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

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Daily Drift

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Today in History

1776   After crossing the Delaware River into New Jersey, George Washington leads an attack on Hessian mercenaries at Trenton, and takes 900 men prisoner.  
1786   Daniel Shay leads a rebellion in Massachusetts to protest the seizure of property for the non-payment of debt.  
1806   Napoleon's army is checked by the Russians at the Battle of Pultusk.  
1862   38 Santee Sioux are hanged in Mankato, Minnesota for their part in the Sioux Uprising in Minnesota. Little Crow has fled the state.  
1866   Brig. Gen. Philip St. George Cooke, head of the Department of the Platte, receives word of the Fetterman Fight in Powder River County in the Dakota territory.  
1917   As a wartime measure, President Woodrow Wilson places railroads under government control, with Secretary of War William McAdoo as director general.  
1925   Six U.S. destroyers are ordered from Manila to China to protect interests in the civil war that is being waged there.  
1932   Over 70,000 people are killed in a massive earthquake in China.  
1941   General Douglas MacArthur declares Manila an open city in the face of the onrushing Japanese Army.  
1943   The German battleship Scharnhorst is sunk by British ships in an Arctic fight.  
1944   Advancing Soviet troops complete their encirclement of Budapest in Hungary.  
1945   The United States, Soviet Union and Great Britain, end a 10-day meeting, seeking an atomic rule by the UN Council.  
1953   The United States announces the withdrawal of two divisions from Korea.  
1962   Eight East Berliners escape to West Berlin, crashing through gates in an armor-plated bus.
1966   Dr. Maulana Karenga celebrates the first Kwanza, a seven-day African-American celebration of family and heritage.  
1979   The Soviet Union flies 5,000 troops to intervene in the Afghanistan conflict.  
1982   Time magazine chooses a personal computer as it "Man of the Year," the first non-human ever to receive th honor.  
1991   The Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union formally dissolves the Soviet Union.
1996   JonBenet Ramsey, a six-year-old beauty queen, is found beaten and strangled to death in the basement of her family's home in Boulder, Colorado, one of the most high-profile crimes of the late 20th century in the US.  
1996   Workers in South Korea's automotive and shipbuilding industries begin the largest labor strike in that country's history, protesting a new law that made firing employees easier and would curtail the rights of labor groups to organize.  
1999   Lothar, a violent, 36-hour windstorm begins; it kills 137 and causes $1.3 billion (US dollars) damage in Central Europe.  
2004   A tsunami caused by a 9.3-magnitude earthquake kills more than 230,000 along the rim of the Indian Ocean.  
2006   Former U.S. President Gerald R. Ford dies at age 93. Ford was the only unelected president in America's history.

Woman reunited with lost luggage after 20 years

Maria Dellos has been having bad luck with lost luggage. The latest incident happened about four months ago when one of her bags went missing. So when the TSA called her recently, she wasn’t surprised.
But the TSA were calling about a bag filled with art supplies that went missing two decades ago. Dellos, a designer and teacher who owns Maria’s Art Creations in Tucson, Arizona, had travelled to a trade show in Las Vegas 20 years ago and filled a suitcase with about $600 worth of art supplies.
The suitcase never made it home. How and why the items turned up after all these years remains a mystery. “I understand that we just did some shuffling of equipment at the airport, so it’s quite possible that we came across something that somebody left unattended for a long period of time,” TSA spokesperson Nico Melendez said.

The good news didn’t stop there. The TSA also returned her lost luggage from four months ago as well. “I’m absolutely thankful to the TSA for calling me today and giving me great faith back into the airline industry,” she added.

Payback Time: Obama Plans On Punishing All Of The repugicans Who Obstructed Him

It is being reported that President Obama is planning an active agenda for his final two years in office, and part of his plan is to punish all of the repugicans who have obstructed him during his time in office.
According to Politico,
obama-flagObama’s turnaround in recent weeks – he’s seized the offensive with a series of controversial executive actions and challenges to leaders in his own party on the budget — can be attributed to a fundamental change in his political mindset, according to current and former aides. He’s gone from thinking of himself as a sitting (lame) duck, they tell me, to a president diving headlong into what amounts to a final campaign – this one to preserve his legacy, add policy points to the scoreboard, and – last but definitely not least – to inflict the same kind of punishment on his newly 'empowered' repugican enemies, who delighted in tormenting him when he was on top.
“‘Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose’ — Barack and Bobby McGee,” says former Clinton press secretary Mike McCurry. “President Obama is free to take the risks and use executive authority that will either make him a much more popular president with rising approval rates or get him impeached by a repugican Congress that won’t be able to control itself. We can contemplate the possibility of each result while smoking a Cuban cigar.”
The repugicans didn’t really think that President Obama was going to let slide their years of obstruction did they? The odds are that the president’s first act of punishment could be a veto of the bill to authorize the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. During his press conference the president said, “On most issues, in order for their initiatives to become law, I’m going to have sign off. And that means they have to take into account the issues that I care about, just as I’m going to have to take into account the issues that they care about.” In other words if repugicans think that they can unilaterally jam their agenda down the president’s throat, they are going to be in for a big surprise.
Unless McConnell and Boehner can pass legislation that contains some of what the president wants, the American people can expect a lot of vetoes. House and Senate Democrats have already pledged to hold firm and give Obama the backing he needs to make sure that his vetoes are upheld, which means that the repugican controlled Congress won’t be getting much done without the help of Democrats.
The shoe will soon be on the other foot, and repugicans are about to pay a heavy price for their years long campaign of obstructing Obama at any cost.

113th Congress Produces 22% of “Do-Nothing” 1947-1948 Counterpart

Do-Nothing-CongressSimilar to overpaid NFL “star” Jay Cutler’s reign of terror as the starting quarterback for the Chicago Bears, the best thing we can say about the 113th session of Congress is that it’s over. Setting a new standard for lethargic mediocrity, the body passed just 200 bills over the last two years. By comparison, the 80th session of 1947-1948, affectionately referred to as the “Do-Nothing Congress,” shepherded a whopping 900 pieces of legislation. Harry Truman’s clever branding of Washington’s stuffed shirts was accurate at the time, but seems quaintly innocent from the vantage point of late 2014.
In an Associated Press piece entitled, 113th Congress Ends With More Fights Than Feats, writer Alan Fram observes (somewhat poetically), “The tempestuous 113th Congress has limped out of Washington for the last time, capping two years of modest and infrequent legislating that was overshadowed by partisan clashes, gridlock and investigations.” Limp is right. What little paperwork did make it to the President’s desk did nothing to address the nation’s broken immigration system, declining infrastructure, archaic and biased tax code, unlivable minimum wage and a host of other dire issues rendering America less functional.
Of course, despite maintaining a despotic stranglehold on the House of Representatives, none of this should be blamed on the repugican cabal. Just ask them:
Mitch McConnell: “How many times did we have the point of the week?… It was designed to make us walk the plank. It had nothing to do with getting a legislative outcome.”
Michael Steel, spokesman for John Boehner: The repugicans passed “jobs bill after jobs bill…But Washington Democrats — including President Obama and Senate Democratic leaders — have utterly failed to act.”
Moira Bagley Smith, spokeswoman for Steve Scalise: “Considering the Senate is sitting on over 350 pieces of House-passed legislation from this Congress, I believe Senator Reid’s chamber single-handedly has earned the title of ‘least productive…’The contrast in productivity between these two chambers couldn’t be more obvious.”
Examples of these “350 pieces of House-passed legislation” include more than 50 votes designed to kill or weaken the now clearly successful Affordable Care Act. And if you can’t recall the reported avalanche of awesome repugican jobs bills, you are not alone. Meanwhile in the Democratic-led Senate, legislation designed to raise the federal minimum wage, create equal pay for women, improve the student loan morass and extend jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed, proved DOA in the House.
So goodbye and good riddance 113th Congress, with your 15 percent approval rating. Better luck next year. Oh wait.
Per writer Aileen Graef of UPI, “When the 114th Congress enters its first session in January, it will be controlled by the repugican cabal which has already vowed to fight the White House on contentious issues including healthcare and immigration. With President Obama waiting to meet the new Congress ready to veto, it spells a grim future for productivity and approval ratings.”
As I suggested shortly after the November midterm thefts, frustrated voters who thought they were sending President Obama and the Democrats a message at the ballot box (“Do something!”) were speaking to the wrong party. There’s no reason to believe that the 114th session will be any more productive than the last. Stonewalling has proven a successful repugican cabal ballot box-theft strategy. Nothing will change until we demand it, and stop rewarding sandbaggers with additional terms in office.

NLRB Charges McDonald’s With Employee Rights Violations

The NRLB said that since last year, it received 181 complaints against McDonald's, not individual franchises, and found clear cut and universal unlawful conduct by the company … McDonalds strike
Over the past few years, a word that has become a favorite of wingnuts is overreaching that in their mind is an African American President doing the job he was elected to do. The word is also a wingnut favorite to describe any federal agency doing the job it was created for such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), or more recently the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The repugicans want those agencies eliminated from existence because they protect the people; instead of corporate profits which is just one reason repugicans hate regulatory agencies. As an aside, repugicans never claim they overreach by imposing religion on the people, but one cannot mention that without violating the mortal sin of criticizing the religio-wingnuts.
On Friday, the NLRB was accused of extreme overreach because it ruled that fast-food giant McDonald’s violated the rights of its employees who violated a repugican corporate mortal sin; seeking better pay and working conditions. The NRLB’s job is resolving employee-management disputes in the private sector, but as is usually the case, McDonald’s and repugicans accused the federal agency of politically-based overreach for investigating valid worker complaints that McDonald’s violated labor laws.
After receiving hundreds of complaints from McDonald’s employees, the NLRB launched an investigation and found that McDonald’s, through its franchise relationship, resources, and technology, “engages in sufficient control over its franchisees’ operations, beyond protection of the brand, to make it a putative joint employer with franchisees sharing liability for violations” of labor law the agency enforces. The employee complaints were from around the nation and not, as McDonald’s asserts, from individual businesses and proved the NRLB’s point by defending the corporate position on employee relations.
McDonald’s corporate office claimed it was well within its corporate right to “defend itself” from an attack on its business by employees around the nation who had the temerity to seek better wages and working conditions. The company justified the corporate practice of “summary firings, cutting hours, threats, surveillance, and discriminatory discipline” against workers to teach them a lesson that exercising their legal right to ask for a wage increase would not go unpunished. The company also said it had no control over individual franchises in major and small cities nationwide engaging in concerted “coercive conduct” against employees exercising their protected and legal activity.
The NRLB said that since last year, it received 181 complaints against McDonald’s, not individual franchises, and found clear cut and universal unlawful conduct by the company in 86 cases proving that McDonald’s does control individual franchisees as a “joint employers” of its “fast food workforce.” In other words, “corporate” McDonald’s “wields extensive influence over business and employment operations and is effectively the top boss.” One of the law firms bringing the case before the NRLB on behalf of McDonald’s employees in New York City, Micah Wissinger, said, “McDonald’s and its corporate lobbyists continue to claim the company has no responsibility for, or to, workers at any of its restaurants, but today’s (NLRB) complaint underscores the obvious fact that McDonald’s (Corp) is the boss.”
The senior Vice President for the National Retail federation, David French, called the NLRB’s position and complaint against McDonald’s “in conflict with reality.” His assertion is that a franchise does a better job of managing a local operation because the franchisee is “invested” in the “company process.” It is why every McDonalds employee in the nation wears the same “uniform,” is paid by “McDonald’s and not the franchise owner (i.e. Joe Smith), and every McDonald’s restaurant makes each menu item exactly according to company standards and with corporate-provided materials.
In a statement released by the McDonald’s corporation, the company said the NLRB complaints “improperly and dramatically strike at the heart of the franchise system and represented overreach by the federal agency.” They also promised to “contest the joint employer allegation as well as the unfair labor practice charges in the proper forums,” and said individual restaurants will contest the charges as well. If the “corporation” has no control over “individual franchises, then why would it have to contest the unfair labor practice charges if they (labor practices) were not corporate policy?
McDonald’s called for, and received, support from groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, International Franchise Association, and several other trade groups to demand that the media join them in voicing opposition to the NRLB complaints. The groups’ consensus statement is that if a corporation like McDonald’s is “allowed to be treated” as a joint employer by the federal agency, then the company will be liable for McDonald’s unfair labor practices and be vulnerable to employees supported by fair-practice labor groups seeking better pay and working conditions for underpaid workers.
Wingnuts are portraying the NRLB as President Obama’s weapon to attack McDonald’s USA and give underpaid, poverty-wage workers a victory after “the company punished employees for legally protesting for better wages.” Republicans claim when “Obama filed 13 legal complaints against McDonalds for 78 instances in which it violated federal labor law by punishing workers for taking part in fast food protests,” it was a “significant victory for fast-food demonstrators.” No, a significant victory would have been McDonald’s raising wages for the workers and relieving American taxpayers of their burden of providing food stamps and healthcare for McDonald’s underpaid workforce.
President Obama did not file the 181 complaints with the NLRB against McDonald’s for retaliating against legal worker protests by firing them or cutting their hours; McDonald’s employees did. President Obama did not file 13 legal complaints against McDonald’s for firing, reducing hours, spying, threatening, or disciplining workers for a legal activity; the NLRB did. What President Obama has spent the past three years doing is begging, cajoling, and attempting to pressure Congress into raising the minimum wage, and if repugicans had an iota of regard for underpaid workers they would raise the minimum wage and solve three problems at once. End McDonald’s workers’ need to protest for better wages, end McDonald’s illegal retaliation against its employees, and end the NLRB’s need to file complaints against McDonald’s.

The Truth Be Told


ISIL starts executing its own foreign fighters

ISIS starts executing its own foreign fighters
ISIL ‘military police’ executed 100 foreign fighters who attempted to quit and flee from the insurgents’ de-facto capital of Raqqa in northern Syria as frustration among militants has been growing, a UK newspaper reported citing a witness activist.
“Local fighters are frustrated — they feel they’re doing most of the work and the dying . . . foreign fighters who thought they were on an adventure are now exhausted,” an activist, opposed to both the Syrian regime and Islamic State (formerly known as ISIS/ISIL), told The Financial Times newspaper, which claims the source is reliable.
The activist said he had “verified 100 executions of foreign ISIL fighters trying to flee the northern Syrian city of Raqqa.”

Real-life 'Sopranos' strip club robbed of $30K

Bada Bing Club
Authorities say the northern New Jersey strip club that was used for filming of "The Sopranos" has been robbed of $30,000.
Lodi police say that two men with shotguns robbed Satin Dolls early Sunday morning. The men fled after the robbery.
The club stood in as Bada Bing on the HBO show.
Anyone with information is asked to call the police department's detective division at 973-473-7600.

Teenager in process of altering appearance arrested for pickaxe and baseball bat attack

Two suspects accused of attacking a 21-year-old man from Holland Township, Michigan, with a pickaxe and baseball bat have been arrested.
Codi James Antoniello, 19, and a 16-year-old male were arrested on Thursday at an apartment complex in Holland Township. Antoniello, who authorities say was in the process of shaving his head in order to alter his appearance when he was arrested, was arraigned on Friday on charges of felonious assault and first-degree home invasion.
The 16-year-old suspect will be charged as an adult in the case, according to the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office. He is currently being held in juvenile detention. Investigators say the suspects went into the victim’s home at around 2:30am on Wednesday and began to attack him.
The fight started after one of the suspects, who is dating the victim’s ex-girlfriend, and the victim were communicating on Facebook, authorities said. The victim was taken to the hospital and treated for injuries to his face and head. He was said to be in good condition.

Bud Weisser charged with break-in at store

A teenager has turned himself in after making a run from the law. Bud A. Weisser, 18, faces a felony burglary charge for breaking into a convenience store in Lemay, Missouri, on Aug. 21, police said.
Court documents say a St. Louis County police officer on patrol saw a man climbing out of a shattered window at the store at about 4:30am. Officers briefly pursued the man but he got away.
A statement from St. Louis County Police states that investigators found evidence that linked Bud Weisser to the burglary. He turned himself in a few days later and submitted to a swab for DNA.
The blood on the counter of the convenience store matched the DNA taken from Weisser. Court documents allege that Weisser, of St. Louis, broke in for the purpose of stealing but don't say whether he took anything. The burglary charge was filed last Friday.

Man used proceeds from Ponzi scheme to freeze deceased wife

A man US prosecutors say duped investors out of $5 million by telling them he would invest it in commodities and currencies allegedly used some of the money to have his wife cryogenically frozen after she died, according to a court filing on Friday.
A federal grand jury in Manhattan indicted Whileon Chay, 38, with three counts of fraud for soliciting investor funds he said he would manage through a number of businesses, including New York-based 4X Solutions, according to the filing. Chay fled to Peru in 2011 after learning he was under investigation by US authorities, a source familiar with the matter said.
He has not returned. According to the indictment, Chay was raising money from investors as early as 2007. He showed them falsified reports on the performance of various investment strategies in currencies, gold and other markets, and told them he was using currency positions to hedge against the potential risk of gold price fluctuations.
In reality, the indictment said, Chay never bought any gold and lost $2 million of the money trading in the foreign exchange markets. At times, he used money he raised from new investors to pay older ones, but he also bought luxury cars, funded a "lavish lifestyle" and paid $150,000 to have his deceased wife cryogenically frozen in 2009, the indictment said. He faces one count each of wire fraud, commodities fraud and mail fraud.

Worst state for education

North Carolina: Worst state for education
North Carolina was determined to be the worst state for education based on a number of factors such as education spending, student-to-teacher ratio, and percentage of dumb kids.
This is a crock - we go from one of the best states in a lot of categories, including education.
But under the repugican occupation we have sunk to the bottom. 

College Offers a Minor in Comedy

Matt)Are you funny? Your jokes on open mike night at the local comedy club may not make the audience laugh, but an official college degree in comedy probably will. Emerson College, a private college in Boston and Jay Leno's alma mater, now offers a minor program of study in the field of comedy.
Specifically, it's called "Comedy: Writing and Performance." To complete the program, students take 5 classes in performance and writing. Two of the classes are called "Writing for Television" and "The Evolution of Comedy." Andrew Desiderio writes for The College Fix:
“There are no guarantees that someone will be funny,” Martie Cook, associate chair of Emerson’s visual and media arts department, told The College Fix. “But that’s true of most programs in the arts.”
Cook added that students can study film and television writing, but that does not mean they will go on to write Emmy- or Oscar-winning scripts.
“What we can guarantee is that students who take the minor will come out better versed in the comedic arts,” Cook said.
Emerson College argues that a versatility in comedy can help people in all career fields:
“Whether on a stage, in a board room, a writers’ room, or simply talking one-on-one, being empowered with the grace and confidence to artfully apply humor in your daily life gives you an invaluable edge,” said Adam Greenfield, also a member of the committee that helped shape and develop the comedy minor.

10 Things Everyone Gets Wrong About Memory

Our memory is something that we rely on every day for every single thing we do. Without it, we would not be able to remember how to walk, how to eat, or even our own name. Our past would be a total mystery and, without the context of our past, we would walk through life confused with no idea what was going on.
While our memory is one of the most important things we use every day, it is also something we constantly take for granted. There are many misconceptions about the way memory works, and it often fools us in subtle ways.

Meet The Prehistoric Predecessors Of Today's Smart Technologies

Today's devices are so beautifully designed, so powerful, and so deeply and seamlessly integrated with the Internet of Things that it's easy to forget just how distinctly our everyday technology has evolved in the past few decades.
What was cutting edge less than a generation ago would now be classified as prehistoric, relegated with the dinosaurs to pages of history books. And yet almost every one of us was once delighted with the possibilities these new and evolving technologies presented.

What was the 'Paleo diet'?

There was far more than one, study suggests  
The Paleolithic diet, or caveman diet, a weight-loss craze in which people emulate the diet of plants and animals eaten by early humans during the Stone Age, gives modern calorie-counters great freedom because those ancestral diets likely differed substantially over time and space, according to researchers at Georgia State University and Kent State University. Their findings are published in The Quarterly Review of Biology.
Stone Age people ate whatever edible things they could get their hands on
“Based on evidence that’s been gathered over many decades, there’s very little evidence that any early hominids had very specialized diets or there were specific food categories that seemed particularly important, with only a few possible exceptions,” said Dr. Ken Sayers, a postdoctoral researcher at the Language Research Center of Georgia State. “Some earlier workers had suggested that the diets of bears and pigs—which have an omnivorous, eclectic feeding strategy that varies greatly based on local conditions—share much in common with those of our early ancestors. The data tend to support this view.”
The co-author on the paper, Dr. C. Owen Lovejoy, is a Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at Kent State University, well known for his reconstructions of the socioecology and locomotor behavior of early hominids such as “Ardi” (Ardipithecus ramidus, 4.4 million years old) and “Lucy” (Australopithecus afarensis, 3.2 million years old).
The study examines anatomical, paleoenvironmental and chemical evidence, as well as the feeding behavior of living animals. While early hominids were not great hunters, and their dentition was not great for exploiting many specific categories of plant food, they were most likely dietary “jacks-of-all-trades.”
The review paper covers earliest hominid evolution, from about 6 to 1.6 million years ago. This touches on the beginning of the Paleolithic era, which spans from 2.6 million to roughly 10,000 years ago, but Sayers suggests that the conclusions hold in force for later human evolution as well.
The researchers offer several points that need to be considered by people wishing to emulate the diets of our ancestors:
1. It’s very difficult to characterize the Paleo diet. Advocates suggest certain types of foods and a percentage of energy that should come from protein, fats and carbohydrates. These recommendations are based largely on estimations from a limited number of modern human hunter-gatherers, but the diet of early humans was almost certainly much broader.
“I think that you would certainly have lots of variation way beyond what those recommendations are,” Sayers said. “When you’re trying to reconstruct the diet of human ancestors, you want to look at a number of things, including the habitats they lived in, the potential foods that were available, how valuable those various food items would have been in relation to their energy content and how long it takes to handle a food item.”
There’s more to dietary reconstruction than looking at teeth from a chemical perspective or under a microscope. It involves characterizing the environment and taking into consideration factors as disparate as locomotion, digestion and cognitive abilities, Sayers said.
3. Even the “same food” isn’t the same today as it was in the olden days. For example, in an earlier study, Sayers investigated the diet of langur monkeys living high in the Nepal Himalaya. At one point in the year, there were wild strawberries on the ground, which seemed to be an attractive food choice. However, the monkeys wouldn’t eat them. Sayers tasted the wild strawberries and found they were incredibly bitter.
“The strawberries that we’re eating in the market have been selected for certain properties, such as being large and sweet,” Sayers said. “The foods that we’re eating today, even in the case of fruits and vegetables, have been selected for desirable properties and would differ from what our ancestors were eating.”
“Individuals throughout the vast majority of the Stone Age were not living that long. Life expectancies are so high today, at least in many regions of the globe,” Sayers said. “A lot of the diseases that do come about today or have been linked with high-fat diets or things like that have been referred to by some researchers as ‘diseases of affluence.’ They’re diseases that come about simply because we’re living long enough that they can show their effects.”
In recent years, controlled studies have compared the Paleo diet with alternative approaches, and with respect to particular health issues, nutritionists are largely taking a “wait-and-see” attitude towards them.
5. Our ancestors were focused on survival, not necessarily eating a balanced diet. “Throughout the vast majority of our evolutionary history, balancing the diet was not a big issue,” Sayers said. “They were simply acquiring enough calories to survive and reproduce. Everyone would agree that ancestral diets didn’t include Twinkies, but I’m sure our ancestors would have eaten them if they grew on trees.”

The Bristlecone Pine

Twisted Contortions Of The Ancients
They have lived through millennia. Dispersed in sub-alpine groves in the Western United States, some of these ancient trees are over 5,000 years old. They contain in their ranks the oldest known individuals of any species on Earth.
Their twisted branches, formed over innumerable years stretch towards the sky, sublimely if anthropomorphically expressive. What might these immovable ancients have pondered as epochs passed?

Blooming Rotten

In a matter of days, perhaps hours, a rare corpse flower will bloom in upstate New York. True to its name, the plant is expected to unleash a stench like rotting flesh.

The Winter Solstice

Mysterious signs of worshiping of the winter solstice crop up around the world. 

Alaska's Melting Permafrost

Permafrost in Alaska's iconic Denali National Park and other areas could all but disappear by the end of this century, new research suggests. 

The Flame Nebula

NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, which views the cosmos in infrared light, has taken a fresh look at the beautiful Flame Nebula, revealing some fascinating features that would otherwise remain invisible. 

A Dwarf in the backyard

A tiny galaxy has been discovered in the Milky Way's backyard and astronomers are now wondering just how many of these diminutive dwarfs are hiding in the intergalactic undergrowth.

Most Massive Young Galaxy Cluster Ever

This image, a composite of x-ray, infrared, and optical data, shows the most massive galaxy cluster ever discovered at its distance: a staggering 9.6 billion light-years away, altogether containing the equivalent mass of 400 trillion suns.

Fool's Gold Preserves Some of Earth's Oldest Fossils

Fool's Gold Preserves Some of Earth's Oldest Fossils
Tubelike fossils of an animal known as Conotubus hemiannulatus. (pictured right).
Fool's gold helps explain why many fossils of soft-bodied animals that lived more than 540 million years ago still survive, a new study finds.
The bacterial breakdown of ancient, wormlike animals after their deaths led to the formation of pyrite, the shiny, yellow mineral sometimes mistaken for gold. This pyrite helped preserve the fossils in three dimensions, according to research published Wednesday (Dec. 17) in the journal Nature Communications.
Understanding this strange process is important, said study researcher James Schiffbauer, a paleobiologist at the University of Missouri, because the process of pyrite mineralization could create features that, misleadingly, look like the original biology of the animal. [Extreme Life on Earth: 8 Bizarre Creatures]
"What we're trying to do is, look at the biological signal and subtract the geological noise," Schiffbauer said.
Tube animals
At the Gaojiashan fossil site in China, the tubelike fossils of an animal known as Conotubus hemiannulatus are common discoveries. The creature dates back to about 550 million to 542 million years ago.
"We actually don't have any fossil evidence of what that animal was," Schiffbauer said. "Looking at the tube, we can say it's probably wormlike or maybe sea-anemone-like."
In many ways, though, it's a miracle that even the fossil tube survives. Early animals like C. hemiannulatus did not have mineralized bones like dinosaurs or other later animals, whose fossilized skeletons reveal much about the animals' anatomies. As such, the fossilization process of soft-tissue animals is poorly understood, Schiffbauer said.
He and his colleagues studied C. hemiannulatus fossils, drawing on the observation that many are surrounded by shiny pyrite. They measured the size of the pyrite crystals and also the isotopes of sulfur in the pyrite, which is made of iron and sulfur. Isotopes are atoms of an element that have varying numbers of neutrons in the nucleus.
These measurements revealed that the pyrite mineralization of the tubes started outside, where the crystals were smallest, and worked its way in. The isotopic fingerprints of the sulfur revealed that bacteria were responsible, at least at first.
Bacteria and fossilization
From the chemistry, the researchers pieced together the process as well as they could. It worked like this: First, the animals were rapidly buried, probably by a big event like a storm that brought a mass of sediment to their seafloor environment. This sudden burial prevented oxygen-loving aerobic bacteria from decomposing the bodies too rapidly to allow for fossilization.
Below the surface, though, lived sulfur-breathing bacteria that found the soft organisms to be an appealing feast. Fueled by the carbon in the wormy animals, these bacteria converted sulfate from the seawater into hydrosulfide. That hydrosulfide reacted with free iron in the water, which kick-started the formation of pyrite at the edges of the tubes. This process probably happened quickly, perhaps within 12 to 800 years, the researchers reported.
Most likely, Schiffbauer said, the pyritization process continued without the assistance of bacteria as the fossils were buried further.
The explanation helps to solve the mystery of why about 80 percent of the fossils in the Gaojiashan formation are preserved in three dimensions, with fool's gold around them, while others are preserved in two dimensions in a second process called carbonaceous compression. It seems that, as long as sediments didn't continue to bury the fossils too quickly, the pyrite process could continue. If the fossils buried faster, the compression process took over, creating pancake-flat fossils instead of fossils in three dimensions. 

What's The Difference Between Rabbits And Hares?

Hares and rabbits look similar, and some may hop to the conclusion that they're the same animal. Hares and rabbits are in the same family, Leporidae, but they're different species, like sheep and goats are different species.
A hare's pregnancy lasts 42 days, compared with rabbits' 30-31 days. Newborn hares, called leverets, are fully developed at birth - furred with open eyes - while newborn rabbits, called kittens or kits, are born undeveloped, with closed eyes, no fur, and an inability to regulate their own temperature.

The Biggest Day Care Facility On The Planet

King Penguin Crèche
If you have children you will no doubt have experienced the heart stopping moment when you realize the little one has wandered off and you cannot see them anywhere. You might imagine, then, how the average King Penguin parent might feel when they return to feed their chick. Yet it is all part of the King Penguin's master plan for the survival of the next generation.
In what has to be the biggest day care facility on this our ark in space, thousands upon thousands of king penguins group their offspring together in an attempt to stop them dying in the sub-zero temperatures of South Georgia. They are also better protected from predators in this huge gathering.

Spiders and Bugs

It has been an interesting year of discovery in the world of creepy crawlies and many-legged critters.

A New Species of the World’s Biggest Whale Has Been Discovered—and They’re Small

by Taylor Hill
Does the world’s largest animal have a pint-size variety?
Not exactly, but the population of blue whales living off Chile’s southern coast could be a slightly smaller version of their Antarctic neighbors, and that has scientists thinking they may have found a new subspecies of the cetacean.
But don’t be fooled: These so-called “pygmy blue whales” are only small if you’re comparing them with the 100-foot behemoths with which they share a name.
Still, the new findings—published in the journal Molecular Ecology on Thursday—should help researchers get closer to determining just how many types of blue whales exist in the world’s oceans, and that could make a big difference in understanding the best way to conserve the endangered species.
Researchers from the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the Universidad Austral de Chile worked together on the study, comparing the genetic identify of 52 whales found off southern Chile with blue whales from Antarctica, northern Chile, and the eastern tropical Pacific.
While they didn’t find differences between the Chile groups and the eastern tropical groups, there were significant differences in gene sequences in all three populations compared with the Antarctic blue whales.
“The presence of two types of blue whales in Chile hopefully helps inform protection measures, either via spatial protections or threat mitigations for each that can be carried out locally and nationally, but also in a regional and international context,” Howard Rosenbaum, a Wildlife Conservation Society director and senior author of the study, said in an email.
The smaller blue whales found off southern Chile are similar in size to another subspecies of blue whales found off Australia, called B. m. brevicauda—which measures around 80 feet at maturity. That’s plenty big, but it still doesn’t touch the Antarctic blue whale, B. m. intermedia, which can grow up to 100 feet in length.
Researchers noted that little is known about the Southern Hemisphere blue whale population, and most historical data points come from whaling records. It wasn’t until a blue whale feeding and nursing ground was discovered off Chile’s southern coast in 2004 that scientists began to question whether there was more than one population of blue whales in the southeastern Pacific.
By the early 1900s, whalers had slaughtered more than 300,000 Antarctic blue whales, depleting the population to less than 1 percent of its historic number.
Since the International Whaling Commission’s 1966 moratorium on killing blue whales, the marine mammal has slowly recovered, and there are now 5,000 to 10,000 of the massive animals in the Southern Hemisphere and 3,000 to 4,500 in the Northern Hemisphere.
“Our study gives us crucial insights into the population structure of blue whales in the waters of Chile and will serve as an important stepping stone for further research,” said Rosenbaum. “The long-term goal of such work would be a network of marine protected areas designed to save the world's largest animal.”

Animal Pictures