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

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Daily Drift

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Carolina Naturally is read in 195 countries around the world daily.
February 3, 1959  ... !
Today is - The Day The Music Died

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Today in History

1160 Emperor Frederick Barbarossa hurtles prisoners, including children, at the Italian city of Crema, forcing its surrender.
1238 The Mongols take over Vladimir, Russia.
1690 The first paper money in America is issued in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
1783 Spain recognizes United States' independence.
1904 Colombian troops clash with U.S. Marines in Panama.
1908 The U.S. Supreme Court rules that union-sponsored boycotts are illegal, and applies the Sherman Antitrust Act to labor as well as capital.
1912 New U.S. football rules are set: field shortened to 100 yds.; touchdown counts six points instead of five; four downs are allowed instead of three; and the kickoff is moved from midfield to the 40 yd. line.
1917 A German submarine sinks the U.S. liner Housatonic off coast of Sicily. The United States severs diplomatic relations with Germany.
1920 The Allies demand that 890 German military leaders stand trial for war crimes.
1927 President Calvin Coolidge signs a bill creating the Federal Radio Commission to regulate the airwaves.
1943 Finland begins talks with the Soviet Union.
1944 The United States shells the Japanese homeland for the first time at Kurile Islands.
1945 The Allies drop 3,000 tons of bombs on Berlin.
1945 The month-long Battle of Manila begins.
1954 Millions greet Queen Elizabeth in Sydney on her first royal trip to Australia.
1962 President John F. Kennedy bans all trade with Cuba.
1966 Soviet Luna 9 achieves soft landing on the moon.
1971 OPEC decides to set oil prices without consulting buyers.
1984 The Environmental Protection Agency orders a ban on the pesticide EDB for grain products.

Non Sequitur


Did you know ...

Just why watchdog journalism matters

About the 13 most important numbers in the universe

These 5 right-wing myths about the minimum wage debunked

With repugicans Screaming Impeachment, Obama Is Not Backing Down on Jobs

Instead of backing down in the wake of repugicans cries for impeachment, President Obama is doubling down with increased pressure on them to finally take action for American workers. He is not giving up his demands for Congress to take action to remedy the outrageous disparity between the haves and the have nots.
The President already announced that he’d take to the Executive Order to do what he can, since repugicans clearly want no part in helping the average worker. But the executive branch can only do so much. To change laws, we need the legislative branch to do its job. When Obama announced that he was going to start using the power of his office to advance the cause of jobs for Americans, repugicans immediately commenced screeching about impeachment.
The only way to make Congress do their job is to use the advantage of it being an election year to drill them on why they refuse to pass anything related to jobs, the minimum wage, unemployment extension, etc.
And that is precisely what President Obama did today in his weekly address, which echoes his State of the Union address.
Watch here:
The President said:
After four years of economic growth with eight million new private sector jobs, our unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in more than five years. And with the economy speeding up, companies say they intend to hire more people this year.
But while those at the top are doing better than ever, average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Too many Americans are working harder and harder just to get by. And too many still aren’t working at all.
Our job is to reverse those trends. It’s time to restore opportunity for all people – the idea that no matter who you are, if you work hard and live up to your responsibilities, you can make it if you try.
President Obama then laid out his “opportunity agenda” and how it related to the workers he spoke with this week in various states:
Job one is more new jobs: jobs in construction and manufacturing, jobs in innovation and energy.
In Wisconsin, I talked with plant workers at GE about part two: training more Americans with the skills to fill those new jobs.
In Tennessee, I talked with students about part three: guaranteeing every child access to a world-class education, from early childhood, through college, and right into a career.
And with steelworkers in Pittsburgh, and retail workers in Maryland, I laid out part four: making sure hard work pays off for men and women, with wages you can live on, savings you can retire on, and health insurance that’s there for you when you need it.
The President, who already called repugicans on their impeachment bluff, noted that some of these ideas do require Congress to act, but that’s not going to stop him from doing what he can. He said, “But wherever I can take steps to expand opportunity for more families on my own, I will.” He’s going to go around Congress by taking his case right to business leaders, education leaders, and philanthropic leaders, asking them to partner in order to advance these goals.
And here’s POTUS’ parting shot for repugicans who have been wailing impeachment like the useless obstacles they are since Obama announced that he would do what he could to get something done without them since they refuse to legislate, “And every single day, I’m going to fight for these priorities – to shift the odds back in favor of more working and middle-class Americans, and to keep America a place where you can always make it if you try.”
In other words, he’s not backing down; he’s just getting warmed up.
Enjoy the 2014 pressure cooker, repugicans.

Squealing like a stuck pig

by Trevor Timm

In a Senate Judiciary Hearing on NSA surveillance today, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper insinuated dozens of journalists reporting on documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden were "accomplices" to a crime. His spokesman further suggested Clapper was referring to journalists after the hearing had concluded.
If this is the official stance of the US government, it is downright chilling.
Clapper is engaged in the same treatment of journalists that the Justice Department allegedly repudiated just months ago.
During his opening statement to the committee, Clapper said, "Snowden claims that he's won and that his mission has accomplished. If that is so, I call on him and his accomplices to facilitate the return of the remaining stolen documents." Mashable then reported a DNI spokesman said Clapper meant "anyone who is assisting Edward Snowden further harm our nation through the unauthorized disclosure of stolen documents." The spokesman would not elaborate further.
"Assisting…through unauthorized disclosure" sounds an awful lot like publishing, which is what not only Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Barton Gellman have done, but dozens of reporters and editors at the Washington Post, Guardian, New York Times, Pro Publica, and NBC News.

There's Literally a River in Scotland Flowing with Whiskey

Well, of course! Where you do think the Scots get the good stuff? Scotch whiskey is a natural product. It comes straight out of the ground.
At least, that's what I will insist on believing, despite this news story. STV reports that a tanker truck of 27,500 liters of whiskey...
Let's pause for a moment and ponder that image: an entire truck full of good whiskey!
...okay, back to our story. 6,600 liters of delicious cargo from this truck was accidentally pumped into the wrong vat. It then flowed into the River Ayr. The company that owns the truck was fined £12,000 for reasons I cannot understand.

Dreams Of The Forbidden City

When Chinatown Nightclubs Beckoned Hollywood

In the 1940s and '50s, the shining beacon that called to young Chinese Americans with dreams of stardom was San Francisco's Chinatown, which had the largest district of Chinese-owned nightclubs between 1937 and 1964. These grand rooms with tables, a dance floor, and a cabaret show promised their clientele a 'taste of China,' but really, it was more China-by-way-of-Hollywood.

The Chinese American chorus girls might make their entrance in modest cheongsams, but would quickly discard them to reveal sexy burlesque costumes underneath. Elegant chanteuses sang popular American ballads in curve-hugging evening gowns, and dapper men sang and danced in tuxes and top hats. Collectors Weekly took a look behind the scenes.

Ghost suspected of being behind suspicious activities in pub

The owner of a pub in Sydney, Australia is suspecting a thirsty ghost may be responsible for some suspicious activities that have been caught by the hotel's security cameras in recent weeks.
Lights flickering and glasses and bottles falling to the ground without anyone near them have sent shivers through the staff and patrons of the Carlisle Castle Hotel in Newtown.

Twice on Thursday night, licensee Peter Bradbury saw suspicious behaviour. In one of the incidents, security footage shows a man walk past a rack mere moments before two bottles of red wine appear to jump off the shelves and smash on the ground despite no one touching them.

YouTube link. You can see the original videos here, here and here.
"Could this be that pesky ghost again?" Mr Bradbury posted on the pub's Facebook page. Another video appears to show staff and patrons jumping after glasses fall unexplainably to the ground and smash. The new videos follow a post from earlier in the month of a strange gust-like image "dancing" in front of a security camera in an area of the pub.

Random Photos

Police launch appeal over mystery teapot

The owner of a “distinctive” teapot has been urged to contact Cambridgeshire police.
PCSO Leanne Fisher, of the Sawston neighborhood policing team, has launched the appeal after the pot was found in the street.
She said: “A distinctive tall teapot, white with blue patterns, was found in the Church Road area of Teversham on Sunday, January 19.
“If anybody has any information or knows who this may belong to, please let me know. I have checked our records and we have no details of a teapot being stolen or lost.”

Poetry over prose literary dispute culminated in fatal stabbing

A dispute over whether prose or poetry is the more important form of language for literature has ended with a death in Russia.
The literary killing happened on the night of January 20 in the Sverdlovsk Region in the Urals. A former teacher, 52, was a guest at the home of his 67-year-old friend in the town of Irbit.
The evening, which involved quite a few drinks, escalated into a heated debate over the place that poetry and prose hold in human culture.
“After some time the literary dispute turned into a common conflict, in which the poetry lover killed his opponent with a knife,” prosecutors said in a statement. The former teacher faces up to 15 years in jail for the crime.

Man attempted to rob Hallmark store with card containing death threat

Police in Philadelphia say a man tried to rob a Hallmark store by handing the cashier a card containing a note saying: 'Give me all the money or I will kill you.'
The store cashier was apparently unimpressed with the would-be robber's hostile prose.
Police said the person called over another store employee and informed him what had just happened when the suspect ran off without any money.

Police describe the suspect as a black male in his 40s with a medium build, glasses and a beard and mustache.

Suspected surveillance camera thief helpfully left lasting impression

A man suspected of stealing security cameras from the outside of a Harbor City, Los Angeles home helpfully filmed himself during the act.

Football match abandoned because team refused to play in dispute over unpaid wages

There were bizarre scenes as players of third-tier Spanish side Racing Santander refused to play in their Copa del Rey quarter-final, second leg against Real Sociedad on Thursday in a dispute with the club's president Angel Lavin over unpaid wages. The stricken Cantabrian club, which has spent the majority of its 101-year history in the top flight, is currently in administration following two consecutive relegations.
Despite a cup run that has included victories over La Liga sides Sevilla and Almeria, the players haven't been paid since September. The squad warned on Monday that they would refuse to play the match if Lavin and the rest of his board didn't resign. Both sides took to the field of play and warmed-up as normal.  But after Sociedad kicked off, the Santander players stood arm in arm around the center circle, with substitutes and coaching staff lining up in solidarity on the touchline.
After Sociedad had kept possession for 40 seconds without any challenge from the Santander players, referee Gil Manzano called the game off when Santander captain Mario Fernandez informed him his side would take no further part. "We have given up what we like most, which is to play," said Racing forward Mariano Sanz. "We wanted to play but we couldn't let them stand on our rights. To play in the quarters was a dream for us, everything had gone so well to get there. It is a shame to end it like this but we were clear in what we were doing."

Far from being angered by the player's stance, the Santander fans gave the squad a standing ovation as they did a lap around the pitch before heading back down to the dressing rooms. The Spanish football federation (RFEF) on Friday officially confirmed Sociedad as winners of the tie, with the Basque side who led 3-1 from the first leg now facing Barcelona in the semi-finals, and that Santander will be suspended from taking part in the next Copa del Rey. The Cantabrian club were also handed a fine of around 3,000 euros (£2,500).

Council demanded woman pay £0.00 parking fine or face court

A woman was wrongly given a £0.00 parking ticket then chased up for the non-existent fine weeks later. Josh Woodley, 40, was ticketed in Abbey Wood, south east London despite having paid £3.80 to park via text.
She thought nothing more of it until she received a letter from Bexley Council demanding she pay her £0.00 fine with 28 days or face court action.
Josh said: "At first I was furious because I knew I had paid but when I actually looked at it, it had ‘no pounds, no pence’ on it. I don’t know how much it costs them to post these things – they could be better using the funds for more important things.
"There is a part of me that wants to send a cheque to them for no pounds, no pence but I don’t want to waste a stamp." A council spokesman said both notices were issued by mistake and the “fine” has been cancelled.

Cycling safety video banned because it showed cyclist with no helmet

A television advert promoting safe cycling has been banned for showing a cyclist without a helmet.
The advert, part of a campaign by Cycling Scotland, seeks to encourage drivers to give cyclists the same space and care as they would give a horse.
But the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said it should not be shown on TV again as not wearing a helmet was "socially irresponsible".

The ASA, which received complaints from five viewers, acknowledged the advert was primarily aiming to encourage motorists to take care when driving near cyclists. But it noted that the cyclist in the final scene was not wearing a helmet or any other safety attire. Cycling Scotland said wearing a helmet was not a legal requirement.

Civic leaders outraged at young tractor driver who caused large puddle ‘tsunami’

Angry civic leaders in Whitchurch, Shropshire have described a young man who drove his tractor through water which had flooded the road underneath a railway bridge as irresponsible. Traveling at speed the driver went straight through the water creating a huge wave.
His friend narrowly avoided getting soaked as he captured it all on video. The friends are then heard laughing with the area drenched in water. Mayor of Whitchurch Councillor Rob Hewson said: “It’s about time the lads that drove that tractor grew up. You cannot behave like that on a well-used road. I think they are very irresponsible and very childish. Anything could have happened.
“They could have skidded and gone into the bridge or they could have gone under the bridge and completely lost control. The size of the wave it caused was incredible. If you drive at that speed in that amount of water you are never in control. I don’t know why they decided to do it, it’s disgusting behavior.”

Peggy Mullock, Shropshire councilor for Whitchurch North, said: “I just hope they haven’t done any damage to the area surrounding the bridge. The splash the tractor made is incredible. Surely there is a better way for these youngsters to spend their time. There must be a better way to clean your tractor.”



Is Violence Contagious?

A spate of violent incidents in Colorado and Maryland raise copycat theories as a possible explanation.

How Gossiping Helps Society

Gossiping is typically looked down upon, but it turns out gossiping can actually have a few positive effects. Annie joins DNews to discuss a few of the reasons that gossiping might actually be good for you and the rest of society.

Why Do Limbs Come In Pairs?

From humans to monkeys to lizards to frogs, every known species, both living and extinct, with a jaw and a backbone has paired limbs! Trace discusses how our stomachs could be the reason why many species evolved into creatures with four appendages.

Coral reef discovered off Greenland

By sheer coincidence, Canadian researchers have discovered a reef of living cold-water corals in southern Greenland. PhD student Helle Jørgensbye from DTU in Denmark has been investigating the reef further
Coral reef discovered off Greenland Coral from the newly discovered reef off Greenland
The first ever Greenlandic reef is located in southwest Greenland and was formed by cold-water corals with hard limestone skeletons. There are several species of coral in Greenland, but this is the first time that an actual reef has been found. In the tropics, reefs are popular tourist destination for divers, but there is little prospect of Greenland becoming a similar diving hotspot. The newly discovered living reef is located off Cape Desolation south of Ivittuut, and lies at a depth of 900 meters in a spot with very strong currents, making it difficult to reach. This also means that so far little is known about the reef itself and what lives on it The reef was discovered by accident when a Canadian research vessel needed to take some water samples. When the ship sent the measuring instruments down to a depth of 900 meters, they came back up completely smashed. Fortunately there were several pieces of broken coral branches on the instrument that showed what was responsible. "At first the researchers were swearing and cursing at the smashed equipment and were just about to throw the pieces of coral back into the sea, when luckily they realized what they were holding," says PhD student Helle Jørgensbye, DTU Aqua, who does research into life at the bottom of the west Greenland waters. The first photos Another Canadian research vessel returned to the site last fall to try and lower a camera down onto the reef to explore it close up. The coral reef is on the continental shelf itself where it is very steep and where there are strong currents. "We got some photos eventually, although we almost lost them at the bottom of the ocean as the camera got stuck fast somewhere down in the depths. Luckily we managed to get it loose again and back up to the surface," says Helle Jørgensbye. "It's been known for many years that coral reefs have existed in Norway and Iceland and there is a lot of research on the Norwegian reefs, but not a great deal is known about Greenland. In Norway, the reefs grow up to 30 meters high and several kilometers long. The great Norwegian reefs are over 8,000 years old, which means that they probably started to grow after the ice disappeared after the last ice age. The Greenlandic reef is probably smaller, and we still don't know how old it is," says Helle Jørgensbye, expressing the hope that at some point this will be investigated more closely. According to Helle Jørgensbye, finding a coral reef in southern Greenland was not entirely unexpected: "There are coral reefs in the countries around Greenland and the effect of the Gulf Stream, which reaches the west coast, means that the sea temperature get up to about 4 degrees, which is warm enough for corals to thrive. In addition to the, for Greenland, comparatively warm temperature, a coral reef also needs strong currents. Both these conditions can be found in southern Greenland," she says. Coral reefs are important areas for fish because it provides masses of food and lots of hiding places for fish fry. The Greenlandic reef is formed from Lophelia stoney corals. Other species of coral are also found in many parts of the west coast. However, they are all 'stand-alone' corals and do not form reefs. The identification of the Lophelia specimen was carried out by Professor Ole Tendal from Denmark's Natural History Museum. Cold Water Corals Normally, coral reefs are associated with the tropics, but they are also found in cold waters. While the tropical coral reefs depend on light to survive, cold-water coral reefs live in total darkness, at depths the sun's rays never penetrate. Nevertheless, they have many colorful residents and many different kinds of organisms living in them. Coral reefs are built up of thousands of small coral animals that live in a large colony which forms a common limestone skeleton. While hot water corals obtain some of the energy they need to grow from the light-dependent green algae which live in the corals, cold water coral get all their nourishment from small animals, which they catch. Thus, they are not dependent on light and can live in very deep water

Daily Comic Relief


What killed the great beasts of North America?

Until about 11,000 years ago, mammoths, giant beavers, and other massive mammals roamed North America. Many researchers have blamed their demise on incoming Paleoindians, the first Americans, who allegedly hunted them to extinction. But a new study fingers climate and environmental changes instead. The findings could have implications for conservation strategies, including controversial proposals for “rewilding” lions and elephants into North America.
What killed the great beasts of North America? Murder, or natural causes? A new study might exonerate humans of killing off large mammals like this mastodon
The idea that humans wiped out North America’s giant mammals, or megafauna, is known as the “overkill hypothesis.” First proposed by geoscientist Paul Martin more than 40 years ago, it was inspired in part by advances in radiocarbon dating, which seemed to indicate an overlap between the arrival of the first humans in North America and the demise of the great mammals. But over the years, a number of archaeologists have challenged the idea on several grounds. For example, some researchers have argued that out of 36 animals that went extinct, only two—the mammoth and the mastodon—show clear signs of having been hunted, such as cuts on their bones made by stone tools. Others have pointed to correlations between the timing of the extinctions and dramatic fluctuations in temperatures as the last ice age came to a halting close. To get a higher resolution picture of what may have happened, archaeologists Matthew Boulanger and R. Lee Lyman of the University of Missouri, Columbia, decided to look at a region that had not been well studied in the past: the northeast of North America, including the states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maine, and the Canadian province of Ontario. “This is a region that has been virtually absent from discussions” about megafaunal extinctions, Boulanger says, which have mostly focused on the Great Plains and the American Southwest. “Yet it is also a region with an incredibly rich record” of prehistoric animal remains. For example, the bones of at least 140 mastodons and 18 mammoths have been found in New York state alone. Boulanger and Lyman compiled databases of radiocarbon dates from both megafaunal finds and Paleoindian sites for the northeast, throwing out any dates whose reliability had been or could be questioned. This gave a final sample of 57 megafauna dates from 47 different sites and 25 Paleoindian dates from 22 sites. When the two databases were compared, it became clear that most of the megafauna had already disappeared before humans came on the scene—suggesting that the humans had little to do with their demise. The radiocarbon dates also suggest that northeastern megafauna underwent two major declines before finally going extinct. The first was 14,100 years ago, before any humans were in the region, but the number of animals then recovered after about 500 years; the second and final population crash began 12,700 years ago, when Paleoindians had just arrived in the region, according to the archaeological record. Moreover, the team reports in the 1 February issue of Quaternary Science Reviews, even though humans and megafauna continued to coexist for about 1000 years before the animals finally went extinct, the animals were already on their way out: Between 75% and 90% of the northeastern megafauna were gone before humans ever came on the scene. Yet even during the millennium of human and animal overlap, the team argues, there is no evidence for hunting: Neither megafaunal nor Paleoindian sites in the northeast contained animal bones that were butchered or otherwise modified. The authors stress that their results can be directly applied only to northeastern North America, and not to other regions such as the Great Plains and Southwest. Nevertheless, given the large amount of megafauna in the northeast, and the lack of evidence for human involvement in their demise, they argue that overkill cannot have been the only or even the major factor for continent-wide extinctions: Climate and environmental stresses must have also played a key role. The timing of the second megafaunal crash, 12,700 years ago, corresponds with the beginning of a major, 1300-year-long cold snap called the Younger Dryas, which was followed by the warming trend (called the Holocene) we still live in today. The new work bolsters the views of many researchers that “the arguments and evidence are stronger for environmental and climatic explanations,” says Lisa Nagaoka, a zooarchaeologist at the University of North Texas, Denton. By the time humans arrived, she says, the “tipping point” toward megafaunal extinctions may already have been reached. And although these events occurred thousands of years ago, Lyman says that they have important implications today. Recently, a number of conservationists have begun advocating the “rewilding” of North America by reintroducing species such as elephants—which are closely related to extinct animals like mastodons and mammoths—and African lions, which are related to the extinct American lion. This idea has received increasing attention in both the scientific literature and the popular media. For example, rewilding proponents advocate introducing elephants and Bactrian camels—which are now close to extinction in the Gobi Desert—onto the continent, with the idea that they would eat woody plants and weeds that threaten grasslands in the western United States, and that a new habitat would help protect them from extinction. But some researchers have argued that these proposals are based on faulty ecological logic and could end up hurting ecosystems rather than helping them, as well as threatening existing species. And Lyman says that the strategy is based in large part on the ethical argument that because humans killed off relatives of these animals, they bear responsibility for now saving them and restoring their habitats. “The overkill hypothesis is a very weak foundation for rewilding.” Meanwhile, advocates of the overkill hypothesis remain unconvinced by the new study. “The authors have engaged in an exercise in data analysis that neither proves nor disproves overkill,” says Gary Haynes, an archaeologist at the University of Nevada, Reno. Humans may have come into the northeast earlier than the radiocarbon database indicates, but their remains may not yet have been found, he says. Todd Surovell, an archaeologist at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, insists that the new study is entirely consistent with the view that humans dealt the final blow to the great beasts of North America: “The fundamental question is whether these animals would have suffered extinction if humans had not arrived.”

Mexico's 'water monster' may have disappeared

Mexico's salamander-like axolotl may have disappeared from its only known natural habitat in Mexico City's few remaining lakes. Mexico's 'water monster' may have disappeared
In this Sept. 27, 2008 file photo, a salamander-like axolotl, also known as the "water monster" and the "Mexican walking fish," swims in a tank at the Chapultepec Zoo in Mexico City. 
The axolotl may have disappeared from its only known natural habitat, Mexico City's Lake Xochimilco. Biologist Luis Zambrano of Mexico's National Autonomous University said Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, the most recent three-month attempt to net axolotls found not one of the creatures
It's disturbing news for an admittedly ugly creature, which has a slimy tail, plumage-like gills and mouth that curls into an odd smile. The axolotl is known as the "water monster" and the "Mexican walking fish." Its only natural habitat is the Xochimilco network of lakes and canals—the "floating gardens" of earth piled on reed mats that the Aztecs built to grow crops but are now suffering from pollution and urban sprawl. Biologist Armando Tovar Garza of Mexico's National Autonomous University said Tuesday that the creature "is in serious risk of disappearing" from the wild. Describing an effort last year by researchers in skiffs to try to net axolotls in the shallow, muddy waters of Xochimilco, Tovar Garza summed up the results as "four months of sampling—zero axolotls." Some axolotls still survive in aquariums, water tanks and research labs, but experts said those conditions aren't the best, because of interbreeding and other risks. Mexico's 'water monster' may have disappeared
This Oct. 8, 2008 file photo shows a canal in Xochimilco Lake in Mexico City.
 The salamander-like axolotl, also known as the "water monster" and the "Mexican walking fish,"may have disappeared from its only known natural habitat, Lake Xochimilco.
Biologist Luis Zambrano of Mexico's National Autonomous University said Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, the most recent three-month attempt to net axolotls found not one of the creatures
Growing up to a foot long (30 centimeters), axolotls use four stubby legs to drag themselves along the bottom or thick tails to swim in Xoxhimilco's murky channels while feeding on aquatic insects, small fish and crustaceans. But the surrounding garden-islands have increasingly been converted to illicit shantytowns, with untreated sewage often running off into the water. The Mexican Academy of Sciences said in a statement that a 1998 survey found an average of 6,000 axolotls per square kilometer, a figure that dropped to 1,000 in a 2003 study, and 100 in a 2008 survey. Tovar Garza said it is too early to declare the axolotl extinct in its natural habitat. He said that in early February, researchers will begin a three-month search in hopes of finding what may be the last free-roaming axolotl. The searches "on almost all the canals have to be repeated, because now we are in the cold season, with lower temperatures, and that is when we ought to have more success with the axolotls, because it is when they breed," Tovar Garza said. Alarmed by the creature's falling numbers in recent years, researchers built axolotl "shelters" in Xochimilco. Sacks of rocks and reedy plants act as filters around a selected area, and cleaner water is pumped in, to create better conditions. The shelters also were intended to help protect the axolotls from non-native carp and tilapia that were introduced to the lake system years ago and compete with axolotls for food.

Police mount sting operation after bumbling burglar broke into shed full of bees

Police are looking for a burglar they suspect is covered in bee stings, after he broke into a fully-functional bee hive. The criminal mastermind made his move on the innocuous-looking shed in Hampton, south west London, at some point between 4pm on Tuesday, January 28, and 10am the following day.
Richmond police said he would have been stung numerous times and are appealing to pharmacists and hospital workers to come forward if they have encountered a sting-pocked person.
Detective Sergeant Chris Brown said: “Bee stings at this time of the year are unusual and we would ask that you get in contact with police.”

Golf ball spotted on alligator's head

David Pucin was playing a round of golf with friends at Myakka Pines Golf Club in Englewood, Florida on Monday when he spotted an alligator with a golf ball on its head.
"It was just a strange happening. Definitely one of the stranger things I have seen on the golf course," said Pucin. How the ball landed on the gator's head remains a mystery.
"I bet it's a ball someone was looking for and thought it went in the water. That's what I think," said Mickie Zada, the Club's General Manager. Others may speculate someone placed the ball on the gator's head.
Pucin and Zada find that hard to believe. "I can't imagine anyone going up to that alligator," said Zada. If someone did hit the ball and it landed on the alligator's head, club rules permit a free drop no closer to the hole from a safe distance. No penalty would be assessed.

Abandoned baby turned out to be snakes in a bag

A person spotted a strangely shifting bag in a dumster outside a Brooklyn auto body shop, prompting a 911 on Monday afternoon, thinking a baby was inside.
An FDNY ambulance crew responded quickly to Finest Towing & Autobody and soon realized that they weren’t dealing with a newborn in the writhing bag but three Boa constrictors.

Officers from the NYPD’s Emergency Service Unit put the snakes, one of which was 6 feet long, the other two approximately 3 feet long, in a large cage and took them to an office for Animal Care & Control.

"This has never happened here before," said Anthony Finest, who has owned the business for 18 years.

Animal Pictures