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Sun, 08 Dec 2019
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Origin of a big idea

Crackpot or genius? Danny Vendramini may be labelled both. The anti-religious amateur biological theorist is challenging mainstream evolutionary thought.

Danny Vendramini didn't wake up one morning and say to himself: "Today, I'll shatter half of the accepted beliefs about evolutionary biology." It has been more gradual than that. In fact, his theory, that a second evolutionary process is at work alongside natural selection, has been percolating away for quite some time, emerging from the primordial soup of the subconscious and slowly taking form over several years.

It's a theory that seems both preposterous and wonderful, taking, as it does, the core of Darwinian biology and cladding it with some truly extraordinary ideas about trauma, the genetic transmission of emotions and the origin of instincts.

Could his evolutionary process - known as "teemosis" - really explain the explosion of new species 543 million years ago? Does it really provide a plausible means for environmental information to be passed on to offspring? Does it truly describe the evolutionary purpose for the "junk DNA" that makes up 98.5 per cent of our genome?

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Inside TeenScreen: The Making of Mental Patients

In October, 2004, after taking TeenScreen, a 10-minute computer test developed in the psychiatric department of Columbia University, 16-year-old Chelsea Rhoades of Indiana was told she had two mental health problems, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and social anxiety disorder. The diagnoses were based upon Chelsea’s responses that she liked to help clean the house and didn’t “party” much.

Chelsea is one of countless children who get labeled with fraudulent diagnoses every day. The difference in her case is that her parents, who were unaware that TeenScreen had infiltrated their daughter’s school and had not given permission for the screening, reacted quickly. They filed a lawsuit against the officials of the high school who allowed the test to be administered and the TeenScreen program. In doing so, the Rhoades took a stand for all parents across the nation.

The unscientific nature of psychiatric labeling was admitted to by the American Psychiatric Association’s own president, Steven Sharfstein, when he stated on June 27, 2005, during an interview on the Today Show, “We do not have a clean cut lab test [for diagnosing mental illness or chemical imbalance of the brain.]”

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Rescuers hunt for Indonesian flood victims as toll rises to 57

Rescuers combed through debris and mud for victims of flash floods that inundated villages in Indonesia's East Java as the death toll rose to 57, officials said.

Thousands sought shelter, medical care and food on Tuesday in the wake of the disaster, which environmentalists have blamed on rampant illegal logging on the island of Java, one of the world's most densely-populated.

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Drought looms over Tanzania

DAR ES SALAAM, Jan. 3 (Xinhuanet) -- The Tanzania Meteorological Agency (TMA) has warned that a drought is looming large over the country due to widespread failure of rainfalls in the short-rain season.

The unpredictably sporadic rainfalls, that stretched between October and December last year, are expected to continue over the next two months, up till the start of the country's long-rain season, TMA said.

The three Tanzanian annual seasons also include a dry spell in between June and September.

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Bushfires raze homes as Australia reaches 47C

Bushfires razed at least 10 homes and threatened dozens more in south-eastern Australia yesterday as a heatwave brought temperatures of up to 47C (117F).

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Fires and floods leave America reeling

Wildfires driven by unseasonably warm and dry weather tore through parts of Texas and Oklahoma yesterday, reducing at least two border towns to cinders, destroying dozens of homes and threatening to overwhelm several populated areas including Oklahoma City. [...]

Adverse weather of a very different kind, meanwhile, was assailing California yesterday, as the West Coast was buffeted by its second major rainstorm in three days.

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Big freeze to sweep over China

China, already enduring its coldest winter in 20 years, is preparing for a cold snap that will see temperatures drop by as much as 16 degrees Centigrade (29 degrees Fahrenheit).

Northern China, where temperatures are already as low as minus 15-20 degrees Celsius, will feel the strongest effects of the cold front, which is sweeping in from Mongolia and western Siberia, the China Daily reported.

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Major earthquake hits South Pacific near Fiji

CANBERRA, Jan. 3 (Xinhuanet) -- An earthquake measuring 7.1 on the Richter scale hit under the South Pacific near Fiji on Tuesday, but it is unlikely to trigger a major tsunami and there were no reports of casualties or damages from the region.

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Storm Moves Into Southern California

GUERNEVILLE, Calif. - Homeowners shoveled away mud and other debris and authorities worked to repair damaged levees Monday after a pair of storms that flooded Northern California's wine country moved south.

The rain let up over the hard-hit region and moved into Central and Southern California, drenching the Rose Parade for the first time since 1955 and threatening mudslides on hills stripped bare by last summer's wildfires.

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Small Earthquake Shakes Southern Illinois

EQUALITY, Ill. - No major damage was reported after a minor earthquake shook areas around this small town in southern Illinois on Monday.

The quake struck at 3:48 p.m. and registered magnitude 3.6, according to Rafael Abreu, a geologist at the National Earthquake Information Center in Denver.