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The place where the world comes together in honesty and mirth.
Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Daily Drift

Same Story, Different Day! ...

Carolina Naturally is read in 195 countries around the world daily.
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Today is - Safety Pup Day

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Today in History

1294 Kublai Khan, the conqueror of Asia, dies at the age of 80.
1554 Lady Jane Grey, the Queen of England for thirteen days, is beheaded on Tower Hill. She was barely 17 years old.
1709 Alexander Selkirk, the Scottish seaman whose adventures inspired the creation of Daniel Dafoe's Robinson Crusoe, is taken off Juan Fernandez Island after more than four years of living there alone.
1793 The first fugitive slave law, requiring the return of escaped slaves, is passed.
1818 Chile gains independence from Spain.
1836 Mexican General Santa Anna crosses the Rio Grande en route to the Alamo.
1909 The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is formed.
1912 China becomes a republic following the overthrow of the Manchu dynasty.
1921 Winston Churchill of London is appointed colonial secretary.
1924 George Gershwin's groundbreaking symphonic jazz composition Rhapsody in Blue premieres with Gershwin himself playing the piano with Paul Whiteman's orchestra.
1929 Charles Lindbergh announces his engagement to Anne Morrow.
1931 Japan makes its first television broadcast–a baseball game.
1935 The Macon, the last U.S. Navy dirigible, crashes off the coast of California, killing two people.
1938 Japan refuses to reveal naval data requested by the U.S. and Britain.
1940 The Soviet Union signs a trade treaty with Germany to aid against the British blockade.
1944 Wendell Wilkie enters the American presidential race against Franklin D. Roosevelt.
1949 Moslem Brotherhood chief Hassan el Banna is shot to death in Cairo.
1953 The Soviets break off diplomatic relations with Israel after the bombing of Soviet legation.
1966 The South Vietnamese win two big battles in the Mekong Delta.
1972 Senator Edward Kennedy advocates amnesty for Vietnam draft resisters.
1974 The Symbionese Liberation Army asks the Hearst family for $230 million in food for the poor.
1980 The Lake Placid Winter Olympics open in New York.
1987 A Court in Texas upholds $8.5 billion of a fine imposed on Texaco for the illegal takeover of Getty Oil.
1999 The U.S. Senate fails to pass two articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton. He had been accused of perjury and obstruction of justice by the House of Representatives.

Non Sequitur


Virtual avatars may impact real-world behavior

How you represent yourself in the virtual world of video […]

What to eat?

Gary Taubes on why nutrition is so confusing: the "research community has failed to establish reliable, unambiguous knowledge about the environmental triggers of obesity and diabetes."

The Upside Down Traffic Light

A traffic light that's different from all others in the US can be found in the small Irish neighborhood of Tipperary Hill. What makes it different is the fact that the lights are turned upside down - green first, red last. The history of how this happened is quite interesting.
When the city first installed traffic signal lights in 1925, local Irish youths, incensed that the 'British' red appeared above the 'Irish' green, threw stones at the signal and broke the red light. Members of a group called Tipperary Hill Protective Association addressed the town rulers. On March 17, 1928, the city leaders relented, and green was above the red light.

Did you know ...

This is the complete guide to the chemical spill in West Virginia

These 4 shocking examples of economic inequality in America

That Tennessee has the fastest growing union membership in the country

That the most dangerous city to be black is Omaha, Nebraska

Frustrated With Obstruction Harry Reid Eyes Going Nuclear on ALL repugican Filibusters

Harry Reid 
Pressure from liberal groups has combined with frustration with endless Senate repugican obstruction to result in Majority Leader Harry Reid seriously looking at going nuclear and ending the 60 vote rule on all repugican filibusters.
The Hill reported:
Reid is reluctant to provoke another confrontation with repugican colleagues over the rules but he’s frustrated with the continued obstruction and needs the help of outside groups to turn out voters in the midterm elections.
“Reid is not afraid to go further and considers reform this year a real possibility,” said a senior Senate Democratic aide.
The Democratic leader has already slammed the door on President Obama’s request to move trade promotion authority legislation, which labor unions detest.
Going nuclear on all filibusters is something that Sen. Reid has been increasingly considering over the last few months. Last month, Reid issued his first warning to repugicans that he would consider ending the 60 vote rule if repugicans didn’t stop filibustering. Reid said, “No, I’m not thinking about it today. But I- I think-I think everyone should understand that the country cannot continue on the road that it’s on. It cannot have- you cannot have when you have vacancies in the judiciary as we’ve had, DC Circuit, some say it’s more important than the Supreme Court. But it’s, at least, the second most important. They said we’re not going to fill these spots because we don’t want to. You can’t. That’s not the way we legislate.”
The good news is that Sen. Reid is listening, and the pressure is working. The fact that the Majority Leader is so frustrated with repugican obstruction means that he is more receptive to what the outside groups are telling him. The message coming, not just from activists, but also from the majority of the country is that this obstruction can’t continue. Getting rid of the repugican legislative filibuster is only half of the solution. Democrats must also take back the House, or at minimum, continue to defeat tea party repugicans. Each tea party repugican defeated is one less extremist in Boehner’s caucus.
The latest repugican obstruction of the unemployment benefits extension has pushed Reid towards doing something that he doesn’t really want to do. Ideally, repugicans would do their jobs. Sen. Reid and the Democrats shouldn’t have to do this. There will be much angst and whining about the loss of the voice of the minority if this step is taken, but repugicans brought this on themselves by abusing the filibuster.
Majority Reid has no choice. He must go nuclear, and end all repugican filibusters.

It Is Absurd To Have repugicans In Congress Who Intend to Do Absolutely Nothing

It is getting absurd to have repugicans serving in Congress when they have no intention of doing the work the people sent them to Washington to do. …

Kansas Senator Pat Roberts Doesn't Actually Live In Kansas

by Daniel Strauss

Pat Roberts (r-KS) does not have a home in his home state of Kansas and, when he needs an address in the state, uses one that belongs to two donors.
According to The New York Times, Roberts, who is facing a primary challenge from tea party favorite Milton Wolf, uses the address of donors C. Duane and Phyllis Ross for voter registration and a place to sleep occasionally when he travels to the state.
"I have full access to the recliner," Roberts told the newspaper of the home in Dodge City, Kansas. "Nobody knows the state better than I do."

Roberts and his wife, a real estate broker, own a home in Alexandria, Virginia.

Winds of Change

How a Residency Issue Might Open Up a Senate Seat in Kansas 
Senator Pat Roberts is not a current resident of Kansas. This issue has opened the window for the Kansas tea party to primary him in the fall.…
Senator Pat Roberts ain’t in Kansas any more.  Or is he?
A piece today by the New York Times called out veteran Republican Senator Pat Roberts for making a last ditch effort to prove his worthiness to the voters of Kansas, despite not having actively been there in over thirty years.  The piece mentions how Roberts and his wife have been fixtures at their residence in Alexandria, Virginia but have barely, if ever, been home to the state that Roberts represents in the United States Senate.  The piece revealed that Roberts uses the address of two longtime supporters and donors as his voting address and that he stays with them whenever he travels to his “home” state.  Roberts openly admitted that he does not own a home of his own in Kansas.
Despite this dubious living situation, it hasn’t hurt Roberts this far, at least not politically.  Roberts currently is a member of the prestigious Alfalfa Club of distinguished Washingtonians and a regular on the Sunday television talk shows.  The seventy-seven year-old Roberts has also not been challenged politically in the Sunflower State.  He won his third term in the Senate in 2008 with 60% of the vote.  Previous to that, he served as a Congressman, winning seven consecutive terms including running unopposed in 1988.  It seems on the surface that issues over Roberts’ residency most likely won’t affect his bid to win a fourth senate term in the fall of 2014.
Tell that to Richard Lugar.
In 2012, the veteran Indiana repugican senator was heavily criticized for not having a permanent residence in his home state of Indiana.  The tea party challenger Richard Mourdock actively pummeled Lugar on this issue, painting him as a Washington insider who had turned his back on the people of the Indiana.  Despite being a six-term senator, Lugar lost to Mourdock in the repugican primary, becoming the first six-term senator to do so since 1952.  Mourdock went on to lose the general election to Joe Donnelly, costing Indiana an important senate seat.
So, what does the tea party have in store for Mr. Roberts in Kansas?
Similar to Indiana, a new candidate is stepping forward in the likes of physician Milton Wolf.  Wolf has the backing of the Kansas tea party and hopes to use Roberts’ residency issues as a way to paint him as out-of-touch with the people of his home state.  Despite having a significant war chest and decades of experience, Roberts is already feeling the heat from Wolf.  The day before Wolf declared his candidacy in August 2013, Roberts established his voting residence as he knew it would serve as a campaign issue.  Since that time, Roberts has made choice after choice to try and paint himself as being wingnut enough for Kansas voters.
To do so has caused him to move further and further off the edge, despite alienating some of his closest friends and allies.  Roberts has openly called for the resignation of Kathleen Sebelius, despite having worked for her father-in-law Kansas Representative Keith Sebelius.  Roberts also opposed a United Nations treaty that would have banned discrimination against people with disabilities, despite being personally lobbied to support the treaty by Kansas native son and presidential nominee, Bob Dole.  And, just this last week, Roberts opposed the Farm Bill despite it being supported by the Kansas farm lobby but opposed by tea party agitators.
At this point in time, it’s too early to say what impact Roberts’ issues with residency will have on the fall election.  However, if Wolf can begin to convince Kansas voters that Roberts is out of touch with them and their needs, he might be able to get some campaign cash to start flowing in.  If the Kansas tea party believes they have an actual chance to dethrone somebody like Roberts, expect a flood of dark money from the Koch brothers and other prominent tea partiers to begin to show up in Wolf’s war chest.  In 2012, nobody thought that Dick Lugar would ever be primaried by another repugican candidate.  He, and the repugican establishment, quickly saw how dangerous a tea party candidate can be with momentum on his side.
Kansas has not had a Democratic senator since 1939.  It’s very likely that 2014 will not be the year that the streak ends.  However, the Roberts situation might make for some interesting theater, especially if the race gets close.  We’ve all seen the “Sharon Angle syndrome” where tea party members get all jazzed up about a particular candidate in the primary only to realize too late and he or she is too extreme to win in a general election.  Should the Wolf train pick up steam and manage to somehow derail the incumbent Roberts, there is a chance, albeit a small one, that a qualified Democrat would at least be competitive in the Sunflower State.
Not even Dorothy herself could imagine Kansas with a Democratic senator.

High Speed Robbing Hoods

Corporate America is raping our country and government isn't stopping them.

High frequency trading, in which superfast computer algorithims buy and sell stocks in fractions of a second, is little more than a tax on financial markets that goes directly into private pockets. There's more news today about how ridiculous the practice has become.
Why do financial markets exist? Ostensibly, they exist to funnel capital to its most productive uses. That is what redeems them, socially. They are supposed to fulfill that beneficial purpose, in order to make all the high salaries of Wall Street motherfuckers at least theoretically tolerable. High frequency trading, on the other hand, has no socially redemptive value at all. It is a way for the person with the fastest fiber optic cable to suck money out of the financial markets for their own benefits. It is, essentially, a tax, on everyone, for which we get nothing in return. It is an entire industry that contributes to nothing but the enrichment of high frequency traders.
High frequency traders love to pay exorbitant prices in order to receive corporate or financial press releases a fraction of a second before the general public, because they can use their ultrafast algorithims to trade on the information therein fractions of a second before everyone else, thereby making themselves money. The Wall Street Journal today looks at the latest manifestation of this practice: paying for a "direct feed" from press release service BusinessWire. The paper explains, millisecond by millisecond, how trading firms used an advantage of around a tenth of a second receiving a press release to sell $800,000 worth of stock in a company that announced poor earnings. The practice is widespread enough to move the entire market:

Market volatility in the seconds after the 4 p.m. Eastern time stock-market close has increased in recent years as high-speed firms race to trade on market-moving information such as earnings reports, which are often released immediately after the closing bell, according to Eric Hunsader, founder of Nanex. Swings of at least 0.3% in Nasdaq stocks within the first second after 4 p.m. rose about 30% in the two years ended Dec. 31, 2013, from the previous two years, according to Nanex data.

That is not productive finance. That is farce. Trading a stock several times in one second does not help allocate capital. It just skims money off the top for a select few. Ban this shit.

Baybrook Remodelers' cack-handed SEO genius wants our unflattering coverage removed from the net

Remember Baybrook Remodelers, Ken Carney's Connecticut-based construction company who bully and sue disgruntled customers who leave negative reviews on Yelp and other sites? Well, now they've hired an SEO creep called Todd Ramos, who is hassling Techdirt to try and get their post about Baybrook taken down.
Ramos's campaign tactics include smearing Baybrook's victim (referring to her over and and over again as a "crazy woman"), and inventing imaginary conversations with Boing Boing in which we are said to be considering removing our own coverage. For the record, we are not. He also claims that we were hired by Baybrook's victim to post uncomplimentary things about Baybrook (we were not). And he claims to have "600 bloggers and 20000 blog as ranging in pr 4 to 7" through which he will smear Techdirt if they don't remove the post.
The most cack-handed part of this whole thing is that its founder, Mike Masnick actually coined the term "The Streisand Effect" to describe the knock-on publicity that arises from censorship attempts, because the attempt at censorship is often more newsworthy than the information that is under dispute.
Furthermore, Ramos' tactics are equally questionable. His claims of slander have no basis in reality, and his tactics suggest he hasn't had much practice approaching non-review websites with takedown requests. When it became apparent I wouldn't yank the entire post, Ramos shifted from friendly to threatening, claiming he would organize his army of bloggers to write negative things about Techdirt. Even worse, he tried to promise me things he couldn't possibly deliver, like dropping a lawsuit. He didn't help his case by continually referring to Kristen's mother as a "crazy woman" and failed to bring any evidence contradicting what I had posted, other than the same letter than Kristen had posted on her own website. If this was as damning as he made it out to be, there would be little reason for Baybrook's lawsuit target to post it on her own site. Furthermore, despite his continual reference to Boing Boing, our friends at Boing Boing tell us they haven't actually heard from anyone asking to have their post (that links to ours) taken down.
As it stands now, Baybrook may not have directly forced the city's hand on this issue, but that's only according to Baybrook's own statements. The chain of events seems to suggest otherwise. The company definitely appears to have been instrumental in motivating the city of Milford to dig deeper into zoning ordinances after its initial attempts to have the critical signs removed failed. (See the original post for the original, completely ridiculous legal threat.) But we can be more certain about one thing: putting Ramos in charge of cleaning up the company's reputation may not be working out quite as well as Baybrook Remodelers may have envisioned.

Random Photos

Suspicions of match-fixing after Italian football team conceded 8 own goals in last 10 minutes

Italian football has been hit by a scandal involving a team that scored eight own goals in the last 10 minutes of a regional cup match on their way to a 14-3 defeat. The Italian federation (FIGC) is set to launch an investigation into the Coppa Sicilia match between Borgata Terrenove and Bagheria, the final game in a three-team group which also featured Partinicaudace.
All three sides play in Prima Categoria, the eighth tier of the league. Bagheria, needing a point to qualify, were 4-3 behind with 10 minutes to play in Wednesday's game when Borgata hit two goals in quick succession.
Borgata players then watched in bewilderment as their opponents scored one own goal after the other, shared between three players. The result meant Terrenove qualified on goal difference ahead of Partinicaudace. "It had been a real contest up to a certain point then Bagheria staged a farce," Borgata coach Ignazio Chianetta said.
"Their captain told me they preferred us to qualify rather than Partinicaudace. Partinicaudace coach Giovanni Cammarata said: "I can guarantee there was no agreement between us and Bagheria. I can't try to understand a motive for these eight own goals. It has nothing to do with football and I hope the FIGC investigates."

Man charged with putting ex-girlfriend's guitar in snow bank

A man in Truxton, New York, has been charged with criminal mischief after putting an ex-girlfriend's guitar in a snow bank.
Andre M. Leduc, 22, was charged with fourth-degree criminal mischief, a misdemeanor.
The Cortland County Sheriff's Department said that on Jan. 22 Leduc put his ex-girlfriend's acoustic guitar outside his home in a snow bank, causing a "considerable amount of damage" to the guitar.
Leduc's ex-girlfriend had left the guitar at his house.  Leduc was arrested on Wednesday and arraigned in Truxton Town Court and released without bail. He is scheduled to appear in court again on Feb. 12.

Jail for dozy burglar went to bed and fell asleep during raid on house

A burglar had to be woken up by police after he climbed into bed and fell asleep midway through ransacking a home in Leeds. Officers found Frankie Flannigan fast asleep after they were called to the house by the homeowner who was shocked to find him in the property when she returned home.Flannigan, 22, was jailed for 18 months on Friday after pleading guilty to burgling the house in Gledhow, on September 22 last year. Leeds Crown Court heard Flannigan’s victim lives next door to his mother. On the day of the offense Flannigan turned up drunk at his mother’s house and she told him to go away.
Flannigan then went to his grandmother’s house but she also told him to leave because of his drunken state. Carmel Pearson, prosecuting, said Flannigan then smashed a window before searching the property and stealing electrical items including a TV, laptop and an Xbox.
Flannigan took the items from the property and left them next to a bin outside his mother’s home before going back into the house. Miss Pearson said the victim returned home around 5.45pm to find glass all over the house and property missing. She contacted police and they arrived to find Flannigan asleep in an upstairs bedroom. He was arrested and pleaded guilty to the offense at the earliest opportunity.

Prime suspect in murder case released after court fax 'ran out of ink'

The family of a murdered French disc jockey are up in arms after the prime suspect was released because the court fax "ran out of ink" - a technical hitch that allowed him to walk free. The 24-year old suspect, known only as Amadou F, had been in prison awaiting trial for the 2010 murder of Claudy Elisor, a family man lynched while working as a DJ for a private New Year’s Eve party in 2010 in Seine-Saint-Denis, northeast of Paris.
The suspect had sent a faxed appeal against his incarceration while awaiting trial, to which by law the court must respond within 20 days. Although considered a matter of course that he would remain in prison, the court was obliged to handle the request and decide whether or not the suspect should remain behind bars during the investigation.
However, the court in Bobigny never saw the request as although it was stored on the fax, the device had run out of toner, and was so old they staff didn’t know where to find any more, meaning they had no way of printing out messages received. Bobigny court blamed its failure to respond on a “technical error” that occurred because it had no maintenance contract for the fax “due to its age”. “Criminal code procedure states that if the expiry date is passed, the sanction is the immediate release of the detainee, bar an unpredictable, insurmountable event external to the state justice system,” the suspect’s lawyers, Peggy Julien and Gilles-Jean Portejoie, said.
Once the 20 day period had expired he was released on Wednesday. “The judges applied the law, there’s nothing astonishing about that,” said his lawyers. As well as highlighting the cash-strapped state of France's judicial system, the suspect’s release has appalled Mr Elisor’s family. Fabienne Elisor, his widow, said: “This man has been freed for a problem of fax ink. I am disgusted. I don’t understand how such a thing can happen. What am I going to tell my children? I am appalled at the attitude of the justice system to us.” She intends to file a complaint and the court has launched an internal investigation.

AK-47-toting banana cited for roadside soliciting

A man dressed in a banana costume with an AK-47 slung over his shoulder caught the attention of the police as well as passing motorists in Beaumont, Texas on Saturday morning.
Derek Poe, says Saturday was his store's grand opening after moving locations. Poe says the man in the banana costume was holding an AK-47 across his back with the barrel pointing down and holding a sign with an arrow pointing toward the store. He said this idea was to attract customers to the store.
Beaumont police say officers temporarily detained the 18-year-old and found he had the rifle with a drum magazine attached with at least a 50-round capacity. Police say the teen was cited for violating a city ordinance that prohibits soliciting in and alongside roadways.
Sgt. Rob Flores says police also gathered the necessary information on the weapon and completed paperwork for consultation with the Jefferson County District Attorney's Office concerning possible future criminal charges related to his display of the firearm.



The True Story Of The Monuments Men

The special operations group known as the Monuments Men had a very interesting story to tell about their incredible efforts on behalf of arts and antiquity during World War II, a story that has now been made into a feature length film starring George Clooney, John Goodman and Matt Damon.
They were tasked with recovering cultural property by the Roberts Commission during and after WWII, property that was stolen by a Nazi force known as the Kunstschutz, and after the war ended they were sent in to previously occupied territories in hopes of finding these precious works of art and historically significant treasures before they were looted by troops or destroyed. They recovered many important works of art but sadly some, like Raphael's Portrait of a Young Man, have yet to be recovered.

London’s Frost Fairs

An exhibit at the Museum of London in the City of London and the Museum of London Docklands commemorates the 200th anniversary of the last “Frost Fair” held on the River Thames. During the “Little Ice Age” from 1550 to 1850, there were several occasions in which the Thames froze over so hard that people could not only walk on it, but pitch tents and throw a party.
The Frost Fairs were held in 1683-4, 1716, 1739-40, 1789, and 1814. Activities included fox hunting, bull-baiting, roasting sheep, horse-drawn boat rides, games that including “throwing things at roosters,” but more drinking than anything else. A lot of the revelry was the fun of watching people slip and fall on the ice. The fairs lasted until the ice began to crack.
Atlas Obscura has a collection of drawings and paintings from the exhibit Frozen Thames: Frost Fair 1814 depicting the various fairs, with many of the activities labeled for posterity.

900-Year Old Viking Code Broken

This Secret Message Says "Kiss Me."
Archaeologists have succeeded in breaking a Norse code that dates back to the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries. Runologist K. Jonas Nordby discovered how the code known as J├Âtunvillur works. Medievalists.net explains:
For the j├Âtunvillur code, one would replace the original runic character with the last sound of the rune name. For example, the rune for ‘f’, pronounced fe, would be turned into an ‘e’, while the rune for ‘k’, pronounced kaun, became ‘n’.
“It’s like solving a puzzle,” said Nordby to the Norwegian website forskning.no. “Gradually I began to see a pattern in what was apparently meaningless combinations of runes.”
However, those thinking that the coded runes will reveal deep secrets of the Norse will be disappointed. The messages found so far seem to be either used in learning or have a playful tone. In one case the message was ‘Kiss me’. Nordby explains “We have little reason to believe that rune codes should hide sensitive messages, people often wrote short everyday messages.”
In many instances those who wrote the coded runes also left comments urging the readers to try to figure it out. Sometimes they would also boast of their abilities at writing the codes.

Awesome Pictures


What I Did on My Summer Vacation.

Lightning Dances Across the Sky Over White Sands National Monument

The beautiful white dunes of White Sands National Monument in New Mexico are a dramatic setting for lightning storms in these incredible photographs. More

Gazing Into the Origins of the Universe

1.5 Miles Beneath the Antarctic Ice
In one of the harshest, most remote places on Earth, the IceCube Neutrino Observatory recently made a remarkable and award-winning breakthrough for astronomy. More

Daily Comic Relief


What our frozen past tells us about the Ice Age diet of the woolly mammoth

Research into 50,000 years of arctic vegetation has identified the plant life that sustained giant Ice Age animals such as the woolly mammoth.
Woolly mammoth 
University of Sussex Professor of Permafrost Science Julian Murton is one of the authors of an international research paper published in the journal Nature today. The study presents a 50,000-year record of arctic vegetation history based on the first circumpolar ancient environmental DNA study of plant diversity from permafrost sediments. Professor Murton says: "Permafrost acts like a giant freezer, preserving countless plant and animal remains from which we can build a record that covers millennia." The study challenges the prevailing view that the Ice Age "mammoth steppe" (which fed the Ice Age megafauna – giant mammals including woolly mammoths, woolly rhinoceros, bison and horse) was grass-dominated.
Maps showing yedoma distribution
Instead, the DNA analysis reveals that the dry steppe tundra on which the animals lived and fed was dominated by forbs (herbaceous vascular plants that are not grasses, sedges and rushes), which provided more nutrients to the grazing animals than grasses. One such forb whose Ice Age DNA remains occur in Siberian permafrost is Plantago canescens (Northern Plantain). After the Ice Age ended about 10,000 years ago and many of the megafauna became extinct the forb-rich vegetation was replaced with moist tundra vegetation dominated by woody plants, grasses, sedges and mosses. Permafrost sediments were collected by drilling into geological exposures at 21 field sites, mostly in Siberia, Alaska and Canada. Professor Murton's role was to evaluate the geology and permafrost history of the eastern Siberian site of Duvanny Yar in order to provide a geological context for interpreting the DNA results. Exceptional exposures of permafrost here provided 81 the of 242 permafrost samples in the study, as well as mammoth tusk and even the buried larders of Ice Age ground squirrels.
A field worker holds part of a mammoth tusk
Here, Professor Murton discusses the significance of permafrost sediments to Ice Age history and greenhouse gas emissions, while study co-author Professor Mary Edwards (Professor of Physical Geography at the University of Southampton) describes the nature of the ice-age ecosystem that was the home of mammoths and woolly rhino. Q What and where is permafrost? Permafrost is ground that remains at or below 0°C for two years or more. The permafrost region in the Northern Hemisphere occupies about 23 million square kilometers (24 per cent of the exposed land area), underlying vast areas of Siberia, Canada and Alaska. The thickness of permafrost reaches 1.5 km in central Siberia. Q What are permafrost sediments? The permafrost sediments being studied consist of silt and sand rich in organic carbon and ice. These sediments are known by the Russian term yedoma and occupy a region of about 1 million square kilometers (four times the UK's area) in central and eastern Siberia, as well as large parts of central and northern Alaska and the Klondike region of Yukon, Canada. Collectively, these areas represent the Ice Age subcontinent of Beringia, which included a wide land bridge linking Siberia to Alaska. Q In what environmental conditions did yedoma form? Yedoma formed during the last Ice Age (about 80,000–13,000 years ago) by year-on-year accumulation of silt accompanied by upward growth of permafrost. Silt accumulation at the key yedoma site of Duvanny Yar in eastern Siberia resulted mainly from wind action. Ice Age Earth was windier than at present, with massive dust clouds generated in cold permafrost regions of the Northern Hemisphere. The dust settled on and was trapped by vegetation.
Plantago canescens (Northern Plantain)
The yedoma at Duvanny Yar formed part of a huge belt of windblown silt that stretched across much of the permafrost zone in the Northern Hemisphere, from eastern England in the west across northern Europe to Siberia and North America. Permafrost still occurs within the Siberian yedoma, but has long since thawed in the windblown silts of England and NW and central Europe. Q What does permafrost tell us about Ice Age history? Yedoma preserves an exceptional record of Ice Age history. Permafrost acts like a giant freezer, preserving countless plant and animal remains of the past ecosystem of Beringia. Such remains include carcasses and bones of the woolly mammoth, woolly rhinoceros and many other mammals as well as fossil rodent burrows. More abundant still are tiny pollen grains, insect remains and microbial communities immobilized on the surface of ancient seeds.
Scientists examining thawing permafrost sediments at Duvanny Yar, eastern Siberia 
Regeneration of whole fertile plants from 30,000-year-old fruit tissue preserved in Siberian yedoma demonstrates the important role for such permafrost as a depository for an ancient gene pool. Additionally, the ancient environmental DNA preserved in the permafrost provides a record of past vegetation communities, as described in the Nature paper. Such environment DNA derives mainly from plant remains above and below ground and from animal skin cells and excrement, and is thought to be local in origin. In permafrost environments the DNA is not leached out of the sediments by percolating water, but remains in place, making the permafrost sediments ideal for ancient DNA studies. Q Why is permafrost important to understanding climate warming? Permafrost sediments and soils contain more than twice the amount of the carbon that is present in the atmosphere. With high latitudes warming faster than other regions of the planet, the frozen carbon pool is vulnerable to permafrost thaw and release of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane. Such release may increase the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and amplify climate warming and permafrost thaw – an example of positive feedback. To investigate these processes, the University of Sussex is studying the impact of permafrost thaw on carbon cycling and greenhouse gas emissions from arctic and arboreal regions (Carbon Cycling Linkages of Permafrost Systems, CYCLOPS) as part of the NERC Arctic Research Program.

Rare image shows great white shark losing tooth during airborne attack on seal

David Jenkins didn't spot flying tooth until he zoomed in on unique photo 
by Pete Thomas great white shark
A photographer off South Africa recently captured the moment a large great white shark breached the surface during an ambush attack on an unsuspecting seal.
What he soon found out was that in one of his images was a large triangular-shaped tooth, flying through the air.
Not a big deal for the shark. Great whites possess the ability to replace lost teeth rather quickly, and may lose more than 35,000 teeth in a lifetime.
But it was a huge deal for the photographer, David Jenkins, because his rare image reveals more about the dynamics of a white shark’s ambush attack.
“It all happened incredibly quickly,” he said. “I didn’t know the shark had lost its tooth until I zoomed in on the image in the back of my camera to check if the photo was sharp and in focus.
“I have never seen this happen or even seen a photo of this happening on a real seal hunt before. It’s definitely a unique shot.”
The waters near Cape Town boast a large population of great white sharks, which sometimes launch airborne during their attacks.
Jenkins, 41, said he had spent weeks on boats trying to obtain the perfect shot and knew this day could be productive, because the cloud cover had turned everything gray.
“The clouds make it much more difficult for the seal to spot the shark and its gray back makes for perfect camouflage,” he explained. “The final pictures were definitely worth the wait, and I would do it all again in a heartbeat.”

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