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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 27, 2013

The Daily Drift

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Carolina Naturally is read in 194 countries around the world daily.
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Today is - (there is no special celebration today) Day

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Today in History

1512 The laws of Burgos give New World natives legal protection against abuse and authorize Negro slavery.
1831 HMS Beagle, with Charles Darwin on board, departs from Plymouth. It will eventually visit the Galapagos Islands where Darwin will form his theories on evolution.
1862 Union General William Rosecrans' army begins moving slowly toward Murfreesboro, Tennessee, from Nashville.
1913 Charles Moyer, president of the Miners Union, is shot in the back and dragged through the streets of Chicago.
1915 In Ohio, iron and steel workers go on strike for an eight-hour day and higher wages.
1932 Radio City Music Hall opens.
1933 Josef Stalin calls tensions with Japan a grave danger.
1939 A series of vicious earthquakes take 11,000 lives in Turkey.
1941 Japanese bombers attack Manila, despite its claim as an open city.
1944 General George S. Patton's Third Army, spearheaded by the 4th Armored Division, relieves the surrounded city of Bastogne in Belgium.
1945 The International Monetary Fund and the Bank for Reconstruction and Development are created.
1947 The new Italian constitution is promulgated in Rome.
1950 The United States and Spain resume relations for the first time since the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s.
1956 Segregation on buses in Tallahassee, Florida, is outlawed.
1968 The United States agrees to sell F-4 Phantom jets to Israel.
1979 President Hafizullah Amin of Afghanistan is ousted and murdered in a coup backed by the Soviet Union, beginning a war that will last more than 10 years.
1983 President Reagan takes all responsibility for the lack of security in Beirut that allowed a terrorist on a suicide mission to kill 241 Marines.
1984 Four Polish officers are tried for the slaying of Reverend Jerzy Popieluszko.
1985 Palestinian guerrillas kill 18 people at airports in Rome and Vienna.
1996 Taliban forces retake strategic Bagram Airfield during Afghan civil war.
2001 China receives permanent normal trade relations with the US.
2004  Radiation reaches Earth from the brightest extrasolar event ever witnessed, an explosion of magnetar SGR 1806-20.
2007 Former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto assassinated.
2007 After Mwai Kibaki is declared the winner of Kenya's presidential elections, rioting begins in Mombasa, precipitating an economic, humanitarian and political crisis.

Non Sequitur


Did you know ...

About how to reduce gun violence

That good christians "can't" get PTSD - because they already have it.

The lunatic Pat Robertson says: allowing lesbians into your home can turn your children gay

About how climate inaction and hyper-materialism betray our children

The repugican cabal, a Jim Jones-type Cult

Podesta was right so why apologize?
The repugicans ARE drinking the Kool-Aid.
John Podesta said that repugicans are, "a cult worthy of Jonestown."

Those comments caused outrage with repugicans in Washington, and in the interests of political correctness and civility, Podesta apologized to John Boehner because he's a pussy.
But apology aside, Podesta was right.

The repugican cabal is a cult worthy of Jim Jones, and all across America, it's killing off its followers, just like Jim Jones did.

For reasons that typically have to do with god, gays or guns, low-income people across America frequently vote repugican, thus becoming repugican cultist followers. And then, just like the followers at Jonestown, they let their leaders in the repugican cabal pass out "policy Kool-aid" that actually kills some of them.

For example, right now, 23 states, led by mostly repugican lawmakers, are refusing to expand Medicaid under Obamacare.  As a result, millions of low-income Americans won't have access to life-saving health care and medications.  And those millions of Americans include the "followers" of the repugican cabal who helped give repugicans control of the House.

The repugican cabal are killing themselves off and that's OK with me. Every one of the bastards who  stick up for Duck Dynasty's religious hate is telling voters that they're sticking with their platform of hate gays, hate Blacks, hate poor - hate anyone not white, rich & straight.

The voters will register how they feel when they vote.

Democrats Need To Rally Around the Issue of Income Inequality in America

As sick as we might all be of partisan infighting, this is a battle we need to have. This isn't a pointless test of ideological purity to source…
In late 2011, when the promising Occupy Wall Street protests began to fizzle out – a combination of government/police intervention and an internal lack of organized leadership, my heart sank. The movement, which began in Zuccotti Park, ground zero of New York City’s Wall Street financial district, deserved much more than a historical footnote, the status of a fleeting trend.
Most of us outside the one percent sphere of privilege don’t need data to reinforce the certainty that things have gone downhill for the middle class, beginning long before the 2008 onset of the Great Recession. We are being squeezed every possible way: mass unemployment, stagnant wages for those lucky enough to have jobs, depreciated home values, skyrocketing household debt and college tuition prices, rising property taxes. You name it and it hurts. Meanwhile we’ve been forced to sit on our hands and watch as no one responsible for the loss of our 401ks and property is prosecuted and even worse, Wall Street salaries remain 5.2 times higher than that of the average New Yorker. I won’t even get into wages outside the Big Apple or executive pay. It’s too depressing.
Inequality and the divisions between the have and have nots is not a new conversation. Every relevant civilization throughout history has struggled with these tensions. I beganto be of the opinion that in order to have any real traction, the dialogue had to mature. Rather than a simple “us vs. them” discourse, I felt like Democratic leadership ought to challenge itself a bit more. Because frankly, it’s not only the repugican cabal that has lurched to the right. In an effort to begin winning elections again after the drubbings of the 1980s, the left made a great “moderate” leap to the center, bringing some economically disastrous policies with them.
This is one of the themes of New York Times columnist Bill Keller’s December 22 Op-Ed, “Inequality for Dummies.” In it, he writes: “Inequality is in. The president, you have probably heard, has declared income inequality to be ‘the defining challenge of our time…’ Liberals of a more centrist bent — notably the former Clintonites at the Third Way think tank — have refused to join the chorus and been lashed by fellow Democrats for their blasphemy.”
As sick as we might all be of partisan infighting, this is a battle we need to have. This isn’t a pointless test of ideological purity to source a base pleasing candidate. As much fun as it’s been to watch the repugican cabal look for its way with all the grace and finesse of a blind rhinoceros, it can’t be that we got into our current situation because of the wretched ideas and decision making of one party alone. 11 months before the 2014 midterm elections, and nearly three years before the 2016 Presidential contest, seems like a fine time for the Democratic Party to ask itself a few critical questions. Do we want to continue letting the repugican cabal set the agenda (and anyone who thinks the most recent budget compromise wasn’t a near-complete victory for the wingnut platform, just isn’t paying attention), or do we want to be a little bit more proactive about restoring the American Dream?
Keller goes on to write, “The alarming thing is not inequality per se, but immobility. It’s not just that we have too many poor people, but that they are stranded in poverty with long odds against getting out. The rich (and their children) stay rich, the poor (and their children) stay poor…
A stratified society in which the bottom and top are mostly locked in place is not just morally offensive; it is unstable. Recessions are more frequent in such countries.”
Is it any coincidence that every year since Bill Clinton left office, including the shrub junta, rife with deregulation, outsourcing and bursting bubbles of several varieties (which liberals, let’s be entirely honest, were causes championed by the Clinton administration as well), has felt like one continuous recession?
I caution my fellow lefties: Let’s not be afraid to take a good look at ourselves, our history. We can and should do better to create policies that might begin to redress these spiraling socioeconomic ills. After all this is the season of reflection and we have been, at minimum, repugican cabal enablers. Accessory to the destruction of the middle class is still a crime.

Super rich benefit from ‘status quo bias’

Income inequality – between the super-rich and the rest of us – and a sorry record of progressive policy initiatives from Congress all can be traced to a built-in “status quo bias” in our political […]

$1B/year climate denial network exposed

In Institutionalizing delay: foundation funding and the creation of U.S. climate change counter-movement organizations, a scholarly article published in the current Climatic Change , Drexel University's Robert J. Brulle documents a billion-dollar-per-year climate-change denial network, underwritten by conservative billionaires operating through obfuscating networks of companies aimed at obscuring the origin of the funds.
Among the recipients of the funds are several charitable groups that are supposedly neutral on climate change, including the American Enterprise Institute (the top recipient of the funds) and the Heritage Foundation. Brulle was unable to uncover the origin of 75 percent of the funds, much of which were routed through Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund.
The vast majority of the 91 groups on Brulle's list – 79% – were registered as charitable organisations and enjoyed considerable tax breaks. Those 91 groups included trade organizations, think tanks and campaign groups. The groups collectively received more than $7bn over the eight years of Brulle's study – or about $900m a year from 2003 to 2010. Conservative think tanks and advocacy groups occupied the core of that effort.
The funding was dispersed to wingnut think tanks in Washington, such as the AEI and Heritage Foundation, which focus on a range of issues, as well as more obscure organisations such as the Atlas Economic Research Foundation and the John Locke Foundation.
Funding also went to groups that took on climate change denial as a core mission – such as the Heartland Institute, which held regular conclaves dedicated to undermining the United Nations climate panel's reports, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which tried and failed to prosecute a climate scientist, Michael Mann, for academic fraud.

Walmart Gets Busted Forcing Employees to Make Political Contributions to repugicans

If underpaying their employees wasn’t bad enough, Walmart has now been caught forcing employees to make political contributions in exchange for their matching contributions to the employee hardship fund.
According to Bloomberg,
U.S. companies, forbidden to give money directly to political action committees, are taking advantage of controversial federal rules allowing them to ask employees to do it for them in exchange for matching charitable donations.
It’s legal and gives businesses from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to Coca-Cola (KO) Co. to Hewlett-Packard Co. a way to fund their PACs, which direct money to political candidates. The matching contributions provide an incentive for employees, most of them managers, to contribute to the PAC.

Recipients included repugican House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, repugican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. Wal-Mart has been vocal on issues including the minimum wage.
The problem is that since 2000, 69% of Walmart PAC’s and the Walton family’s political donations have gone to anti-gay, anti-environment, pro-gun, pro-business conservatives like Cruz and Boehner.
In response, the group Our Walmart released a statement from Walmart employee Barbara Gertz,”What Walmart workers really want is for the company to publicly commit to pay better wages and provide steady hours that let us support our families. Many of us can’t pay for groceries or afford rent. Today’s news is further proof that Walmart is determined to spend millions to support politicians who vote to cut food stamps and who oppose increasing the minimum wage, instead of focusing on creating good jobs in our communities. It’s upsetting to hear that Walmart not only exploited the associates in critical need fund to push a political agenda that hurts ordinary Americans, but it also may have done so in violation of federal election laws. This is just the latest example of Walmart acting as though it’s above the law.”
FEC commissioners are deadlocked on whether the practice is illegal or not, but Walmart’s practice of offering 2 to 1 charity donations in exchange for employee donations has caused current and former FEC commissioners to call the practice illegal and over the line.
Walmart is essentially forcing employees to make a political contribution in order to get hardship assistance for their fellow workers who are destitute because of the company’s practice of paying starvation wages. These employees aren’t just making political contributions, but most of the donations are being given to candidates who are opposed to policies like increasing the minimum wage, unionization, and better working conditions.
This is a reminder that if you shop at Walmart, not only are you supporting paying employees wages that they can’t survive on, but nearly 70% of your money is going to support repugicans.
Walmart’s creativity when it comes to harming their employees is virtually limitless. Each low price Walmart offers is subsidizing the destruction of the American worker.

McDonald's Advises Its Employees To Stay Away From Fast Food

A McDonalds website providing resources to its employees advises against eating hamburgers, fries and sodas. CNBC first noticed the latest in a series of strange pieces of advice provided by the fast food company to its employees. "While convenient and economical for a busy lifestyle," McDonalds says of its primary product, "fast foods are typically high in calories, fat, saturated fat, sugar, and salt and may put people at risk for becoming overweight."
It goes on: "In general, people with high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease must be very careful about choosing fast food because of its high fat, salt, and sugar levels." CNBC notes that the content here comes from a third party, A.D.A.M., Inc., credited at the bottom of the page. You can browse similar advice from the company on eating healthy here. A spokesperson for McDonalds told CNBC that the company would examine the content in question. Here's another sample: 
You'll notice that the advice above isn't a total condemnation of fast food offerings as a whole: it is "not impossible" to eat healthy foods at a fast food restaurant. But it is "more of a challenge." McDonald's, after all, sells salads. But the company is also so closely associated to its burger and fries staples that the generic "fast food" image in the advice graphic is shown wearing a distinctive McDonald's red. 
As strange as this seems, the bigger question seems to be how McDonald's employees would be able to afford healthier food on the wages they earn slinging burgers. Earlier this year, a McDonald's worker recorded an employee hotline counselor telling her to apply for food stamps. McDonald's also advises employees to break their food up into smaller pieces to stave off hunger and stretch their food budgets. The company has some holiday advice, too: workers should return their Xmas presents for a refund to boost their budgets. And then there's the company's budget advice to its minimum wage workers: get a second job to cover living expenses. That budget, by the way, didn't include money for heat, gas, or food. 

Police interrupted wedding to impound beef from stolen cow

A wedding ceremony turned a farce when policemen invaded the venue in Butula, Kenya searching for a stolen cow. The police, having been tipped off, arrived demanding to see the couple.

In the ensuing consultation, it emerged that the cow that guests were waiting to feast on had been stolen, and the police had come to confirm the allegations. The police insisted that they were not there to settle a dispute. All they wanted was to see the head and the hooves of the slaughtered cow before making any decision.
“We have been informed that the cow that was slaughtered here is a stolen one, which we have been looking for. We would like to see the head and the hooves to confirm the allegations of the owner,” the head of the operation told the couple. The couple obliged and showed the police where they had slaughtered the cow.

“Here is the hide of the cow that we slaughtered and here are the hooves, you can verify. We bought the cow in the market because we anticipated many guests,” the couple informed the police. When the owner of the lost cow, who was in the police vehicle, came to check, he confirmed that the head and hooves belonged to his cow, putting an end to the celebrations and leaving the guests hungry.

L.A. woman gets 180 days in jail for phoning 911 over 400 times

In Los Angeles, a woman who called 911 more than 400 times in the past three years received a 180 day jail sentence, plus three years of probation and mandatory psychological counseling. 
Linette Young, 43, made the 911 calls starting in 2011, sometimes calling as many as six times a day. And from Jan. 1 to Sept. 13, 2013, she called 911 for paramedics 220 times, according to the Los Angeles city attorney's office. Each time she was helped by paramedics, they found no medical issues. 
Read the whole sad Los Angeles Times story.



It may be possible to erase bad memories

A growing body of evidence, dating back to the late 1960s, suggests that we can lessen the emotional blow of negative memories (and even get rid of them altogether) months and years after those memories originally formed. The key is that memories seem to be vulnerable to manipulation and erasure as you're recalling them, not just at the time of creation. The newest research — and some of the most convincing to date — used electroconvulsive therapy to effectively remove the details of traumatizing stories from the minds of healthy volunteers. Virginia Hughes has a story about the newest study at her blog:
Schiller’s experiments have also bolstered the reconsolidation hypothesis. She has shown, for example, that if people recall a fearful memory and then go through ‘extinction learning’ — meaning that they’re shown the fearful stimulus over and over again without any pain — they can erase the emotional sting of the memory. Other groups have shown something similar by giving people propranolol, a beta-blocker, immediately after recalling a memory.
The new study adds ECT to the list. There are still a lot of questions. For example, it’s not clear how ECT is disrupting reconsolidation. Or if it’s doing it at all: The effect could be partly or wholly due to anesthesia, though the researchers say this is unlikely. Most importantly, no one knows whether the procedure would work with old, real memories, as opposed to those artificially created in the lab.

Thirty-year-old lead finds its way into the trendy urban chicken business

The United States began phasing out the use of tetraethyllead in gasoline in the mid 1970s (though it's still used in aviation and race car fuel). The pollution from TEL-enhanced gas, however, continues to linger in the soil, especially in cities, where concentrations of tailpipe emissions were higher. A recent study of New York City chickens found that lead from the soil was showing up in detectable levels in the chickens' eggs. The dose is low (though you probably don't want young children eating lots of those eggs), but it's a great example of how the effects of pollution don't vanish just because the pollution ends.

Ancient Chinese bamboo texts tell medical history

Chillies for a headache and a bull's urine for jaundice: These are the latest deciphered messages of how Chinese people two millennia ago cured themselves, and their horses.
Chinese bamboo texts tell medical history
Ancient texts written on bamboo slips [Credit: Kenyon College]
The 920 medical bamboo slips, together with other historical relics of the Western Han Dynasty (202 BC- 9 AD), were found in a subway construction site in Chengdu, capital city of southwest China's Sichuan Province.

A total of 184 bamboo slips are said to be the "guidebook" for horse vets. The remaining 736 can be categorized into nine separate medical texts covering various domains.

According to Xie Tao, a research fellow with Chengdu's archaeology institute, the books could be lost medical classics written by the successors of Bian Que, a medical pioneer from the 5th century B.C.

Two characters in one of the books have the same pronunciation as Bian Que, though in different written forms, said Wu Jiabi, of a bamboo script research institute in neighboring Hubei Province.

Bian Que was said to have invented the technique of taking the pulse and narcosis. He perhaps performed the world's earliest organ transplant, as recorded in Lie Zi, an important classic of Taoism.

The bamboo slips did not contain any sorcery, believed to indicate the separation of medicine and witchcraft and the budding of medical science.

Why Raw Honey Is Good For You

Sticky, fragrant honey is nature's most interesting sweetener and always astonishing in the way its scent, taste and color reflects the flora from which the bees collect their nectar.

Raw, cold extracted honey hasn't been heat-treated and 'purified,' so still contains its full complement of enzymes and antioxidants, and has antibacterial properties. Manuka honey is most effective in killing antibiotic-resistant infections, such as MRSA.

Natural Remedies for Colds and Coughs

sick woman

Kitchen Cures for Winter Misery

Coughs and colds can leave you feeling miserable—and so can the over-the-counter drugs being peddled to treat them. So the next time a bad cold or cough hits, put down the blister packs and bottles of colorful pills, and head to your kitchen instead. Healing foods full of anti-inflammatory compounds and natural antiviral compounds can work wonders without the side effects of drowsiness, jitteriness, and all-over funkiness.
We dug into Rodale's library of books on natural remedies and came up with some of the easiest ways to keep a cold or cough from laying you up for days on end.


The World Health Organization has cited honey as a potential remedy for colds because it coats the throat and relieves irritation (which is what usually triggers a cough). It also has antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, which help fight infections from viruses, bacteria, and fungi. (Source: The Green Pharmacy Guide to Healing Foods)


Christopher Hobbs, a fourth-generation California herbalist and author of several books on herbal medicine, suggests a formula that is worth taking two or three times a day for a cough. Add 2 teaspoons of organic lemon rind, 1 teaspoon of sage, and ½ teaspoon of thyme to boiling water and steep for 15 minutes. Then add the juice of half a lemon and 1 tablespoon of honey. Remember to use organic lemon rind because the pesticides used on citrus fruits are extremely hard to wash off. (Source: The Green Pharmacy Guide to Healing Foods)

Ginger Tea

Ginger acts as a potent natural anti-inflammatory herbal agent. Most people use ginger tea as a way to soothe their painful throats, although fresh ginger from the produce section of your local supermarket is also good. (Source: The Doctor's Book of Home Remedies)

Black Pepper and Honey

Place 1 teaspoon of McCormick Black Pepper in a teacup, fill with boiling water, cover with a saucer, and let steep for 15 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of SueBee Honey, and drink the peppery tea. The black pepper stimulates circulation and doubles as a decongestant. The mildly antibiotic honey soothes the throat and relieves coughing. Do not feed honey to infants younger than 1 year old.  (Source: Joey Green's Magic Health Remedies: 1,363 Quick-and-Easy Cures Using Everyday Brand-Name Products)

Raw or Lightly Cooked Garlic

It's rich in chemical compounds that help inhibit cough-causing viruses in the respiratory tract, says pediatrician Stuart Ditchek, MD. Garlic is a wonderful natural antibiotic that can assist in fighting off colds and common upper respiratory infections. "Extracts of aged garlic can be used as well," he says. Try to eat two to four garlic cloves daily, Dr. Ditchek says. Or use garlic supplements, following the directions on the label. But avoid garlic supplements for 7 to 10 days prior to any surgery. Using these supplements can increase the risk of bleeding, especially when used for long periods of time, he says. (Source: The Doctor's Book of Home Remedies)


If you can bear the heat, eat horseradish or other hot foods such as hot mustard or wasabi several time a day. It will liquefy phlegm and help to relieve a cough. (Source: The Green Pharmacy Guide to Healing Foods)


Sage is one of the very best sore throat and cough remedies. The leaves can be chewed and the juice swallowed to soothe a sore throat; swallowing the healing and anesthetic juice numbs the unpleasant soreness and helps speed healing. Sage-lemon tea is an excellent drink for treating colds and flu, especially if you add some thyme for extra antibacterial action. (Source: Grow It, Heal It: Natural and Effective Herbal Remedies from Your Garden or Windowsill)

Grapefruit Tea

In the early stages of a cold, try this recipe from Brian Berman, MD: Place a whole unpeeled grapefruit, sectioned into four pieces, in a pot and cover with water; heat to just under a boil. Stir and add 1 tablespoon of honey, then drink the liquid as you would a tea. "The simmering releases immune boosters from the grapefruit into the water—vitamin C and flavonoids hidden between the rind and the fruit," he says. "The concoction packs more punch than store-bought grapefruit juice, plus the warmth eases a sore throat. (Source: The Doctor's Book of Home Remedies)

Honey, Olive Oil, and Lemon Juice

To make homemade cough syrup, mix 1 cup of SueBee Honey, ½ cup of Star Olive Oil, and 4 tablespoons of ReaLemon lemon juice in a saucepan and warm over low heat for 5 minutes. Stir vigorously for several minutes until the mixture attains the consistency of syrup. To relieve a cough, take 1 teaspoon of the formula every 2 hours. Store in an airtight container. Do not feed honey to infants younger than 1 year old. (Source: Joey Green's Magic Health Remedies: 1,363 Quick-and-Easy Cures Using Everyday Brand-Name Products)

Chicken Soup

Eating chicken soup helps you stay hydrated, improves your immunity, provides antioxidants that your body needs to help fight the virus, helps clear mucus from your system, and reduces inflammation. In a study by researchers at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, chicken soup reduced the movement of the neutrophils in blood, which they think lowers activity that causes inflammation and cold symptoms in the respiratory tract. (Source: The Green Pharmacy Guide to Healing Foods)

Salt and Baking Soda

To alleviate a cough, make a saline nose wash to rinse mucus from your nasal passages. Purify 8 ounces of water by boiling for 3 minutes, let cool to room temperature, and dissolve ¼ teaspoon of Morton Salt and ¼ teaspoon of Arm & Hammer baking soda in the purified water. Use a bulb syringe or neti pot to rinse the inside of your nose. Postnasal drip frequently causes or worsens coughs, and washing out the mucus that would otherwise drip down your throat relieves the cough. (Source: Joey Green's Magic Health Remedies: 1,363 Quick-and-Easy Cures Using Everyday Brand-Name Products)


Sucking on zinc lozenges can cut colds short—from an average of eight days to an average of four, report researchers at the Cleveland Clinic. Study subjects sucked on four to eight lozenges a day, each containing 13.3 milligrams of zinc. Zinc can also dramatically reduce symptoms such as a dry, irritated throat, says Elson Haas, MD. "It doesn't work for everyone, but when it works, it works." (Source: The Doctor's Book of Home Remedies)

A Tissue

For productive coughs, blowing your nose frequently helps eliminate mucus before it has the chance to stimulate the cough reflex, says Dr. Ditchek. "Postnasal drip is by far the most common cause of hacking coughs in young children," he says. And these coughs worsen when you lie flat. Gravity helps, too, so try elevating the head of the bed. (Source: The Doctor's Book of Home Remedies)

Kochia Hill

Kochia Hill at Hitachi Seaside Park, located in Hitachinaka, Japan, is a flower park and a popular tourist destination. The park covers an area of ​​3.5 hectares and the flowers are amazing all year round.
YouTube link

Ruins of Zakynthos are a natural phenomenon

The rocky formations discovered in late May at the bottom of the Alykanas gulf in Zakynthos are not the ruins of an ancient settlement, as originally thought, but rather a rare natural geological phenomenon from at least 5,000 years ago. Ruins of Zakynthos are a natural phenomenon The underwater findings are not the "ruins" of an ancient settlement, as originally theorized. Dr. Michael Stamatakis, along with archaeologist Magdalene Athanasoula and technical expert Petros Tsampourakis conducted a study on the findings, which were publicized on Wednesday by deputy Mayor of Zakynthos Akis Ladikos. The report indicates that while the findings are not man-made, there was no evidence of any other similar geolofical formations elsewhere. Dr. Stamatakis who has been documenting the geological history of the island joined the team to help shed some light on the findings’ origin. Chemical and mineralogical tests conducted showed that calcium, magnesium and iron carbonates were plentiful, which are typically created around vents that go through loose deposits of aluminosilicate minerals. The deputy Mayor explained that this is a unique phenomenon world-wide and that further tests will be conducted to determine the age of the findings, while noting that it could generate scientific and tourist interest.

Tropical forests mitigate extreme weather events

Tropical forests reduce peak runoff during storms and release stored water during droughts, according to researchers working at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. Their results lend credence to a controversial phenomenon known as the sponge effect, which is at the center of a debate about how to minimize flood damage and maximize water availability in the tropics. Tropical forests mitigate extreme weather events How important are tropical forests to the health of the Panama Canal Watershed and the area around other tropical reservoirs?
During nearly 450 tropical storms, a team of visiting scientists from the University of Wyoming measured the amount of runoff from pastureland, abandoned pastureland and forested land as part of a large-scale land-use experiment in the Panama Canal watershed initiated by STRI. Data collected by STRI staff and analyzed by University of Wyoming students indicate that land-use history has complex, long-term effects. “We measured large differences in hydrologic response between watersheds with different land-use histories and land cover,” said Fred Ogden, STRI senior research associate and civil engineering professor at the University of Wyoming. “Our ultimate objective is to better understand these effects and include this improved understanding in a high-resolution hydrological model that we are developing to predict land-use effects in tropical watersheds.” “The result for storm peaks is spectacular,” said Robert Stallard, hydrologist at STRI and the U.S. Geological Survey who developed the statistics for data analysis. “Storm-water runoff from grazed land is much higher than from forested land. The results are clearest after big storms.”
On the other hand, forests released more water than grasslands and mixed-use landscapes during the late dry season, pointing to the importance of forests in regulating water flow throughout the year in seasonal climates. Evidence to support the sponge effect was lacking for tropical forests, leading some to question its validity. “One of reasons why there isn’t more scientific evidence for the sponge effect is that you have to take what nature dishes out,” said Stallard, a staunch proponent of the sponge effect, who is often seen wearing Sponge Bob socks. “It requires a long-term institutional commitment to get good results.
The USGS, STRI, University of Wyoming and the Panama Canal Authority have the resources to do that.” Severe drought forced Panama Canal authorities to impose draft restrictions on transiting ships in 1997. In 2010, a major December storm system, examined in this study, halted shipping in the canal for 17 hours. Land use in the watershed not only affects world commerce but also water availability for Panama’s major urban areas. The study is particularly relevant to land-use decisions throughout the tropics where more than 50 percent of forests are now “secondary” forests that have grown back after logging or on abandoned pastureland. The 700-hectare Panama watershed experiment, also known as Agua Salud, will run for 20 to 30 years, making it the largest ongoing study of land use in the tropics. “Our project aims to clearly quantify environmental services such as water flow, carbon storage and biodiversity conservation that decision makers will consider as they evaluate projects from forest restoration to watershed management,” said Jefferson Hall, Smithsonian staff scientist and project director.

Daily Comic Relief


Night-Shining Clouds Come Early Over South Pole

The rare types of wispy, blue-white clouds form when water molecules freeze around 'meteor smoke' close to the edge of space.

Astronomical News

It snows quite a bit on Mars -- but there's nothing cheery about it.
For the first time, an exomoon orbiting a free-floating exoplanet may have been discovered in a micro-lensing survey.

First Polacanthine Ankylosaur dinosaur discovered in Asia

In a study published in the latest issue of Vertebrata PalAsiatica 51(4), Dr. YOU Hai-Lu, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology (IVPP), Chinese Academy of Sciences, and his collaborators from China University of Geosciences (Beijing), Gansu Geological Museum in Lanzhou, and Administration of Liujiaxia Dinosaur National Geopark in Yongjing of Gansu, described a new dinosaur, Taohelong jinchengensis gen. et sp. nov., based on material from the Lower Cretaceous Hekou Group in Lanzhou-Minhe Basin, north-central China. Taohelong represents the first occurrence of polacanthine in Asia, and provides new data for studying the evolution and biogeography of polacanthine.
First Polacanthine Ankylosaur dinosaur discovered in Asia Proximo-middle caudal of Taohelong jinchengensis gen. et sp. nov. A, proximal view; B, distal view; C, left side view; D, right side view; E, dorsal 
The new specimens include a proximo-middle caudal vertebra, three dorsal ribs, an almost complete left ilium, and several armors including a partial sacral shield. Taohelong jinchengensis possesses three distinctive anatomical features: neural canal of proximo-middle caudal inverted trapezium, lateral edge of preacetabular process inverted “S”-shaped in dorsal view, and sacral shield composed of various-sized and irregularly-arranged osteoderms.
First Polacanthine Ankylosaur dinosaur discovered in Asia Left ilium of Taohelong jinchengensis gen. et sp. nov. A, dorsal view; B, ventral view; C, anterior view; D, posterior view 
Cladistic analysis shows that Taohelong is a member of polacanthine nodosaurid ankylosaur, and is the sister taxon of Polacanthus foxii from the Early Cretaceous Barremian of England. Polacanthinae is here defined as the most inclusive clade containing Polacanthus foxii Owen, 1865 but not Ankylosaurus magniventris Brown, 1908 or Panoplosaurus mirus Lambe, 1919. Taohelong represents the first occurrence of polacanthine in Asia, and indicates again the existence of a rich and unique dinosaur assemblage in the Lower Cretaceous Hekou Group in the Lanzhou-Minhe Basin.
First Polacanthine Ankylosaur dinosaur discovered in Asia Armours and sacral shield of Taohelong jinchengensis gen. et sp. nov.
This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Hundred Talents Project of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Department of Land and Resources of Gansu Province.

Fish on brink of extinction gets boost thanks to zoo

The Mangarahara cichlid was down to last three known individuals, all male, until ZSL London Zoo’s worldwide plea led to discovery of tiny school of fish
Mangarahara-cichlid  photo courtesy of zoo
The near-extinct Mangarahara cichlid gets boost with discovery of a tiny school in the wild; photo courtesy of ZSL London Zoo
A critically endangered fish species just might have been saved from extinction thanks to a worldwide appeal by the ZSL London Zoo.
The fish called the Mangarahara cichlid (Ptychochromis insolitus) was believed to have been lost in the wild due to deforestation and river diversions drying up its native habitat of the Mangarahara River in Madagascar.
fish-wanted-poster-final-13659The last three known individual fish—all male—were residing in aquariums, with two at the ZSL London Zoo and the third at the Berlin Zoo.
In May 2013, the ZSL London Zoo put out a desperate plea in a wanted poster to find a female “for [a] vital conservation breeding programme to save a species.”
Hundreds of private aquarium owners, fish collectors, and scientists reached out to the zoo’s aquarium curator, Brian Zimmerman, offering up advice and support. One response happened to be a tip from a farm and business owner in Madagascar who had seen the fish in a secluded northern Madagascan town.
The ZSL London Zoo announced Friday that its exploratory expedition proved successful when a team visited a tiny village on the edge of what used to be a tributary from the Mangarahara River and discovered the last remaining Mangarahara cichlids in the wild.
“We weren’t holding out much hope of finding any fish in the wild, as so much of the Mangarahara River now resembles the desert because of deforestation and intensive agricultural use,” Zimmerman said.
“These cichlids have shown remarkable survival skills, and managed to find one of the very last remaining water sources to live in, but their numbers are tiny and the non-flowing water is not an ideal habitat for them. We’re now doing all we can to protect these remaining fish.”
A female Mangarahara cichlid
The team moved 18 Mangarahara cichlids, including females, to a private aquaculture facility in Madagascar until a conservation plan can be developed to save the fish from extinction. It won’t be easy, however.
Scientific American tells us why: “Male cichlids have an annoying tendency to kill females rather than mate with them, so breeding is not guaranteed, but it’s a heck of a lot more likely now that the known population isn’t entirely male.”
Indeed. At least now there is hope.

Snake slithered into Humpty Doo woman's bed

A snake was kicked out of bed after slithering between the sheets and over the legs of an unsuspecting woman in Australia's Northern Territory. Hailee Skinner, 24, of Humpty Doo, returned home from dinner, got into bed and started watching a movie when she "felt something touching (her) leg" on Sunday night.

"At first I thought it was a gecko," Ms Skinner said. "I kicked it off and I looked down and saw a snake. All I could see was something slithering. Ms Skinner said she screamed when she saw the reptile on the ground. "I've never been friendly with snakes," Ms Skinner said. "My biggest fear in the moment was that it would bite me then go off into the house and we wouldn't be able to find it.
"I called my mum, who called my brother, who came and wrangled it. My brother said it was an olive python." The snake was about 60cm long. Ms Skinner said she had spotted several snakes, including pythons and green tree snakes, on the deck and in the yard at her family's home in the past nine years. "But I'd never seen one inside and definitely not in my bed," she said.

"I've got no idea how it got there but it might have come in with the washing basket. I'll definitely be checking the bed and making sure there are no open doors or holes or any other way for them to get in from now on." Ms Skinner said her brother released the snake in a nearby swamp.

Italian army reservist faces jail sentence for saving pregnant cat's life

A question is to be raised in the Italian parliament over the case of an army officer who was sent for trial at a military court last week for saving the life of a pregnant cat. Lieutenant Barbara Balanzoni, a reservist who has since returned to her civilian job as an anesthetist in Tuscany, is charged with gross insubordination. She committed the alleged offence while serving as medical officer at a Nato base in Kosovo.
It is claimed that, by attending to the cat, Lt Balanzoni disregarded an order issued by her commanding officer in May 2012 forbidding troops at the base from "bringing in or having brought in wild, stray or unaccompanied animals". She faces a minimum sentence of one year in a military penitentiary. Lt Balanzoni said she intervened after receiving a call to the infirmary from military personnel, alarmed by the noises the cat was making. She said the cat, later named "Agata", normally lived on the roof of a hut.
"There are lots of cats on the base," she said. "In theory, they are strays, but in practice they belong there." Lt Balanzoni said the veterinary officer was in Italy when she received the call. "Far from disobeying orders, I was following military regulations, which state that, in the absence of a vet, the medical officer should intervene." She said she found that the cat had been unable to deliver the last of her kittens, which was stillborn, and was certain to die.

"If the cat had died, the entire area would have had to be disinfected. What is more, the surviving kittens could not have been fed. So they too would have died and created an even greater public health problem." Lt Balanzoni's trial is due to open in Rome on 7 February. Her case has been taken up by Italy's oldest animal defense association, the Ente Nazionale Protezione Animali and a question to the defense minister is due to be tabled in the Senate, the upper house of the Italian legislature, when parliament reassembles after the Xmas break.

Unraveling The Secrets Of One The World's Most Mysterious Big Cats

The Sunda clouded leopard has always been shrouded in mystery. Only declared a separate species from its mainland cousin, the Borneo clouded leopard, in 2006, the IUCN lists the cat as endangered.

Although it is Borneo's largest predator, very little is known about the Sunda leopard. As a medium-sized, well-camouflaged and mostly nocturnal animal, the leopard has evaded researchers since its discovery eight years ago. Recently, two ambitious studies set out to change that.

Animal Pictures