How not to title a news article

The Salt Lake City Tribune posted a nice summary of the Grammys yesterday, hitting all the high notes, from Daft Punk’s toppling of Taylor Swift to Trent Reznor’s ineluctable profanity-laced post-show Twitter tirade.

But something caught my eye: the article’s title.

Daft Punk, Macklemore top left-of-center Grammys

Wait. What? Do mine eyes deceive me, or is the Tribune trying its hand at subtle editorializing?

“Left-of-center”? Because Queen Latifah married a bunch of people, some of whom just happened to be gay? That ultimately, this proved more memorable than whatever shitty song Madonna decided to sing?

If that be the case, it seems prudent to point out 52% of Americans would back a law legalizing gay marriage in all fifty states. Which means the Grammys were not left-of-center, but fucking center.

As in perfectly fucking normal.


Dinesh D’Souza Indicted

What would Jesus do?

Make illegal campaign contributions, it would seem.

There’s really nothing more to say here. If you’re seriously surprised by this, you don’t know Dinesh as well as you probably should. Beneath that cuddly, soft-spoken exterior lies a Reagan-era foreign policy adviser.

I hear he eats children.


Los tiene bien grandes y esta estupido gringo tonto

If Republicans learned anything from Mitt Romney’s staggering loss in 2012, it was that the middle-aged, middle-class white Christian male demographic was no longer large enough to carry an election. In the year-and-a-half since, the GOP has been trying–desperately and hilariously–to appeal to the country’s largest ethnic minority: Latinos.

Much to their annoyance, this plan has met with stunningly limited success… mostly because of shit like this:

It may not surprise you to learn Latinos were unimpressed with California gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly’s attempt to woo them with Spanish-speaking chiquitas, sultry language, and a chihuahua named Tequila. Apparently, they consider that kind of thing racist. Continue reading

As if we needed another reason to hate Benedict XVI

Between 2011-2012, the Vatican defrocked some 400 priests they believed to have sexually assaulted children.

SkyNewsHD reports:

The statistics for 2011-12 show a dramatic increase over the 171 priests removed in 2008 and 2009, when the Vatican first provided details on the number of priests who have been dismissed.

“The document shows that in two years alone, from 2011 to 2012, as 800 new cases of abuse came into the Vatican for review, the Pope actually defrocked 400 priests and the Vatican sent another 400 cases to either be tried by a Church tribunal or to be dealt with administratively,” said Rome Acting Bureau Chief and Vatican Correspondent Nicole Winfield.

Before becoming pope, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger took action after determining that bishops around the world were not following church policy and putting accused clerics on trial in church tribunals.

Instead, bishops routinely moved problem priests from parish to parish rather than subject them to canonical trials – or turn them over to police.

And that’s the Vatican’s problem, in a fucking  nutshell. While kids were being abused left and right by priests church ordinaries knew to be pedophiles, Old Pope Palpatine’s chief concern was seeing that the priests be subject to church law.

Those 400 priests he cut loose last year were not turned over to the police. The communities to which they were expelled were not warned. For all we know, they’re raping kids as we speak.

“But that’s not my problem,” says the desiccated man in the goofy fucking hat. “If the victims wanted them reported to the police they would have done so themselves.”

Christ, what an asshole.

I thought we were an autonomous collective…


Situated above southern Anatolia’s Konya Plain, the ruined proto-city of Çatal Höyük is the best-preserved neolithic site discovered to date. With an estimated population of roughly 3,000, it may have been the largest city in the 60th Century BCE.

By 5700 BCE, the city had been abandoned, but the people who had lived there left plenty of trinkets behind for modern archaeologists. Idols, pottery, grindstones–even the heads of ancient aurochs–have been pulled from the ruins. By studying these heirlooms, archaeologists are able to determine a great deal about this ancient people, from their religion to their diet to their social organization.

Archaeologist Katherine I. Wright of University College London believes Çatal Höyük began as an egalitarian cooperative, wherein specialized groups performed specific tasks (such as farming, pottery, etc.) for the betterment of the community. Prior to its collapse, however, it showed showed signs of increasing social stratification, and perhaps factional violence[1].

Analysis of 2429 ground stone artefacts from 20 buildings and 9 yards reveals private household property and a broad equality of access to cooking features and some ground stone tools, but ground stone toolkits do not indicate self-sufficiency. Lorenz curves for features and ground stone artefacts suggest that storage units, unbroken querns and unfinished quern roughouts were the most unequally distributed food preparation facilities. Elaborate buildings have more diverse artefacts and concentrations of unbroken, large querns and quern roughouts, which may mean unusual status, specialization or hosting of task groups. From food processing tools we detect hints of a form of agricultural intensification (post-harvest) but also constraints on wealth transmission within domestic groups. It is suggested that corporate groups held substantial power and that decorated buildings were “host houses” for cooperative, multi-household activities, comparable to the Near Eastern mudhif. At Çatalhöyük, these were also residences.

However, some artefact types (e.g. maceheads, special trays) suggest rising tensions and factional competition through time.

Wright also suggests the Çatal Höyük culture had not developed the concept of inherited wealth. If they had, social inequality would have been forever solidified, and more distinct in the artifacts they left behind.

[1] Katherine I. (Karen) Wright, Domestication and inequality? Households, corporate groups and food processing tools at Neolithic Çatalhöyük, Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, Volume 33, March 2014, Pages 1-33, ISSN 0278-4165,



I want my mummy

Uncovering one ancient pharaoh is a pretty big deal. Uncovering twenty may very well be the find of the freaking century.

UPenn Egyptologist Josef Wegner has done precisely that. Buried beneath the ancient Upper Egyptian city of Abydos lay the tombs of a score of previously unknown pharaohs.

NBC 10 Philadelphia reports:

Last summer, Egyptologist Josef Wegner led a team to dig near the ancient city of Abydos, hoping to find a civilian cemetery. Instead, they discovered a compound of royal tombs that could contain 20 heretofore unknown pharaohs.

The Abydos Dynasty lasted about 50 years, during what’s called the Second Intermediate Period, when when Egypt was going through hard times. Most of the region was dominated by non-Egyptian kingdoms from the north, with a few ragtag, independent kingdoms to the south. Ultimately, the southern kingdom would rise and drive out the northerners.

The Second Intermediate Period marked the arrival of the Hyskos, a Western Asian people who invaded and occupied Northern Egypt for centuries, plunging the nation into a sharp decline. Until Wegner’s team uncovered these tombs, the existence of the Abydos Dynasty had never been confirmed. Now we know it was a dynasty of relatively modest means.

Wegner also found that pharaohs of this dynasty pillaged the tombs of past, wealthier dynasties to decorate their own necropolis.

The Hyskos were eventually driven from Lower Egypt by Theban rebels in 1550 BCE. While hated enemies and foreign oppressors, they brought with them several technological advancements which would become fixtures of Egyptian culture for generations thereafter: the horse, the chariot, and the composite bow.


Viruses without borders

Its name meaning “that which bends up” in the Makonde language native to Tanzania and Mozambique, Chikungunya is a nasty genus of Alphavirus that causes high fever, rash, and severe joint pain that can last for years. And he’s on the move.

Business Insider reports:

What began with just 10 confirmed cases of the chikungunya virus on the French side of St. Martin last month has quickly spiraled into a much larger outbreak with nearly 300 confirmed cases spanning the Caribbean from Martinique to the British Virgin Islands.

Spread by the Aedes genus of mosquitoes, Chikungunya outbreaks have been relegated to Africa’s tropical and equatorial climes, as well as India and Southeast Asia. Having somehow managed to hitchhike to St. Martin, it now has the forces of economics on its side. Caribbean islands thrive on tourism, and many travelers to the region make multiple stops across multiple islands, giving the virus ample opportunity to spread to otherwise isolated locales.

There is no vaccine for Chikungunya, and there is no treatment. The only effective method of preventing infection is destroying the mosquitoes that carry the virus.

Ruh-roh, Raggy

I’m not sure what nuns are for, but I’m fairly certain giving birth to baby boys is not it.

The HuffPo reports:

A Salvadorean nun who said she had no idea she was pregnant gave birth in Italy this week after she felt stomach cramps in her convent and was rushed to hospital, Italian media reported on Friday.

The 31-year-old mother and her baby boy, who weighs 3.5 kilograms (7.7 pounds), are doing well and other new mothers in Rieti hospital have begun collecting clothes and donations for her, the reports said.

“I did not know I was pregnant. I only felt a stomach pain,” the nun was quoted as saying at the hospital, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.

The nun denies any wrongdoing (of course), and her reasoning is inscrutable.

Rodriguez insisted that she was confused about being pregnant and suggested that she didn’t have sex.

“It’s not possible. I’m a nun,” she told the hospital, the New York Post reported.




Good times, bad times

For academic scientists, there’s good news on the horizon. A spending deal passed by congress last month not only averts another government shutdown and returns federal spending to pre-sequestration levels, it also includes a modest boost to the sciences.

Science reports:

On 10 December, legislators had struck a spending deal that eased the pain of the across-the-board cuts known as sequestration. It called for $1.012 trillion in 2014 discretionary spending, some $44 billion more than would have been available under a 2011 agreement that called for reducing the federal deficit by a trillion dollars over the next decade. But it took until 13 January for lawmakers to decide how to divvy up the money.

For agencies that provide major support for the physical sciences, the new budget represents a healthy boost over 2013 spending levels, which were depressed by the sequester’s 5% bite. The National Science Foundation (NSF) will receive $7.17 billion, an increase of 4.2%, for example, and NASA’s science programs will get $5.15 billion, a 7.7% jump. The Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Science enjoys a 9.7% increase, to $5.07 billion, and DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy gets an 11.2% boost to $280 million. The National Institutes of Standards and Technology will see its budget grow 10.4%, to $850 million.

While that’s excellent news for physical scientists, biological scientists have less cause for jubilation: Continue reading