Thursday, 03 August 2017 11:45

1962 Fiat 500 Jolly

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Italy's location on the Mediterranean Sea meant innumerable beachfront cities and resorts. There was a brisk trade in beach buggy conversions of regular cars by the many specialist coachbuilders throughout Italy at the time. One such specialist was Ghia (now owned by Ford), who created the Jolly conversions on Fiat's 500, 600, Multipla and Giardiniera platforms.

 

Known at home a La Spiaggina, a word difficult to translate but something like "beach-ette", the Fiat beach-buggy was marketed worldwide as the Jolly, meaning "joker" in Italian, but also meaning something light, fun, funny and pretty in several languages.

 

The car was quite expensive ($1760.00 compared to $998.00 for a standard 500) and was bought by the rich and famous (Aristotle Onassis, Yul Brynner) as yacht tenders, golf carts and estate runabouts. As a result, most surviving examples have covered low mileages only.

 

They were sold in the USA between 1958 and 1961. Considered a success, the model had a healthy run from 1958 to 1966.

 

The cars' specification included cut-down sides and windshield, a striped and fringed surrey top, and chromed body-pipework. They were available in pink, coral, white, pale yellow and sky blue. Mechanicals were standard Fiat. An "economical" version was available from 1964 to 1966 featuring normal bumpers with no pipework and solid plastic seats embossed with a fake wicker pattern.

 

This particular car was bought by a wealthy Italian artist/painter in Alassio, near Liguria, a world famous beach resort. It was personalized by him with extra wicker, a chrome rail and a custom storage compartment. A well-known Canadian Fiat enthusiast owned it for many years. Its original "Jolly" badge is the only one known to exist among the forty-odd survivors.

Saturday, 15 July 2017 11:22

Why Do Dogs Eat Dirt?

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Why Do Dogs Eat Dirt?

Canine nutrition seems fairly straightforward. Whether it’s mother’s milk, dry kibble, or moist canned food, our domestic pets have a range of healthy and appropriate options available to them. As long as it’s on our terms, dog owners are tickled to witness the odd juxtaposition of a four-legged friend consuming human foods like pizza. We are equally perplexed to see them tuck in with relish to non-food items like rocks, grass, and feces. I have watched my dog eat red clay along the lake shore and also dig a hole in the backyard only to chew happily on the soil she’s turned over.

 

To humans, dirt is something we wash off our hands. To some dogs, it seems to be a desirable snack food. In humans, the exercise of such an indiscriminate palate may be regarded as an unusual taste or as evidence of an eating disorder such as pica. The inescapable truth is that dogs are opportunistic omnivores. Given the chance and ready access, a dog can and will eat anything. Though it seems pointless to expect rationality from dogs, surely there must be a hidden logic to all this. Why do dogs eat dirt?

 

Pica in dogs

For those of you unfamiliar with the term, let’s define pica. In humans, pica is a blanket term for an eating disorder that expresses itself as a desire to eat non-traditional and non-nutritious items. Some of the most common items people ingest receive their own names. Eating poop is called coprophagia, eating stones is called lithophagia, and eating dirt is called geophagia.

 

Each is considered unnatural for people to eat, but dogs are not people. Pica is considered an aberrant behavior in humans because we are supposed to know better the things we can and should not eat. Since we know that dogs can and do eat anything from coins and sand to rubber ducks and socks, is it reasonable to assign a term like pica or geophagia to them? It is a possible answer, but an unsatisfying one.

 

Is your dog making up for a nutritional deficiency?

This is another bit of folk wisdom that refuses to go away. If my dog is eating dirt, one way to rationalize or attempt to explain it is to look at the composition of the soil itself. Perhaps there is a mineral found in dirt that the dog instinctively detects, finds, and consumes to supplement her normal diet. However, a study published in 2011 by the University of Chicago Press took all of these variables and rationales into account, at least in respect to human geophagia. They found that the type of clay most frequently eaten by humans has such little trace amounts of any healthful or nutritional minerals — calcium, iron, and zinc, specifically — that the supplemental hypothesis can easily be ruled out.

 

Eating dirt can be a learned behavior for dogs

From the time they leave the whelping box, one of the primary instruments that puppies use to interact with and explore their world is their tongue. Puppies are curious and eager to know their surroundings; smelling and sniffing provide a nice start, but without a sense of touch linked to their paws as ours is to our hands, a dog’s mouth is an even more important mode of knowledge acquisition. If they start eating dirt and are not discouraged from doing so while young, it can become a continuing habit through life.

Of course, strange eating habits can take root at any age. For dirt-eating lifers, or puppies who express a taste for it early on, a trainer might be your best bet. Proper, consistent, and positive training methods can discourage puppy curiosity from becoming a habit or a problem. Dogs are creatures of habit, and if they become accustomed to regularity in all things — mealtimes, playtimes, rest times — and know what to expect and when, it is less likely that they will engage in activities we consider unusual or unhealthy.

 

Boredom or stress can lead a dog to eat dirt

Two of the most commonly accepted answers to why dogs eat things like grass, rocks, poop, and, yes, even dirt are deceptively simple. Take a look around the home, yard, or other spaces your dogs occupy while you are away at work or school. Are the dogs alone for hours at a time, left to entertain themselves? Do they have sufficient toys to play with, puzzles to exercise their minds, or living companions to interact with? We consider activities like digging, tearing into garbage bags, or barking as destructive or unproductive behaviors, but to a dog, it’s entertainment. For a dog who spends a lot of time outside, eating dirt is one way for her to pass the time until you return, a way to lessen the strain and stress of separation anxiety.

 

Are there solutions to canine geophagia?

As we’ve seen, there are several possible explanations for why a dog might eat dirt. Answers are clearly in short supply, and involve inconclusive data or pure guesswork at the best of times. If clay consumption is a newly emerging habit, you can work, either on your own or under the guidance of a professional trainer, to develop strategies for discouraging pica in dogs. Should your dog suddenly and repeatedly exhibit a taste for dirt, or stranger and fouler things, after never previously exhibiting a taste for them, consult with a veterinarian immediately.

Can we ever totally prevent a dog from experimenting with non-foods? Unfortunately, the answer to this is a resounding no. On a very basic level, a dog is an inherently curious creature. Any new thing she encounters is just as likely to be licked, tasted, or chewed upon as it is to be ignored. The good news is that dining on dirt, especially if it’s freshly excavated after digging, presents little health risk. The kinds of parasite eggs that may be present in fecal matter typically remain above ground level. Unless you live next to a coal ash lagoon or some other waste disposal facility, where toxic elements may seep into the ground over time, there is little apparent health risk.

 

If dirt is indigestible, it presents no real danger to a dog’s health, and is likely to be passed in stool with other tiny granular refuse. Stones, rocks, or other potentially sharp objects offer greater health risks to the integrity of the dog’s digestive tract, on the way in and on the way out, than dirt does.

 

Does your dog have a taste for the earth? Share your experiences in the comments!

Wednesday, 14 June 2017 12:10

the Karma Chameleon

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George Alan O'Dowd (born 14 June 1961), known professionally as Boy George, is an English singer, songwriter, DJ, fashion designer and photographer. He is the lead singer of the Grammy and Brit Award-winning pop band Culture Club. At the height of the band's fame, during the 1980s, they recorded global hit songs such as "Do You Really Want to Hurt Me", "Time (Clock of the Heart)" and "Karma Chameleon" and George is known for his soulful voice and androgynous appearance. He was part of the English New Romantic movement which emerged in the late 1970s to the early 1980s.

 

His music is often classified as blue-eyed soul, which is influenced by rhythm and blues and reggae. He was lead singer of Jesus Loves You during the period 1989–1992. His 1990s and 2000s-era solo music has glam influences, such as David Bowie and Iggy Pop. More recently, he has released fewer music recordings, splitting his time between songwriting, DJing, writing books, designing clothes, and photography.

8 Facts on the Karma Chameleon

1. After getting kicked out of school at 15, George made a living as a model and makeup artist.

 

2. Influenced by the glam and punk era of the 1970s, George wore makeup and women's clothing during school. When he used this look to promote his band Culture Club, it wasn't all-too shocking to Brits, but it definitely turned heads in the U.S. Many Americans didn't know whether he was a man or woman.

 

3. Many of Boy George's Culture Club songs were about his secret love affair with his drummer Jon Moss.

 

4. Despite Boy George's feminine look, he was a tough guy with enough chutzpah to get into a brawl. "I think people think of me as very feminine, but I'm very masculine," he said in an interview in 1983. "I can throw a good punch. I'm taller and bigger than people expect me to be; I'm sure they expect a little fairy wearing dandelions."

 

5. Amid recording preparations of Band Aid's 1984 hit "Do They Know It's Christmas?" founder Bob Geldof had to call Boy George who was in New York to wake him up from his hangover. Apparently the singer had partied a bit too hard and missed his flight to London where they were going to record the famous track. Thankfully, George took the next flight out and showed up at 6pm, sipping on brandy to soothe his vocal chords.

 

6. Since 1988, Boy George has tried to adhere to a macrobiotic diet. After his battle with drug addiction and his stint in rehab in the early 2000s, he turned to a vegan lifestyle.

 

7. To help his sobriety, Boy George practices Buddhism and has been since 2012. "I chant every day and that definitely helps me to get things in perspective. I approach everything I do now with a lot more joy and satisfaction," he told Billboard.

 

8. Boy George appeared multiple times on the seventh season of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Why? One of the newest cast members, Dorit Kemsley, is married to the singer's manager Paul "PK" Kemsley. When Boy George isn't in London, he lives with the Kemsleys in their Beverly Hills mansion.

Saturday, 10 June 2017 12:14

The Western Han Dynasty

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The Western Han Dynasty

Formation of the Han Dynasty

By the time the Qin Dynasty collapsed in 207 BCE, eighteen separate kingdoms had declared their independence. The Han and Chu states emerged as the most powerful, but the Han state was the victor of the Chu-Han Contention, a four-year civil war. Gaozu, who had been born a peasant, founded the Han Dynasty in 202 BCE, reunifying China. 

The Han Dynasty would become one of the most important and long-lasting dynasties in all of Chinese history. It would rule China for over four hundred years, from 206 BCE-220 CE, and ushered in a golden age of peace, prosperity, and development. Today, both the majority ethnic group in China and Chinese script are called Han.

Comparison of Han to Qin

In many ways, the Han carried on policies that began in the Qin. Provincial rule occurred in both, and the Han continued Legalist rule, although in much less stricter fashion. Confucianism was banned during the Qin, but resurrected during the Han. The Qin, with its focus on the power of the state, was not shaped by religion in the same way the Han was. The Han were considered with the afterlife, and worshipped their ancestors. Both had defined social classes, but in the Han, peasants were treated with greater respect and classes were based on occupations.

The Western Han Period and Political Reform

At first the Han Dynasty established its capital at Chang'an, in western China. This Western Han period would last from 206 BCE to 9 CE, when the dynasty's rule would be briefly interrupted by rebellion and the short-lived Xin Dynasty.

Throughout the Western Han period, the Han largely continued the governing policies of the Qin, continuing to expand the bureaucracy and encouraging a centralized state. There were, however, differences between the two dynasties, and it was perhaps these differences that allowed the Han to rule for so much longer than the Qin. The Han were more interested in the lives and well-being of their subjects, and they modified some of the harsher aspects of the earlier dynasty's rule with Confucian ideals of government. Freedom of speech and writing was restored, and the more laissez-faire style of governing allowed harmony, prosperity, and population growth.

This period also saw the further development of the four-class hierarchy, called the "four occupations," which gave aristocratic scholars the highest social status, followed by farmers, then craftsmen and artisans, and finally merchants.

The family during this time was patrilineal and featured a small number of nuclear family members. Arranged, monogamous marriages were the norm for most. Sons received equal shares of family property and were often sent away when married.

Ritual sacrifices of animals and food were made to deities, spirits, and ancestors at temples and shrines. Each person was seen as having a two-part soul. The spirit-soul, which went to the afterlife paradise of immortals, called xian, and the body-soul, which remained in its earthly tomb. 

Other innovations included the first use of negative numbers in mathematics, the recording of stars and comets, the armillary sphere, which represented star movements in three dimensions, the waterwheel, and other engineering feats. 

Emperor Wu

One of the most exalted Han emperors was Emperor Wu, who ruled from 141-87 BCE. He was responsible for a great number of innovations and political and military feats.

Emperor Wu experimented with socialism, and made Confucianism the single official philosophy. The Confucian classics were reassembled and transcribed. The Confucian ideal of each person accepting his social position helped legitimize the state and made people more willing to accept its power. At the same time, these ideals encouraged the state to act justly toward its people. There was reciprocity too in the fact that the state was funded partly by land taxes (a portion of the harvest); this meant that the prosperity of the agricultural estates determined the prosperity of the Han government.

Emperor Wu also founded great government industries and transportation and delivery services, developed governmental control of profit, and imposed a 5% income tax. He created civil-service examinations to test potential government officials on their knowledge of the Confucian classics, so that bureaucrats would be chosen for their intelligence instead of their social connections. Emperor Wu also reformed the Chinese economy and nationalized the salt and iron industries, and he initiated reforms that made farming more efficient.

Through Emperor Wu's southern and western conquests, the Han Dynasty made contact with the Indian cultural sphere. Emperor Wu repelled the invading barbarians (the Xiongnu, or Huns, a nomadic-pastoralist warrior people from the Eurasian steppe), and roughly doubled the size of the empire, claiming lands that included Korea, Manchuria, and even part of Turkistan. As China pushed its borders further, trade contacts were established with lands to the west, most notably via the Silk Road.

Challenges During the Western Han Period

Nonetheless, the Han faced many challenges. Emperor Gaozu rewarded his supporters with grants of land, which started again the same problems that had brought down the Zhou Dynasty. Several rebellions broke out, the most serious of which was the Rebellion of the Seven States. Nonetheless, the Han emperors stamped out the rebellions and gradually reduced the power of the small kingdoms (though never abolished them completely).

Another major danger to the Han was the external threat of the barbarians, the most dangerous of whom were the Huns. However, the Han Dynasty was able to face these internal and external threats and survive because of the strong centralized state they had established.

 

 

The Skill and Understanding of The Jungle Ecology.

Tropical rainforests may cover only two per cent of the planet’s surface but they’re home to half of all its species, including humans.

Nevertheless, surviving in this hostile environment demands both skill and an intimate understanding of the jungle ecology.

The main impediments to survival in the jungle is not a lack of edible species, but the fact that most of the things you might want to eat live high in the canopy, 30 metres or so above a hungry human’s mouth. As a result, securing enough meat for dinner can be a constant struggle and rainforest-dwellers must develop an extensive knowledge of the plants and animal around them.

In Brazil, the Matis tribe use blowpipes to shoot their prey with poison darts. They make the darts poisonous by mixing the deadly sap of the curare vine with assorted parts of other plants, creating a missile with extraordinary killing power. And unlike shot guns, blowpipes are almost silent so a single party of hunters can bring down a whole troop of monkeys, one by one, without them even noticing.

 The Penan of Sarawak also use blowpipes in the jungle, but they don’t just limit their aim to the canopy. The Penan will often bag ground-based animals such as bearded pigs too. But with silence a must, and hunters often spread out over a wide area and separated by dense undergrowth, how on earth do they communicate? The answer is with sign posts.

The Penan have a complex sign-language in which, at its most simple, a bent twig stuck in the trail may mean 'we went this way'. At the other end of the scale might be a complex arrangement of twigs, sticks and folded leaves that communicate a need for haste, the direction to follow, the distance to travel, the state of local hunting, and the mood of the person leaving the message.

 But not everything the rainforest has to offer needs to be hunted. In Indonesia and Malaysia, the people living in the rainforest have learned to turn the inedible stem of the sago palm into sago flour, a staple food and important source of carbohydrates. Men, women and children all play their part in processing and pounding the stem, turning food preparation into an import communal activity.

While a few groups across the tropics are still nomadic, others are moving towards an increasingly settled existence, partly because of increased pressure on their lands. Since the 1980s various Penan groups, both settled and nomadic, have campaigned against the logging that has devastated their habitat.

In just 50 years, half the planet’s tropical forest has been cleared with as many as 100 species becoming extinct every day, often before they have even been discovered by science. Unless something is done to stop it, much of tribal knowledge and customs will inevitably go the same way.

 

Political controversy: Kenya's staple food has gone missing from dinner tables amid escalating food prices.

­

Welcome to my office kitchen and help yourself to some chapatis.

I'll write this as I cook and you can read it as you eat.

I'm now learning how to make chapatis - a type of flatbread that is reserved for special occasions here - because it's normally quite expensive.

Ok, so it says on this internet recipe that I'll need:

•2 cups of wheat flour

•1 cup of lukewarm water

•1 tablespoon of salt

And this will give me about 10 chapatis. Excellent!

So why am I making chapatis?

Because the national staple food, ugali, is proving to be out of reach for many people.

They call it foofoo in West Africa, sadza in Zimbabwe or nshima in other parts of southern Africa.

Ugali is made from maize flour - and maize has been scarce in the last few weeks in Kenya, forcing the price of its flour to almost double.

But the price of its close cousin, wheat flour, is friendlier. With ugali becoming unaffordable, many Kenyans have switched to chapatis.

For ugali all you need is boiling water, maize flour and strong hands to pound, mash, and knock the stuff into some edible form. Chapatis on the other hand require skill…

Let's see - my recipe says I should pour the wheat flour, salt, some sugar and cooking oil into a bowl and mix the ingredients together… ok, that's done!

As politicians in many parts of Africa know, you can mess with the economy and meddle with the justice system, but you should never ever play around with the people's staple food.

So when the Kenyan government saw the price of maize flour spiral to one of its highest points in over six years, it decided to act.

It removed duty on the importation of maize and subsidised local millers to produce cheaper maize flour.

The government initially told its people that it had imported almost half a million bags of maize from Mexico in a record time of two days.

This was until someone pointed out that Mexico is not a neighbouring country and it would have required almost six weeks for the shipment to arrive in the port of Mombasa from Mexico.

This was the start of an ugly game of ugali wars.

Sorry, give me a moment as I check on my chapatis. I need to place the dough into a bowl and cover it with a cloth to give it time to come together. That was quite easy!

Back to ugali politics.

The general election in Kenya is in early August.

No African quite believes that any government would risk a food shortage this close to an election.

So, as some were praising the food subsidies as the actions of a caring government, critics have jumped in accusing the government of creating an artificial shortage in order to be seen as the angel of mercy coming to the aid of hungry Kenyans.

So why exactly is ugali missing from my plate?

 

In my chapati wisdom, the explanation has nothing to do with erratic weather patterns, nor poor food production.

 

We are simply victims of the ever-hungry cartels that have exploited all sectors of the Kenyan economy with impunity.

 

After gobbling up public finances in shady tender deals and manipulating other areas of production and service delivery, the cartels turned their attention to a basic commodity - maize.

 

The powerful cartels capitalise on one big weakness among Kenyans - their short memory.

 

History lessons

 

They may not remember that in 1964, just one year after independence, one of Kenya's first major scandals revolved around maize shortage.

 

The then minister for agriculture, the late Paul Ngei was accused of abusing his office and smuggling maize leading to shortages in 1964 and 1965.

 

The modern cartels have been accused of using similar tactics of mopping maize from the market, creating a shortage and then reselling the commodity at a higher price.

 

It says here that I should divide the dough into 10 small balls and dip them into flour. Each ball should have a diameter of around 8 centimetres. Who measures this kind thing!

Back to the shadowy world of the cartels.

They understand the politics of the stomach, that food is at the heart of the Kenyan psyche and dominates social interactions.

Bribes are known as chai or tea.

When an ethnic group is vying for political office, it will argue that it is "our time to eat".

When seeking the approval of or official documentation from a government office, you'll hear that the official in charge is "hungry" - meaning for some little food (a fee) he or she can be persuaded to speed up the process.

I'm on chapati number nine so not long to go now before we eat…

By September last year, it was well known that the drought affecting the Horn of Africa would mean food problems in Kenya in 2017.

 

Indeed in February, President Kenyatta declared the drought a national disaster and warned that those found taking advantage of the situation to enrich themselves would be punished.

 

Unfortunately because the government did not present a clear agenda for countering the effects of the drought, the cartels moved in.

 

Which is why a 2kg bag of maize flour presented to a hungry voter turns into a Yes vote for the political donor at the ballot box.

 

So how exactly did the maize shortage come about?

 

In other words, how did ugali go missing from my plate?

 

We don't know.

 

Instead of answers and data, the president said the shortage of maize and the high food prices date back to 2011 and the man to blame was the then Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

 

Mr Odinga, who is running against President Kenyatta in the August's vote, responded by saying: "Don't blame me, blame corruption in your government for the current high prices of food".

None of this back and forth is making ugali any cheaper, so let me see how my chapatis are doing.

They've all turned into the golden-brown colour I was aiming for… not bad at all for a trainee chef!

We're facing the prospects of the most expensive election in Kenya's history.

Politicians are pouring insane amounts of money into the economy thus driving up inflation.

Banks have slowed down their lending and people's wages have stagnated.

Politically, stakes are extremely high and we are already seeing signs of violence ahead of the elections.

Election year in Kenya historically slows down the economy.

The last thing Kenyans need today is for ugali to become an endangered dish.

But just in case, I'm now mastering the art of making of chapattis.

 

 

Monday, 20 March 2017 13:21

The Pledge of Allegiance

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The Pledge of Allegiance

The Pledge of Allegiance has been used in the United States for over 100 years, yet the 31-word oath recited today differs significantly from the original draft. The idea of a verbal vow to the American flag first gained traction in 1885, when a Civil War veteran named Colonel George Balch devised a version that read, “We give our heads and our hearts to God and our country; one country, one language, one flag.”

Several schools adopted Balch’s pledge, but it was soon supplanted by a salute composed by Francis Bellamy, a Christian socialist and former Baptist minister. In 1892, while working for a magazine called “Youth’s Companion,” Bellamy was enlisted to write a new pledge for use in patriotic celebrations surrounding the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the New World. After puzzling over the project—he initially considered incorporating the French Revolution motto “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”—he penned an oath that read, “I pledge allegiance to my flag and the republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

The Bellamy pledge gained popularity in public schools during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but it continued to undergo occasional tweaks and revisions. In 1923 and 1924, the National Flag Conference changed the wording to read, “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.” In 1942, meanwhile, Congress officially adopted the pledge and decreed that it should be recited while holding the right hand over the heart. Before then, the pledge had included a so-called “Bellamy salute”—extending the right arm toward the flag with the hand outstretched—but with the rise of fascism in Europe, many had noted that the gesture too closely resembled a Nazi salute.

A final revision to the national oath came in 1954 during the Cold War. In response to lobbying by religious groups and fraternal organizations—and with the support of President Dwight D. Eisenhower—Congress passed a new bill that added the words “under God.” Despite occasional legal challenges from students and secular groups, the text of the Pledge of Allegiance has remained unchanged ever since.

 

Saturday, 11 March 2017 10:33

80 million years of evolution

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80 million years of evolution

Scientists discover coin-sized night frogs in India

New species of tiny frogs that can fit comfortably on a coin have been discovered in India.

Seven new species of frog -- some of the smallest in the world -- were found after five years of searching in the Western Ghats, a mountain range in Southwestern India known to be a biodiversity hotspot.

 

They might have just been discovered but their future is already in doubt, according to Professor SD Biju from the University of Delhi, who led the study.

"Out of the seven new species, five are facing considerable anthropogenic threats and require immediate conservation prioritization,"

The Thumbelinas of the frog world took five years to discover. This is the Robinmoore's Night Frog (Nyctibatrachus robinmoorei) sitting on an Indian five rupee coin.

They sound like insects

Belonging to the night frog genus, four of the new species are just 12.2 to 15.4 millimeters long.

They bring the number of species in the genus to 35, and reveal greater diversity than previously thought. Some night frogs can be up to 10 times bigger than their minute cousins.

Tiny night frogs prefer land and do not have webbed feet. This is the Manalar Night Frog (Nyctibatrachus manalari).

While their larger cousins prefer rapid streams, the new species were found under marsh vegetation and damp forest leaf litter. Unlike their more aquatic peers, they do not have webbed feet.

"The miniature species are locally abundant and fairly common but they have probably been overlooked because of their extremely small size, secretive habitats and insect-like calls," said Sonali Garg, who undertook the study as part of her PHD research.

80 million years of evolution

Night frogs are native to the Western Ghats region and belong to an ancient frog group that dates back 70 to 80 million years.

SD Biju from University of Delhi said that the discovery of the new species revealed insights into their evolution and preferred habitats.

"These smaller species occupy smaller niches, call like insects and lay fewer eggs [than their larger peers]"

Found in a biodiversity hotspot, five of the seven discovered species face anthropogenic threat.

Among the evolutionary advantages of miniaturization in animals were opportunities to occupy new habitats and exploit alternate food sources, he said.

Over 1,581 new species of amphibians have been discovered worldwide in the last decade, with the highest number coming from the Brazilian Atlantic Forest, followed by the Western Ghats region.

But humanity's new found appreciation for the diversity of these species might be short lived, with many facing extinction.

"Over 32%, that is one-third of the Western Ghats frogs, are already threatened with extinction,"

 

 

Before 'Loving', Kinney case crossed the color line

In 1967, Virginia couple Richard and Mildred Loving prevailed in their fight to overturn the ban on interracial marriages in their state, and the 2016 movie Loving chronicles their harrowing experiences.

 

Eighty-seven years earlier, another courageous couple also went to court to try to change Virginia law prohibiting marriages between blacks and whites, but with far less success.

 

According to the 1878 Virginia Court of Appeals case Kinney v. Commonwealth, Andrew Kinney was a blacksmith who fell in love with Mahala Miller around 1866. Kinney was black and Miller white, which made their relationship illegal, but they boldly moved in together as husband and wife near Churchville. Their first son, William, was born the following year, and another son, James, two years later.

Just as Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter traveled to Washington, D.C., in 1958 to marry, so did Andrew and Mahala on Nov. 4, 1874, when mixed-race marriages became legal there. After a 10-day honeymoon, they returned to Churchville and had four more boys: John in 1874, Alonzo (who died shortly after birth) in 1875, Tom in 1876 and Harrison in 1877.

 

But their quiet life in the foothills of the Alleghany Mountains was interrupted in September 1877 when they were charged with "lewd and lascivious cohabitation" and summoned to Augusta County Court for violating Virginia's miscegenation law.

 

On Feb. 2, 1878, Kinney and Miller were found guilty of miscegenation and fined $500 each. Their attorney, J. M. Quarles, immediately appealed to the Circuit Court, which affirmed the judgment of the county court, as did the Supreme Court of Appeals.

Court transcripts show the Kinneys' legal argument: Since they were married in the District of Columbia, where mixed-race marriage was legal, their marriage had to be declared valid once they returned to Virginia. The judge believed otherwise.

 

"Upon the whole case, I am of the opinion that the marriage celebrated in the District of Columbia between Andrew Kinney and Mahala Miller, though lawful there ... is invalid here," wrote Judge Joseph Christian, "and that said marriage was a mere evasion of the laws of this state, and cannot be pleaded in bar of a criminal prosecution here."

 

If Andrew and Mahala wanted to legally remain husband and wife, Christian ruled, they would have to move to a state or country that would recognize their union.

 

"Both cases, the Kinneys' and the Lovings', went to the Virginia Supreme Court on appeal," says Peter Wallenstein, a professor of history at Virginia Tech and author of two books on the Lovings and the history of laws against interracial marriage. "Both couples lost there. In a huge difference, though, the Lovings were able to take their case to the U.S. Supreme Court. There, the justices declared such laws as had ensnared the Kinneys and the Lovings no longer enforceable -- as a denial, on the impermissible basis of their racial identities, of a couple's fundamental right to marry."

 

Although Andrew and Mahala were out of legal options, they refused to move or split up. She took the last name Kinney, they paid the fines, and they defiantly remained at their Churchville home. The 1880 U.S. Census lists them as still living there with their five sons and with Mahala's sister, Sis Carrol. Census documents list Andrew as black, Mahala as white and their five sons as "Mu" for "mulatto."

 

After the Kinney case, Virginia legislators moved to make the penalties for interracial marriage more severe, Wallenstein says. Legislation passed in 1878 not only made interracial marriage a crime, but also made it illegal to leave the state in order to evade the law. Doing so was punishable by two to five years in prison.

 

"It is absolutely clear ... that the outcome the Lovings obtained from the high court was not a possibility in the time of the Kinneys," Wallenstein says. "The Lovings' persistence -- and their good luck, including their timing -- put an end to all such laws across America."

Stem Cells From Fat May Be Used in Anti-Aging Treatments


Anti-aging treatments tend to be big business and researchers are always looking for new ways to combat the signs of aging. In a new study from the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, it would seem that stem cells that are taken from fat may in fact be used to make effective anti-aging treatments. While looking at the way cells age chronologically, they were able to determine that there could be an added benefit to these cells in preventing the signs of getting older. The study findings were published in the journal Stem Cells.

Stem cells from fat could potentially be more effective in anti-aging treatments

According to researchers, when they take adult stem cells from human fat, it ends up being far more stable than when it is taken from other cells. Looking at chronological aging of cells and their natural life cycle, the researchers developed a system to store and collect them without needing to manipulate them in order to do an effective study. What they found was that stem cells from fat are able to make more proteins than they had previously believed. This is important because it gives them the ability to not only maintain their overall stability, but to also replicate. They found that no matter how old the person was when the cells were collected, this remained true.

The lead author of the study and director of Basic Science Research in the Center for Human Appearance at the University, Dr. Ivona Percec, shared that what they found was that these particular cells are quite robust, even when the patients they are collected from are older. She said it also means these stem cells can possibly be used in the future safely since they do not require much maintenance or manipulation. According to the doctor, unlike gathering these cells from other areas, the ones gathered from fat stay consistent when the multiply no matter what the age is.

All this means is that fat derived stem cells are even more stable and helpful in terms of studying how one ages naturally. While many anti-aging products may already use some form of these cells in their treatments, moving forward it looks like there could be a more effective alternative in the form of the cells if they are collected from fat instead. Although these stem cells have not yet been directly approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in anti-aging treatments, with more research into how they work and how safe they can be, it is possible that at some point they will be approved and will end up being more effective than the cells currently in use.

 

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