Cute dogs to cheer you up.
Enjoy these pictures of awesome cosplayers and their cool outfits.
Random humor to cheer up your work week…
Scotland decides whether or not to leave the UK and become an independent country. As an Irishman, I too come from a country that is Celtic, heavy drinking, English hating roughnecks. The difference is, we have our own island… The Scots share the northern tip of the British Isle. You kin take away me life, but you kin no take away me kilt or my single malt…
Registered voters in Scotland can vote on the referendum at their neighborhood polling station from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Votes will be counted immediately after the polls close; results are expected to be announced early Friday morning. The ballot is straightforward:
Source: Scotland Independence Referendum Bill, The Scottish Parliament
If the outcome is “yes,” the Scottish government will start an 18-month process to final independence, scheduled to take effect in March 2016. This will allow time to legally transfer power to the Scottish Parliament and reach agreement with the rest of Britain, the European Union and other international partners. An independent Scotland would then hold its first parliamentary election on May 5, 2016.
Scotland and Britain have run a deficit for the last five years, but Scotland’s has been smaller. Tax revenue has been higher in Scotland over the same period of time. In 2011-12, the most recent year available, tax receipts per person were £10,700, while in Britain they were £9,000.
Total tax revenue per person
Source: Scotland’s Future (Annex C Scotland’s Public Finances)
Scotland’s largest budget expenses are for social protection, which include health spending, welfare and state pensions. Scotland is currently operating under Britain’s Welfare Reform Act 2012, which includes allowances for the unemployed, the disabled and the poor. The Scottish government has expressed concern that independence from Britain could disrupt welfare services.
An independent Scotland would gain control of the oil and gas revenues within its boundaries. These revenues, which now go to the British Treasury, have made up 12 percent to 21 percent of Scotland’s total public sector revenue in the last 10 years. The British government argues that revenue from North Sea oil and gas has fallen in recent years due to declining production — and by staying with Britain, Scotland would be protected from the industry’s unpredictability.
Scotland has three options: continue using the British pound sterling, establish its own currency or join the euro. The Fiscal Commission set up by the Scottish government proposed that retaining the pound would be the best option because of the close economic ties with Britain. However, Britain would have to agree.
Scotland has 59 seats out of 650 in the Westminster Parliament. Though Scotland has elected more liberal candidates, they are often overshadowed by a Conservative majority in Parliament.
By separating from Britain, Scots would be able to elect their own Parliament to decide all national matters. Even though Scotland created a limited Parliament in 1998, certain issues, like benefits, social security, defense, employment and the oil and gas industry, can be decided only by the British Parliament.
The British government suggests that Scotland could push for further devolution without separation, similar to the 2012 Scotland Act that gave more power to the Scottish Parliament.
Party breakdown in British Parliament, 2010 Election
Source: British Parliament
The Scottish government has outlined a plan to negotiate for membership in the European Union if the referendum passes. As an independent member, Scotland would be able to make its own industries and finances a priority in European Union negotiations. But by staying with Britain, Scotland would continue to benefit from being one of the union’s powerful “big four” nations.
Using powerful ground-penetrating radar, investigators working around Stonehenge have detected a trove of previously unknown burial mounds, chapels, shrines, pits — and most remarkable of all — a massive megalithic monument made up of more than 50 giant stones buried along a 1,082-foot-long c-shaped enclosure.
This news is unreal — and it’s resetting virtually everything we thought we knew about Stonehenge. Just a week after finding out that Stonehenge was once a complete circle, archaeologists from Birmingham and Bradford universities, and from the Ludwig Boltzman Institute in Vienna, have shattered the image of Stonehenge as a desolate and lonely place.
After four years of painstaking effort, and by using a magnetometer, a ground-penetrating radar (GPR), and a 3D laser scanner, archaeologists have shown that Stonehenge was once a sprawling complex that extended for miles.
And then there’s the previously unknown “super henge,” a monument located just two miles from Stonehenge. Scans suggest that each buried stone is about three meters (10 feet) long and 1.5 meters (5 feet) wide. The stones are positioned horizontally, not vertically, but it’s conceivable that they originally stood upright like other standing stones. The archaeologists suspect they were brought to the site shortly before 2,500 BC.
The Independent reports:
The c-shaped enclosure – more than 330 metres wide and over 400 metres long – faced directly towards the River Avon. The monument was later converted from a c-shaped to a roughly circular enclosure, now known as Durrington Walls – Britain’s largest pre-historic henge, roughly 12 times the size of Stonehenge itself.
As a religious complex, it would almost certainly have had a deeply spiritual and ritual connection with the river. But precisely why is a complete mystery, although it is possible that that particular stretch of water was regarded as a deity.
As for the other henge-like Neolithic and Bronze Age religious shrines, they range between 10 and 30 meters ( 32 to 100 feet) in diameter. Scans also revealed around 20 large ritual pits, each up to five meters (16 feet) in diameter. More than a half dozen Bronze Age burial mounds were discovered, along with four Iron Age shrines or tombs, and a half dozen Bronze Age and Iron Age domestic or livestock enclosures.
Under one of the mounds, the investigators identified a 33 meter (108 feet)-long timber building dated at about 6,000 years old. It was likely used for ritual burials and related practices.
“[The building] has three rows of roof-bearing posts. It is around 300 square metres and slightly trapezoidal, which is interesting because in the same period on the continent, about 100 to 200 years earlier, we also find this type of trapezoidal building related to megaliths [giant stones],” noted Wolfgang Neubauer of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute in a BBC article.
The monuments and structures were not all built at the same time, so the entire complex was not conceived or planned as a whole. Further analysis will reveal exactly how the site evolved through the ages.
A two-part BBC Two documentary titled “Operation Stonehenge: What Lies Beneath” will be shown this coming Thursday evening and next Thursday. Many more details of the investigation’s new discoveries are expected to be revealed.
All images via BBC.
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Thanks to my awesome friend and published author Amy Nichols for pointing this out on Facebook.
No matter the quality of your prose, the act of writing itself leads to strong physical and mental health benefits, like long-term improvements in mood, stress levels and depressive symptoms. In a 2005 study on the emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing, researchers found that just 15 to 20 minutes of writing three to five times over the course of the four-month study was enough to make a difference.
By writing about traumatic, stressful or emotional events, participants were significantly more likely to have fewer illnesses and be less affected by trauma. Participants ultimately spent less time in the hospital, enjoyed lower blood pressure and had better liver functionality than their counterparts.
It turns out writing can make physical wounds heal faster as well. In 2013, New Zealand researchersmonitored the recovery of wounds from medically necessary biopsies on 49 healthy adults. The adults wrote about their thoughts and feelings for just 20 minutes, three days in a row, two weeks before the biopsy. Eleven days later, 76% of the group that wrote had fully healed. Fifty-eight percent of the control group had not recovered. The study concluded that writing about distressing events helped participants make sense of the events and reduce distress.
Even those who suffer from specific diseases can improve their health through writing. Studies have shown that people with asthma who write have fewer attacks than those who don’t; AIDS patients who write have higher T-cell counts. Cancer patients who write have more optimistic perspectives and improved quality of life.
So what is it about writing that makes it so great for you?
James W. Pennebaker has been conducting research on writing to heal for years at the University of Texas at Austin. “When people are given the opportunity to write about emotional upheavals, they often experience improved health,” Pennebaker writes. “They go to the doctor less. They have changes in immune function.”
Why? Pennebaker believes this act of expressive writing allows people to take a step back and evaluate their lives. Instead of obsessing unhealthily over an event, they can focus on moving forward. By doing so, stress levels go down and health correspondingly goes up.
You don’t have to be a serious novelist or constantly reflecting on your life’s most traumatic moments to get these great benefits. Even blogging or journaling is enough to see results. One study found that blogging might trigger dopamine release, similar to the effect from running or listening to music.
From long-term health improvements to short-term benefits like sleeping better, it’s official: Writers are doing something right.
If President Obama asked you tomorrow to join the volunteers going to West Africa to treat Ebola and offered you substantial training and pay would you go? You don’t have to answer for me, just for yourself. I will tell you, it scares the crap out of me.
When the Ebola outbreak first started in West Africa I was shocked and disturbed by the number of memes on Facebook making light of the threat because it is only spread through fluids. I spoke up early and indicated how naive that view was. Unfortunately, I was correct. Here are two stories…
Ebola could arrive in US as soon as this month
By Arden Dier
Published September 08, 2014
The study looked at global flight patterns and passenger screening and found that the chance of at least one case arriving in the country by Sept. 22 was as high as 18 percent, NPR reports.
“What is happening in West Africa is going to get here. We can’t escape that at this point,” the study’s lead author says, adding it would likely occur in “small clusters of cases, between one and three.” The study also points to a 25 percent to 28 percent chance of the virus reaching the United Kingdom and a 50 percent chance of it spreading to Ghana before the month is over.
If the virus isn’t contained, the likelihood of its spread will “increase consistently,” the study notes. On a more optimistic note, Sacra’s wife says, “Rick is clearly sick” but “was in good spirits and he walked onto the plane” that took him to Nebraska.
“We are really encouraged by that news.” (Meanwhile, Sierra Leone is going on lockdown to fight Ebola.)
US works to step up Ebola aid, preps hospitals for potential patients
With growing criticism that the world still is not acting fast enough against the surging Ebola epidemic, President Barack Obama has called the outbreak a national security priority.
Obama is to travel to Atlanta on Tuesday to address the Ebola crisis during a visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the White House said. During his visit, Obama is to be briefed about the outbreak and discuss the U.S. response with officials.
The administration hasn’t said how big a role the military ultimately will play – and it’s not clear how quickly additional promised help will arrive in West Africa.
“This is also not everything we can and should be doing,” Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., who chairs a Foreign Relations subcommittee that oversees African issues, told the Senate last week.
He called for expanded military efforts and for Obama to appoint someone to coordinate the entire government’s Ebola response.
“I’ve heard from organizations that have worked to transport donated supplies and can fill cargo plane after cargo plane but are having difficulty getting it all to West Africa,” Coons added, urging government assistance.
Supplies aren’t the greatest need: “Trained health professionals for these Ebola treatment units is a critical shortage,” said Dr. Steve Monroe of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC.
Aiming to spur them, the CDC is beginning to train volunteer health workers headed for West Africa on how to stay safe, Monroe said. CDC sent its own staff to learn from Doctors Without Borders, which has the most experience in Ebola outbreaks. CDC will offer the course at a facility in Anniston, Alabama, for the next few months, teaching infection-control and self-protection and letting volunteers – expected to be mostly from nongovernment aid groups – practice patient triage.
“It’s gone beyond an Ebola crisis to a humanitarian crisis. It does require more of a U.S. government-wide response, more than just CDC,” Monroe said.
Here are some questions and answers about that response:
Q: What is the U.S. contributing?
A: The U.S. government has spent more than $100 million so far, said Ned Price of the National Security Council. Last week, the U.S. Agency for International Development announced it would spend up to $75 million more to provide 1,000 treatment beds in Liberia, the worst-hit country, and 130,000 protective suits for health workers.
The Obama administration has asked Congress for another $88 million to send additional supplies and public health experts, and to develop potential Ebola medications and vaccines.
Also, the State Department has signed a six-month contract, estimated at up to $4.9 million, for a Georgia-based air ambulance to be on call to evacuate any Ebola-infected government employees, and other U.S. aid workers when possible.
“The ability to evacuate patients infected with the Ebola virus is a critical capability,” said Dr. William Walters, the State Department’s director of operational medicine.
Q: Beyond delivering supplies, what’s happening on the ground?
A: The CDC currently has 103 staffers in West Africa working on outbreak control and plans to send about 50 more. They help to track contacts of Ebola patients, train local health workers in infection control and help airport authorities screen whether anyone at high risk of Ebola is attempting to leave.
Two of the CDC workers are in Ivory Coast to try to stay ahead of the virus, helping health authorities prepare in case an Ebola patient crosses the border into that country.
Q: What are the U.S. military’s plans?
A: The Defense Department has provided more than 10,000 Ebola test kits to the region and plans to set up a 25-bed field hospital in the Liberian capital for infected health care workers.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby suggested Friday that more could be coming.
“The Department of Defense has capabilities that might prove helpful,” he said, adding, “We’re having those discussions right now.”
Q: Will Ebola come here?
A: U.S. health officials are preparing in case an individual traveler arrives unknowingly infected but say they’re confident there won’t be an outbreak here.
People boarding planes in the outbreak zone are checked for fever, but symptoms can begin up to 21 days after exposure. Ebola isn’t contagious until symptoms begin, and it takes close contact with bodily fluids to spread.
Q: Where would sick travelers be treated? The U.S. only has four of those isolation units where Ebola-stricken aid workers were treated.
A: “There’s still a perception in the public that the only place these people can be treated is at one of these specialized facilities like the one at Emory or Nebraska, and that’s just not the case,” Monroe said. “We are confident that any hospital in the U.S. can care for” an Ebola patient.
After all, five U.S. cases of similar hemorrhagic viruses – one Marburg virus, the others Lassa fever – have been treated in the past decade.
The CDC is telling hospitals to ask about travel if someone has suspicious symptoms, to put the person in a private room with a separate bathroom while asking CDC about testing and to wear a gown, mask and eye protection when delivering care.
“This virus is completely inactivated by all the normal disinfectants used in a hospital setting,” Monroe noted.