repugicans promise are not about spending, debt and deficit, or even the Affordable Care Act; it is about ending the nation’s representative democracy and ushering in fascism and rule by oligarchy.
After the 2008 election repugicans acted as if they won control of Congress and the White House, and attempted to thwart President Obama and Democrats attempt to govern the nation. They have persisted in that vein throughout the President’s tenure and it drove credit rating agency S&P to downgrade America’s credit because “repugican political brinkmanship had shown evidence of America’s governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable.” When repugicans revealed their ransom demands to raise the debt ceiling on Wednesday, they exposed their disregard for democracy and revealed their only goal is fundamentally transforming the way America is governed; even if they have to decimate the economy to achieve their goal.
It is obvious that repugicans reject the results of the last election or they would not threaten to rule by destroying the nation’s economy. Americans should not underestimate the repugicans’ threat because there is just enough support for a default that analysts including Chris Krueger from Guggenheim Partners,  warned on Wednesday that “there is a 40% chance of a credit default scenario as a result of the looming fight over raising the debt ceiling.” Krueger did not inspire confidence that repugicans will pull back their threat because he continued that “the path forward on the debt ceiling remains a total mystery and our 60% probability that the U.S. will not enter into default is based on nothing more than blind faith.” Krueger’s blind faith aside, there are an overwhelming number of repugican and teabag voters supporting a default, and enough congressional repugicans willing to vote against raising the debt limit that the 40% figure is a serious threat to the nation’s economy. Crashing the economy may seem risky for demanding enactment of their agenda, but repugicans are intent on satisfying their wealth donors’ vision for America.
The repugican list of demands for raising the debt ceiling has nothing to do with the nation’s debt, and everything to do with implementing every single repugican legislative proposal for the past two years and the rnc platform voters rejected last November. Whether it is eliminating the EPA’s regulatory oversight, “repealing Obamacare,” eliminating the financial reform law, tax reform according to the Ryan budget, raiding federal employee’s pensions, or approving the Keystone XL pipeline, the ransom demands are a reiteration of Willard Romney’s first day to-do list had he won the presidency. The ransom demands represent the nation’s agenda if repugicans ran the government, but since they are not in charge they have made blowing up the economy a “valid legislative strategy” to rule unchallenged and contrary to the will of the voters.
What Americans are witnessing from repugicans and Koch teabagger extremists is an attempted bloodless (for now) coup d’état with the full faith and credit of the United States the price to pay for adhering to the Constitution’s mandate for running the government. The repugicans are mesmerized by nihilists in the extremist wingnut movement who believe that America’s form of government, and its Constitution, are worthless and so detestable that they have to be destroyed to give wealthy oligarchs power to dictate which laws are enacted according to their fascist vision. Boehner said as much a couple of months ago when he told an interviewer that repugicans primary goal is repealing laws their corporate donors oppose, and the list of ransom demands represent policies Wall Street and the Koch fascists lust for in their “fundamentally transformed” vision of  America.
The Koch brothers, ALEC, and libertarian wing of the cabal have long plotted to dismantle the government departments they regard as standing in their way of controlling the course of the nation, and they found willing assistance from ignorant racists in the teabagger movement to support the fascist takeover. In 1944, Henry A. Wallace defined an American fascist as one who puts money and power ahead of human beings and uses demagogues and stooges as fronts for the power behind the scenes. In 2013, stooges and demagogues are the likes of Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, and Mike Lee who are fronts for Wall Street and the Koch brothers who are calling the shots behind the scenes.
The repugicans, Wall Street, and the Koch brothers lost the last two Presidential elections, and for the President’s first term they behaved like petulant little brats who took their basketball and stopped the game because they were losing. Now, repugicans and their wealthy backers are willing to puncture the ball, blow up the basketball court, and gun down innocent bystanders on their way home to pout if they lose the debt limit game. It is not governance; it is a group of angry losers willing to destroy the nation’s economy because the other side won the last election and the voters retained the President who demands the nation be governed according to the Constitution and not the libertarian vision of a transformed America controlled by a fascist regime.
The current debt limit and funding crisis are about subverting democracy and ushering in fascism under cover of “protecting Americans from Obamacare” and “reforming successful government programs,” and have nothing to do with governing according to the Constitution. the repugicans, or the Koch brothers, are not running the government, but one would not know it based on their threat to enact their platform or cause a devastating credit default. America has functioned as a representative democracy for 226 years, but repugicans refuse to accept the voters will and appear ready to crash the economy unless their party platform is enacted under duress. President Obama said, “If we continue to set a precedent in which a president —  a Democratic president — where the opposing party controls the House of Representatives, if that president is in a situation in which each time the United States is called upon to pay its bills the other party can simply sit there and say, ‘Well, we’re not gonna pay the bills unless you give us what we want,’ that changes the constitutional structure of this government entirely.”
The President is right, and hopefully he understands that repugicans and their fascist supporters want to change the structure of this government from the constitutionally mandated representative democracy to fascism by oligarchs. With a 40% chance of repugicans following through on their threat of a credit default, one hopes the President has a plan to save the economy because with only a 60% chance America resolves its debt obligation unscathed, it will take more than blind faith to hope America survives.

House repugican: Huge farm subsidies for me, no food stamps for you

by Laura Clawson

By now, anti-food stamp crusader Rep. Stephen Fincher is notorious for raking in millions in farm subsidies while misquoting the Bible in favor of deep cuts to SNAP. But let's not forget that he's far from alone among House repugicans in voting to take food from the poor while happily taking farm subsidies for himself.

Another repugican congresswoman who voted to make cuts to the food stamp program was Vicky Hartzler of Missouri. Her farm received more than $800,000 in Department of Agriculture subsidies from 1995-2012. In 2001, her farm received $135,482 in subsidies.

Kristi Noem of South Dakota, who also voted to make cuts to the program, was a partner in Racota Valley Ranch, her family’s farm and previously had nearly a 17% stake through 2008.
The farm received $3.4 million in subsidies from 1995-2012. The Environmental Working Group, which analyzes subsidy data, says the “estimated amount of subsidies attributed to Noem from 1995-2012 is $503,751.”

JPMorgan may pay $11B Fine

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon met with Eric Holder as the nation's biggest bank attempts to end federal and state investigations into its liability for swindling billions of dollars out of millions of people by selling shoddy mortgage securities.

JPMorgan is hoping to ease some of the pressure that regulators have been putting on the bank for more than a year.

The bank avoided the worst losses in the financial crisis, but it has been under intense scrutiny since May 2012, when it said it was losing money on derivatives bets that became known as the "London Whale" trades.

Those trades ended up costing the bank more than $6.2 billion before taxes, and subsequent probes into how the losses happened revealed that Dimon had a dysfunctional relationship with regulators.

The meeting between Dimon and Holder, the worst negotiator in American history, marks another step in the nation's attempts to sort out responsibility for the financial crisis that hit five years ago.

The meeting follows negotiations this week between JPMorgan and federal and state authorities over the bank paying as much as $7 billion in cash and $4 billion in consumer for their crimes.

Is Eric Holder too stupid to learn or is he getting a cut?

If nobody goes to jail, I guarantee the banksters will continue swingling us.

If nobody goes to jail, the only thing that will happen is JPMorgan's stock will go UP
because  with this "pressure" off their backs, they can get back to swindling poor folks out of their homes.

If nobody goes to jail, why stop?

Judge requires patent troll to explain its "Mr Sham" business

Patent trolls are mushrooming all over the world, thriving on the billions that they're able to extract from productive companies with their absurd patents and transparent extortion attempts. One of the only defenses society has against these parasites is the rare, clueful judge. Enter Judge William Alsup, who made history in the Oracle v Google shitshow, when his experience actually writing code let him see through Oracle's bizarre arguments and cut to the heart of the argument.
Now Alsup is back in the saddle, hearing a case involving "Network Protection Sciences," a troll who tried to engineer a hearing in the notorious East Texas courtroom that is the most favorable venue for trolling litigation, by renting out a closet in the area as its "offices" and naming the building's real-estate broker as the company's "director of business development." Alsup saw right through this, and required the trolls to explain, in fine detail, the workings of their "Mr. Sham" operation.
THE COURT: You're on the verge of losing this entire motion, and going to the Federal Circuit, with a lot of money against you. So if you want this to live to fight another day, you ought to listen to me for a moment. The best you can hope for is that the jury's going to decide this; but for the jury to decide the sham nature of this closet in Texas, they're going to have to understand why somebody would want to do this. So an expert is somebody you need to have explain it. This is going to be part of your case.
[COUNSEL]: No, Your Honor, it's not.
THE COURT: Well, then, it will be part of their case.
[COUNSEL]: Why is that relevant to the issue of patent infringement?
THE COURT: If we're going to try ownership here, and all of these issues about whether or not this guy was a sham, or not, the jury's got to understand the background of why it was or was not a sham.
[COUNSEL]: Well, Your Honor --
THE COURT: You're not going to be able to skate by, with -- beat this motion, and then get it somehow excluded at trial. For goodness' sakes.
[COUNSEL]: Well, how is it relevant to the issues that are at trial?
THE COURT: You've got to prove ownership. It's your burden.
[COUNSEL]: And you prove ownership by an assignment; not by -- not by showing --
THE COURT: It may not be valid, Counsel.
[COUNSEL]: But that will be resolved.
THE COURT: No, it's not going to be resolved. You're asking that it be resolved by the jury. I heard you say it a moment ago.
[COUNSEL]: No, Your Honor. I'm sorry.
THE COURT: Well, maybe now you're taking it back. It's on the record. I heard it. So on appeal you can make that point; but this jury is going to hear all of this stuff about the closet. And you're going to have to explain why "Mr. Sham" was signing these documents.

Poker cheats used infra-red contact lenses and cards marked with invisible ink

An Italian man has been sentenced to two years in prison after using infra-red contact lenses to count cards marked with invisible ink, in a poker scam. The self-styled "player and cheat of international renown" impressed even the presiding judge for his sophisticated use of "old techniques and high-end technology" to win thousands of pounds at a casino in the French Côte d'Azur resort of Cannes. The court in Grasse heard how Stefano Ampollini, 56 – code name Parmesan – turned up to "Les Princes" casino in the Mediterranean resort in August 2011, wearing a set of infra-red contact lenses purchased online from China for 2,000 euros.
Opposite him on the other side of the stud poker table was a discreet accomplice, code name "The Israeli", who sniffed or snorted to help Ampollini choose the right cards. Two corrupt casino staff members had already marked the cards with invisible ink. Thanks to his special contact lenses, the card shark was then able to keep track of the game, racking up 70,000 euros between them without being caught.

"Casino security found his behavior rather strange as he won very easily and, above all, because he folded twice when he had an excellent hand, suggesting he knew the croupier's cards," said Marc Concas, lawyer for the Groupe Lucien Barrière, which owns the casino. They called the betting police, who launched an investigation. Thanks to telephone surveillance, they worked out that staff members had handed cards over to the Italians who had marked them with invisible ink. They were then placed under cellophane and returned to the casino cupboard, ready for use. When the Italian returned alone two months later, he won 21,000 euros for himself, but was then arrested by police as he left the casino.
Ampollini reportedly smiled as presiding judge Marc Joando marvelled at his sophisticated exploits. That did no stop the court on Wednesday slapping Ampollini with a two-year prison sentence, and 100,000-euro fine. Two other Italians were also convicted. Gianfranco Tirrito, 55, described as an elegant "professional cheat" and "probably the mastermind", was handed down a three-year prison term and 100,000-euro fine. Rocco Grassanno, 57, who claimed to have come to the Côte d'Azur "for tourism and to meet beautiful women", received a 30-month sentence and a 50,000 euro-fine.

Insurance industry pricing climate risk as a dead certainty

Insurance underwriters generally operate in the real world, where science trumps ideology (that's why terrorism insurance is pretty darned cheap -- despite the politically successful posturing of our leaders, terrorism just isn't a very big threat). That's why climate change insurance costs big bucks -- insurers know that it's real, it's coming, and it's really, really bad news.
The difference between the general Big Business propaganda intended to sow doubt about climate science and the cold, hard economic reality of underwriting the risk of climate catastrophe is telling. It's like the Texas Young Earth Creationists who profess a public belief in the 5,000-year-old Biblically accurate planet, but still allow their geoscientists to direct oil-drilling operations in accord with the blasphemous four-billion-year-old Earth. Money talks, bullshit walks.
And the industry expects the situation will get worse. “Numerous studies assume a rise in summer drought periods in North America in the future and an increasing probability of severe cyclones relatively far north along the U.S. East Coast in the long term,” said Peter Höppe, who heads Geo Risks Research at the reinsurance giant Munich Re. “The rise in sea level caused by climate change will further increase the risk of storm surge.” Most insurers, including the reinsurance companies that bear much of the ultimate risk in the industry, have little time for the arguments heard in some right-wing circles that climate change isn’t happening, and are quite comfortable with the scientific consensus that burning fossil fuels is the main culprit of global warming.
“Insurance is heavily dependent on scientific thought,” Frank Nutter, president of the Reinsurance Association of America, told me last week. “It is not as amenable to politicized scientific thought.”
Yet when I asked Mr. Nutter what the American insurance industry was doing to combat global warming, his answer was surprising: nothing much. “The industry has really not been engaged in advocacy related to carbon taxes or proposals addressing carbon,” he said. While some big European reinsurers like Munich Re and Swiss Re support efforts to reduce CO2 emissions, “in the United States the household names really have not engaged at all.” Instead, the focus of insurers’ advocacy efforts is zoning rules and disaster mitigation.

Allies: meth merchants and big pharma

014Laurel County 1493 630 In Mother Jones, Jonah Engle investigates the business of "shake and bake" methamphetamine labs and how legal drug manufacturers fighting to keep Sudafed, Claritin-D, and other medications containing pseudoephedrine available over the counter, or at least "behind the counter" without a prescription, unintentionally help illegal drug manufacturers stay in business. From Mother Jones:
If anyone wondered what would happen if heroin or cocaine addicts suddenly discovered how to make their own supply with a handful of cheap ingredients readily available over the counter, methamphetamine's recent history provides an answer. Since 2007, the number of clandestine meth sites discovered by police has increased 63 percent nationwide. In Kentucky, the number of labs has more than tripled. The Bluegrass State regularly joins its neighbors Missouri, Tennessee, and Indiana as the top four states for annual meth lab discoveries. As law enforcement agencies scramble to clean up and dispose of toxic labs, prosecute cooks, and find foster homes for their children, they are waging two battles: one against destitute, strung-out addicts, the other against some of the world's wealthiest and most politically connected drug manufacturers. In the past several years, lawmakers in 25 states have sought to make pseudoephedrine—the one irreplaceable ingredient in a shake-and-bake lab—a prescription drug. In all but two—Oregon and Mississippi—they have failed as the industry, which sells an estimated $605 million worth of pseudoephedrine-based drugs a year, has deployed all-star lobbying teams and campaign-trail tactics such as robocalls and advertising blitzes.

Man called police to report the theft of his meth and bicycle

A 22-year-old Kansas man called police to report a man named “Jim” had broken into his mobile home, clubbed him over the head and stolen his meth and bicycle.

The incident occurred at at about 3 a.m. on Thursday, Lt. Steve Kenney said. The victim told police he didn’t know the attacker’s full name, just the name “Jim.”
After forcing his way in through the front door, the suspect hit the victim over the head with an unknown object, taking the victim’s meth and bicycle, Kenney said.

The suspect is a white man who is about 5 feet, 9 inches and weighs just 90 pounds, Kenney said. He has brown hair and was wearing blue jeans.

Scratch and sniff bandit stole fake hair

A woman labelled the 'Scratch and Sniff' bandit is being sought after stealing artificial hair from the Beauty Zone store in Sanford, Florida.
Sanford police said the woman stuffed five packages of artificial hair into her purse and walked out of the store. Police said two other women accompanied the suspect and assisted her by distracting store employees.

Shannon Cordingly, public information officer for the Sanford Police Department, explained how the woman came to be called the "Scratch and Sniff Bandit."

"When you watch the surveillance video, she does a big old scratch down the lower regions of her body area and takes a big old whiff with her nose," said Cordingly. The women left the store in a black 1999 Dodge 4x4 truck, police said.

How 8 Famous Writers Chose Their Pen Names

Ever heard of Charles Dodgson, Józef Korzeniowski, Ruth Crowley, or François-Marie Aroue? Some pen names are fairly well-known for what they are. Most people know that Mark Twain was the alias of Samuel Langhorne Clemens. The outing of Richard Bachman as a pen name used by Stephen King was well-publicized and inspired King's novel, The Dark Half.

Some pen names you don't see coming, though, and assume the name on the book cover is the real deal. Here are eight pen names used by famous writers.

Ten Hero Lawyers Who Helped The Poor And Marginalized

Legal help can be so expensive that the innocent and needy are often forced to suffer because they cannot afford the help they need to legally maintain their rights.

But there is hope for those who cannot hire an expensive lawyer to win a case in their favor: pro bono lawyers across the country are fighting public interest and social justice cases to defend those who deserve but cannot afford adequate legal assistance. Here are ten heroic lawyers whose activism has changed both lives and laws.



Simulation accurately captures the evolution of ancient complex societies

The question of how human societies evolve from small groups to the huge, anonymous and complex societies of today has been answered mathematically, accurately matching the historical record on the emergence of complex states in the ancient world.
Simulation accurately captures the evolution of ancient complex societies
Mongol horsemen. Intense warfare is the evolutionary driver of large complex societies, according to a new mathematical model whose findings accurately match those of the historical record in the ancient world [Credit: NIMBioS]
Intense warfare is the evolutionary driver of large complex societies, according to new research from a trans-disciplinary team at the University of Connecticut, the University of Exeter in England, and the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS). The study appears this week as an open-access article in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study's cultural evolutionary model predicts where and when the largest-scale complex societies arose in human history.

Simulated within a realistic landscape of the Afro-Eurasian landmass during 1,500 BCE to 1,500 CE, the mathematical model was tested against the historical record. During the time period, horse-related military innovations, such as chariots and cavalry, dominated warfare within Afro-Eurasia. Geography also mattered, as nomads living in the Eurasian Steppe influenced nearby agrarian societies, thereby spreading intense forms of offensive warfare out from the steppe belt.

The study focuses on the interaction of ecology and geography as well as the spread of military innovations and predicts that selection for ultra-social institutions that allow for cooperation in huge groups of genetically unrelated individuals and large-scale complex states, is greater where warfare is more intense.

While existing theories on why there is so much variation in the ability of different human populations to construct viable states are usually formulated verbally, by contrast, the authors' work leads to sharply defined quantitative predictions, which can be tested empirically.

The model-predicted spread of large-scale societies was very similar to the observed one; the model was able to explain two-thirds of the variation in determining the rise of large-scale societies.

"What's so exciting about this area of research is that instead of just telling stories or describing what occurred, we can now explain general historical patterns with quantitative accuracy. Explaining historical events helps us better understand the present, and ultimately may help us predict the future," said the study's co-author Sergey Gavrilets, NIMBioS director for scientific activities.

Inca ruins discovered in Nazca, Peru

Excavators digging at the archaeological site in Paredones, in Nazca province, have discovered a number of Inca-style stone walls, a find that has some researchers very excited.
Inca ruins discovered in Nazca, Peru
Los Paredones ruins Nazca, Peru [Credit: 123RF]
Prior to this discovery, archaeologists had never found Cusco-style stone construction on the coast. As El Comercio reports, most ancient buildings along the Peruvian coastline were made of adobe. However, the walls at Paredones are unique: they combine a base of specially chiseled and perfectly shaped stones with adobe walls.

Giuseppe Orefici, the director of the dig, told El Comercio that the Cusco-style construction wasn’t just a happy coincidence. “We can confirm that we’re dealing with specialist carvers that were specially brought from Cusco to do this job and raise these walls,” he said.
Inca ruins discovered in Nazca, Peru
Inca wall in Cusco similar in style to the ruins found in Paredones [Credit: WikiCommons]
According to El Comercio, the stones may have been brought from a quarry in the highlands just for this construction. “This is the only case of carved stones that we’ve found on the coast that form a structure similar to what exists in Machu Picchu,” Orefici continued.

El Comercio reports that the area was probably an administrative and ceremonial center that would have been used in the last years of the Inca Empire. Orefici also revealed that they’ve discovered the tomb of an important figure, a man of around 40. According to El Comercio, offerings near the tomb and other evidence found at the site indicate that high-ranking elites may have occupied this site at one time.

Paredones was inhabited between 1470 and 1550 AD, reports El Comercio.

Archaeologists explore the last capital of the Mochica in Northern Peru

Archaeologists working at the Pampa Grande dig site about 50 kilometers outside of Chiclayo have made some fascinating discoveries.
Archaeologists explore the last capital of the Mochica in Northern Peru
The Pampa Grande dig site [Credit:  El Comercio]
El Comercio reports today that investigators have been able to draw some important conclusions about the late Mochica empire from new evidence discovered at Pampa Grande. The Mochica are one of the most well-investigated pre-Columbian cultures in Peru, as archaeologists have found a large number of Mochica sites and artifacts.

Objects found at the Pampa Grande site are helping researchers shed some more light on the last years of the Mochica. According to El Comercio, around the year 600 the El Niño weather phenomenon forced the Mochica authorities to move their capital from the site known as the Huaca Rajada (where the famous tomb of the Lord of Sipán was discovered) to Pampa Grande.

Now, archaeologists at Pampa Grande have discovered monumental architecture, including pyramids 45 meters in height. They’ve also found the remains of adolescent humans and camelids, which may have been placed there as an offering. Excavators have also found elaborate offerings of spondylus, a type of mollusc.

“There are a lot of offerings, but we still can’t say if they were put there for important people, or if maybe they were left there as part of a veneration of the impressive architecture, or if it’s a funerary context, which is also very important in Andean cosmovision,” head archaeologist Luis Chero told El Comercio.

The Mochica flourished in Peru from about 100-800 AD and are known for their skill in pottery.

Possible 'slave' skeletons found on Kenyan coast

Kenyan authorities are investigating some 100 human skeletons, including skulls, discovered in Kijipwa village of the Kilifi County in the coastal region, an area believed to have been a holding ground for African slaves before being sent across the Indian Ocean to the Middle East and other parts of the world.
Possible 'slave' skeletons found on Kenyan coast
Some 100 human skeletons have been discovered in Kijipwa village of the Kilifi County in Kenya's coastal region, an area believed to have been a holding ground for African slaves [Credit: Anadolu Agency]
"The National Museums of Kenya is working with key institutions including the National Environment Authority (NEMA) and the Kilifi County government to assess the site," Jambo Haro, the head of archeology at the Coast National Museums of Kenya, told Anadolu Agency.

Construction workers stumbled on the skeletons as they dug the trenches for the foundation of a new hotel.

Haro, accompanied by officials from NEMA and Kilifi County, visited the site earlier Monday.

"We have stopped the construction of the hotel apartments pending an environmental impact assessment," he asserted.

Haro said the authorities are engaging "both the private developer and the community to ensure no further damage is done to the site."

Haro had first visited the site on Saturday after being alerted by local residents of the excavation and the discovery of a large number of skeletons.

Slave settlement

Haro said most of the skeletons dug from the deep trench had been salvaged and moved to National Museum in Mombasa for safe custody and study. 

He believes the skeleton find had "potentially huge archeological deposits."

The official said the skeletons and all recovered artifacts would be subjected to various scientific analyses to determine the age of the fossils and the ruins to help arrive at a conclusion of who the inhabitants were.

The skeletons are thought to have been for slaves held at a settlement known in history as Kitoka, which existed more than 1,000 years ago.

The ruins of an ancient mosque still stand at the area.

Haro said the area is already recognized by the National Museums of Kenya as a heritage site.

"According to the National Museums and Heritage Act 2006, any site seen to have heritage resources, irrespective of whether it is private or public land, is recognized as such," Haro said.

He said the contractor bought the plot of land on which the new hotel is being constructed from the local community who has been taking care of the site near the ruins of a mosque.

Joseph Tondo, a local elder, told AA that some of the artifacts had already been stolen.

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Wind and rain belts to shift north as planet warms

As humans continue to heat the planet, a northward shift of Earth's wind and rain belts could make a broad swath of regions drier, including the Middle East, American West and Amazonia, while making Monsoon Asia and equatorial Africa wetter, says a new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Wind and rain belts to shift north as planet warms
Western China is growing drier, turning lakes like this one to dust. If wind and rain patterns shift north as the study predicts, drying in this region could continue [Credit: David Putnam]
The study authors base their prediction on the warming that brought Earth out of the last ice age, some 15,000 years ago. As the North Atlantic Ocean began to churn more vigorously, it melted Arctic sea ice, setting up a temperature contrast with the southern hemisphere where sea ice was expanding around Antarctica. The temperature gradient between the poles appears to have pushed the tropical rain belt and mid-latitude jet stream north, redistributing water in two bands around the planet.

Today, with Arctic sea ice again in retreat, and the northern hemisphere heating up faster than the south, history could repeat itself. "If the kinds of changes we saw during the deglaciation were to occur today that would have a very big impact," said the study's lead author, Wallace Broecker, a climate scientist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Marshaling climate data collected from around the world, from tree-rings, polar ice cores, cave formations, and lake and ocean sediments, Broecker and study coauthor, Aaron Putnam, a climate scientist at Lamont-Doherty, hypothesize that the wind and rain belts shifted north from about 14,600 years ago to 12,700 years ago as the northern hemisphere was heating up.

At the southern edge of the tropical rain belt, the great ancient Lake Tauca in the Bolivian Andes nearly dried up at this time while rivers in eastern Brazil slowed to a trickle and rain-fed stalagmites in the same region stopped growing. In the middle latitudes, the northward advance of the jet stream may have caused Lake Lisan, a precursor to the Dead Sea in Jordan's Rift Valley, to shrink, along with several prehistoric lakes in the western U.S., including Lake Bonneville in present day Utah.

Meanwhile, a northward shift of the tropical rains recharged the rivers that drain Venezuela's Cariaco Basin and East Africa's Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika. Stalagmites in China's Hulu Cave grew bigger. Evidence for a stronger Asian monsoon during this time also shows up in the Greenland ice cores.
Wind and rain belts to shift north as planet warms
During boreal summer, Earth’s tropical rain belt migrates north. A similar but prolonged shift could happen if the north continues to heat faster than the south, disrupting global rainfall patterns [Credit: Mats Halldin]
The process worked in reverse from about 1300 to 1850, the study authors hypothesize, as northern Europe transitioned from the relatively warm medieval era to a colder period known as the Little Ice Age. Ocean circulation slowed, and sea ice in the North Atlantic Ocean expanded, the climate record shows. At the same time, rainfall declined in Monsoon Asia, leading to a series of droughts that have been linked to the decline of Cambodia's ancient Khmer civilization, China's Ming dynasty and the collapse of kingdoms in present day Vietnam, Myanmar and Thailand.

In the southern hemisphere, the reconstruction of glacier extents in New Zealand's Southern Alps suggests that the mid-latitudes may have been colder during medieval times, supporting the idea of a temperature contrast between the hemispheres that altered rain and wind patterns.

A similar migration of Earth's wind and rain belts happens each year. During boreal summer, the tropical rain belt and mid-latitude jet stream migrate north as the northern hemisphere heats up disproportionately to the south, with more continents to absorb the sun's energy. As the northern hemisphere cools off in winter, the winds and rains revert south.

Sometimes the winds and rains have rearranged themselves for longer periods of time. In the 1970s and 1980s, a southward shift of the tropical rain belt, attributed to air pollution cooling the northern hemisphere, is thought to have brought devastating drought to Africa's Sahel region. The tropical rain belt has since reverted back, and may be moving north, the study authors say, as suggested by a number of recent droughts, including in Syria, northern China, western U.S., and northeastern Brazil.

Consistent with the study, at least one climate model shows the tropical rain belt moving north as carbon dioxide levels climb and temperatures warm. "It's really important to look at the paleo record," said Dargan Frierson, an atmospheric scientist at University of Washington whose modeling work supports the authors' hypothesis. "Those changes were huge, just like we're expecting with global warming."

The study authors acknowledge that their hypothesis has some holes. In the past, changes in sea ice cover drove the temperature gradient between the two hemispheres while today rapidly rising industrial carbon emissions are responsible. So far, there is also no clear evidence that ocean circulation is increasing in the North Atlantic or that the monsoon rains over Asia are strengthening (though there is speculation that sulfate aerosols produced by burning fossil fuels may be masking this effect).

As air pollution in the northern hemisphere declines, temperatures may warm, creating the kind of temperature contrast that could move the winds and rains north again, said Jeff Severinghaus, a climate scientist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography who was not involved in the study.

"Sulfate aerosols will probably get cleaned up in the next few decades because of their effects on acid rain and health," he said. "So Broecker and Putnam are probably on solid ground in predicting that northern warming will eventually greatly exceed southern warming."

Late Cretaceous Period was likely ice-free

For years, scientists have thought that a continental ice sheet formed during the Late Cretaceous Period more than 90 million years ago when the climate was much warmer than it is today. Now, a University of Missouri researcher has found evidence suggesting that no ice sheet formed at this time. This finding could help environmentalists and scientists predict what the earth's climate will be as carbon dioxide levels continue to rise.
Late Cretaceous Period was likely ice-free
In the study, MacLeod examined fossils of organisms that lived 90 million years ago. This photo is an image from a Scanning electron microscope of a planktic (left) and benthic (right) foraminifera from Tanzania. Both shells are less than 0.5 millimeters across [Credit: University of Missouri]
"Currently, carbon dioxide levels are just above 400 parts per million (ppm), up approximately 120 ppm in the last 150 years and rising about 2 ppm each year," said Ken MacLeod, a professor of geological sciences at MU. "In our study, we found that during the Late Cretaceous Period, when carbon dioxide levels were around 1,000 ppm, there were no continental ice sheets on earth. So, if carbon dioxide levels continue to rise, the earth will be ice-free once the climate comes into balance with the higher levels."

In his study, MacLeod analyzed the fossilized shells of 90 million-year-old planktic and benthic foraminifera, single-celled organisms about the size of a grain of salt. Measuring the ratios of different isotopes of oxygen and carbon in the fossils gives scientists information about past temperatures and other environmental conditions. The fossils, which were found in Tanzania, showed no evidence of cooling or changes in local water chemistry that would have been expected if a glacial event had occurred during that time period. 

"We know that the carbon dioxide (CO2) levels are rising currently and are at the highest they have been in millions of years. We have records of how conditions have changed as CO2 levels have risen from 280 to 400 ppm, but I believe it also is important to know what could happen when those levels reach 600 to 1000 ppm," MacLeod said. "At the rate that carbon dioxide levels are rising, we will reach 600 ppm around the end of this century. At that level of CO2, will ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica be stable? If not, how will their melting affect the planet?"

Previously, many scientists have thought that doubling CO2 levels would cause earth's temperature to increase as much as 3 degrees Celsius, or approximately 6 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the temperatures MacLeod believes existed in Tanzania 90 million years ago are more consistent with predictions that a doubling of CO2 levels would cause the earth's temperature could rise an average of 6 degrees Celsius, or approximately 11 degrees Fahrenheit.

"While studying the past can help us predict the future, other challenges with modern warming still exist," MacLeod said. "The Late Cretaceous climate was very warm, but the earth adjusted as changes occurred over millions of years. We're seeing the same size changes, but they are happening over a couple of hundred years, maybe 10,000 times faster. How that affects the equation is a big and difficult question."

Astronomers discover densest galaxy ever

Imagine the distance between the sun and the star nearest to it -- a star called Alpha Centauri. That's a distance of about 4 light years. Now, imagine as many as 10,000 of our suns crammed into that relatively small space.
Astronomers discover densest galaxy ever
Astronomers have discovered what may be the densest galaxy in the nearby universe. The team that discovered the rare ultra-compact dwarf galaxy was led by MSU’s Jay Strader. The larger image was captured by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. The inset photo of the galaxy was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope [Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXC/MSU/J.Strader et al, Optical: NASA/STScI]
That is about the density of a galaxy that was recently discovered by an international team of astronomers led by a Michigan State University faculty member.

"This galaxy is more massive than any ultra-compact drawfs of comparable size," said Jay Strader, MSU assistant professor of physics and astronomy, "and is arguably the densest galaxy known in the local universe."

As detailed in the recent edition of the publication Astrophysical Journal Letters, the ultra-compact dwarf galaxy was found in what's known as the Virgo cluster of galaxies, a collection of galaxies located about 54 million light years from our own Milky Way.

What makes this galaxy, dubbed M60-UCD1, so remarkable is that about half of its mass is found within a radius of only about 80 light years. This would make the density of stars about 15,000 times greater than found in Earth's neighborhood in the Milky Way.

"Traveling from one star to another would be a lot easier in M60-UCD1 than it is in our galaxy," Strader said. "Since the stars are so much closer in this galaxy, it would take just a fraction of the time."

The discovery of ultra-compact galaxies is relatively new -- only within the past 10 years or so. Until then, astronomers could see these "things" way off in the distance but assumed they were either single stars or very-distant galaxies.

Another intriguing aspect of this galaxy is the presence of a bright X-ray source in its center. One explanation for this is a giant black hole weighing in at some 10 million times the mass of our sun.

Astronomers are trying to determine if M60-UCD1 and other ultra-compact dwarf galaxies are either born as really jam-packed star clusters or if they are galaxies that get smaller because they have stars ripped away from them. The possible massive black hole, combined with the high galaxy mass and sun-like levels of elements found in the stars, favor the latter idea.

A giant black hole at the center of M60-UCD1 helps tip the scales against the scenario where this galaxy was once a star cluster, since such large black holes are not found in these types of objects.

The galaxy was discovered using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. Follow-up observations were done with NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and ground-based optical telescopes, including the Keck 10-meter telescope in Hawaii.

"Twenty years ago we couldn't have done this," Strader said. "We didn't have Hubble or Chandra. This is one of those projects where you bring together the full force of NASA's great observatories, plus ground-based resources."

Goldendoodle doggie-paddled for 2 hours before rescue from well in human body bag

A dog that plunged 23 feet into water in a 37-foot-deep well had to swim in a tiny circle for almost two hours before rescuers were able to bring him back to the surface. Arch and Judy Hopkins had been having water problems at their house in Granville, Putnam County, Illinois, and had hired someone to look at their well. They had opened the top of the well when Doogie, an 8-year-old goldendoodle, came running up to greet the well man and landed right in the open well, Arch said. “It was horrifying,” he said. The men got a light to look into the well.
“He was hanging on the brick edge of the well or dog paddling,” Arch said. “We knew he was at least alive.” They immediately called 911. Fire chief Mike Skowera said firefighters arrived, lowered a gas monitor into the well and determined the oxygen level was okay, though slightly lower than normal. He said the dog could be seen down in the well, treading water and occasionally putting out its legs to wedge itself from wall to wall to rest a bit. The department set up a sturdy tripod above the well, and firefighter Kyle Camatti rappelled down.
He could not immediately determine a way to safely raise the dog back up the well, however. The problem was, everything the department normally has for extraction work or harnesses is made for people. “The major delay was trying to figure out what to get around this dog,” Skowera said. They didn’t want to try one of the harnesses for humans and then possibly drop the dog. They brought the firefighter back up and decided to use a sturdy, nylon mesh body bag that they might otherwise have to use for recovery of bodies after drowning. Air and water could pass through, so the bag wouldn’t fill up with water and weigh 1,000 pounds and the dog would be able to breathe.
“Kyle went back down and somehow got Doogie into the body bag. Then they hauled Doogie up first. It was very impressive,” Arch said. Doogie appeared to be okay after the two-hour ordeal. “He just jumped up and started kissing everybody,” Hopkins said. Veterinarian Allison Spayer immediately came to the scene when she was called by Judy Hopkins. Once Doogie was rescued, she examined him, finding no injuries other than a bruised lip and a scratch on his eye, Hopkins said. “He’s amazingly resilient,” Arch said. “His body temperature even was good.” Arch and Judy Hopkins were very impressed with how the crew handled the situation. Arch said they were very professional and concerned for Doogie’s well-being. “It was a happy ending,” Arch said.

There's a news video here.

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