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The place where the world comes together in honesty and mirth.
Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Daily Drift

Damn, Straight ...

Carolina Naturally is read in 194 countries around the world daily.
Too many cooks ... !

Today is Cliche Day 


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Today in History

1493 Christopher Columbus arrives at the Caribbee Isles (Dominica) during his second expedition.
1507 Leonardo da Vinci is commissioned to paint Lisa Gherardini ("Mona Lisa").
1529 The first parliament for five years opens in England and the Commons put forward bills against abuses amongst the clergy and in the church courts.
1794 Thomas Paine is released from a Parisian jail with help from the American ambassador James Monroe. He was arrested for having offended the Robespierre faction.
1813 American troops destroy the Indian village of Tallushatchee in the Mississippi Valley.
1868 Ulysses S. Grant elected the 18th president of the United States.
1883 A poorly trained Egyptian army, led by British General William Hicks, marches toward El Obeid in the Sudan–straight into a Mahdist ambush and massacre.
1883 The U.S. Supreme Court declares American Indians to be "dependent aliens."
1892 First automatic telephone exchange goes into operation in La Porte, Indiana.
1896 William McKinley is elected 25th president of the United States.
1912 The first all-metal plane flies near Issy, France, piloted by Ponche and Prinard.
1918 The German fleet at Kiel mutinies. This is the first act leading to Germany's capitulation in World War I.
1921 Milk drivers on strike dump thousands of gallons of milk onto New York City's streets.
1935 Left-wing groups in France form the Socialist and Republican Union.
1957 The Soviet Union launches Sputnik II with the dog Laika, the first animal in space, aboard.
1964 For the first time residents of Washington, D.C., are allowed to vote in a presidential election.
1964 Lyndon B. Johnson is elected the 36th president of the United States.
1964 Robert Kennedy, brother of the slain president, is elected as a senator from New York.
1967 The Battle of Dak To begins in Vietnam's Central Highlands; actually a series of engagements, the battle would continue through Nov. 22.
1969 US President Richard Nixon, speaking on TV and radio, asks the "silent majority" of the American people to support his policies and the continuing war effort in Vietnam.
1973 NASA launches Mariner 10, which will become the first probe to reach Mercury.
1979 Ku Klux Klansmen and neo-Nazis kill 5 and wound 7 members of the Communist Workers Party during a "Death to the Klan" rally in Greensboro, NC; the incident becomes known as the Greensboro Massacre.
1983 Jesse Jackson announces his candidacy for the office of president of the United States.
1986 The Lebanese magazine Ash-Shiraa reports the US has secretly been selling weapons to Iran in order to secure the release of 7 American hostages being held by pro-Iranian groups in Lebanon.
1992 Arkansas Governor Bill (William Jefferson) Clinton is elected 42nd president of the United States.
1997 US imposes economic sanctions against Sudan in response to human rights abuses and support of Islamic extremist groups.

Non Sequitur


Did you know ...

How to get the attention of your congressperson without being a big buck donor

Today's food stamp cut will affect 900,000 veterans

6 ways privatization often ends in disaster

What happens when a woman wears Axe men's body spray for a week?

13 places on earth people thought were entrances to hell

Amc's "the walking dead" brings new life to the Georgia town where it's filmed

The repuicans Go On a Scorched Earth Crusade In Case They Lose In 2014

The repugicans realize that their recent shutdown laid waste to their brand and are intent on a scorched Earth crusade in case the 2014 midterms do not give two more years to eviscerate America.

The repugicans Accuse Obama of Court Packing as They Quietly Try to Strip the Courts

The repugicans are deliberately refusing to confirm nominations in effect stripping courts of seats in order to keep Obama from impacting courts.…
Unable to come up worth a good explanation for why they filibustered Mel Watt’s nomination to the U.S. Appeals Court in D.C., Senator Cornyn (r-TX) accused President Obama of “packing the courts”.
This court is where regulation of Wall Street is heard, so control of it is a BFD.
According to Jennifer Bendery of the Huffington Post, Senator Cornyn repeated on the Senate floor today a repugican cabal fiction they’ve been trying to sell, “He’s (Obama) trying to pack the court in order to affect the outcomes.” Cornyn then accused the President of court-packing for trying to fill seats, “I don’t know what else you would call it other than court-packing.”
What else you would call it? Well, how about filling empty seats as is his prerogative as President, and part of what the American people voted for.
This is nothing new from Senator Cornyn. He wrote an op-ed a few days ago making the same specious claim:
Instead of trying to fill judicial vacancies where the need is most urgent, President Obama and Senate Democrats are attempting to transform the D.C. Circuit into a rubber stamp for liberalism and big government.
Oh, yeah, in this scenario, it’s not repugicans who are big government, even though they are the only party trying to insert themselves into our bedrooms and our vaginas. The party of “big government” is the party bringing you healthcare for all at an affordable price. That sure sounds scary.
In other words, repugicans now call winning elections court packing. They would very much prefer it if Obama would not act as if he won an election. In reality, “court-packing” refers to FDR’s Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937, with which he sought to add more justices to the Supreme Court. That is not what Obama is doing, and Senator Cornyn knows it.
Senator Cornyn is smearing the President because he can’t explain why repugicans would filibuster someone who has argued 32 cases before the United States Supreme Court.
However, the repugican cabal’s motives are clear. On April 13, 2013 Senator Chuck Grassley proposed:
Grassley’s legislation would add a seat to both the Second and Eleventh Circuit Courts and remove three seats from the D.C. Circuit Court.
In fact, Obama is not court-packing, but repugicans are court-stripping. The court currently has 8 seats. Under the shrub it had 11, a fact noted by the Washington Post’s editorial board.
The repugicans are deliberately refusing to confirm nominations in effect stripping courts of seats.
Cornyn’s argument reeks of more of the repugican cabal’s attempts to present this President as illegitimate. Of course they do this because their last president was actually illegitimate, and by accusing Obama of it constantly, they render this accusation devoid of power.
Being illegitimate is now just another “both sides do it” accusation per your lazy corporate media and court-packing now means letting the repugican cabal strip the courts of seats in order to impose their agenda and remove power from this President.

Were you aware ...

All Pay, No Work

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is rewarding the least popular House in history by cutting their number of scheduled work days from 126 in 2013 to 113 in 2014.
The 2014 House calendar reveals where the repugican majority’s priorities really are. House repugicans are scheduled to be in session for only 12 days in each of the first three months of the year. The “busy month” for House repugicans will come during the usually slow July political season.
This schedule is all about giving House repugicans the time to campaign in their districts and fund-raise. They will be on vacation for the entire month of August, in session for 10 days in September, and will only be working for a laughable two days during the month before the 2014 election.
House repugicans will still get their same $174,000 salaries for doing even less work. In fact, they will be getting a pay increase per day in session over what they made in 2013. Going strictly by the calendar, members of the House made $1,385.95 per legislative day. In 2014, that number will increase to $1,589.32. Members of the House are responsible for doing more than just being in session, but this House has already revealed itself to be the least productive in history. Instead of voting on legislation, members of the House spend 30%-70% of their time fundraising.
This schedule is more typical behavior from a repugican caucus that is so selfish that members aren’t capable of agreeing with each other to pass even the most basic legislation. John Boehner likes to talk about the People’s business, but by calendar design many members of the current House majority are only interested in serving their own interests.
Boehner and Cantor are already thinking about cutting down the number of scheduled days in session for the rest of 2013, because they can’t think of an agenda to vote on for the rest of the fall.
That attitude of this House was typified by Speaker Boehner on CBS’s Face The Nation when he said, “Well, Bob, we should not be judged on how many new laws we create. We ought to be judged on how many laws we repeal.”
The American people deserve better. They deserve representatives who will vote. They deserve representatives that actually show up for work. They deserve a House that tries to pass legislation instead of seeing their mission as obstruction and destruction.
It’s time to throw Boehner and his group of lazy House bozos out of the majority in 2014.

The truth hurts

The Media Was Wrong

The Shutdown Was a Bigger Deal Than Tech Glitches 
In spite of the media's best efforts, the public thinks the shutdown was a bigger deal than tech glitches on the ObamaCare exchange website.…
boehner shutdown
In spite of their efforts to create a false equivalency, the media has failed to adequately concern troll the American public. The public thinks the shutdown was a bigger deal than tech glitches on the ObamaCare exchange website (shocking, not), according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll.
Forty-four percent report following the fight over the federal government shutdown and raising the debt ceiling “very closely,” while just 22% “say they’ve paid close attention to news about the website problems with the insurance exchanges.”
In fact, more people paid attention to efforts to account for and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons at 23% than paid attention to the “glitches”, and Americans don’t pay attention to foreign policy.
Still, the media and repugicans are having an impact. While 48% say the federal government is doing a “poor” job implementing the law, repugicans give even lower ratings to the federal government (the poll doesn’t mention that they are also the most misinformed about the law, but you can’t exist on this planet without confronting evidence of that fact daily).
Forty-four percent view the law unfavorably versus 38% favorably, which is unchanged
And wait- it gets worse for the media and the repugicans (are they ever not on the same page lately?): A majority want to keep or expand ObamaCare rather than defund it or repeal it.
Forty-seven percent want to keep or expand it rather than repeal it. The media likes to take the negative approval for ObamaCare as a sign that the public hates the idea, when in fact there is a reliable segment of the population that wanted single payer. They don’t like ObamaCare because it didn’t go far enough. Only thirty-seven percent want to repeal it.
In other words, the public is not as dumb as the media and the repugicans bet on. Although, it may be that it took until the last week of October for the media and repugicans to break through the wall of apathy over glitches. We can’t say they didn’t try, with the media using angry people who never even tried to get on the site to blast the website.
In repugican cabal pro-life hypocrisy health news, repugicans are now trying to fear-monger the public about the redistribution of wealth represented by ObamaCare. One of their lowlife female lawmakers, Rep. Renee Ellmers, r-N.C, tried to make the case this week that ObamaCare is redistribution of wealth to women. She argued that women should have to pay more for insurance than men because women have babies. In repugican world, because women give birth, they should have to pay all of the costs associated with birth.
Gosh it’s hard to see why repugicans are not winning. Now that people are signing up for ObamaCare (some even figuring out how to use a phone to do it — gasp!– the media has never heard of a phone!!), The repugicans are making a case to throw people off of affordable health insurance.
The repugicans still have no alternative other than repugican cabalNoCare. Because they have no alternative, they are stuck fear-mongering and that is how they ended up demonstrating repugican cabal feminism again, by having a female lawmaker shame expectant mommies about their expectations that the father help with the cost of birth. No word on how women are supposed to pay for this since the repugican cabal does not support equal pay for women.

The truth be told

The repugicans Deliberately Sabotaged the ACA Website, Hoping the Law Would Implode

The repugicans refused to fund the extra work on the website after the states refused to do their parts, leaving the administration to cobble funding together for Healthcare.Gov.…
Republican wrecking crew
For weeks I’ve been wondering why no one is talking about how repugicans sabotaged the ACA rollout by refusing to implement state run marketplaces, and thus unexpectedly forcing all of that additional burden on to the federal website.
It reminded me of repugicans denying security funding for Benghazi and then blaming Obama and Clinton for the lack of security in Benghazi. The media were oddly uninterested in that alarming fact.
Todd Purdum at Politico exposed how repugicans sabotaged the ACA rollout. One small part of their plan was the rejection of the state run exchanges.
But also, Purdum points out, repugicans refused to fund the extra work on the website after the states refused to do their parts, leaving the administration to cobble funding together for Healthcare.Gov. Putting this extra burden on the website was a deliberate effort to cause the law to “implode” on itself.
But the bitter fight over passage was only the beginning of the war to stop Obamacare. Most repugican governors declined to create their own state insurance exchanges — an option inserted in the bill in the Senate to appeal to the classic wingnut preference for local control — forcing the federal government to take at least partial responsibility for creating marketplaces serving 36 states — far more than ever intended.
Then congressional repugicans refused repeatedly to appropriate dedicated funds to do all that extra work, leaving the Health and Human Services Department and other agencies to cobble together HealthCare.gov by redirecting funds from existing programs. On top of that, nearly half of the states declined to expand their Medicaid programs using federal funds, as the law envisioned.
The repugican manufactured shutdown on the very day of the opening of the exchanges further burdened the administration and disrupted last minute efforts regarding the rollout. This seems like common sense; it’s amazing that the media never asked repugicans about this in all of their incessant complaining about the website that they sabotaged.
And the cherry:
In fact, putting an excessive burden on the federal government was the explicit aim of the law’s opponents. “Congress authorized no funds for federal ‘fallback’ exchanges,” the tea party patriots website noted as long ago as last December. “So Washington may not be able to impose exchanges on states at all.” The group went on to suggest that since Washington was not equipped to handle so many state exchanges, “both financially and otherwise — this means the entire law could implode on itself.
You’ve got to read the entire piece, as I narrowed this down to the salient point that caught my eye since I’ve been suggesting that the repugican states refusals to implement the exchanges placed an extra burden on the federal site and had an impact on the rollout from the beginning. Capacity is a huge part of any website. Their careful denying of funding and public plans that the combination of these forces would prove too much for the website and thus cause the law to implode shows their desperate dedication to destroying ObamaCare.
The entire two page piece carefully lays out the planned sabotage of ObamaCare. The repugican ability to surgically coordinate these plans and never get busted by the media is impressive. Or it would be if our media weren’t so pathetic. Their plan is still a fail, though, as a failed website was never going to destroy the law. Relying on their illogical, mad belief system is exactly why repugicans can’t get their act together.
The repugicans might not be winning the messaging with their constant destruction of everything in their paths, but they are hurting this country.
Typically, most Democrats — including Kathleen Sebelius — refuse to point the finger at repugicans. It’s rude, childish and unfitting. Instead they play the grown up, taking responsibility because the buck stops with them. That is as it should be, but it’s a big fail in this political climate.
Democrats need to drive these truths home and force the media to cover them. Politicians are the actors and the beltway media is TMZ. Make a stir. Show some metaphorical leg. Point fingers.
Yes, it will be degrading and ugly, but the truth is that Republicans are never going to stop this – they can’t be taught to behave and put country first. They will have to be shamed by the truth each time.
This media is lazy and they like their narratives to paint the Obama (who refuses to do the beltway thing) as the bad guy. That’s fine for him, as he’s not facing re-election, but Democratic lawmakers can’t afford to let the media chase Republican narratives anymore.
If for no other reason than this is hurting our country, Democrats need to buck up and kick back. Drop some soundbites, craft a narrative, be outraged. It’s theater, and the most dramatic wins when the media has turned into a Beltway TMZ.



Historically Accurate Snow White

We previously featured Claire Hummel's drawings showing how Disney princesses would dress if their costumes were historically accurate. Now here's a cool take on her Snow White drawing turned into an actual dress by DeviantArt cosplayer Tsu-yaa. In case you're wondering, the story takes place in Germany in approximately 1500-1550.
The pictures look particularly great considering that they were shot in a small Austrian castle. If I was Snow, I would be wary of that giant mirror, mirror on the wall. That thing is just bad news, even if it is just being honest.

Man in Nazi uniform asked to leave store

Staff at an Asda supermarket in Cambridge, England, asked a man wearing a black SS uniform to leave. "We had a number of customer complaints," said a spokeswoman.

Lady upset over missing crab legs arrested

A Florida woman who was upset about a missing bag of crab legs, ended up being arrested after yelling and cursing at police and neighbours. Fort Pierce Police initially arrived at Lisa Mato’s home at around 12:10am on October 17th to investigate a possible burglary.
An officer spoke with Ms Matos, 52, who said she got home and noticed food was missing. "All my (fornicating) food is gone," Matos is quoted as saying. Police noted Ms Matos was intoxicated and used "excessive profanity." Ms Matos, who shares her home with various roommates said she pays rent by buying food for the household, "is very angry due to a missing bag of crab legs," a report states.

Meanwhile, an officer determined there was no crime, but Matos kept yelling foul language at neighbours and police. As police spoke to Ms Matos, she went in the home, grabbed several packets of chicken and tried to walk away. "I'll (fornicating) get all of you, this is my (fornicating) chicken," Matos is quoted as saying. Police handcuffed Matos and put her in a patrol vehicle.
She declined to give her name or date of birth, saying, "'(Fornicate) you, I'm not giving you my name,'" a report states. Ms Matos was arrested on charges including disorderly intoxication and resist officer-obstruct without violence. The report didn't state what happened to the bag of crab legs.

Teenage girl dressed as chicken punched on first day at work

A teenage girl who was attacked while dressed as a chicken was on her first day in the job. Police have appealed for witnesses following the attack, which happened in Northampton town centre sometime between 3.10pm and 3.40pm on Sunday afternoon, when the 17-year-old girl dressed in a giant chicken suit was punched by a teenage boy.

The girl, who was “shaken up” but not seriously hurt, had been promoting Pepe’s Piri Piri, a chicken take-away, while dressed as the shop’s mascot. The shop’s owner, Muhammad Junaid, said: “She came in with her CV and the next day she came in as planned to put on the chicken suit. She wanted to wear our chicken suit, she was very enthusiastic about it and very happy about it.
"She had lots of A* qualifications and merits so I asked her if she was sure she really wanted to be our chicken, and she said yes. I think she thought it would be a fun way to earn a little money for a few days." Mr Junaid said he told her when wearing the large costume she needed to 'be aware of your environment and watch your back'. "Luckily the mascot face is very big, so that protected her, but why anyone would do it, I just do not know," he added.

Mr Junaid also revealed that thugs had previously attacked another person who was dressed as the shop’s chicken mascot. He said: “In the past someone has tried to push the chicken in front of a bus.
 This summer we didn’t get the chicken suit out. It is only the second time this year we have used it.” Northamptonshire Police are looking for a boy, aged about 14, 5ft 3in (1.6m) tall and of slim build. He was wearing a blue hooded top with white stripes on the sleeve and dark tracksuit bottoms. It is believed he was with another boy who was riding a BMX bike.

Scientist Finally Discover Why Hot Water Freezes Faster Than Cold Water

Aristotle first noticed that hot water freezes faster than cold water but chemists have always struggled to explain the paradox. Until now. Xi Zhang at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore says that the Mpemba paradox is the result of the unique properties of the different bonds that hold water together.
The Mpemba effect is named after Tanzanian student Erasto Mpemba who discovered that a hot ice cream mix freezes faster than a cold mix in cookery classes in the early 1960s.

Paleontologist presents origin of life theory

It has baffled humans for millennia: how did life begin on planet Earth? Now, new research from a Texas Tech University paleontologist suggests it may have rained from the skies and started in the bowels of hell.
Paleontologist presents origin of life theory
Meteorite bombardment left large craters that contained water and chemical building blocks
for life, which ultimately led to the first organisms [Credit: Texas Tech University]
Sankar Chatterjee, Horn Professor of Geosciences and curator of paleontology at The Museum of Texas Tech University believes he has found the answer by connecting theories on chemical evolution with evidence related to our planet’s early geology.

“This is bigger than finding any dinosaur,” Chatterjee said. “This is what we’ve all searched for – the Holy Grail of science.”

Thanks to regular and heavy comet and meteorite bombardment of Earth’s surface during its formative years 4 billion years ago, the large craters left behind not only contained water and the basic chemical building blocks for life, but also became the perfect crucible to concentrate and cook these chemicals to create the first simple organisms.
Paleontologist presents origin of life theory
Crater basins may have been the crucible of life
[Credit: Texas Tech University]
He will present his findings Oct. 30 during the 125th Anniversary Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America in Denver.

As well as discovering how ancient animals flew, Chatterjee discovered the Shiva Meteorite Crater, which was created by a 25-mile-wide meteorite that struck off the coast of India. This research concluded this giant meteorite wreaked havoc simultaneously with the Chicxulub meteorite strike near Mexico, finishing the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

Ironically, Chatterjee’s latest research suggests meteorites can be givers of life as well as takers. He said that meteor and comet strikes likely brought the ingredients and created the right conditions for life on our planet. By studying three sites containing the world’s oldest fossils, he believes he knows how the first single-celled organisms formed in hydrothermal crater basins.
Paleontologist presents origin of life theory
As the basins filled, volcanically driven geothermal vents heated the water and
created convection. The result was constant water movement, creating
a thick primordial soup [Credit: Texas Tech University]
“When the Earth formed some 4.5 billion years ago, it was a sterile planet inhospitable to living organisms,” Chatterjee said. “It was a seething cauldron of erupting volcanoes, raining meteors and hot, noxious gasses. One billion years later, it was a placid, watery planet teeming with microbial life – the ancestors to all living things.”

Recipe for Living

“For may years, the debate on the origins of life centered on the chemical evolution of living cells from organic molecules by natural processes. Chatterjee said life began in four steps of increasing complexity – cosmic, geological, chemical and biological.
Paleontologist presents origin of life theory
Hierarchical Origin of Life: Historical Contingency Parsimony principle chooses
the simplest explanation for the origin of life [Credit: Texas Tech University]
In the cosmic stage, a still-forming Earth and our solar system took a daily pounding from rocky asteroids and icy comets between 4.1 to 3.8 billion years ago. Plate tectonics, wind and water have hidden evidence of this early onslaught on our planet, but ancient craters on the surfaces of Mars, Venus, Mercury and our moon show just how heavy the meteorite showers once were.

Larger meteorites that created impact basins of about 350 miles in diameter inadvertently became the perfect crucibles, he said. These meteorites also punched through the Earth’s crust, creating volcanically driven geothermal vents. Also, they brought the basic building blocks of life that could be concentrated and polymerized in the crater basins.

After studying the environments of the oldest fossil-containing rocks on Earth in Greenland, Australia and South Africa, Chatterjee said these could be remnants of ancient craters and may be the very spots where life began in deep, dark and hot environments.
Paleontologist presents origin of life theory
Crater Basin with Hydrothermal Vent System Meteorites brought biomolecules
of cell membrane [Credit: Texas Tech University]
Because of Earth’s perfect proximity to the sun, the comets that crashed here melted into water and filled these basins with water and more ingredients. This gave rise to the geological stage. As these basins filled, geothermal venting heated the water and created convection, causing the water to move constantly and create a thick primordial soup.

“The geological stage provides special dark, hot, and isolated environments of the crater basins with the hydrothermal vent systems that served as incubators for life,” he said. “Segregation and concentration of organic molecules by convective currents took place here, something like the kinds we find on the ocean floor, but still very different. It was a bizarre and isolated world that would seem like a vision of hell with the foul smells of hydrogen sulfide, methane, nitric oxide and steam that provided life-sustaining energy.”

Then began the chemical stage, Chatterjee said. The heat churning the water inside the craters mixed chemicals together and caused simple compounds to grow into larger, more complex ones.

Protecting Important Information

Most likely, pores and crevices on the crater basins acted as scaffolds for concentrations of simple RNA and protein molecules, he said. Unlike a popular theory that believes RNA came first and proteins followed, Chatterjee believes RNA and proteins emerged simultaneously and were encapsulated and protected from the environment.
Paleontologist presents origin of life theory
Endosymbiotic origin of Eukoryote cells
[Credit: Texas Tech University]
“The dual origin of the ‘RNA/protein’ world is more plausible in the vent environments than the popular ‘RNA world,’” he said. “RNA molecules are very unstable. In vent environments, they would decompose quickly. Some catalysts, such as simple proteins, were necessary for primitive RNA to replicate and metabolize. On the other hand, amino acids, from which proteins are made, are easier to make than RNA components.”

The question remains how loose RNA and protein material floating in this soup protected itself in a membrane. Chatterjee believes University of California professor David Deamer’s hypothesis that membranous material existed in the primordial soup. Deamer isolated fatty acid vesicles from the Murchison meteorite that fell in 1969 in Australia. The cosmic fatty bubbles extracted from the meteorite mimic cell membranes.

“Meteorites brought this fatty lipid material to early Earth,” Chatterjee said. “This fatty lipid material floated on top of the water surface of crater basins but moved to the bottom by convection currents. At some point in this process during the course of millions of years, this fatty membrane could have encapsulated simple RNA and proteins together like a soap bubble. The RNA and protein molecules begin interacting and communicating. Eventually RNA gave way to DNA – a much more stable compound – and with the development of the genetic code, the first cells divided.”
Paleontologist presents origin of life theory
Fossilized early life [Credit: Texas Tech University]
The final stage – the biological stage – represents the origin of replicating cells as they began to store, process and transmit genetic information to their daughter cells, Chatterjee said. Infinite combinations took place, and countless numbers must have failed to function before the secret of replication was broken and the proper selection occurred.

“These self-sustaining first cells were capable of Darwinian evolution,” he said. “The emergence of the first cells on the early Earth was the culmination of a long history of prior chemical, geological and cosmic processes.”

Chatterjee also believes that modern RNA-viruses and protein-rich prions that cause deadly diseases probably represent the evolutionary legacy of primitive RNA and protein molecules. They may be the oldest cellular particles that predated the first cellular life. Once cellular life evolved, RNA-viruses and prions became redundant, but survived as parasites on the living cells.

The problem with theories on the origins of life is that they don’t propose any experiments that lead to the emergence of cells, Chatterjee said. However, he suggested an experiment to recreate the ancient prebiotic world and support or refute his theory.

“If future experiments with membrane-bound RNA viruses and prions result in the creation of a synthetic protocell, it may reflect the plausible pathways for the emergence of life on early Earth,” he said.

Looters destroying history in Western North Carolina forests

Clues to ages gone by are scattered in forested coves across Western North Carolina. Often they are stone tools, shards of pottery and other remnants of the lives of Native Americans buried in spots where they gathered.
Looters destroying history in Western North Carolina forests
Preserving archaeology sites from looters essentia...: Archaeologist Rodney Snedeker discusses the importance of preserving sites in WNC that hold historical treasures. He says sites are increasingly being looted by amatuer relic hunters [Credit: Clarke Morrison, Robert Bradley/Asheville Citizen-Times]
Some thousands of years old, the items are important to archaeologists who work to piece together the region's history.

"They tell us about who used to live here and how they lived," said Rodney Snedeker, forest archaeologist and tribal liaison with the National Forests in North Carolina. "That tells us about human behavior. They also contain a lot of data about environmental changes over time."

But Snedeker and other archaeologists say these historical treasures are increasingly being looted by amateur relic hunters who dig up sites in the national forests, looking for arrowheads and other artifacts.

The arrowheads can sell for as little as $5 apiece. Other items can fetch thousands of dollars.

A search on eBay for "Indian artifacts for sale" results in a list of more than 3,000 items.

The looting of important historical sites is a felony crime under the federal Archaeological Resources Protection Act. First-time offenders can be fined up to $20,000 and imprisoned for up to a year, while second-time offenders face fines up to $100,000 and up to five years in prison.

Even with heavy potential sentences, the number of documented violations of the Archaeological Resources Protection Act in North Carolina's national forests has nearly doubled in recent years to about 20-25 a year.

A federal grand jury in Asheville recently indicted two men on charges of violating the act. According to court records, Michael E. Ballew and Kelly Daniel Robinson damaged archaeological resources in the Upper Curtis Creek area of Pisgah National Forest in McDowell County. The violations occurred in July and August 2011 and the summer of 2012, the indictment states.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Edwards said he couldn't provide details about damage done at the site because the case is pending.

Ballew and Robinson were released on $25,000 unsecured bonds following a hearing in U.S. District Court in Asheville. Trial dates have not been scheduled, according to court records. Neither man could be reached for comment.

Thousands of acres, little oversight

Archaeological resources are vulnerable because they usually are in places where people believe they can do something illicit without being observed.

Looters know to look by targeting rock overhangs that were used by Native Americans for shelter, said David Moore, who runs the archaeology program at Warren Wilson College.

Moore said he witnessed damage to sites in the Upper Curtis Creek area from people digging around the rock outcroppings.

"It was clear that people were vandalizing them, people digging in the soil in the shelter, very intentionally looking for artifacts," he said. "We have many examples of these kinds of sites that have been destroyed by looting."

"They just dig holes and sift the soil," he said. "Usually they are looking for stone tools, arrowheads and spear points and things like that. And by definition, when you dig into an archaeological site you destroy it, because the context of that soil is what makes the site important."

The Forest Service has documented about 3,000 archaeological sites across Pisgah and Nantahala national forests, which cover more than a million acres in Western North Carolina, Snedeker said.
Looters destroying history in Western North Carolina forests
This Cherokee pottery shard was found on national forest land in Wester n North Carolina.[Credit: US forest Service/Asheville Citizen-Times]
But only about 20 percent of the forests has been inventoried, meaning there are many more sites yet to be found.

"These would be primarily prehistoric American Indian sites - hunting camps, areas where stone was quarried to make stone tools, village sites where groups of Indians lived," he said. "We have sites that are 10,000 to 12,000 years old, and we have American Indian sites that date all the way up to European contact."

Databases are maintained that contain information about the sites and their locations, but they aren't available to the public.

"There are unscrupulous people who would use them to find the sites and destroy them," Moore said.

Many sites on private land are vulnerable and have been impacted by development. That's why laws were enacted to protect archaeological resources on public lands, Snedeker said.

"The amount of damage has increased dramatically," he said. "People are digging a lot more at these sites and causing a lot more damage."

Snedeker cited the example of an area in Transylvania County that was discovered to have been looted in the late 1990s.

"It had artifacts that were at least 6,000 years old," he said. "It was a large cove where people had lived for thousands of years. People found all these holes in the ground and broken artifacts on the surface. It was heavily damaged."

No one was ever caught.

From historians to thieves

Snedeker believes the increase in looting is because of a greater interest in history and a desire by many to make money.

"They may do that for their own collections, or they may do it to sell the artifacts," Moore said. "There is a market. Today, it's often driven by these reality shows on television."

A show on cable network Spike TV called "American Digger" features a former professional wrestler who digs up artifacts and sells them. The National Geographic Channel also has a version called "Diggers."

Moore said the shows have been widely protested by professional archaeologists for the damage they promote.

Arrowheads and projectile points from Western North Carolina can sell anywhere from around $5 to as much as $100, depending on how old they are and where they were found, Snedeker said.

"Whole vessels can sell for much more. They can sell for hundreds of dollars, possibly thousands," he said. "The more rare an item is and the more location information you have on it makes it worth more.

"There's an international market for American Indian artifacts. Some pottery items in the Southwest have sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars."

It's not illegal to sell artifacts, but it's illegal to dig them up on federal land, Snedeker said.

Forest Service rangers patrol and sometimes use surveillance in areas prone to looting in an attempt to catch violators, Snedeker said. They also get tips from the public about such damage.

The agency also conducts demonstrations to educate the public about why it's important to protect archaeological resources.

"Archaeological sites are public property," he said. "They belong to everyone. They're the history of everyone who lived here, everyone who might have done something here."

A 1,500-year-old Roman gold coin unearthed at Chinese tomb

Archaeologists conducting excavations at an ancient tomb in Luoyang, Henan Province, China, found Monday a gold coin from the East Roman era estimated to be over 1,500 years old.
1,500-year-old Roman gold coin unearthed at Chinese tomb
The coin found, like this one, is from the East Roman Empire era
[Credit: Mining Com]
The finding, reports China National News, is yet another proof of a long history of exchange between the Eastern and the Western civilizations and suggests that the area was part of the ancient section of the “Silk Road,” used by merchants traveling between China and the Mediterranean cultures.

Though Western coins had been discovered at ancient tombs in China, the one unearthed yesterday preserved its original shape, to the point that —when found— reportedly glittered just like a brand new one would.

Minted during 491–518 AD, the gold coin was likely used as an amulet or an ornament, rather than as an accepted currency in China.

The tomb, discovered during road construction work last year, is located in an area believe to have host an imperial cemetery area from the Northern Wei Dynasty. Up to now, chinaware, bronze utensils and stoneware have been found there.

First depiction of a Volcano?

Was humanity's first depiction of a volcanic eruption daubed on the wall of a house in Turkey 8500 years ago? Geological evidence now supports this controversial claim.
Ancient mural may be first picture of volcanic blast
The inhabitants of Catalhoyuk may have seen Hasan Dag erupt
[Credit: Images and Stories/Alamy]
In 1963, archaeologist James Mellaart found a large mural on the wall of a house in Catalhoyuk, the largest known Stone Age town. He interpreted it as depicting a plan layout of the town's dwellings with a twin-peaked volcano, Hasan Dag, looming behind – captured dramatically in the process of erupting.

If correct, the interpretation makes the mural the earliest depiction of a geological observation.

But not everyone agrees with Mellaart, partly because there was no evidence that Catalhoyuk's people saw Hasan Dag erupt, says Axel Schmitt, a volcanologist of the University of California in Los Angeles.

Now Schmitt and his colleagues have found that evidence, and are presenting their work at the Geological Society of America conference in Denver, Colorado today. They climbed Hasan Dag and collected samples from layers of pumice, a volcanic rock formed during an explosive eruption. By extracting zircon crystals from the pumice and using radiometric dating, they confirm that the rocks are about 9000 years old – roughly the same age as the mural.
Ancient mural may be first picture of volcanic blast
Is it a volcano or is it leopard skin? Or is it both?
[Credit: Images and Stories/Alamy]
What's more, the geological evidence suggests the mural was a relatively accurate depiction of the eruption, says Schmitt. Previous interpretations of the image by volcanologists have suggested it was a small "Strombolian" eruption, he says, characterized by the ejection of bright cinder particles and chunks of molten rock tens of metres above the crater. "The available volcanological evidence is in accordance with this interpretation."

"It is encouraging to see that an eruption may have taken place at Hasan Dag within the time frame of the Catalhoyuk culture," says Haraldur Sigurdsson, a volcanologist at the University of Rhode Island, Narragansett. "I have all along been inclined to believe Mellaart's original interpretation – it is such a good story."

That is the problem, though, says Stephanie Meece, who studied the Catalhoyuk mural while at the University of Cambridge. She concluded that the "volcano" is in fact a depiction of a leopard skin, and the "town" beneath merely a collection of abstract shapes – which was, in fact, Mellaart's original impression.
Ancient mural may be first picture of volcanic blast
Hasan Dag volcano in Turkey erupted 9,000 years ago. The blast is depicted in the oldest
known painting of a volcanic eruption [Credit: Janet Harvey and Felix Wicke]
"It may look like a Strombolian-style eruption to modern-day geologists. But it looks absolutely like a leopard skin," says Meece. Other art at Catalhoyuk shows that the people who lived there were obsessed with wild animals, she says, and that they painted them often. None of their other artworks have been interpreted as landscapes or volcanoes.

Schmitt says the geological evidence is still important, and speculates on a possible compromise. "Zoomorphism could satisfy both interpretations," he says. "Hasan Dag could be seen as the 'leopard mountain'."

The Floating Islands Of Lake Titicaca

Titicaca is notable for a population of people who live on the Uros, a group of 44 or so artificial islands made of floating reeds. These islands have become a major tourist attraction for Peru, drawing excursions from the lakeside city of Puno. Their original purpose was defensive, and they could be moved if a threat arose.

Peru Floating Islands - Lake Titicaca
from Tin Rooster Media on Vimeo.

The Marble Caves Of Patagonia, Chile

Dubbed as the most beautiful cave network in the world, Cuevas de Marmol is a 6,000 year-old sculpture hewn by the crashing waves of Lake General Carrera of Patagonia in Southern Chile.

Also called the Marble Cathedral, the intricate caverns are part of a peninsula made of solid marble surrounded by the glacial Lake General Carrera that spans the Chile-Argentina border. The swirling pattern on the cave interiors are a reflection of the lake's azure waters, which change depending on the water levels dictated by weather and season.

Daily Comic Relief


Dog rescued by lifeboat and reunited with owners after 40ft cliff fall

A pet dog has been rescued by lifeboat after plummeting 40ft (12m) off cliffs in Pembrokeshire while on holiday with his owners. Chocolate Labrador Spice had to doggy-paddle in the sea for 40 minutes until he was picked up by a lifeboat close to Stackpole Quay near Pembroke.
Spice, who had been tiring from his unscheduled swim, was eventually reunited with his owners, from Lincoln. They had watched his struggle from the cliff top. Before the rescue, four-year-old Spice had managed to cling to a rocky out crop and as the crew approached he swam towards them, only to swim away as they got nearer.
A crew member with Tenby lifeboat then jumped into the water and guided Spice back to the boat. The RNLI said the dog was taken to a local vet and given the all clear. Spice's owners Tom and Kylie Crowe said they had let him off his lead to stretch his legs but he ended up falling off the cliffs. "One minute I could see him and the next thing I could hear someone shouting: 'There's a dog in the sea'. The next thing I realized it was mine," said Mr Crowe.

"Spice was in the water for nearly an hour. We were shouting him the whole time and had borrowed a pair of binoculars to watch the situation unfolding. A wave had swept him on to rocks at one point - we really didn't think he'd be coming home. Seeing Spice coming towards us with the lifeboat crew was such an emotional experience. I think we were both in shock but unbelievably grateful to the crew." Bob James of the RNLI said Spice was lucky to survive the fall. The rescue was filmed by a member of the lifeboat crew.

Man who stole puppies stuffed down his underpants did so for companionship

A homeless man smuggled out pet shop puppies in his underpants for ''companionship'', an Australian court has been told. Andre Jo Michel Saab, 23, was caught on CCTV stealing three puppies from two stores across southeast Queensland earlier this year.

Originally from Brisbane, Saab started out by smuggling a $995 lemon-colored beagle puppy from the Pet Super Store at Stafford on March 19. On April 28 he returned to the store and ran out with a $890 chihuahua puppy stuffed down his pants. A day later he hit the Puppy Palace at Enoggera and stole a $495 Jack Russell terrier.
Saab pleaded guilty in the Southport Magistrates Court to stealing. Solicitor Colin Greatorix said his client had been diagnosed with ADHD and Aspergers and self-medicated with ''a cornucopia'' of illicit substances, including heroin, meth, acid, and fantasy. ''When you look at his actions stuffing a puppy down his pants, they are not the actions of a rational human being,'' he said.

Mr Greatorix told the court Saab had a terrible childhood but loved pets and had stolen the dogs for companionship but in turn they were stolen off him when he was kicked out of temporary share accommodation. Magistrate Michael O'Driscoll said Saab's repeated offending put him dangerously close to a jail sentence but agreed rehabilitation through probation was the best course. He convicted and sentenced him to two years probation and ordered him to pay restitution to each store. Saab profusely apologized in court and thanked the magistrate for the second chance.

Cat has become regular visitor to pet store

Nearly every day Graham the cat visits the Pets at Home store in Boston, Lincolnshire. For the last few months the ginger and white tom has been strolling down the aisles helping himself to the catnip toys, sleeping on the cat beds and sitting down to watch the fish tanks and rodents.
Such is Graham’s love for the store that he is now regularly seen sitting outside the front doors between 6am and 7am. “When we open the doors at 9am he’s always our first customer,” said deputy manager Vicky Coker. “Sometimes he sits on the mat and greets customers as they come in. I think he’s built up a bit of a fan base.”

“He first showed up around three months ago and he’s here most days,” said staff member George Tarbox. “Initially we discouraged him from coming in, but he kept coming back. We thought it wouldn’t be very good to keep shooing him out as pets are always welcome at Pets at Home, it’s just that they usually come in on a lead with their owners!”

Staff decided to give him the odd cat treat to discourage him from stealing, and occasionally play with him using toys that aren’t for sale. “We have caught him chewing on a packet of cat food before, but he’s generally no trouble and likes to sit and watch the rodents, dragons and fish we have in store,” George added. “He’s become a bit of a celebrity too as we often have customers asking where he is.” Graham does have a home, but like a kid in a sweet shop, he can’t help but be enticed in by the treats on offer.

Pigeon fell down chimney into fire

A pigeon has been rescued from a fire after falling down a house chimney in Fife. The bird was pulled from the flames after a resident in Dunfermline's Cameron Street saw it fall into the open fire on 24 October.
The pigeon, nicknamed Smokey, suffered singed feathers and burnt feet. It is now being cared for at the Scottish SPCA's National Wildlife Rescue Center at Fishcross near Alloa. Colin Liddell, the center's assistant manager, said: "Smokey is doing remarkably well considering the traumatic time he's had lately."
He added: "His feet are swollen and sore from the fire but he's receiving antibiotics, painkillers and cooling antiseptic gel and he seems to be responding well to this treatment. He is eating absolutely everything on offer and is able to walk, however, he can't fly at all at the moment due to the damage to his feathers.

"We may have to pluck the burnt feathers out to encourage new growth and we hope that he'll make a full recovery once this happens. In the meantime, he'll remain in our care until he's fully fit and able to fly. Only then will we release him back into the wild. Hopefully he's learned his lesson and won't be sitting on any chimney pots after this lucky escape."

Animal Pictures