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

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Daily Drift

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Today in History

96 Vespasian, a Roman army leader, is hailed as a Roman emperor by the Egyptian legions.
1543 England and Scotland sign the Peace of Greenwich.
1596 An English fleet under the Earl of Essex, Lord Howard of Effingham and Francis Vere capture and sack Cadiz, Spain.
1690 Led by Marshall Luxembourg, the French defeat the forces of the Grand Alliance at Fleurus in the Netherlands.
1777 British troops depart from their base at the Bouquet river to head toward Ticonderoga, New York.
1798 Napoleon Bonaparte takes Alexandria, Egypt.
1838 Charles Darwin presents a paper on his theory of evolution to the Linnean Society in London.
1862 Union artillery stops a Confederate attack at Malvern Hill, Virginia.
1863 In the first day's fighting at Gettysburg, Federal forces retreat through the town and dig in at Cemetery Ridge and Cemetery Hill.
1867 Canada, by the terms of the British North America Act, becomes an independent dominion.
1876 Montenegro declares war on the Turks.
1898 American troops take San Juan Hill and El Caney, Cuba, from the Spaniards.
1916 The Battle of the Somme begins. Approximately 30,000 men are killed on the first day, two-thirds of them British.
1942 Axis troops capture Sevestapol, Crimea, in the Soviet Union.
1945 The New York State Commission Against Discrimination is established–the first such agency in the United States.
1950 American ground troops arrive in South Korea to halt the advancing North Korean army.
1961 British troops land in Kuwait to aid against Iraqi threats.
1963 The U.S. postmaster introduces the ZIP code.
1966 The U.S. Marines launch Operation Holt in an attempt to finish off a Vietcong battalion in Thua Thien Province in Vietnam.

Non Sequitur


The Persecution of Pagans Continues in the United States

We are supposed to live in a country that has freedom of religion, confirmed by the Constitution’s First Amendment banning state-religions, the evils of which were all too evident in the Founding Fathers’ own time. The most destructive of these, the Thirty Years War, ended 126 years before 1775. Consider the memory and impact of the First World War, which began 100 years ago this August, and you will have some idea of its effects. Rampaging armies, murder, rapine, plundering – and an estimated 8 million dead as protestants and catholics made Europe, centered on Germany, a battleground in the name of the christian god.
But we don’t really have religious freedom in this country. All too often we DO have what passes for religious freedom in religio-wingnut terms, despite their complaints to the contrary - islam is the most visible target of persecution, but others feel the hate as well. Just recently, in Beebe, Arkansas, a Pagan couple, Bertram and Felicia Dahl, were denied the right to establish a temple (they had no problem with a cult) simply because it is a Pagan place of worship, and his family has been subject to harassment because of their religion.
This is the “freedom” demanded by the religio-wingnuts – the freedom to hound those of whom they don’t approve, right out of town, and out of existence, if possible. This is the old christian way, the practice of twenty centuries of christian intolerance, alive and well in the United States.
In Huntsville, Alabama, we find a Wiccan man having his invitation to give an invocation at the City Council revoked because they realized he is a Pagan. Blake Kirk told WHNT News that,
I gave the invocation earlier this year, at the time they did not ask me what my faith affiliation was, but when they did this time and I told them ‘Wiccan,’ I was told I was no longer invited to give it.
A person should not have to pretend to be christian to be treated like everybody else. The area he lives in is 75 percent christian, but according to the U.S. Constitution, that does not mean that the remaining 25 percent have no rights. Yet, according to the religio-wingnuts, that is exactly the case, an example of the so-called “excesses of democracy” the Constitution was written to prevent. The Founders feared that exactly this would result if the rights of minorities were not protected.
They cannot say he does not represent the community when he is part of that community, and a government is supposed to represent all its people, not just the majority view.
Despite the Founding Fathers’ best efforts to give us true religious freedom, wingnut christians have conspired to keep the spirit of the fifth century Theodosian Code alive and well. We do not expect to see such un-American fervor directed at us. Most, being at least nominally christian, will never experience it directly, but it is a very real danger to modern-day Pagans, and I have experienced it myself, and my family still gets hostile looks when our Thor’s hammers are visible on our chests.
Thomas Jefferson wrote of his own state in his Notes on the State of Virginia:
By our own act of Assembly of 1705, c. 30, if a person brought up in the christian religion denies the being of god, or the trinity, or asserts there are more gods than one, or denies the christian religion to be true, or the scriptures to be of divine authority, he is punishable on the first offense by incapacity to hold any office or employment, ecclesiastical, civil, or military; on the second, by disability to sue, to take any gift or legacy, to be guardian, executor, or administrator, and by three years’ imprisonment without bail. A fathers right to the custody of his own children being founded in law on his right of guardianship, this being taken away, they may of course be severed from him, and put by the authority of the court, into more orthodox hands. This is a summary view of that religious slavery under which a people have been willing to remain, who have lavished their lives and fortunes for the establishment of civil freedom.
The Constitution is supposed to put an end to this as well, as Article VI, paragraph 3 of the Constitution mandates that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” Even so, we regularly see demands from the religio-wingnuts than only christians be elected to public office, or are fit to hold public office.
In example of of Beebe, Arkansas and the Pagan couple there, think on the mayor’s words:
Mayor Mike Robertson says,
Please remember in the coming November election for leaders of this nation to elect only those who will stand firm doing the will of god and not their will. If placing god or the simple mentioning of his holy name in this newsletter is offensive to some; so be it. I do not and will not apologize, ever, for giving him the praise he is due for all that he has done for our blessed country. Not now, not ever in the future, should we turn our backs to our creator.
Think then, about what “rights” non-christians in such towns can hope to enjoy under the Constitution, which is regularly ignored by the religio-wingnuts.
This is their idea of religious freedom, and if they do not have the right to hound the rest of us out of existence in the name of their god, they cry persecution. And that is what religious freedom is to them: persecution. Be the victims women, gays, lesbians, muslims, or the odd Pagan, the result is the same. And the shame is ours, as a Nation, for permitting it.

Pot shortages could be dire at Washington's stores

Spokane Co. pot producer expects one ounce to cost $700A pot producer’s crop in North Spokane County was on track on Friday to become some of the first marijuana produced and sold in Washington State for recreational use.
Frank Schade owns the Green Surfer and said he would be ready to serve retail stores opening on July 8, 2014.
"Just about anybody that wants to buy a little is probably going to be able to,” said Schade.
Schade said marijuana would be expensive for the first few months in Washington State. He said it would cost around $25 per gram or $700 for an ounce. The legal limit a person can buy at a time is one ounce.
"The price for the novelty is going to be steep,” said Schade.
The marijuana starts as a seed in a nursery at the Green Surfer. It then grows to the right size and finally is cut and dried to send off to processors.
"Plants in this part of the marijuana farm need to be under the light at all times. As you can see here, they use a variety of lights to create an effect like they're under the sun,” said Schade.
Schade said he expected the supply would run out after it first went on sale and that there would a pot shortage for about one month. He said he thought the initial excitement about buying marijuana would be too much demand.
"I think there's going to be a quick run for all of the available product,” said Schade.
Schade expected to produce 20 to 30 pounds of marijuana each month. He said in time he expected the market to adjust so that there would be a steady supply of pot for anyone that wanted it.
Randy Oliver has a pressing question as legal marijuana sales are about to begin in Washington state: Where's all the weed?
Oliver is the chief scientist at Analytical 360 in Yakima, the only lab that has been certified to test the heavily taxed marijuana that will wind up on store shelves next month. So far, just two licensed growers have turned in samples for testing, with another due to turn in a small batch next week, he told The Associated Press on Saturday.
"There's such a small stream of samples coming through," he said. "There's going to be some long lines and some high prices."
The state's Liquor Control Board has been warning of shortages when the first stores open. The board plans to issue the first 15 to 20 retail licenses July 7, with shops allowed to open the next day if they're ready. It's not clear how many that will be. Board staff said at a meeting last week that only one store in Seattle is ready for its final inspection.
Only 79 of the more than 2,600 people who applied for marijuana growing licenses last fall have been approved, and many of them aren't ready to harvest.
"Will there be shortages?" Randy Simmons, the board's legal-pot project manager, said in a recent AP interview. "The answer to that is yes."
But the figures provided by Oliver on Saturday suggest just how serious those shortages could be. The samples provided to Analytical 360 represent a maximum harvest so far of 190 pounds — and Oliver said he expects 20 to 30 percent of the samples to fail because of high mold counts. Marijuana associated with those samples can't be sold as dried bud, but can be used to make cannabis oil.
The amount harvested so far "isn't going to stay on the shelves very long," Oliver said.
Oliver said he's worried that his lab could see a crush of samples provided in the days before the first stores open, swamping his lab and delaying the arrival of product on store shelves.
"We can probably handle 100 samples a day, but if we get 300 samples thrown at us?" he said. "I'm worried about everybody coming to us at the last minute."
Growers have to provide samples for every strain of cannabis they grow, and for every five pounds of flowers they harvest.
Oliver also said glitches with the software the state is using to track the bar-coded marijuana from clone to sale could compound the issue. He said his lab has had trouble entering test results in the program, and some marijuana that passed has shown up as having failed. It took one grower five days to provide the samples to the lab because of software problems, he said, characterizing the bugs as nothing unusual for a new program.
It isn't clear how soon other labs might be certified or be ready to handle samples. Seattle's Sea of Green Farms is one of the two growers who have had their pot tested. Bob Leeds, a partner there, confirmed that as of Saturday, the only certified lab that shows up in the tracking system is Analytical 360.
The other grower tested is Spokane's Kouchlock Productions. Kouchlock and Sea of Green were among the very first growers licensed back in March.
Spokesmen for the liquor board did not immediately return a call or emails on Saturday.
The Sea of Green team was spending the weekend packaging the approximately 40 pounds of marijuana it harvested recently, Leeds said. It has contracts with four shops to sell most of it already — for an exorbitant $4,000 a pound. That's nearly $9 per gram before the retailer's mark-up, 25 percent retail excise tax, and state and local sales taxes. At the state's unlicensed medical dispensaries, cannabis often sells for $8 to $12 per gram.
"When people start calling we have to tell them we're not going to have anything for them until August," Leeds said. "That's a long way off when you're trying to open a business."

This repugican cabal Candidate Charges Opponent Is Dead, Represented By A Body Double

From the "Just when you thought they couldn't get any weirder" Department 
This is a photo of Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.). His opponent, however, believes he is not really alive. (AP Photo)
Political opponents accuse each other of lying all the time, but one Oklahoma congressional candidate took his accusation to a new level this week when he claimed his opponent was actually dead and being represented by a body double.
KFOR in Oklahoma reports that Timothy Ray Murray believes Frank Lucas (r-Okla.), his opponent in the congressional repugican primary, was executed three years ago and is being represented by a look-alike. Because he believes Lucas is really dead, Murray said he will challenge the results of Tuesday's Republican primary, in which Murray received 5.2 percent of the vote. Lucas won the primary with 82.8 percent of the vote.
"It is widely known Rep. Frank D. Lucas is no longer alive and has been displayed by a look alike. Rep. Lucas’ look alike was depicted as sentenced on a white stage in southern Ukraine on or about Jan. 11, 2011," Murray said in a statement posted on his campaign website. The statement claimed Lucas and “a few other” members of Congress from Oklahoma and other states were shown on television being hanged by “The World Court.”
"I am contesting that this matter has happen [sic] since his election was blocked, because of the U.S. Defense Department’s use of Mr. Murray's DNA. To my knowledge, the U.S. Defense Department has not released to the public that information, as it is their confidential information about many people," Murray's statement said.
Bryan Dean, a spokesman for the Oklahoma State Election Board, said that Murray had sent the board a copy of the statement posted on his website but had not formally filed a petition asking for a recount or alleging election irregularities. He has until 5 p.m. Friday to do so.
In the statement, Murray, who did not respond to an interview request, also reassured voters that he is not a body-double.
"I, Timothy Ray Murray, am a human, born in Oklahoma, and obtained and continue to fully meet the requirements to serve as U.S. Representative when honored to so. I will never use a look alike to replace my (The Office’s) message to you or to anyone else, as both the other repugican challengers have," he said.
Lucas, who has served in Congress for the last 20 years, released a statement in March about the crisis in Ukraine. He told KFOR, however, that he has never been to the country where he's being accused of having been executed.
“Many things have been said about me, said to me in the course of all my campaigns. This is the first time I’ve ever been accused of being a body double or a robot,” Lucas said. Lucas also added that Murray ran against him as a Democrat in 2012.
Murray's claim is the latest incident in an election cycle that has featured plenty of strange candidates, including a Santa Claus impersonator and a supernatural role-player.
A representative from Lucas' office said that Lucas would not comment further on the allegations, but said, "I can assure you that the congressman is alive."

Stupid Congress

20 years of repugican war on congressional competence
Ever since Newt Gingrich consolidated power in 1995, purging any Congressional technical experts who might question his judgment, the repugican cabal has waged war on intelligence in the halls of Congress, leaving an expertise void that has been filled by lobbyists, especially the Heritage Foundation, and an oversight void that hasn't been filled at all.
The phenomenon is meticulously documented in a long and important feature by Paul Glastris and Haley Sweetland Edwards in the Washington Monthly, who trace the phenomenon up to the modern Tea Party and its utter contempt for congressional staffers (remember when they tried to pass political theater legislation that would forbid Congress from contributing to staffers' healthcare? Imagine any competent Congressional staffer who could get any other job sticking around after that).
The first effect is an outsourcing of policy development. Much of the research, number crunching, and legislative wordsmithing that used to be done by Capitol Hill staffers working for the government is now being done by outside experts, many of them former Hill staffers, working for lobbying firms, think tanks, consultancies, trade associations, and PR outfits. This has strengthened the already-powerful hand of corporate interests in shaping legislation, and given conservative groups an added measure of influence over Congress, as the shutdown itself illustrates.
Recall that last summer and fall many establishment repugicans, having lived through Newt Gingrich’s disastrous shutdown in the 1990s, argued that doing so again would be folly. So why did so many repugican cabal House members ignore those warnings and listen instead to the Heritage Foundation? Part of the reason was that they were conditioned to do so. Over the years, as Congress’s in-house capacity for independent policy thinking atrophied, the House repugican cabal largely ceded that responsibility to Heritage, which has aligned itself with the tea party since Jim DeMint took the helm in 2013. The think tank became the only outside group that was allowed to brief members and their staff at the influential weekly lunches of the repugican 'study' coven, the policy and messaging arm of House wingnuts. So when Heritage promised, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that the Democrats would cave to repugican cabal demands for a delay in the individual mandate and cuts to “special” health care benefits for congressional staffers, many repugican cabal members believed them. (Many who didn’t followed Heritage’s instructions anyway when its lobbying arm, Heritage Action, orchestrated a grassroots email campaign demanding that members hang tough. Subtext? Or else.)
The second effect of the brain drain is a significant decline in Congress’s institutional ability to monitor and investigate a growing and ever-more-complex federal government. This decline has been going on quietly, behind the scenes, for so many years that hardly anyone even notices anymore. But like termites eating away at the joists, there’s a danger of catastrophic collapse unless regular inspections are done. While Congress continues to devote what limited investigative resources it has into the fished-out waters of the Internal Revenue Service and Benghazi “scandals” (thirteen Benghazi hearings in the House alone, with a new select committee launched in May), just in the last year we’ve witnessed two appalling government fiascoes that better congressional oversight might have avoided: the botched rollout of the health insurance exchanges and the uncontrolled expansion of the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs. (Fun fact: while annual federal spending on intelligence has roughly doubled since 1997, staff levels on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence have actually declined.) Debacles like these, by undermining the public’s faith in government, wind up perversely advancing the conservative antigovernment agenda—another reason why many repugicans don’t worry much about the brain drain on the Hill. But the rest of us should.

The truth be told


Red Cross: How we spent Hurricane Sandy money is a 'trade secret'

Just how badly does the American Red Cross want to keep secret how it raised and spent over $300 million after Hurricane Sandy?
The charity has hired a fancy law firm to fight a public request we filed with New York state, arguing that information about its Sandy activities is a "trade secret."
The Red Cross' "trade secret" argument has persuaded the state to redact some material, though it's not clear yet how much since the documents haven't yet been released.
As we've reported, the Red Cross releases few details about how it spends money after big disasters. That makes it difficult to figure out whether donor dollars are well spent.
The Red Cross did give some information about Sandy spending to New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who had been investigating the charity. But the Red Cross declined our request to disclose the details.

Black ASU professor beaten by campus cops without provocation, charged with assault

A reader writes, "ASU Police beat the crap out of a black professor for walking in the street around construction, throwing her against a police car so hard that they damaged the car. Then they charge her with felony assault."
“Put your hand behind your back. I’m going to slam you on this car. Put your hand behind your back,” Ferrin said.
“You really want to do that? Do you see what I’m wearing? Do you see?” Ore said.
She was wearing a black dress and after being "slammed" onto the car, she was wrestled to the ground. Her dress hiked up and her body was exposed.
While both Ore and Ferrin suffered some minor injuries, Ore was charged with aggravated assault on a police officer in addition to criminal damage and obstructing a thoroughfare. She intends to fight the charges.

Mystery of man traveling on back of fast-moving car

A family from Charlotte, North Carolina, noticed a car driving down Interstate 77 with a man on the outside on Saturday afternoon. Brenda Cruz and her 17-year-old son, Samuel Cruz, still can't believe what they saw. "All of a sudden the kids say, 'There's someone on top of the car on the trunk,’ and I'm like what?" Brenda said.
"I said, “’Let me get my phone and started recording.'" Brenda said other drivers on the road were slowing down, too, watching anxiously to see what would happen to the man on the back of the fast-moving sedan. "It was really weird, I thought it was a dummy at first," said Samuel Cruz.
Authorities received several calls but troopers said by the time they arrived the car was gone and right now, they don't have much to go on to investigate the case. The Cruz family said they saw the man on the back of the car break the back windshield and climb inside. "Whenever he lifted his hand to smash the glass open it looked like it was something sharp," Samuel Cruz added. The family say a woman was driving the car with a child in a car seat inside.

"I'm really worried because I just hope she's OK you know, with her kid," Samuel Cruz said. Authorities think the driver and person on the back of the car know each other, but they can't be sure until they track down who they are. Police officers say they are trying to figure out what happened. They say it is too early in the investigation to know what, if any charges the people involved could face but said the driver is ultimately responsible.

Woman charged with arson for starting fire to kill spider

A 34-year-old woman from Hutchinson, Kansas, was arrested early on Friday after five Fire Department units were called out at 1:36am to extinguish a small fire in her half of a duplex.
Deputy Fire Chief Doug Hanen said that firefighters found light smoke coming from the woman’s half of the duplex and some clothing smouldering just inside the doorway.

Although no one was injured, and there was no damage to the structure other than light smoke damage, Ginny M. Griffith was arrested on a charge of aggravated arson because the other half of the duplex also was occupied.
A police summary of the incident said Griffith told officers that she used a cigarette lighter to set some towels on fire to kill a spider. Griffith is being held in the Reno County jail in lieu of $7,500 bond.

Burglar Logs Into Facebook At Home He Was Burglarizing - Forgets To Log Off

When homeowner James Wood arrived back at his house, he discovered it had been ransacked. Credit cards, cash, and a watch were missing. Strangely enough, a pair of wet sneakers and a pair of wet pants not belonging to Mr. Wood were left behind. “[I] kind of started to panic,” the St. Paul resident told WCCO. However, when he went on to his computer, he noticed an important clue as to who had done the deed, telling the station, “He pulled up his Facebook profile, he left it up.” That’s right, Mr. Wig had forgotten to log off his account.
Mr. Wood posted to Facebook using Mr. Wig’s profile, leaving his own phone number in hopes that the alleged thief would get in touch with him. When Mr. Wig texted him later in the day, the homeowner replied, “You left a few things at my house last night (the aforementioned sneakers and pants), how can I get them back to you?” Mr. Wig agreed to meet with Mr. Wood later, presumably under the assumption that they would make an exchange. However, when the homeowner spotted the man who had done him wrong, he immediately called police. Police arrived and arrested Mr. Wig, who was wearing Mr. Wood’s watch at the time. He faces up to 10 years in prison and $20,000 in fines if he is convicted.

Man wearing leopard-print bikini top and ruffled skirt injured diners after loss of his phone

A cross-dressing man upset about losing his cellphone at a San Diego restaurant flew into a violent rage there on Friday, hurling objects that injured two diners before stealing someone else's phone and fleeing. The man, described as black, in his 20s, 6 feet tall, thin, with shoulder-length braids or hair extensions and dressed in a black ruffled skirt and a leopard-print bikini top, entered the Denny's on El Cajon Boulevard shortly before 12:30pm and told a worker he lost his mobile phone in the business earlier in the week, according to San Diego police.

He demanded to see surveillance video to try to determine what had happened to his phone, and became irate when a manager said such a viewing would be against regulations, Lt. Andra Brown said. The man and a female customer then got into an argument, during which he picked up a serving skillet and hit her on the head with it.
She responded by dousing him with coffee, Brown said. During his rampage, the man also hurled a coffee mug that hit a retirement-age patron in the chest and threw a soup ladle, drinking glasses and silverware around the restaurant. Finally, he grabbed a customer's cellphone and stormed out. He drove off in a green Volkswagen Beetle, Brown said. Medics took the woman and man hit by the utensils to hospitals for treatment of minor injuries.



Strange Brew

Familiar yet strange: Water’s ‘split personality’ revealed by computer model

Seemingly ordinary, water has quite puzzling behavior. Why, for example, […]

The Curious Case Of Sausages

Everything has its weird side and sausages are no different! Did you know that there is a male and female sausage? How about the Sausage Museum? I'm pretty sure you've never thought of following an academic career in them too, right?

The Evolution Of Karate

Karate stands alongside the likes of judo, kendo, and sumo as one of Japan's most famous martial arts. However, as Karate Kid II taught us, karate was born in Okinawa.
Not only that, but it was born in a time when Okinawa wasn't part of Japan and had its own culture and language. Over many decades, karate evolved from an Okinawan fighting style, to a Japanese martial art, to a global sport.

A New Name ...

Took one of those personality tests online to determine what my Native American name would be based on my personality and I got:
Akecheta translates to Fighter. You stand up for what your believe in, nobody can stop you once you've found your passion. One of your best qualities is that not much can bring you down, so people can always count on you to help them out.
I'll take it seeing how my actual Native American name is: Unega Edodi Yonv which translates to Grandfather White Bear and my Gaelic name is: Iompróidh Trodaí which translates to Warrior Bear. I could use some non-ursine qualities to my name. But I can't get away from the warrior aspect though - my English name means Warrior Leader. Oo-Rah.

'Red Deer Cave people' may be new species of human

Stone age remains of people with a penchant for home-cooked venison could represent a new human evolutionary line
Fossilised skull from a possible new species of human
A skull, possibly from a new species of human, recovered from Longlin cave in Guangxi province, China. Photograph: Darren Curnoe
The fossilized remains of stone age people recovered from two caves in south west China may belong to a new species of human that survived until around the dawn of agriculture.
The partial skulls and other bone fragments, which are from at least four individuals and are between 14,300 and 11,500 years old, have an extraordinary mix of primitive and modern anatomical features that stunned the researchers who found them.
Named the Red Deer Cave people, after their apparent penchant for home-cooked venison, they are the most recent human remains found anywhere in the world that do not closely resemble modern humans.
The individuals differ from modern humans in their jutting jaws, large molar teeth, prominent brows, thick skulls, flat faces and broad noses. Their brains were of average size by ice age standards.
"They could be a new evolutionary line or a previously unknown modern human population that arrived early from Africa and failed to contribute genetically to living east Asians," said Darren Curnoe, who led the research team at the University of New South Wales in Australia.
"While finely balanced, I think the evidence is slightly weighted towards the Red Deer Cave people representing a new evolutionary line. First, their skulls are anatomically unique. They look very different to all modern humans, whether alive today or in Africa 150,000 years ago," Curnoe told the Guardian.
"Second, the very fact they persisted until almost 11,000 years ago, when we know that very modern looking people lived at the same time immediately to the east and south, suggests they must have been isolated from them. We might infer from this isolation that they either didn't interbreed or did so in a limited way."
One partial skeleton, with much of the skull and teeth, and some rib and limb bones, was recovered from Longlin cave in Guangxi province. More than 30 bones, including at least three partial skulls, two lower jaws and some teeth, ribs and limb fragments, were unearthed at nearby Maludong, or Red Deer Cave, near the city of Mengzi in Yunnan province.
At Maludong, fossil hunters also found remnants of various mammals, all of them species still around today, except for giant red deer, the remains of which were found in abundance. "They clearly had a taste for venison, with evidence they cooked these large deer in the cave," Curnoe said.
The findings are reported in the journal PLoS ONE.
The stone age bones are particularly important because scientists have few human fossils from Asia that are well described and reliably dated, making the story of the peopling of Asia hopelessly vague. The latest findings point to a far more complex picture of human evolution than was previously thought.
"The discovery of the Red Deer Cave people shows just how complicated and interesting human evolutionary history was in Asia right at the end of the ice age. We had multiple populations living in the area, probably representing different evolutionary lines: the Red Deer Cave people on the East Asian continent, Homo floresiensis, or the 'Hobbit', on the island of Flores in Indonesia, and modern humans widely dispersed from northeast Asia to Australia. This paints an amazing picture of diversity, one we had no clue about until this last decade," Curnoe said.
Much of Asia was also occupied by Neanderthals and another group of archaic humans called the Denisovans. Scientists learned of the Denisovans after recovering a fossilized little finger from the Denisova cave in the Altai mountains of southern Siberia in 2010.
The fossils from Longlin cave were found in 1979 by a geologist prospecting in the area. At the time, researchers removed only the lower jaw and a few fragments of rib and limb bones from the cave wall. The rest of the skeleton was left encased in a block of rock, which sat in the basement of the Yunnan Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology in Kunming, Yunnan, for 30 years. The fossils were rediscovered in 2009 by Ji Xueping, a researcher at the institute, who teamed up with Curnoe to examine the remains.
"It was clear from what we could see that the remains were very primitive and likely to be scientifically important. We had a skilled technician remove the bones from the rock, and they were glued back together. Only then was it clear what we had found: a partial skeleton with a very unusual anatomy," Curnoe said.
The fossils at Maludong were found in 1989 but went unstudied until 2008.
Lumps of charcoal uncovered alongside the Longlin fossils were carbon dated to 11,500 years, a time when modern humans in southern China began to make pottery for food storage and to gather wild rice in some of the first steps towards full-scale farming.
Marta Mirazón Lahr, an evolutionary biologist at Cambridge University, is convinced the remains are from modern humans. The unusual features, she said, suggest the Red Deer Cave people are either "late descendants of an early population of modern humans in Asia" or a very small population that developed the traits through a process known as genetic drift.
Chris Stringer, head of human origins at the Natural History Museum, London, was similarly sceptical.
"The human remains from the Longlin Cave and Maludong are very important, particularly because we do not have much well-described and well-dated material from the late Pleistocene of China.
"The fossils are unlike recent populations of modern humans in several respects, and the mosaic of more archaic features could indicate the dispersal of a poorly known and more primitive form of modern human that left Africa before the main exodus at about 60,000 years. This dispersal could have reached as far as China, surviving there for many millennia, before disappearing in the last 12,000 years."
But he added: "There might be another possible explanation for the more archaic features. Could these alternatively be attributed to gene flow from a more archaic population that survived alongside modern humans? In the case of the Longlin Cave and Maludong fossils, the most likely candidate would be the enigmatic Denisovans who apparently interbred with the ancestors of modern Australasians somewhere in south east Asia. Could these Chinese fossils be further evidence of such hybridization?"

Random Photos

So There’s An Island You’ve Probably Never Heard Of … And It Looks Like Aliens Should Live There

If you’ve grown bored of the typical white-sand beach resort island getaway, than you should take a look at this bizarre spot. Out of all the weird places in the world, this island, described as “the most alien-looking place on earth”, just might be the strangest.
The island is called Socotra and is part of a small archipelago of four islands located in the Indian Ocean. It’s part of Yemen and is the main island of the archipelago, accounting for 95% of its land mass. It’s incredibly remote and is one of the most isolated landforms on Earth of continental origin (meaning it wasn’t formed by a volcano).
Read more about Socotra at Earth Porn.

Colorful Sprites

Summertime means thunderstorms, and this season's crop is producing not only impressive lightning strikes, but colorful sprites above the clouds.

True Size of Sun's Atmosphere

Giant Waves Reveal Surprising True Size of Sun's Atmosphere
These observations, taken by NASA's Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO …
The sun's volatile atmosphere is even bigger than expected, a NASA spacecraft revealed through observations of gigantic waves.
While the sun itself is 864,938 miles (1.392 million kilometers) wide, NASA's Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory, or STEREO, found that the solar atmosphere, known as the corona, stretches 5 million miles (8 million km) above the sun's surface.
"We've tracked sound-like waves through the outer corona and used these to map the atmosphere," Craig DeForest of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, said in a statement from NASA. "We can't hear the sounds directly through the vacuum of space, but with careful analysis we can see them rippling through the corona."
These waves, called magnetosonic waves, are a cross between sound waves and magnetic waves called Alfven waves. They oscillate only about once every four hours and span 10 times the width of Earth, NASA officials said.
When magnetosonic waves erupt from solar storms and other disturbances, they can ripple up to 5 million miles away from the sun's surface, DeForest and colleagues found. Beyond this boundary, solar material separates from the corona and flows out into space in a steady stream known as the solar wind.
NASA officials say the findings will help researchers prepare for the space agency's Solar Probe Plus mission, scheduled to launch in 2018. That mission will send a spacecraft closer to the sun that any man-made object has ever ventured — within 4 million miles (6.4 million km) of the sun's surface. Now, scientists know the probe will actually be traveling through the corona during its historic trip.
"This research provides confidence that Solar Probe Plus, as designed, will be exploring the inner solar magnetic system," Marco Velli, a Solar Probe Plus scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement. "The mission will directly measure the density, velocity and magnetic field of the solar material there, allowing us to understand how motion and heat in the corona and solar wind are generated."
The findings, which were published last month in The Astrophysical Journal, should also help astronomers define the inner boundary of the heliosphere, the giant bubble enveloping the solar system, created by the solar wind and solar magnetic field.

Scientists discover one of the most Earth-like planets yet

Can Gliese 832c support life, or is it just a super-Venus?
Sci-News.com is reporting that astronomers at the University of New South Wales have discovered an Earth-like planet just 16 light-years away. The planet, dubbed Gliese 832c, is orbiting a red dwarf star half the mass and radius of our own sun. Gliese 832c has an orbital period of about 35 days, and a mass more than five times that of Earth's. More importantly, however, Gliese 832c is orbiting within the habitable zone of the red dwarf, and receives the same average stellar energy as Earth does from the Sun, Sci-News.com reports.
Gliese 832c's mass means it likely has a far denser atmosphere than Earth does, which could make the planet's weather hot and volatile. If this is the case, the planet might be more like a super-Venus than a super-Earth. "If the planet has a similar atmosphere to Earth it may be possible for life to survive, although seasonal shifts would be extreme," the University of South Wales' Professor Chris Tinney said. Even so, Gliese 832c is one of the most Earth-like planets we've ever encountered.
"[Gliese 832c is] one of the top three most Earth-like planets according to the [Earth Similarity Index] (i.e., with respect to Earth's stellar flux and mass) and the closest one to Earth of all three — a prime object for follow-up observations," writes Abel Mendez Torres on the Planetary Habitability Lab's blog. "It's just a stone's throw from Earth in the cosmic scheme of things," adds Space.com's Mike Wall.

Daily Comic Relief


The Third Eyelid

The Nictitating Membrane
From these photographs you could easily imagine that the animal kingdom had suddenly been enveloped in its own zombie apocalypse. Yet these pictures do not feature the Squawking Dead.
Thanks to high speed photography, these pictures capture the nictitating membrane in action. It is also known as the third eyelid, haw and the inner eyelid. It is drawn across the eye to protect and moisturize it while retaining visibility.

Cleaner Fish Gives Stressed Fish Client a Massage

Bluestreak cleaner wrasse with a surgeonfish client
Stressed out? A relaxing massage could help calm you down, but what if you're a fish? Turns out, the same thing applies.
Marta Soares of the ISPA University Institute in Lisbon, Portugal, and colleagues, noticed that in addition to removing parasites and dead skins, bluestreak cleaner wrasses often give their "clients" pelvic and pectoral fin massages - just think of them as the equivalent of human backrubs.
"We know that fish experience pain," Soares told NewScientist, "maybe fish have pleasure, too." To check whether those massages are beneficial, Soares put stressed out surgeonfish in two tanks with a model cleaner fish - one tank has a stationary model and the other a model that moves back and forth to provide physical stimulation. All surgeonfish approached the model, but only those in the tank with the moving model could get the physical fin massage.
When Soares and colleagues tested the level of the stress hormone cortisol of the two groups, the scientists found that only the surgeonfish that have contact with the moving model have lowered stress level.
It's obvious how cleaner wrasses benefit from the relationship - they get to feed on debris they remove from their clients, but what do the clients get in return? Why would the clients return to the wrasses and even "wait in line" to be cleaned?
"The discovery of a positive effect of physical contact in a reef fish ... resolves a long-standing paradox described in cleaning mutualism involving cleaner wrasses and their clients," said co-author Alexandra Grutter to Cosmos.

Bear dug through home's insulation to get honey

A black bear in Juneau, Alaska, didn't let a home's insulation keep him from getting at some honey.
On Wednesday a male bear with an Alaska Department of Fish and Game tag #151 wandered up the stairs to the home of Janet and Donald Kussart, and pulled apart the boards on the side of the house.

The bear proceeded to claw away at the siding as bees buzzed around his face, sticking his nose and mouth into the space in the wood. He appeared to eat the insulation as he dug his mouth into the cotton candy-like material.
Satisfied with his honey meal, the bear ambled away. Ira Winograd, a resident of the home next door, later noted, “He must have smelled the beehive that wasn’t visible under the porch, and started tearing up the porch to go after the bees.”

Animal Pictures