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Friday, October 18, 2013

The Daily Drift

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Today is Mammography Day 


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Today in History

1648 The "shoemakers of Boston"–the first labor organization in what would become the United States–was authorized by the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
1685 Edict of Nantes lifted by Louis XIV. The edict, signed at Nantes, France, by King Henry IV in 1598, gave the Huguenots religious liberty, civil rights and security. By revoking the Edict of Nantes, Louis XIV abrogated their religious liberties.
1813 The Allies defeat Napoleon Bonaparte at Leipzig.
1867 The Alaska territory is formally transferred to the U.S. from Russian control.
1867 The rules for American football are formulated at meeting in New York among delegates from Columbia, Rutgers, Princeton and Yale universities.
1883 The weather station at the top of Ben Nevis, Scotland, the highest mountain in Britain, is declared open. Weather stations were set up on the tops of mountains all over Europe and the Eastern United States in order to gather information for the new weather forecasts.
1910 M. Baudry is the first to fly a dirigible across the English Channel–from La Motte-Breil to Wormwood Scrubbs.
1912 The First Balkan War breaks out between the members of the Balkan League–Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece and Montenegro–and the Ottoman Empire.
1918 Czechs seize Prague and renounce Hapsburg's rule.
1919 Madrid opens a subway system.
1921 Russian Soviets grant Crimean independence.
1939 President Franklin D. Roosevelt bans war submarines from U.S. ports and waters.
1944 Lt. General Joseph Stilwell is recalled from China by president Franklin Roosevelt.
1950 The First Turkish Brigade arrives in Korea to assist the U.N. forces fighting there.
1967 A Russian unmanned spacecraft makes the first landing on the surface of Venus.
1968 US athletes Tommi Smith and John Carlos suspended by US Olympic Committee for giving "black power" salute while receiving their medals at the Olympic Games in Mexico City.
2003 Bolivian president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada resigns in the wake of protests centered around Bolivia's natural gas resources.
2007 Suicide attack on a motorcade in Karachi, Pakistan, kills at least 139 and wounds 450; the subject of the attack, Pakistan's former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, is not harmed.

Non Sequitur


Oh, Oh ...

Oreos may be more addictive than drugs.
They didn't need to pay for a study. We could have told them this.

Did you know ...

That Monsanto sucks

Here's how you know the Texas good ol' boys are scared to death of Wendy Davis

That studies show venting your anger makes it worse

Senate Debt Ceiling Deal Is a Complete Crushing of the repugican cabal

John Boehner, Mitch McConnell 
Do you want to know what Republicans get out of the proposed Senate debt ceiling deal? Nothing, but a crushing surrender.
The repugicans will get no changes to Obamacare. They will get no further spending cuts. The government will be funded until mid-late January, and here’s the kicker according to Greg Sargent, “According to the Democratic aide, Democrats are likely to demand a debt limit extension into early summer — nine months, rather than six – with the idea being that the closer to the 2014 elections we get, the harder it will be for repugicans to stage another debt ceiling hostage crisis. Democrats don’t want such a crisis. They would prefer that repugicans simply agree to extend the debt limit cleanly. But by pushing this so deep into the 2014 election season, they are giving themselves a kind of insurance policy that guarantees that if repugicans do stage another debt limit crisis, repugicans will pay a serious political price for it.”
If repugicans want the medical device tax repealed Democrats are going to demand that tax loopholes be closed for the wealthy and corporations, and Senate Democrats are even going to finally get the budget conference that they have asked the House repugicans for 18 times.
What do repugicans get out of this? Nothing, but record low poll numbers.
This deal, is a major victory for Democrats. It meets every single one of President Obama’s criteria. Obamacare (the ACA) is not changed. No budget negotiations occur before the government is reopened and the debt ceiling is raised, and there will be no short term threat of default by House repugicans on the debt ceiling.
The reason why House repugicans wanted a short term deal is two fold. They viewed the CR and the debt ceiling as their last chance to kill the ACA before it is implemented fully on January 1, 2014. Secondly, vulnerable House repugicans wanted to avoid another crisis during the 2014 election.
By placing the expiration of the debt ceiling extension right in the middle of the 2014 election, Democrats are setting up a lose/lose scenario for House repugicans. Boehner and company will have to fight among themselves as the election campaign is going on. Another debt ceiling fiasco could tear open all of the cabal wounds, or repugicans could to again threaten default and lose the House.
A group of House repuglicans and their Senate leader Ted Cruz thought they could ransom their way into killing the ACA. Instead, the repugicans are being offered a series of crushing terms of surrender that will be impossible for wingnut activists and the tea party House repugicans to swallow.
It’s clear that by cutting this deal with Majority Leader Reid, Mitch McConnell and the Senate repugicans are washing their hands of the Cruz/Boehner folly. If the country had defaulted, it would have been because John Boehner refused to stand up to his own House repugicans and do what is right.
Democrats and Senate repugicans are sending the signal that if the country defauled, the blame should go on Boehner and his tea crazed House repugicans. Harry Reid is laying out the terms of surrender. It’s unclear whether House repugicans realize that they’ve lost the war.

Paul Krugman Demolishes the repugican Fantasy that 2014 Will Be About Obamacare

On ABC’s This Week, Paul Krugman opened up a can of whoop-facts on desperate repugicans who are desperately hanging on to the belief that the 2014 election will be about Obamacare.
Transcript via This Week:
SENOR: Absolutely. There’s no doubt that this damaging to the repugican brand.
That said, a year from now, this will have been long resolved and I don’t think voters will be talking about this shutdown and the dysfunction. What people will be talking about is the failed implementation of ObamaCare.
There are very few House seats that are really in play. There’s like a tiny percentage of repugican House members that are in districts that President Obama won. There are six Senate seats, Democratic Senate seats that need to be defended that Mitt Romney won by more than 10 percent.
So, the field, both in the House and the Senate, is much more favorable to repugicans. I think this is a bad moment for repugicans. I think it will pass. I think the feel, the history of the party out of the White House winning midterms, combined with the failed implementation of ObamaCare –
KRUGMAN: I want to say something about that for a moment. The ObamaCare thing will also be long past. They messed up the software for the federal version of it. But we have the exchanges working just fine in many states, which means it’s fixable and it will be fixed.
California has a perfectly well functioning exchange, which is running itself. If you can do it for 30 million people, you can do it for 300 million.
So, Obama — that will be — Obamacare will be working fine…
NOONAN: The governors are key, I’ve got to tell you. Everywhere you go among repugicans, they start talking about what’s happening in Washington in the Senate, the House and then they go, our governors are great. And indeed there’s much excitement there. And I think the future of the party, 2016 is there.
Paul, I’ve got to tell you, I don’t think I disagree with your point on Obamacare, of course. I think for the next year as Dan said, it’s going to be a big spreading wound. There’s too much connected to it that is going to be a constant grinding tension. One is this congressional thing where congress passes things, but they get special benefits and the American people don’t get them. You think it…
KRUGMAN: That’s really not true.
But the main point is, software — I mean, a software glitch.
SENOR: It’s more than software.
They have stitched together web platforms for the Department of Justice, Health and Human Services, Social Security Administration, Homeland Security in order to make this enrollment work. It’s a technology disaster.
The architect of the website said that if March, that we’ll be lucky if this thing doesn’t look like a third world experience.
KRUGMAN: Right, so they messed up. The thing is, again…
KRUGMAN: California, a state with more than 30 million people, a state with 10 percent of the whole U.S. population, has a perfectly functioning exchange, that says this is doable. That says that they will fix it.
Krugman was correct. The website will be fixed long before the 2014 election, people will be signed up, and nobody outside of the repugican cabal will care about the website launch. The idea pushed by repugicans Noonan and Senor that people will be more concerned about the ACA website rollout than the fact that repugicans may very well have plunged the economy into another recession this week was flat out delusional.
In case repugicans haven’t noticed, the ACA is getting more popular, and there are more than a few House seats in play. The government shutdown has put at least 24 repugican controlled House seats in jeopardy. It’s double the delusion to think that gerrymandering and the ACA will keep repugicans in control of the House if the economy tanks. If the government shutdown lingered on and the country defaulted, next year’s election was going to be all about the economy.
The repugicans are still clinging to the hope that the 2014 electorate will look just like 2010, but House repugican antics on the government shutdown/potential default are energizing the Democratic electorate. Paul Krugman brought a signed and dated reality check to the conversation today. If repugicans crash the economy again, the top priority of the country will not be the ACA.
The ACA website will be fixed, but the damage that repugicans could have done the economy this week with a default won’t be forgotten on Election Day 2014.

The NRA: Could they get any more obnoxious?

CNN host Piers Morgan's interview with Second Amendment Foundation founder Alan Gottlieb went from tense to combative on Monday after Morgan caught Gottlieb seemingly blowing off a statement from the daughter of a victim of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting.

As Morgan read a statement from Erica Lafferty - whose mother, principal Dawn Hochsprung was killed along with 20 children during the attack - calling the foundation's "Gun Saves Lives Day" event a "disgusting political stunt," Gottlieb shook his head and smiled.

"Why are you laughing?" Morgan asked Gottlieb.

"Because that's totally over the top," Gottlieb answered. "That's not what our intent was. It's not what anything we were going to do was."

"Wait a minute," Morgan interjected. "You plan a campaign to promote the good side of guns on the first anniversary of the worst mass shooting at a school in American history, and you have the gall to laugh when I read out a quote from one of the victims' families? How dare you?"

Random Photos

Man protests at decision not to allow new Dunkin’ Donuts by putting toilets on his lawn

An Augusta, Maine, man angered at the city's decision to oppose building a new Dunkin' Donuts is putting toilets in his garden. Under a recent proposal from a developer, David Labbe’s house and an adjacent vacant service station would have been torn down to build a drive-through Dunkin’ Donuts.

That’s how Labbe wanted it. He said he agreed to a sale price three times higher than what he paid for the property in 1999, and he wants out. But Augusta officials, backed by neighbors, soundly rejected the zoning change that would have allowed the franchise to come. Labbe’s deal was scuttled.
So Labbe has countered by putting toilets up on the edge of his lawn, flowers planted in the bowls: pink chrysanthemums in three, yellow lantanas in two. He has also posted a sign by the toilets stating an expanded vision for his lawn: It says he wants 60 to 70 more toilets. “I’m going to line the whole street with toilets,” Labbe said. “I figure I can put almost a hundred up in there.”

Labbe said the toilets are there for two main reasons: to protest opposition to the Dunkin’ Donuts and because he doesn’t much care what his property looks like now. Neighbors call Labbe's behavior childish. Not that Labbe cares what his neighbors think. “That’s too bad,” Labbe said. “They pissed me off, I’m going to piss them off now.”

Police returned van hired for drug's bust with cannabis haul still in the back

Police hired a van for a drug's bust – then returned it still full of bags of cannabis. The careless officers forgot to take their haul out of the back before they let a Mitchell’s Self Drive worker collect the van. And John McKinnon, 33, who went to pick the vehicle up, couldn’t believe it when he saw what was inside. He said: “There were bin bags full of cannabis. There was no mistaking what it was. I went running into the office and we phoned the police.

“Straight away, they said someone was going to get their balls kicked. But it still took them an hour-and-a-half to come back out to collect it.” Police in Lanarkshire had hired the unmarked van for use by plain-clothes officers. John went to Coatbridge to collect it afterwards and drove it all the way to Rutherglen, near Glasgow, with the drugs in the back. He said: “They gave me the keys in a sealed blue bag, walked me out to the van, opened the gates and away I went.
"There was a strong smell of cannabis in the cabin but it was only when I got back to the office and opened up the back that I realized what was in it. I’ve no idea how I would have gone about explaining what had happened if I’d been pulled over during the journey. It’s scary.” Police eventually arrived to collect the drugs, and had to hire the van again so they could take it away and remove the cannabis. John said: “When they turned up, they were asking me how it had happened.

“They were dumbfounded. But there was no word of an apology or even a thank you for letting them know. I’m angry that they allowed me to drive it away like that.” A police spokeswoman said: “We can confirm that we are investigating a report that a vehicle hired by Police Scotland has been returned allegedly with what is believed to be police productions inside. Inquiries are at an early stage to establish the circumstances and it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

Busty clown jailed for bank robbery

A Florida man who robbed a credit union in Transcona, Winnipeg, while cloaked in a garish female clown costume, complete with gigantic fake breasts, has been sentenced to eight years behind bars. Minutes after Judge John Guy convicted Rondell McGarrett Johnson, 40, of robbery, wear disguise and public mischief on Tuesday morning, Johnson elected to proceed immediately to sentencing to learn his fate.
Johnson has been in custody since the afternoon of Dec. 18, 2012 - specifically about 15 minutes after he strolled into the Crosstown Credit Union while wearing the bizarre disguise and robbed the bank of thousands in cash while brandishing an imitation handgun.

Police tracked Johnson down on foot to secluded area south of the bank where he was seen walking along some railway tracks in normal-looking clothes. After his arrest officers located a duffel bag nearby where he had been walking stuffed with the garments and other items he used to disguise himself. The gun was never recovered.
It appears Johnson used Nerf balls cut in half to fashion a large pair of fake breasts, which were then stuffed into a gigantic bra. He fought his case at trial, claiming police had the wrong suspect. Guy ruled after looking at all the circumstances and the overall timeline of events, there was no other logical conclusion than that Johnson was the guilty party.

Payback time for man who sneaked into ex-wife's bedroom every week for three years

A man who sneaked into his ex-wife’s house every week for three years in order to steal cash belonging to his brother-in-law has been ordered to pay back more than £35,000. Bernard Young, 48, still had a key his former partner’s house and knew she had access to her brother Terence Ruck’s bank account. A court has heard that Young used to sneak in while she was asleep and spent some of the cash on a £20,000 canal barge. Earlier this year Young admitted fraud and was given a 12-month jail sentence suspended for two years and ordered to carry out 200 hours’ unpaid community work.
He was back in Liverpool Crown Court on Monday for a proceeds of crime hearing and it was agreed by the prosecution and defense that he had benefited from his criminal behavior to the tune of £35,300 and has realizable assets of more than that sum. The canal barge had been among property seized by police after his offending came to light. Judge Robert Trevor-Jones ordered Young, whose address was given as Crooke Marina in Wigan, Greater Manchester, to hand over that sum within six months of face nine months’ imprisonment. At his earlier sentencing hearing in February Sarah Holt, prosecuting, told the court that Young “was aware his ex-wife kept her handbag in the bedroom while she was asleep. He went into the bedroom, went to her handbag and took the card.

“He made the withdrawals and then went back to the house to place the card back in the bag, which was undisturbed. This was how he was able to take so much money over such a lengthy period of time.” He started the scam in 2007 and continued it after his 19-year marriage to Lynn collapsed in 2009. He would go to cash machines during the early hours and withdraw between £150 and £180, before returning the card. Miss Holt said that his 56-year-old former wife would wake in the night in her home in Golborne, feeling as though someone was in the house, “but she told herself she was being silly and put it down to being on her own after being in a relationship for a long time”. She even told Young of her concerns, but he assured her there was nothing to worry about.
He was caught out after Mr Ruck, 68, noticed the money was missing and police inspected CCTV at the machines he used. The court heard in mitigation that there was no suggestion he was using the money for “a lavish lifestyle” and said he would pay the money back. The judge at that hearing said that his promise to repay the cash had spared him from prison. PC Sarah Langley, of Greater Manchester Police’s Volume Fraud Team, said: “The further we delved into Young’s actions, the more astounded we became at his shameless, malicious behavior. He broke into her home on what was probably in excess of 100 times. He was particular about the amounts he withdrew in a blatant attempt not to arouse suspicion and he did this simply in order to carry on as long as possible.”

Daily Comic Relief


Nobel Prizes: Who Won and Who Got Snubbed

The 2013 Nobel Prizes have been announced. This year's prizes went to people doing amazing work, but not everyone can win. Trace looks at who won, who was snubbed, and which deserving scientists from the past never took home a medal.

New Zealand Forgot To Name Its Main Islands

Eight hundred years after the Maori first arrived in New Zealand, and 370 years after Europeans spied its shores, the South Pacific nation's major land masses will finally get official names. For generations, the two main islands have been called the North Island and the South Island. But in recent years, officials discovered an oversight: the islands had never been formally assigned the monikers.

Last Thursday, the land information minister, Maurice Williamson, announced that the North Island and South Island names would become official, effective this week. Equal status will be given to the alternate Maori names: Te Ika-a-Maui (the fish of Maui) for the North and Te Waipounamu (the waters of greenstone) for the South.



Famous People With Anxiety Disorders

When a person is faced with a stressful situation, the body's reaction is to become anxious. In some cases, that reaction is severe, causing individuals to become unable to move beyond the fear and anxiety they feel for long periods of time. Often, this is indicative of an anxiety disorder. There are a number of different types of anxiety disorders.

Throughout history, politicians, writers, and artists have suffered from a variety of anxiety disorders. Here is a closer look at ten famous people with anxiety disorders and the impact that the disorders have had on their lives.

Early Humans discovered recycling

If you thought recycling was just a modern phenomenon championed by environmentalists and concerned urbanites - think again.
Early Humans discovered recycling
This Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013 photo shows the stone age recycling site cave at the north of Israel next to the city of Zichron Yaakov. There is mounting evidence that already hundreds of thousands of years ago our prehistoric ancestors learned to recycle the objects they used in their daily lives, say researchers gathered here for an international conference [Credit: AP/Dan Balilty]
There is mounting evidence that hundreds of thousands of years ago, our prehistoric ancestors learned to recycle the objects they used in their daily lives, say researchers gathered at an international conference in Israel.

"For the first time we are revealing the extent of this phenomenon, both in terms of the amount of recycling that went on and the different methods used," said Ran Barkai, an archaeologist and one of the organizers of the four-day gathering at Tel Aviv University that ended Thursday.

Just as today we recycle materials such as paper and plastic to manufacture new items, early hominids would collect discarded or broken tools made of flint and bone to create new utensils, Barkai said.

The behavior "appeared at different times, in different places, with different methods according to the context and the availability of raw materials," he told The Associated Press.

From caves in Spain and North Africa to sites in Italy and Israel, archaeologists have been finding such recycled tools in recent years. The conference, titled "The Origins of Recycling," gathered nearly 50 scholars from about 10 countries to compare notes and figure out what the phenomenon meant for our ancestors.

Recycling was widespread not only among early humans but among our evolutionary predecessors such as Homo erectus, Neanderthals and other species of hominids that have not yet even been named, Barkai said.

Avi Gopher, a Tel Aviv University archaeologist, said the early appearance of recycling highlights its role as a basic survival strategy. While they may not have been driven by concerns over pollution and the environment, hominids shared some of our motivations, he said.

"Why do we recycle plastic? To conserve energy and raw materials," Gopher said. "In the same way, if you recycled flint you didn't have to go all the way to the quarry to get more, so you conserved your energy and saved on the material."
Early Humans discovered recycling
This Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013 photo shows the stone age recycling site cave at the north of Israel next to the city of Zichron Yaakov. There is mounting evidence that already hundreds of thousands of years ago our prehistoric ancestors learned to recycle the objects they used in their daily lives, say researchers gathered here for an international conference. (AP Photo/Dan Balilty)
Some cases may date as far back as 1.3 million years ago, according to finds in Fuente Nueva, on the shores of a prehistoric lake in southern Spain, said Deborah Barsky, an archaeologist with the University of Tarragona. Here there was only basic reworking of flint and it was hard to tell whether this was really recycling, she said.

"I think it was just something you picked up unconsciously and used to make something else," Barsky said. "Only after years and years does this become systematic."

That started happening about half a million years ago or later, scholars said.

For example, a dry pond in Castel di Guido, near Rome, has yielded bone tools used some 300,000 years ago by Neanderthals who hunted or scavenged elephant carcasses there, said Giovanni Boschian, a geologist from the University of Pisa.

"We find several levels of reuse and recycling," he said. "The bones were shattered to extract the marrow, then the fragments were shaped into tools, abandoned, and finally reworked to be used again."

At other sites, stone hand-axes and discarded flint flakes would often function as core material to create smaller tools like blades and scrapers. Sometimes hominids found a use even for the tiny flakes that flew off the stone during the knapping process.

At Qesem cave, a site near Tel Aviv dating back to between 200,000 and 420,000 years ago, Gopher and Barkai uncovered flint chips that had been reshaped into small blades to cut meat - a primitive form of cutlery.

Some 10 percent of the tools found at the site were recycled in some way, Gopher said. "It was not an occasional behavior; it was part of the way they did things, part of their way of life," he said.

He said scientists have various ways to determine if a tool was recycled. They can find direct evidence of retouching and reuse, or they can look at the object's patina - a progressive discoloration that occurs once stone is exposed to the elements. Differences in the patina indicate that a fresh layer of material was exposed hundreds or thousands of years after the tool's first incarnation.

Some participants argued that scholars should be cautious to draw parallels between this ancient behavior and the current forms of systematic recycling, driven by mass production and environmental concerns.

"It is very useful to think about prehistoric recycling," said Daniel Amick, a professor of anthropology at Chicago's Loyola University. "But I think that when they recycled they did so on an `ad hoc' basis, when the need arose."

Participants in the conference plan to submit papers to be published next year in a special volume of Quaternary International, a peer-reviewed journal focusing on the study of the last 2.6 million years of Earth's history.

Norm Catto, the journal's editor in chief and a geography professor at Memorial University in St John's, Canada, said that while prehistoric recycling had come up in past studies, this was the first time experts met to discuss the issue in such depth.

Catto, who was not at the conference, said in an email that studying prehistoric recycling could give clues on trading links and how much time people spent at one site.

Above all, he wrote, the phenomenon reflects how despite living millennia apart and in completely different environments, humans appear to display "similar responses to the challenges and opportunities presented by life over thousands of years."

Awesome Pictures

Soft shells and strange star clusters

PGC 6240 is an elliptical galaxy that resembles a pale rose in the sky, with hazy shells of stars encircling a very bright center. Some of these shells are packed close to the center of the galaxy, while others are flung further out into space. Several wisps of material have been thrown so far that they appear to be almost detached from the galaxy altogether.
Soft shells and strange star clusters
The beautiful, petal-like shells of galaxy PGC 6240 are captured here in intricate detail by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, set against a sky full of distant background galaxies. PGC 6240 is an elliptical galaxy approximately 350,000,000 light years away in the southern constellation of Hydrus (The Water Snake). It is orbited by a number of globular clusters that contain both young and old stars -- thought to be a result of a galactic merger in the recent past [Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA. Acknowledgement: Judy Schmidt]
Astronomers have studied PGC 6240 in detail due to this structure, and also because of its surrounding globular clusters -- dense, tightly packed groups of gravitationally bound stars that orbit galaxies. Over 150 of these clusters orbit our own galaxy, the Milky Way, all composed of old stars.

All the globular clusters around a certain galaxy form at approximately the same time, giving them all the same age. This is echoed within the clusters -- all the stars within a single cluster form at around the same time, too. Because of this, most galaxies have cluster populations of pretty similar ages, both in terms of overall cluster, and individual stars. However, PGC 6240 is unusual in that its clusters are varied -- while some do contain old stars, as expected, others contain younger stars which formed more recently.

The most likely explanation for both the galaxy's stacked shell structure and the unexpectedly young star clusters is that PGC 6240 merged with another galaxy at some point in the recent past. Such a merger would send ripples through the galaxy and disrupt its structure, forming the concentric shells of material seen here. It would also ignite a strong burst of star formation in the galaxy, which would then trigger similar activity in nearby space -- leading to the creation of new, younger globular clusters around PGC 6240.

PGC 6240 is an elliptical galaxy in the southern constellation of Hydrus (The Water Snake). Also visible in this region are numerous background galaxies, speckled across the sky behind PGC 6240. Even though these bodies are at such vast distances from us, it is possible to make out the structure of many of the galaxies, especially the small spirals that stand out colorfully against the dark sky.

Astronomers map regions in Milky Way where stars are born

A team of astronomers led by Yancy Shirley at the University of Arizona's Steward Observatory has completed the largest-ever survey of dense gas clouds in the Milky Way – pockets shrouded in gas and dust where new stars are being born. Cataloging and mapping more than 6,000 gas clouds, the survey allows astronomers to better understand the earliest phases of star formation.
Astronomers map regions in Milky Way where stars are born
Artist's conception of the Milky Way galaxy [Credit: Nick Risinger]
"When you look at the Milky Way on a clear summer night, you'll notice it's not a continuous stream of stars," said Shirley. "Instead, you'll notice all those little dark patches where there seem to be no stars. But those regions are not devoid of stars – they're dark clouds containing dust and gas, the raw material from which stars and planets are forming in our Milky Way today."

According to Shirley, the survey is a major step forward in astronomy because it allows astronomers to study the earliest phases of star formation when the gas and dust in the star-forming clouds are just beginning to coalesce, before giving rise to clusters of stars. He explained that much of the research over the last 30 to 40 years has been very targeted towards regions where prospective stars, called proto-stars, have already begun to take shape.

"All the famous, major regions of star formation in our galaxy have been studied in great detail," Shirley said. "But we know very little about what happens in those star-less clumps before proto-stars form, and where."

The survey provides the first unbiased map of the galaxy that shows where all those regions are throughout the galaxy, in different galactic environments and at different evolutionary stages. This helps astronomers better understand how the properties of these regions change as star formation progresses.
Astronomers map regions in Milky Way where stars are born
An artist's rendition of the Milky Way, overlaid with results from the survey of early star-forming clouds. Each dot represents a dark cloud of dense gas and dust in the process of collapsing to give rise to a future cluster of stars. Most of these regions map onto the galaxy's spiral arms [Credit: R. Hurt: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSC]
"Starless clumps have only been detected in small numbers to date," Shirley said. "Now, for the first time, we have seen this earliest phase of star formation, before a cluster actually forms, in large numbers in an unbiased way."

According to the UA astronomer, the star formation rate in the Milky Way was higher in the past, and currently stars form on the order of about one solar mass per year.

How long does it take to become a full-blown star? 

"That is something we hope to be able to calculate by comparing the number of sources that are in that early phase to the number of sources that are in a later phase," Shirley explained. "The ratio between the two tells you how long each phase lasts. In our survey there seem to be fewer regions that have not yet begun forming stars than those that have, which tells us the earlier phase must be shorter. If that phase lasted much longer, there should be many more of those."

Because the dense accumulations of dust are impervious to light in the visible spectrum, astronomers can't observe them with telescopes detecting light in the visible spectrum such as the Hubble Space Telescope.

"For those of us who want to study how stars form, that's a real problem because if we want to observe a young star or a cluster of stars forming in one of those dark clouds, all that dust gets in the way," said Shirley.
Astronomers map regions in Milky Way where stars are born
In this artist's conception, observers peer through the dark dust of a star-forming cloud to witness the birth of a star. The survey by Yancy Shirley and his group catalogued and mapped such regions in their earliest phases, when the gas and dust in the star-forming clouds are just beginning to coalesce [Credit: NASA]
However, it turns out the same dust that blocks visible light actually glows at long wavelengths, specifically radio wavelengths, which are about a million times longer than visible light.

"Heat emanating from the young clusters of stars forming inside the clouds, combined with ambient radiation and even starlight from the surrounding galaxy, all that heats up those dust grains just a little bit above absolute zero," Shirley said. "As a result they glow, allowing us to peer inside the clouds with a radio telescope at very long wavelengths."

For their survey, which covers all parts of the galactic plane visible from the northern hemisphere, the group used the Sub-Millimeter Telescope at the Arizona Radio Observatory, equipped with a sensitive new receiver. Shirley said the proximity and accessibility of the UA-operated telescope made this project possible in the first place.

The survey, published in The Astrophysical Journal, resulted from a group effort including Wayne Schlingman, who completed his PhD at the UA last year and is now postdoctoral researcher at the University of Colorado Boulder; Brian Svoboda, a current doctoral student in the UA's Department of Astronomy, and Tim Ellsworth-Bowers, a current doctoral student at the University of Colorado Boulder and former UA graduate.

"Almost everybody on the team that put this all together has a connection to the UA," said Shirley, who himself graduated from the UA's department of astronomy before returning to join the faculty.

Science probes mysteries of jets from giant black holes

There are supermassive black holes — with masses up to several billion solar masses — at the hearts of almost all galaxies in the Universe, including our own galaxy, the Milky Way. In the remote […]

Believe it or not


Out of Eurasia, a great primate evolutionary bottleneck?

On the road to our modern human lineage, scientists speculate there were many twist and turns, evolutionary dead ends, and population bottlenecks along the way. But how large were population sizes of common ancestors of the great apes and humans, and does the genetic analysis support the prevailing views of a great bottleneck in primate evolution?
Out of Eurasia, a great primate evolutionary bottleneck?
Reconstructed tailless Proconsul skeleton [Credit: Université de Zurich]
Using inferred evolutionary rates of more than 1400 genes and ancestral generation times, Professor Carlos Schrago and colleagues trace population histories backwards across evolutionary time to estimate population sizes for common ancestors. Their results show that the population sizes of lineages leading to human and chimpanzees dramatically shrunk over evolutionary time, from approximately 1,200,000 in number to 30,000.

This population reduction coincides with bio-geographical data that suggests a great ape ancestral migration event from Eurasia to Africa during the late Miocene period, from approximately 12 to 5.5 million years ago, with a five-fold reduction in effective population size between the ancestor of the Eurasian and African great apes and the ancestor of African great apes alone, suggesting that the Homininae diversified after a dispersal event from an Eurasian ancestor.

Ancient bug's last supper of blood still in fossil

In a steamy tropical forest 46 million years ago, a prehistoric mosquito bit a critter, drew blood and was blown into a lake in what is now northwestern Montana. Belly full, she died and sank.
Ancient bug's last supper of blood still in fossil
This image provided by the Smithsonian Institution shows a fossilized female mosquito in a paper-thin piece of shale. The 46 million year-old insect drew blood in its last meal, was blown into a lake in what is now northwestern Montana and sank, belly still full. It's a first for biology, a blood meal found intact in a fossil [Credit: AP/Smithsonian Institution, Dale Greenwalt]
Flash forward to the present. Researchers found the minuscule female insect fossilized in a paper-thin piece of shale — which had sat in someone's basement for 25 to 30 years with other rocks— and concluded it still contains its last supper. A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science reports a first for biology: a blood meal found intact in a fossil.

While the scenario sounds eerily similar to the Michael Crichton book and movie "Jurassic Park," no new T. rexes will result.

Unfortunately for would-be dinosaur cloners, the mosquito flew long after dinosaurs went extinct, and its meal was probably blood from a dino descendant, a bird. And an even bigger blow to the "Jurassic Park" scenario is that scientists have long known that DNA from other critters couldn't survive in insect fossils, said study lead author Dale Greenwalt, a retired biochemist who collects and analyzes insect fossils from Montana for the Smithsonian Institution.

So this is more a scientific curiosity, a look-what-we-found, that starts out like early chapters of the sci-fi thriller.

"It's following Crichton's script in that we're using a blood engorged fossil mosquito and in this case we're using the direct descendent of the dinosaurs, given that we're 20 million years late," Greenwalt said.

Using two different types of light-refracting x-rays that determine what chemicals are present, Greenwalt and colleagues determined that the female mosquito's belly was full of iron, a major feature of blood that gets oxygen to the rest of the body. Iron levels were higher than elsewhere in her body and anywhere on a non-biting male used as a control subject. Then the team found evidence of porphyrins, which are bound to iron in blood. Putting the two together makes "a definitive case" for blood, Greenwalt said.

Outside expert Mary Schweitzer of North Carolina State University said while the study is exciting and significant, it is preliminary and she thinks Greenwalt's team didn't prove their conclusion that it is blood by ruling out all other possibilities.

Mammoth remains found in Uzbekistan

The rare remains of an unusually large southern mammoth have been discovered in eastern Uzbekistan, media in the Central Asian nation reported Monday.
Mammoth remains found in Uzbekistan
Mammoth remains found in the northern Taimyr Peninsula in 2012 [Credit: AFP]
It is the first time such a find has been made in Uzbekistan, said Farida Ametova, a member of the archaeological team, according to reports.

The mammoth’s 4-meter (13 feet) tusks and teeth had been buried near a riverbed, but were partly exposed during a spring mudslide near the city of Akhangaran the Tashkent region, reports said.

Paleontologists estimate the beast was 5.5 meters (18 feet) tall and say the remains were between 1.2 million and 1.8 million years old, according to local media.

Previously discovered southern mammoth specimens have averaged between 4 and 4.5 meters (13-15 feet) tall.

The clay sediment covering the bones helped preserve them, Ametova said.

She added that scientists are working to restore the tusks and teeth before they start to excavate the rest of the skeleton.

“We are quite lucky to have such a unique find,” Ametova said, local media reported.

Paleontologists believe the area where the beast was found to be a veritable graveyard of prehistoric animals, especially mammoths, as it was previously the site of a large river abundant in flora and fauna.

The southern mammoth, a vegetarian native to Europe and Central Asia, is believed to have lived between 2.6 million and 0.7 million years ago, during the Pleistocene period.

Including the Uzbekistan find, nine relatively complete southern mammoth skeletons have been discovered to date. One of those was unearthed in Russia’s North Caucasus in February.

Four of the prehistoric beasts’ bodies are kept in Russia, two are in Italy, and another two are located in France and Serbia.

Upping the Cute Factor

Sisters ride pet buffaloes through burning ring of fire before serving up relative on the BBQ

Judy Ann Cook and her sister Kerrie, known as The Buffalo Girls, are wowing crowds in outback Queensland, Australia, with a unique daredevil act.
"We just fell in love with them when we saw what they are capable of,” said Judy. “We spent so much time with them."

It was then that they started to develop their act; it may not be death-defying but it certainly gets hot out there.

The whole family gets involved but the highlight of the show is the ring of fire and the audiences just lap it up. Then it’s time for a feast on the barbie – serving up one of the buffalo's calves.

Rescuers in four-hour mission to free sheepdog stuck in 25 meter deep mountain crevice

A mountain rescuer spent more than two hours in an 80ft (25m) rock crevice on the side of Wales’s highest mountain in a delicate mission to rescue a fallen sheepdog. Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team successfully extracted the dog who went missing when he was bringing sheep down from Snowdon. The dog’s owner enlisted the help of the team on Sunday and half a dozen volunteer rescuers set out about 3.30pm to search for the dog. Rob Johnson of the team said the rescuers made their way up Clogwyn Mawr with the farmer, to where the dog Chip had last been seen two days earlier.
Mr Johnson said: “As we approached the crag the farmer could hear whining from within the mountain. We knew then that this was going to be interesting. The approach to the crag was delayed slightly as in our scramble approach one team member dislodged two boulders that trapped his leg. The boulders were removed by the efforts of two others and the search continued. The dog was found stuck in the bottom of a rock crevice that was 25 meters deep, extremely narrow and halfway up a steep crag.
“We rigged a belay and dropped ropes down the crevice. One team member was volunteered as being of the skinniest build and lowered down into the slot. About halfway down he became wedged and could proceed no further and so was pulled back up and out, much to his relief. The next volunteer was slight and lithe. She reached the same spot as the last and came to the verdict that some cunning was required.

“Team members radioed for a climber’s clip stick, a long pole with a clip on the end, which was duly delivered within an hour or so; the whole time with our team member still in the narrow slot. She then spent another hour wriggling and worming her way down the remaining distance to within a metre of the bottom of the slot. From there she cleverly managed to clip the dog and they were both hauled to safety.” Mr Johnson said Chip was miraculously unhurt and walked off the mountain with the rescuers to the road. The rescue ended 4½ hours after the team members set out.

Dog opened two doors in successful bid to escape from Humane Society

A dog in Colorado just couldn't wait to get a new home, so he went out and found one. The clever dog's getaway was captured on camera.
The five-year-old Australian shepherd figured out how to open his kennel and then two doors at the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region. "He had to actually push down the handle, push the door open and walk out in both cases," Gretchen Pressley of the Humane Society said.
"He let himself out of the kennel room ...and let himself out of the building," The dog walked to a neighborhood a mile away and found himself a new home. Ashley Heister found the dog wandering around the area, and decided she wanted to adopt him.

"We think he's a wonderful dog and as much as I would love his owner to come and claim him ...I can't wait to welcome him into my family," Heister said. The Humane Society is waiting a day or two more to make sure his original owners don't claim him, if no one comes for him, the clever pooch will go home with Ashley and be renamed Houdini.

Animal Pictures