Thursday, June 14, 2012

Just the Facts?: Crop Circle Season Accelerating -- 'Black Death' Plague -- Did Humans Evolve From Sharks?



England’s crop circle season is in full swing

The English crop circle season starts, tentatively, in May though occasionally a formation has been known to arrive as early as April. In these months the formations are few. The major events happen in late July and early August. By far the best time to visit is last weekend in July/first weekend in August.

Steve has photographed crop circles for more than twenty years, and he and Karen publish annual year books that contain all the circles that appear each year. They also publish photos of the latest circles on their website. One of the latest patterns appeared on Saturday, June 9 in field of young winter wheat in the Wiltshire area of Woodborough Hill.

This crop circle consisted of three similar designs that, according to crop circle researcher Lucy Pringle, resembled “Sun Fish.” The website CropCircleConnector.com reports that the field’s farmer did not want the designs drawing crowds into his field, so he mowed the crops down, and the crop circle is”now effectively gone.”

Another recent crop circle appeared in a Manton Drove, Wiltshire barley field on Saturday, June 2.
One expert suggests this Manton Drove crop circle was created by humans. According to This is Wiltshire, Dr. Horace R. Drew explains, “It is often hard to tell whether a new crop picture might be paranormal or human-made. Recently I found a new method to detect human ‘board marks’ from aerial images, by using a standard Photoshop program to reduce midtone contrast.” Drew further states that the Manton Drove crop circle shows “a series of regularly striped features, which could perhaps be human board marks.” And Drew feels there is nothing clever about the design of this circle either, suggesting the human designers simply copied “a ‘Polar Clock 3’ screensaver that can be downloaded free off the web.” - openminds

The Heck Hypothesis: Crop Circle Insight - I highly recommend Kenneth M. Heck's book The Heck Hypothesis: Crop Circle Insight...Lon

Secrets in the Fields: The Science and Mysticism of Crop Circles

Vital Signs: A Complete Guide to the Crop Circle Mystery and Why It is Not a Hoax


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Chinese diners enjoy watching dogs catch, kill their meal

A restaurant boss has told how business really pecked up when he put a bizarre dish on the menu - where diners watch dogs chase and kill the chickens they're about to eat.

Cui Feng - whose remote restaurant is at the foot of Huzhua Mountain, Hubei province, central China - claims customers can't get enough of the dish, which translates from Mandarin as 'Puppy Catches Chicken.'

"The dogs love it and so do the customers," he explained. "They either catch the chicken and bring it to the kitchen or chase it down the mountain to where the cooks are waiting to lop off the chickens head and put it in the pot.

"What the dogs like is that they get the leftover chicken to eat afterwards," added Cui. But he denies that the dish is cruel. "The chickens will die anyway, so they don't care. And the people did a good meal and they get good entertainment at the same time – that is why the dishes so popular," he explained. - austriantimes

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Oregon man battling the 'Black Death' plague

An Oregon man is at death's door in a hospital battling a rare case of the infamous “Black Death” plague, health officials said. The unidentified man, who is in his 50s, was bitten on the hand while trying to pull a mouse away from a stray cat on June 2 and got sick several days later, doctors at St. Charles Medical Center-Bend said. The man was thought to be suffering from septicemic plague — meaning the ruthless bacteria was spreading in his bloodstream — and was in critical condition on Tuesday, doctors said.

Karen Yeargain, the county health department's communicable disease coordinator, said that officials were working to confirm that the man had the plague, but that all the symptoms were there, including stomach pain, bleeding mouth, nose and anus and dying tissue. He's just the fifth person to catch the plague in the state since 1995. Only about 10 to 15 people in the United States catch the frightening illness each year, typically in western states.

Globally, health officials report about 1,000 to 3,000 cases per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Famously known as "Black Death," the disease killed around 75 million people — around a third of the population — when it swept through Europe in the 14th century. Victims were often left with blackened, rotted tissue around their noses, lips, fingers and toes. Rat-borne fleas usually carry the bacterium that causes the plague — Yersinia pestis — and humans can catch it from contact with rodent or other animals.

Oregon health officials don't know if the man was bitten by the cat or the mouse. The cat, a stray that had wandered the man's rural Crook County neighbourhood for around six years, has since died and was sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for testing. "Taking a mouse out of a cat's mouth is probably not a good idea," Emilio DeBess, Oregon's public health veterinarian, said. Early plague symptoms include fever, chills, headache, weakness and swollen nodes in the neck, armpit or groin. It can be treated with antibiotics, but 1 in 7 cases are fatal, according to the CDC. - nydailynews

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Did humans evolve from sharks?

The primitive fish named Acanthodes bronni was the common ancestor of all jawed vertebrates on Earth – including mankind, according to new research.

Acanthodes, a Greek word for "spiny", existed before the split between the earliest sharks and the first bony fishes – the lineage that would eventually include human beings.
Fossils have been found in Europe, North America and Australia.

Compared with other spiny sharks it was relatively large, measuring a foot long. It had gills instead of teeth, large eyes and lived on plankton.

Professor Michael Coates, a biologist at the University of Chicago, said: "Unexpectedly, Acanthodes turns out to be the best view we have of conditions in the last common ancestor of bony fishes and sharks.

"Our work is telling us the earliest bony fishes looked pretty much like sharks, and not vice versa. What we might think of as shark space is, in fact, general modern jawed vertebrate space."

Cartilaginous fish, which today include sharks, rays, and ratfish, diverged from the bony fishes more than 420 million years ago. But little is known about what the last common ancestor of humans, manta rays and great white sharks looked like.

The acanthodians died out about 250 million years ago and generally left behind only tiny scales and elaborate suits of fin spines.

But armed with new data on what the earliest sharks and bony fishes looked like, the researchers re-examined fossils of Acanthodes bronni, the best-preserved species.

A re-examination of a braincase dating back 290 million years shows it was an early member of the modern gnathostomes – meaning "jaw-mouths" that include tens of thousands of living vertebrates ranging from fish to birds, reptiles, mammals and humans.

Prof Coates said: "We want to explore braincases if possible, because they are exceptionally rich sources of anatomical information.

"They are much better than scales, teeth or fin spines, which, on their own, tend to deliver a confusing signal of evolutionary relationships."

The analysis of the sample combined with recent scans of skulls from early sharks and bony fishes led the researchers to a surprising reassessment of what Acanthodes bronni tells us about the history of jawed vertebrates.

Prof Coates said: "For the first time, we could look inside the head of Acanthodes, and describe it within this whole new context. The more we looked at it, the more similarities we found with sharks."

The study, published in Nature, found acanthodians as a whole, including the earliest members of humans' own deep evolutionary past, appear to cluster with ancient sharks.

This new revision of the lineage of early jawed vertebrates will allow paleontologists to dig into deeper mysteries, including how the body plan of these ancient species transformed over the transition from jawless to jawed fishes.

Added Prof Coates: "It helps to answer the basic question of what is primitive about a shark. And, at last, we are getting a better handle on primitive conditions for jawed vertebrates as a whole."

Environmental biologist Dr Maureen Kearney, of the National Science Foundation in the US which co-funded the research, said the study shows us "important evolutionary transitions in the history of life, providing a new window into the sequence of evolutionary changes during early vertebrate evolution". - telegraph

Masters of the Planet: The Search for Our Human Origins (Macsci)

Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body


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Montreal teacher suspended after showing class purported Lin dismemberment 'snuff' video

A Montreal teacher has been suspended and could be fired after showing his high-school students the video that police believe depicts the grisly killing of Chinese student Lin Jun – the same video that disturbed veteran police investigators and turned stomachs around the world.

The 29-year-old supply teacher faced a school board labour-relations hearing on Wednesday afternoon. In a statement, the board said it will consider all possible sanctions, including sacking the teacher.

The male teacher showed the video last week as part of a history and citizenship course at the Cavelier-De LaSalle High School in southwestern Montreal. Students interviewed outside the school on Wednesday said the teacher frequently discussed current affairs with his class, and several students asked about the notorious video that had been posted online.

The teacher asked for a show of hands to gauge interest in viewing it, and only two or three students out of a class of about 25 voted against it, according to several students. The dissenters were offered the chance to leave the classroom, but chose to stay.

“At first the teacher didn’t want to show it, but because the students wanted to see it, he agreed,” said student Jean-Fran├žois Vautour, 16. “We would have found a way to see it anyways.”

The school board would not identify the teacher. Several students sprang to his defence, saying he was popular and attentive to kids’ needs.

Maude Aubin-Boivin, 17, who was in the Grade 10 class when the film was shown, said that before showing the video, the teacher warned the class, “‘Watch out, for sure there are images that could be shocking.’” Ms. Aubin-Boivin said the contents were troubling, but she is fine.

“For sure, at the beginning I found it tough,” she said. “But I wasn’t traumatized or anything. We see so much these days on TV.”

Others quickly condemned the teacher’s decision to show the gory contents posted on the Internet that police believe depicts the killing of Mr. Lin. The video shows a suspect believed to be Luka Magnotta stabbing and dismembering another man. It also depicts the suspect engaged in sexual acts involving body parts and includes evidence of cannibalism, police say.

Montreal police say DNA tests confirm that body parts delivered to two Vancouver schools last week belong to the Concordia University student, and that the torso found in a suitcase in Montreal, as well as body parts mailed to Ottawa and Vancouver, all come from the same body. The head has not been recovered.

After word filtered out about the teacher’s move on June 4, the teacher apologized to the school by e-mail, and the Marguerite-Bourgeoys school board suspended him with pay. His actions were condemned by the board as inappropriate and offensive, and on Wednesday Quebec Education Minister Michelle Courchesne said the move showed a “total lack of judgment.”

“It’s horrifying,” she said.

The day of the screening, the school brought in a crisis team of psychologists who remained for two days and returned on Wednesday after word of the incident surfaced in the media.

Sandra Rafman, a child and adolescent psychologist at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, said that watching the video could be traumatic for anyone. Although adolescents routinely get exposed to violence through TV or movies, this case is different.

“This is real, so I would not dismiss the impact,” Dr. Rafman said. “Being shown it indiscriminately in a class creates a true risk of being traumatized.”

Effects could range from nightmares and recurring images to an increase in anxiety and difficulty concentrating in school, she said. “Your sense of safety could be dramatically undermined.”

Benjamin Kutsyuruba, a professor in the Queen’s University faculty of education, noted that the website that originally hosted the video is potentially facing obscenity charges. “If the website cannot publish, so much more [that] the school should have nothing to do with promoting or showing this material.”

The school board said the teacher presented his version of the incident to the labour board on Wednesday, and, given the seriousness of the case, board members will render a decision as quickly as possible. - theglobeandmail

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NEWS: Along with 'Phantoms and Monsters' I will be periodically blogging at The Huffington Post. Further details are forthcoming...Lon - http://www.huffingtonpost.com/weird-news/
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