Cats You’ve Never Heard Of, European Wildcat … Or Have You?

Cat European wildcat nationalgeo

A European wildcat (Felis silvestris) pauses in a grassy field in Moldova in 2009.

These cats, known for their bushy tails, call Europe, North Africa, and the Black Sea coast home. They’re listed as a species of least concern and weigh between 3.5 and 18 pounds (1.6 and 8 kilograms).

Along with rodents and rabbits, European wildcats will also eat fish and amphibians.

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Fannie Mae Launches HomePath Ready Buyer Education Program for First-Time Homebuyers

Up to Three Percent Closing Cost Assistance Available Upon Completion of Online Education Course

Fannie Mae (FNMA/OTC) announced the HomePath®Ready Buyer program, qualifying first-time homebuyersto receive up to three percent of the purchase price in closing cost assistance toward the purchase of a HomePath property, upon completion of an online homebuyer education course.  On a $150,000 home, this could result in up to $4,500 in savings for the buyer.  In addition, Fannie Mae will reimburse the $75 cost of the homebuyer education course at the time of closing.

“Purchasing your first home can be an overwhelming process,” said Jay Ryan, Vice President of REO Sales, Fannie Mae. “We developed the HomePath Ready Buyer program to provide first-time homebuyers with the knowledge to make informed decisions as they navigate the complexities of the home buying process. Closing cost assistance provides a cushion many first-time buyers need to more confidently face the financial responsibilities of homeownership.”

Fannie Mae has partnered with Framework®, a nonprofit created by the Housing Partnership Network and the Minnesota Homeownership Center, to offer homebuyers a homeownership education course that covers both the complexities of home buying and the responsibilities of owning a home. The course contains nine, thirty-minute sessions and is entirely online.

To be eligible for the closing cost assistance and the reimbursement of the training cost:

  • Buyers must complete the full online HomePath Ready Buyer training course on and receive the Certificate of Completion.
  • The buyer must be a first-time homebuyer (did not own a property in the past three years) with plans to reside in the property as their primary residence. Auction, pool and investor sales are not eligible.
  • The request for closing cost assistance must be made at the initial offer, submitted on or after April 14, 2015.

Those interested in becoming a homeowner are encouraged to take the course as soon as possible. The course must be completed before submitting an offer to qualify. For more information on the course and to sign up, visit

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Hubble And The Sombrero Galaxy


 Sombrero Galaxy

Photograph courtesy NASA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Over its lifetime, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has captured many stunning images. Among the most memorable is this edge-on mosaic of the Sombrero galaxy. With its relatively high brightness magnitude and at a distance of 28 million light-years from Earth, Messier 104, as Sombrero is more formally known, is easily viewed through a small telescope.

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Women Challenging Rules, Changing History


professional female skateboarder


Why the Leatherback Turtle Has a Skylight In It’s Head

Leatherback Turtle
Close your eyes, and what do you see? Nothing, of course: The visual representation of your surroundings disappears. But you’re still receiving information from the ambient light passing through your eyelids. You can tell night from day and detect the flickering of shadows. That’s a poor substitute for color binocular vision for a primate, but for other animals, at other times, that kind of information has been crucial to survival, says ophthalmologist Ivan R. Schwab, author of Evolution’s Witness: How Eyes Evolved

So a few animals retain primitive systems with the sole purpose of measuring ambient light—of which the most unusual is the leatherback sea turtle, one of the world’s largest reptiles. New research shows that the turtle has what British biologist John Davenport calls a “skylight” on the top of its skull, an unusually thin area of bone just beneath a spot of unpigmented skin that allows light to impinge directly on the brain’s pineal gland. With changes in long-wave light, Davenport proposes, the brain computes the “equilux,” the day (close to the equinox, but not necessarily coinciding) when sunset and sunrise are exactly 12 hours apart. More reliably than water temperature or light intensity, that’s the signal for turtles feeding in the North Atlantic to head south each fall.

In most vertebrates, humans included, the pineal regulates sleep and other cyclical activities in response to ambient light. A few species, mostly reptiles and amphibians, actually have a third eye on the top of their head to measure daylight, complete with a lens and retina—similar, but not identical, to the forward-facing eyes. Only leatherbacks, as far as we know, have the skylight. 

Interestingly, there is a long philosophical and spiritual tradition of treating the pineal as a kind of parasensory organ, the mystical “third eye.” Descartes regarded it as the seat of the soul, because it had no symmetrical counterpart. Evolution has in fact equipped disparate parts of the body to respond to light, says Schwab; even humans have “photoreceptors in places you wouldn’t believe.” 

There’s a sea snake with photoreceptors in its tail, to ensure that when it hides in a cave, it gets its whole body inside. The male genitalia of certain butterflies rely on light-sensing cells to make sure they aren’t ejaculating into the open air. And some corals cycle reproduction by the amount of blue light in the second full moon of springtime. “The whole Earth,” Schwab says, “has a heartbeat based on light.” 

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