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

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Daily Drift

Twenty-four Days To Go ....

Carolina Naturally is read in 194 countries around the world daily.
Art makes the world go round ... !
Today is - Day With(Out) Art Day

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

Some of our readers today have been in:
The Americas
Blainville, Pikangikum, Mississauga, Byward Market, Toronto, Lansing, Thunder Bay, Sainte-Thecle, Britannia, Burlington, Joliette, Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal, Guelph and Winnipeg, Canada
Mexico City, Mexico
Cidra and San Juan, Puerto Rico
Rio, De Janeiro and Curitiba, Brazil
Buenos Aires, Rosario and Villa Maria, Argentina
Waukesha, Gibsonia, Ladysmith, Terre Haute, Harwich, Bossier City and Anaheim, United States
Tipitapa, Nicaragua
Guayaquil, Ecuador
Lima, Peru
Warsaw, Wroclaw and Katowice, Poland
Zhovti Vody and Odessa, Ukraine
Dublin, Ireland
Slemmestad, Norway
Limassol, Cyprus
Chelyabinsk and Moscow, Russia
Rome, Cavallino, Ravenna, Prato, Vicenza, Milan and Ivrea, Italy
Manchester and London, England
Kista and Stockholm, Sweden
Mostar, Bijeljina and Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Gistrup, Niva and Copenhagen, Denmark
Rouen, France
Stara Zagora, Ruse and Sofia, Bulgaria
Zurich, Switzerland
Berlin, Muenchen, Sulzbach, Friedrichshain, Widdern and Hamburg, Germany
Istanbul and Bursa, Turkey
Reykjavik, Iceland
Vilnius, Lithuania
Pancevo, Serbia
Madrid, Zeanuri, Cadiz, Bilbao, Seville and L'Olleria, Spain
Bratislava, Slovakia
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Zagreb, Croatia
Athens, Greece
Newport, Wales
Tallinn, Estonia
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Kolkata, Thiruvananthapuram, Bangalore, Pondicherry, New Delhi, Pune, Bhopal, Nellore, Delhi, Bhubaneshwar, Goa, Coimbatore and Mumbai, India
Islamabad, Pakistan
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Homebush, Australia
Manila and Baranaque, Philippines

Today in History

1135 Henry I of England dies and the crown is passed to his nephew Stephen of Bloise.
1861 The U.S. gunboat Penguin seizes the Confederate blockade runner Albion carrying supplies worth almost $100,000.
1862 President Abraham Lincoln gives the State of the Union address to the 37th Congress.
1863 Belle Boyd, a Confederate spy, is released from prison in Washington.
1881 Virgil, Wyatt and Morgan Earp are exonerated in court for their action in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Ariz.
1900 Kaiser Wilhelm II refuses to meet with Boer leader Paul Kruger in Berlin.
1905 Twenty officers and 230 guards are arrested in St. Petersburg, Russia, for the revolt at the Winter Palace.
1908 The Italian Parliament debates the future of the Triple Alliance and asks for compensation for Austria's action in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
1909 President William Howard Taft severs official relations with Nicaragua's Zelaya government and declares support for the revolutionaries.
1916 King Constantine of Greece refuses to surrender to the Allies.
1918 An American army of occupation enters Germany.
1925 After a seven-year occupation, 7,000 British troops evacuate Cologne, Germany.
1933 Nazi storm troops become an official organ of the Reich.
1934 Josef Stalin's aide, Sergei Kirov, is assassinated in Leningrad.
1941 Japan's Tojo rejects U.S. proposals for a Pacific settlement as fantastic and unrealistic.
1941 Great Britain declares a state of emergency in Malaya following reports of Japanese attacks.
1941 The first Civil Air Patrol is organized in the United States.
1942 National gasoline rationing goes into effect in the United States.
1955 Rosa Parks refuses to sit in the back of a Montgomery, Alabama, bus, defying the South's segregationist laws.
1969 America's first draft lottery since 1942 is held.
1971 Indian Army recaptures part of Kashmir, which had been occupied by Pakistan.
1981 AIDS virus officially recognized.
1986 Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North pleads the 5th Amendment before a Senate panel investigating the Iran-Contra arms sale.
1988 Benazir Bhutto, politician, becomes the first woman to serve as Prime Minister of Pakistan and the first woman elected to lead a Muslim state
1989 East Germany's parliament changes its constitution, abolishing a section that gave the Communist Party the leading role in the state.
1990 Channel Tunnel sections from France and the UK meet beneath the English Channel.
1991 Ukraine's voters overwhelmingly approve a referendum for independence from the USSR.
2001 Trans World Airlines' final flight following the carrier's purchase by American Airlines; TWA began operating 76 years earlier. The final flight, 220, piloted by Capt. Bill Compton, landed at St. Louis International Airport.

Non Sequitur


The Xmas Xpress

Xmas Countdown Xmas Stories

Eavesdropper: A Maryland Tall Tale

There is an old tale which claims that at midnight, on Xtmas Eve, the cattle will kneel in the barn and speak with one another. Once an old Maryland man decided to test the tale by hiding in the barn at midnight to listen. So he climbed a rope to the window in the hayloft. He lay down on the rough gray boards, covered himself with hay and waited.
Around midnight, he saw all the cows in the barn kneel. At first he could not make out any words, but then, he heard the cow underneath his hiding place say to its neighbor: "I am afraid our poor old master will not live out the year."
"Oh dear," exclaimed her neighbor. "What a pity."
The old man was so frightened by the cow's words that he hurried over to the window, wanting to get away from the barn as fast as he could. But his sweating fingers slipped on the rope and he fell to the ground, broke his neck, and died.
Since then, the people in Maryland have never eavesdropped on the cattle at midnight on Xmas Eve.
We will be counting down the days until Xmas with different stories beginning with the one above. Enjoy.

Something Extra

MULAN (1998) - The story of Hua Mulan, a young woman who pretends to be a man to take her father's place in the army, has been told in China for nearly 2000 years. While a few different versions of the tale have evolved over time, Mulan is thought to have been a real person.
Here at Carolina Naturally recently noted (to ourselves) that we had posted an odd number of posts over the past several years and decided (due to our temporarily overwhelming OCD) to begin 2014 with trying to maintain the even number of posts we have (thus far) managed this year. Albeit to do this we must loose the even number status to fulfill the number of posts required to begin the new year on an even keel and to maintain it throughout the year (or at least that is the plan).
So, as a result of this decision we will post 'Something Extra' until we meet the even number - in which we will post insignifica, factoids, bits and pieces, odds and ends, odds and sods, and whatever else may strike our fancy ... such as the above 'unknown' fact about Disney's Movie MULAN.

Random Celebrity Photos

Natalie Wood

Did you know ...

That the environment does not negotiate

You can "make no mistake, there is a retirement crisis"

About how corporate front groups distorts the marketplace of ideas

That Maryland will return to paper ballots in 2016

Walmart Has Santa Claus Arrested at Black Friday Protest

Walmart is having workers and their supporters arrested across the country during today’s Black Friday protests. In Southern California, even Santa was arrested. The arrests are piling up around the country, as 9 supporters of Walmart workers were arrested in Alexandria, VA. Thirteen workers and supporters were arrested in the Dallas-Fort Worth, TX area according to Our Walmart. In Chicago, ten people were arrested at a Walmart protest.
The ultimate bad publicity came for Walmart when they arrested Santa in Southern California.
According to Our Walmart, the Santa shown above was soon arrested with a group of Walmart warehouse workers. Walmart will be trying to downplay these protests, but the bad publicity is impossible to avoid. Arresting Santa on their biggest shopping day of the year is not exactly the kind of publicity that Walmart wants.
There are 1,500 protests underway right now. These protests represent a large escalation over last year. Instead of taking the complaints of their workers seriously, Walmart has decided that they are going to crackdown on workers with arrests.
Arresting Santa is the Walmart way. Walmart workers couldn’t afford Thanksgiving dinner, because 800,000 Walmart workers are paid less than $25,000 a year. Walmart workers cost taxpayers $9,000 a year each in food stamp and Medicaid costs.
Santa believes in a living wage. This means that Walmart has to have Santa hauled off in cuffs.
Behind all of the holiday commercials, arresting Santa is the real face of Walmart.

Over 100 People Arrested As Nationwide Protest Against Walmart Grows Stronger

More than 110 people have been arrested across the country as the nationwide protest against Walmart continues to grow stronger.
In one of largest recent acts of civil disobedience, 1,500 protests are taking place at Walmarts in 46 states as workers, and their supporters are demanding a living wage and an end to retaliation against employees.
According to Our Walmart, arrests are occurring across the country,
In St. Paul, MN, 26 workers and allies were arrested practicing non-violent civil disobedience as nearly 1,000 marched, calling on Walmart, other corporations, and state legislators to end poverty wages in Minnesota. The march capped a Black Friday week of action in Minnesota that included a strike in Brooklyn Center by Walmart associates.
In Sacramento, CA, 15 protesters were arrested at the Roseville Walmart. OUR Walmart member Dorothy Halvorson in Placerville, California, who has worked at the store for 11 years, was part of the civil disobedience there. She says:
In Seacaucus, NJ, 13 protesters – including Walmart workers who have been illegally fired for speaking out for better jobs, were arrested after peaceful civil disobedience at Walmart’s store in the Harmon Meadow shopping center.
Earlier, Santa Claus was among those arrested, “9 supporters of Walmart workers were arrested in Alexandria, VA. Thirteen workers and supporters were arrested in the Dallas-Fort Worth, TX area according to Our Walmart. In Chicago, ten people were arrested at a Walmart protest.”
Walmart has spent the day putting out false information. The nation’s largest retailer has been claiming that no employees are involved in the protests, and that the protesters are being paid $50 each. Neither of these claims is true. Walmart is trying to lie their way out of trouble, and when they can’t lie, they are having the protesters arrested.
Walmart is repeating the strategy of other failed robber barons. They can’t have all of their employees arrested, and they don’t understand that they aren’t just battling their own workers. The retail giant is also battling a changing perception of income equality. Seventy six percent of Americans support raising the minimum wage. By treating their employees so callously, Walmart is out of step with more than three fourths of the country,
The protests aren’t getting weaker. They are growing louder. The call for justice is getting louder, and the movement against those who prosper by increasing inequality is getting stronger.

The Truth Be Told

Why Walmart's Plan to Pit Low-Wage Workers Against Low-Wage Consumers Is Failing

As Black Friday protests near, a new report reveals Walmart can raise employee wages without costing consumers a dime.
Black Friday is the day when many Americans find refuge in the corporations that squeeze them out of the middle class. Black Friday deals, which offer you that one-day opportunity to get the most bang for your small buck, is good enough to wait in line for at dawn or even leave Thanksgiving dinner early — this year as early as 6pm.
That’s why it’s tricky for corporations’ financially burdened workforce to ask consumers not to shop in the same stores that help keep many of them destitute, which is what Walmart workers at 1,500 stores will be doing this Black Friday. After all, when you’re left fighting over crumbs, it’s difficult to realize that Walmart snuck off with the whole pie.
Walmart and its supporters boast that if the corporation were to pay its workers more, it would have to raise prices for consumers. A few months ago, when Walmart refused to open three stores in Washington, D.C. if proposed living-wage legislation passed, a general manager lamented that paying its workers a living wage “would result in fewer jobs, higher prices and fewer total retail options.”
But a new report by public policy organization Demos reveals that Walmart could raise its workers' wages without costing consumers a dime. The report, titled “A Higher Wage is Possible: How Walmart Can Invest in Its Workforce Without Costing Customers a Dime,” found that Walmart could raise wages by $5.83 per hour without raising prices. The report revealed that Walmart spends $7.6 billion annually buying back shares of its own stock. Amy Traub, co-author of the report, said share buybacks are “Wall Street financial maneuvers” that are unproductive, and often fail, in the long run, its goal of making its shares worth more. The report quotes a Wall Street Journalbusiness analyst, who wrote:
The evidence overwhelmingly shows that heavy buyback companies usually create less value for shareholders over time… Many managements have become so infatuated with how buybacks increase earnings per share that these distributions are crowding out sound business investments that create more value over time.
Traub said that if Walmart reinvested these billions of dollars in its workforce instead, it would be beneficial to its workers as well to as the economy as a whole.
The Walton family, heirs to the Walmart fortune, is the richest family in the world with a net worth of $144.7 billion — equal to the wealth of 42 percent of Americans. Through share buybacks, the heirs continue to consolidate ownership of the corporation, now owning more than 50 percent of its shares. Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, and the largest private employer in the United States, brings in $17 billion annually.
Meanwhile, it’s estimated that Walmart workers make, on average, around $9 per hour. Walmart U.S. CEO Bill Simon boasted at a conference that 475,000 of its 1.3 million workers get paid more than $25,000, which was taken to mean that the other two-thirds of employees make less. Assuming that Walmart workers make $9.06 per hour, the industry median for low-wage employees of large retailers, the Demos report states that the company could hike pay to $14.89 per hour:
At this rate, any worker placed on the schedule for more than 32 hours a week would bring home $25,000 a year — an important accomplishment in an industry where nearly a third of part-time employees say that they would like to work full-time if their employer would allow them. … Walmart’s workers and their families would clearly be the biggest beneficiaries of a wage increase, but greater investment in the workforces would benefit the company as well.
And the company could use some help. Walmart has recently seen decreased sales for its third straight quarter. The report states:
According to media reports, U.S. consumers have avoided Walmart’s stores because they are disorganized and shoppers cannot find the items they seek on Walmart’s shelves. There were too few employees in the stores — or the workers who were present were too inexperienced — to keep items in stock on the shelves. In February, leaked internal emails from Walmart’s corporate offices lamented that ‘sales are a total disaster,’ and wondered, ‘Where are all the customers? And where’s their money?’
The report states that higher wages would encourage Walmart workers to stay with the company, gaining experience to be more helpful to customers. Walmart has high employee turnover, with about 500,000 Walmart employees leaving the company every year. Walmart, however, blames its workers for low sales, in an effort to further normalize their poor working conditions. Evelin Cruz, a member of OUR Walmart, a coalition of former and current Walmart workers standing up for better conditions, went on strike to speak out about her concerns and was arrested for blocking a street in Los Angeles. She said in an interview:
At Walmart on a daily basis they have morning, afternoon and evening meetings and at the meetings they give you those sales reports. They tell us, ‘Our customer counts are down or our sales are bad. Our hours are not going to be the greatest and there’s going to be so many cuts.’ They make sure you know you’re very lucky to get the hours that you get. And then, once in a while they throw in, ‘We have so many people applying for every position out there,’ to make you know that you’re easily replaceable. And they have been holding captive audience meetings, they say, ‘We didn’t ask you to come work for us, you came to us asking for a job.’
Walmart U.S. CEO Bill Simon recently said shrinking sales are due to customers’ declining income while costs of goods are increasing. But he failed to grasp that low-paying companies like Walmart cause this decreased income across the board, as it sets the standard. Walmart workers are paid so low and rely so much on government assistance, a recent report found that one Walmart store costs taxpayers $900,000 in federal subsidies.
Robert Reich, former U.S. labor secretary, has said: “Walmart is so huge that a wage boost at Walmart would ripple through the entire economy, putting more money in the pockets of low-wage workers. This would help boost the entire economy — including Walmart’s own sales.”
The new report now adds to the existing evidence that Walmart’s plan to pit low-wage workers against low-wage consumers falls short. Walmart’s myths and manipulations are starting to unravel as workers continue to expose the truth about Walmart’s working conditions. On Black Friday, these empowered workers will flip the script on Walmart’s motto “Save money. Live better” and show that the only way they can live better is by speaking out, sharing the truth with consumers, and getting them to stand with them in solidarity.

Congressional Democrats Take a Stand and Defend WalMart Workers on Black Friday

walmart picket

The repugicans in a nutshell ...

Presidential term limits ...

Necessary and right, or bad for democracy?

by Chris Nichols 
The time has come to end presidential term limits, because continuing the restrictions on how long one can serve in the country's highest office is bad for the United States, a university professor argued this week.

In an opinion piece published in the Washington Post, Jonathan Zimmerman, a history and education professor at New York University, says deciding whether a president deserves a third, fourth or more terms should be left to the American people, not the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution, which placed a two-term limit on the position. As background, here's an excerpt from the amendment, ratified in 1951:
"No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once."
The amendment came into being a few years after Franklin Roosevelt was elected to the fourth of his White House terms. Known to Americans as the president during the final years of the Great Depression and most of World War II, Roosevelt, a Democrat, died in office before completing his last term. After the war, repugicans made a successful bid to install a two-term maximum for future presidents. But, according to Zimmerman, they limited not only the president's time in office, but also "democracy itself."
With President Obama's job-approval numbers down sharply, Zimmerman indicates that the nation's chief executive is perhaps being hampered by the fact that he's in his final term, giving repugican opponents and even Democrats little incentive to support him on issues that might hurt their own re-election chances.
To illustrate his point, he uses two topics in the headlines: the implemention of the new health care law and the nuclear agreement with Iran.
He writes:
"Many of Obama’s fellow Democrats have distanced themselves from the reform and from the president. Even former president Bill Clinton has said that Americans should be allowed to keep the health insurance they have. Or consider the reaction to the Iran nuclear deal. Regardless of his political approval ratings, Obama could expect repugican senators such as Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and John McCain (Ariz.) to attack the agreement. But if Obama could run again, would he be facing such fervent objections from Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.)? Probably not. Democratic lawmakers would worry about provoking the wrath of a president who could be reelected. Thanks to term limits, though, they’ve got little to fear."
Zimmerman adds, "Nor does Obama have to fear the voters, which might be the scariest problem of all. If he chooses, he could simply ignore their will. And if the people wanted him to serve another term, why shouldn’t they be allowed to award him one?"

On this last point, he invokes George Washington, the first president of the United States. Washington, he says, stepped down after his second term, but not because he was required by law to do so. Zimmerman says Washington didn't support enforced term limits, citing one of his letters. "I can see no propriety in precluding ourselves from the service of any man who, in some great emergency, shall be deemed universally most capable of serving the public," Washington wrote. By leaving office, however, he did establish a precedent that would be followed for more than a century.

In his "Presidential Term Limits in American History: Power, Principles, and Politics," Michael Korzi, a professor of political science at Towson University, cites the first president's remark, stating that Washington departed voluntarily after his second term "more for personal reasons than for reasons of philosophy."

Even so, the Founding Fathers had different opinions on whether to impose a mandate on term lengths, researchers indicate. (U.S. senators and representatives don't have term limits.) Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the U.S., felt a maximum had merit. In "Jefferson Himself: The Personal Narrative of a Many-Sided American," edited by Bernard Mayo, Jefferson referenced his dislike of the idea of an entrenched leader:

"That I should lay down my charge at a proper season is as much a duty as to have borne it faithfully ... . These changes are necessary, too, for the security of republican government. If some period be not fixed, either by the Constitution or by practice, to the services of the First Magistrate, his office, though nominally elective, will in fact be for life; and that will soon degenerate into an inheritance."

As for the present, Zimmerman's idea isn't new, and in fact, rumor-researching website Snopes.com notes multiple proposals in recent years to repeal the 22nd Amendment. The repugicans and Democrats alike have raised the issue, but none of the attempts have gotten too far. .

For 20 Years Your Email Password Was Stronger Than The U.S. Nuclear Launch Code

It would be unfathomable today, but for nearly 20 years, the United States nuclear launch code was probably not as strong as your email password.
According to Karl Smallwood,

In 1962 JFK signed the National Security Action Memorandum 160, which was supposed to ensure that every nuclear weapon the US had be fitted with a Permissive Action Link (PAL), basically a small device that ensured that the missile could only be launched with the right code and with the right authority.

However, though the devices were supposed to be fitted on every nuclear missile after JFK issued his memorandum, the military continually dragged its heels on the matter. In fact, it was noted that a full 20 years after JFK had order PALs be fitted to every nuclear device, half of the missiles in Europe were still protected by simple mechanical locks. Most that did have the new system in place weren’t even activated until 1977.
The military did this because they didn’t want to waste valuable potential nuking time. They also didn’t want to take a risk with a complicated password, so for almost two decades, the password to deploy the Minuteman missiles was set to 00000000.
Since the military ignored President Kennedy’s order to install the PAL system, any soldier with the code could have launched the missiles. We came a lot closer to a Dr. Strangelove type situation than anyone could have imagined.
All of this happened in the days before the Internet so the risk was level was not the same, but idea that your email is hopefully more secure today than the U.S. nuclear arsenal was at one time is still a pretty scary thought.

NSA and Canadian spooks illegally spied on diplomats at Toronto G20 summit

A new Snowden leak reveals that the NSA worked with the Canadian spy agency CSEC to illegally spy on diplomats attending the G20 summit in Toronto in 2010 (an earlier leak revealed that the NSA also spied on the 2009 G20 summit in London).
The leak is significant for many reasons, but especially because it adds to the evidence that the NSA's's bulk surveillance capabilities are an instrument of US trade policy, used to spy on diplomats from friendly countries in order to cheat on trade negotiations, winning tactical advantages through unethical and illegal means. It's the sort of state-sponsored industrial espionage that the US and Canada frequently accuse China of -- takes one to know one, I suppose.
Also noteworthy is the fact that CSEC is not allowed to spy on Canadians, nor on visitors to Canada. It may be that they circumvented the law by assisting the NSA to spy in Canada. Similar allegations have been made about the NSA and the British spy agency GCHQ; they are rumored to have an established process of asking one-another to spy on their own citizens in order to stay in technical compliance with the rules that prohibit domestic spying: "We didn't spy on our own people; we asked these foreign spooks to spy on them and give the information to us. It's totally different."
The NSA and its Canadian "partner," the Communications Security Establishment Canada, gather foreign intelligence for their respective governments by covertly intercepting phone calls and hacking into computer systems around the world.
The secret documents do not reveal the precise targets of so much espionage by the NSA — and possibly its Canadian partner — during the Toronto summit.
But both the U.S. and Canadian intelligence agencies have been implicated with their British counterpart in hacking the phone calls and emails of foreign politicians and diplomats attending the G20 summit in London in 2009 — a scant few months before the Toronto gathering of the same world leaders.
Notably, the secret NSA briefing document describes part of the U.S. eavesdropping agency's mandate at the Toronto summit as "providing support to policymakers."



Saudi government bans Arabic sf novel HWJN, raids bookstores

A trusted source who asks to remain anonymous writes, "Scores of messages on Twitter, primarily in Arabic, called attention to Tuesday's suppression by the Saudi Arabian government of H W J N, a science fiction novel by Ibraheem Abbas. The book was charged with 'blasphemy and devil-worshiping,' according to one source, which also notes that the apparent instigator of the ban was a post on Facebook in which the writer accused the book of referencing jinni and of leading teenage girls to experiment with Ouija boards."
There has been no official statement from the Saudi government, but the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice raided several bookshops that were selling the book and demanded the books be taken off the shelf. In one store, they left a hand written letter on official letterhead demanding that the bookshop manager show up the next day at their offices. Results of that meeting, if it occurred, have not been announced.
The book itself is a science-fiction novel, available in both Arabic and in English translation as H W J N that treats jinni as science fictional beings that co-exist with humanity, and tells of a romance between a human and a jinn.
The translator and co-author, Yasser Bahjatt, attended the World Science Fiction Convention this August in San Antonio, appearing on panels and selling copies of the English edition. The book has received complimentary reviews on Amazon and elsewhere from science fiction writers such as Gregory Benford.
The messages on Twitter use the hashtag #حوجن or #HWJN.

Olympic Torchbearer Catches Fire

In Mother Russia, Olympic torch ignites YOU! This mishap took place in Siberia on Wednesday.
A clip posted on YouTube by the Russian site Lifenews shows former Olympic bobsledder Pyotr Makarchuk parading the torch through a crowd in the city of Abakan when flames suddenly leap from the left shoulder and upper arm of his jacket.

Escorts immediately put out the flames and Makarchuk was not injured, said Roman Osin, spokesman for the Russian Sochi 2014 torch relay, who witnessed the incident on Wednesday.

The flames were caused by drops of liquid gas that fell on Makarchuk's jacket, he said.
The Winter Games in Sochi don't start until February 7th, but the torch is on its longest pre-Olympic relay ever, a journey of 40,000 miles. The flame has gone out dozens of times already, but this is the first public news of a torchbearer catching fire.

Famous Names and Nicknames

by Eddie Deezen. Visit Eddie at his website or at Facebook.

Mae West was called "Peaches" as a young girl by the young boys in Brooklyn.
President Benjamin Harrison was known as "Kid Gloves." He was prone to skin infection and wore kid gloves to protect his hands.

Jerry Lewis' nickname in high school was "Id" (short for "Idiot").

George Herman "Babe" Ruth was "The Babe" to millions of baseball fans, but his closest friends called him "Jidge" which is a slang way of saying George.

John Lennon often called his wife Yoko Ono "Mother."

Marilyn Monroe affectionately referred to her husband Joe DiMaggio as her "Slugger."
Former model Lauren Bacall was known as "The Windmill" and "The Pinwheel." Of course, her husband, Humphrey Bogart always called her "Baby."

Adolf Hitler had a lifelong fascination with wolves. He loved the nickname "Wolf" and liked the pseudonym "Herr Wolf." He had residences he dubbed "The Wolves Lair" and "The Wolves Den."

Classic sharpshooter Annie Oakley was originally given the nickname "Watanya Cicilla" by her friend and fellow performer Sitting Bull. This translated to "Little Sure Shot." It later evolved into "Little Miss Sure Shot."

Sally Struthers was a rather chubby young girl. Her sister called her "Packy," short for "Pachyderm."

Brad Pitt was known by the nickname "Pitt-Bull."

She was born Carole Penelope Marsciarelli. As a young girl, she once saved pennies to buy a horse. She soon became known as "Penny" Marshall.
President Ulysses S. Grant was dubbed "The Galena Tanner," because he once ran a tannery.

Clerow Wilson was given the name "Flip" while he was serving in the U.S. Air Force. "He flippeth his lid," one of the guys in the barracks once said. The name stuck.

Two of Elvis Presley's favorite "undercover" names he used when he checked into hotels on the road were "Dr. John Carpenter" and "Jon Burrows." Dr. John Carpenter was his character's name in one of his last movies.

As a young girl, Madonna was known as "Little Nonnie."

Al Capone was "Scarface" …but no one ever called him that to his face! Capone got his facial scar when he was working as a bouncer at a nightclub in Brooklyn. He inadvertently insulted a girl, which provoked a fight with her brother, Frank Gallucio. Gallucio cut three slash marks across Capone's face with a knife. But, believe it or not, Capone's closest friends called him "Snorky."
Joan Crawford called Spencer Tracy "Slug." She called her onetime husband Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. "Dodo."

Jennifer Garner's childhood nickname was "Puppy." "I was kind of a tail-waggin' kid," she explained.

President Andrew Johnson was dubbed "The Tennessee Tailor" because that was his pre-presidential profession.

Richard Burton's affectionate nickname for wife Elizabeth Taylor was "Fatty." (I bet she loved that!)

Why Blood Stem Cells Live So Long

The blood stem cells that live in bone marrow are at the top of a complex family tree. Such stem cells split and divide down various pathways that ultimately produce red cells, white cells and […]

Random Photos

Scientists bag more than 1,000 fossils at Cradle 'treasure trove'

Less than a month since Professor Lee Berger and the Rising Star Expedition team began excavating a "spectacular" fossil find, they have bagged more than a thousand fossils.
Scientists bag more than 1,000 fossils at Cradle 'treasure trove'
Professor Lee Berger [Credit: Gallo]
On Tuesday, the archaeological professor at Wits University's Institute of Human Evolution announced that this would be their last day of excavating at the site, "the richest early hominid site in South Africa, including Sterkfontein".

"The expedition was built to recover a single skeleton, not a treasure trove.

"We need to re-assess the scientific plan and also how to deal with the abundance of material," he said at a press briefing at the site in the Cradle of Humankind.

The collection of canvas tents in the green hills of northern Gauteng has been the base camp for the scientists and expedition support team for the past three weeks. The expedition first made headlines earlier this month, after Berger put out a call for "skinny anthropologists, biologists, cavers, not afraid of confined spaces".

The "treasure trove" of early or ancient hominid fossils was in a chamber about 30 meters underground, which could only be accessed via a narrow entrance measuring about 18cm across. Six international scientists, who were also experienced spelunkers (people who explore and study caves as a hobby), have been on site since November 10, working shifts between four and seven hours to retrieve the fossils.

Although he convened a press conference to announce the end of this excavation, Berger refused to be drawn on details of the find – such as the hominids' ages, species or numbers – saying it would be speculation. But he said they appeared to be "early hominids".

The sheer number of recovered fossils poses difficulties for the team. When Berger discovered Australopithicus sediba in 2008, "there were 250 elements [that took thousands of man hours to [limn]". He planned to create an open source platform to pool global resources to analyze the fossils. "We're going to explore the concept of developing a new way of sharing data."

Rising Star Expedition

John Hawks, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin who is also working on the expedition, said that if the team was to analyze the data in the "traditional way", which involved groups keeping the data to themselves and analyzing it using their data sets only, "it would take more people than there are in the field".

Even though Rising Star Expedition – a collaboration between Wits University and National Geographic, where Berger is an explorer in residence – was ending, "we don't have anywhere near [all of the fossils]. We haven't scratched the surface. This excavation will go on for decades," Berger said.

When the expedition was announced, Berger said that it was being accelerated because the fossils were "vulnerably exposed". On Tuesday, he said that there was evidence that modern humans had already been in the cave, and had damaged some of the fossils. National Geographic's Andrew Howley would not describe the underground layout of the site, saying it was a recreational spelunking site and it would tip people off to where it was.

Berger said that security measures were being implemented to protect the site, which he described as a site of "world heritage".

"We are closing the door behind us, but we will be back."

Ancient ironworks site studied in Poland

A well of unusual design, a number of bloomeries for smelting and remains of half-dugouts were discovered archaeologists during excavations in Kanie (Mazovia Voivodeship) in east-central Poland.
Ancient ironworks site studied in Poland
Upper rim of timbering with visible structural element with a rectangular
opening at the bottom [Credit: R. Wereda]
According to the researchers, the site perfectly fits the pattern of other known ironworks settlements located in the Błonie Plains in the western part of the region. It was the second largest centre of mass production of iron in the territories inhabited by the Przeworsk culture about two thousand years ago.

"We found 22 furnaces filled to varying degrees with slag pieces and residue and intense black burn, and two half-dugouts, which contained numerous pottery pieces" - reported Robert Wereda of the Museum of Ancient Mazovia Metallurgy in Pruszków.

The well caught particular attention of the researchers due to its design, which, they believe, is unique not only in Mazovia, but perhaps also in the whole Poland.

"What distinguishes the well we have discovered from other such objects dating from the Roman period, is the use of vertical-post log design, which is characteristic of residential buildings, in the construction of timbering" - said Wereda.

The archaeologist explained that the walls of rectangular well timbering were usually built using carcass construction, consisting of horizontal laying of wooden beams and connecting them in corners. Wooden timbering parts were very well preserved due to the favourable conditions - resting in moisture. Horizontal components in the well were handmade planks, probably oak, which were inserted in vertical grooves in four pillars stuck in the ground. Each pillar had two grooves and was tapered over a length of about 50 cm. The preserved height of timbering was about 1.30 m. Bottom of the well was lined with medium-sized stones and located at a depth of approximately 3.40 m from the surface, at the ground water depth. All structural components were very closely matched. Slots were filled with clay and birch bark, which improved the tightness of the whole structure, according to the results of the meticulous work of archaeologists.

"In the immediate vicinity of the well we have also uncovered several pole holes, indicating the existence of a small surface building terrestrial with a pole structure, that provided roofing for the well" - said Wereda.
Ancient ironworks site studied in Poland
View of the first pieces of wooden well timbering [Credit: R. Wereda]
Archaeologists also discovered traces of what probably was a crane - in the form of a large pole hole - used to draw the bucket from inside the well. Archaeologists also note another important fact. Timbering had been strengthened with stones from the outside, which was a standard for similar discoveries.

"Perhaps the explanation for this state of affairs, or rather lack of it, is the use of vertical-post log design that did not require additional strengthening with stones and ensured proper functioning of the well" - proposed Wereda.

Inside the well, archaeologists found 20 pieces of various kinds of pottery. This was another surprise for the researchers. Most communities of the Przeworsk culture used old wells as garbage pits and filled them with broken pots and other waste. In the case of the well in Kanie, it appears that the well had been in use until the end of the functioning of the settlement , when it was deliberately buried.

Currently, wooden pieces of well timbering are kept in the Museum of Ancient Mazovia Metallurgy in Pruszków. Obtaining adequate funds will allow for their conservation and dendrochronological analyzes used for accurate dating.

The excavations were carried out in July. The work preceded the construction of the water supply system. Excavations were headed by Dorota Słowińska from the Stefan Woyda Museum of Ancient Mazovia Metallurgy in Pruszków.

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Proto-agricultural activity found in Mexican rock shelter

The first finding of incipient agriculture for the state of Nuevo Leon (Mexico), practiced by collectors-hunters, such as seeds, corncobs and corn leaves which are calculated to date back to 3500 or 3000 BC, was registered by investigators from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) of said entity.
Proto-agricultural activity found in Mexican rock shelter
Evidence of Archaic Period incipient agriculture located in the El Morro,
Nuevo León [Credit: Araceli Estrada INAH]
“In Nuevo Leon we had not identified any archaeological site with this type of evidence. After two seasons in El Morro, municipality of Aramberri, we recovered approximately a million corncobs and fragments of these”, said Ph.D. Araceli Rivera Estrada, investigator for the INAH Center in the entity.

Araceli Rivera pointed out the importance of this finding since “proof that nomadic collectors-hunters of the region had been around since the Arcaic period. This will lead us to reevaluate the categories in which indigenous groups south of the state are designated”.

The investigator explained that the eldest registry of the three main crops domesticated in Mexico (corn, pumpkin and beans) originate from caves excavated in the 50’s and 60’s: Romero and Valenzuela, close to Ocampo (Tamaulipas); Coxcatlan and San Marcos, in the valley of Tehuacan (Puebla) and Guila Naquitz (oaxaca), with antiquities that date back from 7 thousand to 3 thousand years before Christ.
Proto-agricultural activity found in Mexican rock shelter
Thousands of corn cobs and corn husks were found in the
rock-shelter [Credit: Araceli Estrada INAH]
The INAH specialist added that the investigation took place in a small rocky shelter located in El Morro, Nuevo Leon, which contains abundant cave paintings, not only in the main wall of the entry, but also in several huge stones outside the shelter. The figures in the paintings represent anthropomorphic and zoomorphic creatures, among others.

The remains of the rural food produce are evidence of the material culture, subsistence patterns that were made by harvests and collectors. The cave paintings made by these groups reflect technological, social and ideological aspects. Cave Paintings

Araceli Rivera, who during several years has been dedicated to unraveling the significance of cave paintings and petroglyphs, emphasized that in Nuevo Leon there is an abundance of such manifestations in diverse rocky shelters used for housing and numerous rocks with engravings.
Proto-agricultural activity found in Mexican rock shelter
Wrapped corn husks [Credit: Araceli Estrada INAH]
In said zone there has been evidence of the “first architectonic structures of the northeast of Mexico”, which are housing foundations or stone structures; terraces and public or ceremonial spaces, surrounded by numerous hearths and nearby burnt rocks.

Also, the archaeologist concluded, they have found large quantities of lithic material and arrow heads of the Paleoindian period (8200 BC) and the Arcaic; as well as fossils belonging to mammoths, mastodons, horses, camels, llamas and bisons principally salvaged from deposits in Nuevo Leon.

Forget fire, flood and sharks

Rip currents claim more lives in Australia on average each year than bushfires, floods, cyclones and sharks combined, UNSW research shows. Rip currents are the cause of an average 21 confirmed human fatalities per year, […]

How to Make a Cooked Bird Sing, c. 1450

The Viviender is a Fifteenth Century book written in Middle French. It contains 60 recipies as well as household tips and medical advice. One of the recipes is ideal for Xmas dinner. Fill a cooked chicken with mercury, sulfur and hot air, then bind both ends. The bird will appear to sing when you loosen the bounds:
To make that Chicken Sing when it is dead and roasted, whether on the spit or in the platter. Take the neck of your chicken and bind it at one end and fill it with quicksilver and ground sulphur, filling until it is roughly half full; then bind the other end, but not too tightly. When you want it to sing, [heat] your neck or chicken. When it is quite hot, and when the mixture heats up, the air that is trying to escape will make the chicken's sound. The same can be done with a gosling, with a piglet and with any other birds. And if it doesn't cry loudly enough, tie the two ends more tightly.

Bits of T. Rex tissue survived for millions of years

In 2005, scientists found some soft tissue in the fossilized leg of Tyrannosaurus Rex. Now, they can confirm that, yes, that is T. Rex collagen. What's more, there's preserved collagen in lots of other T. Rex fossil specimens. How'd it survive? Stephanie Pappas at NBC News explains.

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