Name of source: MSNBC
Europe's largest minority group, the Romani, migrated from northwest India 1,500 years ago, new genetic study finds.
The Romani, also known as the Roma, were originally dubbed " gypsies " in the 16th century, because this widely dispersed group of people were first thought to have come from Egypt. Today, many consider "gypsy" to be a derogatory term.
Since the advent of better and better genetic technology, researchers have analyzed the genetic history of much of Europe, finding, for example, the history of the Jewish Diaspora written in DNA. But though there are 11 million Romani in Europe, their history has been neglected, said study researcher David Comas of the Institut de Biologia Evolutiva at Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Spain....
Friday, December 7, 2012 - 11:39
Name of source: Archaeo News
In recent years, engraved ochre, bones and ostrich eggs unearthed from various Palaeolithic sites in Africa, the Near East and Europe have attracted the attention of many scholars. However, such items are rarely encountered at Palaeolithic sites in East Asia.
Professor Gao Xing and Dr Peng Fei from the Chinese Academy of Sciences found an engraved stone artefact in a stone tool assemblage unearthed at the famous Shuidonggou Palaeolithic site, in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region of northwest China.
Dr Peng Fei describes it as, "the first engraved non-organic artefact from the entire Palaeolithic of China"....
Friday, December 7, 2012 - 11:32
It has long been believed that the analysis of charcoal from fires and pollen from cultivated plants was the most accurate way of tracking ancient human life and development. But scientists from the University of Massachusetts (USA) are using a much more unusual method, the analysis of ancient human faeces, more specifically, the levels of coprostanol found in the faeces. Coprostanol is formed when cholesterol is digested and can be found not only in 'solid' deposits but also washed through sediment....
Friday, December 7, 2012 - 11:31
Beer drinkers have long held the belief that drinking it is safer and better than drinking water. Well Neolithic Man new for a fact that it was better than water, and now a team from the University of Manchester (UK) have found the remains of a 3,500 year old microbrewery near Paphos, Cyprus. It was found in the midst of a Bronze age settlement known as Kissonerga-Skalia. All the makings of a modern day brewery have been found, including wild yeast additives, a malting or drying kiln and grinding tools....
Friday, December 7, 2012 - 11:30
A Bronze Age monument has been commemorated in Britain after a long-running campaign. The 4,000-year-old Quernhow burial mound, which was obliterated by the upgrading of the A1(M) motorway, has been marked with a plaque and stone by the Quernhow Café, near Ainderby Quernhow, by the British Highways Agency. Archaeologists say the site was "of primary importance in prehistoric times" as it stood on the plain between the three great henges of Thornborough to the north and those on Hutton Moor to the south, accompanied by a number of other tumuli nearby.
When it was unearthed in the 1950s, archaeologists found an imposing flat-topped stone cairn with four small pits in its centre, a number of small cremations and broken remains of pottery, human bones and foods vessels. Near the centre of the cairn, which was initially damaged by roadworks in the 1950s, was a 'curious four poster' of upright stones placed near to its north, south, east and west points....
Friday, December 7, 2012 - 11:29
An entire hill, famed for its archeological heritage and geological significance, is to be removed from the Scottish skyline to make way for a quarry under plans being considered by West Dunbartonshire Council.
Sheep Hill, in the Kilpatrick Hills on the Clyde, is the site of ancient Bronze and Iron Age forts which local residents and experts say will be destroyed by the expansion of a stone quarry. Allowing the hill to be wiped off the map would be "an act of wanton destruction of our environment and inheritance", according to Clydebelt, a local environmental group, which is calling for Scottish ministers to intervene to save the hill.
A proposal to revise mineral permission for an existing quarry run by a local firm near Sheep Hill is due to be discussed by West Dunbartonshire Council and has provoked fierce opposition from local groups. Silverton and Overtoun community council says digging away the hill would be irrevocable. "When Sheep Hill is gone, it is gone," said the council's Rose Harvie. "Future generations will look back and wonder how such destruction could have been permitted."...
Friday, December 7, 2012 - 11:26
Name of source: eLocal
Thursday, December 6, 2012 - 20:18
Name of source: AP
SEATTLE — The grass is no greener. But, finally, it’s legal — at least somewhere in America. It’s been a long, strange trip for marijuana.
Washington state and Colorado voted to legalize and regulate its recreational use last month. But before that, the plant, renowned since ancient times for its strong fibers, medical use and mind-altering properties, was a staple crop of the colonies, an “assassin of youth,” a counterculture emblem and a widely accepted — if often abused — medicine.
On the occasion of Thursday’s “Legalization Day,” when Washington’s new law takes effect, here’s a look back at the cultural and legal status of the “evil weed” in American history....
Thursday, December 6, 2012 - 20:15
President John F. Kennedy spelled out the mission clearly in his 1961 speech committing the United States to send humans to the moon and back by the end of the decade. He left no doubt about the definition of success and laid out a clear vision.
Now, five decades after his challenge, a panel of space, science and engineering experts said in a stinging report that NASA does not have a goal....
Thursday, December 6, 2012 - 20:14
NEW YORK — The uniform Don Larsen was wearing when he pitched the only perfect game in World Series history has sold for $756,000.
The former New York Yankees’ right-hander achieved perfection in Game 5 of the 1956 Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers.
The pinstriped uniform with No. 18 on the back received 22 bids in an online auction on Steinersports.com. The winning bidder was Pete Siegel, CEO of GottaHaveIt.com. His company has been building a collection of Yankees memorabilia that it plans to put on display.
The price includes a 20 percent buyer’s fee above the final bid of $630,000....
Thursday, December 6, 2012 - 20:08
SAVANNAH, Ga. — Their dinner had just arrived as the two college professors watched their guests, a group of singers from the Georgia coast, unexpectedly turn saying grace into an outburst of song, rhythm and shouted praises that soon had other diners in the restaurant joining in with the impromptu performance.
“Before you know it, they’re out of their chairs and the beat is getting played on a table and you had all the children in the restaurant shouting praises with them,” said Mary Ellen Junda, a music professor at the University of Connecticut.
The dinner at a restaurant in Richmond, Va., last year with the Geechee Gullah Ring Shouters of Darien, Ga., turned into another lesson for Junda and fellow music professor Robert Stephens, who have spent years studying the art and traditions of the Gullah, descendants of slaves who live in coastal communities from North Carolina to northern Florida. Scholars say their culture, long isolated from the mainland, has clung to its African roots and traditions more than any in America....
Thursday, December 6, 2012 - 20:06
WASHINGTON — Protection of sites held sacred by American Indians and Alaska Natives will be bolstered under a memorandum of understanding signed Thursday by four federal agencies and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.
The memo signed by the departments of Agriculture, Defense, Energy and Interior also calls for improving tribal access to sites that are on federal land.
“We have a special, shared responsibility to respect and foster American Indian and Alaska Native cultural and religious heritage, and today’s agreement recognizes that important role,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement.
The agencies plan to work during the next five years to raise awareness about sacred sites. That includes developing a website, a training program for federal employees and guidance for managing sacred sites....
Thursday, December 6, 2012 - 20:05
AMSTERDAM (AP) — Foreigners visiting the Netherlands in winter are often surprised to see that the Dutch version of St. Nicholas' helpers have their faces painted black, wear Afro wigs and have thick red lips — in short, a racist caricature of a black person.
The overwhelming majority of Dutch are fiercely devoted to the holiday tradition of "Zwarte Piet" — whose name means "Black Pete" — and insist he's a harmless fictional figure who doesn't represent any race. But a growing number are questioning whether "Zwarte Piet" should be given a makeover or banished from the holiday scene, seeing him as a blight on the nation's image as a bulwark of tolerance.
"There is more opposition to Zwarte Piet than you might think," says Jessica Silversmith, director of the regional Anti-Discrimination Bureau for Amsterdam. She said that historically her office received only one or two complaints per year, but the number jumped to more than 100 last year, and will escalate much further this year....
Tuesday, December 4, 2012 - 13:51
ALMATY, Kazakhstan — Kazakhstan on Saturday observed a new holiday lauding President Nursultan Nazarbayev, part of a growing cult of personality around the leader of the sprawling, resource-rich former Soviet republic.
The highlight of First President’s Day, which marks the anniversary of Nazarbayev’s first election in 1991, was a carefully choreographed pageant by some 30,000 performers in an arena in the capital Astana, including mass singing and banner-waving.
Across the country, schoolchildren and state employees held demonstrations of affection, concerts, and sports events in his honor. To what extent the participation was voluntary was unclear....
Monday, December 3, 2012 - 10:43
DALLAS — A dilapidated Dallas apartment complex where Lee Harvey Oswald briefly lived before the assassination of President John F. Kennedy is being demolished.
After a four-year battle over code violations at the uninhabited 10-unit, two-story apartment complex built in 1925, owner Jane Bryant is in the process of taking the building down per a court order. She’s been salvaging building materials and selling off items from Oswald’s three-room apartment. The toilet already has a new owner.
Bryant was never able to realize her plans to renovate the building in the Oak Cliff area of Dallas after buying it in 2007, and the next year got caught up in litigation with the city over the state of the building at 600 Elsbeth St....
Monday, December 3, 2012 - 10:41
MEXICO CITY — Mayan priests started off ceremonies aimed at marking the end of the current era in the Mayan long-count calendar Thursday, with dancing, incense and rituals designed to thank the gods.
The Mayas performed the “New Fire” ceremony at a park in Mexico City, but complained they have been barred by authorities from performing rituals at their ancestral temples in the Maya region.
The Mayas measure time in 394-year periods known as Baktuns. The 13th Baktun ends around Dec. 21, and 13 is considered a sacred number for the Maya....
Monday, December 3, 2012 - 10:37
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The obscure book's margins are virtually filled with clusters of curious foreign characters — a mysterious shorthand used by 17th century religious dissident Roger Williams.
For centuries the scribbles went undeciphered. But a team of Brown University students has finally cracked the code.
Historians call the now-readable writings the most significant addition to Williams scholarship in a generation or more. Williams is Rhode Island's founder and best known as the first figure to argue for the principle of the separation of church and state that would later be enshrined in the Bill of Rights.
His coded writings are in the form of notes in the margins of a book at the university's John Carter Brown Library. The nearly 250-page volume, "An Essay Towards the Reconciling of Differences Among Christians," was donated in the 1800s and included a handwritten note identifying Williams as the notes' author — though even that was uncertain at first....
Sunday, December 2, 2012 - 00:47
Name of source: Elizabeth P. McIntosh for WaPo
After her journalism career, Elizabeth P. McIntosh served in the Office of Strategic Services and the Central Intelligence Agency before retiring to Prince William County. She is the author of four books.
On Dec. 7, 1941, when Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor, I was working as a reporter for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. After a week of war, I wrote a story directed at Hawaii’s women; I thought it would be useful for them to know what I had seen. It might help prepare them for what lay ahead. But my editors thought the graphic content would be too upsetting for readers and decided not to run my article. It appears here for the first time.
For seven ghastly, confused days, we have been at war. To the women of Hawaii, it has meant a total disruption of home life, a sudden acclimation to blackout nights, terrifying rumors, fear of the unknown as planes drone overhead and lorries shriek through the streets.
The seven days may stretch to seven years, and the women of Hawaii will have to accept a new routine of living. It is time, now, after the initial confusion and terror have subsided, to sum up the events of the past week, to make plans for the future.
Thursday, December 6, 2012 - 20:04
Name of source: WaPo
WASHINGTON — Final campaign finance tallies trickled out Thursday for a presidential race expected to be the most expensive in U.S. political history, showing a last-minute $10 million contribution to a political action committee backing Republican candidate Mitt Romney from a billionaire Las Vegas casino magnate who has been the election’s biggest moneyman.
The $10 million donation by Sheldon Adelson to the Restore Our Future “super” PAC raised the casino owner’s total contributions for the 2012 campaign to at least $72 million, all for Republicans....
Thursday, December 6, 2012 - 20:02
People who think standardized tests are wreaking havoc in education today may be interested to take a look back at a different kind of trouble they sparked many years ago.
The first standardized tests, any world history student can tell you, were created in ancient China, during the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD), when officials designed civil service exams to choose people to work in the government based on merit rather than on family status. The goal was to create an intellectual meritocracy based on Confucian learning. The system of exams was consolidated during later dynasties; through the centuries until the late 18th century, the core material was hardly altered....
...The civil service exams actually played a part in the Taiping Rebellion, which left about 20 million people dead in the 19th century. How? In the mid-1800s, a lower middle class man named Hong Houxiu, who was only partly educated, wanted to join the Qing bureaucracy. Here’s how the society’s website explains what happened...
Monday, December 3, 2012 - 10:48
WASHINGTON — David Letterman’s “stupid human tricks” and Top 10 lists vaulted into the ranks of cultural acclaim Sunday night as the late-night comedian received this year’s Kennedy Center Honors with rock band Led Zeppelin, an actor, a ballerina and a bluesman.
Stars from New York, Hollywood and the music world joined President Barack Obama at the White House on Sunday night to salute the honorees, whose ranks also include actor Dustin Hoffman, Chicago bluesman Buddy Guy and ballerina Natalia Makarova.
The honors are the nation’s highest award for those who influenced American culture through the arts. The recipients were later saluted by fellow performers at the Kennedy Center Opera House in a show to be broadcast Dec. 26 on CBS....
Monday, December 3, 2012 - 10:46
Name of source: The Daily Beast
In the eight hundred years since his death, people have sought in vain for the grave of Genhis Khan, the 13th-century conqueror and imperial ruler who, at the time of his death, occupied the largest contiguous empire, stretching from the Caspian Sea to the Pacific. In capturing most of central Asia and China, his armies killed and pillaged but also forged new links between East and West. One of history’s most brilliant and ruthless leaders, Khan remade the world.
But while the life of the conqueror is the stuff of legend, his death is shrouded in the mist of myths. Some historians believe he died from wounds sustained in battle; others that he fell off his horse or died from illness. And his final burial place has never been found. At the time great steps were taken to hide the grave to protect it from potential grave robbers. Tomb hunters have little to go on, given the dearth of primary historical sources. Legend has it that Khan’s funeral escort killed anyone who crossed their path to conceal where the conqueror was buried. Those who constructed the funeral tomb were also killed—as were the soldiers who killed them. One historical source holds that 10,000 horsemen “trampled the ground so as to make it even”; another that a forest was planted over the site, a river diverted.
Scholars still debate the balance between fact and fiction, as accounts were forged and distorted. But many historians believe that Khan wasn’t buried alone: his successors are thought to have been entombed with him in a vast necropolis, possibly containing treasures and loot from his extensive conquests....
Thursday, December 6, 2012 - 12:09
Name of source: LiveScience
SAN FRANCISCO — A 200-year-long drought 4,200 years ago may have killed off the ancient Sumerian language, one geologist says.
Because no written accounts explicitly mention drought as the reason for the Sumerian demise, the conclusions rely on indirect clues. But several pieces of archaeological and geological evidence tie the gradual decline of the Sumerian civilization to a drought.
The findings, which were presented Monday (Dec. 3) here at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union, show how vulnerable human society may be to climate change, including human-caused change....
Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - 12:38
Name of source: Washington Times
A long-delayed proposal to establish a national memorial in Washington to honor the 5,000 free blacks and slaves who fought as soldiers and sailors during the Revolutionary War got a congressional boost Tuesday when it was passed as part of a massive Senate defense spending bill.
The legislation authorizes the nonprofit National Mall Liberty Fund DC to establish a memorial on federal land in the District to honor the black soldiers, sailors and civilians who provided assistance during the Revolution. It was attached as an amendment Monday to the defense bill, which authorizes $631 billion in Pentagon spending for the next year.
"This is a critical step," said Maurice Barboza, who has been trying for 30 years to get a memorial built for the blacks who fought in the Revolution. "Without this amendment, the project would be dead. We are now in the ballgame."...
Wednesday, December 5, 2012 - 12:38
Name of source: The Daily Caller
Judge Andrew Napolitano really doesn’t like Woodrow Wilson.
Napolitano, a former Superior Court judge and the senior judicial analyst for Fox News, is out with a new book, “Theodore and Woodrow: How Two American Presidents Destroyed Constitutional Freedom.”
Asked whether there was anything about Wilson that he admired, Napolitano compared Wilson to the 20th century’s most notorious killer.
“He was awesome the way Hitler was,” Napolitano said...
Tuesday, December 4, 2012 - 10:37
Name of source: NYT
Sicilian cuisine is famous for the bounty of the Mediterranean: fish, clams, mussels, shrimp. But 20,000 years ago, around the time of the last ice age, the first modern humans who arrived in the region ate very little seafood, researchers report after studying the remains of human skeletons.
“The source of the dietary protein consumed mainly originated from the meat of medium to large terrestrial herbivores,” said the report’s first author, Marcello Mannino, an archaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany.
The remains were found in a cave on the small island of Favignana, which thousands of years ago was part of Sicily. Sicily itself was connected to the mainland by a land bridge, allowing humans to cross over....
Tuesday, December 4, 2012 - 10:24
A plan now before Congress would create a national park spread over three states to protect the aging remnants of the atomic bomb project from World War II, including an isolated cabin where grim findings threw the secretive effort into a panic.
Scientists used the remote cabin in the seclusion of Los Alamos, N.M., as the administrative base for a critical experiment to see if plutonium could be used to fuel the bomb. Early in 1944, sensitive measurements unexpectedly showed that the silvery metal underwent a high rate of spontaneous fission — a natural process of atoms splitting in two.
That meant the project’s design for a plutonium bomb would fail. J. Robert Oppenheimer, the project’s scientific head, was so dismayed that he considered resigning.
But he and his colleagues pressed ahead with a new design. On July 16, 1945, the world’s first atom bomb — a lump of plutonium at its core — illuminated the darkness of the central New Mexican desert with a flash of light brighter than the sun....
Tuesday, December 4, 2012 - 10:22
Anthony W. Robins did not set out to amass one of the most important surviving archives of the original World Trade Center. Though he is an architectural historian devoted to the buildings of New York City, Mr. Robins didn’t even set out to study the twin towers.
Rather, Gale Research, which was planning a series of books in the 1980s under the rubric “Classics of American Architecture,” asked Mr. Robins if he would turn his attention first to the trade center before tackling a monograph on the Chrysler Building, which was his preference.
Mr. Robins, now 62, is a well-known figure in landmarks circles, having served on the staff of the Landmarks Preservation Commission for 19 years. He is an adjunct professor at Columbia University and New York University. And if you happen to see a walking tour coming your way under the confident leadership of a man in a Bailey Dalton safari hat — well, that’s Mr. Robins....
Tuesday, December 4, 2012 - 10:18
MOSCOW — There are scattered reports of unusual behavior from across Russia’s nine time zones.
Inmates in a women’s prison near the Chinese border are said to have experienced a “collective mass psychosis” so intense that their wardens summoned a priest to calm them. In a factory town east of Moscow, panicked citizens stripped shelves of matches, kerosene, sugar and candles. A huge Mayan-style archway is being built — out of ice — on Karl Marx Street in Chelyabinsk in the south.
For those not schooled in New Age prophecy, there are rumors the world will end on Dec. 21, 2012, when a 5,125-year cycle known as the Long Count in the Mayan calendar supposedly comes to a close. Russia, a nation with a penchant for mystical thinking, has taken notice....
Matthew Restall: 2012 Mayan Apocalypse
Monday, December 3, 2012 - 15:07
NEW HAVEN — In the summer of 1968, John Shepherd Jr. enlisted in the Army, figuring that the draft would get him anyway. By January 1969, he was in the Mekong Delta, fighting with the Ninth Infantry Division.
Within a month, his patrol was ambushed, and Mr. Shepherd responded by tossing a hand grenade into a bunker that killed several enemy soldiers. The Army awarded him a Bronze Star with a valor device, one of its highest decorations.
Yet the medal did little to assuage Mr. Shepherd’s sense of anxiousness and futility about the war. A few weeks after his act of heroism, he said, his platoon leader was killed by a sniper as he tried to help Mr. Shepherd out of a canal. It was a breaking point: his behavior became erratic, and at some point he simply refused to go on patrol....
Monday, December 3, 2012 - 15:02
Public opinion surveys conducted since President Obama won re-election show an improvement in his job approval ratings.
Compared to previous presidents, however, Mr. Obama’s post-election approval bounce has been relatively meager. Most recent presidents — whether they were running for re-election or retiring and whether they won or lost — received a larger boost to their approval ratings after Election Day than Mr. Obama, according to an examination of polling by Gallup, which has been testing presidential job approval much longer than any other polling firm.
A comparison of the last Gallup poll conducted before each presidential election since 1952 to the first Gallup poll in the field entirely after the election shows that incumbent presidents have seen their net job approval (the percentage of people who approve minus the percentage that disapprove) jump by an average of six percentage points.
Sunday, December 2, 2012 - 17:38
Name of source: Fox News
HANOI, Vietnam – A mortar shell left from the Vietnam War has exploded in a southern village, killing four children and seriously injuring five other people.
Hieu Nghia village official Le Van Giang says three children aged 4 to 11 died at the scene Sunday afternoon and a 6-year-old boy died at the hospital. The blast seriously injured two other children and three men....
Monday, December 3, 2012 - 13:14
Congregants of one of the nation's oldest churches have voted to auction off a 372-year-old hymn book that's expect to fetch $10 million to $20 million at auction.
Members of the Old South Church in Boston authorized the sale of one of its two copies of the Bay Psalm Book, which was published in 1640. It is among the first books ever published in North America, and only 11 copies remain.
Board of Trustees Chairman Phil Stern says the church wants to continue growing its endowment and take care of some "critical capital needs."...
Monday, December 3, 2012 - 10:30
Name of source: Telegraph (UK)
From July to October 1940, the Spitfire was hailed by the British public as the RAF fighter that saved the nation from invasion by Hitler's Nazis, inflicting heavy losses on wave after wave of Luftwaffe bombers.
Now models of the classic fighter plane, made in Germany for toy firm Revell, are on sale in Marks & Spencer for £10 each.
Justin Reeves, who spotted the model in the flagship M&S store on Oxford Street in central London, said: "I picked it up as a present and couldn't believe it when I saw the 'Made in Germany' tag on the back.
"The Spitfire is one of the most iconic images of the Second World War and one of the reasons we kept the Nazis at bay.
"At least they came up with this 60 years too late to make a difference in the Battle of Britain."...
Monday, December 3, 2012 - 10:29
Name of source: Daily Mail (UK)
It may sound like a plot straight out of a science fiction novel, but a U.S. mission to blow up the moon with a nuke was very real in the 1950s.
At the height of the space race, the U.S. considered detonating an atom bomb on the moon as a display of America's Cold War muscle.
The secret project, innocuously titled 'A Study of Lunar Research Flights' and nicknamed 'Project A119,' was never carried out.
Saturday, December 1, 2012 - 12:13