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Of muck and men

© Unknown
Tracing the spread of agriculture into Europe so many thousands of years after it happened is among the biggest challenges facing archaeologists. But the chemical signature of the manure early farmers spread on their land remains to this day. Amy Bogaard describes how her team found it.

As any gardener knows, animal manure does a brilliant job of keeping soils rich in nutrients and easy to work. Though chemical fertilizers are now widely used, manuring still plays a critical role in food production in many parts of the world today. But was it always so important?

The Crop Isotope Project is the first attempt to systematically assess the importance of manuring in early farming communities, dating back thousands of years - and the results have been, well, ground-breaking.

Archaeologists know where and when the 'ingredients' of European farming emerged - around 10,500 years ago in the Middle East's Fertile Crescent - and we have a good grasp of how agriculture then spread into Europe. But what was early farming like? How were crops grown and animals raised? This kind of understanding is crucial for explaining how farming emerged and became established, as well as its long-term consequences.

In the Middle East, growing crops and herding animals emerged at around the same time. Furthermore, the early suite of crops and livestock (wheat and barley, pulses and flax, together with sheep, goats, pigs and cattle) went on to spread together across Europe. This combined crop-and-livestock 'package' hints at some sort of mixed farming.

Comment: Research into how our ancestors farmed, ate and lived is admirable, but the fact of the matter is that the advent of agriculture was also the advent of the decline of the human race. The growing of grains and fruits over large tracts of land has not only destroyed much of our environment, but it has wreaked havoc with human health.

For 99% of human history, human beings have eaten animal meat and fat. It is only within the last 10,000 years, with the introduction of agriculture, that humans have eaten grains. We, as a species therefore, are genetically pre-disposed to thrive on animal products. In addition, most grains contain gluten and lectins, the former being a sugar to which many people are allergic, and the latter being a plant's natural defence against being eaten. Lectins are 'anti-nutrients' that damage and impair the function of the intestines of any animal that eat them, including humans. Both gluten and lectins have been linked to a host of 'modern' illnesses that have impoverished the lives of humanity as a whole.


Tens of thousands attend pro-government rallies in Syria

Tens of thousands of Syrians from across the country have held pro-government rallies to express their support for President Bashar al-Assad.

During the rallies on Saturday, the government supporters also condemned what they called foreign interference in their country's internal affairs, the Press TV correspondent in Damascus reported.

In the Syria capital, a group of religious leaders of different faiths held a meeting to express their unity.

Smaller groups of Syrians in other parts of the country held anti-government demonstrations and committed acts of sabotage. Seven people, both civilians and members of the security forces, were reportedly killed.


Five more killed in Syria unrest


Protesters call for reforms in Syria in March 2011.
At least five people have been killed near the central city of Homs in the latest outbreak of violence in Syria.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Saturday that two protesters were killed in Kiswa, which is located 15 kilometers (10 miles) south of the capital, Damascus, during funerals held for demonstrators who lost their lives on Friday, Reuters reported.

Three others were reportedly killed during house-to-house searches in the Barzeh district of Damascus and in the town of Quseir, a village west of Homs.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has identified the dead as civilians, but Press TV cannot independently confirm the reports.

On Friday, at least 12 people were killed and many others injured in several Syrian cities, including Damascus, after thousands of people took to the streets across the country to demand reforms.

Opposition activists said Syrian security forces opened fire on protesters, while Syria's state TV blamed the killing on armed gangs, saying a number of police officers were also among the victims.


French Ship Sets Sail to Join Flotilla 2 to Gaza

© Getty Images
A ship, Dignité, flying the French flag with six people onboard sails off the coast of the French Mediterranean island of Corsica on June 25, 2011 to join the new pro-Palestinian aid flotilla.
A French ship carrying humanitarian aid and six people on board has set sail from the port city of Corsica to join a Gaza-bound flotilla.

The ship flying the French flag named Dignité (Dignity) headed for the coastal waters of Greece on Saturday to join up with the rest of the participants in the flotilla.

The entire fleet will sail for Gaza next week from various Mediterranean ports, French coordinator Julien Rivoire told AFP.

Ships, including two freighters carrying medical supplies "should reach the port of Gaza at the end of next week," he added.

Activists from more than 30 countries plan to sail aboard the ships to the Gaza Strip to deliver humanitarian assistance to the besieged people of Gaza in the near future.

The Israeli Navy has already declared that it will not allow the new flotilla to break the blockade on the impoverished Gaza Strip.

Heart - Black

US: Outrage as Pregnant Women Who Lose Babies are Facing Murder Charges

An influx of expectant mothers facing murder charges for the deaths of their unborn children in the U.S. has sparked outrage among women's rights activists.

Thirty eight states have introduced foetal homicide laws to protect pregnant women and their unborn children from violent attacks by third parties.

But they are increasingly being used to threaten and prosecute women over the outcome of their pregnancies, says the National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW).

© Facebook
Bei Bei Shuai was charged in March with murder in the January 2 death of her three-day-old daughter, Angel Shuai
Campaigners say Rennie Gibbs is one such case. Gibbs was just 15 when she became pregnant, but her child was stillborn at 36 weeks in December, 2006.

After prosecutors discovered she had a cocaine habit, she was charged with the 'depraved-heart murder' of the baby, which carries a mandatory life sentence.


US: Man Arrested in Logan Bomb Scare

A Chicago man was arrested at Logan International Airport today after he allegedly claimed to have guns and explosives in his checked baggage.

About 5:35 p.m., State Police were called to Terminal E for a Southwest Airlines checkpoint with a report of a man making threats to Transportation Security Administration staff. The man, identified as Joseph Haynes, 22, allegedly told TSA personnel that he had "guns and bombs" in his checked bags, including an AK-47 assault rifle and hand grenades.

The incident triggered a large police response, including a State Police canine and Emergency Ordinance Disposal unit. The checked baggage was removed from Southwest Airlines Flight 3627 bound for Chicago. No firearms or explosives were found.

Haynes was charged with making a false bomb threat and disorderly conduct. A woman traveling with Haynes was not charged. Her name was not released. The checkpoint was closed for about 20 minutes during the investigation.


US: Probe After Bombs Explode at Colorado Bookstore

© Agence France-Presse / Jewel Samad
Bomb squad officers were dispatched after the two "crude" bombs were located inside a Borders store
Two small bombs partially detonated in a bookstore in Denver, Colorado early Saturday causing minor damage but no injuries, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said.

Bomb squad officers were dispatched along with police and FBI agents after the two "crude" bombs were located inside the Borders store, which had been broken into in the Colorado Mills Mall in Lakewood, Colorado.

"The two small crude devices partially functioned in a nominal manner causing no damage to the Mall and only minimal damage to a small area of the interior of the Borders Bookstore," said an FBI statement.

Cloud Lightning

US - South Carolina - Gator stuck in Hilton Head storm drain free at last

© Unknown
After a five-hour rescue effort Friday, a 9-foot-long alligator stuck in a Hilton Head Plantation storm drain was swimming in a nearby lagoon, away from the crowd that had gathered to watch the spectacle that involved fishing lines, ropes, PVC pipes and snares.

Critter Management and plantation security pulled the gator from underground at 3 p.m. amid cheers from onlookers and a snort from the reptile.

"He was just a little bruised and battered -- especially his pride," plantation general manager Peter Kristian said of the freed gator.

Joe Maffo, owner of Critter Management, called it one of his toughest rescues ever.


Half of World's Refugees are Running From US Wars

© isafmedia / Flickr

America's wars are forcing Afghans and Iraqis to flee their homes in greater numbers. According to a recent U.N. High Commission for Refugees study, nearly one half of the world's refugees are from Afghanistan and Iraq, 3.05 million and 1.68 million, respectively. But neither the United States nor much of the developed world bears the burden of the 10.55 million refugees under the UNHCR's purview globally. Instead, Pakistan, Iran, and Syria serve as the top host countries. The Economist has charted the numbers:

Eye 2

David Flory, New Jersey Physics Professor, Arrested For Running New Mexico Prostitution Website 'Southwest Companions'

© AP Photo/Albuquerque Police Department
N.J., N.M., police arrested the New York City resident in Albuquerque, In this undated photo release by Albuquerque Police Department showing New Jersey college professor David Flory who has been arrested in New Mexico and is accused of operating a prostitution website. On Sunday, on 40 counts of promoting prostitution. Police say Flory has long owned a vacation home in Santa Fe. Flory teaches physics at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison
Physics Professor Runs Prostitution Website

A New Jersey physics professor who dabbled in scuba diving and harbored dreams of working in the theater had another hobby, New Mexico police say: operating a sophisticated prostitution website that may have catered to as many as 200 prostitutes and 1,200 clients.

David Flory, 68, was arrested Sunday at a Starbucks in Albuquerque on 40 counts of promoting prostitution. The professor, who has taught at Fairleigh Dickinson University since 1969, has a vacation home in Santa Fe.

A specialist in elementary particle theory, Flory also spent a decade in the school administration where, according to his website, he worked on human resource database systems and measuring academic productivity - skills that were evident from the three-tiered system police say he created for rating the privileges of johns who used the prostitution service.

Flory, a married father of three according to his personal website, was being held on a $100,000 bond Tuesday. He didn't respond to an e-mail message. His wife didn't return a phone message left at the couple's New York apartment.

Albuquerque Police Lt. William Roseman told The Associated Press that Flory's password-protected website, Southwest Companions, had been the subject of a vice investigation for the last six months after police received tips from prostitutes and johns.

Roseman said the site had been in operation about three years and had about 1,400 members - about 200 prostitutes and about 1,200 johns. Most of the members were in the Albuquerque-Santa Fe area, though some postings originated in Phoenix and Denver. The prostitutes were paid between $80 and $850 for their services, according to the criminal complaint.