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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.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Daily Drift

Well ...!

Carolina Naturally is read in 194 countries around the world daily.
 
Go hard ... !
Today is - Globally Organized Hug A Runner Day aka G.O. H.A.R.D.
 

Don't forget to visit our sister blog: It Is What It Is

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Guayaquil, Ecuador
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Today in History

269 Diocletian is proclaimed emperor of Numerian in Asia Minor by his soldiers. He had been the commander of the emperor's bodyguard.
1695 Zumbi dos Palmares, the Brazilian leader of a 100-year-old rebel slave group, is killed in an ambush.
1700 Sweden's 17-year-old King Charles XII defeats the Russians at Narva.
1903 In Cheyenne, Wyoming, 42-year-old hired gunman Tom Horn is hanged for the murder of 14-year-old Willie Nickell.
1914 Bulgaria proclaims its neutrality in the First World War.
1928 Mrs. Glen Hyde becomes the first woman to dare the Grand Canyon rapids in a scow (a flat-bottomed boat that is pushed along with a pole).
1931 Japan and China reject the League of Council terms for Manchuria at Geneva.
1943 U.S. Army and Marine soldiers attack the Japanese-held islands of Makin and Tarawa, respectively, in the Central Pacific.
1945 The Nazi war crime trials begin at Nuremberg.
1947 Princess Elizabeth (future Queen Elizabeth II) marries Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in Westminster Abbey.
1950 U.S. troops push to the Yalu River, within five miles of Manchuria.
1955 The Maryland National Guard is ordered desegregated.
1962 President John F. Kennedy bars religious or racial discrimination in federally funded housing.
1967 U.S. census reports the population at 200 million.
1971 The United States announces it will give Turkey $35 million for farmers who agree to stop growing opium poppies.
1974 The United States files an antitrust suit to break up ATT.
1978 In Jonestown, Guyana, American Rev. Jim Jones leads his followers in a mass suicide.
1982 South Africa backs down on a plan to install black rule in neighboring Namibia.

Non Sequitur

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Captain America in a turban

Captain america subway 620x412
Vishavjit Singh, a Sikh cartoonist, spent a day in NYC dressed as Captain America in a turban. (Photo above by Fiona Aboud.) Over at Salon, Singh posted some of what he learned from the experience. Below, a bit of that and also a video of the superhero in action.
5) This one is for brown people. Stop riding the coattails of the victimization of black people at the hands of white people. Racism can be both personal and/or institutional. Racism is also an equal-opportunity employer. Racists exist in all communities. You don’t know the shit South Asian brown people sometimes say about black people. I do, since I have grown up in a South Asian household. Look at the bright side and see what we have in common. We are all susceptible to the perils of racism regardless of our backgrounds. So let that be the starting point and revelation that brings us together to solve our problems, rather than maligning entire groups of people. Honestly, I knew this before donning the Captain America uniform, but it sounds more heroic coming from my new alter-ego. 6) We are all bathing in ignorance. It is an integral part of life. Guess what, that is not a bad thing at all. It is the unknown that has driven humankind for eons to explore and discover our environs. Most Americans, actually many across the globe, have no clue who Sikhs are. And, believe me, there are many people and things I have no clue about either. Ignorance is not the problem. It is what we do with ignorance, our ensuing actions, that create real moments in life. Would I love to see everyone on this planet know who Sikhs are, not make us targets of hate, leave us alone and do a better job of targeting someone else? Hell no. I want a world where we can embrace each other despite our ignorance, in celebration of our differences.

Coming soon: The Very Large Hadron Collider?

What comes after the Large Hadron Collider? 
Obviously, the answer is a Very Large Hadron Collider. 

Did you know ...

About the lasting impact of poverty on the brain

That the wingnuts tried to hide 10 years of speeches from the internet

Just follow the fracking money

That even wingnuts become liberals when they turn off faux news

NSA FOIA requests up 988%

No surprise that the NSA is facing its largest-ever increase in Freedom of Information Act requests: up 988 percent. Don't worry, though: the agency has a strategy for coping with the flood-tide of queries about warrantless spying: it just denies all of them. 

Stock Market Hits Record High of 16,000 Under ‘Terrible Socialist’ Barack Obama

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David Plouffe, 2008 campaign manager for Barack Obama, isn’t going to miss this opportunity. When the Dow Jones hit 16,000 for the first time Monday morning, Plouffe tweeted, “DJIA 6443 March 6 2009. DJIA 16000+ Nov 18 2013. That terrible socialist, @BarackObama.”
The Dow Jones industrial average hit 16,000 for the first time Monday morning, and the Nasdaq began within 15 points of 4,000 (last seen in 2000). The S&P 500, which passed $16 trillion in market value for the first time, is up 26.1%.
With consumer spending driving our economy, the question now is will shoppers take us even higher or will profit taking mitigate much of the gain.
These numbers aren’t new – all summer long, we’ve been making record gains in the stock market. Instead of discussing the good news or the ramifications of said good news, our media has been busy chasing down fake scandals, ginned up scandals, and finally – oh finally—a real scandal – a website with a glitch.
In July, stocks were up 110% under Obama, closing in on Reagan’s 116%.
Expect to hear nothing about this, just like we heard nothing about the record surplus in June.
Obama has now stolen national security and the economy from Republicans. The media tells us Obama is finished as a President because of the website glitches, but my money is on what other issue he can steal from the repugican cabal before 2016.

The Kochs and Their Astroturf tea party Are Demanding an Exemption From Campaign Finance Rules

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Americans should hope that their government weighs decisions affecting the outcome of America’s electoral process on laws and reality; not out of sorrow for fabricated suffering and misfortunes of billionaires claiming they are targets of disparaging public commentary and scorn. A little over three years ago, the conservative Supreme Court was overwhelmed with pity and sorrow for the Koch brothers and their surrogate wingnut non-profit, Citizens United, and ruled that after being put upon by Federal Elections Commission rules regarding corporate campaign finance laws, the wealthiest corporations were entitled to First Amendment protections prohibiting government from restricting political independent expenditures by corporations.
Up until the time the High Court ruling on Citizens United was handed down, the public was oblivious to the Koch brothers’ machinations to hijack the electoral process resulting in little to no public outcry against exempting the richest corporations in the nation from buying elections.  It appears Americans are being kept unawares again as the Koch’s so-called grass-roots organization, the teabaggers, have asked for an FEC exemption on campaign finance disclosure rules.
The teabaggers appealed directly to the Federal Elections Commission in September with the outrageous claim they are being assailed by, and encounter unprecedented harassment from, both government officials and private actors.  Their appeal claimed their wealthy corporate contributors face widespread hostility and “a reasonable probability of threats, harassment, or reprisal” because of their extraordinary desire to “curb increasing government infringement of their individual liberties.” The Koch brothers’ organization also asserted that all they are comprised of are besieged individual groups who share common values including “limited federal government, respect for the original meaning of the Constitution, fiscal responsibility, and returning political power to the states and the people.”
To garner extra pity, the appeal claimed “the tea party is not a political party because it does not nominate candidates to federal office.” One wonders if Koch brother acolytes and tea party Senators Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Marco Rubio, as well as a herd of congressional representatives qualified as candidates for federal office. It is claims like “the tea party is not a political party” that engenders some of the harassment as filthy liars and imbeciles the group claims qualifies them for exemption from campaign finance laws. To garner even more pity, the teabaggers claimed it is just a simple “nationwide grassroots movement that arose organically in 2009 out of an immense” hatred for the federal government; especially since the American people elected an African American man as President. The billionaire Koch brothers and their dark money certainly played a crucial role in the ascendance of the teabaggers who also benefitted from the Kochs’ influence on the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling.
The FEC seems conflicted about whether to give the Koch brothers (teabagger) organization an exemption from adhering to campaign finance disclosure laws based on if they are either beleaguered victims of public derision and mockery, or just another political party and dark money concealment mechanism. In fact, although there is a public hearing to settle the issue set for November 21st, the FEC has drafted two separate rulings  in advance of the November 21st hearing to either; grant the Kochs an exemption based on the teabagger’s claim of public harassment and ridicule, or a rejection because the Koch’s teabaggers are not, as they claim, a minor party or organization. It has been well-documented, beyond a shadow of doubt, that the teabaggers are not an “organic grass roots organization,” and although their limited government, states’ supremacy, fiscal austerity, and individual liberty to flaunt federal law goals may be sincere, they were cultivated, incited, and heavily funded by the libertarian billionaire Koch brothers.
That the FEC is even considering granting the Koch brothers’ tea party an exemption from FEC reporting and disclosure requirements, including their dark money donors, is beyond outrageous in light of the democracy-killing Citizens United ruling courtesy of Koch surrogates Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia on the wingnut Supreme Court. It is little surprise that, like the Citizens United ruling, the Kochs’ organization is appealing directly to the FEC leading up to the 2014 midterm elections. Americans are still reeling from the devastating effects of the Citizens United ruling on the 2010 midterms, and with news that the Kochs and teabagger Ted Cruz are embroiled in a shadowy tea party scheme driving a wingnut group “masquerading as a mainstream non-profit to push extremist laws” in every state, the likelihood they would transfer millions to an exempt organization is very real outcome of an FEC ruling favorable to the Kochs.
The report by the Center for Media and Democracy focusing on the State Policy Network revealed that the “network” and its “affiliates” are pouring $83 million in the states to promote an extreme conservative agenda, and they claim “that money is on the rise.” The group is backed by the Koch brothers and teabagger Ted Cruz, as well as numerous ties to ALEC. At its annual meeting in September there were representatives from “Koch Industries, the Charles Koch Institute, the Charles Koch Foundation, and several Koch-backed wingnut groups such as Americans for Prosperity.” With the group being investigated for orchestrating extensive lobbying and political operations while registered as educational nonprofits peddling an extreme conservative agenda to state legislators, it appears they are “in violation of IRS’ regulations on nonprofit political and lobbying activities.” A favorable ruling by the FEC granting the Kochs’ teabaggers an exemption to conceal their dark money makes it reasonable to assume the billionaire libertarians would simply shift tens-of-millions to teabaggers under cover of an FEC exemption.
Although the audacity of the Kochs’ teabaggers to demand an exemption from FEC campaign disclosure laws is an affront to the American people, and democracy, it should not surprise anyone. What is shocking is that the FEC even remotely considered drafting a favorable ruling to the Kochs’ organization; particularly in advance of a hearing a week away and especially based on their claim they are not a political party, are offended they are the butt of Americans’ jokes, and claim they face a “reasonable probability of threats, harassment, or reprisal” if they reveal their financing comes from the Koch brothers. Unlike the Koch brothers’ surrogates on the Supreme Court sneak attack on democracy, alerts from at least one progressive watchdog exposed the Kochs’ stealth attack on democracy leading up to the 2014 midterm elections.
News of this blatant assault on the electoral process should enrage the people and incite them to mobilize and march on FEC headquarters on November 21st to demand they reject the Kochs’ teabagger exemption with extreme prejudice. In lieu of a mass in-person advance on the FEC hearing to demand the Koch’s attempt to hijack another midterm election is stopped in its tracks, there is a petition to demand that the “FEC Don’t Let Billionaires Buy Our Electionhere. The Koch brothers own repugicans in Congress, governors’ mansions, and state legislatures, two Supreme Court Justices, and are attempting to own the electoral process outright. After the Citizens United ruling, if the FEC exempts the Kochs’ teabagger organization from adhering to campaign disclosure rules, they will finally achieve their ultimate goal and own America.

Have Decades of repugican Deregulation & Safety Net Gutting Made Depression the New Normal?

great-depression
Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman is never afraid to ask the tough questions. Though his Times blog bears the name “The Conscience of Liberal,” the title is sort of an unfortunate misnomer. Krugman’s esteemed reputation was fostered by a decidedly nonpartisan, common sense approach to policy evaluation. It is more a sign of the times that his Keynesian monetary philosophy has earned him the liberal firebrand label. It’s not that Krugman has moved to the left over the course of his career. It’s more that politicians, the media and other economy wonks have veered so far rightward.
I also appreciate that Krugman is an agitator, failing to be complacent about the status quo while accepting situations as “the way things are.” Thank goodness because we live in an era of such whitewashed talking points, of corporate media ownership and blurred lines between church and state that feed each other symbiotically.  It’s a real challenge to stumble across any real, independent thinkers.
This week, Krugman is at it again, acting as the proverbial thorn in the side of the “deficit scolds” he sees it as his civic duty to expose. In an early Monday morning column entitled, “A Permanent Slump?,” he wonders, “what if the world we’ve been living in for the past five years is the new normal? What if depression-like conditions are on track to persist, not for another year or two, but for decades?”
If it is indeed the case that the anemic job and economic growth we’ve experienced in recent years (and, as Krugman rightly points out, well precedes the late-2008 housing and stock market collapses) is now standard operating procedure, we have to go further. We must ask ourselves what’s changed? Why does it seem the robust glory days of the American middle class are behind us, and why should we accept this as so?
Krugman begins with a rather empirical observation about the undistinguished trap of modern economics. He notes, “the evidence suggests that we have become an economy whose normal state is one of mild depression, whose brief episodes of prosperity occur only thanks to bubbles and unsustainable borrowing.”  Thus he ties the latter shrub “boom years” not to genuine expansion, but rather the disingenuous fraud perpetrated by record household debt and criminally destructive mortgage lending.
Slower post-Boomer population growth, which has led to reduced demand for infrastructure, products and services is offered as an unavoidable accessory to the economy’s stagnation, as well as “persistent trade deficits, which emerged in the 1980s and since then have fluctuated but never gone away.”
All common sense as pertains to the “why?” and I’m sure that even most right-wing economists would find little with which to quibble thus far. But then Krugman transcends the talking point laziness afflicting most repugican mis-think tanks and dares to ask “what?” we can do to upend this trap.
“Central bankers [including the Fed] need to stop talking about ‘exit strategies.’ Easy money should, and probably will, be with us for a very long time. This, in turn, means we can forget all those scare stories about government debt…if our economy has a persistent tendency toward depression, we’re going to be living under the looking-glass rules of depression economics — in which virtue is vice and prudence is folly, in which attempts to save more (including attempts to reduce budget deficits) make everyone worse off — for a long time.”
And this is where he goes in for the kill vis a vis repugican policymakers and the cowardly, election cycle-focused Democrats afraid to contradict them:
“I know that many people just hate this kind of talk. It offends their sense of rightness, indeed their sense of morality. Economics is supposed to be about making hard choices (at other people’s expense, naturally). It’s not supposed to be about persuading people to spend more.”
Ironically, the “spend more” doctrine was championed by shrub after the atrocities of 9/11, rightfully so, in order to stave off a panic-induced economic contraction.  The shrub offered up tax rebates and broadly encouraged Americans to use the funds to stimulate the economy, rather than save or pay down household debt. I offer this example not to champion the overall deficit-busting proclivities of the shrub, but rather to hearken back to a time, just a little over a decade ago, when repugican economic policy went further than robbing the lower and middle classes to give gifts to the rich, all while performing Jedi mind tricks in an effort to convince the struggling that these actions were in their best interest.
For years now, the modern repugican cabal has tried to leverage the Federal deficit, combined with “these are unusual times” rhetoric to try to wrench the social safety net out from under us, and delay job-creation spending to provide relief to the long-term unemployed. Only, as Paul Krugman demonstrates, these are not unusual times and current policy, if left unchecked, will only worsen the decline of hardworking American prospects.
That’s exactly what the one percent is hoping.  If we let these tactics continue to succeed as they have, shame on all of us.

Walmart Is Being Prosecuted for Illegally Firing or Disciplining 117 Employees

101112_WalmartProtest
The NLRB has announced that they will be prosecuting Walmart for the illegal firing or disciplining of 117 employees who asked for better wages and treatment.
According to Our WalMart,
The National Labor Relations Board General Counsel is issuing a decision today to prosecute Walmart for its widespread violations of its workers’ rights. The decision will provide additional protection for Walmart’s 1.3 million employees when they are speaking out for better jobs at the country’s largest employer.
The Board will prosecute Walmart’s illegal firings and disciplinary actions involving more than 117 workers, including those who went on strike last June, according to the decision.
The decision addresses threats by managers and the company’s national spokesperson for discouraging workers from striking and for taking illegal disciplinary actions against workers who were on legally protected strikes. Workers could be awarded back pay, reinstatement and the reversal of disciplinary actions through the decision; and Walmart could be required to inform and educate all employees of their legally protected rights.
The decision to prosecute Walmart comes in reply to charges that were made in relation to the Black Friday 2012 protest and strike. At that time, Walmart managers escalated their threats and actions that were meant to discourage workers from going on strike.
The NLRB decision also covers illegal firing and disciplining that took place after Walmart workers took their concerns to company’s shareholder meeting in June. When those employees returned to work, 43 of them were fired, and 23 others were disciplined.
In post-recession America, Walmart’s treatment of their employees is viewed in a different light. WalMart is exploiting and mistreating their employees in a country where 76% of those polled favored raising the minimum wage.

Public opinion has turned against Walmart, customers are fleeing, and now the federal government is no longer going to turn a blind eye to their abuse of their employees.

Random Celebrity Photos

greeneyes55:

Brigitte Bardot on set 1958
Photo: Loomis DeanĀ 
Brigitte Bardot on set 1958

The Differences Between British and American English

I suspect that most Americans will be familiar with both terms, thanks to the prevalence of British television in the United States (thank you, Doctor Who and Downton Abbey).
But, British visitors, you may want to study this list attributed to Quantum Pirate. Asking for a bunglespleen at the grocery store could lead to confusion in the States.

Mother fined $10 for not including Ritz crackers in kids' school lunch

 
The Manitoba Child Care Association fined mother Kristen Bartkiw $10 because she neglected to include healthful Ritz crackers in her kids' school lunches. Weighty Matters has more details:
She sent her children to daycare with with lunches containing leftover homemade roast beef and potatoes, carrots, an orange and some milk.
She did not send along any "grains".
As a consequence the school provided her children with, I kid you not, supplemental Ritz Crackers, and her with a $10 fine.

Man aghast at price of bacon damaged restaurant door

A man has been charged with causing over $600 damage to a restaurant door as he was annoyed with being charged $3.25 for a serving of bacon.

Mark DaCosta admitted smashing the glass door of the Paraquet restaurant in Paget, Bermuda - owned by his cousin, Jonathan Correia - but pleaded not guilty to causing willful damage, claiming it was an accident.
Mr DaCosta said he was “irate” after being charged $3.25 for a plate of bacon, and in his anger accidentally broke the door after trying to open it with his foot. He added that he had spoken to his cousin and promised to pay for the damage, but was subsequently arrested by police. “We are cousins. We pinged marbles together,” said Mr DaCosta.

“This is a huge waste of time. It’s a family owned restaurant. I would never do that on purpose. I go there every week.” Mr DaCosta said he has been eating at his cousin’s restaurant for over 15 years. “Nowhere in Bermuda do you pay $3.25 for bacon,” the 34-year-old told the court. The trial is set for November 19.

Super spicy snacks are causing children to be hospitalized

Super spicy chips and snack foods have come under attack as being unhealthy, with certain school districts even going so far as to ban some brands from their schools. But now doctors in the US say there's another reason spicy junk food should be avoided: It can result in a trip to the emergency room. Emergency room doctors said they were seeing kids and some adults coming into the ER with gastritis, an inflamed stomach lining, or other stomach ailments after eating bags of spicy snack foods.
In Los Angeles, 12-year-old Andrew Medina experienced stomach pain on and off for weeks before seeing a doctor. It's "like if you have a bruise or something. It really hurts a lot," is how Andrew described the pain. Andrew said that he probably eats between 20 to 30 bags of spicy chips and snacks a month. The practice among kids and adolescents to not only eat junk food but very spicy junk food worries doctors, who say spicy snack foods can change the pH balance in the stomach, making it painfully acidic.

Dr. Martha Rivera, a pediatrician at White Memorial Medical Center in Los Angeles, said she sees between five and six cases of children with gastritis daily. "We have a population who loves to eat the hot spicy, not real foods, and they come in with these real complaints," Rivera said. Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency room physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, said he believes that the flavoring coating the chips and snacks is what might be causing the stomach pH to change, rather than just the spiciness of the snacks. For example, he said he hasn't had a lot of people coming in doubled over from eating too much spicy salsa.

"In the past, I had not seen any problems with snack food until spicy flavoring became more popular," said Glatter. Glatter said it wasn't just the high fat or high salt content that the kids or adolescents crave but the actual burn of the spicy flavoring. "It's almost like a food addiction. They seek out the burn," said Glatter. "It's a little thrill-seeking. 'It's like how much can I tolerate?' and I've seen a number of children who eat four or five bags and come in screaming in pain." Glatter recommends that parents keep an eye on their children so they don't overdose on spicy snacks, and stick to vegetables and other healthy snacks instead. "Parents should be aware of this. These products are not healthy and some children seem to become addicted," said Glatter.

Reaching Back to Native American Cooking in Search of Healthier Meals



Elizabeth Nelson tasted then added more spice to a soup made with fiddlehead ferns, those curly leaves of a young fern that resemble the scrolled neck of a superbly crafted violin. Although Nelson has made […]

Ziggy

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Over 50?



When given a choice, older people prefer to read negative news, rather than positive news, about young adults, a new study suggests. In fact, older readers who chose to read negative stories about young individuals […]

Ten Fascinating People With Savant Syndrome

The human mind is amazingly resilient, which becomes evident in so many different ways. One is Savant Syndrome, in which a person who is disabled in some way develops a very strong ability in some other area. Some were born this way; others changed due to a brain injury. A brain hemorrhage led one man to start painting obsessively at age 51. A traumatic injury left a child with an estimated IQ of 40, yet he became a world-class sculptor. And there are two sets of twins who are autistic but can calculate numbers instantly, such as dates for any year. Tom Wiggins was a blind child musical prodigy who demonstrated how he could hear a song once and play it on piano. He could even do this with two songs played at the same time!
Born a slave, Tom Wiggins’ abilities were soon discovered by his white masters, and they began touring him around the southern US. It’s estimated that Tom’s owner made about $18,000 off him per year. It wasn’t long before “Blind Tom” became a sensation. He had a remarkable ability to mimic nearly every sound he heard, and it was claimed that he could perfectly reproduce the sound of any animal. Tom could play a piece with his back to the piano and could play one song with his right hand, another song with his left, and sing a third at the same time.
Read the stories of nine such talented people at Man-Trends

Thousand-year old swordsman rises from the earth

Archaeology hobbyists were stunned when they unearthed a remarkable historical find from a field in Janakkala, southern Finland. The ancient grave site appeared to be that of an early crusader buried with two swords from different eras.
Thousand-year old swordsman rises from the earth
Archaeology hobbyists were surprised to stumble upon the remains of a medieval swordsman
apparently kitted out for battle in the afterlife [Credit: Simo Vanhatalo/Museovirasto]
The well-preserved grave contained an uncharacteristically large 12th-century sword as well as what appeared to be a Viking-age blade that may have been part of a cremation ceremony.

The amateur historians were using a metal detector in a field in Hyvikkala, Janakkala, which had showed signs of pre-historic settlement. After uncovering a few minor objects, the metal detector picked up a spear tip and an axe blade. After some digging, the group discovered a broken sword. At this point, the hobbyists broke off their work to alert the National Board of Antiquities (NBA).
Rare Crusade-era grave site

Upon further investigation the find turned out to be both rare and valuable. Researchers found a grave dating back to the Crusade-era 12th century. The cadaver had been extremely well preserved allowing researchers to use new techniques to harvest information that would not have been previously possible.

On top of all this, the find was a rare two-sword grave, in other words this traveller had two swords to accompany him on his journey into the afterlife. As a bonus puzzler, the swords originated from different historical periods.

“There were two swords, one on top of the other, the smaller of which was a Viking-era artifact. There is now speculation that it may have been in a fire. In other words, it may have been an heirloom that was in a cremation fire. So that’s a rare combination. It’s one of the longest swords in Finland, from the crusade or medieval era roughly,” said the NBA’s researcher Simo Vanhatalo, who led the dig last week.

In addition to the swords, an array of tools had been provided for the dead traveller, including a spearhead and an axe blade. The remains indicate that the dead adventurer was a strapping 180 cm tall man who also carried his own 120-cm sword dating back to the period of the Vikings or Crusades.

All-new research data

Researchers expect that further analysis will reveal the identity of what appears to be a nobleman who lived about one thousand years ago, including where he was born, and even what he had for his last supper.

“Now it’s possible to try these new forms of analysis. We have put out inquiries to try and find out where the man was from, where he came from, and whether he lived here, using DNA and isotope dating. And of course we can use regular radiocarbon dating to determine when he died. His head is still encased in sand and we haven’t touched it. We need to have experts to see that we do this right. This skull has been extraordinarily well-preserved, as well as parts of the torso, so we have lots of research material in terms of the skeletal structure,” Vanhatalo added.

Viking-age 'gold men' unearthed in Sweden

Swedish archaeologists have revealed a secret hoard of ancient trinkets including gold figures and Viking coins, with experts hoping the find will reveal more information about the Iron Age in Sweden.
Viking-age 'gold men' unearthed in Sweden
Viking-age 'gold men' unearthed in Sweden
Two of the anthropomorphic gold foils found at the site
[Credit: Blekinge Museum]
"The initial find was a real surprise," archaeologist Mikael Henriksson told The Local. "But it sunk in after a while."

The initial find Henriksson refers to is his own discovery of a bronze Celtic mask back in 2004, on a hill in a valley in Vastra Vang in Blekinge. After eight years, a whole team was dispatched to the area to conduct a thorough excavation with geo-radars where the team found what Henriksson called a site "of great importance" dating back to the Iron Age, between the birth of Christ and the early Middle Ages.

The team uncovered a number of trinkets there over a period of two years, including gold foil heads of men and women that were likely used to decorate large cauldrons.
Viking-age 'gold men' unearthed in Sweden
Viking-age 'gold men' unearthed in Sweden
Viking-age 'gold men' unearthed in Sweden
Viking-age 'gold men' unearthed in Sweden
The five bronze-cast heads found at the site
[Credit: Blekinge Museum]
Since then, the team kept the finds secret from the public to avoid plundering, and retrieved a total of 29 of the anthropomorphic gold foils (known as guldgubbar in Swedish) - the third biggest find of its kind in Swedish history. The team also found five bronze-cast heads, fragments of a vessel, as well as other bronze objects, Roman glass, gold spirals and Viking-age coins.

As to whether the artifacts were left on purpose or abandoned, Henriksson cannot say, but added that it was turbulent times when the objects were used.

"There were masses of people moving around Europe, it was right after the fall of the west Roman empire and it was every tribe for itself. It affected all of Europe. But what we can say is that the vessels we found were used for ritual drinking and feasting, and were even sacrificial. The area may have been buried or it may have been deserted and left for good. Or it could have been a ritual burial site - we're still not really sure."
Viking-age 'gold men' unearthed in Sweden
View of the excavation site in the Vastra Vang valley in Blekinge
[Credit: Blekinge Museum]
But the finds are of great importance, he added, stating that comparing the trove with other similar finds in southern Scandinavia may shed more light on the Iron Age in Sweden.

"This is a unique opportunity to establish a cooperation of a kind that hasn't been possible before," Henriksson told The Local.

The artifacts will be on display in the Blekinge Museum in summer, with images of the finds to be uploaded to the website soon.

Archaeology News

The skeleton of an ancient aristocratic woman whose head was warped into a deformed, pointy shape has been unearthed in a necropolis in France.
Traces of a previously unknown, 14th-century Canaanite city buried underneath the ruins of another city in Israel.
Two marble statues, which once warned of a a deadly cave, are discovered by archaeologists in Turkey.
One statue depicts a snake, the other Kerberos, the three-headed dog which, according to myth, guarded the Gates of Hell.

Ancient Aliens, modern obsessions

We're really enjoying Jason Colavito's reviews of The History Channel's hilarious/infuriating hit show Ancient Aliens. What makes them better than the average blog? Colavito is an author who has written extensively about the anthropology of pseudoscience, and the connections between pseudoscience, religion, and science fiction. So his recaps are less about debunking the claims made on Ancient Aliens (because, really, that's just too damn easy) and more about exploring where those claims come from, pop-culturally, and what makes them so appealing, to begin with. Fascinating stuff.

Daily Comic Relief

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Watching the Milky Way grow up



Humans take the starry night for granted. But Earth’s night sky hasn’t always sparkled: In the distant past, during the infancy of the Milky Way, it was a much darker place. Now scientists have pictures […]

Why You Need Not Fear the Poor, Misunderstood Brown Recluse Spider

By Nadia Drake
The brown recluse spider’s reputation vastly exceeds its reality. Note the three pairs of eyes: That’s the best way to identify these guys. 
It’s hard to think of a critter that inspires as much hyperbolic hysteria as the brown recluse spider. They’re pretty much universally hated. If you believe the tales, these small arachnids are biting people all day, every day, producing massive, stinking flesh-craters that require months of intensive care and perhaps a prosthetic appendage. Sometimes, it seems these spiders have nothing better to do than hunker down in dark corners throughout North America, waiting for tender human skin to present itself.
Though there are strands of truth in the hype, on the whole, it’s bunk.
Verified bite of L. reclusa. William V. Stoecker/Swanson & Vetter, New England Journal of Medicine, 2005
It is true that some of the spider’s bites lead to necrotic skin lesions, but around 10 percent of them. The others (like the one at right), aren’t that bad. The brown recluse (Loxosceles reclusa) only lives in a few states – basically, the warmer ones between the Rockies and the Appalachians. And they don’t really want to bite you. It’s actually not that easy for them.
The brown recluse reality is obscured by a number of factors, not the least of which involves gnarly internet photos. First, spiders in general are easy to fear, and misinformation about this species in particular abounds. Second, bite wound statistics are clouded by misreporting. Third, many other conditions can be misdiagnosed as brown recluse bites (like MRSA and fungal infections). Lastly, many other spiders (and insects) are mistaken for brown recluses.
“There is a really strong emotional and psychological aspect to the brown recluse,” said arachnologist Rick Vetter, now retired from the University of California, Riverside.
Inspired by the comments left on a story we did about the silk of a closely related recluse spider, the South American brown recluse, we decided to take a close look at our own continent’s most despised brown spider and the myths surrounding it.
First, a truth: Brown recluse bites can be bad. “They are a potentially dangerous spider,” said Vetter, who has spent decades studying the brown spiders. “They’re not harmless,” he says. “But the reputation they have garnered in this country is just amazing.”
Cases of Mistaken Identity
Much of Vetter’s work has involved verifying the identity of spiders purported to be brown recluses. In 2005, Vetter published the results of a nationwide appeal for spider specimens suspected to be L. reclusa: Please send me the spiders you think are brown recluses, and tell me where you’re from. He received 1,773 specimens, from 49 states. Less than 20 percent — 324 — were brown recluses. All but four of those came from states with endemic brown recluse populations.
“An initial goal of this study was to determine the spider characteristics that people were misconstruing as that of a brown recluse,” he wrote. “It became evident early in the study that all that was required was some brown [body] coloration and eight legs.”
‘People jump at the chance to hate spiders. It’s easier to vilify them than to adore their biology and natural history.’
Along the way, Vetter realized that authorities — such as poison control centers and physicians — aren’t much better at identifying the brown recluse. Even trained entomologists can get it wrong.
In 2009, Vetter took a close look at 38 arachnids incorrectly identified as recluses by 35 different authorities such as “physicians, entomologists, pest control operators – people you’d think would have reliable opinions,” Vetter said. Misidentifications included a solifuge (which isn’t even a spider), a grass spider pulled from a patient’s ear, and a desert grass spider that had bitten a young boy.
Part of the problem is that the brown recluse is small and brown and about the size of a quarter — like many other arachnids and insects. The best way to identify a brown recluse is to count its eyes: They’re among a few species of North American spiders that have six eyes instead of eight, arranged in three pairs of two.
But your typical spider-squisher isn’t going to get in a spider’s face with a magnifying glass and count its eyes. Some people may try to find the marking most commonly described as identifying a brown recluse: a violin shape on the spider’s head, oriented with the violin’s neck pointing toward the spider’s butt.
However, people are incredibly good at “seeing” violin markings on every portion of a spider’s body, Vetter says, which means this marking isn’t an especially helpful diagnostic.
A Disconnect Between Bite Reports and Sightings
Brown recluse spiders (L. reclusa) live in the red blob. Not noted on this diagram are several small populations of L. laeta, the Chilean recluse whose silk we reported on earlier, that live near Los Angeles. Small, brown spiders run around pretty much everywhere on Earth. But the brown recluse only lives in a few states between the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachians.
“Arkansas and Missouri are the two states where they’re very, very dense,” Vetter said. Kansas, Oklahoma, the western portions of Tennessee and Kentucky, the southern parts of Indiana and Illinois, and the northeastern parts of Texas round out the recluse’s range.
Though the spiders can travel around – maybe in luggage, or freight – it’s uncommon to find a brown recluse outside its native range. Still, reports of brown recluse bites from states outside the recluse range abound. For example, Vetter and his colleagues studied six years of brown recluse bite records, derived from three poison control centers in Florida. A total of 844 brown recluse bites were reported. But in 100 years of arachnological data, only 70 recluse spiders (not all of them brown recluses) have been found in the entire state.
Vetter took a similar look at Georgia, a state on the margins of the recluse’s range. They’d asked that any and all suspected recluse specimens be submitted for identification. More than 1,000 spiders came in, but only 19 were brown recluses. In the state’s arachnological history — derived from searching through museum collections, historical records, websites, and storage buildings in parks — there were only about 100 verified brown recluse sightings, mostly in the northwest portion of the state. But a five-year dataset from the Georgia Poison Center contained 963 reports of brown recluse spider bites.
Similar patterns exist in northwest states – Washington, Oregon, and Idaho – that are far outside the spider’s range, and other states on the spiders’ margins, like Indiana.
Cases of Mistaken Diagnosis
Vetter and other experts suspect that the brown recluse bite diagnosis is a popular catch-all for situations where the cause of a skin lesion can’t be easily identified. True, there are many things that can cause a nasty-looking flesh wound — but the brown recluse diagnosis carries an unlikely charisma. “If you get a bacterial infection, do you tell anyone about it? Of course not,” Vetter said. “But if you think you got a brown recluse bite, you tell everybody! You put it in your Christmas letter.”
This is NOT a brown recluse bite. It’s anthrax, misdiagnosed as a brown recluse bite. From Swanson and Vetter, New England Journal of Medicine, 2005 
 Over the years, Vetter and his colleagues have compiled a list of about 40 things that can masquerade as recluse bites: bacterial infections, viral infections and fungal infections; poison oak and poison ivy; thermal burns, chemical burns; bad reactions to blood thinners; herpes.
“People want to believe [the culprit] is a spider species,” said entomologist Chris Buddle of McGill University, noting that it’s easier to blame a spider than something less familiar, like drug-resistant bacteria.
Most physicians don’t have a lot of experience discriminating between a recluse bite and something like necrotizing Staphylococcus. And even if a patient brings in a spider for identification, it’s unlikely the ER doctor has been trained to ID a brown recluse.
There are some ways in which brown recluse bites are different from many other wounds, however. A raised, reddish and wet wound is likely not a recluse bite, Vetter says. Recluse venom destroys small blood vessels and causes them to constrict, turning the area around the bite white, or purple, or blue. Fluids can’t flow to the area, and it sinks a little, and dries out.
In reality, just 10 percent of recluse bites require medical attention. The rest look like little pimples or mosquito bites or something else that doesn’t merit a trip to the emergency room, and they heal by themselves. But the reality about bite statistics doesn’t seem to matter. Even when faced with numbers and geographic distribution maps, people still cling tightly to their beliefs about the recluse and its arachnid malfeasance.
The Persistence of Myth
It is true that brown recluses like hiding in dark corners. They’re nocturnal and shy away from daylight and, sometimes, the outdoors. Hence the name. But they are not waiting in these dark corners to bite you. It’s possible to live with the spiders and not get bitten. Take the rather extreme example of a Kansas family that lived for six years in a house infested by 2,055 brown recluse spiders. Total bites: Zero.
In fact, the spiders’ fangs are too short and small to bite through pajamas or socks, and really only sturdy enough to puncture thin skin. Most bites occur when people roll over on the spiders in the night, or try to wear a shoe the spider has moved into. “Biting is a response to being crushed, but they’d much rather try and get away,” Vetter said.
‘If you get a bacterial infection, do you tell anyone about it? Of course not. But if you think you got a brown recluse bite, you tell everybody’
But the idea that something hazardous lurks in the dark, out of sight behind a toilet or inside a shoe, is a potent source of fear. The idea lodges in the psyche and is difficult to shake loose – especially when fed by popular media and peers. “The press has, by and large, painted spiders in a negative light,” Buddle said. “People jump at the chance to hate spiders. It’s easier to vilify them than to adore their biology and natural history.”
Things that are potentially harmful, move erratically, unpredictably, and sometimes quickly, are easy to fear. Spiders fall into this category, says psychologist Helena Purkis, who has studied arachnophobia and fear of snakes at the University of Queensland, Australia. And then, when people fear something, they expect it to be associated with bad things.
“The truth is, bad things happen to us all the time, and it’s completely random,” said entomologist Gwen Pearson, author of the WIRED Science Blog, Charismatic Minifauna. But being able to blame a nasty skin lesion on a spider is more satisfying than acknowledging that a necrotic crater has emerged on your arm for no identifiable reason, she says.
Purkis described an experiment in which shocks were randomly paired with either pictures of flowers, or pictures of spiders. “People report that spiders, but not the flowers, were predictive of shocks – even when the presentations were completely random,” she said.
Searching for patterns in the noise is one of the ways human brains handle the overwhelming amount of stimuli in the world — but it also leads to misperceptions. Here, our fallibility is in our tendency to filter new information and remember facts more easily if they are consistent with our beliefs, Purkis says. This means that you could hear one bad story about a brown recluse bite and 10 stories about how the spiders aren’t so bad, and guess which one will stick?

Town under siege from emus searching for food as drought continues

Emus are running amok in Longreach, western Queensland, Australia, as drought forces them into town to look for food. The emus have been walking residential streets in Longreach for some months but they are now in the main street, halting traffic and feeding in garden beds. Longreach Mayor Joe Owens says they seem at home. "They are taking absolutely no notice of the people, or the cars or dogs," he said. When they are crossing the street, people have to stop for them. "They just toddle across as they please."
Councillor Owens says locals are giving way to the emus. "Out in the paddocks, there is not a lot of food for them, because emus really are seed eaters," he said. "A bit of green grass - they will eat that for sure - but they haven't got that out in the scrub - it's just nature's way of survival. They have found nice feed and they are just wandering around picking the best they can from, what I can gather, all over town. We just have to work around them."
Grazier and naturalist Angus Emmott says he has never seen them in the center of town and it is quite a novelty. "I think the locals are quite enjoying the scene of having them outside their shop fronts - that is something I haven't observed before," he said. "The roos and the emus are just desperately seeking something to eat and a bit of greenery, so they are marching in and getting it wherever they can. It is doing away with their natural cautiousness of man, so they are marching right up into the main street." Police are asking drivers to take care and give the emus the right of way.

Cars are slowing to allow the emus to pass, but Police Sergeant Wayne Lynn said there have been some casualties in other streets around the town. "We do know stories of a few emus that have been hit by cars," he said. "People have come in and told us and we get onto the council. They get a bit scattery when they hear a car coming and they just take off - they've been spooked. People just have to be mindful when they see them and be careful and give them right of way - it doesn't hurt to slow down and let them cross, because they are under a lot of pressure at the moment looking for food and water for their families."

The Western Black Rhino Declared Officially Extinct

Africa’s western black rhino is now officially extinct according the latest review of animals and plants by the world’s largest conservation network. The subspecies of the black rhino — which is classified as “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species — was last seen in western Africa in 2006. The IUCN warns that other rhinos could follow saying Africa’s northern white rhino is “teetering on the brink of extinction” while Asia’s Javan rhino is “making its last stand” due to continued poaching and lack of conservation. “In the case of the western black rhino and the northern white rhino the situation could have had very different results if the suggested conservation measures had been implemented,” Simon Stuart, chair of the IUCN species survival commission said in a statement. This update offers both good and bad news on the status of many species around the world. “These measures must be strengthened now, specifically managing habitats in order to improve performance, preventing other rhinos from fading into extinction,” Stuart added. The IUCN points to conservation efforts which have paid off for the southern white rhino subspecies which have seen populations rise from less than 100 at the end of the 19th century to an estimated wild population of 20,000 today. -

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