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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.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Daily Drift

Gateways seem to be the theme here these days ...!
Carolina Naturally is read in 200 countries around the world daily.   

For those interested: In World Cup play Nigeria bested Bosnia-Herzegovina 1-0: Argentina bested Iran 1-0 and Germany and Ghana played to a 2-2 tie in play on the tenth day of the tourney.

Sad, but true ... !
Today  is no celebration  -  Day

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

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The Bottom, Sint Eustatius and Saba
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Today in History

1558 The French take the French town of Thioville from the English.
1772 Slavery is outlawed in England.
1807 British seamen board the USS Chesapeake, a provocation leading to the War of 1812.
1864 Confederate General A. P. Hill turns back a Federal flanking movement at the Weldon Railroad near Petersburg, Virginia.
1876 General Alfred Terry sends Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer to the Rosebud and Little Bighorn rivers to search for Indian villages.
1910 German bacteriologist Paul Ehrlich announces a definitive cure for syphilis.
1911 King George V of England crowned.
1915 Austro-German forces occupy Lemberg on the Eastern Front as the Russians retreat.
1925 France and Spain agree to join forces against Abd el Krim in Morocco.
1930 A son is born to Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh.
1933 Hitler bans political parties in Germany other than the Nazis.
1938 Joe Louis floors Max Schmeling in the first round of the heavyweight bout at Yankee Stadium.
1940 France and Germany sign an armistice at Compiegne, on terms dictated by the Nazis.
1941 Under the codename Barbarossa, Germany invades the Soviet Union.
1942 A Japanese submarine shells Fort Stevens at the mouth of the Columbia River.
1944 President Franklin Roosevelt signs the "GI Bill of Rights" to provide broad benefits for veterans of the war.
1956 The battle for Algiers begins as three buildings in Casbah are blown up.
1970 President Richard Nixon signs the 26th amendment, lowering the voting age to 18.
1973 Skylab astronauts splash down safely in the Pacific after a record 28 days in space.
1980 The Soviet Union announces a partial withdrawal of its forces from Afghanistan.
1981 Mark David Chapman pleads guilty to killing John Lennon.
1995 Nigeria's former military ruler Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo and his chief deputy are charged with conspiracy to overthrow Gen. Sami Abacha's military government.

Non Sequitur


The Teenager Who Went to Prom in a Burlap Dress

Prom dress made out of duct tape? That's been done ... but what about prom dress made out of potato sack? Now that's a fashion statement!
Courtney Barich said no to fancy prom dress and yes to making one out of burlap - basically a glorified potato sack - in order to raise money for charity. The 18-year-old teen from Surrey, British Columbia, Canada, got inspired when looking for a prom dress and saw that the one she liked was $700.
"We were driving in the car and I felt kind of selfish for how much it cost," Barich said to TODAY, "My mom said, 'You would look good in anything, even a garbage bag or a potato sack.' And the idea kind of grew from there."
In her website, Barich posted a challenge: "I will give up the glitz and glam of a beautiful grad dress and I will wear a Burlap dress to grad instead, if I can get $10,000 in much needed donations to help [St. Martin De Porres Orphanage in the Philippines]".
Barich and her classmates had visited the orphanage on a summer's trip, and the experience had touched her. "It was definitely an eye-opener to see all the poverty, from the houses they live in to what they eat. All the kids were walking around with no shoes," she said. "It was very sad. I came back grateful."
It was a double win for Barich: she reached her goal to raise the money for charity, and thanks to a collaboration with Suman Faulkner of Lata Design, the dress came out gorgeous:
Read more about the teenager who went to prom in a burlap dress over at TODAY.

Wisconsin's Walker part of criminal scheme

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a potential 2016 repugican presidential candidate, took part in a nationwide criminal scheme to coordinate fundraising with wingnut groups, prosecutors said in court documents unsealed Thursday.
No charges have been filed against Walker or any member of his staff. The documents were filed in December as part of an investigation into alleged illegal fundraising and campaign coordination by Walker and his campaign, the Wisconsin Club for Growth, the state chamber of commerce and other groups.
The investigation began in 2012 as Walker, who rose to fame by passing a bill that effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers, was facing a recall election. But the probe has been on hold since May, when a federal judge ruled it was a breach of Wisconsin Club for Growth's free-speech rights and temporarily halted it.
State prosecutors said in the December filing that Walker, former chief of staff Keith Gilkes, top adviser R.J. Johnson and campaign operative Deborah Jordahl were discussing illegal fundraising and coordination with national political groups and prominent Republican figures, including repugican cabal strategist Karl Rove.
"The scope of the criminal scheme under investigation is expansive," lead prosecutor Francis Schmitz wrote in a Dec. 9 court filing objecting to an attempt by Walker's campaign and other wingnut groups to quash subpoenas. "It includes criminal violations of multiple elections laws" including filing false campaign finance reports, Schmitz wrote.
Walker's campaign suggested that the documents mean little or nothing, given that their position has already prevailed twice in court.
"Two judges have rejected the characterizations disclosed in those documents," campaign spokeswoman Alleigh Marre said in a statement.
Under Wisconsin law, third-party political groups are allowed to work together on campaign activity, but they are barred from coordinating that work with actual candidates. Wisconsin Club for Growth has argued the prohibition does not apply to them because they do not specifically tell people how to vote, or run ads with phrases like "vote for" a certain candidate. The federal judge who halted the investigation and the judge overseeing it both agreed with that argument.
Prosecutors, including Schmitz and Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, have appealed the matter to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.
"The evidence shows an extensive coordination scheme that pervaded nearly every aspect of the campaign activities during the historic 2011 and 2012 Wisconsin Senate and gubernatorial recall elections," Schmitz said in the December filing.
Prosecutors also say that the national Club for Growth raised concerns about potential illegal coordination with the Wisconsin group and Walker's campaign as early as 2009. A spokesman for the national group declined to comment.
Johnson, in addition to being Walker's top campaign strategist, was also an adviser for Wisconsin Club for Growth. He did not immediately return a message left on his cellphone.
Gilkes did not return a message placed on his cellphone. While he eyes a run for president in 2016, Walker is seeking re-election this year against likely Democratic nominee Mary Burke. Both Gilkes and Johnson are working on his re-election campaign.
Jordahl did not immediately return a message left on her home phone.
It's been known for months that the investigation focused on allegations of illegal coordination between the Wisconsin Club for Growth, Walker's campaign and other conservative groups in 2011 and 2012. But until Thursday it wasn't clear that prosecutors saw Walker as having a central role.
Wisconsin Club for Growth attorney Andrew Grossman argued the public has the right to see the documents.
The papers show how prosecutors "adopted a blatantly unconstitutional interpretation of Wisconsin law that they used to launch a secret criminal investigation targeting conservatives throughout Wisconsin," Grossman said Thursday in an email. "Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and this is a story that needs to be told to prevent more abuses and to hold ... prosecutors accountable for violating the rights of Wisconsinites."
An attorney for prosecutors, Sam Leib, did not immediately return an email seeking comment.
Prosecutors have defended the investigation as a legitimate probe into whether Wisconsin's campaign finance laws were violated and deny that they were on a partisan witch hunt.

Clueless white Texas commissioners accidentally vote to back slavery reparations

by David Edwards

The Dallas County Commissioners Court on Tuesday backed monetary reparations for African-Americans whose ancestors were slaves in the United States - even though the commissioners probably didn't mean to.
The Dallas Morning News reported that commissioners thought they were honoring an annual holiday when they voted unanimously for the "Juneteenth Resolution" sponsored by Dallas County's only black commissioner, John Wiley Price.
Price even read the text of the resolution, which covered broad topics like slavery and Jim Crow. Many of the commissioners seemed uninterested, playing with their computers or reading documents while he read so they did not seem to notice the final sentence.
"The United States of America is derelict in its promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to the African American people," Price said. "Be it further resolved that the dereliction that has caused 400 years of significant… suffering to the descendants of those who have been enslaved Africans who built this country, should be satisfied with monetary and substantial reparations to same."
A commissioner quickly seconded the motion, and it passed unanimously.

The More A Company Pays Its CEO, The Worse Its Shareholders Do

by Alan Pyke

The companies that pay their chief executives the most see the worst results for shareholders, according to a new study, with an average annual shareholder loss of $1.4 billion at the companies with the highest CEO pay.
Exorbitant CEO compensation packages breed overconfidence, study authors Michael Cooper, Huseyin Gulen, and Raghavendra Rau write, and overconfidence leads to bad decisions about weakened business performance. Contrary to the common claim that paying executives in stock will improve their management of a firm, the study finds that CEOs who are given non-cash incentive compensation actually perform worse. The negative effects of excess executive pay linger for three years and drag shareholder returns down by between 8 and 11 percent for companies with the most lavish CEO pay packages.

Random Photos

Have a guess as to what movie this scene of cutting rug is from?

Man attempting to hold down mattress in back of pick-up truck went airborne along with it

A man is recovering in a Shreveport, Louisiana, hospital after flying out of the back of a pick-up truck along with the mattress he was trying to hold down.
Police say that at around 12:30pm on Thursday a man was riding in the back of pick-up truck on top of a mattress and box spring on I-49. The mattress went airborne, and the man flew out of the truck with it. He landed in the highway and rolled into a concrete barrier wall on the shoulder.
The man was trying to hold the mattress and box spring down because they were not tied down. The man, who has not been identified by police, was taken to University Health with non-life-threatening injuries. Police believe he sustained road rash and a possible fracture or two.
Officers are still investigating this incident, and it is not yet known if citations will be issued. This incident slowed traffic for a while. Police remind residents that items in the back of a truck should be properly secured. Officers also pointed out that a human being isn't going to be able to hold down a mattress if it goes airborne.

Woman suing Kohl’s because they won’t stop calling about the $20 she owes them

Lisa Ratliff of Ypsilanti, Michigan is probably going to stop shopping at Kohl’s. The 29-year-old woman says she intended to pay off a $20 balance on her overdue credit card bill, but when she started getting multiple reminder calls on a daily basis, she got so annoyed she decided to take the retail chain to court. As the Detroit Free Press reports, Ms. Ratliff has filed a lawsuit claiming that Kohl’s, “violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, a 1991 law that makes it illegal to call a cell phone using an auto dialer or prerecorded voice without the recipient’s consent.”
Ms. Ratliff claims it was the persistence that got her goat. “They started harassing me over $20 and I was like, ‘Screw it, oh well,’ ” the Michigan resident told the Detroit Free Press.
“It’s really annoying if you’re trying to get things done or you’re trying to sleep or you’re working or spending time with your family…I just want them to stop harassing me.” She says she asked Kohl’s to stop calling her and even tried blocking their number, but it didn’t work. The lawsuit claims she received as many as 22 calls in one week, some as early as 6 AM, others after midnight.
WJBK FOX 2 spoke with their legal analyst, Charlie Langton, to find out if Ms. Ratliff might actually have a case here. According to Mr. Langton, she just might. “First of all, debt collectors have a job to do, they’re trying to collect the debt, but they have to do it in the law,” Mr. Langton says. “The law has very strict guidelines as to what you can do. Debt collectors can’t call you before 8 AM, after 9 PM, they can’t harass you, they can’t call your employer…they’re supposed to give you a detailed letter as to what you owe.” Mr. Langton suggested that Kohl’s should have sued Ms. Ratcliff instead and that they would have more easily received their money that way.
(Jennifer Graylock/Getty Images for Kohl's)
Adam Krohn, one of the attorneys representing Ms. Ratliff, told the Detroit Free Press that his client is in the right. “People believe that unless (collectors) are swearing at them or being utterly abusive, calling 20 times a day, that they should just take it, when in fact the standard is much less,” Mr. Krohn told the paper. “(Consumers) need to understand their level of tolerance doesn’t have to be as high as it’s perceived.” Because of late fees and interest, Ms. Ratliff owes $100 to Kohl’s at the moment. However, she may be due as much as $1,500 per call that violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. 

Men stole 7,095 pennies from one of their mother-in-law's piggy banks to buy heroin

Two men from Middletown, Connecticut, who carried more than 7,000 pennies into a grocery store to be cashed in are accused of stealing most of them from a family member.

Man allegedly mowed his lawn while naked

A 61-year-old man from Bay City, Michigan, is facing a criminal charge after neighbors complained to police that they saw him mowing his lawn while completely naked. At about 6:51pm on Wednesday, May 21, police responded to Bobby O. Blodgett's home in the city's Banks District after someone called 911 to report he was mowing his lawn naked. The caller, 40-year-old Jason S. Linton, told dispatchers he yelled at Blodgett to put some clothes on, and that Blodgett had done so.
Linton told a responding officer that he and his teenage son were visiting his mother-in-law in the neighborhood and that they were in her back yard when they heard a lawnmower start up. "Then the guy came walking out and started cutting his lawn in the nude," Linton said. "I yelled at him and told him that he needed to put some clothing on." Linton said that though there is a privacy fence separating the yards, there are gaps in it that one can see through. Linton's mother-in-law, Nancy M. Mercier, told the officer that a similar incident happened the week beforehand when Blodgett mowed his lawn wearing only lady's stockings.
"I don't need to see that," Mercier said. "I know he has a privacy fence but I can see through it." The officer spoke with Blodgett, who maintained Linton and Mercier were mistaken regarding what they claimed to have seen. "I was out in the back yard today mowing my lawn in my bikini briefs," he said, according to police reports. "I had on my underwear. I made a mistake. I was not naked. It won't happen again. I was never naked." The officer did not arrest Blodgett, but told him a report would be sent to the Bay County Prosecutor's Office for review.
The officer also advised him to dress appropriately when in his yard. Police reports did not specify whether Blodgett's mower was of the push or riding variety. Authorities issued a warrant for Blodgett's arrest on Wednesday, June 11. Two days later, Bay County District Judge Mark E. Janer arraigned him on one count of indecent exposure, a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine. Janer granted Blodgett a personal recognizance bond and ordered that he have no contact with Linton, Mercier or Linton's son. Blodgett is to next appear in court to accept or reject a plea offer on Thursday, July 17.

Mother accused of branding her children for identification purposes

A woman from Port Charlotte, Florida, has been charged with child abuse, after police say she intentionally burned her two young children with a hot stick so she would know they were hers.



'Nosferatu' Condensed Into Four Minutes

The 1922 German expressionist movie Nosferatu is a classic horror film, but it’s an hour and a half long. Of course, everyone should see it all the way through at least once, but if you’ve seen it before, you can relive the experience by watching this four-minute version. And, sadly, if your busy schedule and/or attention span is too short to ever get around to watching the original, this may be the closest you’ll ever get.

Mario Wienerroither condensed the whole movie using a few illustrative clips, and added some rather odd (and often comical) sound effects, which will be appealing to those folks, like my kids, who can hardly handle black-and-white, much less a silent film. Wienerroither calls this a “silentless film.” Don’t bother turning the lights off, as you’re more likely to laugh than to scream.

The Sleep Schedules Of 27 Of History's Greatest Minds

The science of sleep and its glorious effects on creativity, productivity, and sanity gets a lot of press these days. That said, the sleep habits of some of your favorite writers, musicians, and artists may surprise you a little.
The bedtimes and rising times of history's greatest minds are inventively illustrated in this infographic. It seems to debunk the myth that geniuses stay up through the wee hours working manically, and that you're more creative when you're tired - most of these 27 luminaries got a wholesome eight hours a night. 

Retail In Real Time

Take a look at this visualization of popular US consumer spendings in real time. It's a glimpse of how and where the US spends its cash and just how quickly these numbers grow.

Now THAT is a Jumbo Bag of Cheetos!

Now THAT is a jumbo Cheetos! If you thought that something like that is uniquely American, think again: redditor Imploder's buddy's sister went to Tijuana, Mexico* to bring the largest bag of Cheetos we'd ever seen.
The industrial (for lack fo a better word) bag contains 3 kg or 6.6 lb of Cheetos.
But the title of the world largest Cheeto still belongs to the good ol' US of A. The golf ball-sized Cheeto currently reside in Algona, Iowa.
*If you must know, Mexico's obesity rate is now 32.8%, which is slightly higher than the 31.8% obesity rate in the United States. Mexico has overtaken the United States as the fattest country in the world.


The Bridge To Nowhere 
Nervous drivers (and their equally nervous passengers) beware! You should really prepare yourselves for the sight of Storseisundet Bridge in Norway. The road connection from the mainland Romsdal peninsula to the island of Averøya in Møre og Romsdal county doesn't look as if it actually connects as you drive towards it. In fact it looks very much as if you are in for an icy bath as you plummet off its 23 meters height.
However, you will be relieved to hear that this is simply something of an optical illusion. The bridge is built in such a way that from a certain angle, as you approach, it looks as it is more diving board than bridge.

A History Of Dentistry In Pictures

Scientists have developed a new pain-free filling that allows cavities to be repaired without drilling or injections. Take a look back at dentistry from the middle ages to the modern day.

Man Wearing a Suit Made of Mentos Drops into a Tank of Coke

When you mix Diet Coke and Mentos candies together, an explosion results. Physicist Tonya Coffee published a paper in the American Journal of Physics explaining why this happens. New Scientist summarizes Coffee's findings:
Instead, the vigour of the jets depends on various factors that affect the growth rate of carbon dioxide bubbles.
The rough, dimply surfaces of Mentos encourage bubble growth because they efficiently disrupt the polar attractions between water molecules, creating bubble growth sites. […]
"Water molecules like to be next to other water molecules, so basically anything that you drop into the soda that disrupts the network of water molecules can act as a growth site for bubbles," Coffey told New Scientist. "And if you have rough candy with a high ratio of surface area to volume, then there's more places for the bubbles to go."
Low surface tension also helps bubbles grow quickly. Measurements showed that the surface tension in water containing the sweetener aspartame is lower than in sugary water, explaining why Diet Coke creates more dramatic fountains than sugary Coke.
The phenomenon scales nicely. With enough Mentos and Diet Coke, you can build a rocket car. Or, like Harley Morenstein of Epic Meal Time, you can wear a full-body suit made of Mentos candy, sit over a dunk tank filled with Diet Coke, and go for a swim.

Science Dips into Water's Mysterious "No Man's Land"

This diagram illustrates the rough boundaries of “no man’s land,” a temperature region where supercooled water is difficult to study because of rapid ice formation. Using SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source, scientists dipped down to minus 51 degrees Fahrenheit and made the first structural measurements of liquid water in this mysterious region, where water’s unusual properties are amplified.
Quick, how many phases of water are there? If you answer three - liquid, solid, and gas - you'd be wrong. There are at least 5 distinct phases of liquid water and 15 distinct phases of ice that scientists know about, as we've told you before in our post 5 Really Weird Things About Water.
Now, thanks to some fancy X-ray technology, scientists at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have probed the structure of liquid water in a certain region of temperature and pressure where things really get weird.
According to SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory:
Despite its simple molecular structure, water has many weird traits: Its solid form is less dense than its liquid form, which is why ice floats; it can absorb a large amount of heat, which is carried long distances by ocean currents and has a profound impact on climate; and its peculiar density profile prevents oceans and lakes from freezing solid all the way to the bottom, allowing fish to survive the winter.
These traits are amplified when purified water is supercooled. When water is very pure, with nothing to seed the formation of ice crystals, it can remain liquid at much lower temperatures than normal. The temperature range of water from about minus 42 to minus 172 degrees (see diagram) has been dubbed no man’s land. For decades scientists have sought to better explore what happens to water molecules at temperatures below minus 42 degrees, but they had to rely largely on theory and modeling.
Now the LCLS, with X-ray laser pulses just quadrillionths of a second long, allows researchers to capture rapid-fire snapshots showing the detailed molecular structure of water in this mysterious zone the instant before it freezes. The research showed that water's molecular structure transforms continuously as it enters this realm, and with further cooling the structural changes accelerate more dramatically than theoretical models had predicted.
Read more about it over at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

Daily Comic Relief


Tests for Lyme disease aren't reliable

The Federally recommended test often misses cases of Lyme in the early stages, writes Beth Daley at The New England Center for Investigative Reporting. Meanwhile, unregulated and unvalidated alternative tests abound, thanks to an FDA loophole.
The discrepancies are fueling an ongoing battle over "chronic lyme disease" — a long-term illness that may or may not exist and is often treated with massive, repeated doses of antibiotics by caregivers (some doctors and some not) who often diagnose patients using the unregulated and unverified tests.
The unregulated tests may or may not be bad, Daley writes. The trouble is that we just don't know because they haven't been verified through third-party, peer-reviewed research. Essentially, people who use those tests are taking the manufacturers' or creators' word for it that they work. But in a situation where the best and most-accurate known test (the one that's been verified and is recommended by the FDA and CDC) is flawed and prone to its own misdiagnoses, you're left with a situation chock full of confusion and mistrust.

Archaeologists Discovered Remains of "End of World" Plague

A bonfire where many of the victims of an ancient epidemic in the ancient city of Thebes in Egypt were ultimately incinerated. 
It's like a plot straight out of the movies: archaeologists in Egypt have discovered the remains of an epidemic so terrifying that it was called the "end of the world" plague.
Between 250 to 271 AD, the Roman empire was afflicted by the Plague of Cyprian - named after the bishop of Carthage St. Cyprian, an early christian writer who described the horror of the disease, which at its height killed 5,000 people a day in Rome:
This trial, that now the bowels, relaxed into a constant flux, discharge the bodily strength; that a fire originated in the marrow ferments into wounds of the fauces [mouth]; that the intestines are shaken with a continual vomiting; that the eyes are on fire with the injected blood; that in some cases the feet or some parts of the limbs are taken off by the contagion of diseased putrefaction ...
Fast forward to today, when a team of archaeologists working at the Funerary Complex of Harwa and Akhimenru in modern-day Luxor (then Thebes), have uncovered bodies covered with a thick layer of lime (which the Romans used as disinfectant), kilsn where the lime was produced, as well as a giant bonfire where plague victims were incinerated.
A lime kiln built to produce enough lime disinfectant to cover the human remains of victims from the epidemic in the ancient city of Thebes.
Francesco Tiradritti, director of the Italian Archaeological Mission to Luxor, told LiveScience that his team found evidence of corpses burned or buried inside the lime without receiving any religious rites. "They had to dispose of them without losing any time."
Usually, these kinds of stories ended up with scientists attempting to extract plague DNA from the corpses (what could possibly go wrong with that?), but Tiradritti noted, "In a climate like Egypt, the DNA is completely destroyed."
Read more about the archeological findings over at LiveScience.

When Slime Ruled

Evolutionary Pause Tied to Earth's Stuck Plates
When Slime Ruled: Evolutionary Pause Tied to Earth's Stuck Plates
Was this what Earth looked like during the Archean eon?
The "boring billion," the long evolutionary pause when slime ruled the Earth, might be due to a planetary cooling-off period that stalled plate tectonics, a new study suggests.
The so-called boring billion refers to the span from 1.7 billion years to 750 million years ago when algae and microbes had the run of Earth. Why boring? The long pause comes after these single-celled creatures mastered photosynthesis, meaning they could absorb energy from the sun instead of munching rocks and metal. After that extraordinary leap, there was little evolutionary advancement for another billion years, until the first complex life emerged.
Scientists have long sought an explanation for this big hold-up. Now, researchers think they've found a possible cause: the planet itself. It turns out plate tectonics also had a boring billion, according to research presented last week at the annual Goldschmidt geochemistry conference in Sacramento, California. The findings were also published in the June 2014 issue of the journal Geology.
Study authors Peter Cawood and Chris Hawkesworth of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland looked at how the continents behaved in the past by analyzing indicators of tectonic activity such as volcanic eruptions, global glaciations and giant gold and sulfur deposits. The continents weren't the same size through time, nor did they plow across the planet at the same speed. They found the continents grew quickly on the early Earth, had a stable middle age and are now entering a midlife crisis.
"We are going from a time when you didn't destroy much crust to a time when you do," Hawkesworth said.
The transition from stability to destruction, which marks an uptick in tectonic motion, took place 750 million years ago, the same time as the emergence of complex life.
"This increase in activity could have kick-started a myriad of changes, including changes to levels of key elements in the atmosphere and seas, which in turn may have induced evolutionary changes in the life forms present," Cawood said.
Blame Earth's temperature for the fits and starts in continental speed. According to the study, on the hot, young Earth, continents grew quickly, with about 70 percent of the "scum of the Earth" forming by 3 billion years ago, the researchers said. But the mantle, the hotter layer between the crust and the core, was still too warm for modern plate tectonics to rev up. Big fragments of continents couldn't slide into the mantle at collisions called subduction zones. So when the first supercontinent formed, the plates stuck together in a massive jam for a billion years while the mantle continued to cool off.
"This represents a unique period of environmental, evolutionary and lithospheric stability," Cawood said.
While algae and microbes were whiling away the boring billion, the continents were growing a gut, adding bulk to their bottom layer as the mantle and crust continued to gradually cool, the researchers think.
Finally, about 750 million years ago, the supercontinent started to break up when tectonics shifted into overdrive. The researchers think this time period is when the mantle was finally cold enough for Earth's crustal plates to be destroyed at subduction zones. The supercontinent started to tear apart, creating new ecosystems for life to occupy.

New-found Horned Dinosaur, Mercuriceratops, Sported Some Pretty Spectacular Headgear

Who knew dinosaurs could be so frilly?
Researchers at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and Royal Ontario Museum in Canada have identified a previously unknown species of horned dinosaur after studying fossils collected in Montana and Alberta, Canada. Mercuriceratops gemini, named after the Roman messenger god Mercury, lived about 77 million years ago, during the Late Cretaceous Period.
What makes this plant-eating species -- and its new genus of ceratopsian -- particularly interesting is the large frill on the back of its skull. Unlike other horned dinosaurs from the period, Mercuriceratops had a neck shield that featured two protruding "wings" much like the winglike embellishments on Mercury's helmet.
mercuriceratops gemini
Mercuriceratops gemini (center) compared to horned dinosaurs Centrosaurus (left) and Chasmosaurus (right), also from the Dinosaur Park Formation of Alberta, Canada.
"The butterfly-shaped frill, or neck shield, of Mercuriceratops is unlike anything we have seen before," Dr. David Evans, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Royal Ontario Museum and a co-author of a new paper on the discovery, said in a statement. "Mercuriceratops shows that evolution gave rise to much greater variation in horned dinosaur headgear than we had previously suspected."
The ornate embellishments on the heads of horned dinosaurs served not only as protection but also as a means of identifying other members of the species. So it's likely that Mercuriceratops stood out among other dinos of the era, which may have given males of of the species an evolutionary advantage in finding a mate.
The first fossil of the Mercuriceratops specimen, an oddly shaped skull bone, was uncovered in north-central Montana in 2007. It was moved to the Royal Museum in Ontario. In 2012 another unusual skull bone was found in Alberta. It wasn't until some time later that Dr. Michael Ryan, the curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and the lead author of the paper, noticed that the two skull fragments were nearly identical.
map dinosaur
Map indicating locations where Mercuriceratops gemini skull fossils were discovered.
Once the team compared the fossils, they realized the specimens were from the same type of dinosaur -- one unlike any other species known to science.
skull fragments
Mercuriceratops gemini skull fossils from the right side of the frill.
The paper on Mercuriceratops was published in the journal Naturwissenschaften.

They're Back!

Endangered Fish Spawns in Grand Canyon
They're Back! Endangered Fish Spawns in Grand Canyon
An adult razorback sucker fish.
After returning to the lower Colorado River in 2012 after a 22-year absence, the endangered razorback sucker fish is now spawning in Grand Canyon National Park, scientists announced today (June 18).
Biologists discovered larval razorback suckers in April and May at nine spots along the iconic Colorado River, which is home to several critically endangered fish species found nowhere else in the world.
"Razorback suckers continue to surprise us in Grand Canyon [National Park]— first with the discovery of adults after 20 years of absence, and now with spawning within the park," Brian Healy, fisheries program manager for the national park, said in a statement. "We're all hoping to see evidence that these larval fish survive to adulthood in the coming years."
The razorback sucker was one of the biggest suckers swimming in the Colorado River before the Glen Canyon Dam was built in the 1960s. Growing up to 3 feet (1 meter) long, with a distinctive bony keel on its back, the fish disappeared from the stretch of river flowing through the Grand Canyon in 1990. The dam chilled the river and starved it of sediment, changing the habitat for native species. The introduction of non-native fish species also hurt locals such as the razorback and humpback chub.
The razorback sucker was placed on the national endangered species list in 1991 and Colorado's endangered species list in 1979.
Until now, the only remaining wild razorback population was found in Lake Mead National Recreation Area, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior. An ongoing recovery program stocked rivers in Colorado and Utah with young, hatchery-raised razorbacks.
They're Back! Endangered Fish Spawns in Grand  …
Razorback suckers being released into Havasu National Wildlife Refuge's Beal Lake.
The discovery of an adult fish in the Grand Canyon in 2012 sparked hope that the razorbacks could return to the lower Colorado River.
This March, biologists released nine adult razorbacks within Grand Canyon National Park, downstream of Lava Falls (river mile 180). Each fish carried a sonic tag, and in April, the scientists located several of the fish, as well as tagged fish that had migrated upstream from Lake Mead.
"This exciting news suggests that Grand Canyon is becoming a significant basin-wide haven for the endangered fishes in the Colorado River," Lesley Fitzpatrick, a biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said in a statement.
While scientists don't know why the razorback has returned, in the past two years, river conditions have become more favorable for spawning. Beaches and sandbars have reappeared along the Colorado River since the U.S. Department of the Interior began a series of massive floods in 2012 that are designed to rebuild habitat along the sediment-starved river.

Giant bullfrogs invade Vancouver Island

Catch of a 2-foot-long American bullfrog fuels concern about the spread of the invasive species; 'They're eating everything that will fit into their mouth'
Russ Schut poses with massive bullfrog.
The recent catch of an enormous bullfrog in a remote Vancouver Island pond has fueled concern that the voracious amphibians are spreading unchecked across the British Columbia island’s landscape.
Russ Schut, who was fishing in tiny Sproat Lake with a worm and bobber, hauled in the 2-foot-long American bullfrog and released it—after posing for a photograph—without knowing that it belonged to an invasive species that threatens native critters.
Because they’re not native to the Canadian southwest and have few natural predators, such as alligators, water snakes, and kingfishers in their native American southeast, some of the bullfrogs are growing to abnormally large sizes.
(American bullfrogs are the largest North American frogs and typically grow to about 7 inches, and weigh up to 1.5 pounds.)
Generic photo of an American bullfrog
“They’re big and voracious,” Gail Walin, of the Invasive Species Council of British Columbia,” told the Alberni Valley Times.
“And when you’ve got a species like that, that can basically out-eat some of the native species; it will take away the forage that native species would use and at times they can be aggressive on other smaller-sized, earlier life-cycle frogs.”
Stan Orchard, a Victoria-based bullfrog hunting contractor, told Canada’s National Post: “They’re eating salamanders and garter snakes and hatchling turtles … songbirds that come down to the water’s edge to drink, baby ducks, waterfowl … everything that will fit into their mouths.”
Walin believes that American bullfrogs might have been first introduced in or near Sproat Lake, at the south end of Vancouver Island, about five years ago. They’ve since been documented as far north as the Campbell River, about 150 miles from Port Alberni.
However, Orchard recalled a local sighting in 1989. As a herpetologist for the Royal B.C. Museum, he was sent to investigate reports of swimmers being frightened by tadpoles “the size of golf balls with big long tails on them.”
The University of Victoria is studying the rate of the bullfrogs’ spread. Walin theorized that they were first introduced by people emptying their aquariums, unaware of the environmental consequences.
“Whether it’s the plants in the aquarium, or the turtles, or the frog, they’re probably not native, and they can easily become established and take over the native population,” Walin said.
According to National Geographic, American bullfrogs can lay as many as 20,000 eggs, with tadpoles sometimes reaching lengths of 7 inches. A group of bullfrogs is called an army, or colony.
The voracious amphibians feed largely at night, ambushing prey by lunging with their powerful hind legs.
Though native to the American southwest, they now range throughout the continuous U.S., as far north as Canada and as far south as Mexico and Cuba. Their presence also has been documented in Europe, South America, and Asia.
So it seems that Vancouver Island is not likely to rid itself of the pesky frogs anytime soon. On the bright side, frog-gigging prospects are looking up.

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