; Phantoms and Monsters: Pulse of the Paranormal

Friday, January 04, 2013

Just the Facts?: 'Anonymous' Targets High School Rapists -- Bizarre Mammal Still Roams Australia? -- Aristotle's Sex Manual

Anonymous targets high school football team rapists

Two high school football players in Steubenville, Ohio are under arrest for the sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl. Newly leaked video sheds more light on what may have happened to a girl who told police she was raped by these high school football players in August.

Trent Mays and Ma'lik Richmond- have been arrested and charged with raping a fellow 16-year-old, taking her to a number of parties when she was too drunk to resist, digitally penetrating her and possibly even urinating on her.

A small group of information activists was able to do what 3 Ohio state law enforcement agencies couldn't. The clip, released this week by an Anonymous cell calling itself “Knight Sec” is reported to show former Steubenville, Ohio high school athlete Michael Colin Nodianos bragging about the sexual assault from a friend’s apartment. On the video which recently was posted online, the boys joke about the girl appearing "dead".

On their website, called Local Leaks: The Steubenville Files, they said that they took up the cause since 'a town rife with corruption, cronyism, illegal gambling and fixated upon their star high school football team were prepared to orchestrate a major cover-up in order to sweep the entire affair under the rug.'


Scientists: bizarre mammal could still roam Australia

The continent of Australia is home to a wide variety of wonderfully weird mammals—kangaroos, wombats, and koalas among others. But the re-discovery of a specimen over a hundred years old raises new hopes that Australia could harbor another wonderful mammal. Examining museum specimens collected in western Australia in 1901, contemporary mammalogist Kristofer Helgen discovered a western long-beaked echidna (Zaglossus bruijnii). The surprise: long-beaked echidnas were supposed to have gone extinct in Australia thousands of years ago.

"Sometimes while working in museums, I find specimens that turn out to be previously undocumented species," Helgen, who has published his findings in ZooKeys, said. "But in many ways, finding a specimen like this, of such an iconic animal, with such clear documentation from such an unexpected place, is even more exciting."

Helgen believes that the fact the western long-beak echidna survived until 1901 means there is a chance that it could still roam Australia today. The species still dwells on the island of New Guinea, but is considered Critically Endangered by the IUCN Red List due to forest loss and hunting.

Only four species of echidna are found on Earth. One, the short-beaked echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus), is still found in Australia. While the other three—all long-beaked echidnas and all considered Critically Endangered—are only found on New Guinea. Long-beaked echidnas are considerably larger than their short-beaked relative, weight up to 36 pounds (16.5 kilograms), more than triple the weight of the short-beaked echidna which weighs at most only 11 pounds (5 kilograms). In addition, as their names suggest, long-beaked echidnas sport a much longer snout. They are different enough from their short-beaked cousins that they are in their own genus, Zaglossus.

Notably the long-beaked echidnas are the top three mammals on the Zoological Society of London's EDGE list, which ranks mammals by combing their evolutionary distinctness and the threat of extinction. Echidnas are monotremes, which mean they lay eggs instead of giving birth to live offspring.

Helgen was by no means expecting to discover a specimen of the long-beaked echidna in 20th Century museum specimens, since the species was only known to inhabit Australia through Pleistocene fossils and aboriginal cave art. But he found the animal—misidentified as a short-beaked echidna—amid collections acquired by naturalist John T. Tunney on Mount Anderson in the West Kimberley region of Australia. The specimen, which still sported Tunney's original tags, was collected for the private museum of Lord L. Walter Rothschild. After Rothschild's death, his full collection was given to London's Natural History Museum where Helgen found the specimen.

"[The discovery] highlights the importance of museum collections, and how much there is still to learn about Australia's fauna," says Tim Flannery of Macquarie University in Sydney.

Helgen, who carefully studied the 1901 documentation to make certain it was not a mistake, now says its time to look again for the animal in Australia.

"The next step will be an expedition to search for this animal. We'll need to look carefully in the right habitats to determine where it held on, and for how long, and if any are still out there."

He says one way to determine the fate of the animal will be to interview indigenous Australians: "We believe there may be memories of this animal among Aboriginal communities, and we'd like to learn as much about that as we can." Scientists have already encountered oral histories in the remote region that hint at the possibility of long-beaked echidnas surviving until at least a generation ago.

A relict population in Australia would not only prove a shocking discovery, but—given the state of the species in New Guinea—may also be vital to making sure the western long-beaked echidna doesn't vanish for good.

"We hold out hope that somewhere in Australia, long-beaked echidnas still lay their eggs," Helgen says. - MongaBay


Postman reprimanded for being efficient

A dedicated German postman who figured out the quickest routes between postal depots to speed up his work has escaped criminal charges and managed to keep his job with just a reprimand for not working to rule.

The 53-year-old postie from Rosenheim near Munich came under suspicion when colleagues realized he was faster at the job than they were - and one of them reported him, assuming he was throwing away the mail instead of delivering it. The case ended up at the administrative court in Aibling and the court heard he had ignored post office rules to make his working day more efficient.

He told the court how he had been saving time after working out quicker routes between the postal depots - where mail is held for postmen and women to pick up and then deliver. Judge Isabella Hubert also heard that he was considered a precise and efficient worker.

His immediate boss admitted knowing at least in part about the man's time-saving methods, and said she had informally tolerated them. "I admit that some of them are possibly logical," she said - but said they could not be officially accepted as they did not fit the rules. The court case against him was dismissed, but it was not recorded whether he would have to return to a less efficient way of working. - The Local


Millie and Christine McCoy

Millie McCoy and Christine McCoy (July 11, 1851 – October 8, 1912) were American conjoined twins who went by the stage names "The Two-Headed Nightingale" and "The Eighth Wonder of the World".

Millie and Christine were born on July 11, 1851, to parents who were slaves on the plantation of Mr. Alexander McCoy. The plantation was near the town of Whiteville, North Carolina, which resulted in the girls also being referred to as The Carolina Twins. Prior to the sisters' birth, their mother had borne seven other children, five boys and two girls, all of ordinary size and form.

They were sold to a showman named Joseph Pearson Smith at birth, but were soon kidnapped by a rival showman. The kidnapper fled to the United Kingdom but was thwarted, since the United Kingdom had outlawed slavery in the 1830s.

Smith traveled to Britain to collect the girls and brought with him their mother, Monimia, from whom they had been separated. He and his wife provided the twins with an education and taught them to speak five languages, dance, play music, and sing. For the rest of the century, the twins enjoyed a successful career as "The Two-Headed Nightingale", and appeared with the Barnum circus. In 1869, a biography on the twins, titled History and Medical Description of the Two-Headed Girl, was sold during their public appearances. The sisters became quite wealthy during their career and later purchased and retired on the plantation where they were born.

On October 8, 1912, Millie and Christine died of tuberculosis. - National Library of Medicine

Conjoined Twins in Black and White: The Lives of Millie-Christine McKoy and Daisy and Violet Hilton (Wisconsin Studies in Autobiography)

Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery


Aristotle sex manual banned for 200 years to be auctioned

Aristotle's Compleat Master-Piece first appeared around 1680 and sets out various ideas on sexual relationships and how to conceive.

It was banned in the mid-18th century and remained a forbidden text until the prohibition was lifted in the 1960s.

An edition printed in the 1760s is expected to fetch up to £400 when it goes on sale at Edinburgh auction house Lyon and Turnbull.

Cathy Marsden, a book specialist at the auctioneers, said: ''It was very popular. It was probably the most printed text of its kind and it went through a lot of editions.

''It's fascinating reading. It tells an amazing story about the changing perspectives on sex.''

The book is thought to have served as a reference guide for amateur midwives and young married couples and includes dire warnings about the possible consequences of extra-marital sex.

''There's nothing in it that would really be considered dirty in our society now. It's funny more than anything,'' Ms Marsden explained.

''There are various things which warn parents about what could happen to their children if they sinned whilst conceiving them, perhaps by having sex outside marriage. It would say that your baby would be born all hairy or it would suggest that Siamese twins were the result of the parents' sins.

''There are also interesting bits about the 17th century notion that it was considered beneficial for a woman to enjoy sexual intercourse in order to conceive. It suggests that both men and women should enjoy sex.

''That's interesting because much later on, when they realised that a woman didn't have to climax in order to conceive, the idea of a woman enjoying sex was considered far less important.''

The book was attributed to Aristotle but there is little, if any, of his work in the text. Nothing is known of the actual author of the piece.

Ms Marsden said: ''We don't really know why it was attributed to Aristotle but one possibility is that they were just trying to make it sound better or more worthy than it might have been.''

She said the book ban probably came in around the middle of the 18th century, a time when various legal cases saw several books deemed too rude to be allowed for sale.

It remained banned in the UK until 1961, although it could be legally obtained in places like New Zealand throughout the Victorian era.

Ms Marsden said the pictures in the book are thought to be one of the main reasons it became a forbidden text.

''To our eyes they're not graphic at all,'' she said.

''There's one image of a baby in a womb and the woman's torso has been 'cut open' to show the baby.

''There are other images of hairy children or children with their mouths where their navels are. They are very strange images.''

But the banned book continued to thrive in a vibrant black market.

''It was very popular whilst it was banned. You could certainly buy it under the counter,'' said Ms Marsden.

Simon Vickers, also a book specialist at Lyon and Turnbull, said: ''Drawing from the works of Nicholas Culpepper and Albertus Magnus, with a good dose of old wife's tale, there were more editions of this work published in the 18th century than any other medical text. However, Aristotle's Compleat Master-Piece slowly began to be considered highly distasteful and even downright lewd and was banned in Britain until 1961.''

A cutting from 1930s' newspaper advice column is said to have included a question from a reader asking where a copy of the book could be obtained.

Apparently contradicting itself, the reply stated: ''You may not buy a copy of Aristotle's Complete Masterpiece. You may expect to pay three-and-sixpence.''

The edition being auctioned at Lyon & Turnbull is thought to have been published around 1766. It will go under the hammer in Edinburgh on Wednesday January 16.