Cockroach ancestor depicted in 3-D

An early ancestor of the cockroach that lived around 300 million years ago is unveiled in unprecedented detail in a new three-dimensional ‘virtual fossil’ model, in research published in the journal Biology Letters.

Scientists at Imperial College London have made a comprehensive 3D model of a fossilised specimen called Archimylacris eggintoni, which is an ancient ancestor of modern cockroaches, mantises and termites. This insect scuttled around on Earth during the Carboniferous period 359 – 299 million years ago, which was a time when life had recently emerged from the oceans to live on land…

The lead author of the study, Mr Russell Garwood, a PhD student from the Department of Earth Science and Engineering at Imperial College London, says:

“The Carboniferous period is sometimes referred to as the age of the cockroach because fossils of Archimylacris eggintoni and its relatives are amongst the most common insects from this time period. They are found all over the world. People joke about it being impossible to kill cockroaches and our 3D model almost brings this one back to life. Thanks to our 3D modelling process, we can see how Archimylacris eggintoni’s limbs were well adapted for all terrains, as it was not only adept in the air but also very agile on the ground.”

The researchers created their images using a CT scanning device, based at the Natural History Museum in London, which enabled them to take 3142 x-rays of the fossil and compile the images into an accurate 3D model, creating a ‘virtual fossil’ of the creature, using specially designed computer software. The scientists used the models to visualise the Archimylacris eggintoni’s legs, antennae, mouth parts and body, which had never been seen by human eyes before…

Mr Garwood adds: “We now think this ancient ancestor of the cockroach spent most of the day on the forest floor, living in and eating lots of rotting plant and insect matter, which was probably the bug equivalent of heaven. We think it could have used its speed to evade predators and its climbing abilities to scale trees and lay eggs on leaves, much in the same way that modern forest cockroaches do today.”

Now that they’ve wired the basic routine, they will be using the same techniques to examine other fossils, other insects – to bring them to 3D representation.

Chocolate makes your liver happy!

Cocoa-rich dark chocolate could be prescribed for people with liver cirrhosis in future, following the latest research to show potential health benefits of chocolate.

Spanish researchers say that eating dark chocolate capped the usual after-meal rise in abdominal blood pressure, which can reach dangerous levels in cirrhotic patients and, in severe cases, lead to blood vessel rupture.

Antioxidants called flavanols found in cocoa are believed to be the reason why chocolate is good for blood pressure because the chemicals help the smooth muscle cells of the blood vessels to relax and widen.

A study of 21 patients with end-stage liver disease found those given a meal containing 85 percent-cocoa dark chocolate had a markedly smaller rise in blood pressure in the liver, or portal hypertension, than those given white chocolate…

The results were presented at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of the Liver in Vienna and follow a number of earlier scientific studies suggesting that dark chocolate also promotes heart health.

All the reasons are worthwhile. Chocolate rules!

A third to half of my daily chocolate intake is 85%-cocoa. Makes the 72% stuff taste like milk chocolate. 🙂

Democrats push to require campaign bankroll disclosure

The White House and leading Democrats in Congress are close to proposing legislation that would force private companies and groups to disclose their behind-the-scenes financial involvement in political campaigns and advertising…

The legislation is being developed in response to a major Supreme Court decision in January that found that the government could not ban corporations from spending in political campaigns.

The decision, a break from precedent, drew strong personal protest from President Obama. White House and Congressional leaders have been working for the last three months to find a way to stem what they predict will be a flood of corporate money flowing into November’s midterm elections.

Democrats say they think the debate gives them an attractive political issue. It allows them to position themselves against Wall Street and corporate money in politics while railing against what they view as the Supreme Court’s pro-business stance just as a new vacancy has opened on the court…

As one example of the types of spending they want disclosed, officials pointed to the millions of dollars some of the nation’s biggest insurance companies gave to the Chamber of Commerce to help underwrite advertisements attacking the Obama administration’s health care plan.

The Democrats’ proposal would require corporations or groups like labor unions, advocacy groups and so-called 527 organizations that are involved in political expenditures to identify all their financial donors or set up separate accounts to handle political spending and identify the donors to that account…

To counter the Republican-owned Supreme Court decision on campaign funding, it looks as if there really will be proposals for transparency, revealing who the big money supports.

Anyone hazard a guess on what the vote will be from the Party of NO?

Christian music star comes back – and comes out

Rumors were rampant when Christian music artist Jennifer Knapp walked away from a successful career seven years ago.

After selling about a million records and winning at Christian music’s prestigious Dove Awards in 1999, the Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter simply vanished in 2003 — leaving fans wondering where she had gone. There were countless theories as to why Knapp checked out, including the possibility of illness.

But the one that raised the most ruckus among her die-hard fans was the one which proved to be true: Jennifer Knapp is gay.

This week Knapp burst back onto the music scene with news of a comeback and a coming out. Her new album will be released in May, and she has revealed that she has been in a same-sex relationship for the past eight years.

The revelation rocked the Christian music scene, where Knapp was a darling of fans and critics before her self-imposed exile. The intensely private singer said she’s not at all surprised by the shock waves.

“I’m aware that the evangelical community has problems with divorce and many other facets of their artists, let alone homosexuality,” Knapp said. “I really felt a strong obligation to be able to address that because for many people, it was really clear that they wouldn’t participate in buying a record because it was against their beliefs.”

“I think some Christians will totally avoid [Knapp] and say that she is the devil and all that, but there are some that are more open who will embrace her new material,” Lexi said. “Then she will find a new audience.”

One with brains, an education beyond Bible verses and less hypocrisy – would seem inevitable.

All 41 Senate Republicans oppose financial reform

All 41 Republican members of the U.S. Senate have signed a letter, obtained by Reuters on Friday, opposing a Democratic financial reform bill…

“We are united in our opposition to the partisan legislation reported by the Senate Banking Committee,” said the letter addressed to Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid.

“As currently constructed, this bill allows for endless taxpayer bailouts of Wall Street and establishes new and unlimited regulatory powers that will stifle small businesses and community banks,” the letter said.

Which is a lie – an historic lie. Since [1] the bill provides only for so-called bailouts with the participation of Congress. Uh, just like the last one. And [2] it restores regulatory powers that have existed for over a half-century – that were squashed by Republican and Democrats in bed with Wall Street lobbyists.

It comes as Democrats move to bring their 1,336-page bill, hammered out over months of debate and bipartisan negotiations, to the Senate floor for a vote, expected this month.

Democrats want to tighten government regulation of banks and capital markets to prevent a repeat of the 2007-2009 financial crisis that tipped the U.S. economy into a deep recession and unleashed a global drive for reforms.

Republicans want more money from their corporate handlers.

Man in South Carolina motel ‘assaulted with python’


S.C. snake handler, Tony Smith

Police in South Carolina have arrested a man who allegedly assaulted another guest at a motel with a four-ft python after a row over loud music.

The alleged victim, who was not badly injured, told police he had complained about music coming from the other man’s room and they had had a row.

Hours later, the man came up to him from behind, tapped his shoulder and thrust the snake in his face, he said.

He was so shaken, he added, that he had to take a three-hour shower afterwards.

Probably took two of those hours to scrape out his shorts!