The parents of the JCC bomb hoaxer accused of a vast, relentless two-year campaign of vicious threats and internet crime do their best to explain the inexplicable
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR)
APRIL 26, 2017 —American history may have begun more than 100,000 years earlier than previously thought.
At least that’s what a team of scientists suggest in a paper published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
The paper’s authors point to an assemblage of broken mastodon bones and chipped rocks unearthed in southern California as evidence that a stone tool-wielding people snacked on the meat and marrow, or perhaps shaped tools out of the massive animal’s skeleton, when it died some 130,000 years ago.
Such a megafauna-human interaction from that period wouldn’t have been shocking to find almost anywhere else in the world, as various archaic human species had already spread across much of the globe. But humans are thought to have first settled the Americas around 15,000 years ago, give or take a thousand years, not 100,000.
Rewriting history is not an easy thing to do. The researchers’ findings have been met with widespread skepticism, highlighting just how hard it is to reframe historical narratives.
“It’s an extraordinary claim. It would rewrite the prehistory of the Americas, and the prehistory of human migrations around the world,” says Jon Erlandson, an archaeologist at the University of Oregon. Still, he says, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and I didn’t find it here.”
But Thomas Deméré, a paleontologist at the San Diego Natural History Museum and one of the paper’s authors, disagrees. “Of course extraordinary claims like this require extraordinary evidence and we feel that [this site] preserves such evidence,” he said in a press conference.
Skeptics largely suggest that the evidence for a hominin presence could too easily be explained away. For example, the authors point to spiral fractures in the bones as being key evidence of a hominin smashing the bones with hammerstones, which matches behavior thought to be associated with prehistoric humans in Africa at the time, and even tried smashing elephant bones themselves as a proxy. But Joseph Ferraro, an anthropologist at Baylor University who studies archaeological and paleontological materials across humanity’s history in East Africa, suggests that there may be another explanation.
The research team ruled out another carnivore chewing or bashing the bones, but Dr. Ferraro says that proboscideans, a group that includes elephants, mammoths, mastodons, and other tusked megafauna, are known to have tussled, using their tusks and whacking each other’s flanks. “It’s not uncommon to get broken ribs, not uncommon to get broken legs, and so forth,” he says. “That could easily result in a fracture, and if it results in the death of an individual, there’s not going to be any signs of any healing,” much like the breaks found on the mastodon that is the focus of this study.
“You can spin so many different equally or more plausible stories about how and why this assemblage formed, without having to invoke any sort of hominin activity whatsoever,” Ferraro says.
So just what would it take for this discovery to revise the prehistory of the Americas?
Although cutmarks and flaked stone tools would make this site more compelling, Ferraro says, all that is really needed would be one human fossil. If you had an unquestionably well-dated Homo erectus, or Neanderthal, or Denisovan, or even Homo sapiens bone, he says, then the prehistory books would certainly need to be rewritten. But, he says, “This is not that.”
The prehistory of the Americas has actually been rewritten before. For decades, archaeologists thought they knew exactly how and when humans first spread across the Americas.
The story, called the Clovis-first model, had the Clovis people as the first population to spread south into the Americas from the region near the Bering land bridge when an ice-free corridor opened up through the middle of Canada, around 13,500 years ago at the earliest. As this model reigned, older archaeological sites, like an underwater 14,500-year-old site in Florida or a 15,000-year-old site in Chile, were dismissed as insufficient evidence. The thinking was that anything dating before the distinctive Clovis spearpoints showed up in the archaeological record couldn’t possibly be evidence of a human presence.
Tom Dillehay, an anthropologist at Vanderbilt University, helped lead efforts countering the Clovis-first narrative through his work at the Monte Verde archaeological site in Chile. But, he says, although the San Diego site is a “classic early site” made up of bones and stones, the Monte Verde site also had other evidence pointing to a human presence, such as burned wood, knotted reeds, chunks of hide and meat, and even footprints.
Dr. Dillehay advises that it’s best to try to disprove any potentially history-shattering claims, rather than trying to prove them, saying it’s a stronger way to rule out all the other possible explanations for the evidence.
In the case of debunking the Clovis-first model, more archaeological sites bolstered the claim, and the same could help support Deméré and his colleagues’ claim, too.
There have been previous suggestions of such shockingly early human occupation of the Americas, similar to the current claim, Dr. Erlandson says. Items suggested to be artifacts of particularly ancient human settlements have been described from other sites in southern California, for example. But when this was proposed before, scientists went out looking for more evidence, Erlandson says, “And they never came up with anything convincing.”
Erlandson himself looked for evidence of human-caused fire, but was unable to find evidence that old scorched materials were the result of anything other than wildfires.
Still, Steven Holen, lead author on the new paper, said in the press conference that he has already been looking for similar fractures in megafauna bones, which may have been overlooked by paleontologists who wouldn’t have even considered a human impact at the time. Dr. Holen says evidence may have fallen through the cracks between archaeology and paleontology, as archaeologists wouldn’t have been looking at materials this old before and paleontologists wouldn’t have been considering a human factor when they examined the bones.
But Ferraro says such an assertion isn’t giving the experts enough credit. “There’s a big literature out there on bone damage,” he says. Paleontologists who devote their lives to studying bone damage can even identify something as specific as which species of termite once munched an old bone, he says, so he suspects paleontologists wouldn’t have missed something as significant as evidence of human activity.
Skeptics are also concerned about the bigger-picture implications of shifting the story of human occupation in the Americas so dramatically.
“As scientists we’re supposed to keep an open mind, but this discovery is hard to wrap my mind around because it falls so far beyond the realm of accepted knowledge,” Erlandson says. “I’m not opposed to controversial theories,” he says, “but if it’s really 130,000 years ago, it just raises so many questions”: for example, who those people were, where they came from, how they got there, and what happened in the subsequent 100,000 years.
To answer that last question, the authors did suggest in the press conference that, like any other population of animals, this group of humans may have died out and therefore not left a trace in the years before the ancestors of today’s Native Americans trekked across the land bridge from Siberia and spread across the region.
Filling in the other gaps of the background story implied by Deméré, Holen, and colleagues’ claim would require other extraordinary claims, Ferraro says. To explain how humans got to southern California would require a scenario such as one in which Homo erectus, Denisovans, or another archaic human species would have had to have been making boats in Siberia and following the coastline east, then down the western coast of the Americas, for example.
And each detail needed to support such a tale, from whether they possessed boating technology to which archaic human species made the journey, would be an additional extraordinary claim in its own right, he says, which would in turn require its own set of extraordinary evidence.
“It just requires so many individual extraordinary claims,” Ferraro says. “It’s not just one claim, but the whole argument is resting on a very shaky foundation.”
Perhaps eventually the prehistory books of the Americas will need to be revised to include a human presence 130,000 years ago, but first, Dillehay says, all other possible explanations need to be ruled out. “In other words,” he says, the question must be asked: “Are we being fooled in this case once again?”
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)
China’s cargo spacecraft Tianzhou-1 docks with Tiangong-2 space lab
Earth-Sized Telescope Just Took The First-Ever Photo Of A Black Hole: How It Will Test Theory Of Relativity
Ten nights of staunch observation may have led astronomers to successfully peer inside a black hole and take an image of its event horizon, or its point of no return.
The mass of data collected is now on its way to two supercomputers in the United States and Germany to confirm in early 2018 if it is indeed the very first capture of the renowned gravitational sinkhole.
Black Hole Information Paradox
The ultimate goal for researchers was getting a picture of a region surrounding the black hole. This is the event horizon, or the boundary beyond which not even light can escape the object’s massive grasp.
Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity, born in 1915 and which details how gravity affects the cosmos, has the existence of extremely massive black holes as one of its first predictions.
“They are the ultimate endpoint of space and time, and may represent the ultimate limit of our knowledge,” said radio astronomer Heino Falcke of Radboud University in the Netherlands, adding that the first images will turn black holes from mythical things to concrete evidence that scientists can actually study.
Einstein’s theory notes that all the information crossing a black hole’s event horizon gets lost forever. Yet according to quantum mechanics, information can never be lost.
Back in the 1970s, astrophysicist Stephen Hawking found that black holes can disappear, and so information can be lost forever. The theoretical structure that quantum mechanics puts forward is therefore compromised if the particles’ information could indeed be lost in the black hole.
Event Horizon Telescope
All the scientific inquiry and ambition has led to the widely ambitious Event Horizon Telescope, an international collaboration linking eight observatories to create a virtual telescope dish as wide as Earth. While the method is nothing new, it is the first time that a project is done on a large scale.
The radio-dish network went to work on a 10-day window starting April 4, peering at two supermassive black holes: Sagittarius A*, lying at the core of the Milky Way and 4 million times as huge as our sun; and the Messier 87, a black hole in a neighboring galaxy some 53 million light-years away.
The telescope has investigated the vicinity of each of the monster black holes before, but this marks the first time the network comprised the South Pole telescope as well as the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope located in Chile.
ALMA, for one, increases the Event Horizon Telescope’s acuity 10 times, allowing it to find something as tiny as a golf-sized object on the moon — and potentially the small event horizons of the black holes.
Hurdling The Weather And Months Of Waiting
The image returned is hoped to demonstrate the flow of material moving in and out of the black hole.
“What we expect to see is an asymmetric image where you have a circular dark region. That’s the black hole shadow,” MIT research scientist Vincent Fish told Newsweek, adding the presence of the photon ring or a spherical area of space where gravity is so potent that photons are forced to travel in orbits.
The weather proved to be a crucial factor in the mission as astronomers observe black holes in millimeter radio waves, which water absorbs as well as emits. This means precipitation could cloud the observations.
Mitigating this issue involves placing radio telescopes at high altitudes, although rain, clouds, or snow could still take the observatory offline. Even high-altitude winds could shut down a given telescope.
Thus Fish and his fellow scientists met every day to decide on when to activate the large network and assess weather conditions at every site. Constant weather monitoring and communication among astronomers were done.
The researchers have collected about one petabyte of data, which equates to MP3 songs playing continuously for more than 2,000 years without any repeats. Two research institutes, the MIT Haystack and the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Germany, are receiving the said data.
The telescopes’ recorded information is stored on 1,024 drives, which will be mailed to the research institutes’ processing centers. Hard drives coming from the South Pole telescope, too, cannot be sent out until the end of winter in the region, or by the end of October.
Despite the long wait and other external factors, the team remains optimistic. Falcke said that even if the images emerge as “crappy and washed out,” they can help test basic predictions of Einstein’s theory in the extreme-physics environment of a black hole.
Knowing the black hole’s mass and distance, explained Fish, means one should see the shadow and ring, and that the latter will have a specific diameter and will be quite circular.
“If the shape isn’t circular or the wrong size, then relativity has made a prediction that has failed,” he said.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF KQED NEWS SITE)
Researchers have come up with a new way to extract water from thin air. Literally.
This isn’t the first technology that can turn water vapor in the atmosphere into liquid water that people can drink, but researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and UC Berkeley say their approach uses less power and works in drier environments.
The new approach makes use of a substance called a MOF, a metal-organic framework. As the name suggests, these are materials made of metals mixed with organic compounds. Powders made from MOFs are very porous, so researchers have proposed using them to store hydrogen or methane fuels or to capture carbon dioxide.
And there’s plenty of water vapor in the atmosphere. Even in the driest place on the planet there are tons of water molecules floating overhead.
The researchers built a small prototype water collector that contains a thin layer of MOF powder. The powder absorbs water vapor until it is saturated.
“Once you achieve that maximum amount,” Wang says, “you apply some type of heat to the system to release that water.”
And when the water is released, it collects in the bottom of the prototype.
There are other compounds that can suck water from the air, zeolites for example, but Wang says it takes a significant amount of energy to get these materials to release the water. Not so with a MOF device. “The amount of energy required is very low,” she says.
In the prototype, the heat needed to drive the water out of the MOF comes from ambient sunlight — no external power supply is needed.
As they report in the journal Science, Wang and her colleagues tested the prototype of their MOF-based device on the roof of a building at MIT, and it worked great.
But it’s just a prototype. It used only a fraction of an ounce of the MOF powder. “So the amount of water that we’ve shown is also pretty small,” says Wang.
According to Wang’s calculations, a full-size system using about 2 pounds of MOF powder could deliver close to three quarts of water per day.
And she expects scaling up the prototype won’t be all that expensive. Although MOFs are a relatively new material, “there are companies that already make various MOFS at very large bulk scales,” she says.
There are many steps before a mass-produced MOF-based water collector becomes a reality. It hasn’t been shown, for example, that the water released by the MOF powder is free of contaminants.
But it’s conceivable that someday if you’re visiting Death Valley, one of the driest places in the United States, you’ll be able to wet your whistle with a device based on Wang and Yaghi’s concept.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)
(CNN) NASA has new evidence that the most likely places to find life beyond Earth are Jupiter’s moon Europa or Saturn’s moon Enceladus. In terms of potential habitability, Enceladus particularly has almost all of the key ingredients for life as we know it, researchers said.
Why is this exciting?
Europa or Enceladus?
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES AND THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
DETROIT — Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk says the company plans to unveil an electric semi-truck in September.
Musk tweeted the announcement Thursday. He offered no other details about the semi, such as whether it will be equipped with Tesla’s partially self-driving Autopilot mode.
Musk also said the company plans to unveil a pickup truck in 18 to 24 months.
Tesla currently sells two electric vehicles, the Model S sedan and Model X SUV. Its lower-cost Model 3 electric car is due out by the end of this year.
But Musk revealed last summer that the Palo Alto, California-based company is working on several more vehicles, including the semi and a minibus.
Tesla shares rose nearly 3 percent in late trading Thursday in response to Musk’s tweet.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)
(CNN) NASA will present new discoveries about the ocean worlds in our solar system on Thursday, the agency announced. Learning more about ocean worlds could help in the agency’s quest for life beyond Earth.
The Europa mission
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF HIGH TIMES MAGAZINE)
For many years, the biggest threat to marijuana legalization and fledgling legal cannabis businesses was the police.
Fears of DEA agents breaking down the front door at dawn, prosecutions in federal court with its accompanying mandatory minimums or warrantless visits from helicopter-riding police who merely cut down plant and leave—such things happen and are legal—was what kept people involved in cannabis up at night.
But now, with legalization sweeping the country and a vast majority of Americans in support of medical marijuana, the real enemy is revealing itself.
In 2015, U.S.-based companies made up 40 percent of the global pharmaceutical trade, a market share worth $413 billion. These companies are well aware that cannabis is becoming an accepted treatment for chronic pain and many of the other lifelong afflictions now treated by highly profitable trademarked drugs—and some have proven willing and able to take steps to make sure marijuana stays out of the hands of law-abiding Americans in order to protect that enormous bottom line.
“Pharmaceuticals are going to run me down,” Dr. Gina Berman, medical director of the Giving Tree Wellness Center, a Phoenix, Arizona-based cannabis dispensary, told the Guardian. “We have a small business, and we can’t afford to fight Big Pharma.”
The most egregious case to date is Insys Therapeutics. Insys, is an Arizona-based drug manufacturer of pain drugs that contain fentanyl, the powerful synthetic opioid that’s been fingered in many fatal opiate overdoses (including the death of Prince).
Arizona was the lone state where a marijuana legalization initiative failed at the ballot in November—and one of the leading donors to the anti-legalization campaign, with a $500,000 check, was Insys. (Another was Trump-supporting casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp. Here are the Vegas nightlife spots to boycott, forever.)
As the Intercept reported this fall, Insys executives openly recognized the threat to its market posed by marijuana. And in a devious twist, Insys identified marijuana as an existential threat and moved to keep it illegal, while developing a new drug based on synthetic THC.
On March 23, the DEA ruled that Insys’s new drug, called “Syndros,” could be marketed and sold as a Schedule II drug—meaning it could be prescribed to patients as soon as this fall.
So far, the FDA has approved Syndros for AIDS-related weight loss and vomiting and nausea associated with chemotherapy—two of the original applications for medical marijuana.
“It’s pretty absurd that federal law considers marijuana to have no medical value, but allows for the development of synthetic versions of the same substance,” Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, which sponsored Arizona’s legalization measure, told the Guardian.
But what about Insys Therapeutics? It’s a company straight out of a Superman comic.
In December, Justice Department prosecutors took the “unusual” step of charging six former Insys executives, including former CEO Michael L. Babich, with racketeering for its “aggressive” marketing of a fentanyl-based pain drug called Subsys, the New York Times reported. Prosecutors alleged that in order to sell more Subsys, the company arranged lavish dinners and other events for doctors who prescribed “lots of” the drug, and when that didn’t work, the company resorted to kickbacks.
One Connecticut nurse pleaded guilty in 2015 to accepting $83,000 in kickbacks from the company. Families of dead patients, prescribed Subsys despite prescriptions for other drugs that are fatal when combined, and despite no cancer diagnosis—the drug is only FDA-approved from cancer-related pain—have also sued the company.
In a statement, Carmen Ortiz, the-then U.S. attorney for Massachusetts (before she and many others were summarily fired by Trump administration officials earlier this year), pinned part of the blame for the country’s opiate epidemic squarely on “corporate greed.”
In January, Insys founder John Kapoor stepped down as chairman, a role he took over from the indicted Babich in late 2015. Kapoor’s exit came after Insys’s sales plummeted 40 percent, as Forbes reported. (Wonder if the alleged kickbacks had anything to do with the inflated numbers?)
It’s all very ominous, but in a real way, marijuana activists should let Insys try—and then fail, spectacularly, as they are primed to do.
Insys’s proposed product, called Syndros, is a solution of “oral dronabinol.” Dronabinol is the generic name for another synthetic version of THC that’s been on the market for quite some time, called Marinol—and if you know anyone who has used Marinol, you know what they think of it. Namely, it kind of sucks.
For many patients, fake weed simply doesn’t work. As one patient prescribed Marinol told CBS News, “It might as well have been M&M’s.”
This is almost certainly because as synthetic THC only, Marinol and Syndros both lack cannabidiol, or CBD, as well as dozens of others cannabinoids. And as per the “entourage effect” theory, proffered by luminaries like CNN’s Sanjay Gupta and many more, your body and brain need all of cannabis’s component parts in order for its medical “magic” to work.
But let’s say Insys strikes out with Subsys. It won’t end there.
This is a company accused, with enough evidence to indict in a federal court, of being willing to see people die in order to sell more drugs. And it won’t end with this company.
Big Pharma is scared of weed—terrified—and as any animal scientist will tell you, a cornered and frightened animal is the most dangerous. And that applies to humans.
You can keep up with all of HIGH TIMES’ marijuana news right here.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF MPP)
- Federal Lawmakers Introduce Sweeping Marijuana Policy Legislation
- Bill to Regulate Marijuana Introduced in Delaware
- West Virginia Senate Approves Medical Marijuana
- Vermont House Moves Legalization Bill Back to Committee
|Federal Lawmakers Introduce Sweeping Marijuana Policy Legislation
Posted: 30 Mar 2017 02:30 PM PDT
Legislation was introduced in the Senate and House of Representatives on Thursday that would end marijuana prohibition at the federal level and replace it with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol.
Bills filed by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, leaving states to determine their own marijuana policies, and impose federal regulations on marijuana businesses in states that choose to regulate marijuana for adult use. Wyden’s bill would also enact a federal excise tax on marijuana products. In the House, the tax is being proposed in a separate bill introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR).
Wyden and Blumenauer also filed marijuana policy “gap” bills that would eliminate many of the collateral consequences associated with federal marijuana convictions without removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act.
An additional bill filed by Wyden with Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Michael Bennett (D-CO) would reform section 280E of the U.S. Tax Code to allow state-legal marijuana businesses to deduct ordinary and necessary business expenses from their federal taxes. A companion bill was filed in the House by Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) and Rep. Blumenauer.
“This is commonsense legislation that will eliminate the growing tension between federal and state marijuana laws,” said MPP’s Robert Capecchi in a press release. Voters and legislatures are rolling back antiquated state marijuana prohibition policies, and it’s time for Congress to step up at the federal level. States are adopting laws designed to improve public safety by replacing the illegal marijuana market with a tightly regulated system of production and sales. The federal government should be working to facilitate that transition, not hinder it. It’s time for Congress to come to grips with the fact that marijuana is safer than alcohol, and most Americans think it should be treated that way.
The post Federal Lawmakers Introduce Sweeping Marijuana Policy Legislation appeared first on MPP Blog.
|Bill to Regulate Marijuana Introduced in Delaware
Posted: 30 Mar 2017 02:22 PM PDT
After years of advocacy on the part of MPP and our local partners, Delaware Rep. Helene Keeley and Sen. Margaret Rose Henry introduced HB 110, the Delaware Marijuana Control Act. The bill seeks to legalize and regulate cannabis for adults 21 years of age or older. The marijuana tax revenue would be used to fund education, public health campaigns, and to support re-entry campaigns for ex-offenders, among other programs.
An October 2016 poll by the University of Delaware found that 61% of state residents favor this important policy change. Now it is up to voters to let their lawmakers know they want to see them vote in favor of this bill!
In a press briefing to announce the bill’s introduction, sponsors of the bill — which enjoys bipartisan support — spoke about why they see this topic as a social justice issue, and how the failed “reefer madness” policy views of the past should come to an end.
|West Virginia Senate Approves Medical Marijuana
Posted: 30 Mar 2017 02:15 PM PDT
In the past, House Speaker Tim Armstead has not been willing to allow medical marijuana bills to be considered. However, if enough delegates are willing to stand up and support this critical reform, it will be possible to overcome the speaker’s opposition.
“We applaud the Senate for standing up for seriously ill West Virginians and giving them hope with this much-needed legislation,” said Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project, who is a West Virginia native and graduate of West Virginia University. “For many patients, medical marijuana is a far safer alternative to opioids and other prescription drugs. Any delegates who are serious about addressing the opiate crisis in West Virginia need to consider the substantial benefits this law could have on that front. We hope Speaker Armstead will review the facts and give this bill a fair shake in the House.”
If you are a West Virginia resident, please call your delegates’ offices right now, and urge them to support allowing medical marijuana in West Virginia.
It’s also imperative that you call House Speaker Tim Armstead’s office at (304) 340-3210, and urge House leaders to stop stonewalling on this important issue.
|Vermont House Moves Legalization Bill Back to Committee
Posted: 30 Mar 2017 02:07 PM PDT
On Tuesday, the Vermont House of Representatives appeared to be ready to pass H. 170, which would legalize marijuana possession and cultivation for adults. Unfortunately, instead of calling for a vote on the floor, House leaders decided to send the bill to the Human Services Committee for further consideration.
If you are a Vermont resident, it is critically important that the House speaker’s office hear from you on this issue. Please call the speaker’s office now at (802) 828-2245, and urge House leaders to bring H. 170 to the floor for a vote as soon as possible and pass it on to the Senate.
The post Vermont House Moves Legalization Bill Back to Committee appeared first on MPP Blog.