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

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Daily Drift

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Today in History

1760 Major Roger Rogers takes possession of Detroit on behalf of Britain.
1787 Louis XVI promulgates an edict of tolerance, granting civil status to Protestants.
1812 The last elements of Napoleon Bonaparte's Grand Armee retreats across the Beresina River in Russia.
1863 The Battle of Fort Sanders, Knoxville, Tenn., ends with a Confederate withdrawal.
1864 Colonel John M. Chivington's 3rd Colorado Volunteers massacre Black Kettles' camp of Cheyenne and Arapahoe Indians at Sand Creek, Colo.
1903 An Inquiry into the U.S. Postal Service demonstrates the government has lost millions in fraud.
1923 An international commission headed by American banker Charles Dawes is set up to investigate the German economy.
1929 Commander Richard Byrd makes the first flight over the South Pole.
1931 The Spanish government seizes large estates for land redistribution.
1939 Soviet planes bomb an airfield at Helsinki, Finland.
1948 The Metropolitan Opera is televised for the first time as the season opens with "Othello."
1948 The popular children's television show, Kukla, Fran and Ollie, premieres.
1949 The United States announces it will conduct atomic tests at Eniwetok Atoll in the Pacific.
1961 NASA launches a chimpanzee named Enos into Earth orbit.
1962 Algeria bans the Communist Party.
1963 President Lyndon B. Johnson appoints Chief Justice Earl Warren head of a commission to investigate the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
1967 US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara announces his resignation.
1972 Atari announces the release of Pong, the first commercially successful video game.
2007 Armed forces of the Philippines besiege The Peninsula Manila in response to a mutiny led by Senator Antonio Trillanes.

Non Sequitur


Did you know ...

The Pentagon's doctored books conceal epic waste

The moronic methodists find pastor guilty of officiating his gay son's wedding

That major airports may soon be as congested year-round as they are during thanksgiving

About the unhealthiest restaurant dish in America

Is IKEA the model for the wingnut movement?

POTUS Strikes Back

Obama Takes on Citizens United 
The Treasury Department is proposing new guidelines to social welfare groups applying for tax-exempt status that take aim at groups like Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS.…
Careful what you whiiine about, repugicans.
After months of repugicans putting on a show over being targeted by the IRS, only to find out that they were deliberately keeping documents from the public that proved that liberals were also being “targeted” (which means that no one was being targeted), the issue of alleged social-welfare groups claiming tax exempt status took the spotlight.
And things don’t look so hot under that spotlight, post Citizens United. The Treasury Department is proposing new guidelines to social welfare groups applying for tax-exempt status.
“This proposed guidance is a first critical step toward creating clear-cut definitions of political activity by tax-exempt social welfare organizations,” said Treasury Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy Mark J. Mazur. “We are committed to getting this right before issuing final guidance that may affect a broad group of organizations. It will take time to work through the regulatory process and carefully consider all public feedback as we strive to ensure that the standards for tax-exemption are clear and can be applied consistently.”
They will now disqualify from 501 (c)(4) status based on the term “candidate-related political activity.” The Treasury Department announcement explained, “This proposed guidance defines the term “candidate-related political activity,” and would amend current regulations by indicating that the promotion of social welfare does not include this type of activity. The proposed guidance also seeks initial comments on other aspects of the qualification requirements, including what proportion of a 501(c)(4) organization’s activities must promote social welfare.”
Under the proposed guidelines, candidate-related political activity includes communications, grants and contributions (hello Karl Rove), and activities closely related to elections or candidates. They are also going to determine exactly how much of a groups activities can be candidate-related political activity.
Just a few days ago, Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS was busted by a ProPublica reporter for filing ‘bullshit” documents with the IRS. At issue was misused grant money:
It looks as if Rove’s group is playing a shell game with non-profit grants in order to qualify for “social welfare” status. ProPublica got their hands on Crossroads GPS’ 2012 tax return — “signed under penalty of perjury” they remind us — in which Crossroads cited grants of $35 million to nonprofits.
The return “specified that the grants would be used for social welfare purposes, ‘and not for political expenditures, consistent with the organization’s tax-exempt mission.’ But that’s not what happened,” per Barker.
There’s no sign that Crossroads GPS is being investigated over that issue, and I took the IRS to task for being neutered by the conservative outrage. How was I to know that a day later they would release their new guidelines, taking aim at issues unveiled in Rove’s tax documents. I stand corrected and slightly amazed.
Guess where they got some of these ideas? Oh, from “unsolicited” comments from the public. I remember quite a few outraged comments during the phony IRS scandal as the spotlight shone on the egregious abuse of the “social welfare” claim made by big, dark money groups.
In defining the new term, “candidate-related political activity,” Treasury and the IRS drew upon existing definitions of political activity under federal and state campaign finance laws, other IRS provisions, as well as suggestions made in unsolicited public comments.
The Treasury Department noted “considerable public focus” on an organization’s social welfare activities. So, “Due to the importance of this aspect of the regulation, the proposed guidance requests initial comments on this issue.”
The Treasury Department is a cabinet position within the White House, so when they make changes like the guidelines they proposed on Tuesday, it’s coming from the Obama administration.
Tweaking interpretations of rules and setting guidelines is all well within the purview of the administration. The repugicans are already screeching like banshees mourning their political impotence on executive branch matters, but they do that whenever Obama acts like he was actually elected president. Get some ear plugs and enjoy the show.

Bernie Sanders Explains How Democrats Will Win in 2014

Sen. Sanders isn’t a Democrat, but on MSNBC he mapped out the perfect strategy for a Democratic victory in 2014.
Sen. Sanders was asked if the repugicans will take over the Senate in 2014.
He answered:
Well, who knows who will take over the Senate. Certainly, the repugicans could do that, and certainly the Democrats could retain strong control of the Senate. We’ve got a long way to go until the election. I think what the Democrats have been very concerned about is the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, and the repugicans have been all over that issue.
I think what the Democrats have going for them is that our repugican ' friends' believe that the way you deal with the deficit, which by the way as the president just mentioned has been cut in half in the last four years, that you do not, what the Democrats, or most Democrats believe is that we don’t cut Social Security, which the repugicans want to do. You don’t cut Medicare or transform Medicare into a voucher program. You don’t make massive cuts in terms of Medicaid, education, or nutrition programs. All of which the repugicans want, and all of which is massively unpopular, and what the repugicans also want to do is defend the wealthy and large corporate interests and prevent them from paying their share of taxes.
So I think if the issues revolves around we create jobs, how we deal with wealth and income inequality. And by the way, the Pope today just made an extraordinary statement on unfettered capitalism, and what it means when so few have so much and so many have so little. I hope that’s a lesson that the Congress can absorb, but I think if you focus on the economy, I think the Democrats will do just fine.
Sen. Sanders laid out the road map for Democrats in 2014. Contrary to what the media is saying, the ACA website drama will pass. President Obama discussed the economy in similar terms that Bernie Sanders used, and what the repugicans don’t get is that people care more about having a job than they do a health insurance website.
The path for Democrats is simple. They need to campaign on raising the minimum wage, creating jobs, and a message of economic fairness. Democrats should hammer repugicans on the economy every single day in 2014. The repugicans in Congress are historically unpopular, and it is not unrealistic to see an electoral outcome where Democrats pick up a handful of House seats and keep control of the Senate.
Sen. Sanders is correct. If Democrats pummel repugicans on the economy, they will do just fine in 2014.

Faux News Uses ‘Knockout Game’ to Stoke Racial Fears Among Viewers

For the past week plus, many of the afternoon and evening talk shows on Faux have devoted quite a bit of time to this 'epidemic' that is causing…
Recently, news stations and media outlets have been reporting about a so-called phenomenon known as the ‘knockout game’. Apparently, this is a game that has been going around for about a year now. The object of the game is to encounter a random person on the street and knock that person out with one punch. Per reports, this is becoming more and more popular with young, black men in large cities. And, if you were to hear it from Faux News and other conservative news outlets, there is a racial element to this.
For the past week plus, many of the afternoon and evening talk shows on Faux have devoted quite a bit of time to this ‘epidemic’ that is causing fear and violence in our urban areas. Not only are they stoking the fires or racial fear and animosity, they are making sure to place blame on noted black leaders like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton for not doing anything about this scourge.
On the November 19th, Bernie Goldberg was on The O’Reilly Factor and used it to blame Sharpton and Jackson for not speaking out about these attacks, because to do so would make them look like the failures they are as black leaders.
On this past Sunday’s edition of Faux & Friends Sunday, Clayton Morris and Mike Huckabee also blamed Sharpton for not doing anything about this while the segment itself whipped up imagery of barbaric activity in the inner city.
However, it appears that maybe this whole ‘epidemic’ has been overblown from the start. That this might be more of a media invention than an actual nationwide game of violence. In a New York Times report on Friday, Cara Buckley asked numerous law enforcement officials from around the country about the ‘knockout game.’ The answers she got were more or less along the same line: this is more an urban myth than anything.
New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly had this to say on Friday:

“We’re trying to determine whether or not this is a real phenomenon. I mean, yes, something like this can happen. But we would like to have people come forward and give us any information they have.”
In Jersey City, where news stations have shown teenagers apparently bragging about the ‘knockout game’, a police spokesman had some very strong words about it. Bob McHugh stated, “If there was ever an urban myth, this is it.” He also stated that a city council member setup a Facebook page for citizens to report any instances of such a crime, and there have been no reports made.
The fact is, real or not, this is the kind of story that Faux News LOVES to report on. It confirms the belief among their old, white audience that there are young black men out there looking to hurt them for absolutely no reason. It reiterates their notion that inner city blacks are lacking any moral compass and compassion. It feeds into their firmly held beliefs about the inferiority of minorities in this country and why they need to continue to move further and further into the suburbs or rural areas. In the end, these stories make Faux viewers feel better about hating blacks and other minorities.

The Truth Hurts


Obama Blasts repugicans For Wasting 40+ Votes On Repealing The ACA Instead of Creating Jobs

President Obama dropped the gloves today in LA, and blasted repugicans for wasting time on 40+ votes to repeal the ACA instead of creating jobs.
The president said,
My top priority is making sure that this country remains a country where everybody who’s willing to work hard can get ahead, and we’d be a lot further along without some of the dysfunction and obstruction we’ve seen in Washington. We’d be a lot further along if we could just get folks to act with some sense.
If we didn’t have one wing of one party that was a little less obsessed with repealing healthcare for 40 million people. More concerned with making sure the law works. If they hadn’t spent 40 votes trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act, they might have actually taken some votes on rebuilding our infrastructure, or instituting early childhood education for young people across this country, or investing in basic research that helps to create the amazing technologies that many of you utilize.
Any of the serious proposals I’ve put forward that would be creating jobs right now, they could have taken votes on that. Instead of rooting for failure or fighting old battles, Republicans in Congress need to work with us to improve those things about the Affordable Care Act that aren’t working as well as they should, and implement policies to strengthen the middle class and create jobs.
A couple of weeks ago House repugican leaders handed out a piece of paper to their members and on the top of it. It said Agenda 2014, and I’m not making this up, below that it was blank. It was a blank sheet of paper. Nothing to create jobs, or grow the economy, or strengthen the middle class.
And I put forward my plans to create new jobs and even the odds for the middle class, and I put forward plans that give the repugicans some of what they want in exchange for ideas that will create good jobs right now. So far, they won’t consider them. You know, some people have heard me say my list of top five movies. The Godfather one and two has to be on it, but it turns out Marlon Brando had it easy because when it comes to Congress, there’s no such thing as an offer that they can’t refuse.
It is good to see President Obama back on the road and speaking the truth about income inequality and repugican obstruction. The repugicans need to be called out on this again, and again, and again before the 2014 election. The repugican cabal desperately wants to run on the ACA, and not on their record of screwing over the middle class.
The president was correct that repugicans could be voting on his jobs plans or infrastructure spending, but they choose to continue to waste time on meaningless votes to repeal the ACA. The president made an important point when he said that repugicans are obsessed with taking health insurance away from 40 million people.
It would be nice if the mainstream media would stop obsessing about a website that is performing much better, and start asking repugicans why they want tens of millions of Americans to not have access to affordable healthcare.
President Obama is fighting back, and he is asking questions that repugicans can’t answer.

Local News Station Busts Darrell Issa for Silencing ACA Supporters During ACA Investigation

WBTV 3 reported that at Darrell Issa's ObamaCare "hearings", supporters were not only told they couldn't speak, but they were told that if they spoke "out of turn"…they would be 'asked' to leave
darrell issa
The mainstream media might be letting the public down, but some local media outlets are still diligently reporting the news instead of chasing after Beltway Cool Kids with a repugican cabal playbook in their front pocket.
Melissa Hankins at Charlotte, North Carolina’s WBTV 3 reported that Darrell Issa’s ObamaCare “hearings” in Gastonia called “Obamacare Implementation: Sticker Shock of Increased Premiums for Health Care Coverage” weren’t exactly unbiased.
In fact, people who had positive things to say about the ACA were not only told they couldn’t speak, but they were told that if they spoke “out of turn” they’d have to leave.
Watch here:
WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC WBTV 3 reported:
The meeting got off to a contentious start on Friday, with people complaining that they won’t get a chance to be heard. People were told they would be removed from the meeting if they spoke out of turn. Residents were angry because Issa picked the five witnesses that we will hear from, all residents of North Carolina.
The piece goes on to list several supporters of the ACA whom Issa refused to let speak.
Allison Ward, who says the ACA offers her insurance she can afford for the first time ever, wanted to be heard. If she had been chosen to “testify” (is it really a hearing if it’s all staged? Not so much), she would have said, “My president has said I hear you, I’m going to help you and frankly the way I see it is that other people are getting in the way.”
You can see why Issa wouldn’t let Ms. Ward speak.
Another Charlotte resident wanted to speak about how no one would give her insurance because she was diagnosed with MS. Dana Wilson said the ACA changed the fact that no one would insure her. Ms. Wilson thinks if it’s a real hearing, then all sides should be heard. “I think if it’s a true hearing than all sides should be heard and they don’t want to hear us,” she told WBTV 3.
The reported explained that the area has seen some of the highest increases in premiums in the country, and that’s why Issa was there. Fair enough. But that’s no reason not to hear from supporters of the law.
Issa claims that no Democrats picked any witnesses and that is how he justifies not using supporters of the law. But see, that’s an admission that Issa is not trying to get at the truth, as he claims he is. He’s got a show to put on, and he can only use haters in this script. It’s called propaganda, and it’s following the GOP playbook exactly. The main messages of the repugican cabal attack ACA playbook are: “Because of Obamacare, I Lost My Insurance”, “Obamacare Increases Health Care Costs” and “The Exchanges May Not Be Secure, Putting Personal Information at Risk”. ”
Good old Issa is up to his usual tricks, where he only lets the people who he knows will say what he needs them to say in front of the cameras, and then he blames Democrats when he’s busted. Issa got busted doing this on Benghazi as well. Issa refused to let the experts on the Benghazi attacks speak in front of the cameras, and then blamed the White House for not inviting them:
While the rest of the media is reporting that the co-chairmen of the independent review on the Benghazi attacks, Ambassador Thomas Pickering and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, have finally agreed to testify, in truth Pickering was not invited by Darell Issa (R-CA) to testify at the televised hearing. When called out on his lies on national TV, Issa finally tried to blame the White House for not inviting Pickering.
Darrell Issa wants you to believe that he is wasting all of this money just to get the truth, but the repugican cabal “truth” involves refusing to let anyone with a dissenting point of view be heard. It’s just like the founders envisioned…
Only not.

Faux Blames Obamacare For Imaginary Layoffs at Cleveland Clinic

Faux Blames Obamacare For Imaginary Layoffs at Cleveland Clinic

Via Media Matters:
Faux News reported that the Cleveland Clinic was instituting "massive layoffs" due to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, but when asked about the reports, a Clinic spokesperson told Media Matters, "We're not."
On November 25, The Daily Caller published an article titled, "Top U.S. hospital laying off staff due to Obamacare." On Faux Business' Markets Now, host Connell McShane reported on the "massive layoffs." America's Newsroom host Bill Hemmer claimed that the Cleveland Clinic was going to "shed workers." Later, during the America's News HQ, Faux agitator Chris Stirewalt claimed that the layoffs "rocked the community there in northeastern Ohio."
[...]Despite Faux's reporting, Sheil reiterated the Clinic's support for the Affordable Care Act, stating:
We believe reform is necessary because the current state is unsustainable. The ACA is a step toward that change and we believe more changes will come/evolve as there are still many uncertainties. Hospitals must be responsible and do what we can to prepare and support the law.

Employers dropping health insurance for employees not an Obamacare phenomenon

Memo to media: Employers have been slashing insurance, shifting costs for years

Last week, Americans learned about the repugican cabal playbook laying out the strategies, tactics and talking points the Republican faithful should use to demagogue the Affordable Care Act. A quick glance at Monday's headlines from the Chicago Tribune ("Employers could drop health care"), the Wall Street Journal ("Companies Prepare to Pass More Health Costs to Workers") and The Hill ("O-Care mandate could pass costs to workers") shows the GOP's latest sound bite du jour.

Of course, reading those dire predictions, you'd never know that those exact trends in employer-provided health insurance have been underway for years and have resulted in the number of uninsured Americans jumping from 37 million in 2000 to over 50 million today.

The Truth Be Told


Bill Donohue calls to fire Maher over Dan Savage’s rant on ‘kiddie-fucking priests’

Bill Donohue needs to go fuck himself ....

Bill Donohue calls to fire Maher over Dan Savage’s rant on ‘kiddie-fucking priests’

HBO's Bill Maher

The catholic league president Bill Donohue on Monday demanded that HBO cancel Real Time with Bill Maher after the late night comedian invited on a gay guest who blasted priests who sexually abuse children.

On his Friday night show, Maher pointed out to sex columnist Dan Savage that a catholic bishop who opposed marriage equality in Hawaii had said that children with same sex parents were at a greater risk of suicide.

“That’s total bullshit,” Savage shot back. “He’s confusing children with gay parents with children who are raped by catholic priests.”

“Sorry, I am just done being lectured about children and their safety by catholic-fucking bishops, priests, cardinals.” he continued. “The pope, himself, has let it go. The new pope, who I kind of dig, has let it go.”

Savage noted that roman catholic bishop Thomas John Paprocki had recently performed an exorcism on the state of Illinois after Gov. Pat Quinn (D) signed a bill legalizing same sex marriage.
“To exorcise the state of gay people of having full civil equality!” Savage said. “No exorcism, exorcising the demons of, like, kiddie-fucking catholic priests. They never got around to that exorcism.”

Parents Enraged After School Tampers With Students' Cell Phones

by Elise Solé 
After teachers at an Oregon middle school confiscated students’ cell phones and deleted video of a confrontation between a student and a teacher, parents are fuming, saying that their children's rights were violated.

The trouble began last week when a scuffle broke out in the school gym between a student who refused to remove his hat and a teacher at R.A. Brown Middle School in Hillsboro. The episode, which was captured on film by fellow students using their cell phones, shows two teachers circling the child and trying to escort him out of the gym. The boy was ultimately suspended and arrested for disorderly conduct and harassment.

Khloey Summers was one of several students who filmed the incident on a cell phone until a teacher grabbed her phone and said, “I’m going to have to hold on to this for a while.” Khloey told KATU that later that day, teachers confiscated all the phones used to record the incident and deleted each student's video. When Khloey’s phone was returned, she says, her messaging apps and photos had also been opened, presumably to check whether she had emailed the video or sent it via text message.

“Granted, she’s 13 [but] she still has rights,” her mother, Melissa Siegel, told KATU. “Clearly, I don’t feel like my daughter did anything wrong. I feel like her rights are violated, by going through her phone and text messages.”

Siegel stands in solidarity with Celia Watt, the mother of the boy who was the subject of the video. She admits that her son misbehaved but says that erasing the evidence was extreme. “Deleting videos after accusing someone? That’s just suspicious behavior,” Watt told KATU.

While Yahoo Shine could not reach Khloey, Siegel, Watt, or a representative from R.A. Brown Middle School for comment, the “search and seizure” section of the student handbook, obtained by KATU, says in part, "Building administrators may search the person, personal property, and student vehicles and seize property deemed dangerous and detrimental to the safety and welfare of the students and staff." However, there are no rules about whether the school can destroy student property. What’s more, the students used their cell phones before classes began that day, which, Kholey told the station, is allowed.

According to Fran Walfish, PsyD, a Beverly Hills-based child psychologist, while the school has the right to ask that students remove their hats, destroying students' personal property is plain wrong. “The boy should have removed his hat — refusing is not normal behavior — however, deleting the videos was a violation of the students’ rights,” she tells Yahoo Shine.

If the school wants to prevent a similar issue from happening in the future, it should simply ban cell phones from the campus, suggests Walfish, adding, “The school could have been trying to avoid a lawsuit by deleting the videos, but it may have inadvertently invited one."

A Transparent Cabin Built with Mirrors and Wood

This is Lucid Stead, an art installation by artist Phillip K. Smith III. A 70-old homesteader cabin sits on Mr. Smith’s property in Joshua Tree, California. He removed sections of wood siding and replaced them with mirrors.
When you look at Lucid Stead during the day, it appears that you can see right through it, thanks to the reflection of the desert landscape. During the night, interior lights create a show of ever-shifting colors. Mr. Smith writes that observing Lucid Stead is an opportunity to share in “the pace of change of the desert.” You can see more photos and videos of it here.

How Well Do You Know Africa?

Take This Geography Quiz.

How quickly can you identify 20 countries in Africa? How about 50?
David Bauer designed this online quiz on the locations of the nations of Africa. How quickly can you click on each nation by name?
Dang it, we're slipping, used to take less then a minute to name all the countries of Africa.



Human News

Spanking misbehaving kids is a topic debated by parents everywhere. And now, with the release of a new study, there appears to be solid, scientific evidence against the practice. Anthony explains what the researchers behind the study uncovered.
Whatever we do in life, we're bound to be bored at some point, but what kind of bored are we? That's right: There are multiple types of boredom. Laci explains what they are and why boredom has suddenly become less, well, boring.
What can you -- and the airlines -- do to make the experience more comfortable?
Hey, guys... got a nose you think is too big? Well it might just be the thing that helps you bulk up at the gym. That's right, as Anthony tell us, there's a very interesting connection between a big schnoz and bigger muscles.
When it comes to weight loss, it might just be those over-sized plates and bowls you're eating from that are causing your problem. Trace explains a whole new idea behind a cause for overeating.
It's no substitute for actual exercise, but it turns out things like heart rate, respiration, and sweat release can increase watching others exercise.

'Immune gene' in humans inherited from Neanderthals

A research group at Bonn University and international collaborators discovered a novel receptor, which allows the immune system of modern humans to recognize dangerous invaders, and subsequently elicits an immune response.
Replica of a Neanderthal man at the Neanderthal museum in
Mettmann, western Germany [Credit: AP]
The blueprint for this advantageous structure was in addition identified in the genome of Neanderthals, hinting at its origin. The receptor provided these early humans with immunity against local diseases. The presence of this receptor in Europeans but its absence in early men suggests that it was inherited from Neanderthals.

When pathogens infect the human body, the immune system identifies and attacks dangerous invaders. During evolution, an efficient defence system developed, which vaguely resembles methods used by secret agents. With the help of certain genes, the human leukocyte antigen system (HLA) produces receptors that assess the risk rate of the pathogens using their profile which has just eight amino acids.

“This function can be compared to a text which is identified by a spy as being suspicious, based on just a few letters of a word,” says Prof. Dr. Norbert Koch from the Institute for Genetics, Department of Immunobiology at the University of Bonn.

Immune System Scans the Amino Acids of the Pathogens

In order to decipher this message, the immune system breaks down the invaders proteins into peptides and subsequently scans a proportion of the peptides for their amino acid sequences. Up until now, a total of three different peptide receptors of more than 1000 different manifestations were known, which in humans can read the telltale letter combinations.

“This variety is needed so that the immune system can rate the entire spectrum of pathogens relevant for humans,” explains Prof. Koch. A fourth receptor, or another “spy”, has now been found by an international team of scientists from the University of Düsseldorf, the Technical University of Munich, Jacobs University Bremen and Cambridge University under the leadership of the immunobiologists at the University of Bonn.

This receptor, which is abbreviated as “HLA-DRaDPb”, consists of the combination of subunits of already known receptors. Scientists compared the gene sequence, which encodes the discovered receptor, with data bases and determined that an estimated two-thirds of Europeans carry this important structure.

Even Prof. Koch carries the blueprint for this “spy”, as one of his students found out by sequencing his DNA. Scientists were nonetheless surprised to learn that the gene sequence required for this receptor is rare in people in southern Africa, the region known as the cradle of mankind.

“When early man, the ancestor of today’s humans, left Africa and migrated a few hundred thousand years ago to Europe, he did not yet have this receptor,” says Prof. Koch.

Modern Man Owes Receptor to Neanderthals

Prof. Dr. Svante Pääbo from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig played a leading role in 2010 in sequencing and presenting the Neanderthal genome. So, scientists examined whether Neanderthals as an example of early men had the key gene sequence which contains the blueprint for the receptor.

Dr. Sebastian Temme, who conducted a major part of the experimental work, compiled, together with colleagues from Düsseldorf, the sequence of the Neanderthal genome, from small fragments obtained from the Neanderthal data base. “The identified Neanderthal gene sequence is almost identical with that of modern humans,” concludes Prof. Koch.

Neanderthals probably lived many hundreds of thousands of years in Europe during which time they developed the HLA receptor that provided them with immunity against many pathogens. This means that different to our ancestors from Africa, the Neanderthals which were resident in Europe, carried this receptor on their immune cells. That was a distinct evolutionary advantage,” says the immunobiologist from the University of Bonn, who presumes that we modern humans in Europe owe this advantageous receptor to the Neanderthals.

The results have been published in advance online in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Pre-industrial rise in methane gas had natural and anthropogenic causes

For years scientists have intensely argued over whether increases of potent methane gas concentrations in the atmosphere - from about 5,000 years ago to the start of the industrial revolution - were triggered by natural causes or human activities.
Pre-industrial rise in methane gas had natural and anthropogenic causes
Air bubbles trapped in an ice core from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide ice core. Air samples were used to reconstruct the methane interpolar difference (IPD) over the late Holocene to constrain early anthropogenic emissions of methane [Credit: Logan Mitchell]
A new study, which will be published in the journal Science, suggests the increase in methane likely was caused by both.

Lead author Logan Mitchell, who coordinated the research as a doctoral student at Oregon State University, said the "early anthropogenic hypothesis," which spawned hundreds of scientific papers as well as books, cannot fully explain on its own the rising levels of atmospheric methane during the past 5,000 years, a time period known as the mid- to late-Holocene. That theory suggests that human activities such as rice agriculture were responsible for the increasing methane concentrations.

Opponents of that theory argue that human activities during that time did not produce significant amounts of methane and thus natural emissions were the dominant cause for the rise in atmospheric CH4.

"We think that both played a role," said Mitchell, who is now a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Utah. "The increase in methane emissions during the late Holocene came primarily from the tropics, with some contribution from the extratropical Northern Hemisphere.

"Neither modeled natural emissions alone, nor hypothesized anthropogenic emissions alone, are able to account for the full increase in methane concentrations," Mitchell added. "Combined, however, they could account for the full increase."

Scientists determine methane levels by examining ice cores from polar regions. Gas bubbles containing ancient air trapped within the ice can be analyzed and correlated with chronological data to determine methane levels on a multidecadal scale. Mitchell and his colleagues examined ice cores from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide and the Greenland Ice Sheet Project and found differences between the two.

Ice cores from Greenland had higher methane levels than those from Antarctica because there are greater methane emissions in the Northern Hemisphere. The difference in methane levels between the hemispheres, called the Inter-Polar Difference, did not change appreciably over time.

"If the methane increase was solely natural or solely anthropogenic, it likely would have tilted the Inter-Polar Difference out of its pattern of relative stability over time," Mitchell said.

Since coming out of the ice age some 10,000 years ago summer solar insolation in the Northern Hemisphere has been decreasing as a result of the Earth's changing orbit, according to Edward Brook, a paleoclimatologist in Oregon State's College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences and Mitchell's major professor. This decrease affects the strength of Asian summer monsoons, which produce vast wetlands and emit methane into the atmosphere.

Yet some 5,000 years ago, atmospheric methane began rising and had increased about 17 percent by the time the industrial revolution began around 1750.

"Theoretically, methane levels should have decreased with the loss of solar insolation in the Northern Hemisphere, or at least remained stable instead of increasing," said Brook, a co-author on the Science article. "They had been roughly on a parallel track for some 800,000 years."

Mitchell used previous models that hypothesized reasons for the methane increase - both natural and anthropogenic - and compared them to the newly garnered ice core data. None of them alone proved sufficient for explaining the greenhouse gas increase. When he developed his own model combining characteristics of both the natural and anthropogenic hypotheses, it agreed closely with the ice core data.

Other researchers have outlined some of the processes that may have contributed to changes in methane emissions. More than 90 percent of the population lived in the Northern Hemisphere, especially in the lower latitudes, and the development of rice agriculture and cattle domestication likely had an influence on methane emissions. On the natural side, changes in the Earth's orbit could have been responsible for increasing methane emissions from tropical wetlands.

"All of these things likely have played a role," Mitchell said, "but none was sufficient to do it alone."

The study was supported by the National Science Foundation's Office of Polar Programs, with additional support from the Oregon National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Space Grant Consortium.

Jurassic clues to current declining size of marine life

Data collected by a scientist now at the University of Liverpool has predicted a dramatic decline in the size of marine animals used as food by humans, due to reduced oxygen levels in the oceans.
Jurassic clues to current declining size of marine life
The fossil study found a reduction in the size of the 183-million-year-old-clams as oxygen
in the water diminished [Credit: University of Liverpool]
Dr Bryony Caswell, from the University’s School of Environmental Sciences, in collaboration with Dr Angela Coe at the Open University, studied over 36,000 fossilised clam shells from northern England. These clams date from a short period near the beginning of the Jurassic (183 million years ago) which featured climatic change and declining oxygen levels in the seas, similar to that occurring today.

Ocean dead zones

Over 7% of the world’s oceans are classed as low oxygen zones or ‘ocean dead zones’. This figure has grown dramatically over the last 50 years, caused by increasing levels of pollution and accelerating climate change. Other recently published studies have shown that low oxygen reduces organism size and have predicted that under our current emissions scenario this will to lead to a decrease in the body size of individual marine animals of around 25% by 2050.
Jurassic clues to current declining size of marine life
The team studied 36,000 fossils along the North Yorkshire coast
[Credit: University of Liverpool]
The fossil study, which took place in Whitby, Yorkshire, found a reduction in the size of the 183-million-year-old-clams as oxygen in the water diminished. These changes affected ocean chemistry, which in turn affected the clams’ algal food supply and the rest of the food chain – leading to a decrease in biodiversity and the average body size of clams.

This process has important ramifications for today’s marine life, and for the humans which feed on it. Around 14% of the animal protein consumed today comes from the oceans, and with projections from this study foreseeing a decline of mean shellfish size of up to 50%, it could mean a significant food source for a growing population is now in decline.

During the early Jurassic period studied by the researchers, many species became extinct. However, some flourished, such as the clam Pseudomytiloides dubius which was small, reached sexual maturity quickly, and reproduced in large numbers. Similar patterns can be observed today, with dramatic growth in the populations of the modern-day coot clam in areas which have low oxygen levels.

Declining oxygen levels

Dr Caswell, said: “By examining changes in the oceans that happened millions of years ago we are able to piece together more of the picture of what is likely to happen in our own time as a result of declining oxygen levels.”
Jurassic clues to current declining size of marine life
Dr. Bryony Caswell: “Our research has shown that if ocean oxygen levels continue to decline it is likely that marine molluscs and possibly other seafloor animals will be smaller and there will be fewer species” [Credit: University of Liverpool]
“Unfortunately, our research has shown that if ocean oxygen levels continue to decline, within the next few decades to centuries, it is likely that marine molluscs and possibly other seafloor animals will be smaller and there will be fewer species. This reduction in body-size and biodiversity has profound implications for the animals in our seas and the people who rely on them for food.”

The study was funded by a National Environmental Research Council (NERC) grant to Bryony Caswell at the Open University and was published in the journal Geology.

Paleoclimatology – revisiting a tiny prehistoric witness

New insights into the growth dynamics of minuscule marine organisms could help put the study of Earth’s climate, both present and prehistoric, on a more solid footing.
Paleoclimatology – revisiting a tiny prehistoric witness
Foraminifera [Credit: Web]
For hundreds of millions of years, the tiny shells of single-celled marine organisms called foraminifera have been accumulating on the ocean floor. Their shells contain clues about the composition of the seawater they lived in. In a recent cooperation between EPFL and the Alfred Wegener Institute, researchers lay out a new explanation for how these organisms take up the elements they use to grow their shells, offering climatologists a better understanding into a common tool to study the Earth’s climate history. Their results were published in the journal Biogeosciences in late October, and highlighted in the November 22 issue of Science.

Scientists often rely on secondary evidence, from ice or sediment cores, to reconstruct the prehistoric climate. Studying sediment cores containing foraminifera, scientists have reconstructed temperature timelines and analyzed the planet’s ice cover based on the composition of the shells. But as coauthor Anders Meibom explains, because they are the result of complex biological processes, foraminifer from sediment cores cannot be interpreted easily using data from inorganically formed minerals.

Not just passive transport

Foraminifera build their shells by using calcium, carbon, and oxygen that they find in seawater. Until now, scientists thought that the microorganisms used tiny “carrier bubbles,” or vacuoles, to transport seawater into them. There, calcium carbonate would precipitate from the water, forming the shell.

Scientists have long been baffled by the low magnesium concentrations in the shells. Seawater has five times more magnesium than calcium, so if minerals only entered the shells through vacuoles, they would contain large amounts of magnesium – unless it was somehow removed from the organism. Researchers have proposed a number of ways that the magnesium could be removed; yet none of them have ever been proven.

Molecular pumps that select for calcium

Instead of being taken up in vacuoles, the authors of this recent paper hold that most of the calcium is let in through transmembrane transport, which selects for calcium, but block magnesium. The fact that the shells nevertheless contain small amounts of magnesium means that both mechanisms could act in tandem, with non-selective vacuole transport accounting for the traces of magnesium found in the shells.

Based on the magnesium-calcium ratio in the surrounding seawater, the researchers developed a model to predict the magnesium-calcium ratio in the foraminifera shells. “We tested our predictions against three different experiments where foraminifera were grown in an aquarium, and the fit was almost perfect,” says Anders Meibom. According to lead author Gernot Nehrke from the Alfred Wegener Institute, their model is the first to predict the composition of the foraminifera shells without having to resort to unconfirmed theories of magnesium removal.

Beyond ice fields

“Foraminifera can provide all sorts of information on the climate, but until now, they have been treated as a black box. With this research we are beginning to understand, at a sub-cellular level, how these organisms develop, giving us a better idea about both the accuracy and the limits of sediment core measurements to reconstruct the climate of the past,” says Meibom.

Daily Comic Relief


A fiery drama of star birth and death

Located only about 160 000 light-years from us (eso1311 – http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1311/) in the constellation of Dorado (The Swordfish), the Large Magellanic Cloud is one of our closest galactic neighbours. It is actively forming new stars in regions that are so bright that some can even be seen from Earth with the naked eye, such as the Tarantula Nebula (eso1033 – http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1033/). This new image, taken by ESO’s Very Large Telescope at the Paranal Observatory in Chile, explores an area called NGC 2035 (right), sometimes nicknamed the Dragon’s Head Nebula.
NGC 2035 is an HII region, or emission nebula, consisting of clouds of gas that glow due to the energetic radiation given off by young stars. This radiation strips electrons from atoms within the gas, which eventually recombine with other atoms and release light. Mixed in with the gas are dark clumps of dust that absorb rather than emit light, creating weaving lanes and dark shapes across the nebula.
The filamentary shapes to the left in the image are the not the results of starbirth, but rather stellar death. It was created by one of the most violent events that can happen in the Universe — a supernova explosion [1]. These explosions are so bright that they often briefly outshine their entire host galaxy, before fading from view over several weeks or months (also see eso1315 – http://www.eso.org/public/news/eso1315/ and potw1323a – http://www.eso.org/public/images/potw1323a/).
From looking at this image, it may be difficult to grasp the sheer size of these clouds — they are several hundred light-years across. And they are not in our galaxy, but far beyond. The Large Magellanic Cloud is enormous, but when compared to our own galaxy it is very modest in extent, spanning just 14 000 light-years — about ten times smaller than the Milky Way.
This image was acquired using the FOcal Reducer and low dispersion Spectrograph instrument attached to ESO’s Very Large Telescope, which is located at the Paranal Observatory in Chile, as part of the ESO Cosmic Gems programme [2].
[1] The remnant left over by the supernova explosion that can be seen in this image is called SNR 0536-67.6.
[2] The ESO Cosmic Gems program is an initiative to produce images of interesting, intriguing or visually attractive objects using ESO telescopes, for the purposes of education and public outreach. The programme makes use of telescope time that cannot be used for science observations. All data collected may also be suitable for scientific purposes, and are made available to astronomers through ESO’s science archive.

The Lake Monsters of America

Look at all the lake monsters on this map! Are there really that many monsters in American lakes? Maybe not, but there are at least that many lake monster legends. The full map at Atlas Obscura has a legend of its own, to explain the different types of monsters. There are serpents (like Nessie), giant fish monsters, monstrous turtles, and even a cephalopod or two. A few of the monsters have their story posted, like the Alkali Lake Monster.
A 1923 eyewitness account of the monster of Alkali Lake in Nebraska reported that the single-horned alligator-esque creature let out a "dreadful roar" from the water. Described as 40 feet long with a horn like a rhinoceros, as well as an atrocious smell that is near fatal in itself, it's apparently a very hungry creature and devours anything in its path. Mostly this has been livestock. Sightings peaked in the 1920s, but have since faded, so perhaps Alkali Lake, now called Walgren Lake, is free from its fearsome, smelly unicorn beast.
You can see an artist's rendering of the Alkali Lake Monster and a few others at Atlas Obscura.

Rare diplodocus dinosaur sells for $650,000 at British auction

The skeleton of a diplodocus dinosaur that roamed what is now the United States some 160 million years ago was sold for 400,000 pounds ($651,100) to an unidentified public institution at an auction in Britain on Wednesday.
Misty, as the dinosaur was nicknamed, will later be put on public display, the auctioneers said. It was found by the teenage sons of German dinosaur hunter Raimund Albersdoerfer in Dana quarry in Wyoming, in the western United States.
The auctioneers, Summers Place Auction, declined to disclose any details about the buyer, who wished to remain anonymous.
"Finding a reasonably complete diplodocus of this size is extremely rare," Errol Fuller, a natural history expert and curator of the sale, told Reuters by telephone from West Sussex in England. "They are only ever really found by luck."
The remains of the 17-metre (56 ft) female are among the few more or less complete skeletons of diplodocus longus ever found. The sons of the German paleontologist came across Misty's fossilised bones after their father sent them to hunt another area because they were distracting him from his own search.
"The children wanted to find their own bits and pieces, so he sent them where he thought they might find a few fragments but nothing really important, and they came back saying that they had found this enormous bone," Fuller said.
Since the discovery was made on private rather than Federal land, it was possible for the German paleontologist to remove the fossils from the United States. They were sent to Holland, where they were cleaned and assembled, and then to the UK, where Misty was sold to the owner who is about to take her to her new home. ($1 = 0.6144 British pounds)

World's Oldest Resting Scorpion

A new and unique fossil imprint of a resting scorpion helps to fill a gap in the long evolutionary history of the hardy and feared arachnid.

Animal News

Wolves, coyotes and foxes at the Wolf Park in Battle Creek, Indiana dined on pumpkins stuffed with canine delicacies at the sanctuary.
The amazingly preserved flesh of a T. Rex has baffled science for years.
Even though seahorses are some of the slowest swimmers, they can catch fast-swimming crustaceans because of the shape of their heads, scientists have found.

Animal Pictures