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

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Daily Drift

Don't be like this idiot - VOTE DEMOCRAT ...!
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Today in History

1493 Christopher Columbus arrives at the Caribbee Isles (Dominica) during his second expedition.
1507 Leonardo da Vinci is commissioned to paint Lisa Gherardini ("Mona Lisa").
1529 The first parliament for five years opens in England and the Commons put forward bills against abuses amongst the clergy and in the church courts.
1794 Thomas Paine is released from a Parisian jail with help from the American ambassador James Monroe. He was arrested for having offended the Robespierre faction.
1813 American troops destroy the Indian village of Tallushatchee in the Mississippi Valley.
1868 Ulysses S. Grant elected the 18th president of the United States.
1883 A poorly trained Egyptian army, led by British General William Hicks, marches toward El Obeid in the Sudan–straight into a Mahdist ambush and massacre.
1883 The U.S. Supreme Court declares American Indians to be "dependent aliens."
1892 First automatic telephone exchange goes into operation in La Porte, Indiana.
1896 William McKinley is elected 25th president of the United States.
1912 The first all-metal plane flies near Issy, France, piloted by Ponche and Prinard.
1918 The German fleet at Kiel mutinies. This is the first act leading to Germany's capitulation in World War I.
1921 Milk drivers on strike dump thousands of gallons of milk onto New York City's streets.
1935 Left-wing groups in France form the Socialist and Republican Union.
1957 The Soviet Union launches Sputnik II with the dog Laika, the first animal in space, aboard.
1964 For the first time residents of Washington, D.C., are allowed to vote in a presidential election.
1964 Lyndon B. Johnson is elected the 36th president of the United States.
1964 Robert Kennedy, brother of the slain president, is elected as a senator from New York.
1967 The Battle of Dak To begins in Vietnam's Central Highlands; actually a series of engagements, the battle would continue through Nov. 22.
1969 US President Richard Nixon, speaking on TV and radio, asks the "silent majority" of the American people to support his policies and the continuing war effort in Vietnam.
1973 NASA launches Mariner 10, which will become the first probe to reach Mercury.
1979 Ku Klux Klansmen and neo-Nazis kill 5 and wound 7 members of the Communist Workers Party during a "Death to the Klan" rally in Greensboro, NC; the incident becomes known as the Greensboro Massacre.
1983 Jesse Jackson announces his candidacy for the office of president of the United States.
1986 The Lebanese magazine Ash-Shiraa reports the US has secretly been selling weapons to Iran in order to secure the release of 7 American hostages being held by pro-Iranian groups in Lebanon.
1992 Arkansas Governor Bill (William Jefferson) Clinton is elected 42nd president of the United States.
1997 US imposes economic sanctions against Sudan in response to human rights abuses and support of Islamic extremist groups.

A Virus Found In Lakes May Be Literally Changing The Way People Think

thinkingCould something in this water change your brain? While conducting a separate experiment, a group of scientists from Johns Hopkins and the University of Nebraska accidentally discovered something unexpected and potentially disturbing.
A virus was living in the mouths and throats of a good portion of the people in the study, a virus that the researchers didn't think was capable of infecting humans. Worse still, it seemed to be slowing some of the subjects' mental abilities, especially their ability to process visual information.
The surprising part about this for researchers was that a microscopic organism that we thought could infect only algae — plants — was living in about 40% of the small number of people tested.
For the rest of us, the bigger surprise may be that this virus could join the ranks of microorganisms that live inside and on us, changing the way we think.
In a way, this is less crazy than it seems. Microscopic organisms live all over people and have all kinds of effects on our health, brain, and behavior.
There are far more microorganisms in and on a "person" than there are "human cells." Along with a few pounds of bacteria — trillions of microbes — an even larger number of viruses live in and on the human body. And we know that some of these other creatures may change the way we think, feel, and even the way we interact with others.
"We're really just starting to find out what some of these agents that we're carrying around might actually do," study co-author Dr. Robert Yolken, a professor at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told Healthline.
A similar sort of algae-infecting virus. Here's What Scientists Discovered
algae virusDuring the original study, published Oct. 27 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers were testing 33 healthy people (a very small number) on a variety of different measures, some of which were mental tests.
But they also swabbed the throats of the participants and did a genetic analysis of what was there. In 14 of the 33 people, they found genes from a virus that until now had never been found in living people (researchers had found it once before in someone's brain during an autopsy, but they didn't know if it had been there when the person was alive).
The virus itself is called ATCV-1 and it's a chlorovirus, a family of viruses that infect plants. This one affects algae — that green stuff that grows on water — in lakes all over the world. But as far as researchers knew before this, viruses like this very rarely cross from one kingdom like plants to another, such as animals. And even when they do, it's more likely that they'd go from plants to some type of invertebrate, not all the way to a complex animal like a human.
Here's the most interesting part (for most of us): Since the original study included cognitive tests, the scientists compared the data and saw that people with the virus living in their throats processed visual information about 10% slower than people without the virus — and this difference couldn't be explained by other factors like age, sex, race, socioeconomic status, education, place of birth, or smoking status.
The specific visual information tests where a difference was shown included things like drawing a line that connected numbers in sequence that had been scattered on a page. People with the virus also seemed to have a shorter attention span.
To check if this group was somehow different from the general population, the team checked another 59 people for the virus. Out of the final 92, it was present in 40, about the same rate as in the initial, smaller group.
To investigate whether the virus might be the cause of that change in visual processing and attention, the researchers then injected mice with the same virus.
mouse Six weeks later, the group of mice with ATCV-1 took about 10% longer to navigate a maze, and they also spent about 20% less time exploring new environments.
The infected mice also showed more than 1,000 gene changes in the parts of the brain that are usually considered essential for memory and learning. The researchers could observe these gene changes in mice because they analyzed the mice before and after they were infected with the virus. This shows some of the effects the virus could have on people, but since mice aren't humans we don't know that humans would show the same changes — and it would be unethical to conduct the same experiment on people.
Don't Go In The Water?
While this study presents some new and fascinating information, it isn't nearly comprehensive enough to say what it all means.
"The thing that's different about what we found is that [the virus] is something that we wouldn't have suspected would actually have any effect on humans or animals," Yolken told Healthline.
The whole group of people tested was from Baltimore, so we don't know how common this virus is in the rest of the world — or even in the rest of Baltimore, as 92 people is still a small number. And while the information from the mice is interesting, there's no way to say that genes in human brains necessarily change the same way.
And even then, this is a very small effect — and just one of many brain and behavioral changes that may be caused by the trillions of creatures that live in and on us. Others that we know about make people more or less social, and may be connected to mental health issues like depression and anxiety, all of which cause cognitive changes.
Still, something microscopic that we didn't even know existed in humans is changing the way some of us think and see. That's pretty crazy.
"There's more and more studies showing that microorganisms in your body have a bigger influence than anything anyone would have predicted," the paper's senior author, James Van Etten, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln plant pathologist, told Healthline.

Newspapers Help Kochs Buy Ameirca

What makes newspapers actions more despicable is that they are not owned by the Kochs, but they are using so-called "opinion and editorial" pages to promote repugican candidates …
kochs buy the news
Long before radio and television, much less the Internet and social media era, Americans only access to the news was either word of mouth or newspapers. In fact, print journalism, at one time regarded as the Fourth Estate, was the people’s great equalizer between the masses and powerful. According to a great journalist of his day, Finley Peter Dunne, “The job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.” The implication was that newspaper journalists’ primary function was “to get at the truth and to keep watch at the abuses of power” solely to protect the people from the wealthy elite. Obviously, corporate media is not interested in the truth or abuses of power, and now that the Koch brothers have successfully extended their influence into print journalism, newspapers are not only failing to keep watch at the abuse of power, they are working for, and in concert with, the conservative movement as dictated by the Koch brothers. What makes newspapers actions more despicable is that they are not owned by the Kochs, but they are using so-called “opinion and editorial” pages to promote repugican candidates, and push Kochs’ ideology and vision for America as the country’s salvation.
Last week, an op-ed in Michigan’s Midland Daily News praised the Koch brothers’ vision for America and defended their outrageous spending spree to promote their corporatist agenda and influence elections. However, what the newspaper’s editorial staff failed to disclose was the op-ed writers’ substantial connection to the Koch brothers. It is a practice that many newspapers across the nation are engaging in and it is not necessarily that Koch employees and operatives are infiltrating newspaper editorial pages, it is more that newspapers are negligent at least, and more likely complicit, in pushing a hard-right conservative agenda as the path to the  American dream.
The Michigan op-ed, in particular, was penned by a Koch brother employee, Timothy Nash, who defended the Koch’s political spending as “belief in, passion for, and support of the traditional values that have made America great.” Nash serves on the board of the Free Enterprise Institute (FEI), a Koch-funded group, as well as director of the Koch Scholars program at Northwood University, funded by the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. He is also adjunct professor with the Koch-funded think tank, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. It is noteworthy that the Mackinac Center, “the largest wingnut state-level policy non-think tank in the nation,” is part of the State Policy Network (SPN). SPN is a sister organization of the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) created specifically to “privatize education, block healthcare reform, rob state employee pensions, restrict workers’ rights, and roll back environmental protections.”
A week after Midland Daily News published a pro-Koch “op-ed,” the Detroit News published another pro-Koch “op-ed” that was a  political campaign ad touting Governor Rick Snyder as Ohio’s messianic savior. The piece was written by an employee of another Koch brothers’ group, Generation Opportunity, and praised Snyder and state repugicans as champions of education reform; particularly higher education reform. Generation Opportunity’s primary goal is eliminating ‘accredited’ institutions to make room for Koch libertarian-driven corporate-fueled private schools.
When newspapers aren’t publishing Koch-brother promotional pieces and campaign ads under the guise of editorial opinions, they are promoting and protecting Koch-funded repugicans. That was the case last week when the Cleveland Plain Dealer removed the video of its editorial board’s endorsement meeting with their favorite repugican, Ohio Governor John Kasich and his pathetic performance in the same room as his Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald.
The video the newspaper’s editors did not want Ohio residents to see showed Kasich slumped in his chair, refusing to acknowledge the other candidate, and ignoring repeated attempts by the Plain Dealer’s editorial staff to answer even basic questions about his policies and programs. If the video was available, it would explain precisely why Kasich rejected multiple debate offers from FitzGerald. It does not, however, explain why the newspaper is promoting a confirmed Koch brother devotee instead of doing what newspapers are supposed to do; “get at the truth and keep watch of abuses of power;” two tasks the Kochs and Kasich cannot allow to occur.
Even in California, a decidedly blue state, newspapers are actively promoting Koch-aligned candidates on their editorial and opinion pages. The largest and most influential newspaper in California’s great Central Valley provided a Koch-fueled candidate running for re-election to  Congress, Jeff Denham (r), with a prime campaign ad placement on its opinion page to push a pro-corporate, pro-oil industry, and anti-environmental extremist position rife with outright lies. What is not so stunning, is that the newspaper boasting ‘transparency and truth’ in journalism allowed Denham to use language straight out of the Kochs’ Americans for Prosperity playbook based on Koch-created lies. Language that claimed, for example, that the devastating drought plaguing the Golden State was not caused by lack of rainfall due to climate change, but the Environmental Protection Agency and the Clean Waters Act. The newspaper’s editors know their audience is too ignorant to comprehend that lack of rainfall is the reason the state is in a severe drought and allowed Denham to blame the water woes on dirty environmental extremists and clean water advocates.
There is a world of attention given to the influence, and damage from, corporate-driven, main-stream media outlets such as Faux News and CNN for promoting the conservative’s extremist agenda and Republican policies. However, the real damage is being inflicted every day in newspapers, large and small, across the nation in small towns and major metropolitan areas. Many Americans understand they cannot trust main stream broadcast media, but they still hold the opinion that their local newspapers are following the mandate to ‘get at the truth and expose abuses’ against the public. They are sadly mistaken because what drives newspaper editors and publishers is their corporate media owners as well as corporate-driven advertisers devoted to promoting the Koch brothers’ agenda and not exposing their blatant abuses against the American people.

Hey repugicans, Hate and Bigotry are not Values, They’re Character Flaws

Rick Santorum claims if he hadn't been persecuted into silence, he could have convinced millennials to be hateful bigots like he and his buddies…
ted cruz sarah palinPeople mistake how things have “always” been, that is, in their lifetimes, or that of their parents and grandparents, as “values.” But racism, religious bigotry, and misogyny are not values. Neither is the habitually dishonesty we see from the likes of Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin. Ethnic nationalism is not a value, unless you’re a fascist.
They are character flaws.
When we try to cope with wingnuttery’s devotion to the status quo, this is what we are dealing with: A group of people who believe that negatives are actually positives. The corollary to this is that they think positives are negatives. Thus, as we continue to grant rights to people, repugicans cry tyranny.
Just the other day, Rick Santorum claimed during an interview with the christian post, that we are becoming Nazi Germany. I can tell you right now, having studied Nazi Germany and read Nazi newspapers, the Nazis were not giving rights to anybody. For example, they weren’t expanding the voting franchise, as Democrats have been doing in this country for decades.
The repugicans want only white christians to vote, and they’re pretty vocal about it. Similarly, the Nazis not only restricted the voting franchise to ethnic Germans, but they made elections meaningless through employment of the Führer Principle (Führerprinzip). This was a leadership hierarchy with Adolf Hitler at the top, once elected but never to be elected again, for the simple reason that people weren’t going to be allowed to vote again. You don’t get to vote against what dog has ordained. Sound familiar?
In Nazi Germany, the Führer combined in his person executive, legislative, and judicial power.
We see nothing like that here, of course. We are all painfully aware that we have a legislative branch independent of the executive, thanks to six years of obstruction and nullification and refusal to earn their pay, and we have been made equally well aware of our judicial branch through such catastrophic rulings as the Hobby Lobby decision and Citizens United. On the other hand, we are aware of our executive branch too, not only through the incompetent and even criminal bumbling of the shrub junta, but the heroic efforts of the Obama administration to keep America a going concern.
Rick Santorum made another claim worth mentioning a few days ago, and that is that by silencing the cult (by which he means himself and other religio-wingnut figures – remember, he believes mainline protestantism is lost to satan), “secular statists” are winning the Culture War. Yes, if only he hadn’t been persecuted into silence, he could have convinced millennials to be hateful bigots like he and his buddies.
“The arguments are being won among young people. We are losing in this particular area among young people not because we’re out there and competing, it’s because they have effectively silenced the cult on a lot of those issues and young people don’t even know what the opposing view is on these issues.
Tell me if YOU think Santorum has been silenced. I think you’ll find there has been nothing forcing him to keep his tongue behind his teeth. If only.
Thanks to Faux News, the opposite of what Santorum insists upon is true. Rather than silencing his view, his view has become pervasive thanks to Faux News’ 24/7 made-up news cycle.
Even Business Insider ran with the story: that watching Faux News makes you less informed than if you had watched no news at all. That pretty much says it all. And wingnuts watch Faux News. It is hard to make this sound like either an accomplishment or confirmation of Santorum’s persecution fantasies. On the contrary,  people are having their minds poisoned by Faux News.
Just not millennials, who have other means of interacting with the world. Like the free and open Internet repugicans have come so much to hate.
Most of us see this as freedom of speech, and free speech as a good thing. Santorum sees the free and open exchange of ideas as some sort of rat poison directed at the “righteous” like himself:
“I really believe in this subject matter at hand with the gay community that a judeo-christian worldview cannot survive with a worldview that is as rabidly secular as this movement is.”
Rabidly secular. As opposed to rabidly theocratic? It was Santorum’s dog who said that we shall not have any other dogs before him. To be equally rabid, would not gay rights activists, for example, have to insist, “There shall be no other marriages than gay marriages”?
But nobody is saying that, are they? Heterosexual marriages will be just fine if gay couples can get married.
Here’s the thing that religio-wingnut figures like Santorum refuse to admit. They can keep their delusions if gay people can get married. Nobody is stopping Santorum from thinking this is wrong. He’s free to go to a cult that refuses to perform same-sex marriages. But if Santorum had his way, ALL of us would have to live by his rules. In other words, there wouldn’t be any cults where gay people could get married.
Somehow, giving gay people rights that are equivalent (at least in some respects) to rights Santorum enjoys, is a form of tyranny, a form of persecution. Because we won’t all do what Santorum says we must do, he stomps his feet and cries we are persecuting him. This is not only NOT a mature response but it is a wildly inaccurate one.
The wingnut plan seems to be, if Lie X is not believed, then tell Lie Y and then Lie Z. And they have the Kochs buying up the mainstream media and Faux News already propagating these lies like never before in history, and STILL millennials are seeing through their bullshit and embracing true religious freedom, not to be confused with Santorum’s “religious freedom,” which is only White Evangelical Privilege in disguise.
That’s why Santorum is angry right down to the fibers of his v-neck sweater.
He can’t get it through his thick head that millennials don’t think treating their friends like shit to satisfy some religious dogma is a value. Unlike all the white folks in small towns across America, where you don’t see ethnic or religious minorities, many millennials have gay friends, just like they have atheist friends, muslim friends, and Latino friends.
They know their friends are people, deserving of equal respect and treatment, and all the lies Faux News can tell isn’t going to convince them something they know is not true, to be true. As a group, they are much more in line with the Pope, and his “Who am I to judge” than with the repugican cabals’s “you’re all going to hell if you disagree with me” line.
And not only is an open mind a value, but having one has another benefit: it drives the Ted Cruzes and Sarah Palins and Rick Santorums of the world crazy.

The repugicans Don’t Care About Income Inequality Or Basic Human Needs

need work
We have come to serve the economy rather than the economy serving us. We ask people to suffer to save the system that produces suffering, instead of creating a system that seeks to eliminate suffering.
I have a confession to make. In the series of articles I have supposedly been writing about income inequality, I have really been writing about something else: need. Let’s not fool ourselves or think I have been naïve. Raising the minimum wage or making minor redistributions of wealth, while likely to help many in materially significant ways, will not even minimally move us toward something remotely resembling income equality. The average American workers or unemployed and underemployed souls wouldn’t suddenly find themselves rubbing shoulders with Jamie Dimon or some other fabulously wealthy CEO, even if such an infinitesimal narrowing of the wealth gap were politically orchestrated. What we are really talking about when we engage the issue of income inequality is finding a way to help those in “low-wage” jobs or in need of work earn enough to meet their basic needs, not actually equalizing incomes.
I am coming clean because I feel our political discourse is decidedly impoverished because of the absence of discussion about NEED. We dance about it in indirect ways, talking about raising the minimum wage, helping small businesses so they can hire, lowering taxes, creating middle-class jobs, etc.; but rarely, if ever, do we hear anyone talk about creating, or re-creating, an economy designed to meet basic human needs.
Perhaps ironically, New Jersey repugican Senate candidate Jeff Bell most recently and unwittingly raised the issue of need when analyzing why he trails Democratic incumbent Cory Booker in the polls. “Single mothers particularly,” he said, “are automatically Democratic because of the benefits. They need benefits to survive, and so that kind of weds them to the Democratic Party.”
Did a repugican just admit that we have people experiencing real need in this country who really do require what meager assistance is available just to survive? While it easy to hear, as some have, the same old tired repugican rhetoric lambasting the poor and lazy for their dependence on government handouts, his exact words actually mark a telling departure from typical repugican double-speak regarding need.
Routinely issues of need get recast in our limited bi-partisan political discourse into the vocabulary of jobs; and when repugicans speak about jobs, they typically do so with forked tongue, at once berating individuals for being unwilling to work (and hence opposing the extension of unemployment benefits because they disincentivize work) and also excoriating President Obama for his failed economic policies for not creating jobs. Obviously, the approach begs the question, how can we blame people for not working when there is a scarcity of jobs?
Quite glibly, apparently. Just take Wisconsin's Scott Walker who in a recent gubernatorial debate, defended his record of having created only 5,800 jobs (against a loss of 13,000!) when he promised 250,000 for Wisconsin, by asserting, “We don’t have a jobs problem; we have a work problem.” If Wisconsin citizens weren’t so lazy and possessed some initiative, Walker would have created another 250,000 jobs!
The approach is akin to blaming thirsty people in a desert for not looking hard enough for water—except with this key difference: in our world we arguably have enough water, but our system withholds it from those who can’t find jobs in an economy in which jobs are scarce, operating on a logic that not only defies social reality but is illogically punitive and inhumane.
If we were to recognize the reality of need in our country and understand that our current economic system actually generates inequality and deprivation, as Jeff Bell unwittingly did, we might actually begin to focus policy-making on re-making the economy to meet rather than exacerbate human need.
At times we almost get there, but the habit of political thinking in U.S. culture tends almost invariably to retreat from critique of our economic system, into blaming people for not doing enough to succeed in a system that affords little opportunity.
For example, a recent Harvard Business School study “An Economy Doing Half Its Job,” as you can tell from its title, highlights a malfunction in our economy manifested in the fact that working-class and middle-class citizens continue to struggle coming out of the recession while large and mid-size businesses are faring quite well. The study calls this divergence “unsustainable.” Despite its critique of our current economic system, the main recommendation has nothing to do with repairing the system or even with redistributing wealth; instead, the study calls for American workers to increase their value by acquiring skills to compete in the global economy.
The folly of this approach, as well as its prevalence as a default habit in American political discourse across the board, is evident in a rather conventional speech President Obama gave in April 2012 at the University of Iowa. While addressing college students and discussing the need to address the debt burden caused by student loans, Obama expressed his desire for everyone to graduate college and succeed. U.S. culture loves this story of the individual’s rise to success through education, ingenuity, or pure hard work. We love it so much it clouds our thinking. Certainly we can agree we live in a society in which anybody can make it. We see evidence of this fact all the time. But we don’t live in a world in which everybody can make it. Even if every person earned an advanced degree, would there be jobs for everyone? Additionally, we would still need people to perform the socially necessary though stigmatized “low-wage” work. Yet we neglect to recognize this reality that our economy generates inequality and need, that it is inveterately an economy that does only half its job.
During the Great Depression, while people stood and starved in breadlines, farmers poured milk down sewers and burned crops in order to create scarcity to raise prices; that is, in order to get the economy working again, food was destroyed while people went hungry. This scenario presents quite a contradiction and underscores the degree to which our economy has become more important than the people living in it. We have come to serve the economy rather than the economy serving us. We ask people to suffer to save the system that produces suffering, instead of creating a system that seeks to eliminate suffering.
When will we fully recognize there is a problem with our economy and work to create a system that works for people and stop asking people to suffer to prop up an economy that doesn’t work for people?
Perhaps when we truly recognize need.

Bound for Syria

German Kurds Join Fight against Islamic State
by Jörg Diehl and Fidelius Schmid
Bound for Syria: German Kurds Join Fight against Islamic State
Young Kurds from Germany are joining PKK's fight against Islamic State in Syria. Security officials are concerned that tensions between Salafists and Kurds in Germany could rise once they return home.  More

New Alignments

The Kurds' Lonely Fight against Islamic State Terror
by Ralf Hoppe, Maximilian Popp, Christoph Reuter and Jonathan Stock
New Alignments: The Kurds' Lonely Fight against Islamic State Terror
The group PKK represents the West's last hope in the fight against Islamic State. Their lonely resistance to the advancing jihadists will result in lasting changes to the region. Some developments are already well advanced. More

The Yazidis

The plight of the Yazidis achieved international attention several months ago:
Fears are growing for the 300 Yazidi women reportedly kidnapped by Islamic State fighters last week amid claims they would be used to bear children to break up the ancient sect's bloodline. The minority group is originally Aryan and has retained a fairer complexion, blonde hair and blue eyes by only marrying within the community. But in a furious bid to convert all non-muslims, ISIL jihadists have vowed to impregnate the hostages. 
 The Dish notes that "the plight of the Yazidis still isn't over."
On Mount Sinjar there are two Yazidi militias resisting the IS push. They told Rudaw that they had not received supplies for weeks. There are also YPG, PKK, and peshmerga fighters in the area as well. IS has cut off the supply routes to the mountain and the Yazidi forces are desperate for weapons and ammunition.
Find out more about the Yazidis from Wikipedia:
The Yazidis are a Kurdish ethno-religious community whose syncretic but ancient religion Yazidism (a kind of Yazdânism) is linked to Zoroastrianism and ancient Mesopotamian religions...

The Yazidis are monotheists, believing in God as creator of the world, which he has placed under the care of seven "holy beings" or angels, the "chief" (archangel) of whom is Melek Taus, the "Peacock Angel."...some followers of other monotheistic religions of the region equate the Peacock Angel with their own unredeemed evil spirit Satan, which has incited centuries of persecution of the Yazidis as "devil worshipers." Persecution of Yazidis has continued in their home communities within the borders of modern Iraq, under both Saddam Hussein and fundamentalist Sunni Muslim revolutionaries. In August 2014 the Yazidis were targeted by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in its campaign to "purify" Iraq and neighboring countries of non-Islamic influences...

Yazidism is not an offshoot of another religion, but shows influence from the many religions of the Middle East. Core Yazidi cosmology has a pre-Zoroastrian Iranian origin, but Yazidism also includes elements of ancient nature-worship, as well as influences from christianity, gnosticism, zoroastrianism, islam and judaism....

Flippin' Good

Germany Learns to Love the Burger
by Alexander Kühn and Ann-Kathrin Nezik
Flippin' Good: Germany Learns to Love the Burger
Hamburgers may be named after the northern German city, but only recently has it become easier to find a good one in the country. A wave of gourmet burger joints is now sweeping Germany, and fast food restaurants could soon be feeling the pinch. More

The Grapes of Wrath

France's Great Wines Are Feeling the Heat
by Ullrich Fichtner The Grapes of Wrath: France's Great Wines Are Feeling the Heat
In France, climate change is no longer just an abstract problem. The culinary country's grand wine culture is threatened by rising global temperatures. Vintners are fighting to save a part of our world culture heritage that spans the last two millennia.  More

Members of anti-violence group arrested for assault

Two members of a anti-violence group in in Washington, Pennsylvania, were arrested by police, accused of beating a man unconscious. According to the Observer-Reporter, police arrested Emanuel Velez and Nikole Ardeno for punching and kicking 26-year=old Joshua Magraff.
Magraff had severe injuries and is in critical condition. The beating took place in Washington just before 4:30pm on Tuesday. Police said that Ardeno punched Magraff through the window of her vehicle. Then Velez got out from the passenger side and punched Magraff in the head, knocking him to the ground.
Police say the two them kicked Magraff while he lay unconscious on the sidewalk. Ardeno and Velez were arrested a short time later. The day before the beating, police say Ardeno, who is the co-coordinator for the Stop the Violence group, led a peace rally through the streets of Washington.
When police arrested her, she was wearing the same white “Stop The Violence” shirt from Monday’s rally. Velez wasn’t at the rally, but police say he is a member of the same anti-violence group. Investigators believe the two attacked Magraff because he was a former roommate and went to the apartment to collect his belongings.
There's a news video here.

Man accused of trying to steal TV from Walmart said he wanted to watch the Dukes of Hazzard

A 32-year-old Florida man reportedly tried to walk out of a Walmart with a large-screen television on Friday afternoon.
After he was stopped by store security, the man reportedly walked to a store display and started eating chicken. Authorities say Travis Ryan Royal of Dunnellon was seen dragging a 48-inch, flat-screen television toward the front door of the Walmart just before 2pm.
When stopped, he told store employees he had paid for the item and needed the security tag taken off, according to a Marion County Sheriff’s Office report. Royal, who was reportedly heavily intoxicated, then wandered over to a display holding fried chicken and ate $3.67 worth of food.
When asked where he was going with the television, Royal said he was going to take it to a restaurant inside the store to watch the “Dukes of Hazzard.” Royal was booked into the Marion County Jail on one count of grand theft. He is being held in lieu of a $25,000 bond.

Bizarre Human Brain With No Wrinkles Discovered

by Kristy Hamilton
An adult human brain with no folds.
While photographing shelves of human brains stored away in a closet at the University of Texas for his next book, Adam Voorhes happened upon a truly unique find: a brain with no folds.
David Dexter, scientific director at Parkinson's UK Brain Bank, told New Scientist that he had never seen an adult brain like this before: "We do get the odd individual where certain sulci are missing but nothing to the extent of this brain.”
The lack of grooves (sulci) and folds (gyri) that characterize a human brain are due to a rare condition called lissencephaly. The disorder is caused by abnormal neuronal migration during embryonic development.
The smooth brain is on the bottom, second to the right.
To learn more about this rare find, Voorhes spent over a year trying to hunt down the details of this and the approximately 100 other human brains in the collection. He sifted through a century’s worth of documents and found a history rife with battle for ownership of the collection. However, nothing about the specific individual came to light.
People with similar though less extensive forms of lissencephaly often experience difficulty swallowing, muscle spasms, seizures, and learning difficulties. Many individuals with this condition die before the age of 10.
All the brains in the collection are from patients at the Austin State Mental Hospital and were subsequently preserved in jars of formaldehyde. For more than 20 years, the brains were forgotten about in a dark closet somewhere in the back of an animal lab. While all the rediscovered brains are considered disfigured or abnormal in some way, a brain with so few folds and grooves is a rarity amongst the rare.
Currently, the University of Texas is working on documenting the brains in more detail with an MRI scanner. Upon conclusion, the brains will be put on display at the Imaging Research Center on campus.

Ghosts In The Machines

The Devices And Daring Mediums That Spoke For The Dead
The spirits came calling in 1848. Through a series of startlingly loud knocks, a murdered peddler named Charles Rosna started talking to two teenage girls in their Hydesville, New York, home. Margaret and Kate Fox, who could be the inspiration for Wednesday Addams with their dark locks and solemn expressions, would ask the spirits questions out loud, and to everyone's surprise, the spirits would answer.

The Fox sisters started the craze of Victorian Spiritualism. But listening for raps got tedious so Spiritualists started to invent ways for spirits to communicate. They developed strange devices for the dead to write their thoughts down or to just point to the letters.

Bulgarian farmer discovers skull resembling werewolf in a sealed box

Bulgarian farmer discovers skull resembling werewolf
A Bulgarian born farmer, Trayche Draganov, claims to have found a box, chained shut, containing a werewolf-like skull while plowing a new section of field in the village of Novo Selo, Republic of Macedonia.
The account was reported to Ancient Origins by historian Filip Ganev, who spent time in Novo Selo while conducting research for his book on the Balkan Wars. Mr Ganev met the farmer, who showed him the box containing the unusual skull. He reported that the skull appears wolf-like with the exception of an enlarged cranium, a trait found only in primate species.
Mr Ganev photographed the skull and shared them with government wildlife officials, who concluded that it was likely a wolf that suffered from Paget Disease, a condition which causes the skull to increase in size and appear more human-like.
Novo Selo - Macedonia
The skull was found in a field in Novo Selo, a small village in the Republic of Macedonia.
Mr Ganev said that werewolves have been a staple of Balkan folklore since before recorded history. The legends vary from region to region as far as how and why one becomes a werewolf. Some believe that a person is born with the ability to shape shift into a wolf. Babies born with hair are said to have a proclivity for this. Other regions believe that a person who died in a mortal sin or made some other union with the devil would be reborn as werewolves. Though the differences are great, one thing that they all share is how to dispose of a werewolf corpse.
Woodcut of a werewolf attack
Woodcut of a werewolf attack, by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1512
Werewolves were always dealt with by an exorcism by a parish priest, decapitation and burning of the body. It was thought that werewolves were to be killed on Saturday because that was the day they lay resting in their graves and could be easily caught. In the case of this Macedonian werewolf, it seems as though it was disposed of properly. At least until it was unearthed by a curious farmer.
The werewolf-like skull
The werewolf-like skull was found in a box that was chained shut.
Trayche does not fear that the spirit of the werewolf will be released and he is very proud of his discovery, showing it off to anyone who cares to look. He admits that others in the village do not share his flippant attitude and feel that it would have been better left in the ground. “Many of my neighbors are angry that I disturbed the vrkolak (werewolf),” said Trayche. “They say that I will be reborn as a werewolf. If that is now my fate, so be it. What is done is done."

Amazon Warriors Did Indeed Fight and Die Like Men

Archaeology shows that these fierce women also smoked pot, got tattoos, killed—and loved—men.
A photo of an Amazon woman carrying a spear.
An 1882 print shows an Amazon, perhaps Penthesilea, Queen of the Amazons, about to spear a panther.
The Amazons got a bum rap in antiquity. They wore trousers. They smoked pot, covered their skin with tattoos, rode horses, and fought as hard as the guys. Legends sprang up like weeds. They cut off their breasts to fire their bows better! They mutilated or killed their boy children! Modern (mostly male) scholars continued the confabulations. The Amazons were hard-core feminists. Man haters. Delinquent mothers. Lesbians.
A photo of the book "The Amazons: Lives and Legends of Warrior Women Across the Ancient World" by Adrienne Mayor.Drawing on a wealth of textual, artistic, and archaeological evidence, Adrienne Mayor, author of The Amazons, dispels these myths and takes us inside the truly wild and wonderful world of these ancient warrior women.
Talking from her home in Palo Alto, California, she explains what Johnny Depp has in common with Amazons, why the Amazon spirit is breaking out all over pop culture, and who invented trousers.
We associate the word Amazon with digital book sales these days. Tell us about the real Amazons.
The real Amazons were long believed to be purely imaginary. They were the mythical warrior women who were the archenemies of the ancient Greeks. Every Greek hero or champion, from Hercules to Theseus and Achilles, had to prove his mettle by fighting a powerful warrior queen.
We know their names: Hippolyta, Antiope, Thessalia. But they were long thought to be just travelers' tales or products of the Greek storytelling imagination. A lot of scholars still argue that. But archaeology has now proven without a doubt that there really were women fitting the description that the Greeks gave us of Amazons and warrior women.
The Greeks located them in the areas north and east of the Mediterranean on the vast steppes of Eurasia. Archaeologists have been digging up thousands of graves of people called Scythians by the Greeks. They turn out to be people whose women fought, hunted, rode horses, used bows and arrows, just like the men.
What archaeological proofs have been discovered to show that these mythical beings actually existed?
They've been excavating Scythian kurgans, which are the burial mounds of these nomadic peoples. They all had horse-centred lifestyles, ranging across vast distances from the Black Sea all the way to Mongolia. They lived in small tribes, so it makes sense that everyone in the tribe is a stakeholder. They all have to contribute to defense and to war efforts and hunting. They all have to be able to defend themselves.
The great equalizer for those peoples was the domestication of horses and the invention of horse riding, followed by the perfection of the Scythian bow, which is smaller and very powerful. If you think about it, a woman on a horse with a bow, trained since childhood, can be just as fast and as deadly as a boy or man.
Archaeologists have found skeletons buried with bows and arrows and quivers and spears and horses. At first they assumed that anyone buried with weapons in that region must have been a male warrior. But with the advent of DNA testing and other bioarchaeological scientific analysis, they've found that about one-third of all Scythian women are buried with weapons and have war injuries just like the men. The women were also buried with knives and daggers and tools. So burial with masculine-seeming grave goods is no longer taken as an indicator of a male warrior. It's overwhelming proof that there were women answering to the description of the ancient Amazons.
Why were they called Amazons?
[Laughs.] That's such a complex story that I actually devoted an entire chapter to it. It's the one thing everyone seems to think they know about Amazons: that the name has something to do with only having one breast so they could easily fire an arrow or hurl a spear. But anyone who's watched The Hunger Games, or female archers, knows that that is an absolutely physiologically ridiculous idea. Indeed, no ancient Greek artworks—and there are thousands—show a woman with one breast.
All modern scholars point out that the plural noun "Amazones" was not originally a Greek word—and has nothing to do with breasts. The notion that "Amazon" meant "without breast" was invented by the Greek historian Hellanikos in the fifth century B.C.
He tried to force a Greek meaning on the foreign loan word: a for "lack" and "mazon," which sounded a bit like the Greek word for breast. His idea was rejected by other historians of his own day, and no ancient artist bought the story. But it stuck like superglue. Two early reviews of my book even claimed I accept that false etymology. Linguists today suggest that the name derives from ancient Iranian or Caucasian roots.
A photo of a vase with scenes of Amazon women fighting.
Amazons war on this fourth-century Greek vase.
You describe them as "aggressive, independent man-killers." Were Amazons also lesbians?
That is one of the ideas that have arisen in modern times. Nobody in antiquity ever suggested that. We know that the ancient Greeks and Romans were not shy about discussing homosexuality among men or women. So if that idea had been current in antiquity, someone would have mentioned it.
The one interesting artistic bit of evidence that I did find is a vase that shows a Thracian huntress giving a love gift to the Queen of the Amazons, Penthesilea. That's a strong indication that at least someone thought of the idea of a love affair between Amazons. But just because we don't have any written evidence and only that one unique vase doesn't preclude that Amazons might have had relations with each other. It's just that it has nothing to do with the ancient idea of Amazons.
The strong bond of sisterhood was a famous trait in classical art and literature about Amazons. But it was modern people who interpreted that as a sexual preference for women. That started in the 20th century. The Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva declared that Amazons were symbolic of lesbianism in antiquity. Then others took that up. But the ancient Greeks didn't think of them as lesbians. They described them as lovers of men, actually. Man-killers—and man lovers.
You refer to the "Amazon spirit." What are its key characteristics?
I used that phrase in the dedication to a good friend of mine, Sunny Bock. She was a strong figure who believed in equality between men and women. She rode motorcycles, she rode horses, then became the first female railroad engineer. She was a risk taker who died an untimely death, probably because of her life of risk. She embodied the Amazon spirit: the assumption that women are the equals of men and that they could be just as noble and brave and heroic.
That comes through in the artworks and literature about Amazons. The Greeks were both fascinated and appalled by such independent women. They were so different from their wives and daughters. Yet there was a fascination. They were captivated by them. Pictures of Amazons on vase paintings always show them as beautiful, active, spirited, courageous, and brave.
I talked to a vase expert whose specialty is gestures on Greek vases. He has written an article about gestures begging for mercy in single combat images. Quite a few of the losers in duels are shown gesturing for mercy. But among Amazons, not so much. We have about 1,300 or so images of Amazons fighting. And only about two or three of them are gesturing for mercy. So they're shown to be extremely courageous and heroic. And I think that's the Amazon spirit.
Amazons smoked pot and drank a powerful concoction of fermented mare's milk called kumis, which they used in rituals. Put us around a campfire in ancient Scythia.
In that picture of the ancient Amazons sitting around their campfire we also have to include men. We don't have any evidence that there were whole societies with nothing but women. When we say Amazons, we mean Scythian women. In this case Scythian warrior women.
Herodotus gives us a very good picture. He says that they gathered a flower or leaves or seeds—he wasn't absolutely sure—and sat around a campfire and threw these plants onto the fire. They became intoxicated from the smoke and then would get up and dance and shout and yell with joy. It's pretty certain he was talking about hemp, because he actually does call it cannabis. He just wasn't certain whether it was the leaves or the flower or the bud. But we know they used intoxicants. Archaeologists are finding proof of this in the graves. Every Scythian man and woman was buried with a hemp-smoking kit, including a little charcoal brazier.
Herodotus also described a technique in which they would build a sauna-type arrangement of felt tents, probably in wintertime on the steppes. He describes it as like a tepee with a felt or leather canopy. They would take the hemp-smoking equipment inside the tent and get high. They've found the makings of those tents in many Scythian graves. They've also found the remains of kumis, the fermented mare's milk. I give a recipe in the book for a freezing technique they used to raise its potency. [Laughs.] Do not try this at home.
They were also very big on tattoos, weren't they?
There are a lot of tattoos—beautifully, lovingly detailed tattoos in images of Thracian and Scythian women on vase paintings. Ancient Greek historians described the tattooing practices of the culturally related tribes of Eurasia.
According to one account, Scythian women taught the Thracian women how to tattoo. The Greeks had lots of slaves from the Black Sea area, and they were all tattooed. They thought of tattoos as a sort of punishment. Who would voluntarily mark their bodies? Yet once again they had this push-pull attraction and anxiety about these foreign cultures.
We also now have archaeological evidence that Amazon-like women were tattooed. Tattoo kits been discovered in ancient Scythian burials. The frozen bodies of several heavily tattooed Scythian men and women have been recovered from graves. The famous Ice Princess is just one example—her tattoos of deer call to mind the tattoos depicted in Greek vase paintings.
Johnny Depp said, My skin is my journal, and the tattoos are the stories. I think that's a good way to think of this. They could have been initiations, they could be just for decoration, they could represent special experiences, either in reality or dreams. We don't really know. All we know is that they were heavily tattooed, mostly with real and fantastical animals and geometric designs.
A photo of female peshmerga fighters taking part in military training in northern Iraq.
Kurdish women in a Peshmerga battalion, whom some might seen as modern Amazons, take part in a training exercise near Sulaymaniyah, Iraq, on September 17, 2014.
A question I have been dying to ask: Who invented trousers?
The Greeks credited three different warrior women with the invention of trousers. Medea, a mythical sorceress and princess from the Caucasus region, was credited with inventing the outfit that was taken up by Scythians and Persians. The other two were Queen Semiramis, a legendary Assyrian figure, and Queen Rhodogune, which means "woman in red." The Greeks were not that far off. Trousers were invented by the people who first rode horses—and those were people from the steppes.
Leg coverings are absolutely essential if you're going to spend your life on horseback. Trousers are also the first tailored garments. They were pieced together and sewn. The Greeks wore rectangles of cloth held together with pins. They thought trousers were an abomination worn by the barbarians. But once again, they're fascinated by them.
In the vase paintings the Amazons have wildly spotted and striped and checked leggings and trousers. One of the things I find most interesting is that it was not just the men who rejected trousers. Greek women didn't wear them either. Yet we find images of beautiful Amazons in trousers on women's perfume jars and jewelry boxes. I think there's something going on in Greek private life that we don't really know about yet.
There was even an Amazon island, wasn't there?
Yes. It's the only island off the southern coast of the Black Sea. It's now called Giresun Island. But it was first written about in Apollonius of Rhodes's version of the epic poem The Argonauts. As Jason and the Argonauts are sailing east on the Black Sea, they stop at what they call Island of Ares or Amazon Island. There they see the ruins of a temple and an altar, where they claim the Amazons sacrificed horses and worshiped before they went to war.
This is really interesting, because it means the Greeks were finding ruins associated with Amazons as far back as the Bronze Age. It shows how real the Amazons were to them. Recently, Turkish archaeologists found the altar and temple ruins that are mentioned in Jason and the Argonauts.
They got a bad press in the ancient world, didn't they? There were rumors that they maimed and even castrated young boys. Separate the fiction from the fact.
The idea that Amazons abandoned, maimed, or killed young boys is a fairly early story that circulated among the Greeks, because several writers assumed that Amazon societies must be women only.
That then raised the question: How do they reproduce? They came up with these stories of women agreeing to meet with neighboring tribes to reproduce. But then what did they do with the boys? So there were stories that they either maimed them so that they couldn't participate in warfare or that they actually killed them to get rid of them and only kept the girls.
The most common story was that they sent the boys back to the fathers to be raised. Many modern scholars interpreted this as proof that they abandoned their duties as mothers. They don't take care of their babies! They give them away! Blah, blah, blah.
But it turns out that it was a very common custom among nomadic people, called fosterage. Sending sons to be raised by another tribe ensures that you're going to have good relations with that tribe. It's a way of sealing treaties. It was very common in antiquity.
Philip the Great was raised by an ally of his father. It was also common in the Middle Ages in Europe. It's also a way of ensuring you don't have incest within the tribe. The fact that the Scythian and Thracian tribes probably practiced fosterage led to these stories that the Amazons gave their sons to the father's tribe. That's probably a reality. But there is no archaeological evidence that they maimed boys.
Tell us about modern-day Amazons.
Today's news from the Middle East and Syria is filled with images of Kurdish Peshmerga women fighting IS. There are movies and TV series featuring bold warrior women and even Amazons. It started with Xena: Warrior Princess, and then there were the animated films Brave and Mulan and The Hunger Games and the role of Atalanta in the Hercules film. The new Vikings TV show has all the shield maidens. And of course there are strong women in A Game of Thrones. So everyone's really aware of the idea of warrior women.
It's sort of fair to say that Amazons, both as reality and as a dream of equality, have always been with us. It's just that sometimes that fiery Amazon spirit is hidden from view or even suppressed. Right now they're blazing back into popular culture.

This is probably the oldest mask in the world

From the collections of the Musée "Bible et Terre Sainte" -
This stone mask from the pre-ceramic neolithic period dates to 7000 BCE and is probably the oldest mask in the world.

Ancient Stone Circles in the Mideast

Huge stone circles in the Middle East have been imaged from above, revealing details of structures that have been shrouded in mystery for decades.

Did Cave Acoustics Inspire Prehistoric Artists?

The field of acoustic archaeology is growing as scientists consider the importance of sound to prehistoric cultures and their rituals. Steven Waller of Rock Art Acoustics thinks that ancient people were inspired to decorate cave walls and canyons with images of herds of animals because of the thundering echoes the formations produced. He has found that European caves with higher levels of reverberation are more likely to be decorated, and in North America, there is a correlation between places in canyons with echoes and the placement of prehistoric art. “It’s a trivial little sound, but it can have a huge emotional impact if you don’t expect it, if you can’t explain it,” he told Live Science. Waller is presenting his research at the annual meeting of the Acoustical Society of America. To read more about one of the world's great cave art sites, see ARCHAEOLOGY's "A Chauvet Primer."

Human vs Neanderthal marathon

It turns out Neanderthals may have had more brawn, but modern humans could run -- and run.

The devastating witches’ broom

Scientists seek cure for devastating witches' broom disease of the chocolate tree
Scientists seek cure for devastating witches’ broom disease of the chocolate tree

In the early 1900s, Brazil was the world’s largest producer […]