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Two new lizard species

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Two new lizard species found in Queensland rainforest

Cape Melville rainbow skink and Cape Melville bar-lipped skink bring the tally of species unknown to science that have been found in small, remote area to eight

A Cape Melville rainbow skink. Photograph: Conrad Hoskin

Two species of lizard previously unknown to science have been uncovered in a remote part of far north Queensland.

Dr Conrad Hoskin, a researcher at James Cook university, found the two species after landing by helicopter in a largely inaccessible area of rainforest on top of the Melville range, about 170km north of Cooktown.

The species have been named as the Cape Melville rainbow skink and the Cape Melville bar-lipped skink. The scientific names of the species – Carlia wundalthini and Glaphyromorphus othelarrni – were chosen by local Aboriginal leaders in a nod to previous traditional owners of the land.

Hoskin said the discoveries were “very exciting” and added to three other species he uncovered during a series of trips to Cape Melville last year: a leaf-tailed gecko, a boulder frog and a golden lizard.

“In each of those cases, as soon as I saw them I knew they were new species,” he told Guardian Australia.

The Cape Melville bar-lipped skink. Photograph: Conrad Hoskin

“I was walking around on my first day there and saw a lizard and thought ‘wow, that’s something different’. And then that night I saw something moving in some mulch by a boulder, I pulled it out and it was another new kind of lizard.”

The rainbow skink is only about 10cm long, with shimmering scales. It is very fast and active during the day, eating small insects. Meanwhile, the bar-lipped skink is slightly larger, about 20cm long, and lives a more subdued life, emerging mostly at dusk.

Hoskin’s discovery of five new species in total adds to a further three species found at Cape Melville in the past few decades. The entire global populations of these eight endemic species live within the rainforest plateau and lowland area of Cape Melville.

Source: TheGuardian read and see more

 

Real Life Indiana Jones

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The real-life Indiana Jones on the hunt for lost ancient Mayan cities in Mexico

Slovenian archaeologist Ivan Šprajc is behind discovery of three significant ruins in the remote jungles of the Yucatán peninsula

Ivan Šprajc at one of the Mayan sites discovered in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula.

There are days when Ivan Šprajc gets fed up with his job. Hacking pathways through the Mexican jungle with machetes is exhausting. Keeping a constant eye out for deadly snakes can be nerve-racking. The risk of finding nothing to show for all the effort is real.

But then there is reward that comes when the contours of a plaza, palace, ball court or pyramid emerge from beneath the tree cover, or inscriptions that could help explain them are revealed by brushing off undergrowth.

“I’ve said to myself quite a few times that this is the last season, because it is so difficult. But it is such a reward when you find a new site,” says the Slovenian archaeologist, who has made a career of finding lost Mayan cities. “It’s tough work, but it’s dead romantic.”

This year Šprajc’s team found two – Tamchén and Lagunita – which followed last year’s discovery of a large site called Chactún.

The finding of the three sites is the first step in surveying an almost unexplored area spanning about 1,200 sq miles in the northern part of the Calakmul biosphere reserve, between the Río Bec and Chenes regions, in the southern Mexican state of Campeche.

“You can call it archaeological reconnaissance,” he says. “It is the very first step into an area that is completely unknown.”

Tamchén, Lagunita and Chactún have all been dated to the 8th century, within the post-classic period that runs for the three centuries immediately before the collapse of high Mayan civilisation around AD900.

The ruins at the three Mayan sites have been dated to the 8th century.

Šprajc believes the size and obvious importance of some of their buildings denote a revival of the power of smaller cities that were once subjugated to the authority of Calakmul, a great city that quickly faded after losing a war in 695 with Tikal, the other lowland Maya superpower of the classic period.

“When Calakmul falls, apparently these other cities thrive,” he says.

Beyond regional power relations, Šprajc believes the new cities could also help shed new light on the wider collapse that was to come, once they have been excavated.

A fairly solid consensus exists that prolonged drought, population pressure and an intensification of conflict were all contributing factors, but the sequence of these remains a mystery.

Already, he says, obviously modified monuments and unusual finds in the newly discovered cities suggest they might one day be the centre of new ideas about what happened to the Maya in those key centuries.

He named one of this year’s sites Tamchén, which means “deep well” in Yucatec Maya, because it is filled with deep bottle-shaped underground chambers, known as chultúns, used for storage and rain water collection. While elsewhere in the Maya world chultúns rarely go beyond six metres, in Tamchén they are as deep as 13.

Lagunita, the second site, has an impressive monster mouth facade on one of the buildings, representing an earth god related with fertility. The site had already been located in the 1970s by American archaeologist Eric Von Euw, but all that was left from that expedition were his drawings, which Šprajc immediately recognised when he rediscovered the city this year.

What stands out here, he says, is that such doorways were previously associated with the late-terminal classic period in Río Bec.

In Chactún, Šprajc’s team uncovered glyphs in stucco, rather than stone, that have never been found anywhere in the Mayan world before.

“If we are finding things that seem unique to us now, it means there are still a lot of things we don’t know about the Maya,” he says.

Source: TheGuardian Read and see more

Jinglytruck

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Jinglytruck

Jinglytruck. It’s a truck. It jingles.

JINGLYTRUCK is a brightly coloured Afghan truck – often decorated with chains and bells that make them jingle as they drive along.

Source: BBCNews

Fordlândia, Brazil

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Original furniture in the drawing room in the Fordlândia museum. Photograph: Colin McPherson/Corbis

Named, rather modestly, after its founder Henry Ford, Fordlândia was an attempt by the car-maker and industrialist to create an independent source of rubber for the tyres on his vehicles, free from the existing manufacturing monopolies. Ford bought a huge swathe of land in the Amazon and began building a strangely American-style town in the jungle, including a golf course, a library and a hospital, as well as shops and restaurants to keep his relocated employees happy. It was a grand failure and now all that remains are the derelict buildings, which can be visited by adventurous travellers.
Fordlândia is on the east bank of the Tapajós river and can be reached by boat via Itaituba and Santarém in the state of Pará

Source: TheGuardian Read and see more ghost towns and places

What’s the appeal of a caliphate?

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In June the leader of Islamic State declared the creation of a caliphate stretching across parts of Syria and Iraq – Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi named himself the caliph or leader. Edward Stourton examines the historical parallels and asks what is a caliphate, and what is its appeal?

When Islamic State (IS) declared itself a caliphate in June this year, and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi claimed the title of caliph, it seemed confirmation of the group’s reputation for megalomania and atavistic fantasy. Al-Baghdadi insisted that pledging allegiance to this caliphate was a religious obligation on all Muslims – an appeal which was immediately greeted by a chorus of condemnation across the Middle East.

But is it dangerous to underestimate the appeal of IS? Al-Baghdadi’s brutal regime does not, of course, remotely conform to the classical Muslim understanding of what a caliphate should be, but it does evoke an aspiration with a powerful and increasingly urgent resonance in the wider Muslim world.

The last caliphate – that of the Ottomans – was officially abolished 90 years ago this spring. Yet in a 2006 Gallup survey of Muslims living in Egypt, Morocco, Indonesia and Pakistan, two-thirds of respondents said they supported the goal of “unifying all Islamic countries” into a new caliphate.

Why do so many Muslims subscribe to this apparently unrealisable dream? The answer lies in the caliphate’s history.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi at his first public appearance in Mosul, Iraq in July

The Arabic khalifa means a representative or successor, and in the Koran it is linked to the idea of just government – Adam, and then David and Solomon, are each said to be God’s khalifa on earth. And when the Prophet Mohammed died in 632 the title was bestowed on his successor as the leader of the Muslim community, the first of the Rashidun, the four so-called “Rightly Guided Caliphs” who ruled for the first three decades of the new Islamic era.

These four were, according to Reza Pankhurst, author of The Inevitable Caliphate, all appointed with popular consent. He argues that their era established an ideal of a caliph as “the choice of the people… appointed in order to be responsible to them, apply Islamic law and ensure it’s executed”. He adds that the true caliph “is not above the law”.

Shia Muslims challenge this version of history – they believe that the first two caliphs effectively staged a coup to frustrate the leadership claims of the Prophet’s cousin Ali – and this dispute about the early caliphate is the source of Islam’s most enduring schism. But to today’s Sunni Muslims, many of them living under autocratic regimes, the ideal of a caliphate built on the principle of government by consent is likely to have a powerful appeal.

Another significant source of the caliphate’s appeal today is the memory it stirs of Muslim greatness. The era of the Rightly Guided Caliphs was followed by the imperial caliphates of the Umayyads and Abbasids.

“Seventy years after the Prophet’s death, this Muslim world stretched from Spain and Morocco right the way to Central Asia and to the southern bits of Pakistan, so a huge empire that was all… under the control of a single Muslim leader,” says historian Prof Hugh Kennedy. “And it’s this Muslim unity, the extent of Muslim sovereignty, that people above all look back to.”

Source: BBCNews Read more

The Kill Shot

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Godzilla’ Sunspot Takes Aim: X-Class Flare Thought To Be 

Responsible For Widespread Power Outages and Internet Problems

by Mac Slavo

“A massive sunspot dubbed ‘Active Region 2192′ has rotated into an earth-facing position. NASA says the Jupiter-sized magnetic anomaly on the sun is crackling with energy and several days ago it fired off an X-class flare right in earth’s direction. Then, yesterday, it launched another flare that was measured to be five times more powerful than the first. Though the classification of both flares was fairly low and rated in the 1.0 to 2.0 X-class range, the earth’s power and internet infrastructure has experienced some unusual effects over the last 48 hours.

As of this morning, numerous power outages have been reported by internet providers, electrical utility companies, cable companies and even large inter-networks like MSN.com and Amazon. The outages are being reported by users on Twitter all over the northern hemisphere, including from Canada all the way down to Boston. Many of the companies involved have suggested that the outages were planned or the result of wind storms, but what is curious is that at the very same time all of these outages were being reported on earth, the National Weather Service’s National Center for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) announced that their space-based satellite systems stopped reporting data.

Coincidence? Perhaps. But an alternate theory is that the solar flares emitted by AR 2192 have something to do with it. How else can we explain widespread outages for literally hundreds of thousands of people occurring almost simultaneously at key utility and internet nodes across thousands of miles on earth, and happening in tandem with a breakdown in communications from the NCEP’s weather monitoring satellite?

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Sunspot AR2192 causes Internet & Power Outages Worldwide
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An X-class solar flare designated in the 1.0 to 2.0 range doesn’t usually take down power grids and communications infrastructure, though they have been known to temporarily knock out satellites and cause problems with Global Positioning Systems and radio communications. The outages being reported by users are more than likely temporary without any permanent damage to the physical equipment involved in carrying the signals from point-to-point.

However, historical examples of large-scale outages resulting from solar flares have been well documented. In 1859 a massive solar flare known as the “Carrington Event” left newly developed Telegraph systems inoperable and reportedly even led them to explode and set stations on fire. In 1989 a geo-magnetic storm caused the collapse of Quebec’s hydro electric power station. The flare that took only 90 seconds to bring the electric company to its knees was a fairly powerful x15-Class discharge.

Given these examples, it’s not out of the question to suggest that a solar flare directly targeting Earth could potentially take out many modern day systems hooked into the grid. In fact, 18 months ago the sun emitted what researchers called a “Carrington Class” solar flare. It just slightly missed earth, but had the sunspot been earth facing at the time it could have been the Kill Shot that took the majority of the planet back to the stone age.

‘The world escaped an EMP catastrophe,’ Henry Cooper, who now heads High Frontier, a group pushing for missile defense, told Washington Secrets. ‘There had been a near miss about two weeks ago, a Carrington-class coronal mass ejection crossed the orbit of the Earth and basically just missed us,’ added Peter Vincent Pry, who served on the Congressional EMP Threat Commission.

Major Ed Dames, who has long proposed that a massive solar event known as the Kill Shot will eventually hit earth, says that when it happens, expect widespread global outages. Unlike what we experience with lower classification X-flares, however a Kill Shot will be a long-term event: “Yeah, if any particular grid goes, they’re not all going to go down at once and some will never go down. The ones that are stretched out over long wide spaces, they will. They will under the right circumstances and the right circumstances are happening real soon, watch the solar flares from (sunspot) 2192 as a harbinger of what’s coming real fast. When the grids go down, we’re looking at easily no less than 6 months, but probably 2 years. A lot can happen in terms of Mad Max scenarios.”

Source: Running ‘Cause I Can’t Fly Read more

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