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

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Daily Drift

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Today in History

786 Harun al-Rashid succeeds his older brother the Abbasid Caliph al-Hadi as Caliph of Baghdad.
1194 Richard I, King of England, is freed from captivity in Germany.
1508 The Proclamation of Trent is made.
1787 Shay's Rebellion, an uprising of debt-ridden Massachusetts farmers against the new U.S. government, fails.
1795 France abolishes slavery in her territories and confers slaves to citizens.
1889 Harry Longabaugh is released from Sundance Prison in Wyoming, thereby acquiring the famous nickname, "the Sundance Kid."
1899 After an exchange of gunfire, fighting breaks out between American troops and Filipinos near Manila, sparking the Philippine-American War
1906 The New York Police Department begins finger print identification.
1909 California law segregates Caucasian and Japanese schoolchildren.
1915 Germany decrees British waters as part of the war zone; all ships to be sunk without warning.
1923 French troops take the territories of Offenburg, Appenweier and Buhl in the Ruhr as a part of the agreement ending World War I.
1932 Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt inaugurates the Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, N.Y.
1941 The United Service Organization (U.S.O.) is formed to cater to armed forces and defense industries.
1944 The Japanese attack the Indian Seventh Army in Burma.
1945 The Big Three, American, British and Soviet leaders, meet in Yalta to discuss the war aims.
1966 Senate Foreign Relations Committee begins televised hearings on the Vietnam War.
1980 Syria withdraws its peacekeeping force in Beirut.
1986 The U.S. Post Office issues a commemorative stamp featuring Sojourner Truth.

Non Sequitur


Doctor Walks 6 Miles through the Snow to Perform Emergency Brain Surgery

The winter storm that hit the American South has been particularly bad in Birmingham, Alabama. The city simply doesn't maintain the infrustructure necessary to deal with this kind of weather, which has placed a strain on the medical facilities there.Dr. Zenko Hrynkiw is a brain surgeon. He was at one hospital when he was summoned to a traumatic brain injury at another. No other neurosurgeons were available.
Dr. Hrynkiw started driving there, but the traffic was terrible. Eventually, he ditched his car six miles away from his destination and started walking.
Cell phone service was spotty, so the two hospitals lost contact with Dr. Hrynkiw for hours. Eventually, he arrived and performed the surgery. Steve Davis, a nurse at that hospital, told the Birmingham News that Dr. Hrynkiw saved the man's life:
"Without the surgery, the patient would have most likely died," Davis said. "But he is doing well." […]
"This just speaks volumes to the dedication of the man," Davis said. "When I saw him, all I could say is 'you are a good man.' "
Davis said Hrynkiw takes good care of himself and frequently walks for exercise.

New study suggests ‘caffeine use disorder’ is real

Drinking more than three cups of coffee a day may lead to withdrawal symptoms 
In case you didn’t know, caffeine is officially a drug. And you might be hooked.
A new university study says that drinking several cups of coffee per day can become habit forming for some individuals, resulting in withdrawal symptoms such as fatigue and headaches when they quit.
"There is a misconception among professionals and lay people alike that caffeine is not difficult to give up,” said American University psychology professor Laura Juliano. “However, in population-based studies, more than 50 percent of regular caffeine consumers report that they have had difficulty quitting or reducing caffeine use."
Juliano was part of the team that last year added caffeine use disorder to the most recent edition of the DSM-5, which chronicles psychological disorders.
“Caffeine is a drug, a mild stimulant which is used by almost everybody on a daily basis,” Charles O’Brien, chair of the Substance-Related Disorders Work Group, said in a video explaining why the term was added to the DSM-5.
“Normally, there’s no problem with that. But it does have a letdown afterwards,” he added. “If you drink a lot of coffee, usually two or three cups at a time, there will be a rebound or withdrawal effect.”
However, O’Brien said the group decided against formally classifying it as a disorder. Instead, it was listed in the DSM-5’s Section III where, O’Brien said, a listing is meant to “stimulate” further research on potential addictive properties.
Juliano says that in order to avoid any potentially serious withdrawal symptoms, people should limit their daily caffeine consumption to 400mg, two to three 8-ounce cups of coffee.
And what do experts like Juliano and O’Brien hope to discover through further scientific research?
"Genetics research may help us to better understand the effects of caffeine on health and pregnancy as well as individual differences in caffeine consumption and sensitivity," she said.
Juliano also said that more research could result in greater transparency when it comes to products that sell drinks and foods with high caffeine content.
"At this time, manufacturers are not required to label caffeine amounts, and some products such as energy drinks do not have regulated limits on caffeine," Juliano said. "Through our research, we have observed that people who have been unable to quit or cut back on caffeine on their own would be interested in receiving formal treatment — similar to the outside assistance people can turn to if they want to quit smoking or tobacco use."

North Carolina's Lake Norman Regional Medical Center charges patient $81,000 for $750 worth of snakebite medicine

Eric Ferguson of Mooresville, NC was given a bill for $89,000 by Lake Norman Regional Medical Center, which treated him for a venomous snake-bite last August. Included in the itemized bill from the hospital was a $81,000 charge for four doses of anti-venom -- the same anti-venom that can be had on Ebay for $750. The hospital and Ferguson's insurer settled for $20,227, of which Ferguson paid $5,400.
Ferguson does not fault the standard of care at the hospital ("beyond phenomenal"), but he is understandably curious about the $80,000+ markup on the medicine with which he was treated. The hospital itself is already under investigation for overbilling.

Asked to comment on the snake bite billing, Lake Norman officials provided a written statement: “… Hospitals only collect a small percentage of our charges, or ‘list prices.’ We are required to give Medicare one level of discount from list price, Medicaid another, and private insurers negotiate for still others. … If we did not start with the list prices we have, we would not end up with enough revenue to remain in operation. … Our costs for providing uncompensated care are partially covered by higher bills for other patients.
“In some cases, Lake Norman Regional’s charge is considerably higher than other local hospitals,” the statement said. But the hospital said it offers discounts of 62 to 65 percent to “self-pay” patients without insurance.

Did you know ...

That scientists presented links between Alaskan seal deaths and Fukushima meltdown

That a Russian firm was hired to clear stray dogs out of Sochi before the Olympics

About how the Devos family passed "right to work" in Michigan

Why your boss likes the cold, even if you hate it

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 06: People work at dusk on various floors of the modern office development at 20 Cannon Street near St Paul's Cathedral on February 06, 2013 in London, England. A recent study of European working hours has shown that British men have the longest working week of any European Union country. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images) 
While you’ve been freezing this winter, chances are you’ve also been doing something else you may not be aware of -- giving your employer improved bang for the buck. New research by Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino shows that workers are more productive when the weather is lousy, and conversely, more distracted when the weather is nice. You may assume the opposite, as if balmy weather inspires people to be in a better mood and work harder, while rain or snow gives them the workplaces blahs. But Gino found it was the other way around.
She started with data from a Tokyo bank, one that had already been tracking its workers’ productivity, as it evaluated the effectiveness of a new mortgage-processing system. During a two-and-a-half-year period, bank workers tackled about 600,000 individual data-entry tasks, which the bank was able to analyze to determine when the work was done quickly with a high degree of accuracy, and when it was done more sloppily.
Gino then gathered data on the daily weather patterns in Tokyo during that time period, which varied considerably. Tokyo has a fairly mild climate, but temperatures still range from an average of about 40 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter to 82 in the summer. And of course there’s rain, snow and occasional stifling humidity, just as in many U.S. cities.
It turned out that workers were more productive when extreme hot or cold drove people indoors. It was the same with low visibility, typically associated with rain or snow. When the weather was calm and agreeable, by contrast, productivity fell. During nice weather, it took workers 1.3% longer to complete a typical transaction.
You can probably guess what's going on. Most likely, good weather makes people think of many other things besides work, whether they're daydreaming of being outside or perhaps even stepping out more frequently for breaks. Workers may focus better on the task at hand during bad weather when they have no desire to be outside and aren’t busy making plans for a picnic in the park after work.
The productivity gap between good and bad weather isn’t huge, yet companies try a lot of other things to boost worker productivity -- moving desks around, sponsoring team-building events, giving performance awards -- that might be less effective than a good rainstorm. Of course, there’s not much CEOs can do to influence the weather (though Oracle chief Larry Ellison might be working on some software to fix that problem).
Gino's research suggests that companies in harsh climates might be more productive than companies in the Atlantas or San Diegos of the world. Yet a lot of people who’ve been braving this winter’s brutal cold in Minneapolis or Chicago or Cleveland are now coping with one huge distraction, that being the urge to move someplace warmer. For now people -- button up your coats and get back to work.

Omaha cop, fired for beating suspect, then raiding house of citizen who recorded him, is back on the job

Omaha police officer Bradley D Canterbury was fired after he beat up a suspect and then participated in a brutal, illegal retaliatory raid on the home of a citizen who'd video-recorded the incident. Canterbury was one of over 30 Omaha police officers who broke into a family home without a warrant intending to destroy mobile phone video evidence of his violent actions, and was one of six officers from that cohort who were fired for the beating.
Now he's got his job back
Canterbury is the one in the video who seems to throw Octavius Johnson to the ground. Initially, four officers were fired. The other officers fired were James Kinsella and Justin A. Reeve and Sgt. Aaron Von Behren. Kinsella and Von Behren were both charged in connection with what investigators called a cover up.
Police Chief Todd Schmaderer fired Omaha police officers John D. Payne and Dyea L. Rowland this month for their roles in the incident.
Also this month, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on January 6th against the police department, Schmaderer and 32 officers. The ACLU says this case is the perfect storm of police misconduct. It wants the lawsuit to spark a change in police oversight and classes to better train officers on the street. Everyone named in the suit has 30-days to respond.

Meth-smoking white supremacist was able to buy tons of assault rifles despite felony record

John Christian Parks, a white supremacist methamphetamine addict with a felony had no problem amassing a large collection of assault rifles and ammo despite felonies. "Last spring, U.S. Forest Service police caught Parks and a gaggle of others smoking meth and shooting semi-automatic assault rifles in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest," reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
"Searching the 38-year-old Belfair resident’s home weeks later, police found white supremacist materials – flags and patches related to a racist religious movement – and more guns."

McDonald's employee busted for selling heroin Happy Meals

Hero happy meals content Remember last year when the family of a four-year-old boy ordered him a Burger King Kids Meal and found a pot pipe packed with weed? Not to be outdone, an employee at a McDonald's in Pittsburgh, PA was busted selling heroin in Happy Meal boxes. According to police, Shantia Dennis, 26, told drive-through dope customers to use the code phrase: “I’d like to order a toy.”
Dennis was arrested after undercover law enforcement officials conducted a drug buy, according to a statement from Mike Manko, communications director for the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office.Customers looking for heroin were instructed to go through the drive-through and say, “I’d like to order a toy.” The customer would then be told to proceed to the first window, where they would be handed a Happy Meal box containing heroin, Manko said.
During the drug buy, the undercover officers recovered 10 stamp bags of heroin inside of a Happy Meal box, according to the statement.
Officers immediately arrested Dennis and recovered an additional 50 bags of heroin, as well as a small amount of marijuana, according to the complaint.
The sales of heroin do not appear to be related to the potentially lethal batches of heroin being sold in Western Pennsylvania, according to the statement.
Dennis is charged with two counts of possession, one count of criminal use of a communication facility, one count of prohibited acts of delivery and one count of possession with intent to deliver.
Attorney information for Dennis was not immediately available Wednesday.
Shanita Davis

TSA whistleblower describes life in the pornoscanner room

In Jason Edward Harrington's Dear America, I Saw You Naked, he reveals that he was the anonymous TSA agent who wrote the Taking Sense Away tell-all/whistleblower blog. Harrington's piece is a shocking and eye-opening look into the world of TSA agents, especially the section dealing with the "IO room" where the nude photos of travellers who used the Rapiscan machines were displayed:
Most of my co-workers found humor in the I.O. room on a cruder level. Just as the long-suffering American public waiting on those security lines suspected, jokes about the passengers ran rampant among my TSA colleagues: Many of the images we gawked at were of overweight people, their every fold and dimple on full awful display. Piercings of every kind were visible. Women who’d had mastectomies were easy to discern—their chests showed up on our screens as dull, pixelated regions. Hernias appeared as bulging, blistery growths in the crotch area. Passengers were often caught off-guard by the X-Ray scan and so materialized on-screen in ridiculous, blurred poses—mouths agape, à la Edvard Munch. One of us in the I.O. room would occasionally identify a passenger as female, only to have the officers out on the checkpoint floor radio back that it was actually a man. All the old, crass stereotypes about race and genitalia size thrived on our secure government radio channels.
There were other types of bad behavior in the I.O. room—I personally witnessed quite a bit of fooling around, in every sense of the phrase. Officers who were dating often conspired to get assigned to the I.O. room at the same time, where they analyzed the nude images with one eye apiece, at best. Every now and then, a passenger would throw up two middle fingers during his or her scan, as though somehow aware of the transgressions going on.
But the only people who hated the body-scanners more than the public were TSA employees themselves. Many of my co-workers felt uncomfortable even standing next to the radiation-emitting machines we were forcing members of the public to stand inside. Several told me they submitted formal requests for dosimeters, to measure their exposure to radiation. The agency’s stance was that dosimeters were not necessary—the radiation doses from the machines were perfectly acceptable, they told us. We would just have to take their word for it. When concerned passengers—usually pregnant women—asked how much radiation the machines emitted and whether they were safe, we were instructed by our superiors to assure them everything was fine.

The Campbell-Stokes Sunshine Recorder

Before the dawn of the computer age scientists who wished to record the amount of sunshine in any given place had to be inventive. A variety of sunshine recorders were invented, with the Campbell-Stokes Recorder quickly becoming the most popular. In fact many are still in use to this day.

These Ancient Structures Are So Advanced, They Shouldn't Exist ... Even If Built Today

We either need to stop underestimating ancient cultures or it's time we rule out primitive tools and hop on the alien bandwagon. These five ancient structures were not built by loincloth-wearing savages...
Derinkuyu's Massive, Ancient Underground City
ancient underground cities

Derinkuyu's underground city was discovered in the 1960s in Turkey, when a modern house above ground was being renovated. Much to the relief of everyone present, the 18-story underground city was abandoned and not swarming with mole people.
ancient underground cities
Hidden for centuries right under everyone's noses, Derinkuyu is just the largest of hundreds of underground complexes built by we're-not-sure-who-exactly around the eighth century B.C. To understand just what's so phenomenal about this feat of engineering, imagine someone handing you a hammer and chisel and telling you to go dig out a system of underground chambers capable of sustaining 20,000 people. And not one of those fancy modern chisels, either -- we're talking about something dug with whatever excavating tools they had 2,800 years ago.
ancient underground cities
The city was probably used as a giant bunker to protect its inhabitants from either war or natural disaster, but its architects were clearly determined to make it the most comfortable doomsday bunker ever. It had access to fresh flowing water -- the wells were not connected with the surface to prevent poisoning by crafty land dwellers. It also has individual quarters, shops, communal rooms, tombs, arsenals, livestock, and escape routes. There's even a school, complete with a study room.
Hypogeum of Hal-Saflieni: Unexplainable Acoustics
ancient underground cities
On the island of Malta is a prehistoric underground megalithic structure known awesomely as the Hypogeum of Hal-Saflieni. It was discovered by accident in 1902 when some workers were digging a hole and broke through the ceiling. Oh, and they also found about 7,000 skeletons all clustered near the entrance.
The three-level underground structure is made entirely out of megalithic stones, and was built who knows when. What surprised people even more was when they found out that male voices could reverberate throughout the entire complex if the person was standing in a certain spot. But here's the kicker -- the effect only worked if the speaking voice was in the 95 to 120 Hz range, so women's voices don't usually generate the same effect.
ancient underground cities
It gets weirder: If you're a man chanting at roughly the 110 Hz frequency, the entire temple complex turns into this bizarre trance-inducing room that seems able to stimulate the creative center of the human brain.
Simply put, by merely standing inside that temple complex while someone was chanting in the proper location, you actually enhanced your religious experience. And that's all we really know about this place. We have no idea who built it or how they pulled it off. All we know for certain is that they had a knowledge of acoustics that is still baffling scientists to this very day.
The Ancient Marib Dam: Worked For Thousands Of Years
ancient underground cities

Yemen is a country rich in dust and poor in water, which is why in ancient times the empire that controlled it, the Sabaens, built a great dam in 750 B.C.
The dam, which was cheated out of being one of the "official" Seven Wonders of the World, was nevertheless regarded one of the greatest feats of engineering of the pre-industrial age. After all, building a dam isn't like putting a bunch of stone monoliths in a big circle. You have to have canals, gates, sluices, and spillways, and the whole thing has to be waterproof.
The Sabaens managed all this before the existence of concrete, and their dam stood for over 1,000 years. In comparison, modern dams built with our advanced technology last for around 50 years, or 100 if they're really something.
ancient underground cities
The Great Dam of Marib was about 2,000 feet long (almost twice as long as the puny Hoover Dam), and while it stood, it converted ancient Yemen into a fertile oasis, what was then known as the kingdom of Sheba (of "Queen of Sheba" fame). Because everything has to fall down eventually, the dam finally burst around 600 A.D., bringing down much of the agriculture system and converting the area into the sandy fun park it is today.
Pumapunku: Complex Interlocking Stones
ancient underground cities
Pumapunku is a city built by the Tiwanaku people of ancient Bolivia. What sets it apart from just any old ancient city is the almost weird precision of the stonework that would make modern builders envious.
ancient underground cities
Using crude technology, they pioneered a kind of construction that used hundreds of large, identical building blocks to make buildings like you and I would make a house out of LEGO. To make cuts as straight and precise today, we'd reach for some kind of laser cutter. They used chisels and rulers.
ancient underground cities
To keep the buildings structurally sound, they even used a form of metal I-cramps similar to what we would use today to keep the giant blocks in place in case of an earthquake.
ancient underground cities
These aren't just little cinder blocks, either. The largest of the stones is 25 feet long and 17 feet wide, and has been estimated to weigh around 130 tons (for comparison, that's only around 20 or so standard semi trailers). Yet somehow, with no technologies like wheels, cranes, or even a writing system, the Tiwanaku people moved these giant rocks to the Pumapunku site and shaped them into perfect, complex forms.
Like all good mystery civilizations, the Tiwanaku eventually vanished, but their work was so impressive that the next empire to come along, the Inca, thought they were gods and that Pumapunku was the center of the world.
ancient underground cities
Gobekli Tepe: Built Before Humans Grew Food
ancient underground cities

Back in the 1960s, surveyors in Turkey found an ancient buried complex composed of huge stone pillars arranged in a circle like Stonehenge, some of them 30 feet tall. What really knocked the monocles out of their eyes, however, was that this was much older than Stonehenge ... 6,000 years older!
ancient underground cities
So those massive, ornate limestone pillars were carefully carved from a nearby quarry using hunks of flint rock and their bare hands. Having been dated to around 9000 B.C., Gobekli Tepe is thought to be the oldest human construction. That's further back than any of the ancient sites you learned about in history class. In fact, it's in the Stone Age, where the only things we knew how to build were likely to fall over in a stiff breeze.
ancient underground cities
In fact, the site even predates agriculture, which means that the people who built it were still chasing mammoths rather than planting crops. Discovering that this complex of massive stone pillars was actually built by Encino Man, as National Geographic puts it, "was like finding that someone had built a 747 in a basement with an X-Acto knife."
And this doesn't make much sense, because conventional knowledge has always been that humans didn't start building things until after we learned how to farm.
Given that excavations turned up a whole lot of bones at the site, probably from animal sacrifices, archaeologists are pretty sure that it was a religious site, which seems to indicate that it was religion, not agriculture, that first inspired people to build giant structures.

Great Ghost Cities

7 Eerie Abandoned Wonders Of China

An ancient city made of intricately carved stone sits silent at the bottom of a lake, a replica of Paris complete with an Eiffel Tower is eerily empty, and a city leveled by disaster has been cordoned off indefinitely as a memorial to those who were lost.

China might just be home to more ghost cities than any other nation on earth, and most of them are of the modern variety, as the push for economic progress has led developers to get a bit ahead of themselves constructing vast communities, malls and amusement parks that never caught on with the public.

Unseen concept art from David Lynch's Dune

Ron Miller posts a gallery of stunning, if rather small images at io9: "In the beginning there were sketches...thousands of sketches. Almost all of these were done by the brilliant production designer Tony Masters. ... These were eventually incorporated into the production paintings I created.."



Grade school teacher hoarded more than 400 snakes in his home

In Newport Beach, California, authorities have removed more than 400 ball pythons from the home of a grade school teacher who "bred snakes as a hobby." Some of the animals were alive, many of them were dead, and his home was filled with the clutter associated with compulsive hoarding.

Couple jailed for chopping off sheep's head and waving it at children

A couple who decapitated a rare breed of sheep, before they used its head to terrify some children, have been jailed.Robert Carr, 28, and Miranda Clark, 39, both from Willington, County Durham, repeatedly stabbed the animal in the neck and stomach before chopping off its head, Durham Crown Court heard. The attack happened in Dead Woods, Durham, in August last year, before they discarded the animal’s head in a neighbor's back garden. Police had received calls from concerned residents at the time saying a sheep's head had been found in the area.
The pair had previously pleaded guilty to three counts of cruelty to a person under 16, one count of having a bladed article, one count of destroying property and one count of causing unnecessary suffering to a protected animal. Gerry Sydenham, head of the Crown Court Unit for CPS North East, said: "There is no doubt that the savage actions of this pair will be beyond the comprehension of anyone hearing of this crime.
“Their initial attack on a defenseless animal seems to have served no purpose beyond providing some sort of twisted entertainment for the pair. Not content with killing and mutilating the rare sheep, they then went on to traumatize a group of local children with the animal's severed head, before discarding it as an afterthought in a neighbor's yard." Carr was given a 20-month sentence and Clark one of eight months.

Indian man who spent 10 years in jail after police dog barked at him set free

A dog barking at an accused is in itself not a substantive piece of evidence to nail him for murder, the Bombay High Court has ruled in an important judgment. Ten years after a man was arrested for double murder in Solapur, a division bench of Justice P V Hardas and Justice Ajay Gadkari acquitted the accused Rajaram Babar saying there was no evidence to prove that he committed the killings. The judges ordered that Babar who was serving a life term be released immediately from prison if he was not wanted in any other case.
One of the crucial piece of evidence that the police had produced before the trial court was a tracker dog barking at Babar from a line up of suspects. The police said that the dog had been given some blood stained stones from the site of incident to smell. "The evidence of the tracker dog is not substantive piece of evidence and in the absence of proof of the dog barking at accused as well as proof of the article which was given to the dog for sniffing, no reliance whatsoever can be placed on the evidence of dog tracking. We find that there is no other evidence of corroborative nature which would corroborate the evidence of dog tracking.," said the judges.
"It is unimaginable that after the scene of incident panchanama was drawn and the inquest panchanama had already been drawn, the stone which was given to the dog for sniffing could be said to have been the stone which was last handled by Babar," the judges added. The incident dates back to September 2004, when the bodies of one Subhadrabai and her paramour Nivrutti were found lying in front of their house. Police investigations revealed that there was a dispute between Babar and Subhadrabai over laying of pipes. The police called in the dog squad and the tracker dog barked at Babar who was arrested for the murders.
A trial court in 2005 held Babar guilty of murder, while acquitting a co-accused and sentenced him to life imprisonment. Babar then approached the High Court. The court said that in cases resting on circumstantial evidence, the prosecution has to prove each and every circumstance, which should be of a conclusive nature that should have definite tendency of implicating the accused. "Having examined evidence against the appellant, we find that there is no evidence which would conclusively prove the offence against Babar beyond reasonable doubt," the judges ruled while setting aside the trial court order holding him guilty of double murder.

Homeless person hiding in library turned out to be cat

The initial suspicion was that a homeless person stayed in Clovis-Carver Public Library, New Mexico, past closing time and triggered the alarm system's motion detector. It happened the next few nights too. But then a custodian reported seeing a cat. The cat, since named Bootsie by the staff, was first seen last week by a custodian, who tipped off Margaret Hinchee. Hinchee and her staff then began to find clues around the library, such as soil in potted plants being pawed through, and territorial marks (pee). This invoked a cathunt that lasted until Tuesday night.
“We set a trap with salmon inside and didn’t arm our security system. We left at 9pm and came back at 9:30. He was sitting in the cage,” Hinchee said. Security footage showed that five minutes after the library detective team had left, the cat came out to eat. The black and grey cat with white paws had tripped alarms by setting off motion sensors, which in turn led to calls to Hinchee from the library’s alarm system each night from Jan. 24-26. On the first day, police and Hinchee showed up at 3am and stayed for an hour and a half to search the premises. “We thought maybe a homeless person might have hid out in the building,” said Hinchee.
Searches continued throughout the next day with no avail. On Monday, Hinchee and her staff checked video footage, which showed that there was indeed a cat inside the building. The staff believes Bootsie may have been hiding in a plant display near the library lobby. “We found spots where he had dug up dirt from the plants,” said Jessica Vienneau, a library employee who was involved in the search. Vienneau described her investigating experience. “We were looking for clues. I even dug my hands in the dirt to see if he had used the bathroom,” said Vienneau.
Bootsie has a temporary new home with library employee Mary Mattimore, a self-professed animal lover. “I haven’t decided if I’m going to keep him yet,” said Mattimore, “but he does have a vet appointment coming up. We’re going to spay or neuter him.” No one knows Bootsie’s gender yet, as library staff have been cautious in handling the cat because he is feral. Hinchee said while she is happy the cat was found, she is a little disappointed the adventure is over. “We were like real detectives, doing stakeouts and setting traps. It was kind of exciting,” said Hinchee with a grin.

Bacteria and urea turn sand into concrete

Cement is an energy-intensive product. Making it means heating limestone to 2642 degrees Fahrenheit. As a result, 5 percent of the entire world's carbon dioxide emissions come from cement production. Unsurprisingly, there are lots of scientists searching for more-sustainable solutions to cement and the concrete it's the primary ingredient in. One of the newest: A process that stiffens sand with the help of bacteria and urea. 

This Leech Can Survive 24 Hours Submerged in Liquid Nitrogen

Which is probably longer than I could. In fact, longer than any other known creature. Liquid nitrogen has a temperature of -321°F. The Tardigrade Ramazzottius, a microorganism, and the larvae of the Chymomyza costata, a type of fly, can survive immersed in liquid nitrogen. But only for up to an hour.
The Ozobranchus jantseanus, a leech found in freshwater turtles in East Asia, is far more durable. Some of these leeches have survived 2.5 years at a temperature of -130°F. Researchers in Japan also found that they could survive while immersed in liquid nitrogen for a full day. They aren't sure how. It's especially odd because these leeches do not encounter such extreme cold in their natural habitats.

Daily Comic Relief


Dog found after a week in wreckage of car

Runa the dog has been discovered in the wreckage of a smashed car, which she had been hiding in for a week, following a serious road accident in central Sweden. The mongrel went missing after a road accident in Bjursås when her owners' car collided with a truck, which hospitalized one of the owners, and killed two other dogs.
One of the other dogs made an escape from the wreck and was later recovered. However, Runa had vanished without a trace and following a week of searches her owners were starting to give up hope. Miraculously, the dog was discovered when the wrecked car was taken into the police station for a technical examination.
She had been keeping quiet and hiding under a seat for seven days without food or water. "The happiness is so extreme, you couldn't get a better end to the story," Alexander Fagerlund, whose parents were in the car crash, said. He added that he along with relatives had removed items from the car earlier in the week - before it was transferred to the police station - but had heard not as much as a peep from Runa.
"I had been in the car to get my parents' bags but it was so wrecked that the only way to get them was through the back window. She didn't make a sound," said Fagerlund. When he got the call from the police to say his four-legged friend was alive and well he could scarcely believe it. "It's so unlikely that I can hardly believe that it's true," he said. Fagerlund added: "She is doing amazingly well considering she didn't have food or water for a week. Now she is standing up at the dining table and begging for food."

Cat dragged enormous bear trap home after getting paw trapped

On Thursday morning Scruffy the cat stepped in an illegal bear trap in rural Royal Oaks, California and the trap clamped down on his front paw.
Scruffy was found dragging the enormous metal trap up a house's driveway where he lives. Scruffy's owners rushed him to East Lake Animal Clinic in Watsonville. It took veterinarian Dave Carroll and a nurse to get the trap off the cat’s leg. Scruffy lost all feeling in his paw, and the cat's leg may need to be amputated.
“When they step on the metal plate, it releases the trap, and the bars come up against the leg. This one was big enough where, if a person stepped in it, it would have broken your ankle," Carroll said. Most animals, wild and domestic, who step in traps usually don't survive. Carroll credited Scruffy's scrappy spirit for helping him drag the trap all the way back to his house so that he could be found.

YouTube link.
East Lake Animal Clinic is caring for Scruffy free of charge. The SPCA is investigating the case and attempting to find out who is responsible for setting up the illegal trap. On Friday veterinarian Elizabeth Martin said the cat was in good spirits and recovering well. "He's bright, alert, happy, purring, and doing all the kitty things that he should be doing," Martin said.

Red king crab caught in Bering Sea is lavender-colored, baffling experts

Veteran wholesaler in Japan says peculiar catch "could be a good omen'
red crab
Photo of lavender-colored red crab
A good omen, a bad diet, or merely some kind of mutation caused by some unknown factor?
These were some of the reactions among wholesalers in Japan when one of a shipment of red king crabs turned out to be lavender.
“I’ve been dealing with crabs for 25 years, but this is the first time to see that color,” Kenetsu Mikami, president of Marusan Ocean Foods, told the Japanese-language Hokkaido Doshin. “It could be a good omen.”
What a red king crab is supposed to look like. 
The crabs were caught off Russia in the Bering Sea and shipped to Hokkaido. Red king crabs are found in the Bering Sea and near the Aleutian Islands, along the coast of the Gulf of Alaska, and south to British Columbia, Canada. Also, there are populations from Hokkaido, Japan, to Cape Olyutorsk, Russia. They’re widely consumed around the world.
According to News.com in Australia, experts at a research center in Hokkaido believe the peculiar coloration was “the effect of its diet or possibly a mutation causing a lack of pigment.”
There has been some debate on the Internet, with some insisting that radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster is the most likely explanation.
But perhaps a natural mutation causing a pigment change is the most likely explanation. This occurs in rare cases among lobsters, which have been found to be blue, calico colored, two-toned, white, and so on.
The lavender-colored red crab was kept alive and placed on display at Marusan Ocean Foods for observation.
After all, who would be brave enough to eat the unusual crustacean?

Flying Snakes

If you visit Thailand, Indonesia, and other forested parts of southeast Asia, and look up, you might catch a glimpse of a snake careening through the air. The Chrysopelea paradisi doesn't fly, but it does have a pretty good handle on the controlled glide. The snakes launch themselves off of trees and undulate in midair. From a 33-foot-high jump the snakes can cover another 33 feet of distance. Scientists recently figured out how changes the snake makes to its body shape contributes to this ability. This video from Science News explains.
Meanwhile, I'm imagining slapstick comedy routines where unsuspecting people get slapped in the face by a flying snake. I can only assume this happens all the time in Chrysopelea paradisi's native habitat.

How The Scorpion's Venomous Sting Evolved

The sting in a scorpion's tail has been connected to common defensive proteins by scientists. Defensins are proteins common to many plants and animals that fight off viral, bacterial and fungal pests.
Researchers investigated the relationship between these proteins and the neurotoxins present in scorpion venom. Their results showed how just a single genetic mutation could convert such a protein into a deadly toxin.

Animal Pictures


Rare black sable reverse colored legging at the Dire wolf project Shwarz kennels in Oregon