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

Saturday, May 2, 2015

The Daily Drift

Editor's Note: Beginning Monday May 4th, We will be heading an Archaeological Dig and teaching a University extension class in Field Archaeology for the next ten weeks. This will not interfere with the postings to this blog, although it might influence the actual publishing time on any given day.
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Today in History

1670   The Hudson Bay Company is founded.  
1598   Henry IV signs Treaty of Vervins, ending Spain's interference in France.  
1668   Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle ends the War of Devolution in France.  
1776   France and Spain agree to donate arms to American rebels fighting the British.  
1797   A mutiny in the British navy spreads from Spithead to the rest of the fleet.  
1798   The black General Toussaint L'ouverture forces British troops to agree to evacuate the port of Santo Domingo.  
1808   The citizens of Madrid rise up against Napoleon.  
1813   Napoleon defeats a Russian and Prussian army at Grossgorschen.  
1863   Stonewall Jackson smashes Hooker's flank at Chancellorsville, Virginia.
1865   President Andrew Johnson offers a $100,000 reward for the capture of Confederate President  
1885   King Leopold II of Belgium establishes the Congo Free State.  
1890   The Territory of Oklahoma is created.  
1919   The first U.S. air passenger service starts.  
1923   Lieutenants Okaley Kelly and John Macready take off from New York for the West Coast on what will become the first successful nonstop transcontinental flight.  
1941   Hostilities break out between British forces in Iraq and that country's pro-German faction.  
1942   Admiral Chester J. Nimitz, convinced that the Japanese will attack Midway Island, visits the island to review its readiness.  
1945   Russian forces take Berlin after 12 days of fierce house-to-house fighting.  
1946   Prisoners revolt at California's Alcatraz prison.  
1968   The U.S. Army attacks Nhi Ha in South Vietnam and begins a fourteen-day battle to wrestle it away from Vietnamese Communists.  
1970   Student anti-war protesters at Ohio's Kent State University burn down the campus ROTC building. The National Guard takes control of campus.

Listen to the Oldest Song in the World: A Sumerian Hymn Written 3,400 Years Ago

In the early 1950s, archaeologists unearthed several clay tablets from the 14th century B.C.E.. Found, WFMU tells us, “in the ancient Syrian city of Ugarit,” these tablets “contained cuneiform signs in the hurrian language,” which turned out to be the oldest known piece of music ever discovered, a 3,400 year-old cult hymn. Anne Draffkorn Kilmer, professor of Assyriology at the University of California, produced the interpretation above in 1972. (She describes how she arrived at the musical notation—in some technical detail—in this interview.) Since her initial publications in the 60s on the ancient Sumerian tablets and the musical theory found within, other scholars of the ancient world have published their own versions.
The piece, writes Richard Fink in a 1988 Archeologia Musicalis article, confirms a theory that “the 7-note diatonic scale as well as harmony existed 3,400 years ago.” This, Fink tells us, “flies in the face of most musicologist’s views that ancient harmony was virtually non-existent (or even impossible) and the scale only about as old as the Ancient Greeks.” Kilmer’s colleague Richard Crocker claims that the discovery “revolutionized the whole concept of the origin of western music.” So, academic debates aside, what does the oldest song in the world sound like? Listen to a midi version below and hear it for yourself. Doubtless, the midi keyboard was not the Sumerians instrument of choice, but it suffices to give us a sense of this strange composition, though the rhythm of the piece is only a guess.
Kilmer and Crocker published an audio book on vinyl (now on CD) called Sounds From Silence in which they narrate information about ancient Near Eastern music, and, in an accompanying booklet, present photographs and translations of the tablets from which the song above comes. They also give listeners an interpretation the song, titled “A Hurrian Cult Song from Ancient Ugarit,” performed on a lyre, an instrument likely much closer to what the song’s first audiences heard. Unfortunately, for that version, you’ll have to make a purchase, but you can hear a different lyre interpretation of the song by Michael Levy below, as transcribed by its original discoverer Dr. Richard Dumbrill.

Studies Link Social Anxiety To Empathetic Ability, High IQs, & Sentinel Intelligence

by Steven Bancarz
A few years ago, a series of studies came out in an attempt to sort of ‘debunk’ people who practice spirituality.  The study found that people who have a spiritual understanding of life tend to be more susceptible to mental health problems, addictions, and anxiety disorders.
A passive aggressive news report from the Daily Mail titled “Spiritual people are more likely to be mentally ill (but at least they think life has more meaning)” took a jab at spiritual people as if to say “They’re crazy, but at least they think life is more important to them”.
A report by The Telegraph also covered the same story, claiming that spiritual people struggle to cope with things mentally.  Now, could it be possible that the reason spiritually-minded people have more mental health issues and anxiety problems is not because they are looney, but because they are more connected to what is happening in the world?
What if they are more aware of the things that are wrong with society and are more connected to the suffering in the world?  What if an anxious mind is a searching and connected mind? A very important study came out a few years ago linking social anxiety to increased empathetic abilities.  People who report suffering from social anxiety have an increased ability to feel and interpret the emotions and mental states of people around them.  As the study concluded:
Results support the hypothesis that high socially anxious individuals may demonstrate a unique social-cognitive abilities profile with elevated cognitive empathy tendencies and high accuracy in affective mental state attributions.
In other words, people who have social anxiety are able to more tangibly feel the emotions of people around them.  Many many people who consider themselves to be “conscious” or “spiritual” also report feeling social anxiety and experience things like depression and other mental disorders. But as it turns out, people who suffer from anxiety may also be more intelligent.
Studies link anxiety to intelligence
A recent research study out of Lakehead University found that people who reported to suffer from social anxiety also happened to test higher on psychological tests which were designed to measure verbal intelligence.  People who reported having General Anxiety Disorder and depression actually scored higher on verbal-linguistic testing than people who did no suffer from anxiety.
Another study which was published in the European Journal of Psychology found that high-anxiety participants were quicker to detect threats of danger and responded more quickly to those threats than other participants.  As the study concluded:
Social defense theory (Ein-Dor et al., 2010) proposes that in threatening situations, people who score high on attachment anxiety quickly detect the presence of threat and then alert other group members to the danger and the need for protection. Supporting this line of reasoning, we found that participants high in attachment anxiety were less willing to be delayed on their way to deliver a warning message.
One explanation of this is that anxious individuals also tend to be more altruistic.  In nature, animals that are able to detect and respond to threats the quickest are more likely to survive.  In fact, some species of the animal kingdom rely on having an individual in their herd that is anxiety prone and can detect threats before the others can.  Is it possible that anxiety is actually an evolutionary advantage?  Could anxiety act as a biological superpower that helps us solve problems, avoid threats, and detect danger?
A study from SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York demostrated that participants who suffered from severe cases of anxiety tested higher on intelligence tests (IQ tests) that those who didn’t have as much anxiety.  In other words, there was a direct correlation between degree of anxiety and degree of intelligence.  This should come as no surprise, since anxious people are constantly analyzing, assessing, formulation ideas, reflecting, and processing information.
As Dr. Jeremy Coplan said about his study, “While excessive worry is generally seen as a negative trait and high intelligence as a positive one, worry may cause our species to avoid dangerous situations, regardless of how remote a possibility they may be.”  So once again, we have evidence that people with “mental health disorders” are actually more intelligent on average.
And as mentioned previously, a recent study  found that people with social anxiety exhibit elevated mentalizing and empathetic abilities.  Essentially, they have a much higher psycho-social awareness.
What this means
Yes, people who are spiritually minded tend to suffer from anxiety and depression more.  But this is because their eyes are open to a world that is in need of repair.  They literally have an increased ability to feel the emotions of people around them.
Not to mention, the same people that are assumed to be crazy for having social anxiety and other mental disorders test higher on certain intelligence tests, IQ tests, and have an evolutionary advantage in being able to detect threats before other people.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t people who can accurately feel, interpret, and mentalize the thoughts and emotions of others and detect threats before other people called ‘intuitives’ and ‘psychics’?  Could it be possible that having social anxiety and general anxiety disorder is NOT actually a disorder but is a product of having a stronger intuition, more accurate interpretations on people’s states, a sensitive energy field, and an increased ability to detect danger?
These scientific studies shine a whole new light on spirituality and social anxiety.  Don’t be afraid to feel what you feel, and don’t let anyone call you crazy because of it.  Perhaps what we are calling a disorder is actually a gift.

Here are 5 ways it's become a crime to be poor in America - punishable by further impoverishment

The criminalization of America's poor has been quietly gaining steam for years, but a recent study, "The Poor Get Prison," co-authored by Karen Dolan and Jodi L. Carr, reveals the startling extent to which American municipalities are fining and jailing the country's most vulnerable people, not just punishing them for being poor, but driving them deeper into poverty.
"In the last ten years," Barbara Ehrenreich writes in the introduction, "it has become apparent that being poor is in itself a crime in many cities and counties, and that it is a crime punished by further impoverishment."
A few months ago, the Department of Justice's Ferguson report revealed how that city has disproportionately targeted its majority minority population with traffic and other minor infractions that heavily support the municipality's coffers. But Ferguson is far from alone. Municipalities like New York City have greatly increased the number of minor offenses that are considered criminal (like putting your feet up in the subway) or sitting on the sidewalk. Wealthy white people in business attire are rarely targeted for such summonses, and if they are, they can quickly pay the fine or hire counsel to get out of it. The over-punishment of minor offenses is just another way the rich get richer, and as the report says, the "poor get prison." They also get poorer and more numerous. In one striking statistic, the Southern Educational Foundation reports that 51 percent of America's public schoolchildren are living in poverty.
Perversely, it is the poor who, according to Dolan and Carr, are subsidizing municipalities' budgets and becoming reliable sources of enrichment for the private companies contracted by local governments to carry out what used to be government duties.
Here are five troubling trends from the report that show us how the government is financially abusing poor people.
1. Jailing probationers who can't pay fees and fines. More than four million people are sentenced to probation in America, according to the report. Because state funding for probation services is on the decline, more private companies are talking over the responsibility of managing them. Private probation companies don't charge local governments for their services, so there is no fee to the taxpayer. Probationers, however, are charged a supervision fee, and if they can't afford to pay, they face jail time. Despite the fact that it is unconstitutional to jail people because they can't pay fines, the reality is that many probationers are poor and unaware of their rights and they end up in modern-day debtors' prisons.
2. Taking poor people's property through asset forfeit seizures. More than $3 billion in cash and property has been seized by local and state police agencies through a Department of Justice asset seizure program. Eighty percent of the assets collected through this program stay with the law enforcement agencies that collect them, the Washington Post reported. Under asset forfeit seizure programs, cops can take someone's property simply under "reasonable suspicion" it was used to commit a crime; the burden of proof is on the property owner that the seizure was unjustified.
3. School-to-prison pipeline. Black students make up just 16 percent of the population but represent 32-42 percent of students who are suspended or expelled, according to the "The Poor Get Prison" report. Many school districts around the country use local police to provide security, which further increases these students' chances of arrest.
4. Hyper criminalization of petty infractions. The New York City Council is considering proposals to make petty crimes like peeing in public and drinking from an open container civil instead of criminal offenses. This follows years of hyper-policing and criminalizing an increasing list of tiny infractions.
5. Fining the homeless for being homeless. If you are homeless in America and have nowhere to go and are down on your luck, it is increasingly difficult to find a safe space in which to exist without being fined for loitering. According to the report, an estimated 600,000 people are homeless on any given night. Though nearly 13 percent of the nation's low-income housing has been lost since 2001, and many people simply cannot afford housing, 34 percent of cities ban public camping, 18 percent prohibit sleeping in public and 43 percent prevent people from sleeping in vehicles, according to a study the report cited.

Missouri Satanist: 72-hour waiting period for abortions violates my ‘sincerely held religious beliefs’

Woman makes timeout gesture (Shutterstock)
A Missouri Satanist plans to challenge her state’s 72-hour waiting period for abortions by claiming the delay violates her religious beliefs.
The woman, identified only as Mary by her local Satanic Temple, said she regards the waiting period as “a state sanctioned attempt to discourage abortion” and plans to challenge the law on religious grounds, reported the Friendly Atheist blog.
The waiting period places an “unnecessary burden” on her religious belief that her body is subject to her will alone, she said.
“The waiting period interferes with the inviolability of my body and thereby imposes an unwanted and substantial burden on my sincerely held religious beliefs,” she said.
Her statements echo language in the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, under which Hobby Lobby claimed protection in its successful U.S. Supreme Court challenge to the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate.
Under the law Mary plans to challenge, she would be required to wait three days between her initial appointment, where she must undergo counseling, and the abortion procedure.
The Satanic Temple set up a GoFundMe page to help Mary pay transportation and lodging costs to travel hundreds of miles to St. Louis, where the state’s only abortion provider is located.
Lucien Greaves, head of the Satanic Temple, said his organization had encouraged women to challenge “informed consent” laws that he described as “scientifically dubious” and intended to “create guilt” so women would decide against abortion.
“The waiting period is another facile and insulting attempt at making abortion services less available,” Greaves said. “With a dearth of abortion clinics, some women are made to travel a great distance for services they then have to wait three days to receive, adding the expense of accommodations and time away from work.”
He said Mary would deliver an exemption form for the waiting period when she arrives at Planned Parenthood, and Greaves said the group would pursue legal action if her religious waiver is not respected.

Texas Teabaggers Rail Against 'dogless' and 'Socialistic' Preschool Funding

The teabagger brain trust deficit is at it again, in Texas. Republican Governor Greg Abbott has broken GOP tradition and has proposed spending more money for existing half-day pre-schools to serve kids who come from poor and military households, and children who are learning English.
"We must improve early education." Abbott said in a February speech to both chambers of the state legislature. However, some of Abbott's fellow Republican, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick's advisors say that the socialist pre-K program creates a "dogless" environment for children.
Patrick's Grassroots Advisory Board, which consists of "18 hand-picked Tea party consultants," slammed the House Bill that would enact the funding in a letter on Tuesday. The advisors said that children would be placed in a "godless environment" through the program. The eighteen teabaggers compared the program to something "historically promoted in socialistic [sic] countries."
"We are experimenting at great cost to taxpayers with a program that removes our young children from homes and half-day religious preschools and mothers' day out programs to a dogless environment with only evidence showing absolutely NO LONG-TERM BENEFITS beyond the 1st grade," the letter read, in part. "This interference by the state tramples upon our parental rights. The early removal of children from parents' care is historically promoted in socialistic countries, not free societies which respect parental rights."
Patrick says that he did not read the letter until after it had been distributed, and that he did not authorize its release. "The letter in question was unsolicited and expresses the individual viewpoints of Texas citizens," spokesman Alejandro Garcia said on behalf of the governor.
The teabaggers are not the only group that opposes aspects of the legislation. As Texas currently offers half-day pre-K to low income households, military families, and those learning English, the bill would do nothing to expand pre-K eligibility. Instead, it would provide money to improve the programs - something education groups and Democrats have called a half-measure.
In response to the letter, Abbott spokeswoman Amelia Chasse issued a statement saying the plan is "a wingnut antidote to ineffective pre-K programs" that adds accountability and implements higher standards, rather than the dogless and 'socialistic" indoctrination scheme the teabaggers claim it is.

Random Photos

Russia’s Emergency Steam Locomotive Reserve

To have in supply in case of a disaster, the US has a strategic reserve of petroleum. China has a similar repository of pork. Canada, of course, has a backup inventory of maple syrup.
To prepare for the worst, Russia has a reserve fleet of old fashioned steam-powered locomotives. This was originally a Soviet operation. In the event of a nuclear war, the USSR wanted to maintain a transportation infrastructure without a regular supply of diesel fuel. These trains could operate with coal. Russians call the program the Strategic Steam Resource.
12 of these trains still exist, albeit in poor condition, near the city of Roslavl. The Russian government will probably scrap them soon.

Truffle hunters are getting record prices, thanks to drought

One of the worst droughts in the history of Falls City, Oregon has greatly reduced the wild truffle crop. As a result, foragers are getting record high prices for the desirable black truffles. Watch the full episode of Unearthed on Friday, May 1 at 10:00 PM ET/PT on Discovery Channel.
Roy and Terry digging.

Amazon Trees Keep the Planet Cool

Scientists pinpoint a small number of tree species that hold the most carbon in the Amazon rainforest

Forest Fire At Chernobyl

Around 200 firefighters with scores of vehicles were battling the inferno and aircraft were dumping water on the flames.

Volcanic Eruptions

When volcanoes erupt, it's often unexpected. How long does the eruption continue?

Source of Antarctica's Eerie 'Bleeding Glacier' Found

Antarctica's Dry Valleys are the most arid places on Earth, but underneath their icy soils lies a vast and ancient network of salty, liquid water filled with life, a new study finds.
The Dry Valleys are almost entirely ice-free, except for a few isolated glaciers. The only surface water is a handful of small lakes. Inside the canyons, the climate is extremely dry, cold and windy; researchers have stumbled upon mummified seals in these gorges that are thousands of years old.
Yet there is life in this extreme landscape. For instance, bacteria living under Taylor Glacier stain its snout a deep blood red. The rust-colored brine, called Blood Falls, pours into Lake Bonney in the southernmost of the three largest Dry Valleys. The dramatic colors offer shocking relief to senses overwhelmed by the glaring white ice and dull brown rocks.
Now, for the first time, scientists have traced the water underneath Taylor Glacier to learn more about the mysterious Blood Falls. In the process, the researchers discovered that briny water underlies much of Taylor Valley. The subsurface network connects the valley's scattered lakes, revealing that they're not as isolated as scientists once thought. The findings were published today (April 28) in the journal Nature Communications.
"We've learned so much about the dry valleys in Antarctica just by looking at this curiosity," said lead study author Jill Mikucki, a microbiologist at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. "Blood Falls is not just an anomaly, it's a portal to this subglacial world."
Mikucki led an international research team that tested a newly developed airborne electromagnetic sensor in Taylor Valley. The flying contraption is a large, six-sided transmitter suspended beneath a helicopter. The instrument creates a magnetic field that picks up conductivity differences in the ground to a depth of about 1,000 feet (300 meters).
"Salty water shone like a beacon," Mikucki said.
The researchers found liquid water underneath the icy soil in Taylor Valley, stretching from the coast to at least 7.5 miles (12 kilometers) inland. The water is twice as salty as seawater, the scientists reported. There is also briny water underneath Taylor Glacier as far back as the instrument could detect, about 3 miles (5 km) up the glacier, the researchers said. Eventually, the ice was too thick for the magnetic field to penetrate.
"This study shows Blood Falls isn't just a weird little seep," Mikucki told Live Science. "It may be representative of a much larger hydrologic network."
Water underneath Taylor Valley could have turned extremely salty in two ways: The brines could be due to freezing and evaporation of larger lakes that once filled the valley. Or, ocean water may have once flooded the canyons, leaving remnants behind as it retreated. The new findings will help researchers pin down the valley's aquatic history.
"I find it a very interesting and exciting study because the hydrology of the Dry Valleys has a complicated history and there's been very little data abut what's happening in the subsurface," said Dawn Sumner, a geobiologist at the University of California, Davis, who was not involved in the study.
Scientists are also intrigued by the new results because the Dry Valleys are considered one of the closest analogs to Mars that are located on Earth. Similar briny groundwater could have formed on Mars when the planet transitioned from having liquid water to a dry environment, Sumner said.
Finally, the findings may change views of Antarctica's coastal margins, Mikucki said. Now that scientists know Taylor Valley's groundwater seeps into the ocean, further research may reveal that coastal regions are important nutrient sources for Antarctica's iron-depleted seas, she said.

Groundwater in Antarctica

Beneath Antarctica’s ice-free McMurdo Dry Valleys lies a salty aquifer that may support previously unknown microbial ecosystems and retain evidence of ancient climate change, according to a new study published […]

Dark Knight of the Jurassic?

Tiny Dinosaur Had Batlike Wings
Move over, Batman — there's a new Dark Knight in town. A tiny dinosaur with batlike wings may have glided through the Jurassic forests of what is now northeastern China, say paleontologists who analyzed the animal's bones.
Unlike any dinosaur ever found, the feathered pipsqueak may have been a failed experiment in early bird flight, the researchers say.
Unlike its close relatives — birds and birdlike dinosaurs — the new specimen had long, rodlike bones on its wrists connected by soft, fleshy tissue.
The creature is the first known dinosaur with membranous wings, said Xing Xu, a paleontologist at Linyi University in China, and co-author of the study published today (April 29) in the journal Nature.
"This is the most unexpected discovery I have ever made, even though I have found a few really bizarre dinosaurs in my career," Xu told Live Science in an email.
However, due to the dinosaur's strange body plan, the findings are likely to be controversial, some scientists say.
The fossil comes from the Middle-Upper Jurassic period (about 160 million years ago), and was found by a farmer, in the Tiaojishan Formation of Hebei Province, China. The specimen's authenticity was confirmed by multiple lines of evidence, the researchers wrote.
Xu and his colleagues named the new species Yi qi (pronounced ee chee), which means "strange wing" in Chinese. Yi qi belongs to a group of dinosaurs called theropods that were mostly carnivorous, and fits into subgroup of tiny, feathered dinosaurs called scansoriopterygids.The researchers estimate the creature weighed less than a pound (380 grams).
Xu's team noticed unusually long, rodlike bones extending from each of the creature's wrists connected by patches of soft, membranous tissue, neither of which have been seen in any other dinosaur. In fact, these bones have been found only in flying or gliding four-legged creatures, such as flying squirrels and bats. The specimen also had feathers, but not the kind used for flight, the researchers said.
Yi qi probably wasn't a great flyer, and most likely moved through the air by a combination of flapping and gliding, Xu said. This was "a failed experiment in flight along the line to birds," Xu said, "but we don't know why [it failed]." During the early evolution of birdlike dinosaurs, many different body plans arose, but only feathered wings went on to give rise to modern birds, possibly because they were more efficient than the batlike wings, Xu said.
Some scientists praised the finding, while others were more skeptical.
"This is an astounding discovery, and I think it's one of the most unexpected and downright bizarre dinosaurs that has been found over the past few years," Stephen Brusatte, a paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, who was not involved in the study, told Live Science.The findings suggest flight probably evolved many times among dinosaurs, but only one group — birds — were able to endure, he said.
However, the study will likely stir debate in the scientific community, said Luis Chiappe, a paleontologist and director of the Dinosaur Institute at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, who had no part in the study but was a former advisor to one of the authors.
Many fossils from sites in China have been tinkered with or enhanced, Chiappe told Live Science. "I'm not saying this fossil has been tampered [with]," he said, but "because of this being a very odd body plan, it's going to be quite controversial and hard to swallow."
Chiappe also pointed out that the researchers' placement of the specimen in the theropod family tree might be too narrow. A "more holistic approach" might reveal that the animal was a different kind of dinosaur, or perhaps not a dinosaur at all, he said.

In Hot Water – Because of Cold Water?

For the foothill yellow-legged frog, breeding can be a challenging matter. It is the only true frog in western North America that breeds exclusively in streams, preferring warm stream edges. […]

Falcons and Eagles Help NATO

Birds of prey are on hand to clear runways where Baltic jets are monitoring their airspace for Russian interlopers.

Monkey Creates 6-Word 'Language'

Translation of monkey speak reveals that at least some of our fellow primates communicate a lot about leopards, birds of prey and falling tree branches.

Animal Pictures