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Scientists to excavate Wyoming cave with trove of Ice Age fossils

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By Laura Zuckerman

(Reuters) – Scientists will begin excavation early next week of an ancient Wyoming sinkhole containing a rare bounty of fossil remains of prehistoric animals, such as mammoths and dire wolves, preserved in unusually good condition, researchers said on Thursday.

The two-week dig, set to begin next Monday under the direction of Des Moines University paleontologist Julie Meachen, marks the first exploration of Natural Trap Cave in north-central Wyoming since its initial discovery in the 1970s.

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At that time, scientists found that the 85-foot-deep cavern formed a natural repository for a rich fossil record that may date back as far as 100,000 years, but a full-scale expedition into the sinkhole has not previously been attempted.

The cave, formed by the collapse of limestone bedrock at the base of the Bighorn Mountains, became a tomb for thousands of ancient mammals that stumbled into the 15-foot-wide mouth of the sinkhole, then concealed by vegetation, and plunged to their deaths.

Conditions in the underground chasm, which widens to 120 feet at its base, are cold and damp, offering a degree of preservation for fossils generally associated only with those found frozen in ice in Siberia and the Arctic, Meachen said.

“They fell into a refrigerator,” she said of animals such as camels, American lions, cheetahs, woolly mammoths and short-faced bears.

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Meachen will lead a team of international scientists as they rappel from the outer rim of the cave’s opening – covered for decades by a metal grate installed by federal land managers – to the depths below, where they will load fossils into buckets to be hoisted to the surface.

Analysis of recovered fossils is expected to provide new insights into the climate, diets and genetic diversity of North American mammals that disappeared during the Ice Age extinction of more than 10,000 years ago.

Meachen said there may also be an opportunity to draw inferences tied to an emerging theory that the mass extinction was linked more to overhunting by humans, whose appearance in North America coincided with a die-off long thought to be influenced mostly by climate.

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Meachen said she had trained at a rock-climbing gym for the descent and the more arduous ascent, also by rope, but remained leery of entries and exits from the cave.

“I’m scared out of my wits,” she said.

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‘Not a pretty picture’: Second-ranking GOP senator inches closer to impeachment after Bill Taylor testimony

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The second-ranking Republican senator sounded an alarm over testimony by the former Ukraine ambassador.

GOP Whip John Thune (R-SD) reacted to testimony Tuesday by veteran diplomat Bill Taylor, who told lawmakers that President Donald Trump directed efforts to pressure Ukraine to announce an investigation of Joe Biden in exchange for congressionally approved military aid.

"The picture coming out based on the reporting we’ve seen is not a good one," Thune told reporters Wednesday, "but I would say until we have a process that allows to see this with full transparency it’s pretty hard to come to hard and fast conclusions."

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‘Horde of clueless angry white men’: Internet mocks Matt Gaetz for leading a raid on a secure impeachment hearing

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On Wednesday, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) led a gang of two dozen conservative lawmakers as they barged into a classified evidence meeting in the impeachment proceeding against President Donald Trump.

Gaetz — who is not a member of the Intelligence Committee but has demanded the right to review sensitive evidence as if he is one — received scorn from commenters on social media for his stunt:

This is their plan? I’m so fucking relieved we’re up against Matt Gaetz.

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BUSTED: Newly uncovered White House budget docs undercut one of Trump’s last defenses in Ukraine scandal

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President Donald Trump's insistence that he only pushed Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden because he was concerned about "corruption" has been one of his primary defenses against House Democrats' impeachment inquiry.

However, the Washington Post has uncovered some White House budget documents that directly undercut the president's defense.

According to the Post, the Trump administration "has sought repeatedly to cut foreign aid programs tasked with combating corruption in Ukraine and elsewhere overseas" even though the White House has insisted that it is laser-focused on promoting good governance in the country.

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