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

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Daily Drift

Hey, wingnuts, this means you ...!
Carolina Naturally is read in 200 countries around the world daily.   
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Today in History

1520   Spanish explorer Ferdinand Magellan, having discovered a strait at the tip of South America, enters the Pacific.  
1729   Natchez Indians massacre most of the 300 French settlers and soldiers at Fort Rosalie, Louisiana.  
1861   The Confederate Congress admits Missouri to the Confederacy, although Missouri has not yet seceded from the Union.
1868   Mt. Etna in Sicily violently erupts.  
1872   The Modoc War of 1872-73 begins in northern California when fighting breaks out between Modoc Chief Captain Jack and a cavalry detail led by Captain James Jackson.  
1899   The British are victorious over the Boers at Modder River.  
1919   Lady Astor is elected the first woman in Parliament.  
1925   The forerunner of the Grand Ole Opry, called the WSM Barn Dance, opens in Nashville, Tennessee.    
1935   The German Reich declares all men ages 18 to 45 as army reservists.  
1937   Spanish leader Francisco Franco blockades the Spanish coast.  
1939   The Soviet Union scraps its nonaggression pact with Finland.  
1941   The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise departs from Pearl Harbor to deliver F4F Wildcat fighters to Wake Island. This mission saves the carrier from destruction when the Japanese attack.  
1943   Sir Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin and Franklin D. Roosevelt meet at Tehran, Iran, to hammer out war aims.
1944   The first shipment of supplies reach Antwerp by convoy, a new route for the Allies.  
1948   Dr. Edwin Land's first Polaroid cameras go on sale in Boston.  
1950   In Korea, 200,000 Communist troops launch attack on UN forces.  
1961   Ernie Davis becomes the first African American to win the Heisman Trophy.  
1963   Cape Canaveral is renamed Cape Kennedy.  
1971   The anglican cult ordains the first two women as priests.  
1975   East Timor declares independence from Portugal.
1980   Operation Morvarid (Iran-Iraq War); Iranian Navy destroys over 70% of Iraqi Navy.  
1984   repugican Robert Dole is named Senate majority leader.  
1989   Communist Party of Czechoslovakia announces it will give up its monopoly on political power.
1991   South Ossetia declares independence from Georgia.
2002   Suicide bombers blow up an Israeli-owned hotel in Mombasa, Kenya.

Nothin’ but a good time

m-cousin babiesBabies remember nothin’ but a good time, study says

Parents who spend their time playing with and talking to their five-month-old baby may wonder whether their child remembers any of it a day later.

Things Get Worse For repugicans: Poll Finds 89% of Latinos Support Obama On Immigration

latinos support obama immigration executive order
Just when you thought that things couldn’t possibly get worse for the repugican cabal as it implodes over immigration, a new poll has found that 89% of Latinos support President Obama’s immigration executive actions.
According to Buzzfeed News,
The poll found that 89% of Latino voters support Obama’s decision to give temporary legal status to nearly five million undocumented immigrants. That level of support surprised Latino Decisions co-founder Matt Barreto, who noted the figure is higher than initial support of the president’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protected undocumented youth brought to the country as children from deportation and allowed them to receive work permits.
He said 85% of independents and 76% of Latinos who identify as repugicans support Obama’s move.
Altogether, 80% of voters and 60% of Latino repugicans don’t think the repugican cabal should attempt to cut funding of his order.
Congressional repugicans are under an intense amount of pressure to stop President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. The problem is that Obama’s action is the most popular presidential decision among Latinos in recent memory. If repugicans try to defund the president’s executive orders or shut down the government over immigration, they will be taking a giant towards alienating Latino voters that they need in order to win presidential elections.
A move to defund Obama’s executive orders is likely to push Latino repugicans closer to the Democratic Party. There is nothing that repugicans can do in response to the president that will not come at a huge political cost. The only thing that House repugicans can do is to pass the Senate’s bipartisan immigration reform bill. However, even a vote on the bill will likely trigger an earthquake within the repugican cabal that will divide congressional repugicans before they take over Congress.
`President Obama has repugicans completely pinned down. In other words, Boehner and McConnell are screwed. Any move is likely to trigger a political firestorm and a crisis. Since their white male wingnut base is demanding action, doing nothing has been deemed the most unacceptable option of all.
Thanks to Obama, repugicans have been placed in a no win situation that will make it impossible for them to steal the White House in 2016.
Barack Obama has managed to turn defeat into victory, and put on a clinic on how to reverse momentum by attacking your opponent’s greatest weakness. Latinos are standing with the president, which means that the immigration minefield just got a lot more treacherous for the repugican cabal.

Americans’ World-Leading Ignorance Empowers repugican cabal’s Immigration Opposition

The repugicans are well-aware of the overwhelming ignorance plaguing the population, most of whom make up the repugican cabal base…
Ignorance is power
It is one thing to be embarrassed by something one is personally responsible for, but quite another to be embarrassed by, and for, another person. Many Americans may be proud of this nation, although one can hardly fathom why, but if the majority of people took stock of the level of rank stupidity and willful ignorance of the population at large they would be embarrassed for America and, more to the point, the people themselves.
Over the course of the past six years since Americans elected an African American man as President, there have been a mountainous studies, research, and reports denoting the sad state of affairs in America that can be attributed to the population’s stupidity and ignorance. A couple of weeks ago, another study revealed that Americans are inherently ignorant and, if not for one other more ignorant developed nation, would rank as the world’s stupidest people.
The astounding ignorance or, more aptly, stunning stupidity of Americans is certainly a function of availability bias  generated by mainstream media’s habit of reporting repugican lies as verified facts. The wingnut media’s successes at propagating American ignorance was revealed in a new Ipsos Mori “ignorance indexsurvey revealing that the American people rank second among all developed nations as being incredibly ignorant about a wide range of subjects in their own countries; including immigration. The repugicans are well-aware of the overwhelming ignorance plaguing the population, most of whom make up the repugican cabal base, and it is why they claim the President’s immigration action is illegal, unconstitutional, dictatorial, a prelude to ethnic cleansing, and something about internment camps.
There is just one problem for repugicans, the wingnut Roberts’ Supreme Court has already ruled that the President is well-within his Constitutional authority to, like every repugican pretender since Eisenhower, use his executive authority regarding prosecutorial discretion on immigration enforcement. However, yesterday, de facto Speaker of the House and presumed incoming Senate Majority Leader Ted Cruz, referred to something unrelated to legal statutes as “the law of the land” to prove the President’s immigration actions are “unconstitutional.”
Forget Cruz’s absurd assertion that the President’s immigration enforcement actions have anything whatsoever to do with granting amnesty; only the world’s second most ignorant population would accept that as reality. Where Cruz likely impressed the stupid repugican base is when he said, “We should use the constitutional checks and balances we have to rein in the executive. You know, if the read the Federalist Papers, in the Federalist Papers, ‘they talked about’ a president who would rule by diktat and decree rather than follow the Constitution.”
If the Faux News hack, Chris Wallace, had an ounce of integrity, he would have stopped Cruz in his tracks, slapped him into reality, and clarified something Texas Ted certainly knows is a true and a verifiable fact; particularly since he swore an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution. The Federalist Papers are not the law of the land, they carry no legal authority, and are no more the U.S. Constitution than the ten commandments or the bible are.
However, due to Americans being the second-most ignorant people in the developed world, it is likely a relatively large majority believe that if Cruz cited the Federalist Papers as proof the President’s immigration action is dictatorial and unconstitutional on national television, it must be true. Especially since the Faux hack did not inform Cruz that the U.S. Constitution, and not the Federalist Papers, is the supreme law of the land.
Obviously, the Founding Fathers envisioned the future when a manipulative cretin like Cruz would attempt to fool ignorant Americans, so they included a clause in the real Constitution to preclude a malcontent like Cruz from fooling what they likely anticipated was a population steeped in ignorance.
In Article Six, Clause 2 of the nation’s founding document it says, “This Constitution, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land.” It is “this Constitution,” that the Roberts’ Supreme Court, including two of the Court’s most conservative members, cited in striking down most of Arizona’s immigration law in 2012 and specifically addressed immigration enforcement discretion.
Writing for the majority ruling, Justice Anthony Kennedy included language highlighting the “broad discretion” the executive branch enjoys in matters relating to immigration. He wrote that, “Aliens may be removed if they were inadmissible at the time of entry, have been convicted of certain crimes, or meet other criteria set by federal law. Removal is a civil, not criminal, matter. A principal feature of the removal system is the broad discretion exercised by immigration officials. Federal officials must decide whether it makes sense to pursue removal at all.”
President Obama, like Dwight Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, ronny raygun, the shrub's daddy, and the shrub, all decided that it did not always make sense to pursue removal and used executive action to order immigration officials to exercise broad enforcement discretion. In fact, when it came to using executive action to order immigration officials to use broad discretion, Eisenhower issued 3 executive orders, Ford issued two, raygun issued four, shrub 1 issued five, and shrub 2 issued four.
pensito-infograph-gop-executive-amnesties (2)
Not one of the repugican pretenders faced even one threat of impeachment, lawsuits, or claims that the stinking archaic and impotent Federalist Papers proved their actions were ethnic cleansing, socialism, internment camps, unconstitutional, or ruling by “diktat or decree.” However, they were repugicans, but more importantly to repugicans and their inherently racist base; they were white guys.
Despite anything the lying repugicans claim, their only opposition to President Obama taking executive action five of his repugican predecessors did is that he is exercising Presidential authority while being Black. Interestingly, there is nothing in the Constitution, the Federalist Papers repugicans think is the Constitution, or the christian bible for that matter, that remotely resembles a prohibition on a Black man being elected as President. Unfortunately, since Americans are the second-most ignorant people in the developed world, it is likely there are a significant number of racist, religious, repugican sycophants who believe Barack Obama is violating the Constitution by sitting in the Oval Office while being Black.

Fallen pine named as Wales' tree of the year

A Scots pine in Powys has been named as Wales' tree of the year, despite being blown over earlier this year.
The Lonely Tree of Llanfyllin won the most votes from eight nominees in a national competition organised by the Woodland Trust.
The conifer has stood above the town for two centuries, but in February it blew down in a severe gale.

The community launched a campaign to raise enough money to pay for covering the tree's exposed roots to keep it alive. Now the fallen giant is to represent Wales in the European Tree of the Year contest, taking place next February.

Tree chopper could face $2 million fine for axe attack

Whoever is responsible for an axe attack on 17 trees at Clontarf Reserve in Manly, New South Wales, Australia could face a fine of AU$2 million (£1.1 million, US$1.7 million). Police and Manly Council are investigating the crime that Manly Mayor Jean Hay called a “despicable act”.
So far they have no clues beyond a hunch that it may have been committed to improve water views. However, that theory is unlikely since nearby houses are higher uphill and command views over the top of the park’s trees. Vandalism is another possible motive.
The 16 Norfolk Island pines and single fig tree were, before the tomahawk attack, mature and healthy specimens providing shade and shelter for park users. The council believes the trees were damaged and then poisoned on Tuesday night and is using an infra-red camera to try and monitor any biological reaction to poison inside the trunks and branches.
The multi-million-dollar fine could be imposed by the Land and Environment Court, in the event of a successful prosecution. “When these sorts of things have happened in the past – it’s been to improve views, especially water views,” Cr Hay said. “Why would anyone be wanting to do it?” It is not clear yet if the trees will survive.

Chinese building destroyed by cesspool excrement explosion

A cesspool filled with excrement exploded in a central Chinese city, injuring 15 residents and toppling a building on Saturday.
Police in Zhangjiajie city, Hunan Province, believed it was an accident when a man surnamed Ding was burning waste outside his derelict house and near the cesspool at about 5pm.
Police said the fire ignited the methane emanated from the pit and caused the blast. The house has been abandoned since 2006.
The blast occurred at Dayongqiao community of Yongding District. One residential building collapsed, and four others were damaged. The injured people have been hospitalized. Local residents have been resettled elsewhere..

School reverses decision to cancel 'Nutcracker' trip despite presence of xmas tree on stage

The Butler Elementary School PTA in Belmont, Massachusetts, have reversed an earlier decision to cancel a field trip to see "The Nutcracker" after some parents claimed it had questionable content.

Intoxicated motorist paid next-door neighbors' unintended visit

A Long Island man tried to pull into his driveway after a night out, but instead plowed straight through the front door of his next-door neighbors' house at around 3am on Sunday. Dallas Vadala, 20, was supposed to be parking his car in his driveway at 1 Campus Lane in Lake Ronkonkoma but instead crashed into the kitchen of 3 Campus Lane - just feet from the residents sleeping in their bedroom.
The homeowner’s girlfriend, Melissa Molloy, was jolted out of bed when Vadala made his unexpected entrance. Luckily, no one was injured in the crash. “He called out our names,” said Molloy, 26. “He said he’s sorry and said his brakes locked up.” Molloy and her boyfriend, Jamie Cosgrove, 35, saw the Hyundai Sonata in the kitchen and the disheveled driver “freaking out.” “I didn’t think he was [drunk] at the time. He could have been,” Molloy said.
“He was freaking out. He asked if we were okay, and I told him to get his mother.” Cosgrove said that he was startled by the sound of the crash but never expected his neighbor to be parked in the kitchen. “It was a loud bang, I didn’t think a car was in the house,” Cosgrove said. “I have a dog, so I thought she hit something and it fell over and glass broke. But then the dog started going all crazy, and I knew something wasn’t right.”

The couple will have to stay in a hotel until building inspectors and insurance adjusters say it’s safe to return home. “I’ve had better days, that’s for sure,” Cosgrove said. “Everybody is safe, so that’s all that’s important.” A video from the scene shows Vadala warily trying to walk in a straight line for police. Vadala was arrested and taken to the Sixth Precinct station house where he was charged with DWI.

When 59 Children Died On Christmas Eve 1913, The World Cried With The Town Of Calumet, Michigan

A little-known piece of history that Woody Guthrie documented in his haunting song, "1913 Massacre."
  In July 1913, over 7,000 miners struck the C&H Copper Mining Company in Calumet, Michigan. It was largely the usual issues of people who worked for a big company during a time when capitalists ran roughshod over their workers — a time when monopolies were a way of life. Strikers’ demands included pay raises, an end to child labor, and safer conditions including an end to one-man drill operations, as well as support beams in the mines (which mine owners didn’t want because support beams were costly but miners killed in cave-ins “do not cost us anything.”)
Six months without work left many miner families with little food for the holidays and no money for presents, so the Ladies' Auxiliary of the Western Federation of Miners held a Christmas party for the kids. 500 children and 200 adults showed up that day, Christmas Eve 1913. It was held on the second floor of Calumet’s Italian Hall; the only way in and out was a very steep stairway.
As darkness fell and people began to go home to their family celebrations, some of the children gathered around the stage as presents were passed out — for many, it would be the only gift they’d receive this year. In the middle of this festive celebration, someone — possibly more than one person — opened the door at the bottom of the staircase and yelled, “FIRE!”
Chaos ensued. As everybody headed down the stairs to the exit, the door was blocked from the outside, and children and adults were trampled, then suffocated, by the throng of bodies trying to escape the “fire” — which didn’t actually exist.
In all, 73 people, including 59 children, died, most of them Finnish immigrants. The youngest was Rafael Lesar, 2.5 years old. The oldest was Kate Pitteri, 66 years old. Some families lost all of their children, like Frank and Josepa Klarich, who buried their three daughters, Kristina (11), Maria (9), and Katarina (7). Their little crosses are lined up in a row over their graves in a cemetery west of Calumet.
The culprits who yelled into the hall that day to start the tragedy were never identified, but it’s widely suspected that it was allies of mine management or the owners who did so to disrupt the miners’ party. Nobody was ever prosecuted or even arrested for causing the massacre. It is always thus: Those with money and power control the narrative, silence the truth, and thwart justice.
Italian Hall was demolished in the 1980s, but especially during the holiday season, the people of Calumet still talk of that night, 100 years ago, when so many innocents perished.
Partly because a lot of miners left Calumet behind after this tragedy, the strike didn’t accomplish what the miners wanted. However, it's considered a turning point for union strength in Michigan’s Copper Country.
In 1941, Woody Guthrie got an idea for a song about the tragedy, which he called “1913 Massacre.” Ella Reeve “Mother” Bloor’s eyewitness account in her 1940 book, “We Are Many,” inspired him. Mother Bloor was a labor organizer who was active in the Western Federation of Miners, the union that represented the people who were on strike in Calumet.

"1913 Massacre" Words and music by Woody Guthrie
Take a trip with me in 1913,
To Calumet, Michigan, in the copper country.
I will take you to a place called Italian Hall,
Where the miners are having their big Christmas ball.
I will take you in a door and up a high stairs,
Singing and dancing is heard everywhere,
I will let you shake hands with the people you see,
And watch the kids dance around the big Christmas tree.
You ask about work and you ask about pay,
They'll tell you they make less than a dollar a day,
Working the copper claims, risking their lives,
So it's fun to spend Christmas with children and wives.
There's talking and laughing and songs in the air,
And the spirit of Christmas is there everywhere,
Before you know it you're friends with us all,
And you're dancing around and around in the hall.
Well a little girl sits down by the Christmas tree lights,
To play the piano so you gotta keep quiet,
To hear all this fun you would not realize,
That the copper boss' thug men are milling outside.
The copper boss' thugs stuck their heads in the door,
One of them yelled and he screamed, "there's a fire,"
A lady she hollered, "there's no such a thing.
Keep on with your party, there's no such thing."
A few people rushed and it was only a few,
"It's just the thugs and the scabs fooling you,"
A man grabbed his daughter and carried her down,
But the thugs held the door and he could not get out.
And then others followed, a hundred or more,
But most everybody remained on the floor,
The gun thugs they laughed at their murderous joke,
While the children were smothered on the stairs by the door.
Such a terrible sight I never did see,
We carried our children back up to their tree,
The scabs outside still laughed at their spree,
And the children that died there were seventy-three.
The piano played a slow funeral tune,
And the town was lit up by a cold Christmas moon,
The parents they cried and the miners they moaned,
"See what your greed for money has done."

Vintage Photos


Ione Bright, 1912.
Ione Bright, 1912.

Incredible underwater city thought to have been lost for centuries

by Ian Hughes
Thonis-Heracleion was believed to be a legend by many, after it disappeared beneath the Mediterranean around 1,200 years ago - until it was found in 2000
It's not quite Atlantis, but the underwater city of Thonis-Heracleion comes very close.
For centuries the port was thought to be a legend, after disappearing beneath the Mediterranean around 1,200 years ago.
But it was discovered during a survey of the north coast of Egypt at the beginning of the 21st century.
Ever since, researchers have slowly been discovering more and more about the city, through which all trade from Greece and the Mediterranean entered Egypt.
Archaeologists have found the wreckages of more than 64 ships, gold coins and giant 16-foot statues.
Slabs of stone inscribed in both ancient Greek and Ancient Egyptian have also been brought to the surface.
Scientists have little idea what caused the city to slip into the water nearly 1,000 years after it was built in the eighth century BC.
Before disappearing, it would have sat at the mouth of the River Nile delta.
It is believed Paris and Helen of Troy were stranded in the city as they fled from the jealous Menelaus, prior to the start of the Trojan war.
A colossal 5.4 metre red granite statue of Hapi - the god of the flooding of the Nile - is one of the biggest ever found, and points to the importance of the area.
Over time, Thonis-Heracleion, and other cities that met a similar fate, faded from memory - noted only in a few historical texts.
One theory on its disappearance, is that sea level rise combined with a collapse of the sediment the city was built on caused the area to drop by around 12 feet.
Bay of Aboukir, the site of the lost city of Heracleion

Bay of Aboukir, the site of the lost city of Heracleion
Another blames the city's fate on a number of natural disasters.Underwater archaeologist Franck Goddio and his team uncovered the city during a three-year expedition.
He said: “The discoveries enhance the importance of the specific location of the city standing at the 'Mouth of the Sea of the Greek’.
“We are just at the beginning of our research.
"We will probably have to continue working for the next 200 years for Thonis-Heracleion to be fully revealed and understood.”
One of the finest finds from the bay of Aboukir is a statue of a Ptolemaic queen in dark stone. It is most likely, a representation of Cleopatra II or III, dressed as the goddess Isis.
“The site has amazing preservation," Dr Damian Robinson, from Oxford University told the Telegraph.
"We are now starting to look at some of the more interesting areas within it to try to understand life there.
“We are getting a rich picture of things like the trade that was going on there and the nature of the maritime economy in the Egyptian late period."

An Ancient Zodiac from Arabia Discovered

An Ancient Zodiac from Arabia Discovered
New discovery fuels debate on the links between Arabic-Islamic and pre-Islamic civilizations.
Beginning just south of Damascus and stretching as far as the sand dunes of the Nefud is a basalt wasteland known as the Harrah. The area is mostly unpopulated today, but two thousand years ago nomads roamed this region, seeking pasture and water. The most remarkable witness to lives of its ancient population is the tens of thousands of inscriptions adorning the desert’s rocks. These texts are written in an indigenous Arabian alphabet known as Safaitic and express a form of Old Arabic, perhaps as different from Classical Arabic, the language of Islamic civilization, as Beowulf’s English is from Chaucer's.
The Safaitic inscriptions are notoriously difficult to understand, and many of them contain re-occurring sets of enigmatic words which defy interpretation.  Since the discovery of these inscriptions over a century ago, scholars have always assumed that these mysterious terms were the names of places.  By considering not only their etymologies, but the way they pattern with the seasons and other chronological information, I have recently shown that they are in fact the names of the ecliptic constellations, the zodiac, and were used to reckon time.
The zodiac of Islamic times used names of the signs that were clear translations from Aramaic or Greek. The ancient Arabian zodiac, on the other hand, has much older roots, going back to Babylon. Almost all knowledge of this ancient tradition seems to have been lost by the Classical Islamic period. Al-Ṣūfī, the 10th century Persian astronomer, claimed that the zodiac was unknown to the pre-Islamic Arabs. Its discovery in the Safaitic inscriptions not only proves the opposite, but also suggests much closer cultural ties between the pre-Islamic nomads of Arabia and the great civilizations of the Fertile Crescent than has usually been assumed.
The Arabian Zodiac
Possible mythological representations of asterisms in the rock art
The Arabian zodiac corresponds neither to the Greek/Aramaic nor Babylonian systems perfectly, but seems instead to sit somewhere in between the two.  The names of three of the constellations, Pisces, Taurus, and Capricorn, side more closely with the Mesopotamian signs. In Greek and Aramaic, Pisces is represented by a Fish, while the Safaitic ḏayl (‘tail’) corresponds to the Babylonian name zibbātu (‘the tails’). The Babylonians called Taurus alû (‘the bull of heaven’), and Safaitic ʾaʾlay seems to be derived from the same source. The Arabian term for Capricorn, yaʾmūr, has several meanings in the Classical Arabic dictionaries – a wild beast; a beast resembling a goat, having a single branching horn in the middle of its head; a certain beast of the sea. Combining these together, the image of the Babylonian sign, a goat-fish hybrid, takes shape.
Most of the other constellations correspond in meaning with the Aramaic/Greek signs, but their names still differ from those found in the Classical Arabic tradition. Some signs are reimagined. Aquarius is a salt worker or vessel instead of a water bearer.  Gemini is called gamal, which probably reflects a re-interpretation of the constellation as a Camel.
The name for Scorpio, ʿaqqabat, is open to two interpretations. While it is most likely derived from the normal Semitic word for scorpion, ʿaqrabat, a more adventurous interpretation is possible: the term could be related to Arabic ʿuqāb (‘an eagle’). The astrological connection between Scorpio and the eagle is well known in Christian times, but no clear evidence for this association has yet been discovered in the ancient sources. Some scholars have suggested that Scorpio was represented by an eagle in a few verses in the New Testament and the Hebrew Bible. In Revelation 4:7, John encounters four creatures:
“And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle”
This statement echoes the famous vision of Ezekiel (1:10) of four Cherubim:
“Each had a human face in the front, the face of a lion on the right side, the face of an ox on the left side, and the face of an eagle at the back.”
Some Rabbinic scholars have interpreted Ezekiel’s vision as references to the zodiac signs, the lion = Leo, the ox = Taurus, the man = Aquarius, and the eagle = Scorpio. If this is correct and if the Safaitic term should in fact be translated as ‘eagle’, then the Arabian zodiac may provide the first clear evidence for the representation of this constellation by an eagle in ancient times.  This could also imply that the Arabian zodiac stems from the same source – now lost – as the zodiac known to biblical authors.
The full historical implications of this finding are not yet clear, and many questions remain open. Did the Arabs borrow the zodiac from the Babylonians during their expansion into Arabia or does it represent a much older, shared cultural tradition? Can its intermediate status between the Babylonian and Greek names of the signs shed light on the dissemination of the zodiac across the Near East and eastern Mediterranean? Why did almost all knowledge of this particular zodiac disappear in the Islamic period? No matter how these questions are answered, its discovery underlines one inescapable fact: the image of pre-Islamic Arabia as presented in the literary sources of the Abbasid era is incomplete. Arabia’s pre-Islamic cultural, religious, and linguistic history is just beginning to be written, and the epigraphic record is essential.

Neolithic flint axe and preserved wooden handle discovered in Denmark

Flint Axe and wooden handle (Museum Lolland-Falster)
Another fantastic find by archaeologists working on the Fehmarn Belt Tunnel scheme in Denmark. They have uncovered a Neolithic flint axe that is still held within its wooden handle. The axe was discovered within foreshore silts and these damp, relatively anaerobic conditions helped to preserve the organic handle. A number of other artefacts, including wooden paddles, were also identified at this location. Many of of the artefacts appeared to have been deliberately inserted into the seabed in a vertical manner and this has lead to speculation that they may represent some form of ritual activity.
Anker Sørensen, an archaeologist at the Museum Lolland-Falster, conveyed some of the excitement surrounding this site when she stated, ‘finding a hilt axe that is so well preserved is absolutely incredible‘.
More (in Danish)

Handbook of Spells

Researchers have deciphered an ancient Egyptian handbook, revealing a series of invocations and spells.

1,700-Year-Old Tombs Excavated in China

A 1,700-year-old cemetery has been excavated along the route of the Silk Road in northwest China, according to a report in Live Science. Seven of the ten excavated tombs were large, brick structures, one of which contained carvings of mythical creatures. Four of the creatures represent different seasons and parts of the heavens, including the White Tiger of the West, the Vermilion Bird of the South, the Black Turtle of the North, and the Azure Dragon of the East. Zhiyong Yu, director of the Xinjiang Archaeological Institute, said that the tombs were probably built for wealthy people, but that they had been looted in antiquity and no identifying materials remain in the burials. Analysis of the skeletal remains suggest that some of the tombs were used multiple times, however. “In ancient times, Kucha was called Qiuci in Chinese literature. It was a powerful city-state in the oasis of the Western Frontiers,” Zhiyong Yu and his team wrote in Chinese Cultural Relics. To read about looting of similar sites in China, see "Tomb Raider Chronicles."

Painted Figures

Two painted figures -- one man, one woman -- were found on the door frames of a chamber within a Greek tomb dating to Alexander the Great's reign in the late 4th century B.C.

How to Thrive on the Roof of the World

A new study shows that 3,600 years ago farmers were raising crops and livestock at unprecedented altitudes on the Tibetan Plateau. “Until now, when and how humans started to live and farm at such extraordinary heights has remained an open question," archaeologist Martin Jones said in a University of Cambridge press release. "Our understanding of sustained habitation above 2,000 to 3,000 meters on the Tibetan Plateau has to date been hampered by the scarcity of archaeological data available." To address that gap, Jones and his colleagues studied animal bones and plant remains from 53 archaeological sites in the region. They found that the inhabitants of the Tibetan Plateau adopted a then-novel approach to agriculture and pastoralism, relying on a diversity of crops, including cold-tolerant wheat and barley, as well as sheep, cattle, and pig, to sustain year-round habitation at ever higher altitudes at the same time that the climate was getting colder. Jones thinks that study of such ancient agricultural practices can help modern societies. "The more we learn about the rich ecology of past and present societies, and the wider range of crops they raised in the world’s more challenging environments, the more options we will have for thinking through food security issues in the future.” To read more about early agriculture, see "Can Barley Tell the Tale of Civilization."

A river flows through it ...

A vast ancient canyon lies buried underneath a present-day river that cuts through the Himalayas in Tibet.

A Thick Surprise

Not only is the amount of Antarctic sea ice increasing each year, but the ice is also much thicker than previously thought.

Asteroid Diamonds

canyon-diablo-grainsAsteroid impacts on Earth make structurally bizarre diamonds

Scientists have argued for half a century about the existence of a form of diamond called lonsdaleite, which is associated with impacts by meteorites and asteroids. A group of scientists […]

1 Million Spiders Make Golden Silk for Rare Cloth

by Hadley Leggett
A rare textile made from the silk of more than a million wild spiders goes on display today at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

To produce this unique golden cloth, 70 people spent four years collecting golden orb spiders from telephone poles in Madagascar, while another dozen workers carefully extracted about 80 feet of silk filament from each of the arachnids. The resulting 11-foot by 4-foot textile is the only large piece of cloth made from natural spider silk existing in the world today.
“Spider silk is very elastic, and it has a tensile strength that is incredibly strong compared to steel or Kevlar,” said textile expert Simon Peers, who co-led the project. “There’s scientific research going on all over the world right now trying to replicate the tensile properties of spider silk and apply it to all sorts of areas in medicine and industry, but no one up until now has succeeded in replicating 100 percent of the properties of natural spider silk.”
Peers came up with the idea of weaving spider silk after learning about the French missionary Jacob Paul Camboué, who worked with spiders in Madagascar during the 1880s and 1890s. Camboué built a small, hand-driven machine to extract silk from up to 24 spiders at once, without harming them.
“Simon managed to build a replica of this 24-spider-silking machine that was used at the turn of the century,” said Nicholas Godley, who co-led the project with Peers. As an experiment, the pair collected an initial batch of about 20 spiders. “When we stuck them in the machine and started turning it, lo and behold, this beautiful gold-colored silk started coming out,” Godley said.
Father Comboué, who one historical text erroneously calls Father Comboné, had a partner in designing his machine, M. Nogué. Together, they got quite a spider silk fabric industry going in Madagascar and even exhibited “a complete set of bed hangings” at the Paris Exposition of 1898. That fabric has since been lost, but the exhibition brought them some attention, excerpted below. “It should be said that the female halabe allows herself to be relieved of her silken store with exemplary docility and this in spite of the fact that she is distinguished for her ferocity; her usual treatment of the males who pay her court is to eat them and she feasts without compunction on members of her own sex weaker than herself. M Nogue’s apparatus consists of a sort of stocks arranged to pin down on their backs a dozen spiders. The spiders accept this imprisonment with resignation and lie perfectly quiet while the silken thread issuing from their bodies is rapidly wound on to a reel by means of a cleverly devised machine worked by hand.” — Great Britain Board of Trade Journal
“The first experiments of Father Comboné were made in the simplest manner. The spiders were imprisoned in match boxes and by slightly compressing the abdomen he managed to extract and wind upon a little reel turned by hand it thread that sometimes attained a length of 500 yards… it is to the ingenuity of M. Nogue, one of the sub directors, that we owe the apparatus which permits the thread to be wound mechanically and to be twisted and doubled in the quickest and most practical manner. This is done by means of a curious little machine, not easy to describe, in which the spiders are imprisoned by the throat while undergoing the operation. Young Malagasy girls go daily to a park near the school to gather three or four hundred spiders which they carry in osier baskets with wooden covers to be divested of their webs… Generally after having submitted to the reeling operation the spiders are put back in the park for a couple of weeks… [The silk's] color when first spun is a beautiful gold and it requires no carding or preparation of any sort before being woven. Will this be the silk of the future?” — The Literary Digest
3-weaving But to make a textile of any significant size, the silk experts had to drastically scale up their project. “Fourteen thousand spiders yields about an ounce of silk,” Godley said, “and the textile weighs about 2.6 pounds. The numbers are crazy.”
Researchers have long been intrigued by the unique properties of spider silk, which is stronger than steel or Kevlar but far more flexible, stretching up to 40 percent of its normal length without breaking. Unfortunately, spider silk is extremely hard to mass produce: Unlike silk worms, which are easy to raise in captivity, spiders have a habit of chomping off each other’s heads when housed together.
To get as much silk as they needed, Godley and Peers began hiring dozens of spider handlers to collect wild arachnids and carefully harness them to the silk-extraction machine. “We had to find people who were willing to work with spiders,” Godley said, “because they bite.”
By the end of the project, Godley and Peers extracted silk from more than 1 million female golden orb spiders, which are abundant throughout Madagascar and known for the rich golden color of their silk. Because the spiders only produce silk during the rainy season, workers collected all the spiders between October and June.
Then an additional 12 people used hand-powered machines to extract the silk and weave it into 96-filament thread. Once the spiders had been milked, they were released into back into the wild, where Godley said it takes them about a week to regenerate their silk. “We can go back and re-silk the same spiders,” he said. “It’s like the gift that never stops giving.”
Of course, spending four years to produce a single textile of spider silk isn’t very practical for scientists trying to study the properties of spider silk or companies that want to manufacture the fabric for use as a biomedical scaffold or an alternative to Kevlar armor. Several groups have tried inserting spider genes into bacteria (or even cows and goats) to produce silk, but so far, the attempts have been only moderately successful.
Part of the reason it’s so hard to generate spider silk in the lab is that it starts out as a liquid protein that’s produced by a special gland in the spider’s abdomen. Using their spinnerets, spiders apply a physical force to rearrange the protein’s molecular structure and turn it into solid silk.
“When we talk about a spider spinning silk, we’re talking about how the spider applies forces to produce a physical transformation from liquid to solid,” said spider silk expert Todd Blackledge of the University of Akron, who was not involved in creating the textile. “Scientists simply can’t replicate that as well as a spider does it. Every year we’re getting closer and closer to being able to mass-produce it, but we’re not there yet.”
For now, it seems we’ll have to be content with one incredibly beautiful cloth, graciously provided by more than a million spiders.

Sea Lion Massacre

Police are investigating a complaint from the governor of the local Samanco district, who said the sea mammals had been poisoned.

Dog had impromptu swim with dolphins

If was just another day at the beach for Jackie the labrador-huntaway cross - she kept trying to catch the waves and they kept getting away - when three life-forms of a kind she had never seen before suddenly showed up. There was no hesitation. With all the impetuousness of her 10 months, Jackie was off to join the dolphins swimming just offshore.
"I think she just wanted to know what they were," owner Arriane Christie, of Whangarei, New Zealand, said. She had been at Whangaumu Bay on the Tutukaka Coast, where she often took Jackie, for about an hour when the dolphins dropped by. "I think they were just wanting to play. Jackie was in the shallows and they came right up to her," Christie said.

"I was a little bit nervous to start with because I thought one whack of their tails and she (Jackie) could be knocked out. The three dolphins swum around the area for about 40 minutes. They were a good size, probably up to two meters long. Jackie was in and out of the water, watching for when the dolphins came closer.
"When she wasn't in the water she was fully focused on them. If I walked in front of her she dodged out of the way so she could see them again," Christie said. "They (the dolphins) were messing with her a little bit, going really slow and then when she caught up they would speed up and then circle around her." By the time the dolphins swum away, Jackie was exhausted. :"She slept the rest of the day and all night," Christie said.

New Birds

The elusive animal was first seen on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi 15 years ago. 

Protecting Ugly

Eastern hellbenders, also known as devil dogs, Allegheny alligators and snot otters, are big, ugly salamanders that need clean streams. 

Sloppy Drinkers

Dogs are inherently sloppier drinkers than cats, finds new research that explains why canines can't prevent their back splash messes. 

Kith and Kin

Scientists solve reptile mysteries with landmark study on the evolution of turtles
Turtles are kin with birds, crocs and dinosaurs, study finds

A team of scientists, including researchers from the California Academy of Sciences, has reconstructed a detailed “tree of life” for turtles. The specifics of how turtles are related–to one another, […]

Animal Pictures