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

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Daily Drift

Sorry about the delay in posting today we have the flu ...

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Today in History

1688 William of Orange makes a triumphant march into London as James II flees.
1694 George I of England gets divorced.
1846 Iowa is admitted as the 29th State of the Union.
1872 A U.S. Army force defeats a group of Apache warriors at Salt River Canyon, Arizona Territory, with 57 Indians killed but only one soldier.
1904 Farmers in Georgia burn two million bales of cotton to prop up falling prices.
1920 The United States resumes the deportation of communists and suspected communists.
1933 President Franklin D. Roosevelt states, "The definite policy of the United States, from now on, is one opposed to armed intervention."
1936 Benito Mussolini sends planes to Spain to support Francisco Franco's forces.
1938 France orders the doubling of forces in Somaliland; two warships are sent.
1946 The French declare martial law in Vietnam as a full-scale war appears inevitable.
1948 Premier Nokrashy Pasha of Egypt is assassinated by a member of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood because of his failure to achieve victory in the war against Israel.
1951 The United States pays $120,000 to free four fliers convicted of espionage in Hungary.
1965 The United States bars oil sales to Rhodesia.
1968 Israel attacks an airport in Beirut, destroying 13 planes.
1971 The U.S. Justice Department sues Mississippi officials for ignoring the voting ballots of blacks in that state.

Non Sequitur


Did you know ...

That America needs stricter gun laws

That unfortunately, teabaggers will always be with us

About the science of snowflakes

About the cheerleader effect

Obama’s New DOJ Voting Rights Advocate has Texas and North Carolina In Her Crosshairs

The repugicans and the tea party thought they had it made when the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. They were wrong. …
Pam Karlen
The repugicans and the tea party thought they had it made when the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. Texas’ version of a vote suppression law was so stringent it caught judges, politicians and the state’s attorney-general in the net of imagined fraudulent voters.
North Carolina’s Pat McCrony sold his version using the same fear and myth strategy that repugicans have used nationwide.  He stayed mum on provisions that increased the amounts that corporate interests could donate to state political campaigns. After all, even fans of Duck Dynasty would see that if the state had a voter fraud problem it isn’t going to be fixed by allowing outside corporate interests to spend more buying up state politicians or by getting rid of pre-registration and voting awareness programs.
The repugicans in Texas and North Carolina probably thought they could face down the legal challenges, even those brought by the Department of Justice.  After all, corporate money can buy fancy lawyers and with Federal court nominations being gummed up by repugicans in Congress, things were looking pretty good for the vote suppression crowd.
That was before some recent changes at the Department of Justice.  Last month, President Obama nominated Debo Adegbile to be the new Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. He worked as senior counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. For over a decade, Adegbile worked in several positions for the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Education Fund. He appeared before the Supreme Court, twice, in an effort to save the Voting Rights Act.
Last Friday, the Department of Justice announced that Pam Karlan, another top expert on voting rights, will work under Adegbile as the Deputy Attorney-General for Civil Rights. Karlan has the combination of legal scholarship and experience as effective civil rights attorney. She co-wrote the brief that brought an end to the Defense of Marriage Act.  Pam Karlan was assistant counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education fund and was a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law before she joined the Stanford faculty in 1998. President Obama abandoned plans to nominate her for the Federal Appeals Court in 2012. Oh, did I mention that she wrote the leading text book on Voting Rights, along with several books on constitutional law and civil rights?
Pam Karlan is the person who will be handling the DOJ’s challenges to the Texas and North Carolina suppression laws.
As Think Progress explained it at the time:
[Charlie] Savage also explains that Obama’s decision not to pursue nominees like Karlan was part of a “deliberate strategy” to appoint “relatively moderate jurists who he hoped would not provoke culture wars that distracted attention from his ambitious legislative agenda.
Wingnut  heads are spinning 360 degrees because Karlan is a smart and well educated woman, a liberal, a Jew, a member of the LGBT community and she has the cojones to describe herself as snarky.   In other words, she is a strong advocate for the franchise and she isn’t someone who is going to back down from a fight, like say, John Boehner.
Adgebile and Karlan’s combined expertise on voting rights, their determination and their understanding of the Supreme Court’s current climate means repugicans will have to either offer up evidence of the rampant voter fraud they claim necessitates their attacks on the vote or shut up.  It’s about time!

Swing District Voters Tell Their Reps Extend Unemployment Benefits if You Want to Keep Your Job

A Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey shows voters in competitive House districts overwhelmingly support extending unemployment benefits.…
A Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey released December 23rd, shows voters in competitive House districts overwhelmingly support extending unemployment benefits  for Americans who are out of work. The survey polled voters in four critical repugican-held swing districts and in a fifth less competitive repugican cabal district held by House speaker John Boehner. In addition to polling Boehner’s District (OH-8), PPP also surveyed voters in the districts held by Gary Miller (CA-31), Mike Coffman (CO-06),  Rodney Davis (IL-13), and Dan Benishek (MI-01).
In all five districts voters favored extending unemployment benefits by about a 2 to 1 margin. In each district, even repugican voters expressed support for extending unemployment benefits. In Michigan’s first district, repugican support for extending long term unemployment benefits polled at 60 percent with only 36 percent of repugican voters approving of cutting off those benefits. The poll demonstrates how out of touch House repugicans are not only with the American people, but even with rank and file repugicans.
The repugican Congressmen who continue to play scrooge this holiday season may end up paying a price at the polls next November. All of the repugican congressmen surveyed have negative approval ratings already, and those numbers could plummet even further if the congressmen choose to cut off benefits for the unemployed. Voters in each district stated unequivocally that they would be less likely to vote for their congressional representative if he did not support extending unemployment benefits for those who need them.
Gary Miller, Mike Coffman, Rodney Davis, Dan Benishek, and even John Boehner had better take note. If they choose not to extend relief for America’s jobless this legislative session they may soon find themselves searching for a new job along with so many of their constituents.

Scrooge doesn't take a holiday

Congress is killing unemployment benefits for over a million americans.  unemployment has gotten worse if you look at something other than the official unemployment rate.
the orange line is the unemployment rate while the blue line is the number of unemployed according to the bureau of labor statistics

Two repugican Senators are Blocking Al Franken’s Bill To Improve Mental Health Services

Tom Coburn (r-OK) and Mike Lee (r-UT) are blocking a bill that would improve mental health services in the United States. …
al franken
Two wingnut senators are blocking a bipartisan mental health bill that would provide 40 ­million dollars to extend funding for mental health courts for five years, establish more crisis intervention teams to cooperate with law enforcement officers, and provide more extensive mental health screening for ­veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress. The Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Act, co-sponsored by Senator Al Franken (D-MN) and Representative Rich Nugent (r-FL), enjoys broad bi-partisan support. However, according to the Minneapolis Star & Tribune, an unnamed source reports that the legislation is being blocked from going to a floor vote by right-wing Senators Mike Lee of Utah and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.
The Franken Bill would provide much needed mental health services and tools for police and the courts to address deficiencies in the nation’s mental health system. The legislation should be uncontroversial, but Mike Lee and Tom Coburn adhere dogmatically to an anti-government ideology that would even deny combat veterans and others suffering from mental illness, access to critical services. Franken’s bill has 15 repugican co-sponsors in the US House and 13 in the US Senate, but Coburn and Lee still insist on stalling the legislation. Senate repugican sponsors include staunch wingnuts like Mike Enzi (WY), Pat Roberts (KS), Orrin Hatch (UT), Chuck Grassly (IA) and Roy Blunt (MO), as well as more moderate repugican Senators, including Susan Collins (ME), Rob Portman (OH) and Kelly Ayotte (NH).
Wingnuts who oppose gun control often argue that instead we need to do something about mentally ill people who become killers, yet when given the opportunity to approve of expanding mental services, wingnut lawmakers like Lee and Coburn refuse to fulfill their obligation to do so. Mike Lee is a repeat offender. The Utah Senator joined Senator Rand Paul (r-KY) in April by refusing to reauthorize and improve federal programs related to mental health and substance use disorders.
Wingnut and Libertarian opponents of gun control frequently argue that better mental health care, not new gun laws, are needed to prevent future mass shootings. Al Franken’s amendment is designed to provide better mental health care for Americans who need it, but wingnut and Libertarian heroes Tom Coburn and Mike Lee are blocking that legislation. The words of support for better mental health care ring hollow if they are not backed up by legislative action.
Washington Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis highlighted the need for better mental health services for veterans. James Holmes, Jared Loughner, Adam Lanza and several other recent mass shooters have illustrated the need for better mental health intervention programs in this country. However, Tom Coburn and Mike Lee do not want to take any action to reform our gun laws and they do not want to support federal programs designed to help the mentally ill. Until the lunatic fringe puts some money into mental health services, their words about improving mental health care policy in this country provide absolutely nothing but empty rhetoric.

When Boehner and Cantor Say What The American People Want They Mean ALEC and the Kochs

In repugican parlance, when they say "what the people want," they mean their wealthy benefactors the Koch brothers, ALEC, and Wall Street who are the "American people" to…
boehner cantor
The repugicans, particularly those in leadership positions in Congress, are in the habit of claiming their anti-American policies are “what the American people want,” and then forge ahead either doing nothing, or obstructing legislation the people overwhelmingly support. Over the course of 2013, and really, the past three years that repugicans had control of the House of Representatives when they say “it’s what the American people want, and expect us to do,” they mean it is what their wealthy benefactors want and the people be damned. However, for the first time in a while, a poll indicates that if repugicans do not act on behalf of a small segment of the population, they may pay at the polls in 2014.
What the Public Policy Polling survey of voters in four key congressional districts revealed was that besides 63-68% of voters supporting extending unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed, voters said they were less likely to vote for the repugican incumbent in 2014  by at least a 9-point margin if they voted to cut off extended unemployment benefits. The benefits end on December 28 and with Congress home for the holidays, it is all but certain extending the benefits will have to wait until 2014. Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor have already said the recent improvement in unemployment figures and good economic news informed it was unnecessary to spend the money to help 1.3 million Americans struggling to find jobs.
What the survey also revealed is that the American people are concerned about their fellow citizens’ plight and it is a recurring theme over the past few months across a range of issues all dealing with the economy and widening income gap repugicans are duty-bound to see never changes to enrich the wealthy and their corporations. What is telling is that prior to the bicameral budget agreement to fund the government for the next two years, House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi said it was an “immorality” that the benefits were not secured in the recent deal and she was joined by moderate repugicans who urged Boehner and Eric Cantor to rescue jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed in early December telling them “the issue was important to many American families.” Boehner’s answer was the only way he would consider the proposal is if cuts were made to other domestic programs; and only if continued job growth could be guaranteed. It is likely that alone is why the measure ultimately did not make in the budget deal; that and compassionate wingnut Paul Ryan’s open hostility toward the poor and unemployed. The only thing Boehner did not say, at least in public, was that throwing 1.3 million Americans into poverty was “what the American people want.”
Over the course of the past couple of months the American people have told pollsters precisely what they want and repugicans spent all of 2013 blocking every single attempt to follow the will of the people. For example, an overwhelming majority of Americans (63%) want comprehensive immigration reform passed for roughly 11.7 million individuals living in the United States illegally; including 73% of Democrats, 60% of repugicans, and 57% of Independents. Instead, John Boehner said he would not bring the Senate-passed legislation up for a vote until after the 2014 primaries and then only in a piecemeal manner after the borders were secured with an absurd fence along the entire Mexican-American border. In fact, teabagger hero Ted Cruz recently said blocking immigration reform in the House was the repugican strategy to take back the Senate and called on Boehner to refuse to allow a vote on reform he said “was a kick in the teeth to Americans” who are likely racists panting to throw 11 million Hispanics out of their “whites only” nation.
Last week, an ABC News/Washington Post poll revealed that well over two-thirds of Americans said it is time to raise the minimum wage to $10.25 per hour; another poll showed over three-quarters of voters support raising the minimum. The ABC/WaPo poll also showed an overwhelming majority supported government efforts to address crippling income inequality enriching the wealthy that they said is a result of federal government policies that favor the rich over the rest of the population. The repugicans claimed it is not what the American people want and instead claim their interest lies in protecting business and corporations who threaten to stop hiring and cut back hours of current employees if the federal minimum wage is hiked. One wonders why the poll did not ask respondents if they would withhold electoral support for incumbents who disregard the will of the people, but it is likely they already knew the answer and were mortified of giving other voters the wrong idea.
The repugicans allowed all food stamp recipients to go without several meals each week in November when they refused to fund SNAP and voted to slash $39 billion from the program in September. Compassionate wingnut Paul Ryan called for $133.5 billion in cuts in the budget Republicans passed earlier in the year and yet in June in a  HuffPost/YouGov poll the majority of Americans said they preferred no cuts and instead wanted an increase to help Americans struggling to put food on the table. Last year an overwhelming 90% of Americans approved of either maintaining SNAP at current levels or doubling funding to ensure all Americans avoid food insecurity and to prevent the daily hunger they experience.
The repugicans are panting to make cuts to Social Security and Medicare in 2014 despite that overwhelming majorities of Americans, both repugicans and Democrats, support preserving and even improving benefits including their willingness to pay more according to a survey by the nonpartisan National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI). Like every other repugican line, they claim the American people want benefits cut and the program privatized that reveals who repugicans are serving with every claim they are doing “what the American people want.”
In repugican parlance, when they say “what the people want,” they mean their wealthy benefactors the Koch brothers, ALEC, and Wall Street who are the “American people” to repugicans. What all the polls showing what Americans really want reveal is they care deeply for their fellow citizens who have been economically raped mercilessly by repugicans and declared open war on the people they pledged to serve. If any American thinks repugicans are unaware of what the people really want, or are the least bit concerned they will lose even one vote because they serve their wealthy masters, they are deluded beyond belief because for three straight years repugicans, particularly in the House, knew exactly what the people wanted. Instead of following the will of the people they have spent every day of three years deliberately obstructing, filibustering, and blocking legislation the people want passed because the Americans repugicans serve; the Koch brothers, ALEC, and Wall Street want total victory in their class war against the American people and it is a war they have already won.

Cultist wingnuts Thrown Into A Frenzied Panic After Court Won’t Impose biblical Law

Cultist wingnuts have been thrown into a frenzied panic because a federal judge struck down what they thought was their dog-given right to impose biblical law on people.…
America’s justice system does more than deal with deciding the guilt or innocence of alleged criminals, or settling civil suits between two parties where a crime has not occurred. The federal courts often rule on the constitutionality of a law, and it never fails that regardless their decision one of the parties refuses to accept the decision; particularly if the court rules against a law founded on religion. Last weekend in a very religious state a federal judge ruled that a law forbidding two people who love each other from marrying was unconstitutional, and it sent religious wingnuts into a frenzied panic because a federal judge struck down what they thought was their dog-given right to impose biblical law on people who do not subscribe to the mormon cult.
After a federal court ruling overturned Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage on Thursday, the repugican theocratic cabal went berserk and immediately filed an emergency motion for a temporary stay the next day; likely because it was inconceivable that a federal court would curtail the Mormon’s right to impose the bible as law. It is likely that Utah repugicans, especially Governor Gary Herbert (r), denounced the decision and threatened the federal court that he intended to appeal the ruling because it violated his cult of latter day saints (mormon) dogma forbidding one class of people from marrying the person they love.  Directly following the ruling, same-sex couples rushed to the country clerk’s office to procure marriage licenses and enjoy the same rights as couples of the opposite sex. The ruling was another case of a cult organization practiced in demonizing and punishing an entire class of Americans seeing their dominance shot down by the United States Constitution that would have made Founding Father Thomas Jefferson celebrate.
Even though federal courts are tasked with ruling on the Constitutionality of laws, and mormon Governor Herbert swore an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, he followed through on his threat after denouncing the decision where he said, “I am very disappointed an activist federal judge is attempting to override the will of the people of Utah. I am working with my legal counsel and the acting attorney general to determine the best course to defend traditional marriage within the borders of Utah.” Herbert followed through on his threat and appealed to the 10th Circuit Appeals Court to put a stop to equal rights for same-sex couples. They promptly denied the governor’s emergency requestwithout prejudice” because “the motion before us does not meet the requirements of the Federal or local appellate rules governing a request for a stay, we deny the motion.”
According to the 10th Circuit’s ruling, Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure and the local rules of this court  provided and set out the requirements for a stay pending appeal, and they noted that the defendants-appellants “acknowledged that they have not addressed, let alone satisfied, the factors that must be established to be entitled to a stay pending appeal.” It is likely that because they are mormons and rule of their own accord in Utah, they felt they were not bound by requirements for a stay pending appeal. It is highly probable that regardless how a higher court rules on appeal, the mormons could not, and would not, allow any same-sex marriages to go forward in the interim because the lds cult has set in stone that, like the National Organization for Marriage, only the union of one man and one woman is accepted as legal. Regardless if repugicans prevail on appeal, same-sex marriages will be allowed to stand.
What the 10th Circuit found, like the federal district court ruling Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, is that Governor Herbert or the overriding will of the people of Utah cannot infringe on same-sex couples by violating their “rights to due process and equal protection under the 14th Amendment.” The original ruling, by U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby, noted that the state failed to show that allowing same-sex marriages would affect opposite-sex marriages in any conceivable way. Shelby wrote that “In the absence of such evidence, the State’s unsupported fears and speculations are insufficient to justify the State’s refusal to dignify the family relationships of its gay and lesbian citizens.”
The mormon argument that same-sex marriages destroy opposite-sex marriages is precisely what they spent untold dollars in California to convince ignorant voters to pass the unconstitutional Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage. It is likely mormons, like NOM, know that gays enjoying equal rights to marry the person they love does not destroy unions in traditional, one man, one woman, marriages, but it is a favorite argument that frightens insecure opposite-sex couples and religious sycophants into voting to violate gay couples’ “rights to due process and equal protection” guaranteed in the 14th Amendment.
Governor Herbert’s claim that an “activist federal judge is attempting to override the will of the people of Utah” is another well-rehearsed complaint of cult groups to cover a majority’s right to deny a minority their Constitutional protections and is routinely struck down by the courts. The mormon cult on Friday said it stands by its support for “traditional marriage” and “continues to believe that voters in Utah did the right thing by providing clear direction in the state constitution that marriage should be between a man and a woman, and we are hopeful that this view will be validated by a higher court.” That view is predicated on forcing a religious belief on all Americans and the Constitution is crystal clear that government shall “make no law respecting an establishment of religion;” especially a law establishing one religion’s right to violate other Americans 14th Amendment rights whether or not the will of the people demand it.
America is changing, and finally reverting to the nation’s founding document to bring religious imposition based on the bible to the end it deserves. It is remarkable that any, and every, time a federal court rules that laws based on the bible are unconstitutional and violate some Americans’ 14th Amendment rights, repugicans, particularly cultist repugicans, make the same accusation that an activist judge is overriding the will of the people. What irks mormons, evangelicals, and any cult group seeking to force their dogmata and beliefs on the people is that despite their machinations, the bible is not, and never will be, the Constitution and America’s justice system is not about to let it be.

The Lunatic Fringe Is Filled with biblical Illiterates

Faux News' Swill O'Really defended the repugican cabal's spending cuts for SNAP by effectively declaring Jesus would not support food stamps for the poor because most them are drug addicts. If his insensitive remark is inconsistent with Scripture, which it is, then the question becomes why do talking heads on the right get away with proclaiming what jesus would or wouldn't support?

The answer is simple: wingnuts have not read the Bible.

The Lunatic Fringe has successfully re-branded the brown-skinned liberal jew, who gave away free healthcare and was pro-redistributing wealth, into a white-skinned, trickle-down, union-busting wingnut, for the very fact that an overwhelming number of Americans are astonishingly illiterate when it comes to understanding the bible. On hot-button social issues, from same-sex marriage to abortion, biblical passages are invoked without any real understanding of the context or true meaning. It's surprising how little christians know of what is still the most foul book to ever darken the American continent.

A wingnut Group Seeks Help Rewriting the Bible Because It's Not wingnut Enough

The King James bible and more recent translations are veritable primers of progressive agitprop, according to the founder of wingnut-apedia.

Liberal bias in the media pales in comparison to what you'll find in your standard-issue bibles, according to wingnut-apedia.com, a kind of Wikipedia for the cultist wingnuts. The King James Bible, not to mention more recent translations like the New International Version (NIV), are veritable primers of progressive agitprop, complains Andy Schlafly, the founder of wingnut-apedia. (His mother, Phyllis, is an agitator best known for her opposition to feminism and the Equal Rights Amendment.)

But not to worry. Andy Schlafly's group is on the case, and they have invited you to pitch in. Well, maybe not you, exactly, but the "best of the public," whose assistance is solicited in proposing new wording for left-leaning bible verses.

Don't know Aramaic, Hebrew or ancient Greek? Not a problem. What they are looking for is not exactly egghead scholarship, but a knack for using words they've read in the Wall Street Journal. They have a list of promising candidates on their website- words like capitalism, work ethic, death penalty, anticompetitive, elitism, productivity, privatize, pro-life-all of which are conspicuously missing from those socialist-inspired bibles we've been reading lately.

When the court ruled tomatoes a vegetable

Fruit or vegetable? In a recent show, we talked about an importer that sold pillows shaped like . Or maybe they're stuffed animals that can be used as pillows.
It turns out, this distinction — is it fundamentally a pillow or a stuffed animal? — is important, because there's a tariff on pillows but not on stuffed animals.
This feels ridiculous and legalistic in the way that a lot of stories feel ridiculous and legalistic. But it turns out, this kind of thing goes back centuries.
In the 19th century, the U.S. Supreme Court faced a similarly ridiculous question: Are tomatoes fruits or vegetables?
At the time the Port Authority of New York classified tomatoes as vegetables, which were subject to a 10 percent import tax.
A fruit importer argued that tomatoes were fruits, which were not taxed.
In the case, witnesses read from dictionaries, and definitions for "fruit" and "vegetable" were read in court. Also definitions of "tomato," "pea," "eggplant," "cucumber," "squash" and "pepper."
In the Supreme Court decision, the justices distinguished between science and everyday life. The justices admitted that botanically speaking, tomatoes were technically fruits. But in everyday life, they decided, vegetables were things "usually served at dinner in, with, or after the soup, fish, or meats ... and not, like fruits generally, as dessert."
So under customs law, , tomatoes counted as vegetables — and the importer had to keep paying the tariff.

Wash your hands

It's no more hygienic to wash your hands in hot water than in cold. Heat does kill bacteria. But the temperature necessary to kill bacteria is MUCH higher than your hands could withstand, anyway

Drug photos

Methhhhh Ecs
Berlin-based artist Sarah Schoenfeld dropped tiny bits of various psychoactive drugs on exposed film and then made very large prints of the images. Above, Crystal Meth. At right, Ecstasy. "All of the substances behaved very differently: the shapes and colors that appeared showed unique characteristics and revealed unique internal universes," she writes. You can see the images in the series here: "All You Can Feel." And here's an interview with Schoenfeld in Kaltbult Magazine

New study brings scientists closer to the origin of RNA

One of the biggest questions in science is how life arose from the chemical soup that existed on early Earth. One theory is that RNA, a close relative of DNA, was the first genetic molecule to arise around 4 billion years ago, but in a primitive form that later evolved into the RNA and DNA molecules that we have in life today. New research shows one way this chain of events might have started. New study brings scientists closer to the origin of RNA Atomic force microscopy image of structures formed by the the self-assembly of TAP-ribose nucleoside with cyanuric acid

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-TZ4rzyxpCXs/Urw6SviWZwI/AAAAAAAA6Lg/p-51lUhJPpw/s1600/RNA_01.jpgToday, genetic information is stored in DNA. RNA is created from DNA to put that information into action. RNA can direct the creation of proteins and perform other essential functions of life that DNA can’t do. RNA’s versatility is one reason that scientists think this polymer came first, with DNA evolving later as a better way to store genetic information for the long haul. But like DNA, RNA also could be a product of evolution, scientists theorize. Chemists at the Georgia Institute of Technology have shown how molecules that may have been present on early Earth can self-assemble into structures that could represent a starting point of RNA.
The spontaneous formation of RNA building blocks is seen as a crucial step in the origin of life, but one that scientists have struggled with for decades. “In our study, we demonstrate a reaction that we see as important for the formation of the earliest RNA-like molecules,” said Nicholas Hud, professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Georgia Tech, where he’s also the director of the Center for Chemical Evolution. The study was published Dec. 14 online in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and NASA. RNA is perfect for the roles it plays in life today, Hud said, but chemically it’s extraordinarily difficult to make. This suggests that RNA evolved from simpler chemical couplings. As life became more chemically complex and enzymes were born, evolutionary pressures would have driven pre-RNA into the more refined modern RNA. RNA is made of three chemical components: the sugar ribose, the bases and phosphate. A ribose-base-phosphate unit links together with other ribose-base-phosphate units to form an RNA polymer. Figuring out how the bond between the bases and ribose first formed has been a difficult problem to address in the origins of life field, Hud said.
In the study, Hud’s team investigated bases that are chemically related to the bases of modern RNA, but that might be able to spontaneously bond with ribose and assemble with other bases through the same interactions that enable DNA and RNA to store information. They homed in on a molecule called triaminopyrimidine (TAP). The researchers mixed TAP with ribose under conditions meant to mimic a drying pond on early Earth. TAP and ribose reacted together in high yield, with up to 80 percent of TAP being converted into nucleosides, which is the name for the ribose-base unit of RNA. Previous attempts to form a ribose-base bond with the current RNA bases in similar reactions had either failed or produced nucleosides in very low yields. “This study is important in showing a feasible step for how we get the start of an RNA-like molecule, but also how the building blocks of the first RNA-like polymers could have found each other and self-assembled in what would have been a very complex mixture of chemicals,” Hud said. The researchers demonstrated this property of the TAP nucleosides by adding another molecule to their reaction mixture, called cyanuric acid, which is known to interact with TAP. Even in the unpurified reaction mixture, noncovalent polymers formed with thousands of paired nucleosides. “It is amazing that these nucleosides and bases actually assemble on their own, as life today requires complex enzymes to bring together RNA building blocks and to spatially order them prior to polymerization,”said Brian Cafferty, a graduate student at Georgia Tech and co-author of the study.
The study demonstrated one possible way that the building blocks for an ancestor of RNA could have come together on early Earth. TAP is an intriguing candidate for one of the first bases that eventually led to modern RNA molecules, but there are certainly others, Hud said. Future work, in Hud’s lab and by other laboratories in the Center for Chemical Evolution, will investigate the origins of RNA’s phosphate backbone, as well as other pathways toward modern RNA. “We’re looking for a simple, robust chemistry that can explain the earliest origin of RNA or its ancestor,” Hud said.



China, Koreas in modern conflict over ancient kingdom

Centuries ago Kwanggaet'o the Great ruled over a mighty empire stretching from south of Seoul deep into Manchuria in China's northeast, but his Koguryo dynasty is now at the centre of a historical tug-of-war. China, Koreas in modern conflict over ancient kingdom Tomb ruins at the Capital Cities and Tombs of the Ancient Koguryo Kingdom archaeological site at Ji'an in Jilin province, China
China, Koreas in modern conflict over ancient kingdom
He is revered as a Korean national hero on both sides of the divided peninsula, while Chinese attempts to claim Koguryo as its own have provoked fury among its neighbors.
One of Koguryo's capitals, now the modern Chinese city of Jian, stands on the Yalu river on the frontier between China and Kim Jong-Un's North Korea. It hosts a treasure trove of historical sites and cultural relics, including royal mausoleums designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites and decorated with murals depicting traditional wrestling and tiger-hunting. A towering stone stele more than six metres (20 feet) tall illustrates the dispute, with Kwanggaet'o's name carved into the granite -- in the classical Chinese characters used for writing in northeast Asia at the time. "Koguryo is in fact part of Korean history, not Chinese history," said Hwang Seon-Goo, a South Korean visitor. "We think that China insists on having its own way." Soon afterwards Zhang Ming, who identified himself as a Chinese tourist, expressed keen interest in knowing what the South Korean visitor had said. In response, he pointed to the language of the inscription as evidence of its Chineseness, asking "how it could be Korean" if it was written in Chinese. The general Chinese view can be seen in a description in a Jian museum devoted to the dynasty. "Koguryo was engaged in wars with ancient central China and surrounding nations and tribes," reads one label.
China, Koreas in modern conflict over ancient kingdom
China, Koreas in modern conflict over ancient kingdom Tourists visit tombs at a heritage park in the Chinese border city of Jian, northeast China's Jilin province
"However, they finally accepted the authority of ancient central China dynasties and had a main historical trend of tributary kingdom." The sensitivity of the issue is such that an AFP reporter visiting the museum was briefly detained by public security officials, before being ordered to leave Jian and followed out of town. Koreans on both sides of the divided peninsula claim Koguryo as an inherent part of their history, and it is a popular theme in South Korea for novels and television dramas, such as this year's "The Blade and Petal", a tale of romance and political infighting toward the dynasty's close. Koguryo lasted from at least 37 BC until 668 AD, when it was brought down by an alliance between Tang dynasty China and Silla, a rival Korean kingdom. But the areas governed by the empire, spelled Goguryeo in South Korea and Gaogouli in China, lie in what today are four modern sovereign states: the two Koreas, China and Russia. Tensions heated up about a decade ago when China launched the Northeast Project, a re-examination of the history of the country's border areas in the region. Reaction was particularly negative in South Korea where the move was seen as an attempt to hijack Korean history, and even a possible prelude to Chinese designs on its ally North Korea were the ruling regime to collapse. South Korea's foreign ministry devotes a section of its website to the topic, putting it on a par with the row with Japan over a disputed island called Dokdo by Seoul and Takeshima by Tokyo. "The Korean government considers issues concerning the history of Goguryeo to be a matter of national identity, and thus places such issues among its highest priorities," the website says. China, Koreas in modern conflict over ancient kingdom
China, Koreas in modern conflict over ancient kingdom
A woman walks past tombs at a heritage park in the Chinese border city of Jian, in northeast China’s Jilin Province
In 2006 South Korea's then president Roh Moo-Hyun reportedly raised the research personally with Wen Jiabao, China's premier at the time. Tensions may have eased since but South Korea still keeps a close eye on "new cases of historical distortion", according to the foreign ministry. Adam Cathcart, a lecturer in Chinese history at Britain's University of Leeds said: "When you look at North Korean relations with China, when you look at South Korean relations with China, it's an impediment, it's an irritant, it's something that all sides are watching." Kwanggaet'o, who reigned from 391 to 413 and whose name is often translated as "broad expander of territory", is known in China as Haotaiwang. South Korea spells his name Gwanggaeto -- and uses it for a class of its warships. For its part North Korea -- whose government proclaims a "military first" principle -- also has numerous sites related to Koguryo and sometimes invokes the dynasty in its propaganda. "Koguryo martial valour is something that is seen as very desirable from an historical exemplary point of view... for the North Korean leaders," said Cathcart, an expert in relations between Beijing and Pyongyang. North Korea's young leader -- who recently had his uncle executed -- would undoubtedly want to visit the ancient tombs in Jian, he added. "That's a photo op to die for for Kim Jong-Un," he said.

The Amazing Glass Barn of the Netherlands

No, that's not some odd Photoshop of an imaginary building. It's a real picture of a real place in Schijndel, Netherlands. The reason it looks so strange is because it is actually a glass building with a barn printed on the glass. Certain areas are more or less transparent than others, which means you can see right through some of the building, while other parts are mostly opaque.
The exterior is a composite design of local barns from throughout the area, blown up to be 1.6 the size of an average barn so adults standing outside often feel a sense of nostalgia like they are little kids visiting a neighbor's barn for the first time.
You can learn more about the Glass Barn over at Homes and Hues and if you like this, you may also enjoy the warped window in London, the grass-covered home of Austria and the totally public glass bathroom in Japan.

Virtual archaeology uncovers secrets of ancient Rome

An Indiana University archaeo-informaticist has used virtual simulations to flip the calendar back thousands of years and show for the first time the historical significance of the unique alignment of the sun with two monuments tied to the founder of the Roman Empire. Virtual archaeology uncovers secrets of ancient Rome Virtual simulation image of the sun atop the obelisk with the Altar of Peace in the foreground [Credit : Indiana University] For nearly a half-century, scholars had associated the relationship between the Ara Pacis, the “Altar of Peace” dedicated in 9 BC to then-emperor Augustus, and the Obelisk of Montecitorio -- a 71-foot-high granite obelisk Augustus brought to Rome from Egypt -- with Augustus’ Sept. 23 birthday. Prevailing research had found that on this day, the shadow of the obelisk -- serving as the pointer, or gnomon, of a giant sundial on the plaza floor -- would point toward the middle of the Ara Pacis, which the Roman Senate had commissioned to recognize the peace brought to the Roman Empire through Augustus' military victories. Over his nearly 40 years of teaching Roman topography classes, IU Bloomington School of Informatics and Computing professor Bernie Frischer had always informed students of that prevailing theory, but today in an announcement made at the Vatican’s Pontifical Archaeological Academy in Rome, Frischer provided another explanation for the original placement of the two landmarks that were both parallel and adjacent to what was at the time the major road, the Via Flaminia, leading from Rome over the Apennine Mountains to the coast of the Adriatic Sea. “What's important is not the shadow of the obelisk, but the sun's disk seen over the center of the top of the obelisk from a position on the Via Flaminia in front of the Ara Pacis,” Frischer said. New computer simulations now show that German scholar Edmund Buchner's longstanding theory that the shadow of the obelisk hit the center of the facade of the Ara Pacis was wrong. Virtual archaeology uncovers secrets of ancient Rome Virtual view of Augustus' Altar of Peace and the Obelisk of Montecitorio, background, as seen from the Via Flaminia, the ancient road from Rome to the Adriatic Sea [Credit : Indiana University] GPS coordinates, known dimensions and additional bibliographical sources were also used to create the 3-D models of the Ara Pacis, the meridian and the obelisk, all of which would have been located at the 490-acre site then known as the Campus Martius. Frischer said his Rome-based research assistant Ismini Miliaresis conducted critical research on the meridian line location, and independent scholar and professional meridian designer and engineer Paolo Albèri Auber conducted the refined work on the obelisk’s original size. Using NASA's Horizons System, which gives the position of objects in the solar system in the sky at any time in history as seen from any spot on earth, along with surveys of the location of the sundial’s original meridian line, and the height of the obelisk in exacting detail, Frischer and a team that included John Fillwalk, director of the Institute for Digital Intermedia Arts at Ball State University, determined the sun’s placement at the top of the obelisk occurred on Oct. 9. “Inscriptions on the obelisk show that Augustus explicitly dedicated the obelisk to his favorite deity, Apollo, the Sun god,” Frischer said. “And the most lavish new temple Augustus built, the Temple of Palatine Apollo, was dedicated to his patron god and built right next to Augustus’ own home. “So the new date of the alignment, Oct. 9, is actually what we know to be the annual birthday festival of the Temple of Palatine Apollo,” he said. “No other date on the Roman religious calendar would have been as appropriate as this.” While Fillwalk and the IDIA Lab at Ball State created one interactive model that runs in the game engine Unity, IU School of Informatics research scientist Matthew Brennan used AutoCad and 3-D Studio Max to create a photorealistic model the team used to generate images and video clips illustrative of the research. Frischer then sought independent confirmation of the findings from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory astrophysicist David Dearborn. “He ran independent tests of our solar alignments, using different software and methods, and his conclusions confirmed what we had found, giving us added confidence that our discovery is correct,” Frischer said. The work is a statement to the possibilities inherent in using information technology to support the work of archaeologists, and specifically for Frischer, the use of 3-D modeling. “Empiricism, that sense of direct observation of nature through the senses, in some cases has had to give way to thought experiments and likewise, to computer simulations, as objects of study recede beyond our innate sensory apparatus in time, space and scale,” he said. “I call it ‘simpiricism,’ where we create computer simulations to bring our object back within the ken of the natural senses so it can be observed again, in a way analogous to what was done in the time of classic empiricism.” “3-D modeling can show scholars and, indeed, the general public, what the archaeologist uncovered, and it can be used to provide a view of how the site or object looked when it was new and in subsequent stages of its use and destruction,” Frischer said.

Leh Palace

Abandoned Bastion Of The Himalayas

In the early years of the seventeenth century the Lion King of Ladakh, Sengge Namgyal ordered the construction of a great palace. Situated atop the Himalayan city of Leh, now in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, it was the home of his dynastic descendants until their overthrow and exile in 1834.

Once the world's highest building, Leh Palace has been abandoned since then. Yet it remains a majestic presence in this area of India often referred to as Little Tibet.

Wadi Al-Salaam

The Largest Cemetery In The World

Wadi us-Salaam is an Islamic cemetery located in the city of Najaf, Iraq. The cemetery covers an area of 1485.5 acres and contains millions of bodies. It is reputed to be the largest cemetary in the world. Najaf itself is one of Iraq's biggest cities, with a population of nearly 600,000.

Wadi Al-Salam cemetery is also the only cemetery in the world where the process of burial is still continuing to day since more than 1,400 years.

Mountain erosion accelerates under a cooling climate

The Earth’s continental topography reflects the balance between tectonics, climate, and their interaction through erosion. However, understanding the impact of individual factors on Earth’s topography remains elusive. Professor Todd Ehlers of the University of Tübingen Geoscience Department, in cooperation with international colleagues, has studied the coupling of climate and erosion on a global scale. Mountain erosion accelerates under a cooling climate. The scientists investigated the effect of global cooling and glaciation on topogrpahy over the last two to three million years. To quantify erosion, they compiled bedrock thermochronometric data from around the world. Their data show that mountain erosion rates have increased since circa 6 million years and most rapidly in the last 2 million years. Moreover, alpine glaciers play a significant role in the increase of erosion rates under a cool climate. The results are published in the current edition of Nature. The scientists have compiled data from 18,000 rock samples to globally estimate temporal and spatial variations in erosion rates. During mountain erosion rocks travel from about 10 kilometers depth in the crust to the Earth’s surface. During this process, the rocks cool from great depths to the surface. Thermochronology exploits that small quantities of radioactive uranium contained in the rock decay in a time-dependent process. Below a given so-called closure temperature rocks accumulate the products of radioactive decay. In quantifying decay products, scientists are able to calculate the travel time of a rock from a determined depth to the surface and the time elapsed for cooling. Finally, these data can be converted into an erosion rate using sophisticated computer models. The study’s broad approach that uses a global distribution of samples reduces the influence of individual regional tectonic events on the overall study results. The overall global picture that emerged was a strong correlation of erosion rates with the global climate change over the last several million years. “On a global scale erosion rates span four orders of magnitude in the last eight million years from one hundreth millimeter up to ten millimeters a year,” Todd Ehlers says. Six million years ago, increase of erosion rates was expressed at all latitudes, but was most pronounced in glaciated mountain ranges, indicating that glaciers played a significant role. Furthermore, erosion rates accelerated more in the last two million years with the most substantial changes at latitudes greater than 30°, for example in the European Alps, Patagonia, Alaska, the South Island of New Zealand and The Coast Mountains of British Columbia. These areas are highly variable in their tectonic activity, but they have in common that they have all been glaciated in the past few million years. Mountain erosion rates since about six million years ago were increased once more by nearly a factor of two for the Pleistocene compared to the Pliocene. “This change with increased activity of glaciers and higher sediment flux shows a clear temporal correspondence with further Late Cenozoic cooling,” Todd Ehlers comments. These results have important implications in general for improving our understanding of the coupling between climate and erosion.

Daily Comic Relief


There are more baby pandas now, thanks to science

Important cute news! Scientists are having more luck breeding pandas in captivity and keeping the resulting baby pandas alive — and that, in turn, is making pandas easier to study. It's a win-win cycle of adorableness as science makes it easier to make pandas and the increase in pandas makes it easier to learn more which makes it easier to make more pandas.
In all, 2013 saw the birth of 49 panda cubs around the world, and 42 of them have survived. That's a record and an indication that captive breeding programs are working. There are now a total of 376 pandas living in captivity, most of them in China.
The steady gains in the panda population have brought not only more adorable photos, but also better science for researchers to draw on.

Man threw skunk into river before kicking woman's sunglasses off bridge

A man from Pulaski, New York threw a skunk into a river and then scooped the dead animal out of the water with a net before kicking a woman's sunglasses off a bridge during an argument, according to the Oswego County Sheriff's Office.
Glenn Peschler, 46, was charged with two counts of fourth-degree criminal mischief and one count of false written statement, both misdemeanors. He was also charged with a violation of navigation law for depositing refuse in a navigation waterway and a violation of fish and wildlife law for trapping an animal out of season.
Peschler had attempted to catch a skunk with a towel while on River Street in Pulaski, according to the sheriff's office. He then dropped the towel over the skunk, picked up the skunk and threw it into the river. The skunk swam across the river and died next to the rocks on the River Street side of the river. Peschler then scooped the skunk out of the water with a net.

Peschler then argued with a couple who witnessed his actions. The woman involved dropped her sunglasses and her cellphone, and Peschler kicked the glasses off a bridge and tried to kick the woman's cellphone too. Peschler gave deputies a written statement that he threw a towel over the skunk, then set it on the edge of the water before the skunk entered the water on its own. He was issued with an appearance ticket.

Woman jailed for throwing peanut butter at brother in dispute over urinating dog

A 29-year-old Florida woman was arrested on allegations of throwing peanut butter on her brother's face in an argument over a urinating dog. Rachel Byrd of Deltona was arrested on Monday on battery charges.

According to a Volusia County Sheriff's report, Byrd and her brother, 30-year-old Gabriel Byrd, began arguing at around 2am because the dog was urinating in the living room of the house shared by the siblings.
Deputies said Rachel Byrd flung a spoonful of peanut butter at her brother, and someone called 911 but hung up.  A dispatcher called back but no one answered, so a deputy was sent to the home, officials said.

The deputy said the brother did not want to press charges against his sister, but the deputy noted that peanut butter was running down his face. Rachel Byrd had a cut on her leg from being bitten by the dog, but the deputy determined that she was the aggressor and arrested her. She was taken to Volusia County Branch Jail but later released.

Biting fish injure more than 70 bathers in Argentina

A man is treated after he was bit by a palometa, a type of piranha, while wading in the Parana River in Rosario, Argentina, Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2013. Lifeguards director Federico Cornier said Thursday that thousands of bathers were cooling off from 100 degree temperatures in the Parana River on Wednesday when bathers suddenly came to them complaining of bite marks on their hands and feet. He blamed the attack on palometas, ”a type of piranha, big, voracious and with sharp teeth that can really bite.” (AP Photo/La Capital, Silvina Salinas) A swarm of biting fish injured more than 70 people who were bathing at a popular beach in Argentina on Christmas, a medical official said on Thursday. A seven-year-old girl had her finger partially amputated and dozens more suffered bite wounds on their extremities from the fish, a relative of the piranha called "palometas," said Federico Cornier, the director of emergency services in the city of Rosario.
"This is not normal," Cornier said on television. "It's normal for there to be an isolated bite or injury, but the magnitude in this case was great ... this is an exceptional event."
The attack happened off the popular beaches of the Parana River near Rosario, 300 kilometers (186 miles) north of Buenos Aires, where many Argentines were seeking relief from a heat wave over the holiday.

Beautiful Striped Bat

Scientists have uncovered a rare, brilliantly-striped bat in South Sudan that has yielded new secrets after close study. Working in Bangangai Game Reserve during July of last year, biologist DeeAnn Redeer and conservationist Adrian Garsdie came across an unmissable bat, which has been dubbed by various media outlets as the 'badger bat' and the 'panda bat.'

After collecting a specimen, Reeder took the bat back to the U.S. and confirmed that it belongs to a species that was discovered over seventy years ago in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1939.

Animal Pictures


Calf and Bison, Yellowstone National Park by precipices on Flickr.