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Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Daily Drift

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Today in History

1533   Henry VIII marries Anne Boleyn.  
1787   Small farmers in Springfield, Massachusetts led by Daniel Shays, revolt against tax laws. Federal troops break up the protesters of what becomes known as Shay's Rebellion.  
1846   The dreaded Corn Laws, which taxed imported oats, wheat and barley, are repealed by the British Parliament.  
1904   Two-hundred coal miners are trapped in their Pennsylvania mine after an explosion.
1915   Alexander Graham Bell in New York and Thomas Watson in San Francisco make a record telephone transmission.  
1918   Austria and Germany reject U.S. peace proposals.  
1919   The League of Nations plan is adopted by the Allies.  
1929   Members of the New York Stock Exchange ask for an additional 275 seats.  
1930   New York police rout a Communist rally at the Town Hall.  
1943   The last German airfield in Stalingrad is captured by the Red Army.  
1949   Axis Sally, who broadcasted Nazi propaganda to U.S. troops in Europe, stands trial in the United States for war crimes.  
1951   The U.S. Eighth Army in Korea launches Operation Thunderbolt, a counter attack to push the Chinese Army north of the Han River.  
1955   Columbia University scientists develop an atomic clock that is accurate to within one second in 300 years.  
1956   Khrushchev says that he believes that Eisenhower is sincere in his efforts to abolish war.  
1959   American Airlines begins its first coast-to-coast flight service on a Boeing 707.  
1972   Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to U.S. Congress, announces candidacy for president.  
1972   Nixon airs the eight-point peace plan for Vietnam, asking for POW release in return for withdrawal.  
1984   Ronny Raygun endorses the development of the first U.S. permanently-manned space station.

USA McDonald's fries have 14 ingredients. UK McDonald's fries have 4

Here's a followup to my earlier post about McDonald's fries. In 2013 Food Babe posted the ingredients for McDonald's fries in the US and in the UK.
The US fries have 14 ingredients, while the UK fries are restricted to potatoes, two kinds of oil, and (sometimes) dextrose. Notably absent from the UK fries is methylpolysiloxane, a commonly used anti-foaming agent that's also an ingredient used to make Silly Putty.
When I compared the ingredient list of McDonald’s french fries in the US vs. the UK version, I was floored to witness the drastic differences. Europeans do not use dimethylpolysiloxane. Look closely at the ingredients in McDonald’s french fries [above]. Do you see how the french fries in the U.K. version are basically just potatoes, vegetable oil, a little sugar and salt? How can McDonald’s make french fries with such an uncomplicated list of ingredients all over Europe, but not over here? Why do McDonald’s french fries in the U.S. have to have an “anti-foaming” agent? Do the brits like extra foam? No, they don’t, Europe actually regulates this ingredient because they know this man-made chemical was never intended to be consumed by humans. This whole time McDonalds has known about this and chooses to continue to serve it’s US citizens silly putty.
Personally, I'm more concerned about the hydrolyzed wheat and hydrolyzed milk in the US fries than I am about methylpolysiloxane, because I avoid excitotoxins when possible.
UPDATE: As far as I can tell the ingredients list posted by Food Babe is correct. Here is a link to the UK McDonald's page for its fries. Many kind readers have commented that Food Babe is not generally to be trusted with food science, however.

Inequality's Big-Time Cost

When Bootstraps Don’t Work. 
When Bootstraps Don’t Work. (Image: Khalil Bendib / Otherwords)Have you ever wondered what inequality costs the average American family? That is, what price do we pay — in actual dollars and cents — for tolerating an economy fixated on pumping our treasure to the top?
That question has no simple answer.
How much, for instance, should we value an added year of life? We know — from hundreds of research studies over the years — that people live longer, healthier lives in more equal nations.
We also know that more equal societies have lower levels of mental illness, higher levels of trust, and fewer teenage pregnancies and homicides. Placing dollar signs on quality-of-life indicators like these can get complicated.
On the other hand, dollar signs do come easy when we're talking about income and wealth.
The Economic Policy Institute has gone through one exercise along this line. How much income would middle-class Americans be making today, EPI researchers asked, if the United States had the same distribution of income now as our nation had back at the end of the 1970s?
The difference between now and then could hardly be starker. Since 1979, households in America's top 1 percent have more than doubled their share of the nation's income, from 8 to nearly 20 percent.
What if this increase in inequality had never happened? What if middle-class households were taking in the same share of the nation's income they took in four decades ago?
EPI focused its calculations on 2007, the last year before the Great Recession. In that year, the average middle-class income in the United States — that is, the average for the middle 60 percent of American households — amounted to $76,443.
If America had been as equal in 2007 as it was in 1979, that average income would have been $94,310. In other words, inequality is costing the average American family about $18,000 a year.
But the global economy, some might argue, has changed fundamentally over the past four decades. Simple comparisons of then vs. now, they say, no longer tell us much.
For argument's sake, let's accept this rather dubious claim — and make a different comparison. Let's contrast the wealth of ordinary Americans today with the wealth of ordinary people in a more equal country.
France makes for a good comparison. France and the United States, the Swiss bank Credit Suisse reported last fall, have about the same total wealth per adult.
If you divide the wealth of the United States by our adult population, that is, you end up with $347,845 per adult. If you do the same for France, you end up with $317,292 per adult.
Total equality, of course, reigns in neither France nor the United States. But if both nations divvied up their wealth on a totally equal basis, the average American would have slightly more wealth than the average person in France.
What do we actually see?
In France today, "median" adults — those with more wealth than the poorest half of France's adult population but less wealth than the richest half — have $140,638 in net worth to their name. In the United States, by contrast, median adult wealth stands at a mere $53,352.
The bottom line? If the United States had as equal a distribution of wealth as France, typical American adults today would have almost triple their current net worth.
So how much does inequality cost America's middle class? More than we realize. Much more.

President Obama Crushes All repugican Plans On Abortion Bills

obama-noIt doesn’t matter how many abortion bans the House repugicans pass, President Obama has vowed that they won’t become law.
After House repugicans had to drop a bill that would have banned all abortions after 20 weeks, they passed a bill that was even worse.
President Obama made it very clear that he will veto the House abortion funding bill.
The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 7. The legislation would intrude on women’s reproductive freedom and access to health care; increase the financial burden on many Americans; unnecessarily restrict the private insurance choices that consumers have today; and restrict the District of Columbia’s use of local funds, which undermines home rule. Longstanding Federal policy prohibits the use of Federal funds for abortions, except in cases of rape or incest, or when the life of the woman would be endangered. This prohibition is maintained in the Affordable Care Act and reinforced through the President’s Executive Order 13535. H.R. 7 would go well beyond these safeguards by interfering with consumers’ private health care choices. The Administration strongly opposes legislation that unnecessarily restricts women’s reproductive freedoms and consumers’ private insurance options.
If the President were presented with H.R. 7, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto this bill.
The bill is never going to make it to the president’s desk. The legislation is DOA. Mitch McConnell has promised to allow a vote on the bill, but it is unlikely that there are six Senate Democrats who will support it. In the off chance that the bill would pass the Senate, President Obama will immediately send this empty show vote to the legislative trash can.
House repugicans are promising that they will bring the abortion ban bill back. Steve Scalise vowed to bring the abortion ban bill back, “We’re going to bring this bill back. This is a fight that’s not over. We’re going to continue working to get this bill passed.” House repugicans can bring the abortion ban bill back, but President Obama has promised to veto it if it gets to his desk.
The repugicans and their media water boys are fooling themselves into pretending that what they are trying to do is popular. The reality is that House repugicans are reminding men and women who care about liberty why they rejected the extremist repugican agenda in 2012, and they are likely to do so again in 2016.

Bernie Sanders Drops A Truth Bomb On The Time Wasting repugican Keystone XL Obsession

bernie sanders keystone xl the ed show
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) delivered the cold hard truth to Senate repugicans. Sanders told them that they were wasting their time trying to pass a bill to authorize Keystone XL.
MSNBC’s Ed Schultz asked Sen. Sanders if Senate repugicans were wasting their time trying to pass Keystone XL. Sanders answered, “The answer to your question is yes, and then on top of that the president has said that he is going to veto it, and they don’t have the votes to override the veto. But Ed, for these guys the Keystone pipeline has become a symbol, and that’s what they’re going to fight for. They see this as a major jobs bill that will provide thirty-five permanent jobs and several thousand jobs over two years. That’s their idea of real jobs bill, but they will reject the idea of rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and put millions of people to work.”
Seator. Sanders was correct. The repugicans have no chance of seeing Keystone XL signed into law while President Obama is in office. Sanders also nailed the fact that Keystone XL is not a jobs bill. Keystone is nothing more than a repugican gesture of love for the Koch brothers and big oil. Mitch McConnell promised a new and productive Senate, but instead McConnell’s Senate is wasting weeks on a bill that is going absolutely nowhere.
The repugican idea that they will force President Obama to authorize the pipeline by attaching it to must sign legislation is a delusion. If there is one thing that the has become common knowledge over the last six years, it is that there no guarantee that even must pass/sign legislation will ever become law. The repugican fixation with the authorization of Keystone XL has lost with reality.
Keystone XL won’t create massive amounts of jobs. The pipeline won’t make America more energy independent, or less dependent on foreign oil. The pipeline is an example of the sort of bad public policy that congressional repugicans have continually embraced.
It may be a new repugican majority, but as Bernie Sanders pointed out, repugicans remain as out of step as ever.

The repugicans Wrong: Obama Air Campaign Works As ISIL Suffers Heavy Defeats In Iraq

Obama speech ISIL strategy
The repugicans have gone silent after the news broke that ISIL is suffering heavy losses in Iraq, and what has turned the tide is the U.S. bombing campaign against the terrorists.
According to The Fiscal Times, “Over the last 24 hours, ISIL has been defeated in every front in Iraq in unprecedented way. From Mosul to the north to Anbar to the west and Diyala to the east, Iraqi government forces, Shiite militias, Sunni tribes and Kurdish forces were all victorious in battle. Since the start of the U.S.-led air campaign, ISIL has lost its momentum in Iraq and lost some of the cities and towns that it captured in June 2014. It still controls the provincial capitals Mosul and Tikrit as well as the city of Fallujah west of Baghdad, and many other small towns throughout.”
Sec. of State John Kerry said today that thousands of ISIL fighters have been killed, “Two days after President Obama told Congress that Islamic State’s advances in Syria and Iraq were being halted, Secretary of State John Kerry offered specifics Thursday, saying thousands of the fighters had been killed and 270 square miles recaptured in Iraq.”
The repugicans immediately criticized President Obama’s strategy for combating ISIL after the Paris terror attacks, but it appears that Obama’s strategy is working. Sec. of State Kerry stated that it would take a year or two to get ISIL out of Iraq, but repugicans were wrong. The repugicn cabal calls for more war and boots on the ground have been wrong. The repugicans are stuck in their shrub era war on terror mindset.
The “war on terror” was a failure, but repugicans continue to insist that a return to the past is the proper policy for the future. President Obama is proving them wrong. ISIL is being defeated Iraq without U.S. boots on the ground. President Obama’s policies are working, and the results are visible in Iraq. The best way to guarantee a successful foreign policy future is to avoid returning to the repugican mistakes of the past.

This repugican Thinks His Job is To Help The CIA Bury Its War Crimes

Richard Burr
One of the last things Dianne Feinstein did as Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee was to release a redacted 660 page executive summary of the Committee’s 6,000 page report on the CIA’s involvement in the shrub era torture program.  The repugicans used every trick in the book to prevent an investigation.  When that failed, they refused to participate in the investigation then whined that that the Committee’s findings were “partisan.”  The repugicans and the CIA did everything they could think of to prevent release even of the heavily redacted executive summary.  When that failed, repugicans trotted out the same false claims they have been making for years. Torture isn’t torture and besides it works.
Aside from discrediting claims that reliable information was acquired as a result of torture, the Committee accused former CIA Director Michael Hayden of lying to the Committee about prisoners’ deaths, threats against members of the detainees’ families and the reliability of information the CIA got through torture.
Now that repugicans have control of the Senate and with it the Senate Intelligence Committee, they are trying to bury the committee’s entire report on the CIA’s participation in the shrub/Cheney torture program.
Jason Leopold of Vice News reports that Senator Burr sent a letter to the White House last week demanding that it return all copies of the entire report. Richard Burr also intends to return Leon Panetta’s scathing review of the CIA’s false statements regarding the “effectiveness” of torture to the agency.  That report never was released to the public because the CIA blocked FOIA requests. According to lawmakers who have seen the Panetta report, it backs up the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report.
Of course, Burr wants to make sure the public never sees the Panetta report and that we the people never see more of the dirty little secrets contained in the body of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA’s use of torture.
Burr claims his desire to hide the truth about the CIA’s use of torture is because the information is so sensitive, and besides no one should have seen the Panetta report because it would blow the lid open on the war crimes that were done in our name.
As Connor Fridersdorf of The Atlantic pointed out, Burr is confused about his role as Chair of the Intelligence Committee.  While he is supposed to keep tabs on the agency, Burr is behaving more like one of its assets as he tries to bury the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report and the Panetta Report.
Burr told the Huffington Post. “At some point, we will probably send it back to where it came from.” On its face, the explanation makes no sense. Why would Burr speak as if the intentions of the CIA are dispositive? His job is to oversee the spy agency, not to respect its desire for privacy. What could be more antithetical to the proper posture of an overseer? (As if a bureaucracy would intentionally turn over evidence of its own abuses.)
The Senate intelligence committee ought to thirst for every drop of information it can get as it polices a secretive spy agency with a long history of hiding illegal acts. No overseer can credibly deny the value of a report showing how overseers were misled.
Regardless of our party preferences or whether or not we accept that what the CIA did was torture and torture is a war crime, Burr’s conduct should concern us all.

This repugican wants you to never read full Torture Report, because you can't handle the truth

U.S. Army Military Police escort a detainee to his cell during in-processing to the temporary detention facility at Camp X-Ray in Naval Base Guantanamo Bay (Reuters)
Jason Leopold at VICE News reports that Richard Burr, the repugican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is trying to ensure that the 6,900-page report about the CIA's torture of terrorism suspects captured after 9/11 is never publicly released.
Additionally, Jason tells us, "I obtained a copy of a letter Feinstein sent to Obama two days after Burr wrote to him demanding that the torture report be returned. Burr is attempting to establish that the torture report is a 'congressional record,' which is not subject to provisions of FOIA as opposed to an 'agency record,' which is."
"For more than a year," Jason explains, "VICE News has been engaged in a FOIA lawsuit against the government that seeks access to both the Panetta Review and the full torture report's executive summary. While the committee already released the latter document VICE News is still pursuing a less redacted copy of it."
From Jason's report at VICE News:
Last week, Richard Burr asked the White House to return all copies of the document that were disseminated last month to executive branch officials by his predecessor, Dianne Feinstein, according to a copy of a one-page letter Burr sent to President Barack Obama and obtained by VICE News.
The purpose of Burr's request for a mass recall was allegedly to prevent the document from being subject to release under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), according to US officials and congressional sources who said the issue is "sensitive" and declined to discuss it on the record.

White 'vigilante' puts 62-year-old black man in chokehold for legally carrying gun in Florida Walmart

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office has asked vigilantes to please be careful about which gun owners they choose to attack after a black concealed carry permit holder was wrongly assaulted at a Florida Walmart.According to the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office, 62-year-old Clarence Daniels was entering Walmart with his legally concealed firearm to buy coffee creamer on Tuesday when he was spotted by 43-year-old vigilante Michael Foster.
Foster, who is white, had observed Daniels conceal the weapon under his coat before he came into the store. When Daniels crossed the threshold, Foster tackled him and placed him in a chokehold, Hillsborough Sheriff's Office spokesperson Larry McKinnon explained.
"He's got a gun!" Foster reportedly exclaimed.
"I have a permit!" Daniels repeatedly shouted back.
After a struggle, the men were separated. Deputies later arrived and Foster was charged with battery.
"Unfortunately he tackled a guy that was a law-abiding citizen," McKinnon noted. "We understand it's alarming for people to see other people with guns, but Florida has a large population of concealed weapons permit holders."
"The Sheriff's Office recommends that vigilante-inclined citizens refrain from taking matters into their own hands, especially when an incident is gun-related," the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Door-to-door salesman soliciting for tax service in a chicken suit arrested on outstanding warrant

Police in Hueytown, Alabama, say it wasn't hard to find a door-to-door salesman because of his unusual garb. Chief Chuck Hagler said police received a complaint on Tuesday about several unpermitted door-to-door solicitors, including one dressed as a giant chicken.
"Turns out that Mr. Knock-On-Your-Door-In-A-Chicken-Suit had a felony warrant on him for assault," Hagler said on the department's Facebook page. "Guess he missed the day at criminal school where they talked about keeping a low profile." Brian Eades, 40, was arrested on the outstanding assault warrant. Another member of the group, 58-year-old Michael Bratton, had a felony warrant out on him for possession of a controlled substance.
Both were arrested and transported to the county jail. The men, Hagler said, were soliciting for a tax service. The chief said residents should always be cautious with who you let in your home. Court records show Eades has a lengthy criminal past, including convictions for assault, possession of an altered firearm, drug possession, receiving stolen property and obstruction of justice dating back to 1997.
"We have had numerous problems with these door-to-door outfits in the past. Never assume that even companies you have heard of screen these people for criminal histories," Chief Hagler said. "And if you have concerns about them, notify your local law enforcement." The chief is still clucking about it, though. "After 25 years in law enforcement," he said, "the only thing that surprises me is that I still get surprised."

Man admitted to three robberies while wearing race-changing disguise

A man living in Edmonton in Alberta, Canada, admitted on Monday that he committed a carjacking and two quick bank robberies in a disguise so realistic that witnesses described him as an unmasked white man, even though he was black. In January 2014, Solomon Zemichael Teklie carjacked a woman, robbed a bank, robbed a second bank, then was pulled over and arrested by police. The three robberies and arrest all took place within 37 minutes. Through it all, the 39-year-old Teklie wore a disguise that fooled everyone.
“I don’t know where this mask was made, I don’t know where it came from, but it’s uncanny how much it looks like a real person,” said Crown prosecutor Carrie-Ann Downey. “It was so realistic that each witness on this file thought that Mr. Teklie was white. He is not white.” Teklie wore a winter cap and sunglasses over the mask. The court heard Teklie forced Caroline Ombago from her Honda Civic in a parking lot with a pellet gun at around 11am. Ombago thought the gun was real. The robbery, Ombago wrote in a victim impact statement, left her sleepless and unable to trust. Fearful, she has since moved out of Edmonton.
Minutes after the carjacking, Teklie walked into the Bank of Montreal in Londonderry Mall and showed a teller his pellet gun. Teklie was given $1,000 in cash and fled the bank. He drove to a CIBC branch on 97th Street and again showed a teller his pellet gun. “You have 30 seconds to give me the money,” he said. Teklie was given $100 in $10 bills and ran outside to his stolen car. After the robberies, bank employees described Teklie as a white man, though two of them noticed he had “damaged” or “strange” skin. Minutes later, police spotted the vehicle Ombago had reported stolen. Teklie was compliant as he was ordered from the vehicle and arrested. The cash and mask were in the car. “This was a planned spree,” Downey said.
“Mr. Teklie had a plan. It might not have been a good plan, but it was a plan.” In a police interview, Teklie told officers he was addicted to cocaine and hoped to be deported. Defence lawyer Deborah Hatch said Teklie, originally from Ethiopia, came to Canada from Africa and was in a Kenyan refugee camp for years. Due to his lack of documents, he is stateless and may not be deported after he serves his sentence. He is currently a permanent resident of Canada. “He had a tragic and violent childhood marked by death and aggression most of us will never see,” Hatch said. Teklie apologized to the court when it was his turn to speak. “I’m truly sorry for my actions. That’s all I can say.” He pleaded guilty to three counts of robbery. Teklie is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 23. He is currently in custody.

Convict on the run found hiding in sofa

It may be he was just looking for loose change, but a Canadian convict caught curled up inside a couch at an East Vancouver home will have to get used to some less comfortable seating in his near future.
The Vancouver Police Fugitive Unit armed with a search warrant descended on the home on Tuesday in search of a 36-year-old Calgary man on the run from a three-and-a-half year sentence for drug offences. Fearing their search would turn up empty, a nosy police canine became curious about a sofa in the living room.
Investigators removed fabric from the bottom to uncover the concealed man, leaving even veteran officers mystified. “In my 24 years of police service, I have never in my career seen a suspect hide inside the body of the sofa,” said Insp. Ian Upton. The man found inside was Adam Michael Harlock, who was arrested along with his wife and three others following a targeted traffic stop in Calgary in February 2009.
After finding cash and ketamine in the vehicle, Calgary officers searched three northwest homes, discovering a haul of drugs, guns, cutting agents, cash, and cars. In addition investigators seized several police shirts and body armor with ‘POLICE’ written on them, four sets of handcuffs, a police siren and mini-light bar. Harlock will be shipped back to Alberta to begin his sentence.

School bus driver accused of stealing died after drinking witch doctor's potion to prove innocence

A school bus driver in Kenya died after drinking a potion brewed by a "witch doctor" to prove he had not stolen books, sparking angry protests from villagers.
The school directors in a village in Kisii County hired a witch doctor to seek out the thief of school books, with the driver volunteering to drink a potion to prove he was innocent.
"The driver was dared ... to prove his innocence by drinking the mixture," local police chief Simon Kiragu said. "The 33-year old collapsed and died immediately after the drink."
Furious villagers then took revenge on school leaders by torching the school bus and the deputy director's house.

Why Do Sneezes Come In Twos and Threes?

Sneezes never seem to be lonely. As soon as you expel your first mighty 'achoo,' there's usually another sneeze lurking right behind to follow it up. For some people, there may be two, three, or even 10 that come after that original sneeze, making for an awful lot of 'bless yous' from well-wishers nearby.
So why is it that our sneezes seem to adhere to the buddy system?

The Oldest Depiction Of The Universe Was Almost Lost To The Black Market

The design on this disc might look like a six-year-old's scribbles, but in reality, it's one of the most sophisticated and influential artifacts of the Bronze Age. And it might never have been discovered if not for a couple of illegal treasure hunters who dug it up and sold it on the black market.
Called the Nebra sky disc, named for the town in Germany where it was found in 1999, the artifact has been dated back to 1600 BC. It's thought to have been forged during the European Bronze Age, a period between 3200 and 600 BC.

Fossil hand bones show evidence of tool use more than three million years ago

Fossil hand bones show evidence of tool use more than three million years ago.
Picture of an Australopithecus africanus skull
The hand bones of Australopithecus africanus (cranium shown above) show signs of human-like uses like pinching or hammer holding, according to a new study.
Who swung the first hammer stone? Early human ancestors may have hefted tools more than three million years ago, ancient hand bones suggest. That’s roughly half a million years earlier than the oldest stone tools yet discovered.
The hand-bone analysis, led by the United Kingdom’s Matthew Skinner of the University of Kent in Canterbury, compared the internal structure of hand bones from modern people, chimps, apes, Neanderthals, and early human species.
Most notably in the study, released Thursday by the journal Science, researchers report on the hands of Australopithecus africanus, best known from the pierced skull of the famed “Taung child,” who may have been killed by an eagle about 2.5 million years ago.
While the pattern of spongy bone in ape hands doesn’t show signs of humanlike uses such as pinching or hammer holding, the researchers write, the hand bones of Australopithecus do. Rather than bones for knuckle-walking or tree climbing, under the palms of these early humans were anchor bones “consistent with forceful opposition of the thumb and fingers typically adopted during tool use.”
Why It Matters
Human-origins experts have long argued over the timing of the first tools, seeing in them the earliest expression of a uniquely human mode of survival. For decades, the earliest known stone tools were associated with their presumed maker, an ancestor less than two million years old called Homo habilis, or “Handy Man.”
In 2000, scientists announced the discovery of 2.6-million-year-old tools in Ethiopia, pushing this pivotal moment in prehistory back more than half a million years. Cut marks on animal bones in Ethiopia dated to 3.4 million years ago may also suggest tool use, but this has been debated. The current study supports that earlier origin.
Picture of Australopithecus africanus metacarpal bones
Top row: First metacarpals of the thumb in various primates. Bottom row: 3-D renderings from the micro-CT scans of the same specimens, showing a cross-section of the structure inside.
The Big Picture
Experiments suggest that pinching sharp flakes of stone to use “to remove meat from the bone,” says the study, puts the biggest demands on the precision grip. Finding hand bones with internal structure molded by that behavior throughout life is a much better way of discerning when this critical step in our evolution took place than looking at the external shape of hand bones, as previous studies have done.
What’s more, the study shows a way to reveal tool use in our ancestors even when no actual tools are found.
What’s Next
The study findings suggest that our ancestors were using stone tools at least three million years ago, opening up new opportunities for archaeologists to search for the stone tools themselves.

Toothbrushes - Tooth worms - And George Washington's lonely tooth

Toothbrushes at the National Museum of Dentistry include, from left to right: A miswak or chew stick, an early 20th century celluloid toothbrush by Taub, a rubber-tipped gum stimulator and toothbrush from pre-1945, a Strockway rotary toothbrush from the 1950s, a Dr. Mayland’s rubber toothbrush from the 1920s, a 1930s Rotor toothbrush, and another chew stick.
From an interesting article at Collector's Weekly.
Since at least 3000 B.C., people in the Mesopotamian region used the frayed ends of fibrous twigs or chew sticks, also known as miswak or siwak sticks, to clean their teeth. “Different cultures have used twigs from trees and shrubs with wood grain that is very intertwined,” says Scott Swank, a dentist, historian, and curator of the National Museum of Dentistry. “You peel the bark off and chew it to get the fibers to fray out, and then you use those frayed fibers to clean your teeth. They’re still used today in some parts of Africa and the Middle East.”
Much more at the link, including information on "toothworms":
“Many people in the past believed ‘tooth worms’ were the cause of tooth decay—tiny creatures that would bore holes in people’s teeth,” explains Fitzharris. Records indicate that the fear of tooth worms goes back at least to the time of the Sumerians, or around 5,000 years ago... “Often, practitioners would try to smoke the worm out by heating a mixture of beeswax and henbane seed on a piece of iron and directing the fumes into the cavity with a funnel,” Fitzharris says. “Afterwards, the hole was filled with powdered henbane seed and gum mastic, which may have provided temporary relief given the fact that henbane is a mild narcotic.
And this about George Washington's dentures:
By the time Washington was elected president at age 57, he only had one natural tooth remaining in his mouth. “During the presidency, he lost that one, too,” says Swank. [note the hole in his dentures, designed to accommodate that last tooth]
And finally:
By the mid-19th century, dentures were often referred to as “Waterloo Teeth,” after those surreptitiously ripped from the bodies of dead soldiers following the Battle of Waterloo in 1815... While publicly frowned upon, stealing teeth from dead soldiers continued throughout the Crimean War and the American Civil War.

The Longest Edible Mushroom Is Almost 2 Feet Long

Guinness World Records says that at 1 foot, 11.28 inches long, this Pleurotus eryngii is the longest edible mushroom in the world. Mad scientists at the Mushroom Research Laboratory of the Hokuto Corporation in Nagano, Japan grew it. It’ll fill up a lot of pizzas, provided that it doesn’t achieve sentience and kill us all first.

Can Louisiana Hold Oil Companies Accountable For Its Vanishing Coastline?

by Kira Lerner and Alice Ollstein
Flying due south from the shores of Lake Pontchartrain, the Louisiana coast looks at first just as it did decades ago, with thick, marshy wetlands broken only by freshwater lakes and streams. Within minutes, however, that landscape gives way to a different scene: tufts of grass clinging to tiny slivers of land, the wild curves of the remaining patches broken by thousands of razor-straight lines where oil and gas companies have laid pipelines and dredged canals to give their boats easier access to the rigs and wells that dot the coastline. Just below the water, the murky outline of recently submerged land is visible from 1,000 feet in the air.Keep flying south and a glimpse of the future of the coast emerges - open water as far as the eye can see.
"When you fly over that coastal area, you're going to see how it is today. You're not going to see how it was. You're not going to see how it's going to be," said Steve Estopinal, a career land surveyor and the president of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority. "But if you want to think about how it's going to be, just fly a little further out into the Gulf of Mexico and you'll get a good idea."
Many of wetlands where Louisianans once lived are now underwater.
Many of wetlands where Louisianans once lived are now underwater.
This swift erosion poses a very serious threat to the coastal communities who are watching their land crumble away beneath them at the fastest rate in the world: the state's shoreline is losing a football field-sized area of land every hour. Furthermore, as the ocean eats away at the remaining wetlands, a natural process unnaturally sped up by oil and gas extraction, levee construction, and sea level rise, the marshes are unable to absorb storms that regularly batter the coastline. Without that natural buffer, strengthened hurricanes are making landfall, devastating both urban and rural areas that previously rode out storms mostly unharmed.
"It's the greatest ongoing environmental disaster in the country, maybe even in the world," Democratic strategist and Louisiana native James Carville said. "It's a really grave problem."
A 2006 study by the U.S, Geological Survey and Gas Research Institute concluded that 36 percent of the wetland loss was directly caused by the oil and gas companies' activity. As the state and its people wrestle with the impacts of this grave problem, an unprecedented court case is pitting the independent state agency responsible for protecting Louisianians from floods against the dozens of fossil fuel companies whose decades of largely unchecked extraction activities have put the state's vital wetland ecosystem on life support.

12 Amazing Waterfalls In Iceland

When Juergen Horn was in Iceland for the For 91 Days project, he and Mike Powell visited as many natural wonders as possible, including waterfalls. Now he’s posted breathtaking photographs of a dozen of them, all with links to more information. The waterfall above is Svartifoss, which inspired the design of a landmark church in Reykjavík. Below is Glymur, Iceland’s tallest waterfall.
You’ll also see the waterfall in the movie Prometheus, one you can walk behind, another that looks like lightning hitting the village below, and the one where they saw the Game of Thrones cast working, all at Random Good Stuff.

Meteorite Strike

Ann Hodges, 1954, The Only Confirmed Person In History To Have Been Hit By A Meteorite

Man who traded dog for rifle planning to kill his son and son's girlfriend sent to prison

A man from Mason City, Iowa, who traded his dog for a .22-calibre rifle that he planned to use to kill his son was sentenced to more than 22 years in federal prison on Wednesday. US District Chief Judge Linda Reade sentenced Billy Douglas Thorne, 58, as an "armed career criminal" because of six prior felony convictions for crimes including armed burglary.
Thorne was convicted in April of possession of a firearm by a felon after a jury trial. Thorne traded his dog, Luna, for a rifle in July 2012, according to witnesses who testified at his trial. Thorne told his ex-wife and other witnesses that he planned on using the firearm to kill his son, as well as his son's girlfriend.
In threatening text messages, Thorne told his son that he was coming after him. In one message, Thorne said: "i sold the dog, i gave her away for a shootem up." The son reported his father's messages to the Ankeny Police Department, and Thorne was charged with first-degree harassment.
Thorne's son went to Mason City with a witness who knew the rifle had been hidden in a park. Thorne's son turned the gun over to police. Thorne will be in the custody of the US Marshals until he can be transferred to prison. Additionally, he'll serve a five-year supervised release term after he leaves prison.

Translucent Fish Found Alive Deep Under Antarctic Ice

Think of it as finding a very cool Nemo. Scientists announced this week that after drilling through 2,428 feet of ice they made a lively discovery - deep under all that ice were many different fish and marine invertebrates, alive and well.
So far, the scientists haven't issued much information on the new life discovered, but there appear to be a few types of fishes, crustaceans and other invertebrates. The researchers are still working on studying the ecosystem and figuring out what the animals eat in such a seemingly sterile and sunless environment

Baby elephant rescued after falling into pit

A baby elephant that slipped into an unused water storage pit in southwestern China has been freed with the help of local police.

The animal had most likely fallen into the pit after rainfall caused the ground near it to become slippery, according to authorities in Yunnan province.
After repeatedly trying to climb out of the pit, the elephant appeared distressed. It had “probably” been stuck there at least 24 hours before rescuers came to help, local police say.

Rescuers began digging away the side of the pit to create a ramp. It took several attempts, but eventually the calf was able to climb to freedom, where it promptly ran into nearby forest.

How to Cure Stomach Pain with a Duck, 1697

The illustrious Dr. John Pechey was a member of the College of Physicians in London. His book A Plain Introduction to the Art of Physick explains how to treat colic effectively. As you might expect, you’ll need a duck:
If you apply a living Duck, the Feathers being pulled off behind, to the Stomach, it will ease the Pain of Cholick. So, logically, if she weighs as much as a duck . . . .

Are Spiders Getting Bigger?

Say 'hi' to your housemate! A warm summer has let spiders grow to their upper limitsExperts have warned that homes may be set for an invasion of larger than normal spiders who have feasted on an abundance of prey in the last few months.
That’s because this year the warm summer has allowed certain spiders to eat more than usual and grow to their upper limits.
Say 'hi' to your housemate! A warm summer has let spiders grow to their upper limits
And it could mean we’ll see more and more large spiders in our homes in the coming months. 
The mild summer has meant the eight-legged creatures have had plenty to eat and very few have perished.
With temperatures set to fall, experts from Sydney University have said the larger-than-usual house spiders will be heading indoors in the coming weeks to find a mate.
Professor Adam Hart of the University of Gloucestershire agreed with their predication and said: ‘This year has been seemingly a good one for the invertebrates which spiders feed on, and it’s quite mild out there.’
Both sexes stay in their webs until the autumn when the males become nomadic and search for females.
Mr Lawrence Bee of the British Arachnological Society said that people often notice larger spiders this year as the cold weather drives them inside, with males hunting for females.
But he agrees that the particularly mild summer we’ve had, not too hot and not too cold, will have given spiders access to more prey.

Kangaroo knocked former female cricketer off bicycle

Former Australian cricketer Bronwyn Calver escaped with eight stitches in the knee after being knocked from her bicycle in Canberra on Monday evening by a kangaroo.
Bronwyn Calver, who played three Tests and 34 one-day internationals for Australia during the 1990's, was cycling home from work at 6.25pm when she encountered an obstacle she certainly was not expecting. "One second I was riding along and next minute this kangaroo has come out from the side; it all happened so fast," Ms Calver, 45, said.
"I think I tried to break and turn my wheel to the right but he's collected my front wheel and thrown me down hard on my left side, meanwhile he's hopped off." Three cars stopped to offer help and people walking by waited with Ms Calver until an ambulance arrived. The kangaroo's luck on the road was short-lived though.

Moments after the initial collision, it jumped over a railing onto another road and was killed by an oncoming car. Rather than worry about possibility of another kangaroo hopping out in front of her, Ms Calver said she will soldier on and take her chances. "If it happens again, it's bad luck I reckon," she said.

Man stole python by stuffing it up his shirt

A pet store in Derby, Kansas, hopes surveillance footage will help capture an alleged thief.
Video filmed at Tails & Scales shows a man looking at a display case of snakes. He then grabs a snake, in its personal case, and stuffs it up his shirt.
The man then walks by a crowd of customers and heads out the door. The snake is an rare white-colored, blue-eyed leucistic ball python.

It was born this past summer and is worth $600. Other stores across the state are now working with the pet store to find the exotic snake.

Animal Pictures