Hell's 'chicken': The Carnegie unveils a fierce bird-like dinosaur

The pantheon of really strange dinosaurs just got a little stranger. Last week, the world got its first look at a creature that lived 66 million years ago.

Anzu wyliei is a dinosaur that looks like a tall chicken, with long neck, beak and crested head. Its name comes from a lion-headed bird demon in Mesopotamian mythology. If it were around today, no one would ever ask why this "chicken" wanted to cross the road.

Informally named the "giant chicken from hell" by the three paleontologists who published a paper about it last week in PLOS ONE, an online scientific journal, Anzu wyliei was 11 feet long, almost 6 feet tall and weighed up to 660 pounds. Despite its fearsome looks, it ate plants primarily and lacked the teeth to devour anything beyond small lizards.

Matt Lamanna, assistant curator of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, is one of the scientists who devoted nearly nine years to researching the creature that arrived at the end of the Cretaceous Period, the last great epoch of the dinosaurs. His partners on the project work at the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Utah.

One look at the fossilized skeleton on display at the Carnegie museum and it's clear why Anzu wyliei, which lived in North Dakota and elsewhere, is considered a distant relative of modern birds.

Before the creature faced extinction with the rest of the dinosaurs, it was the frequent prey of its bad-tempered cousin, Tyrannosaurus rex.

The most fearsome carnivore that ever lived most likely had a hankering for something that not only looked like chicken, but tasted like it, too.

—The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 25


It's time for a post-9/11 course correction on spying

It's a telling coincidence: The same week that former President Jimmy Carter described the fugitive Edward Snowden's intelligence leaks as "probably constructive in the long run," the Obama administration confirmed that it will propose major restrictions on the government's freedom to collect bulk phone records.

Carter's comments didn't prod the administration into action, of course. But his attitude toward the leaks — namely, that they confirm that "since 9/11, we've gone too far in intrusion on the privacy that Americans ought to enjoy as a right of citizenship" — has grown to be widely shared.

If the administration's legislative proposal is adopted, those breaches of privacy apparently won't be quite so flagrant — although bulk collection of phone records is hardly the only constitutionally questionable surveillance activity of the government.

"As we've argued since the program was disclosed, the government can track suspected terrorists without placing millions of people under permanent surveillance," said Jameel Jaffer of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Let's just hope a majority in Congress agrees.

—The Denver Post, March 27