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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.


Friday, December 20, 2013

The Daily Drift

Five Days To Go ....

Carolina Naturally is read in 194 countries around the world daily.
 
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Today is - Underdog Day
 

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Today in History

69 Vespians's supporters enter Rome and discover Vitellius in hiding. He is dragged through the streets before being brutally murdered.
1355 Stephen Urosh IV of Serbia dies while marching to attack Constantinople.
1802 The United States buys the Louisiana territory from France.
1860 South Carolina secedes from the Union.
1861 English transports loaded with 8,000 troops set sail for Canada so that troops are available if the "Trent Affair" is not settled without war.
1924 Adolf Hitler is released from prison after serving less than one year of a five year sentence for treason.
1930 Thousands of Spaniards sign a revolutionary manifesto.
1933 The German government announces 400,000 citizens are to be sterilized because of hereditary defects.
1938 First electronic television system is patented.
1941 The Flying Tigers, American pilots in China, enter combat against the Japanese over Kunming.
1943 Soviet forces halt a German army trying to relieve the besieged city of Stalingrad.
1946 Viet Minh and French forces fight fiercely in Annamite section of Hanoi.
1948 U.S. Supreme Court announces that it has no jurisdiction to hear the appeals of Japanese war criminals sentenced by the International Military Tribunal.
1960 National Liberation Front is formed by guerrillas fighting the Diem regime in South Vietnam.
1962 In its first free election in 38 years, the Dominican Republic chooses leftist Juan Bosch Gavino as president.
1963 Four thousand cross the Berlin Wall to visit relatives under a 17-day Christmas accord.
1989 U.S. troops invade Panama to oust General Manuel Noriega and replace him with Guillermo Endara.
1995 NATO begins peacekeeping operation in Bosnia.
1996 NeXT merges with Apple Computer, leading to the development of groundbreaking Mac OS X.
2007 Queen Elizabeth II becomes the oldest monarch in the history of the UK; previously, that honor belonged to Queen Victoria.

Non Sequitur

http://media.zenfs.com/en_us/News/ucomics.com/nq131219.gif

Xmas Countdown Xmas Stories

Xmas Stockings

According to legend, a kindly nobleman grew despondent over the death of his beloved wife and foolishly squandered his fortune. This left his three young daughters without dowries and thus facing a life of spinsterhood. The generous St. Nicholas, hearing of the girls’ plight, set forth to help. Wishing to remain anonymous, he rode his white horse by the nobleman’s house and threw three small pouches of gold coins down the chimney where they were fortuitously captured by the stockings the young women had hung by the fireplace to dry.

Home for Xmas

An elderly man in Oklahoma calls his son in New York and says,

"I hate to ruin your day son, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are getting a divorce; 45 years of marriage... and that much misery is enough!"

"Dad, what are you talking about?" the son yells.

"We can't stand the sight of each other any longer," the old dad explained. "We're sick of each other, and I'm sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Hong Kong and tell her!".

Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone.

"Like heck they're getting divorced," she shouts, "I'll take care of this."

She calls her elderly father immediately, and screams at him, "You are not getting divorced. Don't do a single thing until I get there. I'm calling my brother back, and we'll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don't do a thing, you hear me?" she yelled as she hung up the phone.

The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife. "Okay", he says, "it's all set. They're both coming for Xmas and paying their own air-fare."

Did you know ...

That people are flocking to atheist churches

The DOD replaces general as head of anti-sex abuse office

6 reasons there's no such thing as compassionate wingnuttery

And 7 reasons jesus would hate Xmas

Demand your privacy


Exposing ALEC's anti-gay past

That U.S. imprisons 3 times as many black people as South Africa


Get Ready to Tread on Some tea party Snakes

Isaac Asimov wrote that, "Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent." The tea party is bending over backward to prove Asimov right.…

“Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent” – Isaac Asimov, Foundation (1951)

We’ve seen how a discredited economic ideology can destroy an entire country. America isn’t that many steps from where Greece is now. It is just one political party away from disaster.
Perhaps the tea party thinks austerity is too slow. Liquor is quicker, as the old adage goes, but what goes better with booze than hairy-bellied cretins with assault rifles and chronically low IQs?
You guessed right: the tea party. Austerity hell! Let’s shoot stuff!
And no longer content with violent and racist rhetoric, they’re here to throw the entire goddamn country into Boston Harbor.
Okay, okay, I’m being unfair. They have to FIND Boston Harbor first, and with figures like tea party saints Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann to guide them, that outcome is far from assured, and Bachmann, at least, may be giving directions from a prison cell.
Isaac Asimov wrote that, “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.” The tea party is bending over backward to prove Asimov right. We’ve seen how both egregious dishonesty and government shut down have failed to prevent over a million people enrolling for Obamacare. The economy, despite their best efforts, continues to improve. Efforts to disenfranchise the Democratic electorate has failed in two presidential elections and women – if not tea partiers – continue to vote their self-interest.
What’s a hater to do?
Unable to win an election, unable to sustain any reasonable level of popularity among the people they claim to represent, and increasingly disliked by so-called “establishment” repugicans, the tea party has become increasingly shrill, its rhetoric more violent, and now, at the eleventh hour, comes the treason we all knew was coming: the calls for armed insurrection against the twice constitutionally-elected president of the United States.
I suppose they figure if they can’t get the votes, they can use the bullets – their vaunted and much-talked about Second Amendment remedies. Their problem, however, remains the same, and glaringly obvious to anyone paying attention: the grim calculus of treason is that there are more loyal Americans than there are treasonous low-life’s who like to wave  AR-15s- and those people don’t like the tea party much.
This basic fact does not seem to trouble iconic tea party darling Larry Klayman in the least, but then, Larry Klayman mistook a few dozen people for a million; But let’s not discount his buddy William Gheen, president of the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALIPAC) who said Sunday if tea party bigots don’t get their way there will be a “violent revolution”; And there is New Hampshire Rep. J.R. Hoell, who really does not approve of Scott Brown, and who sees a day coming when real Americans will vote with bullets; and Jim Garrow thinks some sort of anti-Obama guerilla war is about to begin.
You find yourself almost wishing they could try, except that innocent people would die as a result of their reckless hatred and deplorable math skills.
Of them all, it is perhaps Larry Klayman who seems troubled by reality itself, as he struggles to find an actual reason to revolt beyond simply not liking President Obama very much. Apparently, the Obama administration is just a priori criminal in a way only delusional tea partiers can see:
This criminal government conduct and its chilling effect on the First Amendment free speech and associational rights of all Americans cannot be tolerated. If the courts do not step in to stop this massive violation of constitutional rights and then seriously monitor the offending government agencies to make sure that the nation’s spy apparatus is used for the purposes for which it is intended – to legitimately protect our national security – then this is cause enough to wage revolution, using all legal and god given means – to end this evil subjugation.
And Right Wing Watch reports on Hoell’s spiel:
Steve MacDonald: We’ve had a number of pro-Second Amendment rallies here in New Hampshire. A lot of people would show up with holstered revolvers or handguns, some people will have worn their rifles as well over their shoulders. Is it going to be that kind of a rally? Is that something that you are asking people to do or asking them not to?
JR Hoell: I’m never going to tell a person not to carry a firearm. I will recommend people carry firearms concealed, tactically it’s a better solution, doesn’t mean you have to be a target. In terms of messaging to the media, if you are carrying concealed versus having an AR-15 or an AR-10 over your back, it’s a lot easier to make the statement we’re not here to threaten anybody. We’re here standing on our soapbox, as opposed to standing with our ammo box in hand, to make a point politically. The message needs to get out that Scott Brown does not represent New Hampshire. If things continue the way they are, there may be a day or a time where firearms and ammo are necessary, happened in the Revolutionary War. I’d like to think we’re not there yet but as things continue to unravel, that may be the next step. Let’s stand on our soap box this time.
Jim Garrow seems to think he has to hold the faithful back for just the right moment (when reality somehow becomes wingnut-friendly?):
Patience my friends, patience. As with all the realizations that we have, the immediacy of our perceived need and our need for immediate gratification can blind us to the larger picture and that magic essence called “timing”. We are seeing ever larger groups of people calling down the Marxist in the White House and his oligarchic machinations. We are reading more and more publications who are calling for Obama’s impeachment and removal. We are sensing the almost panicked utterances of a bevy of hapless “spokesmen” for the ruling elite marched in front of the cameras and interpreting for us the “reality” that they want us to see. We call those lies and spin and obfuscation. What is wonderful is that the majority of the public have caught on and are ticked.
Here is a spokesman for the real spin masters telling US that WE have been manipulated, because we, of course, are the only ones still thinking for ourselves, who have both feet still firmly planted in the terra firma of the really real, the facts on the ground, I-am-by-God-standing-right-here world. That fact places us in opposition to Faux News, which is to be defined as the folks “interpreting the ‘reality’ that they want us to see” (and Garrow has watched a bit too much of it).
Don’t tread on me? To Larry Klayman, to New Hampshire tea partier J.R. Hoell, to Jim Garrrow, and to all you others who wish to line yourselves up in front of a wall, my message is the same, and oddly biblical (Luke 10:19): Like the snakes of the earth, bubba. Like the snakes of the earth.

Around the Country, Wingnut Cops Refuse To Follow and Enforce Gun Laws

It is not the responsibility of law enforcement to interpret or make the laws of the land, or to mete out punishment for law breakers; that responsibility lies…
colorado_sheriffs_gun_laws_jt  
Whether they are police officers, sheriffs, highway patrol officers, or marshals, they are all members of law enforcement organized in a manner to best enforce the law by discovering, deterring, and apprehending persons who violate the laws governing society. It is not the responsibility of law enforcement to interpret or make the laws of the land, or to mete out punishment for law breakers; that responsibility lies with lawmakers and the courts. It is a sad fact of life, but there have always been renegade law enforcement officials who appoint themselves to interpret, adjudicate, and penalize those they regard as criminals and it contributes to many citizens’ low esteem for law enforcement.
Over the past few years, there has been a trend of law enforcement officials who fail to perform their jobs by openly refusing to enforce statutes they disagree with, and besides violating their public duty, they are breaking the law they swore to uphold. This type of law enforcement official is guilty of perverting justice, violating the public trust, and their corruption is tantamount to aiding and abetting criminal activities. They are also guilty of violating the law under the color of authority.
In Colorado over the weekend, Weld County Sheriff John Cooke said he refuses to enforce the state’s new gun laws banning the possession, sale, or transfer of large-capacity magazines. Some sheriffs, like Cooke, are refusing to enforce the laws they claim violate patriotic Americans’ Second Amendment rights. As an aside, Weld County is home to an officially-sanctioned secessionist movement to form a new state, North Colorado, where among other abominations, the county sheriff is the law of the land. Last May, all but seven of the 62 elected Colorado sheriffs signed on to a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Colorado’s new gun safety statutes requiring background checks for gun purchases and limiting magazines to 15 rounds. It was in Aurora Colorado that a gun-fanatic opened fire in a crowded theatre using a gun with a high-capacity magazine killing 12 innocent movie-goers and injuring 70 others. Every state in the Union needs stricter gun-control laws, but Colorado has been particularly devastated by gun violence; first in Columbine, then Aurora, and most recently last Friday when an 18-year-old shot and killed a classmate in school.
The trend of law enforcement officials refusing to enforce gun safety laws is not limited to Colorado and informs that they learned nothing from the massacre in Newtown, and that they are following a pattern set by repugicans in Congress. As Pat Toomey said of his fellow repugicans leaning toward supporting background checks for gun purchases, “some on my side did not want to be seen helping the president do something he wanted to get done, just because the president wanted to do it.”
That scenario played out in California last year shortly after the Newtown massacre when the county sheriff announced he would not enforce gun safety measures after President Obama addressed the nation and said “the nation must do more to prevent future tragedies, and to end them we must change.” The sheriff had just lost two deputies within a month of Newtown to a gun fanatic armed with an AR15 assault rifle and armor-piercing ammunition and it apparently had the same effect on him as the Newtown massacre. The sheriff railed against “this President for shredding the Constitution by confiscating American patriots’ guns” and supported a teabagger rally to show their resolve to “fight to preserve their god-given right to bear arms against Obama tyranny;” he is still the lead law enforcement officer in the county.
After New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed one of the toughest gun safety packages in the nation last January, two sheriffs announced publicly they refused to enforce the laws prompting Cuomo to say they were setting “a dangerous and frightening precedent.” Last October in Florida, a jury acquitted a sheriff who was charged with misconduct and suspended for releasing a man arrested by a deputy on charges of carrying a concealed firearm. Governor Rick Scott immediately reinstated the sheriff and said he was just protecting the man’s Second Amendment rights.
In urban areas, some police chiefs and state officials say that the laws are not only enforceable, but are already having a positive effect. Reasonable law enforcement officials noted that most gun stores stopped selling high-capacity magazines for personal use, although one sheriff acknowledged that some stores continued to sell them illegally, but that some private gun owners were seeking background checks when they sold or transferred ownership of their firearms.
According to one Colorado sheriff who did not sign on to the federal lawsuit challenging the Constitutionality of the state’s gun laws, “A lot of sheriffs are claiming the Constitution, saying that they’re not going to enforce this because they personally believe it violates the Second Amendment,” But that stance in and of itself violates the Constitution.” Still, that reasoned thinking is losing favor as evidenced by an increasing number of sheriffs refusing to enforce gun laws.
One such maniac is a former Arizona sheriff and author of “The County Sheriff: America’s Last Hope” who claims county sheriffs are “the ultimate arbiters of what is constitutional and what is not.” The dysfunctional constitutionalist, Richard Mack founded “The Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association” and is gaining support among law enforcement officers who agree with his philosophy that “The Supreme Court does not run my office, just because they allow something doesn’t mean that a good constitutional sheriff is going to do it.” These public servants swear to uphold and defend the Constitution that gives the Supreme Court the final say in what is, and is not, the law of the land, and they represent as much of a threat to the nation as any religious fanatic, al Qaeda terrorist, or wingnut disregarding the Constitution to advance their assault on democracy.
According to a Marquette University law professor, some states have laws allowing the governor to investigate public officials who engage in egregious misconduct, and said those laws might allow the removal of sheriffs who failed to enforce state statutes. The sheriff in Colorado disagrees and said it is his right to refuse to enforce any law he believed was wrong because his oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution “doesn’t say I have to uphold every law passed by the Legislature.” If that is the case, then every Colorado resident does not  have to abide by laws passed by the legislature, and following that thinking to its logical conclusion means that society is doomed to fall into a state of anarchy, and eventually local dictatorships based on which sheriff has the largest arsenal.
America is a nation of laws, but if they are applied arbitrarily depending on regional law enforcement officials there is nothing to prevent this nation from becoming a tribal society like parts of Africa, or areas around Pakistan, where the local warlord is “the ultimate arbiter of what is Constitutional and what is not.” This trend of gun-crazed law enforcement officials claiming sole discretion to interpret, adjudicate, and enforce laws is part of a pattern reflecting the real problem in this country and it is not gun safety laws, 2nd Amendment rights, or even religious freedom; it is opposition to President Obama borne of racial animus.

Homeless couple sues Missouri town for asking them to leave

 
Edward Gillespie and Brandalyn Orchard
A small Missouri town was sued on Monday by a homeless couple who are accusing it of violating their constitutional rights by forcing them to leave because they stood on a street corner holding a sign seeking assistance.
Brandalyn Orchard and Edward Gillespie, who were holding a sign that read "Traveling. Anything helps. God Bless," obeyed police who ordered them to leave Miner, Missouri, on September 26, according to the federal lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on the couple's behalf.
Officers, who showed them copies of ordinances against vagrancy, begging and loitering, told the couple they would be arrested if they did not leave town in five minutes, the lawsuit said.
The city clerk in the town of 980 people in southeast Missouri said ordinances the officers cited do not exist, the lawsuit said.
"The police are our first line of defense and we entrust them with the ability to arrest, but in return we need some checks and balances," Jeffrey Mittman, executive director of the ACLU of Missouri, said in a news release.
"The ACLU is stepping in because it is especially egregious when police try to intimidate those who are least likely to have the resources to defend their rights."
Joe Fuchs, attorney for the city, declined to comment on the lawsuit on Monday. The two police officers allegedly involved in the incident were not identified in the lawsuit.
Orchard and Gillespie, from Missouri, are asking the court for unspecified damages and an injunction to prevent the city from attempting to enforce "policies and customs" that are unconstitutional.
It is unclear where the officers got the ordinances they showed the couple, Missouri ACLU attorney Anthony Rothert said.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 1970s that laws against vagrancy - or having no visible means of support - were unconstitutional, Rothert said.
Free speech protections allowed the couple to hold the sign and they were not standing on the street corner to an extent that could be considered unlawful loitering, he said.

How corporations avoid paying income taxes

As reported in The Register (UK):
Facebook has reportedly swerved a huge corporation tax bill by paying its Ireland-based parent company - Facebook Holdings Limited - €1.75bn in “admin costs” for its intellectual property.

According to the Financial Times (£), Facebook recently reported a pre-tax loss of €626,000 after it paid out those expenses.

In 2012, Facebook Ireland Ltd had 382 staff on its books in Dublin, and reported a gross profit of €1.75bn and sales of €1.79bn for the year...

The practice of avoiding tax in that way – known as Double Irish – is used by other internet giants such as Google, which shifts some of its money through a Bermuda shell company...

Facebook defended its actions by saying it "complies with all relevant corporate regulations including those related to filing company reports and taxation.
This would be a good time to quote U.S. president Rutherford B. Hayes on the matter:
The real difficulty is with the vast wealth and power in the hands of the few and the unscrupulous who represent or control capital. Hundreds of laws of Congress and the state legislatures are in the interest of these men and against the interests of workingmen. These need to be exposed and repealed. All laws on corporations, on taxation, on trusts, wills, descent, and the like, need examination and extensive change. This is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people no longer. It is a government of corporations, by corporations, and for corporations.
Diary (11 March 1888]). 
Of course we should also point out that the "presidential election of 1876 had been thoroughly corrupted by fraudulent vote counts in favor of each candidate (the repugican Rutherford B. Hayes, the Democrat Samuel J. Tilden, both of them held captive by the banks)."

Does It Cost More to Eat Healthy?

We're all told to eat healthier food. But is the financial burden of this demand too much for some families to bear? Laci explores the question of whether the cost of healthy food is a barrier to a healthier society.

Supposedly Healthy Things That Aren't

These common, everyday practices can sometimes hurt more than help.


Poor health of Irish immigrants in England may be linked to childhood abuse


The generally poor health of Irish immigrants to England during most of the 20th century was not caused primarily by difficulties of assimilation or tensions between the two nations, but by the abuse Irish expatriates […]

Vero may hold clue to America's first humans

For 100 years there has been a large, troubling asterisk next to Vero Beach in archaeological literature.
Vero may hold clue to America's first humans
13 000 year old bone fragment carved with an incised image of a mammoth
or mastodon from Vero beach [Credit: University of Florida]
The sleepy oceanside town best known for its oranges and former spring training camp of the Los Angeles Dodgers is also believed by some archaeologists to be the only site in North America where human bones have been found with extinct Ice Age animals — proof that humans were in North America at least 13,000 years ago.

No one knows exactly how long humans have lived in North America. Tools and artifacts found at other sites indicate that humans may have been in North America that long ago, but the bones of what has come to be known as Vero Man could finally prove it.

"It needs to be done," said Barbara Purdy, professor emerita of anthropology at the University of Florida who has long argued that the Vero Man site should be excavated again. Purdy, 86, jokingly calls the site the Old Girl site rather than the Vero Man site because the first bones found belonged to a woman.
Vero may hold clue to America's first humans
Vero Canal site, showing where excavation for human remains was made
[Credit: Sellards/Florida Memory/State Library and Archives of Florida]
Although she "won't be going down and getting in the pit," she received credit for her advocacy recently during a news conference announcing a partnership between Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute at Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pa., and the Old Vero Ice Age Sites Committee, an Indian River County nonprofit, that will begin digging at the site in January. "They've got the whole world watching."

The dig is as much about proving whether Vero Man lived during the Ice Age as it is about settling a century-old tiff between Dr. Elias Howard Sellards, Florida's state geologist from 1907-1918, and Arles Hrdlicka, curator of the Physical Anthropology Department at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History from 1910-1940.

Sellards, who examined the site and the bones himself, determined that because the bones were found in the same stratum, or layer, of Earth as animals that went extinct in the late Ice Age — including mammoths, mastodons, giant saber-tooth tigers and bear-sized sloths — the human remains must be at least that old. However, Hrdlicka disputed Sellards' findings, saying the fossilized human bones were only a few thousand years old and were found in the same layer as the extinct animals because humans buried their dead.
Vero may hold clue to America's first humans
Vero may hold clue to America's first humans
Vero human remains [Credit: Florida Memory/
State Library and Archives of Florida]
Today, that question could be easily answered by testing the amount of elements in the bones, such as carbon. But carbon testing would not be discovered for another 35 years after the bones were found in 1913. Why not test the bones now? Because some were lost, misplaced or damaged by techniques used at the time to preserve them, such as soaking the bones in parafin or painting them with varnish, said C. Andrew Hemmings, a professor at Mercyhurst.

Hemmings, the director of archaeology for the dig, said the riff between Sellards and Hrdlicka has created a split among archaeologists, which is why Vero Man "gets a big asterisk" in archaeological literature.

"The bottom line is, as of today — a century later — nobody knows," Hemmings said. "Whatever the answer is, our goal is to get to the right answer."
Vero may hold clue to America's first humans
Cast from original human skull fragments found in place with mega-fauna fossils
at the "Vero Man Site" [Credit: Vera Zimmerman (1996)/Smithsonian
Institution Paleontology Archives in Washington D.C.]
Besides settling that debate, bones that may be found in the upcoming dig could also help answer another vexing question: How did we get here? Sometime between 12,000 and 15,000 years ago, the glacial ice that covered North America began to melt and humans found their way to North America. Their route is still not known.

Some believe hunters travelled across the Bering land bridge from Siberia to Alaska and then made their way south. Another theory is that migrants from Asia may have worked their way down the American Pacific coast by boat. Another controversial model suggests that the first Americans may have arrived from Europe. Pointing to similarities between some North American and 20,000-year-old European tools, proponents suggest migrants may have crossed the frozen north Atlantic via Greenland and then travelled down the east coast.

If bones are found, sophisticated testing could also identify where the humans came from, Henning said. Additional tests could also reveal information about how early humans dealt with rising sea levels and climate change and the impact those had on Florida's aquifers, Hemmings added.

"There are aspects of this that really reflect on the world today," he said. "It's not just some esoteric thing to prove that this guy was wrong 100 years ago."

Research team searches treetops for Maya secrets

Beneath the Guatemalan rainforests, hidden from mankind for more than a millennium, lie remains of the once vast kingdom of the Maya.
Research team searches treetops for Maya secrets
The Maya ruins at Tikal National Park in Guatemala [Credit: Peter Anderson/WikiCommons]
A pair of scientists from The University of Alabama in Huntsville will be in Guatemala next week to test whether a camera carried aloft by a tiny, battery-powered helicopter might one day help uncover lost Maya ruins.

Dr. Robert Griffin, an assistant professor of Earth system science at UAH, and graduate student Casey Calamaio will spend three days testing a multi-spectral camera during brief flights of a radio-controlled helicopter over Maya ruins at Tikal and Yaxha. They will use the images - similar to those from Landsat but in much higher resolution - to look for signs of the types of plant stress frequently seen in trees growing over archaeological sites in Central America.
Research team searches treetops for Maya secrets
UAH graduate student Casey Calamaio demonstrates the capabilities of a small, radio-controlled helicopter to a group of scientists and dignitaries from countries in South and Central America [Credit: Phillip Gentry/UAH]
"If we can fly over this well-known site, which has been extensively studied for many years, and verify that what we think we're seeing from the air matches what is actually on the ground, this might lead to a method for searching other areas that don't have this history of archaeology," said Griffin.

Trees growing over Maya ruins aren't as lush because the stone blocks and lime plaster used by Maya builders prevent those plants from getting the nutrients and moisture adjacent trees get from the thin Guatemalan soil. The multi-spectral camera can see differences in plant cover and, when an area of stressed tree canopy has sharp linear edges or unnatural geometric shapes - such as a perfect square or rectangle - that could indicate the location of a Maya town or building.

Supported by the Wildlife Conservation Society, Griffin and Calamaio will use the known boundaries of the Tikal and Yaxha ruins to test the camera's ability to pick out useful details in the rainforest canopy.

Ruins found in Ecuador may be tomb of last Incan emperor

It sounds like a plot from an Indiana Jones film, but explorers claim to have found ruins hidden deep in a dense and dangerous Amazonian jungle that could solve many of South America's mysteries – and lead to one of the world's most sought-after treasures.
Ruins found in Ecuador may be tomb of last Incan emperor
The vast structure is a wall, sloping at a 60 degree angle, with a flat area at the top
where many of the artefacts have been found [Credit: Telegraph]
The multinational team has located the site in a remote region in central Ecuador which it believes could represent one of the great archaeological discoveries.

They have already unearthed a 260ft tall by 260ft wide structure, made up of hundreds of two-ton stone blocks, and believe there could be more, similar constructions over an area of about a square mile.

Investigations of the site, in the Andes mountain range, are at an early stage and theories as to what it contains vary.

Some of those involved believe it could be the mausoleum of Atahualpa, the last Incan emperor who was captured by the conquering Spaniards, or hold the Treasure of the Llanganates, a vast haul of gold and other riches amassed by his followers to pay for his release.

In exchange for his freedom, Atahualpa is said to have offered to fill a room with gold. But the offer was rebuffed and he was executed in 1533.

His body is said to have been exhumed, mummified and later hidden by his followers in the region in which the new site has been found. According to legend, great treasures – which had been amassed for the ransom – were either buried with him, or separately.

The search for the tomb and the riches has been one of the world's greatest historical treasure hunts, inspiring many, thus far unsuccessful, expeditions.

Others believe the newly discovered site dates back far earlier, to unknown, pre-Inca cultures from before 500 BC, citing what appear to be rudimentary tools found there.
Ruins found in Ecuador may be tomb of last Incan emperor
Drawings of Atahualpa, the last Incan emperor [Credit: Alamy]
Local legend has it that the area was once populated by a civilisation of exceptionally tall people and the apparently outsized nature of some of the approximately 30 artefacts found have led some to describe the area as the Lost City of The Giants.

The site, in the Llanganates National Park, is being investigated by a team of British, French, America and Ecuadorean explorers.

Among them is Bruce Fenton, an Ecuador-based Briton and researcher into the region's indigenous cultures, who has been involved in the project for about three months, after he heard of recent discoveries made by local trekkers. He is planning two visits to the site before the end of the month. Also involved is Benoit Duverneuil, a French-American archaeologist, who undertook an expedition there earlier this year.

The Ecuadorean government has been told of the discovery and an official expedition by archaeologists and paleontologists is expected to take place. The site is already attracting groups interested in recovering artefacts.

It is only about 20 miles from the town of Baños de Agua Santa, but it takes about eight hours to trek to it through swampy and mountainous jungle. The site is about 8,500ft above sea level and in cloud forest, where it rains most of the time. One route to it is known for the risks posed by attacks of Africanised – "killer" – bees.

The precise extent of the structure and the possible wider development has not yet been gauged. The vast structure is a wall, sloping at a 60 degree angle, with a flat area at the top where many of the artefacts have been found.

The team believes the summit was used for some form of human activities, possibly sacrifices. Some have suggested that it could have been the venue for human sacrifices, with the incline deliberately engineered to allow a head to roll down the side.

The area is affected by regular landslides and much of the structure is covered by mud and vegetation, making investigations difficult.

There are several other large mounds - also covered in mud and vegatation - within a square mile, which the explorers think could be more man-made structures, as well as what appears to be a road.

The team believes the structure already discovered could contain rooms and Mr Duverneuil, who undertook an expedition to the site in April and May, believes it could be Atahualpa's mausoleum.

"This could be one of the biggest archaeological discoveries ever," he said. "It would be huge. We just don't have structures of this type and size in this part of the world. But we are some way from declaring that yet.

"It looks like a paved wall, an ancient street or plaza with a 60 degrees angle, perhaps the roof of a larger structure. Many of the stones were perfectly aligned, have sharp edges and seemed to have been sculpted by human hands. But there is still a chance that this could be a very unusual natural rock formation."

He has also not ruled out a connection to either the Panzaleo culture, which was established around 600 BC and saw the construction of large temples dedicated to its gods, or the Canari people, who were rivals of the Incas and joined forces with the Spanish during the conquest.

But Mr Fenton suspects it may date back earlier than any of these groups. He believes the site once held a city, built there to capitalise on the gold found in the region's rivers, and could be the size of Machu Picchu, the Inca city in southern Peru.

"This is a very inhospitable area and is still considered very dangerous because of the landscape," he said. "The only thing around there of any value would have been gold. It seems artefacts are spread over a wide area of inhospitable jungle and this only makes sense if a long-lost settlement is present."

Unlike in Peru, where much attention goes to Inca sites such as Machu Picchu, Ecuador's archaeological ruins attract a limited number of tourists and government spending is limited.

Shipwreck could rewrite New Zealand history

Scientists are arguing for the archaeological excavation of a shipwreck lying buried in sand in the Kaipara Harbour after a discovery that could rewrite the history of New Zealand's early European settlement.
Shipwreck could rewrite New Zealand history
One of many shipwrecks along the Kaipara Coast [Credit: Ripiro Beach]
Carbon dating of the vessel, completed last week, puts its construction as after Abel Tasman but before James Cook.

The accepted history is Dutch explorer Tasman was the first European to reach New Zealand in 1642 and there was no-one else until Captain Cook's voyage in 1769.

A paper, accepted by the international Journal of Archaeological Science last week, dates the ship buried at Midge Bay, on the north head of the Kaipara Harbour, as being built in 1705, plus or minus nine years.

The mystery ship, which is 25m to 27m long and 6.5m to 7.5m wide, was discovered in five metres of water in 1982 by mussel fisherman Leon Searle. He contacted local man Noel Hilliam, who was part of a crew who dived down in 1983 and salvaged two pieces of wood - a teak plank and a smaller piece identified as the tropical hardwood Lagerstroemia.

The wood was kept by Hilliam and the Dargaville Museum and has recently been radiocarbon-dated and scrutinised by tree-ring experts.

The date of 1705 was calculated after taking into account the age of the timber and the length of time needed to mill and season the wood, which is native to South-east Asia.
Shipwreck could rewrite New Zealand history
Dargaville Museum president Don Elliot has reason to be excited – a new discovery means the Dargaville museum may hold remains of the oldest known shipwreck in New Zealand [Credit: Stuff.co.nz]
Given known issues with deterioration of tropical timbers, the authors suggested a boat with such timber would not last longer than 50 years. The original discoverers noted the wreck had copper sheeting on its hull - a feature of Dutch shipyards by the 1670s.

Study author Dr Jonathan Palmer, a tree-ring expert, said when he got the results of the dating back, he thought: "Good God, this could be really important. It really needs excavation. It needs to be an eminent archaeologist."

Midge Bay has filled in with sand since 1982 and the wreck now lies buried under 11m of sand, though it is no longer under water. A magnetometer survey has pinpointed its exact location.

The paper cited Cook's journals, in which he documented accounts by local Maori of "earlier encounters with Europeans, with the ships having been wrecked and the survivors killed and eaten". Hilliam believes the ship is older than the dates suggested by the journal paper and that it is a Portuguese ship, and all but one of the crew were killed and eaten.

He said he supported an excavation, but it would be a "major operation".

The surprising story of Mongolian shamanism

In 1990, as the Soviet Union was disintegrating, Mongolia, long a satellite of the U.S.S.R., regained its independence. Socialism was out and free markets returned. Religion — in the form of Buddhism, shamanism, and other folk religions — became officially accepted again in Mongolian society. That, in turn, produced another unexpected change: The return of shamans, religious figures who claim to have a supernatural ability to connect with the souls of the dead.
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0226086569?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creativeASIN=0226086569&linkCode=xm2&tag=belzscorn-20
Cover of "Tragic Spirits" (University of Chicago Press)
Indeed, as MIT anthropologist Manduhai Buyandelger chronicles in a new book, the revival of shamanism has shaped Mongolia in surprising ways in the last two decades. From storefronts in Ulan Bator, the nation’s capital, to homes in rural Mongolia, shamanism has become a growth industry.

In the book — “Tragic Spirits,” published this month by the University of Chicago Press — Buyandelger both documents this surprising phenomenon and analyzes its meaning. The return of shamanism, she asserts, represents more than the straightforward return of a once-banned religion to Mongolia. And it is more than just a convenient method for people to earn a little income by working as shamans.

Rather, she says, shamanism became more popular precisely because, in a poor country recovering from Soviet domination — where Mongolia’s occupiers had wiped away its records and the physical traces of its past — shamanic practices have offered some Mongolians a way to reinvent their own history. Shamans offer clients the supposed opportunity to meet with the spirits of their distant ancestors and hear “fragmented stories about their lives in the past,” as Buyandelger observes.

“Shamanism is a historical memory for people who lost parts of their ancestral homeland, and who had been marginalized and politically oppressed,” adds Buyandelger, an associate professor of anthropology at MIT. It flourishes, she notes, where people have “no museums, no libraries, no cemeteries, no mausoleums. They don’t have anything to materialize their memories of the past.”

‘I wanted to … understand it, and capture it’

A native of Mongolia herself, Buyandelger’s project grew out of a desire to study and write about the thrills, disorder, and uncertainty that emerged in post-Soviet Mongolia.

“It was complete chaos, and an exciting time,” Buyandelger says. “I wanted to write about it and understand it, and capture it.” Having already learned Russian, she started studying English out of a desire to write about Mongolia for the widest audience possible.

Meanwhile, in those first heady years of the 1990s, with religion tolerated again and Mongolians having to carve out their livings outside the socialist state system, shamanism suddenly flourished: “Religious practitioners proliferated like mushrooms,” Buyandelger says. “Astrologers, fortune tellers, shamans, monks were everywhere, from the bus stations to homes, and monasteries were reviving and opening up.”

To be clear, shamanism never disappeared entirely from Mongolia, as Buyandelger explains in the book; even while officially banned, underground shamanism persisted, often practiced by women in rural areas. However, the official repression of religion had created an “aura of mystery” around shamanism, as Buyandelger says, which helped it grow quickly again in the 1990s. That growth was also due to a symbiosis among shamans and clients: Becoming a shaman was a way of having a job, while going to a shaman was, in part, a way of finding reassurance at a time when, for many people, “the future had fallen apart.”

Buyandelger, who grew up in Ulan Bator, focused in her book on 18 months of fieldwork she conducted, largely with ethnic Buryat nomads in Dornod province, the easternmost part of Mongolia. The village of Bayan-Uul, where Buyandelger based her work, has a population of about 5,000 people.

In Dornod province, she noticed something deeper underlying the shamanism revival. Shamanism, after all, promises communication with the past — and in the Dornod area, which is particularly close to Russia, Soviet erasure of Buryat history was especially harsh. So shamanism quickly became a way of inventing, or trying to recreate, a past that had otherwise completely vanished.

“People knew they had forgotten their past,” Buyandelger says. “So they turned to a past that was embodied by the spirits of ancestors. Instead of thinking about the past in terms of years or periods, shamanic rituals teach people to think in terms of historical personas.”

Shamans themselves, as Buyandelger puts it, are “cultural bricoleurs” who “make memories out of generic stories and make histories out of knowledge that they collect throughout their practice.” Indeed, she notes, the Mongolian word for history, tuukh, means “to collect.”

The book has been well-received by other scholars; Paul Stoller, an anthropologist at West Chester University who has read the book, calls it “a memorable evocation of the human condition as well as a powerful exercise in social analysis.”

Looking for trust

In the book, Buyandelger also uncovers some more subtle dynamics explaining the phenomenon of shamanism today. Women, while a minority of practitioners, constituted a much larger portion of those who tried to engage in shamanism during the Soviet era, as she relates in the book. “Female shamans, as women, were not necessarily regarded as doing anything harmful,” Buyandelger says, “whereas male shamans were under the gaze of the state.”

Moreover, a popular need to learn more about the past helps shamanism thrive now, precisely because clients have tended to try out a variety of shamans in the search for the one who can connect with the past in the most satisfactory and compelling way. A successful shaman, Buyandelger notes, brings spirits alive to clients as “verbal memorials,” which, taken together, comprise history for some Mongolians.

“People don’t have genealogical records, and you have shamans who don’t know exactly how to conduct themselves, so everything is a trial,” Buyandelger says. “Shamanism proliferates today not because people necessarily believe it 100 percent, but because people are trying to test it, and find out the most authentic practices they can trust. The more skeptical people seeking out shamans, in some ways, have become the most active catalysts of this proliferation.”

Ziggy

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"Hedge apples" may "remember" the megafauna

An interesting post at American Forests muses about the "hedge apple"/"Osage orange"/"monkeyball" (Maclura pomifera):
Consider the fruit of the Osage-orange, named after the Osage Indians associated with its range. In the fall, Osage-orange trees hang heavy with bright green, bumpy spheres the size of softballs, full of seeds and an unpalatable milky latex. They soon fall to the ground, where they rot, unused, unless a child decides to test their ballistic properties.

Trees that make such fleshy fruits do so to entice animals to eat them, along with the seeds they contain. The seeds pass through the animal and are deposited, with natural fertilizer, away from the shade and roots of the parent tree where they are more likely to germinate. But no native animal eats Osage-orange fruits. So, what are they for? The same question could be asked of the large seed pods of the honeylocust and the Kentucky coffeetree...

In terms of evolutionary time, the difference between 13,000 years ago and now is like the difference between Friday, December 31, 1999 and Saturday, January 1, 2000. We may assign those two days to different centuries or millennia, but they are still part of the same week. Likewise, all the animals and plants of 13,000 years ago belong just as much in the present. In fact, they still live in the present, with just one major exception: most of the big and fierce animals are now gone...

Now let’s return to the forlorn fruit of the Osage orange. Nothing today eats it. Once it drops from the tree, all of them on a given tree practically in unison, the only way it moves is to roll downhill or float in flood waters. Why would you evolve such an over-engineered, energetically expensive fruit if gravity and water are your only dispersers, and you like to grow on higher ground? You wouldn’t. Unless you expected it to be eaten by mammoths or ground-sloths...

It’s true that such adaptations are now anachronistic; they have lost their relevance. But the trees have been slow to catch on; a natural consequence of the pace of evolution. For a tree that lives, say, 250 years, 13,000 years represents only 52 generations. In an evolutionary sense, the trees don’t yet realize that the megafauna are gone.

'Stunning' tsunami record discovered in Indonesia cave

Scientists said Friday they have discovered a cave on the Indonesian island of Sumatra that provides a "stunning" record of Indian Ocean tsunamis over thousands of years.
'Stunning' tsunami record discovered in Indonesia cave
This undated handout photo taken in Lhonga Leupung, Aceh province, shows a cave that scientists found layers of sandy sediment, which had been washed in by tsunamis over thousands of years [Credit: AFP]
They say layers of tsunami-borne sediments found in the cave in northwest Sumatra suggest the biggest destructive waves do not occur at set intervals -- meaning communities in the area should be prepared at all times for a tsunami.

"It's something that communities need to know," research team leader Charles Rubin told AFP, adding that the team wanted to "promote safety of coastal communities".

Professor Rubin and other researchers from a Singapore institute were working with scientists from an Indonesian university when they discovered the cave, south of Banda Aceh, the capital of Aceh province.

A quake-triggered tsunami devastated Aceh and areas across the Indian Ocean in 2004, leaving some 170,000 people dead in the province alone.

Inside the cave the researchers found layers of sandy sediment, which had been washed in by tsunamis thousands of years previously, Rubin said.

The layers, which contained small fossils from the seabed, were well-preserved and separated by droppings deposited by bats in the cave, he added.

"This is a beautiful, stunning record of tsunamis that you just don't have very often," Rubin said.

Only huge tsunamis and storm surges can get into the cave, which has a raised entrance -- and afterwards the sediment is protected inside from erosion by wind or water.

Rubin said the scientists dated the layers and believe they show that between 2,800 and 3,300 years ago, some four to five tsunamis battered the area.

Before the 2004 tsunami, it had been hundreds of years since such a huge destructive wave had hit Aceh, the scientist said.

But he said the new discovery suggests that tsunamis are not evenly spaced through time, which should provide food for thought for those involved in policy and planning in the region.

"These don't happen like clockwork, they have variations in time and variations in size," he said.

Rubin works at the Earth Observatory of Singapore, an institute that forms part of Nanyang Technological University.

Scientists from the institute were working with researchers from Syiah Kuala University in Banda Aceh.

Megafloods


South-central Idaho and the surface of Mars have an interesting geological feature in common: amphitheater-headed canyons. These U-shaped canyons with tall vertical headwalls are found near the Snake River in Idaho as well as on […]

Earth News

Agadir Canyon is roughly the size of the Grand Canyon, and was carved out by flows of sediment from landslides off the coast of northwest Africa.
A highly interactive wind map lets you explore the different winds at various heights, all over the planet in real time.
A global ice age that lasted more than 50 million years may have been triggered by volcanic rocks trapping carbon dioxide.
A mysterious change in the food web of the Pacific Ocean started in the mid-19th century, and the skeletons of deep-sea coral tell the tale.

Has flowing water been spotted on Mars?

Has flowing water been spotted on Mars?
Dark streaks that hint at seasonally flowing water have been spotted near the equator of Mars1. The potentially habitable oases are enticing targets for research. But spacecraft will probably have to steer clear of them unless the craft are carefully sterilized — a costly safeguard against interplanetary contamination that may rule out the sites for exploration.
River-like valleys attest to the flow of water on ancient Mars, but today the planet is dry and has an atmosphere that is too thin to support liquid water on the surface for long. However, intriguing clues suggest that water may still run across the surface from time to time.

Daily Comic Relief

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New carnivorous dinosaur species found in Canada

Canadian scientists announced their discovery of a new carnivorous species of dinosaur Monday. The dinosaur, called Acheroraptor Temertyorum, was a close cousin of the Velociraptor, they say.
New carnivorous dinosaur species found in Canada
Holotype maxilla and associated dentary of Acheroraptor temertyorum
[Credit: Copyright Royal Ontario Museum]
A research team led by David Evans, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Royal Ontario Museum, discovered the species based on new fossils from the Hell Creek formation in Montana.

According to a recent blog post from Mr. Evans’ lab, features of the Archeoraptor, such as the unique ridged teeth, have been recognized for decades. But until now, scientists could not reasonably say that the fossils were related and suggested a distinct species.

With the new species comes new understanding.

Mr. Evans writes on his lab’s blog: “Archeroraptor gives us a more complete picture of the ecosystem in North America.” That means paleontologists will be able to better understand what was happening in the period before the great extinction, which marked the end of the Age of the Dinosaurs.

Archeroraptor was also one of the last non-avian dinosaurs, and lived with Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops.
New carnivorous dinosaur species found in Canada
Reconstruction of Acheroraptor
[Credit ROM Paleontology]
According to Evans’ description, the Archeroraptor walked on two legs, had a large, long snouted skull and dagger-like ridge teeth. He and his team estimate it was one of the last dromaeosaurs (often called raptors) living in Western North America about 66-67 million years ago.

The ROM Palaeontology Twitter account has re-tweeted several artist renderings of what the dinosaur would have looked like. For anyone who wants a closer look, Archeroraptor specimens are on display at the ROM in the James and Louis Temerty galleries of the Age of Dinosaurs during the holiday season.

Britain's Luftwoofe

The Heroic Paradogs of World War II

by Lazar Backovic
Britain's Luftwoofe: The Heroic Paradogs of World War II
As they prepared for D-Day and the fight against Nazi Germany, the 13th Parachute Battalion of the British Army developed a new weapon: parachuting dogs. One heroic hound would even earn a medal for his service.  More

The Giant Horse Conch is the Death Star of the Mollusk World

The Giant Horse Conch (Triplofusus giganteus) can grow up to 24 inches across. It's most commonly found off the Atlantic coast of Florida at depths of 43 to 223 feet. If you go scuba diving there, the Giant Horse Conch is waiting for you. And it's hungry.
This video shows the monster hunting non-human prey: a Tulip Snail. I highly recommend watching the entire video, including the battle between scavenging hermit crabs at the end.

Animal News

Maintaining a massive huddle of thousands of penguins may sound simple, but sticking together in a pack so large turns out to be quite complicated.
Snowy owls have swooped down upon the eastern U.S. in greater numbers than at any time in at least 50 years.
Scientists now have a mate to match the largest female spider fossil ever found...but there's a catch.
Cloned animals are moving out of the lab and onto the polo field! A champion polo horse was cloned as a way of preserving his athletic ability. Did it work? Trace has the answer.

Animal Pictures