Thursday, January 31, 2008

Hackers Rig Google to Deliver Malware

The latest malware trend should prompt you to think twice about the links you click next time you search.

Erik Larkin, PC World
Monday, January 28, 2008 12:00 PM PST

If last November you googled one of thousands of innocuous and common search terms, such as "Microsoft excel to access" or "how to teach your dogs to fetch," you were in line for an Internet attack that infects PCs with spam senders, password stealers, and other kinds of nasty malware.

Beginning on November 24 and continuing for less than a week, bad guys loaded up more than 40,000 Web pages with malicious software and thousands of common search terms. They then employed an automated network of malware-infected computers--known as a botnet--to link to those sites in blog-comment spam and other places. The mentions elevated the position of the poisoned sites in search results, often to the first page.

"Click Here for Free Attack"

The malicious sites had no useful information. Instead, a simple click on a link to such a site in the search results was enough to launch attacks against your PC. If the attack found any of a number of vulnerabilities in a range of programs, it would load.

"This was a massive wave," says Alex Eckelberry, president and CEO of security firm Sunbelt Software. Read more

One Common Ancestor Behind Blue Eyes

By Jeanna Bryner, LiveScience Staff Writer
posted: 31 January 2008 08:34 am ET

People with blue eyes have a single, common ancestor, according to new research.

A team of scientists has tracked down a genetic mutation that leads to blue eyes.

The mutation occurred between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago. Before then, there were no blue eyes.

"Originally, we all had brown eyes," said Hans Eiberg from the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the University of Copenhagen.

The mutation affected the so-called OCA2 gene, which is involved in the production of melanin, the pigment that gives color to our hair, eyes and skin.

"A genetic mutation affecting the OCA2 gene in our chromosomes resulted in the creation of a 'switch,' which literally 'turned off' the ability to produce brown eyes," Eiberg said.

The genetic switch is located in the gene adjacent to OCA2 and rather than completely turning off the gene, the switch limits its action, which reduces the production of melanin in the iris. In effect, the turned-down switch diluted brown eyes to blue.

If the OCA2 gene had been completely shut down, our hair, eyes and skin would be melanin-less, a condition known as albinism.

Read more


A little bit of commentary seems appropriate here.

There are those among us, actually probably a majority,
for whom this article will be no surprise.

They will say: "Yes we know, between 6 and 10 thousand
years ago, her name was Eve..."

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Ancient Secret Societies, UFOs, and the New World Order

by Brad Steiger
(Copyright 2008, Brad Steiger - All Rights Reserved)

Posted: 22:00 January 29, 2008

Helvetius, the grandfather of the celebrated philosopher of the same name, was an alchemist who labored ceaselessly to fathom the mystery of the "philosopher's stone," the legendary catalyst that would transmute base metals into gold. One day in 1666 when he was working in his laboratory at the Hague, a stranger attired all in black, as befitted a respectable burgher of North Holland, appeared and informed him that he would remove all the alchemist's doubts about the existence of the philosopher's stone, for he himself possessed such an object.

The stranger immediately drew from his pocket a small ivory box, containing three pieces of metal the color of brimstone. With those three bits of metal, he said, he could make as much as twenty tons of gold.

The alchemist examined the pieces of metal and seeing that they were very brittle, he surreptitiously scraped off a small portion with his thumbnail. He then returned the three pieces of metal to his mysterious visitor and invited him to perform the process of transmutation.

The stranger answered that he was not allowed to do so. It was enough that he had verified the existence of the metal to Helvetius. It was his purpose only to offer him encouragement in his experiments.

After the man's departure, Helvetius procured a crucible and a portion of lead, into which, when in a state of fusion, he threw the stolen grain he had secretly scraped from the alleged philosopher's stone. He was disappointed to find that the grain evaporated, leaving the lead in its original state.

Thinking that he had been made a fool by the mad burgher's whimsy, Helvetius returned to his own experiments in attaining the philosopher's stone.

Some weeks later, when he had almost forgotten the incident, Helvetius received another visit from the stranger. Impatiently, the alchemist told the man that if he could not do as he claimed, then please leave the laboratory at once.

"Very well,” the stranger said, consenting to perform a demonstration of the philosopher's stone for the skeptical Helvetius. “I shall show you that that which you most desire does truly exist.”

The mysterious visitor said that one grain was sufficient, but it was necessary to envelope it in a ball of wax before throwing it on the molten metal; otherwise, its extreme volatility would cause it to vaporize.

To Helvetius's astonishment, the stranger transmuted several ounces of lead into gold. Then he permitted the alchemist to repeat the experiment by himself, and Helvetius converted six ounces of lead into very pure gold. Read More

Monday, January 28, 2008

Just When You Thought It Was Safe...

Out of 600,000 bits of space debris, we're about to be hit by one the size of a bus

Date: 28 January2008
Source: The Scotsman

Location: Scotland

IT IS the size of a bus, weighs in at ten tonnes, is loaded with toxic chemicals and is hurtling to Earth at 22,000mph. No-one, unfortunately, knows where it is going to land.

US government officials admitted yesterday that they have lost control of a spy satellite and said it will smash into the planet within weeks.

The unnamed surveillance satellite is just one of an estimated 600,000 pieces of space junk currently flying above our heads.

Experts have warned that humanity has made "a zoo" of space with the amount of dead satellites and rubbish.

The spacecraft may have lost power as much as a year ago, but there is no estimate of where it could hit or what damage it could cause.

Only one person has ever reportedly been struck by a piece of space debris – a woman in Oklahoma who was hit in the shoulder by a piece of material but uninjured.

UK bookmakers last night placed the odds of being struck by this US spy satellite at at least 20 billion to one.

But while many bits of space junk are guided to crash down safely into the sea, the lack of control over the satellite means its operators cannot say where it will land.

Read the rest of the story and the comments here.


Satellite unlikely to pose danger to humans - read story

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Scotland: Hospitals on alert as superbug "C diff" becomes resistant to key drug

Date: 27 January 2008
Source: Scotland On Sunday
Location: Scotland
Related Topics: Hospital superbugs
By Kate Foster Health Correspondent

THE battle against hospital superbugs has suffered a serious setback after scientists discovered one of the most deadly bacteria has developed resistance to the main antibiotic used to kill it. Recent tests on the stomach bug Clostridium difficile – 'C diff' – suggest a new strain has mutated which is more likely to survive treatment with metronidazole, currently the "front line" antibiotic.

That leaves only one antibiotic, vancomycin, available to treat the mutated superbug. Doctors are reluctant to increase use of vancomycin because that increases the risk of "C diff" becoming resistant to the last line of defence.

Health officials last night warned doctors to be vigilant for any signs that patients were not responding to treatment and could be infected with the new strain. Patients' groups described the development as "very disturbing" and called for urgent action to improve hygiene in hospitals.

The revelation is contained in a new report by public health officials at the Health Protection Agency Centre for Infections. Routine tests carried out on samples taken from C diff patients showed that a common strain of the superbug had survived, despite being treated with metronidazole.

Further tests suggest that" C diff" has fought back against the antibiotic and mutated to develop a resistance to the drug. This new strain is already thought to have spread between patients.

"C diff" is linked to poor cleanliness in hospital wards and has become a major concern across the UK. Last year there were over 6,000 cases in Scotland.

Read the rest of the report here.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Alien Impact Poisons Canadian Town


Larry O'Hanlon, Discovery News
Jan. 25, 2008

Well water of the tiny Canadian town of Gypsumville, Manitoba (population 65) has been poisoned by an extraterrestrial...

The invader: A meteorite which struck down almost a quarter-billion years ago, creating the 25-mile-wide (40-kilometer) Lake Martin impact crater.

The ancient impact shattered the granitic ground so that extraordinary amounts of fluoride now taint the well water.

Slightly higher than recommended amounts of fluoride can cause mottled teeth, while even higher concentrations can lead to neurological problems and softened bones.

This is could be the first time a meteor impact has been tied to a modern health threat.

Read the rest here.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Google Combats Domain Name Loophole

Jan 25, 5:24 PM EST

NEW YORK (AP) -- The online advertising leader Google Inc. said Friday it would help make it less lucrative to tie up millions of Internet addresses using a loophole and keep those domain names from legitimate individuals and businesses.

Over the next few weeks, Google will start looking for names that are repeatedly registered and dropped within a five-day grace period for full refunds.

Google's AdSense program would exclude those names so no one can generate advertising revenue from claiming them temporarily, a practice known as domain name tasting - the online equivalent of buying expensive clothes on a charge card only to return them for a full refund after wearing them to a party.

"We believe that this policy will have a positive impact for users and domain purchasers across the Web," Google spokesman Brandon McCormick said.

The company said it notified participants via e-mail Thursday.

Name tasting exploits a grace period originally designed to rectify legitimate mistakes, such as registrants mistyping the domain name they are about to buy. But with automation and a burgeoning online advertising market, entrepreneurs have generated big bucks exploiting the policy to test hoards of names, keeping just the ones that turn out to generate the most revenue.

The practice ties up millions of domain names at any given time, making it more difficult for legitimate individuals and businesses to get a desirable name.

Read the full article

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Large Asteroid to Fly Past Earth next week


By Jeanna Bryner
Staff Writer
posted: 24 January 2008
12:39 pm ET

Artist's representation of a rogue asteroid

An asteroid that's likely as big as several football fields will fly past Earth next week. Astronomers said the space rock will be visible the night of Jan. 29 to amateur astronomers with modest-sized telescopes.

Called 2007 TU24, the asteroid was discovered by NASA's Catalina Sky Survey on Oct. 11, 2007. It is estimated to be somewhere between 500 feet (150 meters) to 2,000 feet (610 meters) in diameter.

The asteroid makes its closest approach to Earth, 334,000 miles (537,500 kilometers), at 3:33 a.m. Eastern time (12:33 a.m. Pacific time). For comparison, the moon is an average of 239,228 miles (385,000 kilometers) away.

"This will be the closest approach by a known asteroid of this size or larger until 2027," said Don Yeomans, manager of the Near Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

However, that doesn't mean we won't hear about another flyby of this nature before then. With relatively small space rocks, like this one, astronomers sometimes don't know they're passing through until right before they do.

There is no danger of the asteroid striking Earth in the foreseeable future, the scientists said.

But if an asteroid with this size were to hit Earth, the results could be regionally devastating. The impact itself would release about 1,500 megatons of energy, creating a crater about three miles (nearly five kilometers) wide and kicking up loads of debris, according to Yeomans.

"If it hit in the ocean, which is more likely because two thirds of the Earth is ocean, it would create a tsunami, which would be devastating for the coastlines that happen to be nearby," Yeomans told "It would be a huge local problem and the tsunami would be extraordinary if it hit in the ocean." Read More here.

The old Desert Gnome has a couple of physics related comments:

Remember that the energy resulting from such a collision is the kinetic energy of the moving body (the energy of motion of a body equals the product of half its mass and the square of its velocity) so it is dependent on the actual mass of the asteroid and its speed relative to the Earth.

The figure given in the article of 1500 megatons may not have a lot of meaning to many of the people reading this so, to put it into a more evocative form, it is helpful to know that the atomic bomb which destroyed Hiroshima in 1945 yielded an estimated 13 kilotons.

So, if I've done the math correctly, we're seeing an estimate of 100,000 times the energy of the Hiroshima bomb as being the product of a collision of the Earth and one of these rocks...

Oh, yeah, the Tunguska bolide is currently estimated to have been 70 meters in diameter and it flattened over 2000 square km of forest and incinerated a central region of 1000 square km.

We don't want to meet up with that 700 meter rock! And, here's the thing about this story that really makes the hair on your neck stand up, it was not discovered until 11 October 2007! That means that, if it were headed toward Earth impact, we would have had three months and eighteen days to prepare for the collision.

Does anybody believe that there is a well prepared plan out there to deal with such an emergency?

Here's a little more from about this issue

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Dinosaur Demise Theory Is Soaking Wet

By LiveScience Staff

posted: 23 January 2008 03:13 pm ET

Dinosaurs were likely annihilated by an asteroid that impacted the Earth 65 million years ago. Credit: Art by Tyler Keillor/Photo by Mike Hettwer, courtesy of Project Exploration, copyright 2007 National Geographic

Dinosaur doomsday was wetter than scientists have thought, according to new images of the crater where the space rock that likely killed the dinosaurs landed.

Sixty-five million years ago the asteroid struck the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, and most scientists think this event played a large role in causing the extinction of 70 percent of life on Earth, including non-avian dinosaurs.

Geophysicists now have created the most detailed 3-D seismic images yet of the mostly submerged Chicxulub impact crater. The data reveal that the asteroid landed in deeper water than previously assumed and therefore released about 6.5 times more water vapor into the atmosphere.

The images also show the crater contained sulfur-rich sediments that would have reacted with the water vapor to create sulfate aerosols. Continue reading story

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Bizarre Amphibians Found Living on the Edge

By Jeanna Bryner, LiveScience Staff Writer

posted: 22 January 2008 ET

The purple frog

Blind salamanders, legless amphibians with tentacles on their heads and ghost frogs whose favorite haunt is a human burial ground are just a few of the world's weirdest and most endangered creatures.

The Zoological Society of London announced this week these are among the 10 most unusual and threatened amphibian species, as part of the EDGE Amphibians conservation and fundraising initiative. Amphibians that made the list are deemed by the society to be the most evolutionarily distinct and globally endangered, aka EDGE species. They have few close relatives in the tree of life and are genetically unique, along with being on the verge of extinction.

Chinese giant salamander
A Chinese giant salamander

"These animals may not be cute and cuddly, but hopefully their weird looks and bizarre behaviors will inspire people to support their conservation," said Helen Meredith, EDGE Amphibians conservationist in England.

Hewitt's ghost frog

Species that are evolutionarily distinct are one of a kind, said Arne Mooers of Simon Fraser University in Canada.

"We can't afford to lose these ones, because they are so different from everything else," said Mooers, who works with scientists as part of the EDGE of Existence program. "If we lose these, then we lose a big chunk of the total variation," he said, referring to overall biodiversity.

Read The Article Here

Another interesting animal story - see below.

Read about gharials here

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Neo-Nazis will march through Plzeň

A daily in-depth look at current events in the Czech Republic.

[16-01-2008] By Jan Richter

A radical far-right group wants to march through Plzeň on Saturday to protest against alleged restrictions on freedom of speech in the Czech Republic. Two months after thousands of ordinary people took to the streets to block a similar march through Prague’s Jewish Quarter, the organizers of the Plzen march are calling on their supporters to turn up armed this time round.
A radical far-right group with neo-Nazi ties known as Národní odpor, or National Resistance, feels that freedom of speech is being restricted in the Czech Republic. In November, the Prague authorities together with several thousand people prevented them from expressing their disapproval of Czech participation in the occupation of Iraq which they were planning to voice in Prague’s Jewish Quarter on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, a large Nazi anti-Jewish pogrom in 1938. This time, the radicals want to march past the Great Synagogue in Plzeň, on the anniversary of the first transports of local Jews to Nazi extermination camps in 1942. I asked Tomáš Kraus, the secretary of the Federation of Jewish Communities in the Czech Republic if the Plzeň Jewish community was ready for the march.
“The [Jewish] community of Plzeň is prepared for such a provocation. We also hope that other authorities in the city are prepared for the event because this is something new, something they have never had to face before. Of course it needs coordinated action on several levels, starting with the municipality of Plzeň.”
The local Jewish community plans to hold a rally outside the Great Synagogue at the time of the march. According to the community leader Eva Štixová, they will not attempt to block the neo-Nazi march. Neither it seems will the police. Jana Václavová is the spokeswoman for the Plzeň police headquarters.
“Our main task will be to make sure that the event is peaceful, to protect public safety and property. Several hundred police officers will be out in the streets to make sure that public order is maintained. Members of a riot police squad will also participate in the event, communicating with the protesters to prevent any aggressive behaviour on their side and any potential conflicts. We have also asked our colleagues from neighbouring states for cooperation, especially from Bavaria and Saxony.”

More on this story

Czech Egyptologists uncover intact 4,500 year-old tomb

A daily in-depth look at current events in the Czech Republic.

[07-01-2008] By Jan Velinger

It’s not everyday that archaeologists can boast a discovery such
as this one: the finding of a fully-intact archaeological site dating
back 4,500 years. That is exactly what happened in the pyramid
fields of Abusir, Egypt, where Czech experts recently opened a
tomb belonging to an Egyptian dignitary. Czech experts revealed
the news just a few days ago, having first thoroughly documented
the state of the chamber back in November. According to experts,
such a find has not been seen in 50 years.

Miroslav Bárta at the sarcophagus with the
remains of Neferinpu,
photo: Czech Institute of Egyptology

Czech Egyptologists have long enjoyed an impressive reputation
for their work in Abusir, Egypt, but even they admit one doesn’t
make a find such as this one everyday: the uncovering of an intact
tomb going back 24 centuries BC. The head of the on-site team,
Miroslav Bárta, told journalists that the opening of the bricked-up
chamber, found at the bottom of a 10-metre shaft, immediately
brought to mind experiences of Indiana Jones, but he added that
a feeling of responsibility for the site’s careful preservation
immediately set in. Radio Prague spoke to the head of the
Czech Institute of Egyptology, Ladislav Bareš, who confirmed
the recent find was immense: Read the rest of the story!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

There are two kinds of stories... true stories, and stories that are made up. This story is true.

By Molly J. Anderson- Childers
It happened very quickly, too quick to think or
to blink. I was walking along quietly and slowly,
looking all about me as is my habit when walking
alone. If I’m on a hike with friends, I try to match
my pace to theirs. But on my own, I’m a dawdling
wanderer, content to walk only a few miles with
plenty of time to rest, sketch interesting trees and
flowers, and explore every inch of the trail. I was
admiring the roots of a giant pine tree growing at
the top of a hill when I suddenly spied a Gnome.

He wore a pointed cap and trousers the color of
freshly dug earth, with a rough shirt the color of
dried elm-tree leaves in autumn. His hair and beard
were brown, and his eyes gleamed darkly like two
stones in clear water. He squatted near the base of
the tree, about eight inches in height. He did not look
like a tiny bearded man; he looked surely and
incontrovertibly like a Gnome, which is exactly
what he was and is. He was completely still and
silent, watching me intently to see what I would
do. He was not afraid of me, for I gave him no
reason to be. He merely waited to see what I
would do. And what would you do, Dear Reader,
if you came upon such an ancient and fantastical
creature on an otherwise ordinary day?

Ask yourself this question.

It is an important one, for you never know when you
might spy a faery or Gnome, or other folks from the
pages of a story-book, if you go walking in the woods
alone, and it’s best to be prepared.
Would you try to capture him, and make him tell all
the secrets of his ancient race? Or perhaps try to
engage him in conversation about the sly habits of
foxes, and the minds of ravens? Or would you just
stand and stare?
( I suspect most of you would. That is exactly what I did.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

An interesting article from abroad with some poor word uses

Usually the old gnome either lets the item
stand on its own or comments after the end.
This time I felt the need to insert some

1) I had not thought that being white and
being Muslim were mutually exclusive.

2) Perhaps the central idea of this article
from "The Scotsman" will help explain
to some Americans why "racial profiling"
is not a valid or desirable tool in looking
for terrorists.

That said, here is the lead and the link:

Al-Qaeda's white army of terror

Wednesday, 16th January 2008

HUNDREDS of British non-Muslims have been
recruited by al-Qaeda to wage war against the
West, senior security sources warned last night.
As many as 1,500 white Britons are believed to
have converted to Islam for the purpose of funding,
planning and carrying out surprise terror attacks
inside the UK, according to one MI5 source.

Lord Carlile, the Government's independent reviewer
of anti-terrorism legislation, said many of the converts
had been targeted by radical Muslims while
serving prison terms.

Security experts say the growing secret army of
white terrorists poses a particularly serious threat
as they are far less likely to be detected than
members of the Asian community.

Since the 7/7 and 21/7 London bombings, police
and intelligence services have had considerable
success in identifying, disrupting and stopping
extremist plots. As a result, groups such as al-Qaeda,
Lashkar-e-Taiba and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen
have been forced to change tack. Converting
white non-Muslims has been one response.

The trend is well established in the United States.
American-born Adam Gadahn is one of the FBI's
top 10 most-wanted terrorists after converting to
Islam and rising through al-Qaeda's ranks to
become a prominent spokesman.

One British security source last night told Scotland
on Sunday: "There could be anything up to 1,500
converts to the fundamentalist cause across Britain.
They pose a real potential danger to our domestic
security because, obviously, these people blend in
and do not raise any flags.

"The exact figure of those who have converted to
Islam and turned to terror is not precisely known.
Not everyone who converts becomes radicalised
and it may be that just two-fifths go down that path,
but it remains a significant and dangerous problem."

Carlile said he was not aware of specific numbers,
but confirmed to Scotland on Sunday that Whitehall
was aware of the new threat and was actively tackling
it. He said: "These people are an issue and are
potentially very dangerous. There have been cases
of non-Muslims converting before, and of these,
Richard Reid, the so-called Shoebomber, is the most
obvious example. Read more at The Scotsman

Comments by the Desert Gnome:

I'm not known for being overly "politically correct"
(hell, I'm not known at all!) but something about the
headline and the wording of this article seemed

Upon reflection, I think it might be that Scotland
probably is racially more homogeneous than
southern Nevada and maybe the writer equates
Scottish nationality with being white.

In the U.S. most of us are of mixed race or are
non-white anyway so we probably would have
been inclined toward expressing the idea more
directly in terms of nationality as opposed to race.

As he was writing of Brits converting to Islam
he asserted the idea that perhaps "only" forty
percent of converts became "radicalized" and
therefore potentially a threat to security, and
that amounted to a total of 1500 people joining
the other side.

I looked at several sites for statistical information
on Muslims in the USA and the best estimates are
between 7 and 10 million Americans are of the
Muslim faith. We know of two American Muslims
(both converts from other backgrounds) who
were, or are, involved in al-Quaida
. Of course
there have been other unsubstantiated
reports floating about.

The next is from

The population of Scotland is on the
according to latest records and is now
5,094,800. The reasons are slightly more births,
slightly fewer deaths and more people coming to
Scotland than leaving.The main reason for the
increase in population is the net gain in migration.
More people come into Scotland from other countries,
mostly the rest of the UK as compared to the
number of people leaving Scotland. According to
latest reports this gain is 19000 with almost 45000
leaving Scotland and over 55000 coming in.
Gnome here, I have just spent a ridiculous
amount of time reading statistics concerning
the population of Scotland (or as the Scots
would have it: the population for Scotland).

I have come up with both official estimates
and non-official estimates of number of
people broken down into every demographic
division of which one could conceive.

Oops, not quite... The missing breakdown
was? You guessed it: race, ethnicity,
derivation... call it what you will: the Scots
apparently either don't have it or don't
acknowledge its existence.

I'm guessing that they're almost (as 99.995%)
totally native Scottish people whose ancestors
were native Scottish people descended from
native Scottish people.

Their national net in-migration of 19,000 people
per year is about a quarter of the in-migration
to the Las Vegas Valley or Phoenix area.

There was also no breakdown by religion,
whether professed, suspected or reported,
in the official demographic breakdowns nor

Given the lack of data it is difficult to estimate
the Muslim population of Scotland although
we do know that there were two Muslim
doctors there a few months ago...

For another British input check out this
England's Population Changes Will
Make Whites A Minority Group


England's population has been overwhelmingly
Caucasian throughout its history. The shift began
shortly after World War II, when the government
encouraged men from the former colonies to fill
factory posts left empty by the casualties of war.

Although Wales and Scotland remain largely
homogeneous, (emphasis by Gnome) a 2001 census
found that England's white, native-born population
had dropped to 87 percent.

Simpson predicts that the white population of England
will plateau at around 75-80 percent in a couple of
decades, depending on the vagaries of future immigration
and the social dynamics of the individual groups...

As is obvious from this link, headline writing in
the UK needs more study...

Given that, we do learn from the English that
Scotland is still lily-white and so the
writer might be forgiven for writing such seemingly
insensitive (or even racist) copy.

Still, his figures (estimates, guesses) give one
a thought to consider: if hundreds of British white
young people are becoming radicalized to the
point of being willing to become suicidal mass
murderers on behalf of a perceived Muslim
cause, what the hell is going on in British society
which could create so much alienation among so
many of your young people?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Artifacts may point to de Soto's trail

From Foster's Daily Democrat
Associated Press Writer
Article Date: Sunday, January 13, 2008

JACKSONVILLE, Ga. — A rusty, diamond-shaped iron blade, its sharp
point jutting from the dirt where it was discovered, could be a
centuries-old clue that sheds new light on the obscure path taken
by the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto.

For archaeologist Dennis Blanton it has erased most doubts that
the patch of ground in southeast Georgia was visited more than
460 years ago by some group of Spanish explorers —
if not by de Soto himself.

"It's pretty much case-closed," says Blanton, standing in a clearing
among planted pines where his archaeologists have dug about 18
inches into the dirt in an area the size of a small house. "If you had
to deduce the most plausible source, it would be de Soto."

But it also presents a mystery: The site is 90 miles from where experts
believe de Soto traveled. It highlights the challenge of deducing the
route taken by de Soto, an explorer who left few traces of his journey.

Hernando de Soto became the first European to explore the interior
of present-day Georgia in 1540, when he and 600 men arrived nearly
two centuries before the British founded the colony of Georgia in 1733.

Historians and archaeologists have long debated his exact path, which
took him through much of the South. Few Spanish artifacts along his
trail have been found. Blanton says, cautiously, his findings in rural
Telfair County may provide some physical proof of de Soto's presence.

Blanton of the Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta has been
digging on-and-off for 18 months on private land used for growing pine
trees in rural Telfair County, about 120 miles west of Savannah.

Along with shards of Indian pottery, Blanton's team has uncovered two
scraps of iron and five ornate, pea-sized glass beads. Blanton says he's
convinced the beads and iron were brought by Spanish explorers to
trade with Indians.

However, the site where Blanton's team found its artifacts near the
Ocmulgee River lies about 90 miles southeast of where most experts
believe de Soto crossed the river near Macon. The few known written
accounts by de Soto's companions are short on landmarks other than
rivers and long-vanished Indian villages.

Archaeologist Charles Hudson spent a decade dogging de Soto's trail.
The route he and two colleagues first published in 1984 remains the
map of de Soto's course most accepted by experts. But Hudson says
it's a pursuit fraught with uncertainty.

"They weren't modern men and weren't self consciously trying to leave
an account of where they went," said Hudson, a retired University of
Georgia archaeologist. "It's kind of maddening, because everything
is enclosed in a fog of doubt."

In the summer of 2006, Blanton began digging in hopes of finding a
remote Spanish mission established in the 1600s. Instead he found
beads that experts agree were fashioned a century earlier by Italian
glassmakers. Italy was known to trade the beads with the Spanish,
who brought them across the ocean.

Historians agree de Soto and his men entered present-day Georgia
near its southwest corner and worked their way northeast into
South Carolina on the first leg of a winding trek that took de Soto
4,000 miles from northern Florida to Arkansas, where he died of
fever in 1542.

In 1984, Hudson and fellow researchers Marvin T. Smith and
Chester DePratter published a route for de Soto's Georgia travels
that had him crossing the Ocmulgee River near Macon.

Hudson and his colleagues mapped de Soto's route using written
accounts of three men traveling with the explorer and matching them
with geographic features and archaeological evidence of Indian
settlements they believed the explorer encountered. Hudson said
what made his proposed route stand up to scrutiny was that the
Indian sites formed a chain across the state.

"If you just pinpoint a single location on the basis of artifacts, the
evidence is not very strong — and these are all portable artifacts,"
Hudson said. "I'm a little dubious that de Soto was down that far."

Smith, an anthropologist at Valdosta State University, said the most
likely scenario would be that the Spanish artifacts found in Telfair
County got there by way of Indians trading among themselves.

"It would be so easy for the Indians to move that stuff around
among themselves," Smith said. "It was so shiny and new and
something they'd never seen before."

Blanton argues that archaeologists typically find Spanish iron and
beads in Indian graves, indicating that Indians prized such rare
and alien trinkets. The Telfair County artifacts, however, appear
to have been found on the floor of a home.

Blanton argues Indians would have treasured glass beads and
iron too much to leave them discarded on the ground, but
Spaniards wouldn't have valued them as much.

Regardless of de Soto's involvement, experts agree the Telfair
County site offers a rare window to a distant history when Indian
cultures thousands of years old first collided with Europeans
intent on conquering the new world.

"Everything changed instantly," Blanton said, "as soon as those
Spaniards emerged from the woods and came up the riverbank."

See Original Article

Comment by The Gnome:

Neither the Spanish nor the Natives had a clue that the mere
presence of the Spanish among the Americans was a death
sentence for the Americans and their civilization.

It was not simply the rapaciousness of the Europeans (of which
there was no shortage) but of even greater consequence for
the Americans were the micro-organisms, brought by the
Europeans, which were being inhaled by the Americans who
came in close contact with the explorers.

These invisible and unimagined passengers upon and within
the Spaniards would spread fatal pestilence throughout the
communities of the people contacted by the Spanish and
would be spread, by the contactees, to other Americans
living in the area.

According to Hudson's reconstruction, De Soto expedition
built boats and crossed the Mississippi a little south of
present-day Memphis and found the riverbanks basically
lined with Native towns and the area home to thousands
of warriors.

When the French, including La Salle, passed the same area
one hundred years later they found no people living in the
area: the river was without a village for two hundred miles.

The Spanish had intended to enslave the Americans and
steal their lands and gold, instead they introduced the
diseases which depopulated the American continents of
the pre-Columbian inhabitants except for a small remnant.

Rules of attraction take strange twist

Richard Woods, Claire Newell | January 14, 2008

IMAGINE what they thought, imagine the turmoil they endured.

They are the twins who, it emerged on Friday, were separated at birth and given up for adoption only to meet by chance years later - and marry.

The man and woman, unaware they were siblings, had grown up in different families. Yet when fate brought them together again, they experienced an uncanny bond and a sexual attraction.

As Lord Alton, who revealed the case, said: "They were never told they were twins.

"They met later in life and felt an inevitable attraction."

Did they sense something? It certainly must have seemed odd: both had been born on the same day in the same year.

According to Lord Alton, who was told about the case by a judge, the couple married and later discovered they were twins.

The marriage was annulled at a special hearing in the High Court last year with the judge ruling it had never been valid. Under Britain's 1986 Marriage Act, it is illegal to marry your sibling, parent, grandparent, grandchild and various other blood relatives.

And now, the rest of the story...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

"Comet/Asteroid Impact Hazards"

We are living in a relatively risky time for potential collisions between our fair blue planet and comets and asteroids that
cross our orbit, according to astronomers Napier and Clube, authors of Cosmic Winter (1990).

Spectacular environmental and ecological catastrophes resulting from infall of near-Earth objects (NEOs) have occurred repeatedly in the past and will occur again...

Read the rest of the story: Here

Friday, January 11, 2008

Zombie Attack at Hierakonpolis

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
by Renée Friedman

Weighing the evidence for and dating of Solanum virus outbreaks in early Egypt

This nondescript tomb (center) may be the location
where the first historical evidence of a zombie attack
was discovered. (Courtesy of the Hierakonpolis Expedition)

Hierakonpolis is a site famous for its many "firsts," so many, in fact, it is not easy to keep track of them all. So we are grateful(?) to Max Brooks for bringing to our attention that the site can also claim the title to the earliest recorded zombie attack in history. In his magisterial tome, The Zombie Survival Guide (2003), he informs us that in 1892, a British dig at Hierakonpolis unearthed a nondescript tomb containing a partially decomposed body, whose brain had been infected with the virus (Solanum) that turns people into zombies. In addition, thousands of scratch marks adorned every surface of the tomb, as if the corpse had tried to claw its way out! [Editor's note: click here for an interview with Max Brooks and a timeline of archaeologically documented zombie outbreaks.]

Read Article: Link

Thursday, January 10, 2008

US at bottom of global privacy rankings!

Big Brother lives. And he may live a lot closer to home than you might think or want.

Human rights organization Privacy International compiled list of the best and worst countries in 2007 for citizen privacy versus government surveillance. The United States sits squarely at the bottom of that list with Privacy International classifying the country as one of the world's most "endemic surveillance societies."

Other low ranking countries include: China, Russia, Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, and England. Greece was the highest ranking country when it came to citizen privacy protection. Privacy International said that Greece had "adequate safeguards against abuse." No country reached the highest ranking of "significant protections and safeguards" or "consistently upholds human rights safeguards." Read the rest of the article and comments: here

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Zimbabwe dollar - in free fall - stronger against USD

Z$1 triillion for house in Zim Dec 11 2007 08:25 PM

Just skim the article for the sense of it, then
space down to the italicized lines and let it
soak in for a minute...

Harare - A trillion dollar house, billion dollar bed and a million dollar beer. That and a severe cash squeeze are the latest sign of runaway inflation that has vexed consumers in President Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe.

A newspaper advertisement shows a four-bedroom house with a pool and tennis court in Harare's leafy Glen Lorne suburb selling for just under Z$1 trillion, a whopping $33m at the official bank rate but only $667 000 on a widely used black market.

An identical property cost half the price a month ago.

Prices of household furniture, groceries and food and rentals have more than doubled in the past month as businesses seek to eke out a profit and remain afloat, but at a cost to consumers ravaged by the world's fastest rising prices.

Shops which were emptied of basic goods after Mugabe announced a blanket price freeze to tame inflation in June, have started restocking but prices have skyrocketed.

"Prices are increasing but my salary is not and that is a very big problem because it's now difficult to settle my bills," Humphrey Chitovhoro, a trainee with a Harare accounting firm said, a line now recounted many times by Zimbabweans.

Salaries are failing to keep pace with galloping inflation - the world's highest at nearly 8 000% - which has inflamed tensions in a country with rising unemployment and enduring foreign currency, fuel and food shortages.

Mugabe's government has so far failed to rein in an economic slide, which critics say has been badly hit by the veteran leader's policies, including the seizure of white-owned farms to resettle blacks that has knocked agriculture output.

Cash crunch

On Tuesday Zimbabweans jammed banking halls, desperately seeking cash, in short supply, the latest sign of the southern African country's economic free-fall.

Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono said last month the launch of a new currency was imminent. This has not happened, instead cash shortages have worsened, with banks running out of notes.

Gono accuses foreign currency black market dealers of stashing more than half the total money in circulation and says the bank will not intervene in the cash crisis.

"I came here at five (03:00 GMT) and just got Z$5m. What can I do with that money," an angry mother of two who identified herself only as Auxilia said as she left a bank where a long queue stretched for a couple of blocks.

The amount is equivalent to three days of bus fare.

Most Zimbabweans use cash for their transactions since most basic goods like cooking oil, sugar and maize meal are purchased on the black market.

In a small vote of confidence for Gono, the Zimbabwe dollar has strengthened against the US dollar on the black market, rising to Z$1.5m per dollar on Tuesday from a low of Z$2.4m.

But businesses are feeling the cash squeeze as sales have dropped, while workers spend more time in bank queues.

"We need to have more money in circulation but we cannot expect the central bank to continue pumping in more money if that which is in circulation can not be accounted for. We are caught up in a vicious cycle," Joseph Malaba, a local industrialist told the official Herald newspaper.


A little comment from the Ol' Gnome:

If I'm analyzing this article correctly,

we have a country (Zimbabwe) which

has a currency losing value at the rate

of 8000% or more... But, its miserable

currency has gained value against the

United States Dollar. Does that give

us increasing confidence in the old


read the article and the comments

Top 10 Star Mysteries

White Dwarf Star


When a star the mass of our Sun uses up its nuclear fuel, it expels
most of its outer layers to leave just a very hot core called a white
dwarf. Scientists had speculated that at the bottom of a white
dwarf's 31 mile (50 kilometer)-thick crust was crystallized carbon
and oxygen, similar to a diamond. And in 2004, they found that a
white dwarf near the constellation Centaurus, BPM 37093, was
made of crystallized carbon weighing 5 million trillion trillion
pounds. In diamond-speak, that s 10 billion trillion trillion carats!
Robert Bigelow, any interest?

Read the rest of the star mysteries:

Monday, January 7, 2008

Did a Comet Cause the Great Flood?

The universal human myth may be the first example of disaster reporting.
by Scott Carney 11.15.2007

The Fenambosy chevrons at the tip of Madagascar. Image courtesy of Dallas Abbott

The serpent’s tails coil together menacingly.
A horn juts sharply from its head. The creature
looks as if it might be swimming through a sea
of stars. Or is it making its way up a sheer
basalt cliff?

For Bruce Masse, an environmental archaeologist
at Los Alamos National Laboratory, there is no
confusion as he looks at this ancient petroglyph,
scratched into a rock by a Native American
shaman. “You can’t tell me that isn’t a comet,”
he says.

In Masse’s interpretation, the petroglyph com-
memorates a comet that streaked across the sky
just a few years before Europeans came to this
area of New Mexico. But that event is a minor
blip compared to what he is really after. Masse
believes that he has uncovered evidence that a
gigantic comet crashed into the Indian Ocean
several thousand years ago and nearly wiped
out all life on the planet. What’s more, he thinks
that clues about the catastrophe are hiding in
plain sight, READ MORE HERE...