July 18th, 2014
The Blaze / Liz Klimas
There’s a family who lives in a remote region of Turkey with some members who walk on all fours. At the time of BBC’s 2006 documentary about the Ulas family, scientists thought this was an example of “devolution,” but more recent research offers another suggestion instead.
“The Family That Walks on All Fours” consists of five quadrupedal siblings, but the Ulas family has many other siblings that walk in a normal, upright position. Instead of these individuals going backward on what some scientists consider the evolutionary scale, Lisa Shapiro, an anthropologist at the University of Texas in Austin, thinks this trait is an adaptation on the part of the siblings.
In a recent study published in the journal PLOS One, Shapiro and other researchers pointed out that people with Uner Tan Syndrome, like some in the Ulas family, do not walk in the same pattern as nonhuman primates that use both their arms and legs to get around. Even if individuals with this syndrome exhibited the same gait as nonhuman primates, the researchers wrote that it still wouldn’t be enough to “support the conclusion of evolutionary ‘reversal.’”
“Although it’s unusual that humans with UTS habitually walk on four limbs, this form of quadrupedalism resembles that of healthy adults and is thus not at all unexpected,” Shapiro said in a statement. “As we have shown, quadrupedalism in healthy adults or those with a physical disability can be explained using biomechanical principles rather than evolutionary assumptions.”
To reach this conclusion, researchers analyzed the gait of 518 quadrupedal strides in video of people with UTS. What they saw was that these individuals almost exclusively used a lateral, not diagonal, sequence of gait.
Severe UTS, according to the study, is also characterized by cerebellar hypoplasia, loss of balance and coordination, and impaired cognitive abilities.
Turkish psychologist Defne Aruoba, who worked with BBC on its documentary, wrote that the Ulas family is “mystery to the scientific community,” and “[e]very once in a while, a new scientist appears in the village and offers a new treatment or asks for the father Resit’s permission to do more testing.”
Aruoba wrote that he doesn’t say yes or no, but that his only concern for his children with this disability is who will take care of them when he dies.
“And he is right. These adult individuals are completely dependent, not because they lack the necessary skills to take care of their own basic needs, but because they haven’t been rehabilitated,” Aruoba said.
Here’s the BBC’s hour-long documentary on this syndrome and the family that exhibits this unusual trait:
July 18th, 2014
From Hamdi Alkhshali, CNN
Baghdad, Iraq (CNN) -- Extremists occupying large swaths of Iraq and Syria have issued a threat to Iraqi Christians in the city of Mosul:
Accept Islam, pay extra taxes to Islamic Sharia courts or face "death by the sword."
The letters from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, were distributed in recent days to leaders of the dwindling Christian minority in Iraq's second largest city.
The message added that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has agreed to allow them (Christians who do not agree to convert or pay extra taxes) to leave the embattled city by noon Saturday (5 a.m. ET). After that, the message said, "the Militant ISIS jihadists, a Sunni-dominated al Qaeda splinter group, have overrun large parts of Iraq and neighboring war torn Syria over the past months in a violent Islamist insurgency. The militants want to establish an Islamic state, or so-called caliphate, across Sunni areas of both countries.
ISIS already controls hundreds of square miles where state authority has evaporated. It has ignored international borders, establishing a deadly presence from Syria's Mediterranean coast all the way south to Baghdad, making its goal of a caliphate state seemingly within reach.
The magnitude of the crisis is clear from the sharp rise in the death toll over the past two months.
At least 2,400 Iraqis died in violence in June, according to the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq. Of those, the United Nations said more than 1,500 were civilians, including 270 civilian police officers, and almost 900 were members of Iraqi security forces.
U.S. President Barack Obama has authorized the deployment of 300 military advisers to Iraq. More than 200 are already there.
Obama has also ordered a review of Iraqi security forces to determine the best steps to take to help the embattled country. Many Iraqi troops abandoned their posts and fled when faced with attacks from ISIS, which contributed to the defenselessness of major parts of the country and helped fuel the insurgency.
Related from CNN
Shelby Lin Erdman contributed to this report
July 18th, 2014
Photos courtesy of UK Daily Mail: View additional photos here
The UK Register
By Lewis Page
A huge, mysterious crater which spontaneously appeared in a remote part of Siberia was not caused by an unidentified object falling from space, the Russian government insists.
"We can definitely say that it is not a meteorite. No details yet," a tight-lipped official spokesman told the Siberian Times, reporting on the mystery crater. A team of government experts is apparently at the site now, with the mission of finding out exactly what did cause it.
However the Russian government does have an official theory as to what caused the strange crater, located on the remote Yamal peninsula, to appear.
Anna Kurchatova from Russia's Sub-Arctic Scientific Research Centre told the Times that a mixture of water, salt and gas could have formed underground due to melting permafrost as a result of global warming. This could then have ignited, with the resulting underground pressure causing the earth above to erupt with an effect "like the popping of a champagne cork".
Siberia is famous for its meteor strikes, including the Tunguska event of 1908 and the Chelyabinsk explosion of 2013 - though there are those who claim that these and/or other incidents actually involved alien spacecraft.
Unsurprisingly, internet blabber has leaned heavily toward aliens or space objects of some type as being behind the new Yamal crater. Such speculation will of course not be damped by any official government statements blaming marsh gas or global warming, as it is a standard tenet of UFO belief that governments always suppress genuine alien discoveries using such cover stories.
The only official line likely to generate more disbelief would be to say that the crater was caused by a weather balloon.
Puzzlingly, another Russian government scientist, apparently a member of the team sent to the site, told the AP that there "were no traces of an explosion" to be seen there.
July 17th, 2014
The Hague (AFP) - A young Dutchman apparently posted a picture of the downed Malaysian airliner on Facebook minutes before he boarded it, writing: "If it should disappear, this is what it looks like."
Cor Pan, who appeared to be going on a beach holiday to Malaysia, posted the photo as a joking reference to another Malaysia Airlines flight that mysteriously disappeared over the Indian Ocean in March.
A few hours later his flight too would disappear from radar screens, taking him and the other 297 people on board the Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur flight to their deaths in eastern Ukraine.
Although there has been no confirmation that Cor, from Volendam, nine miles (15 kilometres) north of Amsterdam, was on board, his photo of the aircraft on the tarmac is tagged "near Schipol airport" and appears to have been taken from the gate as passengers waited to board.
The comments by his friends on Facebook, however, seem to indicate that he was on board the flight. Late on Thursday his picture had been shared more than 10,000 times on the social media site.
"This can't be true!" said Alicia de Boer.
Petra Bleeker posted a picture of Cor and his girlfriend Neeltje Tol on which she superimposed a white rose, signifying death. It was unclear whether Tol was also on the flight.
"Such a beautiful couple who have been taken from life. I wish you the best wherever you are," said Peter Bootsman.
Cor had earlier post pictures of idyllic tropical beaches on his Facebook page, saying: "A few more days to wait yet..."
July 17th, 2014
The Wallstreet Journal / DARRELL DELAMAIDE'S POLITICAL CAPITAL
It’s one thing if hardened critics like Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly ask whether the Obama presidency is “imploding,” as she did last month , citing a string of foreign policy debacles and domestic scandals.
Or if Republican lobbyist Ed Rogers says Obama “seems to have taken something like an early retirement,” as he did in his Washington Post blog earlier this month, finding that the president’s recent speeches reveal “a state of mind that suggests he has checked out.”
It is another, however, if the chief U.S. commentator for the Financial Times, Edward Luce, takes Obama to task, as he did this week, in an op-ed titled “Farewell to trust: Obama’s Germany syndrome.”
Luce takes the flap over the CIA spying on an ally like Germany as symptomatic of an administration that has lost the trust of the public both at home and abroad.
The British journalist notes that Obama dismisses such charges as cynical, but Luce rejects that label for himself and other critics in the press.
“Most reporters are better described as skeptical,” Luce says. “A cynic believes there is nothing new under the sun. A skeptic resists gullibility. On the basis of the latter, Mr. Obama does not appear to relish being chief executive.”
Kelly dismissively refers to Obama’s response to crisis as “smiling, golfing and at this very moment partying,” but Luce, too, notes that Obama has played golf 179 times while in office, much more than avowed golf lover George W. Bush, and headlined 393 fundraisers, more than double his predecessor’s total.
“If Mr. Obama put half as much effort into co-opting or wrong-footing his opponents as he does raising cash from the wealthy, people might be less skeptical,” Luce writes.
Veteran journalist Patrick Smith, who has written for liberal publications like The Nation and the New Yorker, also takes Obama to task for the German spy scandal and the insufficient response by American officials.
“I can think of two names for this,” Smith wrote this week in Fiscal Times. “One is ‘outmoded arrogance.’ The other is ‘asleep at the wheel.’ Whatever the moniker, some measure of incompetence lies behind it.”
When MSNBC anchor Mika Brzezinski interviewed Obama last month on the subject of Iraq, network commentator Donny Deutsch, an avowed Democrat, said, “I’ve never seen a less-engaged look in his eyes.”
Deutsch added: “He almost seemed — I don’t want to say checked-out because that is not the right thing — but watching him, his cadence was different. He feels like he almost wants to go home at this point.”
Another commentator on that program, Mark Halperin, said that Obama’s answers on the Syrian situation were nuanced and accurate, but people expect more from a president than great analysis of problems.
“It’s up to the president of the United States to take some bold action to try to address them,” said Halperin, co-author of “Game Change,” the bestselling book on the 2008 presidential campaign, “and not just sit and say here’s why this is hard, here’s why this is hard.”
The White House rejects this criticism as unfair, and no doubt some of it is. They say Obama is now jetting around the country to escape Beltway “cynicism” and connect with real Americans.
That may be, but no matter how many cheering crowds he addresses, it doesn’t seem to be helping his approval ratings.
The average of current polls at Real Clear Politics shows Obama’s approval rating sinking to 41.6, from above 44 two months ago. More significant, perhaps, is that the gap between those who disapprove and those who approve has widened to 12 points from just 7.