NONE SCI Science

Archaeologists unearth long-lost Aztec tower of skulls

Archaeologists digging in Mexico City have unearthed the long-fabled Huey Tzompantli — a tower of human skulls thought to measure about 200 feet in diameter.

The tower was described in contemporary accounts of the Spanish conquistadores when they captured the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, which later became Mexico City.

The tower is located at the edge of the Templo Mayor, an edifice dedicated to the Aztec god of sun, war, and human sacrifice, according to a report by The Atlantic.

In the account of Andres de Tapia, a Spanish follower of Hernan Cortes during his conquest of Mexico in 1521, the tower was constructed of tens of thousands of skulls “placed on a very large theater made of lime and stone, and on the steps of it were many heads of the dead stuck in the lime with the teeth facing outward.”

What the archaeologists did not expect to find were so many skulls belonging to women and children. Researchers previously believed that young male warriors were mostly chosen as sacrificial victims. As a result, the discovery is raising new questions about the Aztec Empire’s culture of human sacrifice.

“We were expecting just men,” said Rodrigo Bolanos, a biological anthropologist working on the dig, in a report by Reuters, adding, “Something is happening that we have no record of, and this is really new, a first in the Huey Tzompantli.”

So far, researchers have discovered more than 650 skulls that were covered in lime to cement them together. Only a quarter of the excavation is completed.


Abuse accelerates the physical growth and maturity of children

A new study warns that abuse accelerates the physical growth and maturity of children.

According to scientists, young girls who are emotionally and physically abused hit puberty eight to twelve months earlier than their peers who do not suffer from abuse.

Sexual abuse, in particular, forces children to mature at a faster rate.

Also, early puberty is suspected to be a major contributor to increased rates of depression, substance abuse, sexual risk-taking and teenage pregnancy.

The study was conducted at Pennsylvania State University and compared the pubescent trajectories of 84 females with a history of sexual abuse, and 89 of their counterparts without sexual abuse history.

In conjunction with nurses and Child Protective Services, the test subjects were tracked from pre-puberty to full maturity, using a system known as Tanner staging.

Tanner staging is a numeric rating index that corresponds with the physical advancement of puberty.

The scientists studied pubic hair and breast development, as two separate markers for pubescent change.

The subjects were placed on a numbered scale from one to five. One was marked prepubescence,  while five was marked maturity.

The researchers discovered that girls with histories of sexual abuse were more likely to transition into high puberty stages earlier than the girls who did not suffer abuse.

The abused girls developed breasts approximately eight months earlier than the non-abused girls. Their pubic hair grew at least one year earlier.

“Though a year’s difference may seem trivial in the grand scheme of life, this accelerated maturation has been linked to concerning consequences, including mental health problems and reproductive cancer,” said Dr. Jennie Noll, director of Child Maltreatment Solutions Network.

Dr. Noll, a professor of human development and family studies, said that the body is timed so that physical and developmental changes occur in unison.

When physical maturity surpasses psychosocial growth, the mismatch in timing is known as maladaptation.

Business TECH_Technology

PayPal partners with some of the biggest companies

PayPal is undoubtedly one of the leading businesses in E-commerce. It uses an email address to make all the transaction, making it a revolutionary system of currency. In the beginning, many companies were highly skeptical of Elton Musk’s brainchild.

But ten years down the line and Wall Street has branded PayPal as one of the most profitable stocks to invest in the coming decade. And from the major moves they are making in the financial world, it is easy to see why.

PayPal has formed partnerships with both VISA and MasterCard over the past few weeks. Getting a deal with one of the credit companies would have been good, but they managed to get as deal with both. To show you the full perspective of this deal one must understand that VISA and Master Card were great competitors.

The introduction of PayPal as another mode of payment online gave the two heavyweights, even more, competition. So getting both the companies to sign deals with PayPal shows that the companies must have seen incredible and unparalleled potential in PayPal.

“PayPal has always had a mixed relationship with Visa and MasterCard,” said Andrés Cardenal, an investment researcher. “Credit card operators charge substantial processing fees on payment transactions, so PayPal used to encourage its customers to link their PayPal accounts directly to their bank accounts via ACH as opposed to credit cards, to avoid paying those fees.”

But Paypal’s latest move has seen them partner with Facebook. To some extent partnering with credit card moguls made sense, but too many investors not so much Facebook. This led to 2 percent drop in the stalks initially.

But the bigger picture is Facebook has an average of 1.57 billion users monthly. If PayPal can filter these users to become their own, then few companies would be able to compete with them.

Business NONE TECH TECH_Technology

Target seeks to implement voice shopping

Target plans to team up with Google to bring voice-activated shopping to its stores.

This new move will allow shoppers to look at and buy thousands of different in-store items. Perishables like fruit and milk will be the only items not readily available.

The new move will occur later this year through Google Assistant on iPhone and Android phones. This will make it so shoppers are able to give orders to their phone while they are running errands.

The chain’s new model will bring it alongside other big stores like Walmart and Home Depot, who have already partnered with Google on voice shopping. In addition, Target also plans to expand nationwide with Google Express, a program that offers faster delivery from a test program in New York City and California.

That system — which will ship from local Target stores — will allow shoppers to receive deliveries within two days at no extra cost as long as their purchase is $35 or more. Target hopes that by next year the Google Express program will enable shoppers to pick up their orders within two hours as well.

Many retailers are offering more shopping options, and most of them are related to new technology. The idea is to increase the ease and accessibility of the store.

“We have lots of different choices of how they buy from us,” said Mike McNamara, Target’s chief information and digital officer, according to Mercury News.

Most of the new devices are in the hands of the shoppers, and even Apple plans to join the fray later this year. However, the key is personalizing the orders so the technology can recognize which brand a certain person wants. Target hopes to achieve this by allowing customers to link their accounts with Google Express.

While a big part of this move is to help Google compete with the dominant sales of the Amazon Echo, Target does not want their system to be tied to any in-home devices. Rather, they believe mobile is the way to go.

“Who knows if these specialized devices will even exist in a few years time?,” added McNamara, according to TechCrunch. “Or whether it’s a piece of software than runs on your TV or on your telephone.”

NONE SCI Science

Ancient DNA gives insight into the history of sub-Saharan Africa

A large scale study on ancient human DNA provides new information on past migration patterns and population shifts of sub-Saharan Africa, new research published in the journal Cell reports.

The findings could help answer different questions about the ancestry of the region, including how hunter-gatherer lifestyle and population distribution changed before farmers and animal herders swept across the continent some 3,000 years ago.

“The last few thousand years were an incredibly rich and formative period that is key to understanding how populations in Africa got to where they are today,” said study co-author David Reich, a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School, according to “Ancestry during this time period is such an unexplored landscape that everything we learned was new.”

Ancient DNA is a great paleontological tool because it is one of the only ways researchers can look into past genomic diversity. However, Africa has been hard to study because the warm climate rapidly breaks down genetic tissue. Only recently have new technological advancements made such research possible.

In the new study, an team of international researchers used such technology to take DNA from the remains of 15 sub-Saharan Africans that dated back to between 500 to 8,500 years ago. They then compared the genomes against almost 600 present-day people from 59 African populations and 300 people from 142 non-African groups.

This showed a large population diversity existed between 2,000 or 3,000 years ago. It also revealed that hunter-gatherer populations quickly disappeared when farmers reached Malawi. Not only that, but those hunters also have no ties to the people living in the region today.

That suggests there was a complete population replacement, which has not been found anywhere else on Earth. In addition, the research similarly sheds light on the origins of many unique groups across the continent and could give a true glimpse into the humans that lived there.

Little is known about the people of ancient Africa. The team hopes the new findings will encourage more investigation into the past and help scientists get a better idea of the diverse genetic landscape.

“Africa is now going to be fully included in the ancient genomics revolution,” added Reich, according to The New York Times. “We’re going to be able to do a lot of things in Africa that we’ve been able to do in Europe and elsewhere.”

NONE SCI Science

Octopuses socialize in underwater ‘cities,’ say biologists

Octopuses are known for leading mostly solitary lives. So, biologists were surprised to find the second of two sites off the eastern coast of Australia where as many as 15 gloomy octopuses, or Octopus tetricus, have congregated.

The discovery is reported in the journal Marine and Freshwater Behaviour and Physiology.

The first gloomy octopus site was discovered and described in 2009 by co-author Matthew Lawrence, an independent scholar. The settlement, dubbed Octopolis, contained several dens and a human-made flat object about a foot (30 centimeters) long.

The second site, called Octlantis, is located close to the first site and has a total of 13 occupied and 10 unoccupied dens.

Taken together, both sites support the notion that octopuses will form communities if conditions are right. When they do, they become true architects of their environment.

“At both sites there were features that we think may have made the congregation possible — namely several seafloor rock outcroppings dotting an otherwise flat and featureless area,” said co-author Stephanie Chancellor, a Ph.D. student in biological sciences at the University of Illinois in Chicago, in a statement. “In addition to the rock outcroppings, octopuses who had been inhabiting the area had built up piles of shells left over from creatures they ate, most notably clams and scallops. These shell piles, or middens, were further sculpted to create dens, making these octopuses true environmental engineers.”

The researchers recorded 10 continuous hours of GoPro camera footage, which showed the octopuses interacting with one another. The animals were frequently close to each other and were observed mating, being aggressive, and signaling through color changes.

“Some of the octopuses were seen evicting other animals from their dens,” said Chancellor. “There were some apparent threat displays where an animal would stretch itself out lengthwise in an ‘upright’ posture and its mantle would darken. Often another animal observing this behavior would quickly swim away.”

More research is needed to understand the significance of octopus settlements and interactions, says Chancellor, because so little is known about octopus behavior.


Protests against police killing of Georgia Tech LGBT leader lead to arrests

Three people have been arrested following a vigil held Monday evening for a Georgia Tech student who was shot and killed by campus police over the weekend.

Police opened fire on fourth-year student Scott “Scout” Schultz, 21, Saturday night after he called 911 to report a suspicious person who was armed and possibly intoxicated, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said, as reported by CBS News. Police say Officer Tyler Beck shot Schultz after the student refused to comply with police commands to drop what police initially described as a knife, but the Schultz family attorney said was a multipurpose tool with its knife blade put away. No guns were found at the scene.

Protests against the police shooting turned violent Monday evening following a peaceful vigil. About 50 demonstrators marched to the campus police department where a police car was torched and two officers suffered minor injuries. Three people were arrested, though the university has not said whether or not they are Georgia Tech students.

In a letter to university staff and students, Georgia Tech President G.P. “Bud” Peterson said he thinks the problems were caused by “outside agitators.”

“We believe many of them were not part of our Georgia Tech community, but rather outside agitators intent on disrupting the event,” Peterson said. “They certainly did not honor Scout’s memory nor represent our values by doing so.”

Schultz was president of Pride Alliance at Georgia Tech and described himself as “bisexual, non binary and intersex.” His father, William Schultz, said his child had a 3.9 grade point average and would have graduated early in December.

At a press conference, Stewart and Schultz’s parents questioned why police did not respond to the situation with less-than-lethal force. Stewart said he intends to sue over the shooting.


Edith Windsor, whose Supreme Court case led to end of same-sex marriage ban, dies at 88

Edith Windsor, the plaintiff in a major 2013 Supreme Court case that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act and allowed same-sex married couples the same federal rights and benefits afforded everyone else, died Tuesday at age 88 in Manhattan.

Windsor was legally married in Canada in 2007 to psychologist Thea Spyer, a woman she had been living with for 40 years, according to The New York Times. When Spyer died in 2009, Windsor inherited her estate. However, she had to pay federal estate taxes of over $350,000 because the Internal Revenue Service denied her the unlimited spousal exemption available to heterosexual married couples.

The case, United States v. Windsor, required the high court to decide if the U.S. Constitution prohibits differential treatment of same-sex married couples by the federal government. The Supreme Court found that it does, specifically invalidating the Defense of Marriage Act’s definition of marriage as only between a man and a women and citing the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee that no person shall be “deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.”

Because at the time Windsor was decided, same-sex marriage was legal in only 13 states and the District of Columbia, the ruling did not apply to the 37 states that banned such unions.

The constitutional right to same-sex marriage did not come until June 26, 2015, when the Supreme Court held in Obergefell v. Hodges that the Fourteenth Amendment requires a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex.


Sitting for long periods of time can lead to an early death, even if you exercise

Adults who sit for long periods of the day are more likely to die a premature death than people who are much more active, a new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine suggests.

Past studies have found a link between excessive sedentary time and an increased risk of death. However, most of those trials relied on people to remember how much they moved around. That type of data is easily skewed and may have not been reported correctly.

To get a better picture of the issue, researchers from Columbia University looked at data on 7,985 adults ages 45 and older who were asked to wear accelerometers for a one week period. This measured their activity levels and revealed that sedentary behavior accounted for 77 percent of the participants’ waking hours.

On average, people sat for about 11 minutes at a time, and more than half of the subjects sat and stood at different intervals. However, 14 percent of participants also sat for at least 90 minutes in one sitting.

The team organized the study by placing the subjects into groups that ranged from people who spent 11 hours a day sitting and standing to those who were inactive for 13 hours or more. In addition, they also grouped people based on how long they sat before they moved around.

The team found that the least active people were twice as likely to die an early death than the most active subjects. This remained true even if non-sedentary people exercised regularly.

However, the study also revealed that people were less likely to die young if they simply got up and moved around every half hour.

“We think these findings suggest that it is simply not enough to be active or move at just one specific time of the day, that is, exercise,” said lead author Keith Diaz of the Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health at Columbia University Medical Center, according to Reuters. “We need to be mindful of moving frequently throughout the day in addition to exercising.”

Though researchers are not sure, there is a chance sedentary stretches lead to death because of a process known as metabolic toxicity. In this, the lack of activity in muscles affects our ability to efficiently metabolize sugars. This can build up over time and cause problems like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and death.

“This study adds to the growing literature on how dangerous long periods of sitting are for our health, and underscores a growing awareness among clinicians and researchers that sitting really is the new smoking,” said study co-author Monika Safford, the John J. Kuiper Professor at Weill Cornell Medicine, in a statement.

While the study presents compelling evidence, there were a few limitations to the data. Not only was the research not a controlled experiment aimed to directly link sitting time and premature death, but the accelerometers used in the research could not tell the difference between when people were sitting or standing. As a result, more trials need to be conducted before any strong conclusions can be reached.

Business NONE TSC_Global Politics

SPLC takes flak for large offshore bank accounts

The Southern Poverty Law Center is a strictly U.S.-based organization, but it has more than $4 million allocated in investment accounts in the Cayman Islands, an investigative-news analysis of its 2014 tax documents reported. The revelations, first reported by the Washington Free Beacon, drew condemnations from many of the SPLC’s conservative Republican critics.
“It is shocking that a U.S.-based ‘charitable’ organization stashes millions of dollars in offshore accounts. I can think of no reason for doing so,” said Mat Staver, founder and chairman of the Liberty Counsel, one of dozens of conservative groups listed on the SPLC’s “hate map” of far-right organizations. And Fox News host Tucker Carlson cited the accounts in a Thursday night segment in which he blasted the SPLC as a “totally fake organization.”
A lot of nonprofits are investing in overseas investment accounts as a way to maximize the funds they can spend on their missions, according to the Baltimore Sun, which noted that the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Humane Society of the United States, and Johns Hopkins University have all moved money overseas. The practice is legal, even for nonprofits.
But even some nonprofit analysts found cause for concern when they compared the size of the investment account transfers with the amounts of SPLC’s actual work expenses. In 2015, for example, the organization spent only $61,000 on legal services while transferring nearly $2 million out of the country. Amy Sterling Casil, CEO of the nonprofit-consulting firm Pacific Human Capital, said that these overseas accounts are “a huge red flag” that would be “completely unacceptable to any wealthy, responsible, experienced board member who was committed to a charitable mission who I ever worked with.”