Welcome to ...

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.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Daily Drift

Advisory ...!
Carolina Naturally is read in 199 countries around the world daily.   

And they're off ... !
Today  is the running of the Belmont Stakes-  Day

Don't forget to visit our sister blog: It Is What It Is

Some of our reader today have been in:
The Americas
Patchogue, Anoka, Yakima, Larlstad, Niles, Maltby, Midvale and Laramie, United States
L'ancienne-Lorette, Montreal, Longueil, Ottawa, Britannia, Provost and Renfrew, Canada
Sao Paulo and Rio De Janeiro,.Brazil
Tipitapa, Nicaragua
Lima, Peru
Santiago, Chile
Hermosillo, Mexico
Czerwionka-Leszczyny, Poland
Esenyurt and Istanbul, Turkey
Berlin, Btaunschweig and Regensburg, Germany
Dublin, Ireland
Ivera, Ravenna, Perugia and Milan, Italy
Vladivostok, Moscow, Ryazan and Saint Petersburg, Russia
Kista and Stockholm, Sweden
Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Pontevedra and Madrid, Spain
Newport, Wales
Vantaa, Finland
Oslo, Norway
Medan, Serpong and Kebon, Indonesia
Muscat, Oman
Kuala Lumpur and Cheras, Malaysia
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Amman, Jordan
Astana, Kazakhstan
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Hyderabad, Bikaner, New Delhi, Bangalore, Thiruvananthapuram and Pune, India
La Dagotiere, Mauritius
Victoria, Scychelles
Hanoi, Vietnam
Tehran and Tabriz, Iran
Seongnam, Korea
Petah Tikva, Israel
Damascus, Syria
Hyderabad, Pakistan
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Johannesburg, South Africa
Annaba, Algeria
Acca, Ghana
The Pacific
Sydney, Australia
Makati, Quezon City, Samaploc and Quiapo, Philippines

Today in History

1498 Christopher Columbus leaves on his third voyage of exploration.
1546 The Peace of Ardes ends the war between France and England.
1654 Louis XIV is crowned king of France.
1712 The Pennsylvania Assembly bans the importation of slaves.
1767 Daniel Boone sights present-day Kentucky.
1775 The United Colonies change their name to the United States.
1863 Mexico City is captured by French troops.
1900 The Boxer rebels cut the rail links between Peking and Tientsin in China.
1903 Professor Pierre Curie reveals the discovery of Polonium.
1914 The first vessel passes through the Panama Canal.
1932 Over 7,000 war veterans march on Washington, D.C., demanding their bonus pay for service in World War I.
1942 The Japanese invade Attu and Kiska in the Aleutian Islands.
1968 In Operation Swift Saber, U.S. Marines sweep an area 10 miles northwest of Danang in South Vietnam.
1981 Israeli F-16 fighter-bombers destroy Iraq's only nuclear reactor.
1994 The Organization of African Unity formally admits South Africa as its fifty-third member.

Non Sequitur


Spectacular fin whale breach a rare sight

Massive cetacean makes like a surface-to-air missile in Strait of Gibraltar; 'Rarely observed and even more rarely captured on camera'
 Fin whale breaches in Strait of Gibraltar
Fin whale breaches in Strait of Gibraltar; photo courtesy of CIRCE Fin whales are the world’s second-largest whale species and can measure 80-plus feet and weigh as much as 70 tons. Because of their immense size, they rarely breach, which makes the photo accompanying this story all the more striking.
The image was captured May 22 in the Strait of Gibraltar from aboard a vessel operated by the Spanish conservation group CIRCÉ (Conservation, Information et Recherche sur les Cétacés).
CIRCÉ posted the image and video to its Facebook page last week. The video footage shows two of three breaches—the first at 3 seconds and the second at 1:15—and reveals a cetacean that is leaping almost completely free of the water. Fin whales, second in size only to blue whales, are incredibly sleek and can swim at bursts of up to 23 mph, which helps explain how this particular whale was able to make like a surface-to-air missile in the Strait of Gibraltar.
It’s unclear why the whale jumped, just as nobody is 100 percent certain why any of the smaller species of whales sometimes breach.
Humpback whales are famous for breaching, along with other surface behavior that could possibly represent a form of communication. Some scientists theorize that gray whales breach in an attempt to shake lice from their skin.
But fin whales, like blue whales, typically do not break the surface in a breaching behavior.
“It’s a very rare behavior,” said Alisa Schulman-Janiger, a California-based whale researcher. “It’s rarely observed and even more rarely captured on camera. If one does happen to breach, what are the chances that you’re going to be ready with a camera?”
Schulman-Janiger runs the ACS-L.A. Gray Whale Census and Behavior Project from the Palos Verdes Peninsula in Los Angeles County.
Fin whales, for the past several years, have been spotted feeding in nearshore waters off Southern California. In the project’s 31 years, volunteers have seen only a handful of fin whale breaches. That includes a phenomenal display last month, when one or possibly two fin whales breached 20-plus times.
The fin whale, named because of a prominent dorsal fin far back on its body, feeds predominantly on shrimp-like krill and schooling bait fish. The whales are found worldwide but are considered an endangered species, numbering about 40,000 in the Northern Hemisphere and 15,000 to 20,000 in the Southern Hemisphere.
The amazing photo of the Strait of Gibraltar breach inspired many comments on the CIRCÉ Facebook page, mostly in Spanish, but with some English-language commentary such as “Good grief. Imagine the splash!” and “Raw power… totally impressive.”
Another commenter asked, “Is this for real?,” and others also thought it might have been Photoshopped. Were it not for the supporting video footage, these would have been valid observations.

Prison Inmates form a Labor Union

Inmates at the Berlin Tegel jail in Germany have to work at regular shifts inside the prison. To many of them, this makes them not just prisoners, but employees. So they've formed a union to represent their interests as workers.
Starting next year, Germany will have a minimum hourly wage of approximately $11.56 (USD). But prisoners at the jail earn only about $12-20 per day. So the prisoners hope that their union will raise their wages and provide for a pension scheme so that elderly inmates do not emerge from prison penniless. This is important to them because under the current law, prisoners are not allowed to participate in Germany's national pension plan. Philip Olterman of The Guardian describes the history of prison labor organization:
While there have been past attempts to set up union-like structures within prison walls, they have usually been short-lived and ceased to exist once individual inmates were released. In Britain, an organisation called Preservation of the Rights of Prisoners (PROP) was set up in the early 1970s but eventually faded away.
On Tuesday, Rast's cell was searched by prison staff, who reportedly confiscated documents relating to the foundation of the union. Rast was sentenced to prison in 2009 for his involvement in the leftwing organisation militante gruppe, which committed a series of arson attacks on government buildings between 2001 and 2009.

The Second Most Prevalent Religion in Each State

christianity is the most prevalent delusion in every one of the 50 United States, and in all but one of the country’s counties. But what comes in second? The Washington Post gives us maps telling us what the second-most practiced faith in America is for each state. Another map breaks it down into counties, in case you want to check your local area, and there is a third map showing the largest christian denominations in each county. The data is from a 2010 survey.

Teenagers shooting car windows called 911 on themselves after victim chased and scared them

When a crime victim in Santa Fe, New Mexico, chased after the teenage suspects, he scared them so much they called police for help.
Several people in the area had called 911, saying vandals had shot at their cars. One of the victims hopped in his car and followed the suspects.
Officials said the teen suspects must have become scared because they called police. "Every time we speed up, that car speeds up and tries to keep up with us," the teens told a 911 dispatcher. When officers responded, they arrested the five teens.
Police said the teens admitted to driving around neighbourhoods and shooting at innocent people's cars with their BB guns. Luciano Romero, 18, and his 15, 16 and 17-year-old friends were arrested. In addition to property damage, they also face drug paraphernalia charges because police found marijuana pipes in the car.

The NRA Backtracks and Apologizes To Gun Nut Fanatics That Are Terrorizing The Public

By apologizing, and acquiescing to the lunatic OCT demand for a retraction and mea culpa, the NRA made a bold statement that they support gun nut fanatics terrorizing the public…
Sanity is the condition of having a healthy mind, or making decisions based on reason or good judgment and it hardly applies to gun zealots who cannot fathom one second of their pitiful existence without carrying loaded firearms. One is remiss to ever, in a million years, ascribe the condition of sanity to the National Rifle Association, but it seriously appeared the fanatical gun organization had a very rare moment of sanity last week in response to Texas open carry gun fanatics terrorizing the public. In fact, it was stunning that the NRA railed on the Texas gun-nuts for roaming through public places ready for open combat, likely because they knew it did not help their cause to arm every man, woman, and child in America so they counseled the open carry zealots to rein in the lunacy.
Of course, not even the NRA dare advise gun-crazed Texans to stop terrorizing the public and Open Carry Texas (OCT) lashed out at the mother organization with a credible threat that shook the NRA to its core. The lunatics at OCT said, “It is unfortunate that an organization that claims to be dedicated to the preservation of gun rights would attack another organization fighting so hard for those rights in Texas. The NRA has refused to learn for themselves how Open Carry Texas (OCT) conducts itself other than what the liberal media and Bloomberg funded gun control extremists have falsely portrayed.” Interestingly, it was not what the “liberal media” or “Bloomberg funded gun control extremists” portrayed, but what sane Texans and corporate restaurants said was an out-of-control, and terrifying, bunch of maniacs roaming the streets with assault rifles strapped across their backs.
Texas gun nut fanatics threatened the NRA that “If they do not retract their disgusting and disrespectful comments, OCT will have no choice but to withdraw its full support of the NRA and establish relationships with other gun rights organizations that fight for ALL gun rights. The NRA should have instead released a statement to the effect that it applauds our groups for coming together and finding new methods to promote safe and responsible open carry.” Losing members and full support of roaming bands of phony combat soldiers was too mortifying for the NRA and they quickly acquiesced to OTC’s demands and retracted their earlier comments they claimed were nothing but a “misunderstanding.”
On Tuesday during an an interview conducted by the NRA, the head of the NRA lobbying arm blamed a staff member for the “misunderstanding” and apologized to Open Carry Texas for “any confusion” the wayward staffer might have caused the guns everywhere movement. Apparently, what some Americans regarded as NRA sanity was simply a momentary lapse in the typical gun-crazed lunacy and they are sorry for offending Texas gun maniacs.
According to the NRA spokesman, the “confusion” was really a staffer’s mistake because the official NRA position is that “Ultimately, what this comes down to is a tactics discussion. Some people believe that the best way to effectuate that sort of policy change is in protest. And what they did in Texas is protest the absurdity of the ban on … open carry of handguns by carrying their long guns openly, and legally. The truth is, our job is not to criticize the lawful behavior of fellow gun owners.” No, and by expressing sorrow for a momentary loss of lunacy, the NRA put themselves in the position of supporting a bunch of maniacs intent on terrorizing Texas citizens with assault-style weapons.
This group of open carry maniacs is now the face of the National Rifle Association and any semblance of reason once attributed to the group vanished when they apologized to idiots making the case for gun control in America. The NRA can no longer claim their only advocacy is against background checks, or protecting Americans 2nd Amendment rights to keep firearms; they announced their advocacy is, indeed, to put guns on every man, woman, and child’s hip in every public place whether it is schools, churches, shopping malls, and public place in America as if it is still the Wild West.
For a moment, it appeared that there was a line in the sand even the NRA could not cross, but the frightening aspect of losing even one open carry zealot’s membership was too much to bear. One might have thought that OCT terrifying motorists that had no recourse but to seek redress from city government to prohibit phony combat soldiers from creating traffic hazards and frightening drivers. A move that incited gun maniacs to file suit in federal court to protect their 1st Amendment rights to defend their 2nd Amendment rights. It also seemed reasonable that after no-less than three corporate restaurant chains had to “politely request” AR15-toting men to keep their combat-style rifles at home or in their cars before dining out the NRA’s statement that OCT was hurting the gun-crazies cause would have stood, but that was not to be.
By apologizing, and acquiescing to the lunatic OCT demand for a retraction and mia culpa, the NRA made a bold statement that they support gun fanatics terrorizing the public to make a point that, one way or another, gun zealots will not rest until their 2nd Amendment rights to frighten the public into staying safely ensconced in the homes are fully secured. No American will ever again look at the NRA as anything other than as insane, belligerent, terrifying, and offensive as Texas open carry advocates, and if any American thought the NRA was even semi-reasonable, they were certainly disabused of that notion once and for all.

Red states are most dependent on federal money

Wallethub compared the direct and indirect federal subsidy to all 50 states and DC by comparing federal taxes remitted; federal funding as a fraction of state revenue; and number of federal jobs per capita and produced a ranked list of the states with the greatest federal dependency. Unsurprisingly, the top ten are overwhelmingly repugican dominated "red" states with low state taxes and low average per-capita incomes thanks to harsh labor laws -- these states necessarily depend on federal money to make up the shortfall from their own politically expedient tax-holidays, and lack the robust middle-class who pay the largest percentage of their income in tax.
The top ten in order of dependency are Mississippi, New Mexico, Alabama, Louisiana, Maine, Montana, Tennessee, South Dakota and Arizona. The five states most independent of federal subsidy are (in order): Delaware, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Connecticut.
The article is good and full of interesting footnotes -- for example, Delaware's seeming independence is largely illusory, an artifact of its stock franchise tax drawn from out-of-state companies.
What if, for example, a particular state can afford not to tax its residents at high rates because it’s receiving disproportionately more funding from the federal government than states with apparently oppressive tax codes? That would change the narrative significantly, revealing federal dependence where bold, efficient stewardship was once thought to preside.
The idea of the American freeloader burst into the public consciousness when #47percent started trending on Twitter. And while the notion is senselessly insulting to millions of hardworking Americans, it is true that some states receive a far higher return on their federal income tax investment than others.
Just how pronounced is this disparity, and to what extent does it alter our perception of state and local tax rates around the country? WalletHub sought to answer those questions by comparing the 50 states and the District of Columbia in terms of three key metrics: 1) Return on Taxes Paid to the Federal Government; 2) Federal Funding as a Percentage of State Revenue; and 3) Number of Federal Employees Per Capita.

What repugicans Don’t Want You to Know: 500 + Detainees Were Released from GITMO Under the shrub

Yet another exercise in exploring the depth of repugican hypocrisy and hysteria. This one is about OMG IMPEACHING OBAMA BECAUSE GITMO TRANSFEREES!
In a June 2nd press briefing, questions were asked regarding the transfer of the five Guantánamo (Gitmo) detainees in exchange for the successful recovery of Sergeant Bergdahl, a prisoner of war in Afghanistan. Press Secretary Jay Carney explained that there were restrictions made in the prisoner exchange, which is not an uncommon occurrence in armed conflicts.
From the White House transcript:
Q As you know, there have been detainees who have returned to the battlefield. What are the guarantees, other than just a one-year ban on travel on these five detainees that they won’t go back and target U.S. interests, U.S. personnel, U.S. military?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I’ll re-stipulate that prisoner exchanges are not uncommon in armed conflicts. Secondly, I’ll say that without getting into specific assurances, I can tell you that they included a travel ban and information-sharing on the detainees between our governments, between the United States and Qatar. I can also tell you that the assurances were sufficient to allow the Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, in coordination with the national security team, to determine that the threat posed by the detainees to the United States would be sufficiently mitigated and that the transfer was in the U.S. national security interest.
So this was done after the appropriate consideration and analysis, and it was the judgment of the Secretary of Defense in coordination with the entire national security team that there was sufficient mitigation in place and assurances in place to allow the exchange.
The repugicans are acting as if Obama never should have done this. Lindsey Graham is talking impeachment if Obama releases any more prisoners or tries once again to close Gitmo. Yet, in 2009, PolitiFact confirmed that “More than 500 Guantánamo detainees were released or transferred under Bush.”
Indeed, government documents indicate more than 500 detainees were released or transferred from Guantanamo while the shrub was pretending. A White House executive order issued on the second day of Obama’s presidency said, “The federal government has moved more than 500 such detainees from Guantánamo, either by returning them to their home country or by releasing or transferring them to a third country.”
That’s backed up by a fact sheet from the military task force that runs the detention camp, which says 520 detainees had been released or transferred by March 2009.
PolitiFact then got into the weeds of release versus transfer, with a transfer being a situation where there are restrictions (as appears to be the case with the prisoners transferred in exchange for Bergdahl). Maybe someone should tell Lindsey Graham, too.
But the Pentagon says there is a difference between a release and a transfer to another country. The vast majority of detainees leave Gitmo under a transfer, which means they are transported to another country that places them under some type of restrictions. Some are incarcerated in those countries because of criminal charges, while others face monitoring or travel limitations.
Carney noted we successfully recovered Sergeant Bergdahl (this is exactly the sort of discussion repugicans are hoping to avoid), “(T)his was the right thing to do, because we in the United States do not leave our men and women in uniform behind during an armed conflict. And five years is a very long time to be a prisoner.”
The bottom line is Obama got Osama, and now Obama successfully recovered our single prisoner in the Afghanistan war. So, repugicans are attacking Bergdahl and his family in dishonorable and stunningly disturbed ways, hoping to mitigate what they see as another Obama success.
The repugicans have muddied the waters of every single Obama success. There has not been one occasion upon which they have been able to set aside their partisan agenda in order to cheer or praise a positive occurrence under Obama. They made sure no one gave Obama credit for bin Laden and now they’re at it again.
Ironically, even if the repugican smear campaign against Bergdahl and his family was accurate (and no one judging Bergdahl is in any position to sift through the facts as broken down here, so the discussion is irrelevant and ridiculous), the bottom line is we don’t leave our troops behind.
Clueless repugicans might want to note that it’s not because we deem them all heroic characters fit for the black and white world in which wingnuts live — the ultimate Good Guy. It’s because practically speaking, we need to protect our assets, including information. If we have reason to suspect an asset has been compromised it behooves us to determine to what extent.
The repugicans have chosen to troll Obama’s national security successes until the press is embroiled in discussing their accusations rather than the success. We can’t have a moment of national pride in a job well done—oh, no. Not while a Democrat is in the White House.
Note: Per the Pentagon’s distinction, the title to this article should read “released or transferred”. However, for the sake of brevity and due to common usage in the national dialogue on this issue, we’ve used “released”.

4 Inconvenient Facts wingnuts Conveniently Ignore

Rewriting history is standard operating procedure for wingnuts.
With wingnut screeching heads dogpiling President Obama for bringing home Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, many are scratching their heads in confusion. After all, didn’t wingnuts used to pride themselves on their devotion to making sure that every POW possible was returned home safely? Isn’t the POW/MIA flag a favorite to hang right under the American flag in many red states? Wasn’t it one of the few issues they had where they actually seemed righteous and generous, instead of stingy bordering on malicious?
The sudden rewriting of everything we’ve known the wingnuts to stand for may seem odd, but, in fact, rewriting history is standard operating procedure for wingnuts.
Here are just some of the stranger examples.
1. The religious right started because of segregation, not abortion. 
As Randall Balmer, a Darthmouth professor writing in Politico, explained in a recent article, the organized religious right started as a movement to protect white-only schools from federally mandated desegregation. As Balmer explains, there were many other attempts to rally evangelical christians to become a conservative movement to support repugicans—“pornography, prayer in schools, the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution, even abortion”—but none took. Under the guidance of Jerry Falwell, however, it was discovered that evangelical leaders would rally to keep black students out of private schools set up specifically so white kids didn’t have to go to desegregated public schools.  Even though it was actually the Nixon junta that kickstarted the process of the IRS stripping tax-exempt status from “whites only” school, Falwell and his buddies blamed Jimmy Carter and used the issue to start rallying support for Ronald Reagan’s challenge. It was only after the evangelical relegio-wingnuts were organized that they started expanding into other issues, like abortion.
2. NRA used to support gun control. 
The NRA is a gun industry lobby that likes to present itself as a “rights” group. With that level of deceit, no wonder many people, especially on the right, assume that the group has always existed to lobby against any restriction on access to firearms, or that gun control is a relatively new phenomenon only invented by pansy liberals in the past few decades. In reality, the government has been controlling access to guns for a long, long time. While there have been limits on gun ownership throughout the country’s history—often for sexist and racist reasons, such as bans on black people owning guns—the first modern federal gun control law passed in 1934, to stop the proliferation of automatic sub-machine guns that were popular with organized criminals. Prior to that, many states passed laws regulating guns, laws wingnuts would reject today, such as waiting periods and requiring gun sellers to share information with police. The NRA actually helped write these laws.
And why not? The NRA was started as a marksman and sporting club, so there was no real reason to oppose gun control laws, until recent decades when it morphed into a lobby to protect the profits of gun manufacturers. Even as late as 1963, the NRA supported gun control laws. It was only as the culture wars began to build and the wingnut movement developed that the NRA turned into the organization it is now, feeding paranoia and faux-patriotism to gullible conservatives in order to convince them to buy more guns.
3. Wingnuts have always been the voting bloc to stop civil rights. 
A lot of pundits and other charlatans like to deflect discussion of modern racism by claiming that Democrats were the ones who tried to stop the Civil Rights Act and repugicans were the ones who tried to pass it. Considering that it was a liberal Democrat—Lyndon B. Johnson—who signed the CRA, it’s clear that it was much more complicated than that. Yes, it’s true that some Democrats opposed the CRA and plenty of repugicans supported it. But the party lines were not drawn the same back then. Back then, both parties had a mix of liberals and wingnuts, and since then, the parties have realigned, with all the wingnuts—who voted against the CRA—stampeding to the repugican cabal and all the liberals—who voted for the CRA—running to the Democrats.
As  Harry Enten, writing for the Guardian, notes, party was a poor predictor of a politician’s vote for the CRA in 1964. A far better predictor was state of origin. In the House, 90 percent of politicians from former Union states voted for it and only 8 percent of politicians from the South did. In the Senate, 92 percent of lawmakers from the Union states voted for the CRA, but only 5 percent—1 out of 22—of Southern senators did so. In other words, the votes against it came primarily from what we now consider the immovable “red” states—a permanent bloc of repugicans. And it was anger over the CRA that switched those previously Democratic states to repugican voters. The only states that voted for Barry Goldwater in 1964, besides Arizona, were Southern states.
Indeed, the best way to understand what happened in 1964 is that the CRA kicked off a process where the repugicans started to gather up all the wingnut voters and Democrats expelled the racist vote but picked up all the liberals. Focusing on race instead of ideological leaning is a fundamentally dishonest tactic, when any honest assessment of the situation shows that the real divide was between wingnuts and liberals, which remains the divide that governs our country today, even as the parties have rebranded themselves.
4. They were for Common Core before they were against it.
The most recent and possibly silliest about-face of the modern conservative movement has to be the turnaround on Common Core, a program initiated by the National Governors Association to standardize and elevate educational standards across the country. Originally, wingnuts were indifferent to outright supportive of the program—many repugican governors considered themselves fans—and pretty much all the criticism came from people on the left, who were concerned that it would be used as cover for attacks on teacher’s unions and would favor “teach the test”-style memorization over actual education.
Then President Obama endorsed it in 2012. Immediately, the wingnuts decided that Common Core was a sinister conspiracy to shove liberal ideology down children’s throats (never mind that many educational experts on the left are against it). Liberals make measured criticisms of Common Core, saying it might squelch imagination and writing skills. Wingnuts, on the other hand, have taken to accusing the Obama administration of using Common Core to steal children away and teach them to have sex and get divorced so they’ll vote for Democrats. A calm, rational discussion of the program is basically impossible, because the entire debate has been taken over by delusional lunatic wing nuts who have forgotten that, a mere two years ago, they were cool with a program they now compare to Nazi indoctrination.

The truth be told



Fasting triggers stem cell regeneration of damaged, old immune system


In a study that began as a sixth-grade science fair […]

Is glaucoma a brain disease?

Is glaucoma a brain disease?

Scientists find that jigsaw effect in glaucoma patients proves it […]

How To Decorate Your Home With Hundreds Of Awesome Trees

If you've always wanted trees in your home but you think you don't have space, think again. These ultra-small bonsai trees (called cho-mini) are growing in popularity in Japan. As small as 1 inch tall, they make a unique decoration for an abode of any size. You could have dozens around the house and still have plenty of elbow room.

From Musical Saw To Wailing Cat

The Otherworldly Sounds Of The Clavioline
The clavioline is an electronic keyboard instrument, a forerunner to the analog synthesizer. It was invented by Constant Martin in 1947. It consists of a keyboard and a separate amplifier and speaker unit. Byron Elwell, who is one of the instrument's most ardent champions, and Drew Blanke, who is an expert on all things synth, told Collectors Weekly the story of this early analog synthesizer.
In 1962, the clavioline helped make an instrumental called 'Telstar,' written by the legendary Joe Meek and performed by The Tornados, a trans-Atlantic hit, charting at No. 1 in both the U.S. and U.K.

Van Gogh's Ear

A living replica of Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh's famously severed ear is displayed at museum in Germany.

Harvard Confirms Library Book Bound in Human Skin

A 19th-century book in one of Harvard's libraries is bound in human skin.



American Lakes

On Thin Ice

The Fight to Control the Arctic Economy
The Arctic is changing—fast. In fact, within the next 30 to 40 years, the region could be ice-free. So why are countries and companies lining up to get their share of the Arctic pie? And what does a melted Arctic mean for the global economy?
Why does everyone want the Arctic?
These days, countries are fighting tooth and nail to stake their claim to the Arctic. But a century ago, you couldn’t give the region away. When American explorer Robert Peary reached the North Pole in 1909, he wired President William Howard Taft to let him know that he’d claimed the territory for the United States. Taft’s response? “Thanks for your interesting and generous offer. I do not know exactly what I could do with it.”
Taft’s indifference reflected the prevailing sentiment of the day: Why would anyone want an inhospitable, frozen wasteland?
The Cold War changed this line of thinking. Suddenly, the Arctic became a choice piece of real estate. It was the perfect surveillance point for listening in on enemies and the quickest bombing route between the Soviet Union and North America. By the 1950s, generals were eyeing the region as the strategic lynchpin for the next World War.
The Cold War may have ended more than two decades ago, but nations are still salivating over the Arctic—just for very different reasons. For starters, there are vast riches buried in the Arctic’s ocean floor. Geologists estimate that nearly 20 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and natural gas may be lingering beneath its frigid waters. Indeed, the Arctic could contain more than 90 billion barrels of oil, which is enough to supply the world’s current demand for three full years. Further, the United States Geological Survey has estimated that there are 1,670 trillion cubic feet of untapped natural gas in the area, about one-third of the world’s reserves.
You’d think figures like that would have sparked an Arctic gold rush, but until recently, extracting those resources has seemed like a long shot. As the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has shown, getting black gold out of the ocean’s floor is no simple task, and the potential for environmental damage is real. While Arctic oil drillers don’t have to contend with the Gulf’s hurricane season, the region has its own problems. Cutting through the ice is difficult and expensive, and massive icebergs threaten to topple offshore rigs. (In the past, some companies have dealt with this problem by pulling the icebergs away with what amounted to giant lassoes.) 
But as the ice melts, these hurdles are disappearing. The crowning irony of the Arctic is that by burning fossil fuels, we’ve helped to melt the Arctic, which has given us access to more fossil fuels. Soon, oil companies could be able to tap into these vast reserves without fighting through packed ice and battling icebergs.
That isn’t the only reason countries are eyeing the region, though. The new Arctic is also revolutionizing the shipping industry. In 2007, high summer temperatures melted enough ice that the Northwest Passage—the once-fabled shipping route through Arctic waters near Canada—was navigable all the way from the Atlantic to the Pacific for the first time in recorded history. This ice-free Arctic is a serious boon to any country that currently ships exports around the world. Take China, for instance. In 2009, the nation’s exports totaled an eye-popping $1.2 trillion. If Chinese companies can get their goods to the United States and Europe through the Arctic instead of the Suez Canal, they stand to cut their trips by 5,000 miles, reaping huge savings along the way. Germany also has been tempted by the prospect of going north. In September 2009, two German ships navigated across the melting Arctic ice to transport heavy cargo to Siberia. The trip was much faster, and thanks to savings on fuel and supplies, the cost was $300,000 less per ship than navigating traditional routes.
So, who owns the Arctic right now?
Figuring out who owns what part of the Arctic might seem straightforward, but it’s not. By United Nations’ conventions, the countries with coastlines in the region—the United States, Canada, Russia, Norway, and Denmark (thanks to its ownership of Greenland)—all have control of an economic zone that extends 200 miles beyond their shores. Also, Arctic nations can expand their territorial claims to include 350 miles of the seabed on the continental shelf.
If you can’t visualize exactly what that means, don’t worry; neither can anyone else. Figuring out where the seabed begins and ends is a maddening task, and there’s a good deal of ambiguity about what defines a country’s continental shelf. U.N. conventions also state that if a country wants to extend its territorial claim in the Arctic, it must present geological evidence showing that an area is part of its continental shelf. But getting such a claim approved by the U.N.’s panel of scientists is far from easy. In 2001, when Russia asked to expand its territory in the region, it got shot down because of insufficient evidence.
The issue of ownership in the Arctic is further complicated by the fact that the United States has failed to ratify the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, which created a lot of these rules. Ronald Reagan refused to sign the treaty in 1982, fearing that it would hinder American deep-sea mining, and it’s been sitting in limbo ever since. The Obama administration is currently attempting to convince the Senate to finally ratify the treaty, but until it does, the United States can’t expand its territory in the region.
If the ice melts, who will benefit the most?
Let’s preface this answer by saying that an unfrozen Arctic is unequivocally bad for the world. Nobody will be dancing in the streets when ocean levels start to rise and thawed methane gas is being released into the atmosphere. However, the economic reality is that if the Arctic as we know it disappears, one country will benefit more than any other—Greenland.
At first blush, Arctic thawing seems like bad news for an island that has 80 percent of its surface covered in ice. But from a political and financial standpoint, the warmer temperatures may be just what Greenland’s 57,000 residents need.
Although Greenland has enjoyed self-governance since 1979, the country is still a part of Denmark. In fact, Denmark props up Greenland’s economy with an annual grant of about $650 million, a subsidy that represents about a third of the island’s GDP. Without that cash, Greenland couldn’t support itself. Its exports, mainly shrimp and fish, simply don’t cover the expenses. Greenland has been taking steps towards independence for decades, but until it finds some additional streams of revenue, the island will continue to remain a Danish protectorate.
That new stream of revenue, oddly enough, may come from global warming. Greenland’s residents hope that as the ice thaws, they’ll be able to drill down to previously inaccessible oil and mineral deposits on the northern tip of the island and offshore, where about 50 billion barrels of oil are buried. (That’s worth about $5 trillion in today’s market.) Greenland has already made a deal with Denmark to split the profits from these resources. Still, Greenland’s share will be more than enough to give it some financial independence—and put full autonomy within its reach.
Would anyone else profit from Arctic ice disappearing?
The United States would definitely enjoy tapping into oil and gas reserves in the Arctic, but it doesn’t need to in order to remain economically viable. The Russian economy, however, is a different story. Because Russia is the world’s largest exporter of natural gas and the second largest exporter of oil, its economy depends on exploiting its natural resources. Russians have done of good job of this lately, too. Gazprom, the country’s state-controlled natural gas firm, was the world’s most profitable company in 2009, with a net income of $24.5 billion. If Russia’s natural resources dry up, its economy could tank.
Since 2007, the Russian government has been building up other money-making sectors, such as technology, to reduce its reliance on oil and gas. But progress has been slow. Gaining access to a huge new pool of resources in the Arctic could give Russia a lot of wiggle room as it tries to modernize its economy.
The United States also stands to gain from the Arctic thaw. While America might not need the Arctic’s fossil fuels with the same urgency that Russia does, getting our mitts on fresh, offshore oil would mean a lot. Every U.S. President since Richard Nixon has promoted the idea that decreasing our dependence on foreign oil would improve national security. If we could only get our oil from home—say, Alaska—then our country might be safer.
About 10.4 billion barrels of oil sit under Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but that’s a drop in the bucket compared to Alaska’s offshore reserves. A 2008 study from the United States Geological Survey estimated that Alaska had nearly 30 billion barrels of undiscovered oil resources—roughly four years’ worth of American demand—under its surface and coastal waters. Although drilling for that oil could be dangerous, tapping into this Arctic bonanza could significantly change our relationship with the Middle East.
But global warming is still bad, right?
Yes. If you’re thinking globally, then nobody really benefits from defrosting the Arctic. A 2010 study by the Pew Environment Group pegged the global cost of the melting Arctic ice at more than $2.4 trillion over the next four decades. This estimate takes into account the Arctic’s function as Earth’s air-conditioner. Once our AC unit melts, heat waves and flooding will increase across the world, and rising sea levels will force people living on the coasts to move inland.
People living in the Arctic region may end up in rough shape, too, despite the economic potential in their neighborhoods. Most of the infrastructure in the Arctic has been built on permafrost. When designing roads, houses, and buildings, engineers made the assumption that the permafrost was as permanently frosted as the name implies. But that’s no longer the case. When the frost thaws, it will wreak a unique type of havoc on the towns and cities. Roads will crack, warp, and buckle on top of the soggy ground, and houses will sink or collapse altogether. Additionally, water and oil pipelines will burst, and the fixes won’t be cheap; oil pipelines cost up to $2 million per mile.
In fact, all of Alaska’s problems will be expensive to fix. A Congressional study estimated that fixing the public infrastructure in Alaska could cost $6 billion by 2030. On the other side, somebody is going to get very, very rich while retrofitting these buildings and bridges to survive the warmer weather.
Clearly, the Arctic thaw is going to leave the world in a tight spot, and the drama that’s set to unfold in the region will demand global attention. So although the Arctic may be losing its ice, its stock in the political arena is just starting to heat up.

Bizarre Hybrid Star

Astronomers discover a bizarre type of hybrid star

In a discovery decades in the making, scientists have detected […]

Royal purple: Whirlpool Galaxy a sight to behold

The Whirlpool Galaxy as photographed by NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory (NASA).
This just in: The universe is an amazing, mysterious and — as it turns out — largely purple place.
A new photograph of the Whirlpool Galaxy taken by NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory gives amateur astronomers a stunning look at the swirl of stars and space.
Also known as M51, the galaxy is 30 million light years away from Earth, in the constellation Canes Venatici in the Northern Hemisphere.
Not surprisingly, the image wasn't taken on an iPhone. The picture combines data from more than 232 hours of observation time, according to NASA.
The image is a composite. Purple indicates regions that feature X-ray sources. Red, green and blue indicate optical data from the Hubble Space Telescope. Previous studies of M51 revealed about 100 X-ray sources, according to NASA. This newest study indicated nearly 500.
The majority of the X-ray sources are X-ray binaries, NASA explains. "These systems consist of pairs of objects where a compact star, either a neutron star or, more rarely, a black hole, is capturing material from an orbiting companion star."
While the Whirlpool Galaxy does resemble our own Milky Way, there is at least one notable difference.  The upper-right portion of the image shows the galaxy is in the process of merging with another galaxy.

Daily Comic Relief


This is the most badass fossil in existence

A megalodon tooth stuck in a whale vertebrae.

The secret lives of lost shipping containers–and the lives they support

Every year, thousands of shipping containers are lost to the briny deep. 
Ten years ago, a steel box the size of a whale shark fell off the deck of a commercial shipping vessel and sank through more than 4000 feet of water, to rest at the bottom of California’s Monterey Bay.
Shipping containers like this one are lost in the ocean all the time, as many as 10,000 fall overboard every year. While they still float, those containers create hazards for smaller boats. When they settle on the seafloor … well, nobody really knows exactly what happens. At least, not in the long term. And that’s what makes the shipping container lost in Monterey Bay special. Falling within the boundaries of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, it was found by scientists, who have been studying it ever since. Back in 2011, I interviewed Andrew DeVogelaere, the sanctuary’s research coordinator, about why scientists were so interested in sunken shipping containers. Now, the first scientific research paper on the container has been published. The big questions the scientists have will take more years of study to answer, but this first paper is important if, for no other reason, than the fact that it highlights how little we know about the deep ocean floor, in general.
As scientists study this shipping container, what they’re really studying is the life forms that grow around it and on it. When a shipping container hits the ocean floor, it crushes anything it lands on like Dorothy’s house in The Wizard of Oz. And, theoretically, its presence affects what grows in that area (and when it grows) for many years to come.
That theory is based off of what happens around artificial reefs, says Josi Taylor, a postdoctoral fellow at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and the lead author on the recently published paper. Used to increase the presence of marine life, artificial reefs can really be anything from stacks of concrete blocks, to scuttled ships, to piles of old tires. “If a physical object is down there, animals will be drawn to it because it provides a place to hide from predators. And then predators will be drawn to that. You’ll find life around just about anything you put down there,” Taylor said.
But some objects do a better job of functioning as healthy artificial reefs than others. The aforementioned pile of tires, for instance, was a popular idea in the 1970s. Later, though, it turned out that sunken tires were leaching plastic compounds called PCBs into the water. Those compounds can cause cancer in animals, so the tire reefs, while attracting wildlife, were also, probably, killing some of that life over time.
That’s not the only potential risk of artificial reefs, said Peter Macreadie, a marine ecologist at the University of Technology, Sydney, Australia. Besides the potential for contaminates which can work their way up the food chain, artificial reefs could also accidentally alter the local food webs. If the reef helped to boost the numbers of a previously low-population predator, for instance, that animal could end up eating itself out of house and home. And scientists are also concerned about the risk of artificial reefs acting as stepping stones — points of intense biological activity that serve as oases on an otherwise unvegitated deep-sea floor. Given enough stepping stones, animals might be able to cross from their native waters, one step at a time, to become invasive species somewhere else.
That last concern is actually one of the big reasons scientists are interested in what happens in and around sunken shipping containers. More than other artificial reefs, the high numbers and global ubiquity of containers could make them particularly likely to function as stepping stones from one ecological environment to another.
The Monterey Bay shipping container is the only one of its kind that’s been found and monitored by scientists. In the new paper, the researchers were able to document that life on the shipping container varied quite a bit compared to the soft, sandy, featureless seafloor nearby. Tube worms, scallops, and snails — animals not found at all on the seafloor — lived in big-city density on the container. But while there were a higher number of animals per square foot on the container, the seafloor was home to a much higher diversity of life.
What’s more, that mix of worms and mollusks hanging out on the container was very different from the life associated with natural rocks and other hard surfaces in the same region of ocean. There, you find a lot of small fish, jellies, sponges, and starfish — none of which seemed to live around the container.
That doesn’t necessarily mean the container is producing an anomalous, unhealthy ecosystem, however. Those natural rocky spots have tube worms and snails, too. Huge numbers of them. It’s completely possible that what we’re seeing on the container is an early stage of animal colonization that will, eventually, end up looking a lot like what already exists in natural hard-surface ecosystems, said Taylor, Macreadie, and Andrew DeVogelaere.
But here’s the catch: It’s hard to know whether that is the case because nobody has really studied the deep sea over time to see that process in action. “I don’t think we really know about the animal populations in the deep sea,” Macreadie said. “We often take advantage of deep sea coring programs to look for samples. They’ll come back with bucketloads of new species. There are plenty of animals being dug that haven’t been seen before. We’re at an early stage of understanding oceans.”
Nobody knows exactly what life was like on the seafloor in Monterey Bay before the shipping container dropped in. Nobody knows what the process looks like over time when animals colonize a hard surface in deep ocean. And both those facts make it difficult to take the data collected by Josi Taylor’s team and say much about it beyond “this is what has happened over the last 10 years” and “it doesn’t look too alarming”.
Those are fairly boring-sounding conclusions, but they’re also easily misinterpreted. For one thing, a lack of Earth-shattering pronouncements doesn’t mean the research isn’t important. In fact, the opposite is true. It’s rare for a team to be able to track a specific location in the deep ocean as long as the MBARI container has been tracked, Macreadie said. When his team studies artificial reefs elsewhere in the world, they often have only three years to get a quick snapshot of what’s happening. At this point, we’re talking about a subject of which there is so little data that this research is as much about establishing what is “normal” than anything.
Second, the results of this study definitely shouldn’t be taken as a sign that it’s okay to lose shipping containers willy-nilly in the deep ocean. Part of the funding for MBARI’s study comes from fines the shipping company paid for allowing containers to fall overboard into a marine reserve. There is a risk, Macreadie said, that somebody could look at a preliminary study like this one and use it to claim that the 10,000 shipping containers lost every year are benign, or even a good thing. The truth, he said, is that we don’t really know yet what effects this container will have on local ecosystems in the long run. Based on what we do know about artificial reefs, though, it’s safe to assume that some of those effects will be positive and some will be negative. What’s more, when the artificial reefs in question are being deposited in high numbers without any planning for location, there is a serious risk of not-so-nice unintended consequences. “For an artificial reef to be beneficial there needs to be some kind of regulation,” he said. “The best case scenario is to have research investigating what might happen and to have a contingency plan, like enough money to rip things back out, if it goes wrong.” None of that is true when you’re talking about a shipping container at the bottom of the ocean.

In the Mekong

Researchers working in the Mekong region of Southeast Asia discovered 367 new species between 2012-2013, and are finding them at a rate of one new species every two days.

Animal Pictures