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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.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Daily Drift

Fifteen Days To Go ....

Carolina Naturally is read in 194 countries around the world daily.
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Some of our readers today have been in:
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Today in History

1817 Mississippi is admitted as the 20th state.
1861 Kentucky is admitted to the Confederate States of America.
1862 The U.S. House of Representatives passes a bill creating the state of West Virginia.
1869 Governor John Campbell signs the bill that grants women in Wyoming Territory the right to vote as well as hold public office.
1898 The United States and Spain sign the Treaty of Paris, ceding Spanish possessions, including the Philippines, to the United States.
1917 The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to the International Red Cross.
1918 U.S. troops are called to guard Berlin as a coup is feared.
1919 Captain Ross Smith becomes the first person to fly 11,500 miles from England to Australia.
1936 Edward VIII abdicates to marry Wallis Warfield Simpson, an American-born divorcee.
1941 Japanese troops invade the Philippine island of Luzon.
1941 The siege of Tobruk in North Africa is raised.
1943 Franklin D. Roosevelt signs a bill that postpones a draft of pre-Pearl Harbor fathers.
1943 Allied forces bomb Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria.
1949 150,000 French troops mass at the border in Vietnam to prevent a Chinese invasion.
1950 Dr. Ralph J. Bunche becomes the first African-American to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
1977 On UN Human Rights Day, the Soviet Union places 20 prominent dissidents under house arrest, cutting off telephones and threatening to break up a planned silent demonstration in Moscow's Pushkin Square. Soviet newspapers decry human rights violations elsewhere in the world.
1978 President of Egypt Anwar Sadat and Prime Minister of Israel Menachem Begin are jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
1983 Democracy restored to Argentina with the assumption of Raul Alfonsin.
1989 Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj announces the establishment of Mongolia's democratic movement that changes the second oldest communist country into a democracy.
1993 The Wearmouth Colliery in Sunderland, East England, closes, marking the end of the County Durham coalfield, which had been in operation since the Middle Ages.

Non Sequitur


Xmas Countdown Xmas Stories

At Xmas Time


"What shall I write?" asked Yegor, dipping his pen in the ink.
Vasilissa had not seen her daughter for four years. Efimia had gone away to St. Petersburg with her husband after her wedding, had written two letters, and then had vanished as if the earth had engulfed her, not a word nor a sound had come from her since. So now, whether the aged mother was milking the cow at daybreak, or lighting the stove, or dozing at night, the tenor of her thoughts was always the same: "How is Efimia? Is she alive and well?" She wanted to send her a letter, but the old father could not write, and there was no one whom they could ask to write it for them.
But now Xmas had come, and Vasilissa could endure the silence no longer. She went to the tavern to see Yegor, the innkeeper's wife's brother, who had done nothing but sit idly at home in the tavern since he had come back from military service, but of whom people said that he wrote the most beautiful letters, if only one paid him enough. Vasilissa talked with the cook at the tavern, and with the innkeeper's wife, and finally with Yegor himself, and at last they agreed on a price of fifteen copecks.
So now, on the second day of the Xmas festival, Yegor was sitting at a table in the inn kitchen with a pen in his hand. Vasilissa was standing in front of him, plunged in thought, with a look of care and sorrow on her face. Her husband, Peter, a tall, gaunt old man with a bald, brown head, had accompanied her. He was staring steadily in front of him like a blind man; a pan of pork that was frying on the stove was sizzling and puffing, and seeming to say: "Hush, hush, hush!" The kitchen was hot and close.
"What shall I write?" Yegor asked again.
"What's that?" asked Vasilissa, looking at him angrily and suspiciously. "Don't hurry me! You are writing this letter for money, not for love! Now then, begin. To our esteemed son-in-law, Andrei Khrisanfltch, and our only and beloved daughter Efimia, we send greetings and love, and the everlasting blessing of their parents."
"All right, fire away!"
"We wish them a happy Xmas. We are alive and well, and we wish the same for you in the name of god, our Father in heaven--our Father in heaven--"
Vasilissa stopped to think, and exchanged glances with the old man.
"We wish the same for you in the name of god, our Father in Heaven--" she repeated and burst into tears.
That was all she could say. Yet she had thought, as she had lain awake thinking night after night, that ten letters could not contain all she wanted to say. Much water had flowed into the sea since their daughter had gone away with her husband, and the old people had been as lonely as orphans, sighing sadly in the night hours, as if they had buried their child. How many things had happened in the village in all these years! How many people had married, how many had died! How long the winters had been, and how long the nights!
"My, but it's hot!" exclaimed Yegor, unbuttoning his waistcoat. "The temperature must be seventy! Well, what next?" he asked.
The old people answered nothing.
"What is your son-in-law's profession?"
"He used to be a soldier, brother; you know that," replied the old man in a feeble voice. "He went into military service at the same time you did. He used to be a soldier, but now he is in a hospital where a doctor treats sick people with water. He is the door-keeper there."
"You can see it written here," said the old woman, taking a letter out of her handkerchief. "We got this from Efimia a long, long time ago. She may not be alive now."
Yegor reflected a moment, and then began to write swiftly.
"Fate has ordained you for the military profession," he wrote, "therefore we recommend you to look into the articles on disciplinary punishment and penal laws of the war department, and to find there the laws of civilisation for members of that department."
When this was written he read it aloud whilst Vasilissa thought of how she would like to write that there had been a famine last year, and that their flour had not even lasted until Xmas, so that they had been obliged to sell their cow; that the old man was often ill, and must soon surrender his soul to god; that they needed money--but how could she put all this into words? What should she say first and what last?
"Turn your attention to the fifth volume of military definitions," Yegor wrote. "The word soldier is a general appellation, a distinguishing term. Both the commander-in-chief of an army and the last infantryman in the ranks are alike called soldiers--"
The old man's lips moved and he said in a low voice:
"I should like to see my little grandchildren!"
"What grandchildren?" asked the old woman crossly. "Perhaps there are no grandchildren."
"No grandchildren? But perhaps there are! Who knows?"
"And from this you may deduce," Yegor hurried on, "which is an internal, and which is a foreign enemy. Our greatest internal enemy is Bacehus--"
The pen scraped and scratched, and drew long, curly lines like fish-hooks across the paper. Yegor wrote at full speed and underlined each sentence two or three times. He was sitting on a stool with his legs stretched far apart under the table, a fat, lusty creature with a fiery nape and the face of a bulldog. He was the very essence of coarse, arrogant, stiff-necked vulgarity, proud to have been born and bred in a pot-house, and Vasilissa well knew how vulgar he was, but could not find words to express it, and could only glare angrily and suspiciously at him. Her head ached from the sound of his voice and his unintelligible words, and from the oppressive heat of the room, and her mind was confused. She could neither think nor speak, and could only stand and wait for Yegor's pen to stop scratching. But the old man was looking at the writer with unbounded confidence in his eyes. He trusted his old woman who had brought him here, he trusted Yegor, and, when he had spoken of the hydropathic establishment just now, his face had shown that he trusted that, and the healing power of its waters.
When the letter was written, Yegor got up and read it aloud from beginning to end. The old man understood not a word, but he nodded his head confidingly, and said:
"Very good. It runs smoothly. Thank you kindly, it is very good."
They laid three five-copeck pieces on the table and went out. The old man walked away staring straight ahead of him like a blind man, and a look of utmost confidence lay in his eyes, but Vasilissa, as she left the tavern, struck at a dog in her path and exclaimed angrily:
"Ugh--the plague!"
All that night the old woman lay awake full of restless thoughts, and at dawn she rose, said her prayers, and walked eleven miles to the station to post the letter.


Doctor Moselweiser's hydropathic establishment was open on New Year's Day as usual; the only difference was that Andrei Khrisaufitch, the doorkeeper, was wearing unusually shiny boots and a uniform trimmed with new gold braid, and that he wished every one who came in a happy New Year.
It was morning. Andrei was standing at the door reading a paper. At ten o'clock precisely an old general came in who was one of the regular visitors of the establishment. Behind him came the postman. Andrei took the general's cloak, and said:
"A happy New Year to your Excellency!"
"Thank you, friend, the same to you!"
And as he mounted the stairs the general nodded toward a closed door and asked, as he did every day, always forgetting the answer:
"And what is there in there?"
"A room for massage, your Excellency."
When the general's footsteps had died away, Andrei looked over the letters and found one addressed to him. He opened it, read a few lines, and then, still looking at his newspaper, sauntered toward the little room down-stairs at the end of a passage where he and his family lived. His wife Efimia was sitting on the bed feeding a baby, her oldest boy was standing at her knee with his curly head in her lap, and a third child was lying asleep on the bed.
Andrei entered their little room, and handed the letter to his wife, saying:
"This must be from the village."
Then he went out again, without raising his eyes from his newspaper, and stopped in the passage not far from the door. He heard Efimia read the first lines in a trembling voice. She could go no farther, but these were enough. Tears streamed from her eyes and she threw her arms round her eldest child and began talking to him and covering him with kisses. It was hard to tell whether she was laughing or crying.
"This is from granny and granddaddy," she cried-- "from the village--oh, Queen of Heaven!-- Oh! holy saints! The roofs are piled with snow there now--and the trees are white, oh, so white! The little children are out coasting on their dear little sleddies--and granddaddy darling, with his dear bald head is sitting by the big, old, warm stove, and the little brown doggie--oh, my precious chickabiddies--"
Andrei remembered as he listened to her that his wife had given him letters at three or four different times, and had asked him to send them to the village, but important business had always interfered, and the letters had remained lying about unposted.
"And the little white hares are skipping about in the fields now--" sobbed Efimia, embracing her boy with streaming eyes. "Granddaddy dear is so kind and good, and granny is so kind and so full of pity. People's hearts are soft and warm in the village-- There is a little church there, and the men sing in the choir. Oh, take us away from here, Queen of Heaven! Intercede for us, merciful mother!"
Andrei returned to his room to smoke until the next patient should come in, and Efimia suddenly grew still and wiped her eyes; only her lips quivered. She was afraid of him, oh, so afraid! She quaked and shuddered at every look and every footstep of his, and never dared to open her mouth in his presence.
Andrei lit a cigarette, but at that moment a bell rang up-stairs. He put out his cigarette, and assuming a very solemn expression, hurried to the front door.
The old general, rosy and fresh from his bath, was descending the stairs.
"And what is there in there?" he asked, pointing to a closed door.
Andrei drew himself up at attention, and answered in a loud voice:
"The hot douche, your Excellency."

Something Extra

A mermaid is a legendary aquatic creature with the upper body of a female human and the tail of a fish. Mermaids appear in the folklore of many cultures worldwide, including the Near East, Europe, Africa and Asia. The first stories appeared in ancient Assyria, in which the goddess Atargatis transformed herself into a mermaid out of shame for accidentally killing her human lover. Mermaids are sometimes associated with perilous events such as floods, storms, shipwrecks and drownings. In other folk traditions (or sometimes within the same tradition), they can be benevolent or beneficent, bestowing boons or falling in love with humans.
Mermaids are associated with the mythological Greek sirens as well as with sirenia, a biological order comprising dugongs and manatees. Some of the historical sightings by sailors may have been misunderstood encounters with these aquatic mammals. Christopher Columbus reported seeing mermaids while exploring the Caribbean, and sightings have been reported in the 20th and 21st centuries in Canada, Israel and Zimbabwe. The U.S. National Ocean Service stated in 2012 that no evidence of mermaids has ever been found.
Sirenia is an order of fully aquatic, herbivorous mammals that inhabit rivers, estuaries, coastal marine waters, swamps and marine wetlands. Sirenians, including manatees and dugongs, possess major aquatic adaptations: arms used for steering, a paddle used for propulsion, and remnants of hind limbs (legs) in the form of two small bones floating deep in the muscle. They look ponderous and clumsy but are actually fusiform, hydrodynamic and highly muscular, and mariners before the mid-nineteenth century referred to them as mermaids.


The Greatest Cookie In The World

Mmm, Oreos. Aren't they the best cookies in the world? The world-famous, beloved Oreo cookie celebrated its 100th birthday last year. Oreo is a sandwich cookie consisting of two chocolate disks with a sweet cream filling in between. Oreos are the best-selling cookies in the world.

The Oreo Biscuit was first developed and produced by the National Biscuit Company (today known as Nabisco) in 1912 at its Chelsea factory in New York City.

Ten Amazing Innovations Of The Near Future

With all the innovation taking place in the world, from tiny steps in existing technologies to new, industry-changing ideas, it's getting pretty hard to keep up to date with the latest discoveries. If you're interested in a small glimpse of what's in store for humanity in the near future, then this list is for you.

Why Do We Value Gold?

Mankind's attitude to gold is bizarre. Chemically, it is uninteresting - it barely reacts with any other element. Yet, of all the 118 elements in the periodic table, gold is the one we humans have always tended to choose to use as currency. Why not osmium or chromium, or helium, say - or maybe seaborgium? Why gold?

Did you know ...

That the labor board told wal-mart it can't silence workers any longer

That California shuts down 10 fraudulent healthcare websites

About why the Koch brothers want to end public education

That human babies are 75% water; the elderly only about 50%

Sarah Palin anti-American

Foreign Press Says What America’s Won’t: Sarah Palin is a Traitor

Sarah Palin has made it to the big time; she’s been called out by international media. Three years ago, the Russian newspaper Pravda (this same paper has been quoted in numerous wingnut publications when it criticized President Obama, and was considered a paper of merit at such time) eviscerated Sarah Palin for her unrelenting attacks upon the democratically elected President, at a time when America needs to stand together, united. When members of the International Press call Sarah Palin out for her lack of American patriotism, it’s time for the American Press to pay attention. It’s about time someone did.

Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey wrote in Pravda:
“By attacking the democratically elected President of the United States of America at a sensitive time in her country’s history, she shows the tact of a boorish drunkard bawling obscenities at a funeral….

And now she turns not only against the fibre and backbone of her country, but against its democratically elected President, accusing him of being incompetent for not stopping Wikileaks. Where was she and where was her repugican cabal before and during the 9/11 attacks? She accuses President Obama of not taking “steps” to assure the leaks were not published. What “steps”?……

If anything is a threat to the national security of the United States of America, it is this screaming, unrefined oaf with as much class as a searing release of flatulence followed by hysterical giggling at a state banquet. Is this what the people of the USA deserve?

To attack the President of the country at a time when the USA needs to close ranks and stand together to consolidate the enormous strides his (President Obama’s) intelligent and respectful approach has achieved in building bridges, when her party’s period in government bombed them, Spankin’ Sarah Palin comes across as a pitifully inadequate anachronism from the times of the Far West.”

Bancroft-Hinchey has been proven correct by the way MSNBC handled Martin Bashir. Palin was engaging in more treasonous talk when she compared the national debt to slavery. Her comments were more of Palin reminding everyone that the president is black, and in her view that is a very bad thing.

Koch Brothers Illegally Funnel Millions Into Campaign to Eliminate Pensions and Sick Pay

The Koch Brothers are are launching a nationwide campaign to eliminate public sector workers' wages, pensions, sick pay, workers' compensation.…
Greed is the inordinate desire to possess wealth, goods, or objects of abstract value with the intention to keep it for one’s self, far beyond what one needs for basic survival; for the wealthy it is in excess of any reasonable definition of luxurious comfort. Typically it is applied to those with a dangerous desire for, and pursuit of, status and unrestricted power that includes enriching oneself at the expense of others. There is a movement in America that transcends the normal definition of greed and selfishness, and not only do they desire to possess all the wealth, they are driven to impoverish the population with no apparent gain for themselves. It is not enough that they are rich beyond imagination, they subscribe to a philosophy that no-one in America except a certain class should have anything, and they are launching a nationwide campaign to eliminate public sector workers’ wages, pensions, sick pay, workers’ compensation because if they cannot have it no-one can.
It is no surprise that the funding mechanism behind the 50-state crusade to create a nation of peasants is headed by the Koch brothers, tobacco giant Phillip Morris, and Kraft Foods with model legislation provided by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The groups’ $83 million seed money is being funneled through various 501(C) tax-exempt “social welfare” organizations intent on illegally using dark money to lobby legislators and convince voters that no-one in America deserves anything other than a poverty existence. The purely libertarian-driven group, State Policy Network (SPN), describes itself as “free-market think tanks” and will initially targets six different states to eliminate public sector pensions, cut government wages to the federal minimum, privatize public education, and eliminate Medicaid. As an extra affront to the people’s rights to clean air, the seek to end regional efforts to combat greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.
The 501(C) social welfare groups are staying out of election campaigns, and despite restrictions on their lobbying efforts, they will launch media campaigns to change state laws, advance ALEC model legislation, and “brief repugican candidates” in strategies necessary to achieve SPN’s goals; it is the definition of lobbying. One of SPN’S affiliates denied they engaged in lobbying and said, “There is never any lobbying, lobbying consists of convincing legislators and other policymakers to get a particular result on a particular issue, and we never do that.” The groups’ lobbying efforts are to achieve their stated goals that go beyond “a commitment to free enterprise” and include: “reforming” public employee pensions, eliminate taxation, promote private and home schooling through a voucher system, end worker and union rights, and eliminate Medicaid in repugican-controlled states.
Tracie Sharp, president of SPN, said that “as a pro-freedom network of think tanks, we focus on issues like workplace freedom, education reform, and individual choice: backbone issues of a free people and a free society.” It is an oft-heard reiteration of the Koch brothers’ “vision of a transformed America.” It is noteworthy that the group has close ties to Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) funded by the Koch brothers that is targeting state’s participation in Medicaid and featured Ted Cruz, a former executive, as keynote speaker at a national conference yesterday hosted by SPN and its sister organization ALEC.
The executive director of the Center for Media and Democracy, Lisa Graves, recently issued a report on SPN and said that SPN’s local identity belied a larger purpose. “They appear to be advocating purely local interests but what they are promoting is part of a larger national template to radically remake our government in a way that undermines public institutions and the rights of workers;” particularly public sector workers. It cannot be overstated that eliminating public sector workers’ rights to their pensions, sick pay, living wages, and protections at the state level will not add one penny to the Koch brothers, Philip Morris, or Kraft Foods’ substantial riches any more than eliminating Medicaid, taxes, or public education at the state level, but adding to their personal wealth is not their intent. Their resolve is to deny public workers a decent wage, pensions, sick pay, and workplace protections to create an American labor force struggling to survive on minimum wages, no retirement, and no healthcare to achieve the Koch brothers’ stated mission of a nation where there is “unrestricted prosperity for the ‘wealthy class’ while keeping the poor productive and content.”
The Koch brothers and their fascist cabal face a barrier at the federal level to cut Social Security retirement, withhold healthcare from tens-of-millions of Americans, and eliminate worker protections, so they are taking their crusade to the states. It is unfortunate, but they will have success in repugican-controlled states to destroy public education, eliminate Medicaid, and decimate public sector employees’ pensions, wages, and worker protections as a crucial aspect of their campaign to eliminate the middle class. The repugican voters in red states are notorious for voting against their own self-interest and survival, so it is no exaggeration to assume they will gladly support any attempt to drag public sector workers down into poverty to achieve what SPN and the Koch brothers’ portray as necessary for a nation of “a free people and a free society.” It is a sad commentary, but it is the price Americans pay for allowing fascists free rein to pursue unrestricted power that is borne of a form of greed founded on taking everything from the people just because they can.
Eliminating state public sector workers’ pensions, like federal Social Security pensions, will not enrich a few wealthy Americans any more than cutting their public sector employees’ wages, ending sick pay, or ending workplace protections, but that is not the Koch brothers, Philip Morris, or Kraft Foods’ intent. Their goal is transforming this country into an oligarchy with the masses serving the rich, and as long as there is even a dwindling middle class their vision of a transformed America will not be realized. They have successfully raped the economic life out of the private sector, and are now turning their undivided and well-funded attention to the public sector, and repugicans will dutifully serve their interests until they achieve their “vision,” or until repugicans are eliminated from the decision-making process. What is incredibly tragic is the Kochs and their wealthy cohort have announced their intent unabashedly and their ignorant supporters will give them the victory the seek; at least in repugican-controlled states.
This is just the opening salvo of the final push by the Kochs et al to realize their “vision” and “radically remake government in a way that undermines public institutions, the rights of workers” and destroy the middle class once and for all. Over the coming months, Americans will learn much more about how their nation, and well-being, is being threatened by the Kochs and their legislative arm the repugican cabal, and this column will attempt to warn Americans how their existence is being threatened. Obviously the Kochs are confident their 2014 crusade will be successful and once they achieve their goal in repugican-controlled states, they will focus their full attention and substantial resources to the national level to transform America into their John Birch vision of a “free people and a free society” existing at the mercy of a few wealthy fascists.

If you are poor, the repugican cabal wants you to suffer

Despite its governor's best efforts, South Carolina is expanding Medicaid

Governor Nikki Haley (R-SC) answers a question during a news briefing at the 2013 Republican Governors Association conference in Scottsdale, Arizona November 21, 2013.  REUTERS/Samantha Sais (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS) - RTX15NG9
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley has rejected Medicaid expansion in no uncertain terms:
South Carolina, she says, “will not expand Medicaid. Ever.” Except that it is. The state expects to see a 16 percent jump in Medicaid enrollments by June, 2015. That's higher than the average 12 percent growth many states which have accepted the expansion money are predicting. Why is this? Because South Carolina has so many poor people, many of whom just didn't know that Medicaid was an option for them until they found out about the health insurance mandate and looked for insurance.

The NSA's spying is not benevolent - they ARE out to get you

AT&T rejects ‘transparency report’ shareholder demand; FBI can secretly turn your laptop camera on 

An FBI agent calls for backup. Photo: Shutterstock.com.
In the age of modern digital surveillance, AT&T can keep its silence about what it tells the government, while the FBI can make your laptop keep its silence even while it’s secretly filming you.
Shareholders are pressing AT&T to disclose what it does with its customers’ data in light of NSA requests. But AT&T has flatly refused to do so, and sent a letter Thursday to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to that effect.

The AP reported Saturday that AT&T said it protects customer information and complies with government requests for records “only to the extent required by law

Last month, the New York State Common Retirement Fund, an AT&T shareholder, filed a shareholder resolution calling on the telecom giant to be more transparent about the way subscriber data is shared with the government. The resolution calls for semi-annual reports detailing information about government data requests, similar to the transparency reports now being issued by Facebook, Google and Microsoft.

“AT&T acknowledges in its corporate code of conduct that privacy is critical to the success of its business. Yet, the Company has not disclosed to customers and investors any information regarding the extent and nature of requests for customer data made on the Company by government agencies,” the resolution states.

The resolution will not be addressed at the coming shareholder meeting, AP reported that AT&T said in its letter to the SEC.

News of AT&T’s reluctance to be more transparent comes on the heels of more revelations about how the NSA uses computer malware to electronically spy on people. The FBI and NSA can use software to secretly turn on the laptop cameras of some people under surveillance, and can do so without activating the red recording light, the Washington Post reported Friday.

Still more NSA spying revelations

5 Shocking New Revelations on NSA Cellphone Tracking

Not a month goes by without former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, unleashing new government surveillance allegations, but on Wednesday, the Washington Post dropped a bombshell: The NSA is tracking cellphones around the world at a rate of almost five billion records per day. This revelation is particularly shocking because it affirms fears that the government is keeping tabs on the physical location of Americans. The newspaper notes that in terms of potential impact on privacy, the location-tracking report may be "unsurpassed." Here's five things you need to know from the mind-boggling new report:

1. The NSA can find you in a hotel and can probably tell if you're having an affair: 

2. Americans are definitely being tracked, but providing the exact number is "awkward:"

3. All the collected location data wouldn't fit in the Library of Congress: 

4. Don't bother trying to hide. The NSA knows if you're trying to avoid them: 

5. And you don't need to be a suspect to be targeted: 

Random Photos

Deputy principal accused of getting girls drunk so they would vandalize home of headmaster

A deputy principal at a high school in Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, Australia allegedly plied three female students with alcohol, then encouraged them to vandalize the home of their headmaster.
Andrew Peter Minisini, 59, was suspended from duties at Orara High School this week after police charged him over an alleged incident last month. Police allege that on November 29, Minisini took female students, aged 16 and 17, to a motel room and gave them alcohol until they were drunk.
It is alleged he had struck up a friendship with one of the students and suggested she bring two friends along to a gathering. Police allege that once the girls were intoxicated, Minisini drove them to the home of the headmaster, where he encouraged them to graffiti obscene works and illustrations on the brickwork and fence.
The headmaster was not home at the time but reported it later. Detectives searched Minisini's home and office, arresting him on Thursday night. He was questioned and charged with two counts of recruiting a child to engage in criminal activity, one count of malicious damage and one count of supplying a minor with alcohol. He will face Coffs Harbour Local Court on January 20.

Thieves stripped entire field of Brussels sprouts from nun’s farm

A group of thieves broke into a convent garden in Wicklow, Ireland to strip an entire field of Brussels sprouts. The thieves stole the sprouts, which would have been worth around €300, from the Dominican Farm and Ecology Center on Wednesday night.
Sister Julie Newman from the farm said she is ‘very upset’ over the thieves’ cull, which she said is a huge setback for the staff who have tended to the sprout plants over the last two years. The theft was deliberate, according to the nun, and she believes the sprouts will now be sold as high-end organic produce for the Xmas market.
“We went up this morning, and they were all gone - completely stripped - the stalks and everything,” she said. “We had just been saying that we’d start harvesting this weekend for the farm shop and then continue harvesting right up until Xmas. It’s not just the monetary value. It’s when you think of the effort that people went to in caring for them.” The vegetables are biennial, so it takes two years to bring Brussels sprouts to full maturity.
While some produce at the farm has been stolen before, Sister Newman says the thievery was never on this scale. “I feel sorry for our staff. They have minded them and cared for them all along, and someone came in the dead of the night and stole all of them. We would have the odd bit of pilfering of potatoes and onions, but this was deliberate. It wasn’t just someone looking for a few vegetables for their dinner.”

On the Vampire Trail in Scotland

After Shannon Moore Shepherd spent time in Paris researching the origins of Bram Stoker's Dracula, she visited her husband's family in Scotland, where she once again found herself tracing Stoker's travels. The author had stayed at the same hotel they were in!
In 1894, while taking holiday here in Cruden Bay, Bram Stoker may have experienced a similar palette and sense of delicious anticipation as he came upon the ruined castle grounds. According to multiple sources on New Slains Castle, Bram Stoker was invited by the 18th Earl of Erroll to visit his humble home. A dark and foreboding sky combined with a sense of awe at the majestic structure before him and curiosity about the nobleman who ordered its construction and walked its candlelit hallways at night, is all reportedly real inspiration for the fantastical fictional Romanian castle in Dracula and its eccentric master. The Kilmarnock Arms website even affirms that the castle was a tangible inspiration.

If Stoker was invited to cross the darkness to New Slains by its Earl, then his own story isn’t much different from his protagonist, Jonathan Harker. As Stoker might have done politely with the Earl, Harker returns the invitation to Count Dracula. Now, collective consciousness would tell us, though we may not be sure how exactly we know, that a vampire cannot enter a home without being invited. This is something Jacques Sirgent touched on in his recent lecture at the Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris.
Sirgent also had information about the ties between a Countess of Erroll and the original Dracula family in Romania. Read the rest of the story, and see New Slains Castle in many pictures, at Atlas Obscura.

Possible voodoo curse victim filed police report 'just in case'

A Florida man thought someone put a voodoo curse on him, telling police he wanted it documented in case he experienced "ill effects from the voodoo" in the future.
The 35-year-old man told Fort Pierce police he thought "others in the Haitian community had turned against him and placed a voodoo curse on him." The man said he thought the curse was designed to glean his personal information.
He suspected the curse had been in place for about a year, though indicated he hadn't experienced any identity theft type issues. "(The man) explained other Haitian people were jealous of him, and that is the reason they burdened him with the curse," the police report states.
The man, whose listed address is on South 17 Street in Fort Pierce, appeared "normal," according to the document. "(He) said he did not want to harm anyone else or himself, and added that he loved everybody." The man said he wanted the situation documented in case "he were to suffer ill effects from the voodoo at some point in the future."



How a Road in Canada Was Named after a Pillaged American Town

Dalhousie University is a college in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Castine Way is a road that runs through campus. It’s named after the town of Castine, Maine. This is a reference to an episode in American and Canadian history from 1814.
After Napoleon abdicated in 1814, Britain began a series of offensives designed to bring about victory over the Americans in the War of 1812. Among them was an invasion of eastern Maine in the summer of 1814. British forces conquered the area fairly easily.
Naval expeditions under Sir John Sherbrooke (left) and his subordinates captured the coastal towns of Eastport, Machias and Castine, then sailed inland up the Penobscot River, capturing Hampden and Bangor. Sherbrooke declared that Maine east of the Penobscot was now a British colony named New Ireland.
The British goals in the establishment of New Ireland were:
1. to create a buffer zone between the United States and the Maritime provinces.
2. to acquire land for an overload route between Quebec and the Maritimes.
3. to punish the Americans for going to war.
Meanwhile, the rest of the British offensives ended in failure. At Plattsburgh, New York, the US Navy defeated an invasion of New York down the Lake Champlain corridor. In the Chesapeake, the British burned Washington, but were unable to advance into and past Baltimore.

In the Flemish city of Ghent, British and American negotiators were at an impasse. The British were in a superior military position, but the Americans would not accept anything less than status quo ante bellum--the conditions that existed before the war. After the Duke of Wellington advised the British to accept the American position, the British signed the peace treaty (pictured above). The treaty, after ratification by the Prince Regent and United States Senate, officially ended the war.
It also ended New Ireland and John Sherbrooke’s ambitions for eastern Maine. He withdrew. But he had treated the area as British territory and collected £10,750 in tariffs during that time. Sherbrooke donated most of it to the founding of a university in Nova Scotia. The “Castine Fund,” named after the occupied town of Castine, Maine, launched Dalhousie University.
The university named a road on its campus after its unwilling financial benefactor. That’s how Castine Way got its name.


China’s Atlantis Shicheng – China’s Atlantis
Once upon a time, an ancient city in China was named Lion City because Five Lion Mountain loomed large behind it. The city, also known as Shi Cheng, has been buried beneath the water for 53 years. Like the lost Incan City of Machu Picchu was ‘rediscovered,’ so was this lost underwater city that had been founded about 1,300 years ago. Lion City is now located about 85 – 131 feet (26-40 meters) beneath the gorgeous Thousand Island Lake (Qiandao Lake). This valley was submerged when a dam was constructed and a lake was needed. The lake and thousands of islands were man-made. Shi Cheng ‘defied’ the Chinese norm since 5 gates and 5 towers were built into the city instead of 4. Lion City is about the size of 62 football fields. International archaeologists and a film crew recorded the amazing perservation of the lost ‘ruins.’

Earthquake scars Earth's gravity

ESA's GOCE satellite has revealed that the devastating Japanese earthquake of 2011 left its mark in Earth's gravity – yet another example of this extraordinary mission surpassing its original scope.

Earthquake scars Earth's gravity
Gravity scar over Japan [Credit: DGFI/TU Delft]
GOCE mapped Earth's gravity with unrivaled precision for over four years, but nobody really expected the data to show changes over time.

Now, careful analysis shows the effects of the 9.0 earthquake that struck east of Japan's Honshu Island on 11 March 2011 are clearly visible in GOCE's gravity data. Large earthquakes not only deform Earth's crust, but can also cause tiny changes in local gravity.

The strength of gravity varies from place to place on our planet's surface and it was GOCE's task to map these variations very precisely.

There are a number of reasons why values of gravity differ, but one is a consequence of material inside Earth being inhomogeneous and unevenly distributed. Since earthquakes shift around rock and other material tens of km below the surface, they also cause small changes in the local gravity.
Earthquake scars Earth's gravity
GOCE [Credit: ESA /AOES Medialab]
Earthquakes under oceans, as in the 2011 Japanese quake, can also change the shape of the sea bed. This displaces water and changes the sea level, which in turn also affects gravity.

After more than doubling its planned life in orbit, the satellite recently ran out of fuel and reentered the atmosphere, largely disintegrating in the process. Although it is no longer in orbit, the real mission is only just starting because scientists will be analyzing the data for years to come to help understand many aspects of our world.

Information from GOCE is being used to understand how oceans transport huge quantities of heat around the planet and to develop a global height reference system, for example.

The mission has already shed new light on different aspects of Earth – from atmospheric density and winds, to mapping the boundary between the crust and upper mantle, and to understand geodynamic processes occurring in these layers far below our feet.
Earthquake scars Earth's gravity
GOCE gravity results (left) compared to model [Credit: DGFI/TU Delft]
In a surprising discovery earlier this year unrelated to gravity changes, the satellite's accelerometer and ion thruster also revealed that GOCE had 'felt' sound waves in space from the Japanese quake.

Recently, scientists from the German Geodetic Research Institute, DGFI, and from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands analyzed the high-resolution vertical gravity gradients measured over Japan. They discovered that the quake had clearly ruptured the gravity field.

This is the first time that GOCE has been shown to have found changes over time. This work was carried out through ESA's Earth Observation Support to Science Element.

Moreover, the gravity change measured by GOCE differs in size and location compared to those predicted by standard models.

GOCE's results are consistent with coarser observations from the NASA–German Grace satellite, which is designed to measure changes over time. This suggests that GOCE data will be important in improving models and will therefore contribute to our understanding of earthquakes.

Martin Fuchs from DGFI said, "Thus, we see that GOCE gravity gradients complement other types of data such as seismic, GPS and GRACE satellite gravimetry.

"We are now working in an interdisciplinary team to combine GOCE data with other information to obtain a better picture of the actual rupture in the gravity field than is currently available."

Discovery of partial skeleton suggests ruggedly built, tree-climbing human ancestor

A human ancestor characterized by "robust" jaw and skull bones was a muscular creature with a gorilla-like upper body and more adaptive to its environment than previously thought, scientists have discovered.
Discovery of partial skeleton suggests ruggedly built, tree-climbing human ancestor
Arm bone fragments from a 1.34-million-year-old hominin, Paranthropus boisei, were discovered by an international research team, including a CU Denver anthropologist, in Tanzania [Credit: University of Colorado Denver]
Researchers found a partial skeleton -- including arm, hand, leg and foot fragments -- dated to 1.34 million years old and belonging to Paranthropus boisei at the Olduvai Gorge World Heritage fossil site in Tanzania. The find, published in the latest edition of the scientific journal PLOS ONE, represents one of the most recent occurrences of P. boisei before its extinction in East Africa.

"This is the first time we've found bones that suggest that this creature was more ruggedly built -- combining terrestrial bipedal locomotion and some arboreal behaviors -- than we'd previously thought," said Charles Musiba, Ph.D., associate professor of anthropology at the University of Colorado Denver, part of the international research team. "It seems to have more well-formed forearm muscles that were used for climbing, fine-manipulation and all sorts of behavior."

While P. boisei was known for its massive jaws and cranium -- anthropologist Mary Leakey discovered the first skull in 1959 in northern Tanzania -- the build and skeletal adaptations of the rest of the archaic hominin's body have been unknown until recently.
Discovery of partial skeleton suggests ruggedly built, tree-climbing human ancestor
Paranthropus boisei was a long-lived species of archaic hominin that first evolved
in East Africa about 2.3 million years ago [Credit: Reuters]
During excavations at Olduvai in 2010-2011, the team discovered the partial skeleton of a large adult individual who is represented by various teeth and skeletal parts. Other team members are Manuel Dominguez-Rodrigo, Ph.D., professor of anthropology and prehistory at Complutense University, Madrid; Audax Mabulla, Ph.D., associate professor of archaeology, University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Gail Ashley, Ph.D., professor of geological sciences, Rutgers University; David Uribelarrea, Ph.D. a professor of geology at Complutense University of Madrid; Henry Bunn, Ph.D., professor of anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Madison; and Travis Pickering, Ph.D., professor of anthropology, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

P. boisei was a long-lived species of archaic hominin that first evolved in East Africa about 2.3 million years ago. In the absence of evidence of other skeletal remains, it was commonly assumed that the skeleton of P. boisei was like that of more ancient species of the genus Australopithecus, from which P. boisei likely evolved.

"We are starting to understand the physiology of these individuals of this particular species and how it actually adapted to the kind of habitat it lived in," Musiba said. "We knew about the kind of food it ate -- it was omnivorous, leaning more toward plant material -- but now we know more: how it walked around and now we know it was a tree climber."
Discovery of partial skeleton suggests ruggedly built, tree-climbing human ancestor
Earlier analysis of the species teeth had given researchers clues about the kind of food it ate. They believe it was omnivorous, leaning more toward plant material [Credit: University of Colorado Denver]
The size of the arm bones suggests strong forearms and a powerful upper body. "It's a different branch on our ancestry tree," Musiba said. "It came later than the other hominins, so the question now is 'what happened to it?' We're going to do more work on biomechanics and see what else this creature was doing."

He noted that the creature likely stood 3.5 to 4.5 feet tall and possessed a robust frame. "We know that it was very strong," Musiba said. "It's unprecedented to find how strong this individual was. The stronger you are the more adaptive you are."

In summer 2014, the bones will be displayed as part of a large exhibit on human origins in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The joint-museum exhibit involves the Museum of Human Evolution in Burgos, Spain, the Regional Museum of Archaeology in Madrid, and the National Museum of Dar es Salaam.

With each find scientists are adding to the understanding of how humans evolved and adapted to their surroundings through time. "The more we are finding of these fossils, the more we are learning about the history of these species," Musiba said.

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Ancient 'fig wasp' lived tens of millions of years before figs

A 115-million-year-old fossilized wasp from northeast Brazil presents a baffling puzzle to researchers. The wasp’s ovipositor, the organ through which it lays its eggs, looks a lot like those of present-day wasps that lay their eggs in figs. The problem, researchers say, is that figs arose about 65 million years after this wasp was alive. A report of the findings appears in the journal Cretaceous Research.

Ancient 'fig wasp' lived tens of millions of years before figs
Although it lived roughly 65 million years before the earliest known occurrence of figs, the fossil wasp’s ovipositor closely resembles those of today’s fig wasps. [Credit: Sam Heads]
The wasp belongs to the Hymenoptera superfamily known as Chalcidoidea, which parasitize other insects, spiders and some plants. The group includes about 22,000 known species and is estimated to contain up to 500,000 species.

“This is a tiny parasitic wasp, it’s the smallest fossil wasp found in this particular deposit and it’s the oldest representative of its family,” said Sam Heads, a paleoentomologist at the Illinois Natural History Survey at the University of Illinois. “More importantly, it’s possible that this wasp was fig-associated, which is interesting because it’s Early Cretaceous, about 115 to 120 million years old. That’s a good 65 million years or so prior to the first occurrence of figs in the fossil record.”

Heads worked in collaboration with University of Portsmouth scientists Nathan Barling and David Martill.

The new findings demonstrate the value of studying insect fossils, Heads said.

“The fossil record of insects is very extensive both geographically and temporally. It goes back 415 to 420 million years and preserves the ancestral forms of a lot of the insects that are alive today,“ he said. ”So it’s a great resource for understanding insect evolutionary history and the distribution of insects across the planet in the past.”
Ancient 'fig wasp' lived tens of millions of years before figs
Today's fig wasps have ovipositors that are strikingly similar to those of the fossil wasp. Pictured: Avispa de higo, “Fig wasp” Idarnes sp. flavicollis) (Hymenoptera: Chalcidoidea: Sycophaginae) [Credit: Sergio Jansen Gonzalez]
The presence of a wasp with an ovipositor that looks like those used by fig wasps today is not hard evidence that figs were around in the fossil wasp’s day – a time of dinosaurs, Heads said.

“There is no evidence of the existence of figs at this time and the most recent molecular study doesn’t place figs that far back,” he said. While it is possible that figs are older than current studies indicate, it is also possible that “something like a fig was around and this wasp was parasitizing whatever that was.”

This could be an example of convergent evolution, where separate species independently evolve similar traits, he said. Or the fossil wasp could be the ancestor of the fig wasp, and its ovipositor, first adapted to a plant or fruit that was around long before the fig, later found a use in figs.

Comparing insect fossils with living organisms offers new insights into the natural history of insects, the plants they pollinate and their hosts or prey, Heads said. This differs significantly from studies of the fossils of animals that have become extinct.

“When you talk about paleontology to people the first thing they think of is dinosaurs,” he said. “And that’s great. Dinosaurs are really exciting, wonderful animals. But for the most part, they’re extinct. With insects and other arthropods like spiders and scorpions, they’re around still. So we have modern forms to compare our fossil forms to, which is incredibly useful.”

New armored dinosaur species found in Spain

Palaeontologists have uncovered a new species of tank-like dinosaur in a century-old Spanish coal mine.
New armoured dinosaur species found in Spain
Earlier this week researchers unveiled two separate armoured dinosaurs discovered in the mine near the town of Arino in north eastern Spain [Credit: Fundacion Conjunlo Palaeontologica de Teruel-Dinopolis (FCPTD]
The species was discovered after two incredibly-well preserved dinosaurs were unearthed near the town of Arino in north eastern Spain.

The armored dinosaurs are believed to have been around five meters long, a meter tall and two tons in weight.

The specimens initially appeared to belong to a sub-species of armored dinosaur in the Ankylosauria group, but there were some key differences.
New armoured dinosaur species found in Spain
Europelta carbonensis is part of the nodosauridae family which were around during the Late Jurassic to the Late Cretaceous Period in North America, Asia, Antarctica and Europe [Credit: Fundacion Conjunlo Palaeontologica de Teruel-Dinopolis (FCPTD]
For instance, Ankylosaurs have triangular heads, whereas these dinosaurs were found to have a rounded, tear-drop-shaped skull as well as a strongly arched pelvis.

Describing their research in the journal PLOS One, researchers named the species Europelta carbonensis, which means ‘Europe’s shield from coal’.

Europelta carbonensis is part of the nodosauridae family which were around during the Late Jurassic to the Late Cretaceous Period in North America, Asia, Antarctica and Europe.
New armoured dinosaur species found in Spain
The Europelta carbonensis is estimated to have lived 113 million and 110 million years ago during the Cretaceous period, making it the oldest nodosaurid discovered in Europe [Credit: Fundacion Conjunlo Palaeontologica de Teruel-Dinopolis (FCPTD]
The Europelta carbonensis is estimated to have lived 113 million and 110 million years ago during the Cretaceous period, making it the oldest nodosaurid discovered in Europe.

Like other dinosaurs in the nodosauridae family, Europelta was a plant-eater and was covered in scaly armoured plates.

Before the nodosaurid ankylosaurs, their ancestors - polacanthid ankylosaurs - were the main armoured dinosaurs in both Europe and North America.

New armoured dinosaur species found in Spain
Artistic reconstruction of Europelta carbonensis [Credit: Fundacion Conjunlo
Palaeontologica de Teruel-Dinopolis (FCPTD]
James Kirkland, the lead research from the University of Utah, claims that the European nodosaurids differed from those in North America.

‘By 113 million years ago nodosaurid ankylosaurs have completely replaced them on both continents, yet are represented by distinctly different subfamilies on both continents,' he said.

As Europelta is closely related to other nodosaurs in Europe, the new finding suggests that Europe had become isolated from North America around 110 million years ago - rather than the 80 million years that many suggest.

Shark, human proteins stunningly similar

Despite widespread fascination with sharks, the world’s oldest ocean predators have long been a genetic mystery. The first deep dive into a great white shark’s genetic code has fished up big surprises behind a design […]

How Mosquitoes Are Drawn to Human Skin and Breath

Female mosquitoes, which can transmit deadly diseases like malaria, dengue fever, West Nile virus and filariasis, are attracted to us by smelling the carbon dioxide we exhale, being capable of tracking us down even from […]

Cockroaches Munched on Dinosaur Poop

The mystery of where all the dino poop went has been solved.

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