Here are a few things I have found over the years. Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.
During an aerial tour Friday, thermal-imaging photographers might have found two German villages settled in Taft (Louisiana) around 1719 and abandoned a few years later; St. Charles Parish history buffs and a thermal photographer say.
"It went off pretty good," said John Polk, who is president of the Louisiana Archaeological Society.
An early look at the thermal-imaging photos showed some "anomalies" at the area where historians say one of the villages was located, Polk said.
"We don't know for sure," Polk said, "but history tells us this is where it's at."
Barbara Morris, head of Real Time Thermal Imaging LLC, explained that an "anomaly" is caused by a difference in temperature that might indicate where cultural activity took place years ago. For example, a black-and-white photo of unmarked graves might show parallel rectangular patterns, Morris said.
"When anything has been disturbed, it's going to maintain a different temperature," Morris said. "It will come up as a different shade of gray."
Morris said her thermal-imaging camera can pick up 264 shades of gray: "We help scan a large area so archaeologists can go in and dig," she said.
Between 150 and 200 German immigrants established the two villages in Taft around 1719, Polk said. A cemetary ran between the two villages, which were three-fourths of a mile to one and a half miles from the Mississippi River, he said.
Three years after immigrants settled the villages, a hurricane caused severe damage and chased many of the residents to higher land.
-Times Picayune newspaper, date unknown
Juan Cabello takes pride in not using a cell phone or the Internet to communicate. Instead, he puckers up and whistles.
Cabello is a "silbador," until recently a dying breed on tiny, mountainous La Gomera, one of Spain's Canary Islands off West Africa. Like his father and grandfather before him, Cabello, 50, knows "Silbo Gomero," a language that's whistled, not spoken, and can be heard more than two miles away.
This chirpy brand of chatter is thought to have come over with early African settlers 2,500 years ago. Now, educators are working hard to save it from extinction by making schoolchildren study it up to age 14.
Silbo -- the word comes from Spanish verb silbar, meaning to whistle -- features four "vowels" and four "consonants" that can be strung together to form more than 4,000 words. It sounds just like bird conversation, and Cabello said it has plenty of uses.
"I use it for everything: to call to my wife, to tell my kids something, to find a friend if we get lost in a crowd," Cabello said.
In fact, he makes a living off silbo, performing daily exhibitions at a restaurant on the island of 147 square miles and 19,000 people. A snatch of dialogue in Silbo is posted at www.agulo.net/silbo/silbo.mp3 and translates as follows:
"Look, go tell Julio to bring the castanets."
"OK. Hey, Julio!"
"Lili says you should go get the kids and have them bring the castanets for the party."
"OK, OK, OK."
Silbo was once used throughout the hilly terrain of La Gomera as an ingenious way of communicating over long distances. A strong whistle saved peasants from trekking over hill and dale to send messages or news to neighbors.
Then came the phone, and it's hard to know how many people use Silbo these days.
"A lot of people think they do, but there is a very small group who can truly communicate through Silbo and understand Silbo," said Manuel Carreiras, a psychology professor from the island of Tenerife. he specializes in how the brain processes language and has studied Silbo.
Since 1999, Silbo has been a required language in La Gomera's elementary schools. Some 3,000 students are studying it 25 minutes a week -- enough to teach the basics, said Eugenio Darias, a Silbo teacher and director of the island's Silbo program.
"There are few really good silbadors so far, but lots of students are learning to use it and understand it.," he said. "We've been very pleased."
But almost as important as speaking -- sorry, whistling -- Silbo is studying where it came from, and little is known.
"Silbo is the most important pre-Hispanic cultural heritage we have," said Moises Plasencia, the direcor of the Canary government's historical heritage department.
It might seem appropriate for a language that sounds like birdsong to exist in the Canary Islands, but scholarly theories as to how the archipelago got its name make no mention of whistling.
Little is known about Silbo's origins, but an important step toward recovering the language was the first International Congress of Whistled Languages, held in April in La gomera. The congress, which will be repeated in 2005, brought together experts on various whistled languages.
Silbo-like whistling has been found in pockets of Greece, Turkey, China and mexico, but none is as developed as Silbo Gomero, Plasencia said.
One study is looking for vestiges of Silbo in Venezuela, Cuba and Texas, all places to which Gomerans have emigrated during hard economic times.
The Times-Picayune newspaper -November 28, 2003
CHANDLER - Two Chandler residents out for blood are in custody.
They are accused of stabbing their friend after he refused to be their human blood bank.
Chandler police say 25-year old Robert Maley once let his roommates suck his blood. But when Maley refused a second time, he was stabbed by one of them Oct. 4.
The East Valley Tribune reports police arrested 24-year old Aaron Homer on suspicion of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and false reporting to law enforcement.
Officers arrested 21-year old Amanda Williamson on suspicion of false reporting.
Police said Maley lived with the pair and told officers they were into "vampire stuff."
When Maley told Homer and Williamson "no" to letting them drink his blood, Homer became enraged and police say he stabbed Maley.
Yuma Sun newspaper - Oct 9, 2010
The barren hillsides give a hint of the inferno underfoot. White smoke billows from cracks in the earth, venting a sulfurous rotten smell into the air. The rocky ground is hot to the touch, and heat penetrates the soles of shoes.
Beneath some rocks, an eerie red glow betrays an unseen hell: the epicenter of a severe underground coal fire.
"Don't stay too long," warned Ma Ping, a retired coal miner. "The gases are poisonous."
Another miner tugs on the sleeve of a visitor.
"You can cook a potato here," said Zhou Ningsheng, his face still black from a just-finished shift, as he pointed to a vent in the earth. "You can see with your own eyes."
China has the worst underground coal fires of any country on Earth. The fires destroy as much as 20 million tons of coal annually, nearly the equivalent of Germany's entire annual production. The costs go beyond the waste of a valuable fuel, however.
Scientists blame uncontrolled coal fires as a significant source of greenhouse gases, which lead to global warming. Unnoticed by most people, the coal fires can burn for years — even decades and longer — seeping carbon dioxide, methane and other gases that warm the atmosphere.
Major fires have been extinguished. However, Dutch scientists scribbling back-of-the-envelope calculations say that coal fires in China may still be the cause of 2 to 3 percent of the world's annual emissions of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels. They call for greatly increasing efforts to extinguish China's coal fires — and those in places such as India, Russia and Indonesia — as a practical step to fighting global warming.
"It's a relatively cheap way to stop greenhouse gas emissions," said Horst Rueter, a German geophysicist who's the scientific coordinator for a Sino-German initiative to combat China's coal fires.
Rueter said he thought that China's coal fires accounted for at least half the global emissions from coal fires around the world, making them a steady source of pollutants.
Coal fires can occur naturally and are not a new phenomenon. Australia's Burning Mountain has smoldered for thousands of years. An underground coal fire in Centralia, Pa., began in 1962, eventually opening sinkholes that threatened to gobble and incinerate pets and children. Centralia became a ghost town, and experts say that the fire there may burn for a century or more.
At the Rujigou coalfield in the Ningxia Autonomous Region of western China, fires have burned since the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Legend has it that coal miners who were angry over not being paid started a coal fire more than a century ago.
"It was industrial revenge," Guan said.
Many coal fires begin spontaneously when underground seams come in contact with the air — either through fault lines from earthquakes or mining activity — generating a chemical reaction that can slowly heat and ignite the coal. Human activity is an intensifier of the fires, however, especially when workers abandon dust-filled mines without sealing the airshafts, allowing temperatures to build.
China's coal fires stretch across a northern belt that runs nearly 3,000 miles from east to west. A cluster of them are in Ningxia and a little to the north in Inner Mongolia at the edge of the Gobi Desert. The concentration of coal fires in the region puts it in the running for one of the world's worst ecological disasters, and only humans can extinguish the problem.
"These fires just don't go out," said Anupma Prakash, an expert on mapping coal fires at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks.
Coal fires pollute the air with putrid smoke and wreak havoc on water supplies and aboveground ecology, creating "heat islands" where little vegetation can grow, not even hardy grasses. Wildlife flees.
"There used to be rabbits and pheasants around here, but not anymore," said Liang Guobao, who oversees a generator facility at the San Kuang coal mine in the sprawling Wuda coalfields in Inner Mongolia. His generator powers fans to clear the air in underground shafts.
Liang walked with a visitor around the barren landscape, pointing out places where the ground had collapsed after subterranean coal fires ate away seams and left empty caverns.
"The mine started here in 1958, and almost immediately the fires began," Liang said.
For those who grew up in the region, the scarring of the hilly environment from unseen coal fires is part of the landscape. Ma recalled walking in the hills as a youth and discovering long, deep fissures in the earth.
"We wouldn't know how deep they were. If we dropped a stone in, we could hear it bounce off the walls . . . but we couldn't hear it hit bottom," Ma said.
As much as 40 percent of China's coal comes from small local mines rather than big state-owned enterprises. Small operators follow a pattern when their mines catch fire.
"When they have a fire, they just leave and go to another place," said Li Jing, the director of the Institute of Resource Technology at Beijing Normal University.
Over the past decade, China has put far greater emphasis on attacking coal fires. The work is labor intensive, costly and dangerous in its initial stages. The blazes can reach underground temperatures of 1,300 to 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit, imperiling firefighters.
"First, they shape the terrain and cool down the surface so the heavy machinery can work," Rueter said. Teams drill holes down through the burning coal in 50 to 60 spots and inject water for several months "to cool down the entire rock volume."
Later, they may make up a slurry of sand, water, cement and some chemicals, and pour it into the holes. Once the fire is out, the entire rock area must fall below 158 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure that the coal doesn't reignite. A layer of clay is put on top and trees planted to gauge whether the fire has begun anew.
Prakash, the coal fire expert in Alaska, said she thought that worldwide efforts to combat coal fires had fallen short.
excerpts from an article on McClatchy News, by Tim Johnson. Nov. 2008
(December 31, 2009)
The Howard County, Indiana Sheriff's Department found a fugitive from justice through his penchant for playing the online game World of Warcraft (WoW). Alfred Hightower had fled to Canada to evade a warrant issued for his arrest in 2007. After learning that Hightower is an avid WoW player, Deputy Matt Roberson sent a subpoena to Blizzard Entertainment in Canada, seeking information that would help his office locate Hightower. Because the company is Canadian and Roberson had no jurisdiction there, he did not expect anything to come of it, but several months later, he received data from the company that included Hightower's IP address, account information and history, billing address and online screen name. The information was enough to find Hightower and have him deported to the US, where he is expected to face the 2007 charges.
Beijing (AFP) - Swarms of hornets have killed 42 people in northwestern China in recent months, state media said Thursday, as temperatures rise and development drives the stinging insects into cities.
The terrifying attacks started in July, the official Xinhua news agency said Thursday, with 1,640 people having been stung.
Of those, 206 are being treated in hospital, it quoted the National Health and Family Planning Commission as saying.
"With the development of air-conditioning, urban landscaping and residential environment, hornets have started to migrate and relocate to cities, which has increased the probability of their hurting people," Xinhua said in a report Wednesday.
It carried a photo of a doctor examining a hospitalised patient with several large and swollen sting wounds on the legs.
It also quoted Huang Rongyao -- a senior official concerned with pest control in the city of Ankang, which has borne the brunt of the attacks -- as attributing the phenomenon to warmer-than-usual temperatures in the region.
"Furthermore, hornets are sensitive to bright colours, the smell of human sweat, alcohol, perfume, any specially scented articles and things that are sweet as well as the running of humans or animals," Huang said.
Hua Baozhen, a professor of entomology at Northwest Agriculture Forestry University, attributed the attacks mostly to a decrease in the number of the hornets' natural enemies, such as spiders and birds, due to ecological changes.
The Shaanxi Daily has said the attacks were centred on the cities of Ankang, Hanzhong and Shangluo.
CNWEST, the government-run news portal of Shaanxi province, said the provincial forestry department sent three teams of personnel to raise public awareness of hornets.
It also said that the province allocated six million yuan ($980,000) for work to prevent attacks and treat victims in the three cities.
Xinhua described the hornets as about the size of an adult thumb.
China News quoted a person working to combat them as saying they are about three to four centimetres (less than two inches) long and thousands can inhabit a single hive
Experts believe the culprits to be the Asian giant hornet, which grows up to 5cm long with a 6mm sting.
The giant hornets’ highly toxic stings can lead to anaphylactic shock and renal failure.
The attacks are an annual problem but have worsened this year, possibly due to warmer weather boosting breeding.
Between 2002 and 2005 there were 36 deaths and 715 people injured, according to Ankang police.