Open Thread For February

Look at this yurt. (By Ludovic Hirlimann – Flickr: Yourte, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17706060)
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Author: Martin R

Dr. Martin Rundkvist is a Swedish archaeologist, journal editor, skeptic, atheist, lefty liberal, bookworm, boardgamer, geocacher and father of two.

228 thoughts on “Open Thread For February”

  1. The number of covid patients in the Stockholm and Gothenburg regions have dropped by 5-6 per cent in a day. I hope this is the beginning of the downturn. In the other regions the low numbers make conclusions unreliable.
    Statistics lag means mortality data keep rising. February 3rd is a peak, with 51 dead.

    The excess mortality in USA is not exceeding one million.
    7 million americans are immunocompromised because of diseases like lupus.
    The demands for scrapping restrictions is like that bad 70s SF film Logan’s Run where the elderly were killed off.

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  2. Democrats meet in private to (belatedly) strategize about winning ideas ahead of the midterm elections.

    I share his frustration!

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  3. “Bloody foreigners, staying over there and avoiding our jobs” complains Winterspoons’ owner Tim Martin.

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  4. Glenn Danzig has among other things made songs for Roy Orbison. Himself, he is into gothic rock/death rock and has a publishing house for “dark” comics, Verotik.
    He once directed a horror film titled “Verotica” that was utter shit.

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  5. A young Hugh Grant played a role in the horror/comedy The Lair Of The White Worm. The film was dug up by Brandon Tenold in his Cult Movie Reviews.

    A “fun bad” film, it demonstrated how bagpipe music can repel monsters. The director is insane.
    (if I wanted to inflict genuinely shitty movies on you I would pick stuff like Birdemic or Verotika)

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    1. I can’t understand why Mary speaks with an accent that is like a cross between Yorkshire and Welsh. Turns out that the actress who played the part is from Worcestershire, so maybe trying for a Yorkshire accent and not quite making it.

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  6. Finland beat Russia in the final of the men’s Ice Hockey – must have been like a replay of the Winter War, except that in this case it was the Russians who were wearing the white outfits.

    Close to final medal tally: 1. Norway 2. Germany 3. China (thanks, Gu) 4. USA (thanks for nothing, Gu) 5. Sweden.

    So a creditable performance by the Swedes , really.

    Helps to explain the American rage directed at Gu – if she had represented the USA they would have come third, well ahead of China, who would have been relegated to seventh. She single handedly won 20% of China’s total medals.

    Without the 100% Chinese guy Chen who won gold medals for the USA in the figure skating, they would have ranked considerably lower, so it’s swings and roundabouts, I suppose. Why wasn’t there Chinese rage directed at him? Because there wasn’t – they were all cheering him too.

    I’m pretty sure that it was Chen who featured in that Jurassic Whatsit Prologue that I posted up there somewhere – tell the Parasaurolophuses not to tread on the ice! The girl downhill skier who got chased by the T. rex? Dunno, maybe that big American slalom star who crashed out and won nothing. The snowboarder who came face to face with an Apatosaurus? Dunno, maybe that guy White. The link between that Prologue and the Winter Games was clearly more than a coincidence, considering the timing of its release and the people who appeared in it.

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  7. Uh oh – QEII has got it. If she takes a turn for the worse, Charlie Big Ears could be ascending the throne a bit sooner than anticipated. It will be an interesting test – she’s 95 but fully vaxxed.

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  8. Shee-it. I hope E2 survives. I begrudge the philandering prince every year of his potential reign.

    Martin and others in Stockholm can expect a lot of snow monday. Is this the small remaining part of the storm that passed over Britain?

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  9. Aaargh. This film was made the same year as Blade Runner and with a compareable budget.

    This shows yet another flavor of bad. At least ‘Cobra’ – with Stallone’s non-skills – has interesting villains.

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  10. Amtonov An-2 in Sweden. This humble flying truck has been in production longer than any other aircraft.

    This is what I call a good design. The only replacement for an An-2 is another An-2.

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  11. I shouldn’t laugh, but I can’t help it. Gangrene of the knob can’t be much fun, and ending up with a penis 1/5 of its original size must be a disappointing outcome, to say the least, but this is a cautionary tale for anyone tempted to seek a procedure for penis enlargement – be happy with what you’ve got, because you could end up with a lot less.

    https://www.thestandard.com.hk/section-news/section/21/239056/Manhood-loses-inches-after-Taiwan-surgery

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  12. I feel for this person, a rare XXXY. Born with both male and female genitalia, and he peed out of his penis, so the doctors decided the obvious thing to do was to sew up his vagina, not thinking through what would happen when he started menstruating – his body has to reabsorb the menstrual discharge, which means he ends up with very high blood iron content. But he’s not famous for that (or is he – he has generously shared information on his rare condition with researchers around the world, so at least he will be famous among those academics), he’s famous for breeding pretty chickens. Or I should say she. I think. She fathered some children, so calling him she seems a bit silly.

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-02-21/rob-wilson-speaks-to-back-roads-understanding-genetic-makeup/100838210

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  13. The Genetic and Evolutionary Basis of Gene Expression Variation in East Africans.
    https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2022.02.16.480765v1?rss=1

    “Extending QTL-mapping studies beyond groups of European ancestry, particularly to diverse indigenous populations, is vital for a complete understanding of the genetic architecture of human traits and can reveal novel functional variation underlying human traits and disease.”

    Woke people need to understand this before they go accusing geneticists of racism for studying genetic differences between different ethnic groups (I’m using ‘ethnic’ improperly here to avoid using the ‘r’ word). There are major implications relating to health issues.

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  14. Swedish astronomer Anders Celsius died 1744 aged 43 but his rival Fahrenheit was convinced he was 109.

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  15. At the five-minute mark one of the obervers remark “we have to cosplay this some time” and I agree.
    Time travel, a cyborg, a ninja and a hillbilly team up, at one point even some f*cking romans appear.

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  16. Putin made a hour-long speech about how the West is evil and he is saving the russian-speaking people in East Ukraina from a genocide.
    Also the Ukraine is not a viable state and really belongs in Russia.
    I think the Rohingyas and the jews define “genocide” slightly differently.
    .
    Germany is scuttling the agreement to buy Russian gas through the pipeline on the Baltic seafloor.

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  17. British TV actress Anna Karen dies in house fire. She was 85.
    .
    Mark Lanwgan the singer of Screaming Trees has died.

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  18. There is a world championship winter rally in the outskirts of Umeå February 24-27 .
    I had completely forgotten about it, I am not into sports also the goddamn pandemic dominates the news I “take in”.
    .
    COVID- there is a lot of stochastic white noise in the statistics I read.
    Hospital cases are slowly -quite slowly- dropping countrywide.
    Locally it seems to fluctuate a lot.
    Registered cases are dropping but I am determined not to take unnecessary risks.

    And I have read about drastic actions being taken by the authorities in HK.

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  19. There was a quite severe storm hitting Germany -I assume a somewhat reduced version will have continued into Poland.
    I am not well-informed about which areas of Britain that were hit or how badly.

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  20. The Picts have been enigmatic and puzzling. No one could figure out who they were. Finally someone has found some ancient remains that are indisputably Pictish, buried at the back of a cave in Scotland. He was well nourished, with a high intake of animal protein from waterfowl, fish and young pigs, so could have been a high status person, although the region around the cave is still rich in waterfowl (including lots of geese) and fish now, and in the past had a lot more species of waterfowl that have since gone extinct. His DNA reveals that he was most like a modern person from northwest Ireland.

    One commenter said that Pict could just have been a collective Roman term for “those Britons who we do not govern.”

    So not some different, strange, unknown race, then – just add lots of tattoos and some blue paint.

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  21. HK fatality rates during the current Omicron surge: unvaccinated 0.54%; vaccinated 0.03%. During the earlier waves of infection (not Omicron) the mean fatality rate was 2.2%. New drugs from Merck and Pfizer have arrived, which I assume will help to drive the fatality rate down further. Vaccine hold-outs are mostly now racing to get vaccinated; better late than never I suppose. So the overall vaccination rate for HK is now not bad, and a lot better than it was a few months ago.

    Ah yes, we’re being subjected to ‘drastic actions.’ Next month everyone in HK must undergo mandatory testing three times. They plan to test one million people every day, so we’ll have to be tested once per week for two weeks, and test ourselves with RATs every day in between and report the results.

    Thousands of doctors, nurses and testing personnel from the Mainland are being mobilised to come to HK to help out, and arrangements are being made for them to come. They all need to be able to speak both English and Cantonese. Some are already here. That’s fine with me. They have had 10 times more people volunteer to come than they need, which is positively touching of them. It’s no small thing for them, they’ll have to do quarantine on the way here and then quarantine when they go back again, and some of them are Mums with wee kiddies and such. My daughter, who has been away working in the Mainland for years now, considers that most Mainlanders are basically good people, and I agree. And I’m grateful that so many of them want to gallop to our rescue.

    To provide enough venues to test everyone, all of the primary and secondary schools are to be closed for an early ‘summer break’ in March and April. Given that all of the schools are already closed and the kids are doing online learning, closing the premises doesn’t seem like much of a change, and I can’t figure out why they have to suspend online learning – so the kids can line up to get tested with everyone else, I suppose. No one else can figure it out either – it is causing the schools and teachers huge disruption and problems, and not doing the kids any good either.

    Commentary (including by some medical experts who are trying to advise the government, and seem to be getting ignored):

    1. There is no point doing this unless you know what you will do with the results. If they find 70,000 infected, they could just about find enough places to isolate them in. It would be a real stretch, but just about achievable. If they find 350,000 infected, they haven’t a hope. For the life of me, I can’t see what is wrong with letting people who are asymptomatic or only mildly ill self-isolate at home if their living conditions permit it. Which is actually what is happening now. There is a backlog of about 30,000 people who have reported that they are infected, who are self-isolating at home while waiting to be told by the authorities what to do. In a lot of these cases, by the time the authorities get back to them, they will have fully recovered and will be no longer infectious, so no point, but it is predictable that they will be made to do 14 days quarantine anyway, because Our Glorious Leader is a narcissistic, psychopathic fuckwit who doesn’t listen to anyone. I want the woman gone, but they have postponed the election for the next Chief Executive to focus on dealing with the epidemic, so we will be stuck with more misery dished out by her for a while yet. She has so comprehensively stuffed everything up so far that I don’t see that she has a hope in hell of being re-elected.

    2. Dragging everyone out for mass testing and lining us all up could be a great way to spread this highly infectious variant. Those of us who are not infected at the start of it could well be by the end.

    3. If they don’t control people’s movements in between tests, what is the bloody point? Find a big load of infected people and then just let them wander all around HK for a week before testing them again? Why? Various people have made good suggestions about limiting people’s movements during the testing period, but of course they are being ignored. A full lockdown of HK for 14 days is not technically feasible – everyone understands that, but there are other things they could do which would be achievable.

    Xi Jinping did the unusual thing of, in effect, publicly criticising Our Glorious Leader and telling her in no uncertain terms that she carries the main responsibility for getting the Omicron wave in HK under control and that she had better do it, in response to her publicly announcing that the Omicron surge has overwhelmed the government’s capacity to deal with it, i.e. he’s not going to let her just shrug and say there is nothing she can do about it. The cynic in me thinks that this big mass testing effort is her response to that, to show that she is doing ‘something big and decisive’, but with no plan at all for what to do with all of the infected people that are identified, most of whom will recover by themselves quickly enough if they are just left alone and told to stay home.

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    1. I can add that the hospitals have been overwhelmed because everyone who tests positive, including lots of people who have been buying RATs and testing themselves, have been rushing to the hospitals, even though most of them are only mildly ill or even asymptomatic. The ambulance services, who have been rushed off their feet, report that most of the people calling an ambulance to take them to hospital have been only mildly ill or asymptomatic.

      If only those people who develop serious illness went to the hospitals, the hospitals and the ambulance services would have the capacity to cope easily.

      The others can self-isolate at home, inform the authorities that they have tested positive and wait patiently for instructions. That is what most people are having to do anyway, because there is a backlog of 30,000 cases and there are currently not enough places to put them.

      The government bought themselves two years in which to prepare for this, but they didn’t do it. Now that Omicron is out of control, the government’s insistence that all infected people must be carted off to go into isolation somewhere, rather than being allowed to recover at home, is back-firing on them in a big way.

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  22. Two days ago I had a root canal treatment. Horrors! All I knew about ‘root canals’ was what I had read by various people online, mostly seemingly American females, who all described the procedure as something like a fate worse than death. Oh the suffering, etc. I had assumed that this was some kind of exotic torture that only happened in America, until my dentist told me I have a naughty tooth that needs one. Oh no!

    So anyway, I went to the clinic, climbed into the chair, my dentist jammed my jaws apart with a rubber wedge, injected me with the world’s biggest, scariest looking syringe, then got out her jackhammer and started hammering away to remove the crown from my naughty tooth. The hammering was somewhat disconcerting, but not exactly painful. Then, the process was for her to remove all of the pulp from inside the tooth, making sure she got every little bit of it out including right down into the roots, then X-ray the tooth to make sure that all of the pulp had been removed, then fill the tooth back up again with gutta-percha, and then put a temporary crown on, with the intention that I will go back at a later date for her to fix a new permanent crown to the tooth. The tooth is obviously dead by now, all of the insides including the nerves having been removed, but as long as the jawbone and the gums stay healthy enough, it will just stay fixed in place and be perfectly functional.

    So, having removed the crown, she then began drilling and probing inside the tooth to remove all of the pulp. This process took about an hour, but the time seemed to me to go very quickly. That is because, the dental surgery being comfortably warm, while she was doing this dreadful, awful, horrifying procedure, I fell fast asleep. When the time came for the X-ray, she had to wake me up to tell me to get out of the chair and walk to the X-ray room. I was startled and jumped up out of the chair a bit too quickly and nearly fell over, causing her to jump back out of the way – if I was going down, she wasn’t going to go down with me, which struck me as pretty funny. Anyway, I didn’t, I managed to regain my balance and remain upright.

    Afterwards, I had a short discussion with her, because my next appointment was scheduled in the middle of March, and I was concerned that if that coincided with when I was required to report for compulsory PCR testing, that would be a problem. She just said that if that happened, we would just reschedule. Fine. But since then she has obviously been running some mental what-ifs, like what if I get infected, test positive, or what if the local epidemic is raging totally out of control and there is blood running in the streets, or whatever. So this morning she phoned me to suggest that we bring the next appointment forward and I go back next Monday, which is also fine. So that is what we will do, unless I get infected between now and then, or find out somehow that I am. If that happens, I (or my wife) will have to phone her again and we will need to do another rethink. Meanwhile I am happy that I have such a thoughtful dentist who thinks through all of the possible problems in advance.

    So I can advise that a root canal treatment is not terrible at all. You might even sleep through most of it.

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  23. From Luleå tekniska universitet:
    “Avancerad järn-och ståltillverkning i Norrbotten redan för 2000 år sedan ”
    Excavations in Sangis and Vivungi show there was a large-scale manufacturing of iron ans steel taking place and there was a network of trade and information trasfer all over the Fennoskandian region.

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  24. The husband of a coworker just Facebooked that he spotted Thierry Neuville in the car behind him as he was driving to the site of the rally.

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  25. British satire site Newsthump;

    “Man who was happy to ‘fight for freedom’ by telling old ladies to take off their face-masks not so keen to take on Russia “

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  26. Covid. Right now 1694 patients in ordinary hospital beds, 72 in intensive care.
    The number of dead peaked in week 5, but we have not seen the exact number because of register lag.
    .
    Sweden will get a new kind of vaccine in about a month that is suitable for many who are unsuitable for the extant vaccines.
    .
    Reading Facebook, it is obvious a huge segment of Americans still refuse to absorb information, thinking it is over, or still thinking vaccines and face masks are BS.
    USA has seven million people who are immunocomoromised, för instance people with lupus.
    As the shaved monkeys take off their face masks – or never wore them in the first place- those seven million are targets of “stochastic terrorism”.

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  27. Birger pointed me to this article:

    Ancient DNA and deep population structure in sub-Saharan African foragers.
    https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-022-04430-9

    It is very interesting, and encouraging that they were able to obtain viable DNA at such time depth. A lot more work is needed to elucidate the genomic past and deep genetic structure in sub-Saharan Africa.

    But something in the article jumped out at me as being very odd: “Previously available aDNA sequences from sub-Saharan African foraging contexts, despite being relatively recent (younger than about 9 ka), provide evidence of ancient genetic structure that has since been disrupted by demographic transformations (such as the spread of food production, as well as colonialism, imperialism, enslavement and modern sociopolitical reorganization).”

    The reason that is odd is because it omits to mention what was probably the most important demographic transformation, namely the Bantu Migration or Bantu Expansion which began about 3,000 years ago. I note that this has now been relegated from being the consensus to now being a “theory”, which is really weird, because I have not seen any overt criticism of this “theory.” In brief, what happened is that the Bantu people developed agriculture in west central Africa (and went on later to master iron and steel production); agriculture caused their population to explode, triggering a very wide scale of migration and settlement around sub-Saharan Africa, with pre-existing groups of foragers being pushed out or absorbed.

    Perhaps that is what the authors were pointing at with “the spread of food production”. If so, it was a strange way to put it, because the food producers (the Bantu peoples) spread with the food production. Only part of one of the pre-existing forager groups that I know of took up agriculture, and another part pastoralism, while yet another part remained as marginalised foragers (these were all Khoisan people, a very diverse group with very deep time divergence who do not recognise one another as being related people).

    Perhaps it has now become unwoke to refer directly to the Bantu Migration, so it is tacitly acknowledged only by some vague reference to the spread of food production. That must be giving the linguists nightmares, if they can no longer refer to the Bantu family of languages. No one is disputing the effects of colonialism, etc. But to seek to delete any reference to the Bantu Migration in the literature when it so obviously happened is just sheer bloody mindedness.

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  28. I include this link since we all need some nice, calming content.
    Two rescue foxes play in the snow.

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  29. A Swedish major-general has stated that Russia may have lost the opportunity go capture Kiev easily in a coup. If the Ukrainans can organise their defence it will be bitter street fighting where the tanks are of limited use.
    För urban warfare the Russians will need far more infantry than they currently have in the area, and poorly motivated Russian conscripts fighting highly motivated Ukrainan defenders for every street would not be fun.

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  30. No major changes of the number of covid patients, ordinary or in intensive care for the three major Swedish city regions.
    It is the same in my region.
    Even if the prevalence of the virus in the population is dropping there is a lag of weeks before the hospital staff see a reduction in cases.
    And after that it is the enormous task of caring for those who had their treatments postponed by the pandemic- this group contribute substantually to the “excess mortality” we see.

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  31. There’s a new species of bird to watch in my neighborhood-Black vultures. Yesterday I saw a small squad of three cleaning up the remains of a possum that hadn’t made it across the street. A couple of weeks ago one came down and landed on top of a telephone pole a hundred feet or less ahead of me. It seemed to be eyeing me. I wonder if it was evaluating my decrepit old body as a potential meal.

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  32. China apparently has the potential for a real estate bubble. This makes me wonder- how do you defuse such a threat with minimum disruption to the economy? It is a real question, I never studies economy.

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    1. No idea. But Western ‘experts’ have been predicting the collapse of the Chinese economy for decades. It hasn’t happened yet, so I wouldn’t hold my breath.

      This alleged real estate bubble in the Mainland has been talked about for lots of years now. You can put that next to the fact that in Chinese cities, home ownership is at 98%, so…..that is a hell of a lot different to Hong Kong. I have a bit of trouble believing in the bubble, given that real estate in the Mainland is affordable, whereas it is definitely not in HK.

      There is a different kind of problem for Mainland real estate developers like Evergrande. The problem arises because with real estate development it takes a long time to realise return on investment. In an era of very high liquidity, companies like Evergrande borrowed hugely and over-extended themselves – since liquidity tightened somewhat, they have been unable to service their huge loans, repay their creditors and pay out to their shareholders. A lot of those big companies are currently holding on by the skin of their teeth, and if they go down, a huge number of investors, including a huge number of foreign investors, will go down with them. The Central People’s Government is aware of the problem, and has eased liquidity somewhat to try to help them stay afloat and work their way out of the mess that they have got themselves into. That is only part of it – easing liquidity also helps a huge number of other businesses struggling due to the pandemic.

      But that is not the same as a real estate bubble.

      File under things to know: a huge amount of foreign investment from the USA and EU is continuing to flow into Mainland China, a lot of it through HK; actually more now than ever before.

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  33. Har, har Steven Segal is always getting worse. He even tried to emulate ‘Blade’ fighting vampires.
    .
    Another fiasco; the Russian author Arkadij Babtjenko rejoiced in how Putin has demolished the myth of the invulnerable Russian army.
    A dictator can get away with practically everything else, but not the public failure of the tool of violence his regime depends on.
    With surprisingly high losses and teenage Russian conscripts surrendering in droves this shows the military machine was not at all what the propaganda had claimed.
    .
    I don’t know the exact English term, but Sweden is sending 5000 single-use glassfibre thingies that launch anti-tank missiles to the Ukraine. A kind of lightweight bazooka.
    And lots of other defensive hardware.
    This is the first time since the Winter War 1939-40 that Sweden has agreed to send weapons to a country in war*
    (*not counting the time the Palme government sent howitzers to India or rocket launchers to Burma while pretending there were no wars going on)

    Liked by 1 person

  34. Sally Kellerman, the actress who played major Houlihan in the film MASH (1970) has died at 84.

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    1. Compare that to the Second Punic War, which wiped out 20% of Rome’s military aged males in three battles, the worst of which was Cannae. And compare that to WWII, where Germany lost the equivalent spread over four years.

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  35. Dead turned away amid infections at funeral home.

    “I’m sorry, sir, you can’t come in here. We’ve had infections.” “But I’m already dead!” “Sorry, we can’t make exceptions just on the grounds of deadness.”

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