Python attacks Australian infant


2.111th Post

Python attacks Australian infant

AFP – Wed, Dec 28, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/python-attacks-australian-infant-

Pythons can grow to several metres in length and are usually active in the tropics between October and April

An Australian infant was attacked by a python which wrapped itself around his body and attempted to suffocate him, his terrified mother said Thursday, recalling his “blood-curdling scream”.

The two-year-old boy was chasing a ball around his Port Douglas backyard in Australia’s tropical north when the snake struck, biting his leg before looping itself around his body, his mother told the local Cairns Post newspaper.

“I heard this blood-curdling scream,” she said.

“The snake was biting his leg and was wrapped around his whole body, to his chest. It started constricting.”

She was unable to pull the snake from her son but neighbours who heard her distressed cries came to his rescue and managed to lift the snake off.

The boy suffered four bite wounds but the snake was not poisonous and he was released from hospital after 24 hours’ observation.

Pythons can grow to several metres in length and are usually active in the tropics between October and April, but local veterinarian Rod Gilbert told the paper it was the first time he had heard of one trying to eat a child.

“I suppose a two-year-old boy is not much different from a wallaby, it could definitely happen,” Gilbert said, referring to the native marsupials that are a more typical part of a python’s diet.

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Romania’s ice hotel


2.110th Post

Romania’s ice hotel

http://news.yahoo.com/photos/romania-s-ice-hotel-1325184251-slideshow/ice-hotel-photo-1325184066.html

The Balea Lac Hotel of Ice is located in the Fagaras mountains, 184 miles northwest of Bucharest, Romania. Entirely made of ice, the hotel offers accommodation in ten double rooms with king size beds, where the temperature is between -2 and +2 degrees Celsius, at a price of 35 Euro ($45.73) per person.

Ice hotel

Tourists have dinner inside the Balea Lac Hotel of Ice in the Fagaras mountains, 300km (184 miles) northwest of Bucharest December 28, 2011. Entirely made of ice, the hotel offers accommodation in 10 double rooms with king size beds, where the temperature is between -2 and 2 degrees Celsius, at a price of 35 Euro ($45.73) per person. REUTERS/Radu Sigheti

Ice hotel

A worker cuts ice inside a room at the Balea Lac Hotel of Ice in the Fagaras mountains, 300km (184 miles) northwest of Bucharest December 28, 2011. Entirely made of ice, the hotel offers accommodation in 10 double rooms with king size beds, where the temperature is between -2 and 2 degrees Celsius, at a price of 35 Euro ($45.73) per person. REUTERS/Radu Sigheti

Ice hotel

Tourists visit a room inside the Balea Lac Hotel of Ice in the Fagaras mountains, 300km (184 miles) northwest of Bucharest December 28, 2011. Entirely made of ice, the hotel offers accommodation in 10 double rooms with king size beds, where the temperature is between -2 and 2 degrees Celsius, at a price of 35 Euro ($45.73) per person. REUTERS/Radu Sigheti

Ice hotel

Workers cut ice bricks for the Balea Lac Hotel of Ice in the Fagaras mountains, 300km (184 miles) northwest of Bucharest December 28, 2011. Entirely made of ice, the hotel offers accommodation in 10 double rooms with king size beds, where the temperature is between -2 and 2 degrees Celsius, at a price of 35 Euro ($45.73) per person. REUTERS/Radu Sigheti

Ice hotel

A  tourist licks the outside wall of the Balea Lac Hotel of Ice in the Fagaras mountains, 300km (184 miles) northwest of Bucharest December 28, 2011. Entirely made of ice, the hotel offers accommodation in 10 double rooms with king size beds, where the temperature is between -2 and 2 degrees Celsius, at a price of 35 Euro ($45.73) per person. REUTERS/Radu Sigheti

Ice hotel

A child touches the outside wall of the Balea Lac Hotel of Ice in the Fagaras mountains, 300km (184 miles) northwest of Bucharest December 28, 2011. Entirely made of ice, the hotel offers accommodation in 10 double rooms with king size beds, where the temperature is between -2 and 2 degrees Celsius, at a price of 35 Euro ($45.73) per person. REUTERS/Radu Sigheti

Ice hotel

A bartender arranges ice glasses inside the Balea Lac Hotel of Ice in the Fagaras mountains, 300km (184 miles) northwest of Bucharest December 28, 2011. Entirely made of ice, the hotel offers accommodation in 10 double rooms with king size beds, where the temperature is between -2 and 2 degrees Celsius, at a price of 35 Euro ($45.73) per person. REUTERS/Radu Sigheti (ROMANIA – Tags: SOCIETY TRAVEL)

Ice hotel

A  waiter serves dinner to tourists inside the Balea Lac Hotel of Ice in the Fagaras mountains, 300km (184 miles) northwest of Bucharest December 28, 2011. Entirely made of ice, the hotel offers accommodation in 10 double rooms with king size beds, where the temperature is between -2 and 2 degrees Celsius, at a price of 35 Euro ($45.73) per person. REUTERS/Radu Sigheti

Ice hotel

Tourists walk in the snow outside the Balea Lac Hotel of Ice in the Fagaras mountains, 300km (184 miles) northwest of Bucharest December 28, 2011. Entirely made of ice the hotel offers accomodation in 10 double rooms with king size beds, where the temperature is between -2 and 2 degrees Celsius, at a price of 35 Euro ($45.73) per person. REUTERS/Radu Sigheti

Ice hotel

Tourists visit the Balea Lac Hotel of Ice in the Fagaras mountains, 300km (184 miles) northwest of Bucharest December 28, 2011. Entirely made of ice, the hotel offers accommodation in 10 double rooms with king size beds, where the temperature is between -2 and 2 degrees Celsius, at a price of 35 Euro ($45.73) per person. REUTERS/Radu Sigheti

Ice hotel

A hand print is seen on the outside wall of the Balea Lac Hotel of Ice in the Fagaras mountains, 300km (184 miles) northwest of Bucharest December 28, 2011. Entirely made of ice, the hotel offers accommodation in 10 double rooms with king size beds, where the temperature is between -2 and 2 degrees Celsius, at a price of 35 Euro ($45.73) per person. REUTERS/Radu Sigheti (ROMANIA – Tags: SOCIETY TRAVEL)

Ice hotel

Tourists have dinner inside the Balea Lac Hotel of Ice in the Fagaras mountains, 300km (184 miles) northwest of Bucharest December 28, 2011. Entirely made of ice, the hotel offers accommodation in 10 double rooms with king size beds, where the temperature is between -2 and 2 degrees Celsius, at a price of 35 Euro ($45.73) per person. REUTERS/Radu Sigheti

Ice hotel

A general view of the Balea Lac Hotel of Ice (C) in the Fagaras mountains, 300km (184 miles) northwest of Bucharest December 28, 2011. Entirely made of ice, the hotel offers accommodation in 10 double rooms with king size beds, where the temperature is between -2 and 2 degrees Celsius, at a price of 35 Euro ($45.73) per person. REUTERS/Radu Sigheti

Can You Predict How the Story Ends in This Stunning Photo?


2.109th Post

Can You Predict How the Story Ends in This Stunning Photo?

The BlazeThe Blaze – Wed, Dec 28, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/predict-story-ends-stunning-photo-000306739.html

This photo shows what looks like the beginning of a sad ending for a young doe, but would you believe that the golden eagle was the one left disappointed?

Doe and Golden Eagle_Milan Krasula

(Photo: Milan Krasula/Solent News & Photo Agency via The Telegraph)

The Telegraph reports that Milan Krasula, who snapped the exchange between eagle and doe, said the doe narrowly escaped by scurrying under a fence. According to the Telegraph, Krasula had been holding out for a good photograph at the annual eagle hunt for four days before he captured this one:

He said: “You have to be very lucky to get a good shot, as you cannot predict where the prey will be hiding.

“I found an area that I thought it would be good for a photo and where some smaller animals might be hiding.

“I was waiting there around an hour or so, when all of a sudden there was a young little doe running out from the forest.

“One keeper then released his eagle, who was about 200 metres away from me.

“He did not see the little doe running and had actually released the eagle to get another animal.

“Of course, the eagle went for the doe instead of the other prey.”

After the doe slipped under a fence, The Telegraph reports, it scampered into the woods and the eagle abandoned the chase and returned to its owner. Krasula is reported being happy the doe got away.

BBC reported earlier this month that the annual eagle hunt held in Kazakhstan is an ancient tradition conducted in modern times to help preserve the saker  falcon population. BBC reports that the hunt is entertainment for the wealthy and revenue helps them breed more saker  falcons which are dropping in numbers.

NASA probes to arrive at the moon over New Year’s


2.108th Post

NASA probes to arrive at the moon over New Year’s

Associated PressBy ALICIA CHANG | AP – 21 hrs ago

Click image for more photos

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The New Year’s countdown to the moon has begun.

NASA said Wednesday that its twin spacecraft were on course to arrive back-to-back at the moon after a 3½-month journey.

“We’re on our way there,” said project manager David Lehman of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which manages the $496 million mission.

The Grail probes — short for Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory — won’t land on the lunar surface. Instead, they were poised to slip into orbit to study the uneven lunar gravity field.

Grail-A was scheduled to arrive on New Year’s Eve, followed by Grail-B on New Year’s Day.

Lehman said team members won’t celebrate until both probes are safely in orbit.

It’s been a long voyage for the near-identical Grail spacecraft, which traveled more than 2½ million miles (3.22 million kilometers) since launching in September. Though the moon is relatively close at about 250,000 miles (402317.35 kilometers)away, Grail took a roundabout way to save on costs by launching on a small rocket.

Once at the moon, the probes will spend the next two months tweaking their positions before they start collecting data in March. The pair will fly in formation at an altitude of 34 miles (54.72 kilometers) above the surface, with an average separation of 124 miles (199.55 kilometers).

In this undated image provided by NASA on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011, shows two sides of the moon. Twin NASA probes traveling for the past 3 1/2 months are scheduled to arrive at the moon during the New

In this undated image provided by NASA on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011, shows two sides of the moon. Twin NASA probes traveling for the past 3 1/2 months are scheduled to arrive at the moon during the New Year’s weekend to study lunar gravity. (AP Photo/NASA)

The mission’s chief scientist, Maria Zuber of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said many aspects of the moon remain a mystery despite being well studied.

“We actually know more about Mars … than we do about our own moon,” Zuber said.

One puzzle scientists hope to solve is why the moon’s far side is more hilly than the side that always faces Earth. Research published earlier this year suggested that Earth once had dual moons that collided and formed the moon that people gaze at today.

Despite the wealth of new knowledge expected from the mission, NASA has no near-term plans to send astronauts back to the moon. The Obama administration last year nixed the idea in favor of landing astronauts on an asteroid and eventually Mars.

Satellite Photo Shows New Island Rising from Earth’s Red Sea


2.107th Post

Satellite Photo Shows New Island Rising from Earth’s Red Sea

By Brett Israel, OurAmazingPlanet Staff Writer Space.com | SPACE.com – 18 hrs ago

A plume rises from a new island in the Red Sea on Dec. 23, 2011 in this satellite view. The smoke plume and new island were created in a volcanic eruption in December 2011. CREDIT: NASA Earth Observatory

The Red Sea has a new inhabitant: a smoking island.

The island was created by a wild eruption that occurred in the Red Sea earlier this month. It is made of loose volcanic debris from theeruption, so it may not stick around long.

According to news reports, fishermen witnessed lava fountains reaching up to 90 feet (30 meters) tall on Dec. 19, which is probably the day the eruption began, said Erik Klemetti, a volcanologist at Denison University in Granville, Ohio.

Ash plumes were seen emanating from the spot  Dec. 20 and Dec. 22 by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites. The Ozone Monitoring Instrument  on NASA’s Aura satellite detected elevated levels of sulfur dioxide, further indicating an eruption. By Dec. 23, what looked like a new island had appeared in the Red Sea off the west coast of Yemen.

“I am surprised about how quickly the island has grown,” Klemetti, who writes Wired’s Eruptions Blog, told OurAmazingPlanet.

The volcanic activity occurred along the Zubair Group, a collection of small islands that run in a roughly northwest-southeast line. The islands rise from a shield volcano (a kind of volcano built from fluid lava flows) and poke above the sea surface.

Scientists will keep a close eye on the new island to see if it has staying power.

“Many times the islands are ephemeral as they are usually made of loose volcanic debris, so they get destroyed by wave action quite quickly,” Klemetti said. But the volcanic activity could outpace the erosion due to the wave action.

Newly emerging islands aren’t unheard of. Other newly emerged islands include Surtsey off of Iceland, Anak Krakatau in the caldera of Krakatoa in Indonesia, and Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha`apai in Tonga in the South Pacific.

Top 10 Discoveries 2011 of Archaeology


2.106th Post

http://www.archaeology.org/1201/features/topten_hawaii.html

ARCHAEOLOGY magazine

Years from now, when we look back on 2011, the year will almost certainly be defined by political and economic upheaval. At the same time that Western nations were shaken by a global economic slump, people in the Middle East and North Africa forcefully removed heads of state who had been in power for decades. “Arab Spring,” as the various revolutions have collectively been named, will have far-reaching implications, not just for the societies in which it took place, but also for archaeology. No year-end review would be complete without polling archaeological communities in the affected areas to determine whether sites linked to the world’s oldest civilizations, from Apamea in Syria to Saqqara in Egypt, are still intact. Our update appears here.

Of course, traditional fieldwork took place in 2011 as well. Archaeologists uncovered one of the world’s first buildings in Jordan. In Guatemala, a Maya tomb offered rare evidence of a female ruler, and, in Scotland, a boat was found with a 1,000-year-old Viking buried inside.

We also witnessed the impact that technology continues to have on archaeology. Researchers used a ground-penetrating radar survey of the site of a Roman gladiator school to create a digital model of what it may once have looked like. And scientists studying an early hominid have taken their investigation online by tapping the scientific blogging community. The team is seeking help to determine if they have actually found a sample of fossilized skin that appears to be more than 2 million years old. These projects stand as clear evidence that as cultures around the world undergo sweeping changes, so too does the practice and process of archaeology.

[image]
An artist’s conception shows how the burial may have originally looked.
(Sarah Paris)

A spectacular Viking boat burial was uncovered this year on the coast of Ardnamurchan, a remote region of western Scotland, the first such burial to be found on the British mainland. The Viking, who is thought to have perished over 1,000 years ago, was most likely a high-ranking warrior. He was buried lying in a 16-foot-long boat, with artifacts including a sword with silver inlay on the hilt, a shield, a spear, an ax, and a drinking horn. “The level of preservation of the objects and the range of grave goods make this one of the most important Viking burials found in the U.K.,” says Colleen Batey, a Viking specialist from the University of Glasgow.

Although the location is isolated today, at the time of the burial, it was right on the main north-south seafaring route between Ireland and Norway. No Viking dwellings have been found in Ardnamurchan, but Vikings are known to have inhabited the nearby islands of the Hebrides. “We don’t know why they chose this location for the burial, but the Neolithic and Bronze Age burial mounds there may have made it an important place for them,” says Oliver Harris, project co-director from the University of Leicester. Isotope analysis of the Viking’s teeth may eventually help the scientists pin down where he was from.

Neolithic Community Centers – Wadi Faynan, Jordan

by Nikhil Swaminathan
[image]
(David Oliver, WF16 Excavation Project)

The discovery of the remains of a 4,500-square-foot structure at the south Jordanian site of Wadi Faynan is helping redefine the purpose of architecture at the point in history when roving bands of hunter-gatherers transitioned to sedentary societies. Rather than characterizing early Neolithic settlements dating to nearly 12,000 years ago as residential clusters tied to the advent of agriculture, structures such as the tower at Jericho on the West Bank and Göbekli Tepe in southern Turkey suggest an initial stage of settlement where people coalesced around communal activities and rituals.

Add to that list the oval-shaped building at Wadi Faynan, known simply as O75. It dates to 11,700 years ago and, according to Bill Finlayson, director of the Council for British Research in the Levant, who led its excavation, “it appears to have been built by digging a pit and then lining the walls with a very strong mud mixture.” A floor was constructed from mud plaster and surrounded by two tiers of benches, three feet deep and one-and-a-half feet high, recalling an amphitheater. Postholes indicate that a roof covered a section of the structure.

Some finds, including mortars for grinding found in raised platforms at the structure’s center, suggest people of the time might have used the building as a venue to collectively process plants, such as barley and pistachio. O75 may have additionally offered a space for communal gatherings. “It could have been a locale where small groups of people were aggregating on a periodic basis,” says A. Nigel Goring-Morris, a prehistoric archaeologist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who was not involved
in the excavation.

Open Source Australopithecus – Malapa, South Africa

by Zach Zorich

[image]

Mineral deposits found on the fossilized remains ofAustralopithecus sediba could be early human skin.
(Courtesy Lee Berger and the University of the Witwatersrand)

The 2.2-million-year-old fossils of Australopithecus sediba have been providing new insights into human evolution since they were discovered in South Africa’s Malapa Cave in 2010. But now scans of some of the fossils have revealed a thin layer of minerals that could be the remains of Australopithecus skin. To determine whether this is the case, Lee Berger, a paleoanthropologist at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and lead researcher on the project, is taking a revolutionary step and making this research project
open source.

Berger has enlisted John Hawks, a paleoanthropologist and blogger at the University of Wisconsin, to reach out to the online scientific community for input on how the research should be designed and to help analyze the “skin” samples. Because no one has ever found fossilized early hominid skin, Hawks says, there are no experts on the subject.

According to Hawks, the open-source approach will help the team avoid a common pitfall of early hominid research—the sometimes decades-long delay between a fossil’s discovery and the publication of scientists’ analysis of the find. The team will post project updates online to inform the community of its progress and address any issues that might arise before submitting the research to a peer-reviewed journal.

The project is starting to attract interest worldwide. Berger’s team is in discussions with Russian anthropologists who suggested comparing the Malapa samples to other specimens of fossilized skin. The team is also working with a mineralogist from the University of Oslo, in Norway, to find a way to examine the structure of the “skin” with an electron microscope. If the mineral layer does turn out to be preserved skin, it could provide information about A. sediba’s hair, pigmentation, and sweat glands. If the layer turns out to be something else, paleoanthropology may still have gained a new approach to research.

First Domesticated Dogs – Předmostí, Czech Republic

by Zach Zorich

[image]

One of three skulls of the earliest domesticated dogs found in Czech Republic. This one was buried with a mastodon bone in its mouth.
(Courtesy Mietje Germonpre)

Researchers have, until recently, thought that dog domestication occurred about 14,000 years ago. In 2011, the case for it taking place much earlier received a boost from sites across Eurasia. Mietje Germonpré, of Belgium’s Museum of Natural History, and a team of researchers published a paper describing three canid skulls that had many of the distinctive traits that separate domesticated dogs from their wolf ancestors, including a shorter, broader snout and a wider brain case. The skulls, which date to roughly 31,500 years ago, were part of a collection from the site of Předmostí, in Czech Republic. In addition, a separate research team found a dog skull at Razboinichya Cave in Siberia that was dated to 33,000 years ago. Both finds support a 2009 research paper published by Germonpré and her colleagues describing a 36,000-year-old dog skull found at Goyet in Belgium. Critics could write off the single dog skull from Goyet as an aberration. “When I received the results of the date I was really disappointed,” Germonpré said of the Goyet skull. “I thought no one would believe it. I couldn’t believe it.” But the evidence from all three sites now makes Germonpré’s case much stronger.

Rare Maya Female Ruler – Nakum, Guatemala

by Jessica Woodard
[image]

(Courtesy Wiesław Koszkul, the Nakum Archaeological Project)

Surprisingly untouched by looters, a well-hidden burial chamber found at the archaeological site of Nakum in northeastern Guatemala may have been the tomb of a female ruler from the second or third century A.D. The eastern-facing tomb held a 1,300-year-old skeleton, a jade pectoral, and a decorated vessel in the Tikal Dancer style, among other items. Through a crack in the tomb’s floor, archaeologists uncovered an even older tomb with female remains bearing two vessels atop the head, along with other, more precious items. The tomb’s quality and location suggest it was a burial chamber for a royal lineage that lasted half a millennium.

Gladiator Gym Goes Virtual – Carnuntum, Austria

by Jessica Woodard
[image]
A virtual re-creation of the gladiator school found in Austria.
(Courtesy the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology)
Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) technology has allowed an international team of researchers from the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology (LBI-ArchPro) to both identify a ludus(gladiator school) at the Roman city of Carnuntum in Austria and bring it before the public in an unprecedented way. What was once a vibrant city of 50,000 residents is now the site of an immense archaeological park. The newly discovered fourth-century A.D. gladiator school, the fourth largest ever found in the world, located just west of the largest amphitheater outside of Rome, is a self-enclosed complex that includes an inner courtyard, circular training area, living quarters, and a cemetery. The high-resolution images collected from the GPR survey show an under-floor heating system, bathing area, and walking paths within the complex. With the improved GPR technology developed by LBI-ArchPro, a complete picture of gladiator life is starting to emerge. Digitally re-created images of the ludus allow visitors to see how the school fit into the city’s landscape, and it’s possible to view them on a smartphone by using the free Wikitude World Browser software.

Ancient Chinese Takeout – Shaanxi/Xinjiang, China

by Lauren Hilgers

[image]
A researcher samples the worldis oldest soup, which is cloudy and green due to the bronze vessel it was stored in for more than 2,000 years.
(M. Klein | 7Reasons, Imaginechina)
Today, dog soup and millet noodles may be meals only an archaeologist could love. In two tombs at opposite ends of the country, archaeologists have found the remains of intriguing dishes, well preserved in bronze vessels and clay pots and buried with the dead. In a Warring States tomb in Shaanxi Province, one team found a soup containing what they believe to be dog bones. And in Subeixi Cemetery in Xinjiang, another group of archaeologists found 2,400-year-old intact noodles made of millet. With efforts to re-create the meals, archaeologists may soon be eating like the ancients.

War Begets State – Lake Titicaca, Peru

by Julian Smith
[image]
Archaeologists believe neighbors from the nearby settlement of Pukara (above) burned Taraco. 
(Courtesy Charles Stanish, Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at the University of California, Los Angeles)

Near the northern end of Lake Titicaca in Peru, a team led by Charles Stanish of the University of California, Los Angeles, found evidence that warfare may have been critical in the formation of early states. The main line of evidence is a 38-yard-long layer of ash and debris in a high-status residential area of a settlement called Taraco, one of the two largest political centers in the region. The site-wide burn, dated to the first century A.D., was so intense it melted adobe walls and carbonized thatched roofs.

Taraco’s fortunes changed drastically after the fire. The production of high-quality pottery and obsidian artifacts plummeted, and residents shifted from building with fine stone to working in the fields. At the same time, the nearby settlement of Pukara took off, expanding its territory by at least 60 miles and showing characteristics of state-level societies such as urbanized settlements, a warrior class, and full-time craft specialists.

Put all that evidence together, and Stanish theorizes that Pukara attacked and destroyed its rival Taraco. After two millennia of coexistence, war had come to the Titicaca Basin—but instead of snuffing the early spark of civilization, it served as tinder. Cooperation between cultures can certainly be a path to success, but sometimes organized conflict can be a more efficient, logical way to acquire resources.

“The models of state formation that do not see warfare as a central key element do not have it right,” says Steve LeBlanc of Harvard University.

Atlantic Whaler Found in Pacific – French Frigate Shoals, Hawaii

[image]

(Courtesy the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

America’s whaling fleet expanded the country’s global reach and transformed the economy of the Pacific in the 1800s. Very few wrecks of these vessels have ever been found, as they usually went down in deep water, far from shore. This year, federal marine archaeologists working at French Frigate Shoals in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in Hawaii finally identified one—Two Brothers, a Nantucket whaler that sank in 1823. The discovery started with a 10-foot anchor, and also included three iron trypots in which blubber was rendered into oil, remnants of the ship’s rigging, and another anchor. Two Brothers has a special place in literary history. It was the second ship led by hard-luck captain George Pollard Jr. His first was the Essex, which was rammed and sunk by a sperm whale, providing inspiration for Moby Dick. Oh, and the Essex crew, including Pollard, resorted to cannibalism while drifting and starving on the open ocean.

Arab Spring Impacts Archaeology – Libya/Egypt/Tunisia/Syria

by Mike Elkin
[image]
While claims were made that harm had come to sites in Libya, such as the Leptis Magna (above), the damage was negligible.
(Rob Walker/Flickr)

No discussion of the year 2011 can be complete without a reference to what’s been termed Arab Spring. The political phenomenon has the potential to have an extraordinary impact on archaeology for years to come.

In Libya, a Russian journalist broadcast that thieves plundered the country’s museums and NATO bombed the ancient Roman sites of Leptis Magna and Sabratha. At the end of September, a three-person team from Blue Shield, a nonprofit organization concerned with the protection of cultural heritage in areas of conflict, traveled to western Libya and found Leptis Magna untouched. The theater at Sabratha suffered minor bullet damage, but the rest of the site was fine. Rebels had entered Tripoli’s National Museum, but only wrecked Qaddafi’s old cars on display; museum staff had previously hidden or moved important artifacts. Overall, the Blue Shield report said, they found no evidence of organized looting at the museums or archaeological sites they visited. Nevertheless, there are still concerns.

“There is a lot of hearsay, but artifacts have been smuggled out of the country through Egypt,” says Ray Bondin, Malta’s ambassador to UNESCO, who has worked with Libyan heritage authorities for many years. “The sites are not well protected and the department of antiquities is still organizing itself.”

After rebels drove Qaddafi’s forces from Benghazi, for instance, the so-called Treasure of Benghazi—around 8,000 bronze, silver, and gold coins and other artifacts from the ancient city of Cyrene near modern-day al-Bayda—disappeared from a bank vault.

Egypt appears to have been affected more than its westerly neighbor. After the revolution erupted in late January, then Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs Zahi Hawass offered assurances that all sites and artifacts were safe. Later, however, this proved not to be true. Looters had attacked dozens of sites and broke into storerooms throughout the country, including in the delta region, Abydos, Abu Sir, Giza, Dashur, Lisht, Saqqara, and Quntara. Thieves also pilfered artifacts from Cairo’s Egyptian Museum, while protests and street battles went on outside in Tahrir Square.

Archaeologists in Egypt now say security has returned, but organization has faltered since the Mubarak regime fell. In an attempt to stabilize the situation, the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) is no longer part of the Culture Ministry, and instead is part of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf’s portfolio. “The SCA is going through a very painful auditing process,” says Tamar Teneishvili, a UNESCO specialist in Cairo. “And the treasury for cultural heritage management, funded by tourism, is empty.”

Tunisia, the first Arab Spring country to evict its dictator, appeared to have avoided post-uprising archaeological problems. Once Ben Ali and his family fled the country, however, an earlier, state-sponsored looting epidemic was discovered. On a program on France 2 television, Complément d’enquête, Fathi Bejaoui of Tunisia’s National Heritage Institute was filmed as he entered Ben Ali’s daughter’s abandoned beach mansion. There they found nearly 200 artifacts used as decoration. Ancient columns held up a large exhaust hood in the kitchen and marble friezes were cut to frame the fireplace.

Syria could be the next country to oust a regime, but the government has sealed the country to outsiders and information is sparse. The state-run news agency reported in September 2011 that looters had hit the Seleucid city Apamea, not far from modern-day Hama, the seat of opposition to the Assad regime.

These Are 11 Things That Could Be More Expensive in 2012


2.105th Post

These Are 11 Things That Could Be More Expensive in 2012

The Blaze – 2 hrs 17 mins ago

Although the U.S. economy has performed poorly over the last couple of years, Americans have lucked out with relatively low inflation (emphasis on the word “relatively”). However, there’s little reason to believe that the prices you pay today will stay where they are — meaning 2012 will most likely bring about increases to your everyday costs as well as some luxury items.

But which prices are going to fluctuate? you may ask. It would be nice to know so that I can prepare.

Well, never fear: dealnews has compiled a list of the price adjustments consumers can expect to see in 2012.

“This week, we read the economic tealeaves to see what will be more expensive in the year 2012,” writes Laura Heller. “Some increases seem almost customary, like ever-rising gas prices, while others, like a potential 25 percent hike on tap water, are more surprising.”

Here is of a list of the products that will probably see a price increase in 2012 (majority of block-quote information via dealnews):

1. Domestic and International Airfare

airline

Greater demand and fewer available airline seats will likely lead to higher ticket prices for flights next year.American Express predicts prices within North America will increase up to 5 percent for economy seating, depending on the length of the flight, and up to 7 percent in business class.

Things look more bleak for European travel. A new “green tax” implemented by the EU is aimed at reducing emissions, and it will levy a fee of roughly $15 per passenger, each way, for flights to and from the U.S. Fees on shorter flights within the EU will be taxed slightly less.

2. Groceries

groceries

If your grocery bill seemed higher in 2011, you weren’t imagining things. Most retailers have reported that food prices are rising and those increases are being passed along to shoppers.

Food costs rose 6 percent last year and will likely go up at least 2 percent more in 2012. Increases are likely to affect food eaten at home, rather than restaurants where those costs are easier to absorb when combined with sales of liquor, says Harry Balzer, Chief Industry Analyst for the NPD Group.

3. City-Enforced Fees

parking ticket

As municipalities look for ways to make up for budget shortfalls, fees for everything from dog licenses to vehicle registration and parking rates are going up, as is enforcement of fine-related infractions.

In Chicago for example, a non-registered dog can elicit a $500 fine, while parking fines in Portland are going up 18 percent as the city tries to make up a $16 billion transportation budget deficit.

4. Water

water

Most communities in the United States will face water rate hikes this year, even places that are rich with the natural resource. Water rates in the greater Chicago area will increase by as much as 25 percent next year, while the parched high desert Denver market is set to rise an additional 5.5 percent. Like the above-mentioned fees, this increase is mostly a result of cities needing to increase revenue to balance their budgets.

However, there is another reason several cities have seen an increase in their water rates.

As reported earlier on The Blaze:

Sewage and water rates (on average) have increased faster than inflation because the federal government has demanded that cities replace their “worn-out” sewer facilities to meet federal clean-water standards.

Consequently, attempts to finance these new facilities has cost some cities millions of dollars.

5. Gas

gas pump

Fuel prices began inching up just before the holidays, and 2012 is looking to be another budget-breaking year at the pump, with prices once again topping $4 per gallon.

But why should we expect to see this increase?

Gregg Laskoski, a senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com, explains why consumers should expect to “see trouble ahead”:

Because for the past seven years the average price movement from the  national average “floor” on December 31 to the “peak” price recorded in the next 12 months has averaged 93 cents per gallon.

In three of the last seven years, the spread between the “floor” price and the peak exceeded $1 per gallon and only once in the past seven years was the spread below 82 cents per gallon.  And, while we typically anticipate “peak” prices to occur in the midst of the summer driving season, you’ll see in the chart below that in two of the last three years the peak has occurred in October and December…

While past performance is no indication of future prices, if the national average and the price of gas in your state doesn’t move much closer toward $3 per gallon by the year’s end, next year when gas  prices “spring ahead” many of us may be paying $4 or more…possibly a lot more.

6. Gold

gold

The precious metal is poised to achieve its 11th straight year of growth. Gold prices bounced around a lot in the second half of 2011, but analysts expect it to rise roughly 12 percent in 2012.

It’s a conservative estimate and a lot lower than the 17 percent annual growth rate of the past decade, but most believe gold will be more expensive. Take that to the bank.

See what five other items might increase in price next year.