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The place where the world comes together in honesty and mirth.
Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Daily Drift

The Daily Drift
Today's horoscope says:
You've been kind of bored and restless lately, and might be thinking that a change of scenery would suit you. Stop telling yourself that you're just trying to duck out from responsibilities -- instead, you're trying to find a way to rejuvenate yourself.
Take a loved one along for the ride -- someone you're sure can be more than just company, but also be part of the regeneration process.
Some of our readers today have been in:
Kawasaki, Kanagawa, Japan
Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Baden, Aargau, Switzerland
Paris, Ile-De-France, France
Annecy, Rhone-Alpes, France
Binche, Hainaut, Belgium
Bremen, Bremen, Germany
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
London, England, United Kingdom
Frankfurt, Hessen, Germany
Cairo, Al Qahirah, Egypt
Jena, Thuringen, Germany
Budapest, Budapest, Hungary
Quebec, Quebec, Canada
Coffs Harbor, New South Wales, Australia
Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia

as well as Kenya, and the United States in such cities as Rolla, Bluefield, Olathe, Mooresville and more

Today is Thursday, May 20, the 140th day of 2010.
There are 225 days left in the year. |

Today's unusual holiday or celebration is:
Eliza Doolittle Day

Druids hired to cut road accidents

Motorway bosses have hired a full-time team of druids to build a series of mini Stonehenge monuments to drain 'negative energy' from accident blackspots.

The team - which has secretly been working for Austrian authorities for two years - is said to have reduced fatal accidents at one notorious crash site to zero after restoring its "terrestrial radiation."

Chief engineer Harald Dirnbacher from Austria's motorway authority ASFINAG explained: ""We were really skeptical at first and certainly didn't want people to know what we were doing, so we kept it secret."

But now the trial results are so impressive officials are spreading the scheme nationwide. One blackspot's fatal accident rate fell from an average of six per year to nothing after the druid treatment, where they search for negative radiation with dowsing rods.

But the druids warn that they could be fighting a losing battle as the biggest cause of radiation disruption is mobile phone masts.

Senior druid Ilmar Tessmann explained: "It is a big job. Every one of these masts spreads negative radiation over an area of 120 to 200 miles. "

As The World Turns

As The World Turns
The country widens its crackdown on Internet sites that it deems offensive to Islam. 
Wonder how much longer our Pakistani readers will be able to read us?

New photocopy rules introduced in Tibet
People in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa will have to register their names if they want to make photocopies. City shopkeepers say the authorities are particularly concerned about material printed in Tibetan.

This appears to be an attempt to prevent ordinary people from printing political pamphlets and other documents. It suggests the security forces still have a tight grip on the city, two years after serious riots.

Individuals wanting to photocopy documents will have to show their ID cards and have the information recorded. Companies will have to register their names and addresses, the number of copies they want and provide the name of the manager in charge of the work.

The police say they will carry out checks and punish any shop that does not abide by the new regulation.

Score: Ninjas 1 - Muggers 0

Three would-be thugs have learned their lesson after setting upon a fellow train passenger in a dimly-lit alley in Sydney.
The three men attacked the 27-year-old German medical student after getting off the train and following him down the alley at Kingswood on Tuesday.
What the muggers did not realize was that the alley ran behind the Ninja Senshi Ryu warrior school.
A ninja student coming out of class noticed the attack and alerted his teacher and three other students.
The lesson here is: Always be fully aware of your surroundings my students.

Poignant reunion for hikers jailed in Iran

Ten months' worth of emotions spill out as the American captives embrace their mothers for the first time.  

Panera: Pay what you can afford

panara Panara Bread Co. opens pay what you can store in St.
Panera Bread Co. has reopened a downtown Clayton location as a nonprofit where customers can pay what they can afford. [...]
The cafĂ©, which reopened Sunday as a nonprofit, has cashiers who provide receipts with suggested prices and direct customers to the store’s five donation boxes. The menu is the same, except for the day-old baked goods brought in from sister stores in the area.
The first day was a success, and they’re planning on opening similar locations elsewhere in the country, but won’t say where yet.

Apple gives disabled woman free iPad; reverses "no cash" policy

You may recall Diane Campbell, who wanted badly to buy an iPad. Unfortunately, when she tried to do so, she was told she needed a credit card to do so. As she is disabled and on a fixed income, she did not have one, and thus was blocked. Fortunately, Apple has reversed that decision.

The Thomas Crown Affair Redux?

A brazen overnight heist at a top Paris museum shocks art experts and police.  

Man charged with fraud after fairytale wedding

Prosecutors say the marriage of a couple at Fairy Tale Weddings in North Dakota was a fairy tale fraud.

On The Job

On The Job
Chief execs value this quality above all others, a surprising survey reveals.  

It's The Economy Stupid

It's The Economy Stupid
Stocks plummet as fears grow that Europe's debt crisis could halt the U.S. recovery.  

It's Only The Environment After All

It's Only The Environment After All
A month into the growing disaster, some of the most crucial questions remain unanswered.
The Gulf oil slick has a tail, and that's bad
See the the long, dangle-y trail of oil in this NASA photo taken May 17? It's a big problem—and not just for the obvious reason. The oil slick isn't simply spreading here, it's hitching a ride on the Interstate.
loop current .jpg The Loop Current is a patch of warm, Caribbean water that pops up into the colder Gulf like a prairie dog sticking its head out of a hole. You can see it above as the orange parabola popping up into the blue. Water follows the path of that arch, up from the Caribbean, back to the Caribbean—and the water that gets back to the tropics can easily join up with the Atlantic Gulf Stream, seen above as the orange arrow rising along the Eastern Seaboard.
That tail of oil in the first picture has almost extended into the orange parabola of the second. So far, NASA says, the Loop Current isn't picking up the oil. But, if it does, the Deepwater Horizon slick could reach the straights of Florida in as little as eight days. And, beyond, the Atlantic.

Non Sequitur


Scientific Minds Want To Know

Scientific Minds Want To Know
New results from an experiment may show how matter exists in the universe.  
Synthetic cell (Science)
Scientists in the US succeed in developing the first living bacterial cell to be controlled entirely by synthetic DNA.

Scientists devise algorithm to detect sarcasm

Oh, Really?!
A computer algorithm capable of identifying sarcasm in written text has been developed by Israeli researchers. The novel formula could pave the way for more sophisticated communication between humans and computers – the Holy Grail of artificial intelligence.

Devised by computer scientists at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the algorithm has been programmed to recognise sarcasm in lengthy texts by analysing patterns of phrases and punctuation often used to indicate irony.

In tests on 66,000 product reviews posted on the Amazon shopping website, the algorithm had an impressive 77 per cent success rate in picking out sarcastic comments – arguably higher than some humans. The researchers "trained" the algorithm to recognise sarcasm by teaching it nearly 5,500 sentences from Amazon reviews that human volunteers had marked as either sarcastic or non-sarcastic.

The sarcastic phrases from the pool of Amazon reviews used for the research included "Great for insomniacs", "Are these iPods designed to die after two years?" and "Defective by design". From its learned list of sarcastic phrases, the algorithm was taught to recognise patterns of words commonly used by writers to show that they do not mean to be taken literally.

You can read all of the science here. (Pdf document).

Professors Research Economics of Porn, Become Heroes of Academia

If you really want to get to the bottom of a particular subculture, you've really got to immerse yourself in it. With this in mind, then, a group of five security "researchers" studying the online porn industry recently decided to live the dream bite the bullet, and create their very own adult site.

In their paper, which will be presented at The Ninth Workshop on the Economics of Information Security at Harvard, the professors discovered that 43-percent of all the clicks they received on their homemade site were from browsers that were vulnerable to malware targeting Adobe Flash, Microsoft Office, or Adobe PDF documents. They also realized they could've turned a handsome profit if they'd agreed to use their site as a vehicle for a so-called Pay-Per-Install program, which would've offered them money in exchange for installing malware on targeted computers.

The research team, led by Glibert Wondracek, also built a web-crawler to analyze the content of almost half a million different adult URLs. They discovered that a full 3.23-percent of the pages studied "were found to trigger malicious behavior such as code execution, registry changes, or executable downloads." Three-percent might not seem like a lot, but that's about five times the average found by previous studies, and that number quickly mushrooms when you consider how many people access porn online, and the frequency with which they do it.

According to Wondracek and his study partners, the prevalence of X-rated malware is largely due to a lack of oversight. With nine out of every ten adult sites now free, most site owners make money through directing users to pay sites. So-called traffic brokers, meanwhile, are concerned solely with selling traffic to sites in their networks, and typically don't even bother inspecting their affiliated sites.

Ultimately, as Technology Review says, it's an economy built entirely upon "clicks and pennies." But it's probably not a model that could be implemented in other online media, simply because most other media isn't porn. As long as consumer demand remains so uniquely consistent, and as long as users continue to click away in the tireless pursuit of arousal, the system -- and its malware -- will continue to thrive.



In Matters Of Health

In Matters Of Health
Scientists may be better able to treat age-related illnesses like Alzheimer's with a fresh focus.

Habits that can help slim you down

Making these changes can help you trim your waistline — without doing endless crunches.

Novartis Hit with $250 M Settlement

Manager 'showed women porn'
A New York court has awarded $250million (£174m) against drug giant Novartis for discriminating against female employees in the largest case of its kind.

Some 5,600 women will share the money as compensation for 'systemic gender discrimination', which included pregnant employees being encouraged to have an abortion.

A judge has already awarded a dozen of the women payouts between $3.3million and $50,000 in what is the largest ever lawsuit for sex discrimination in the U.S.

The remainder will now go before a judge who will hear their testimony and decide on a case-by-case basis how much they will receive.

Novartis said it would appeal but David Sanford, the plaintiffs' lawyer, said the jury's decision 'sent a message' to the company and other firms that discrimination will not be tolerated.

The lawsuit was brought on behalf of female sales representatives and junior managers who worked for Novartis since 2002.

Mr Sandford said they had been overlooked for promotion, discriminated against if they became pregnant and had 'paid the price for a corporate culture that condones treating women with gender hostility'.

Novartis was characterised as being like an old boys' club and a series of appalling case studies outlined how women workers were picked on.

Mr Sandford explained that one manager showed female co-workers pornographic images and invited them to sit on his lap.

One boss said he did not hire females because 'first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes flex time and a baby carriage.'

Company trainers urged employees not to get pregnant and one told a female worker who was expecting: 'Oops, too late.'

Another employee was disciplined for poor sales while on official leave for the birth of her twins. Others were told they could not go on management courses when they became pregnant.

The jury at Manhattan's Federal Court was told about the case of Holly Waters, a sales rep who was one of the best in the team and recognised as such by her boss.

That all changed when she told him she was expecting - he began punishing her for taking sick days for severe morning sickness and wrongly accused her of falsifying sales calls.

With no chance to defend herself, she was fired and lost her health insurance and benefits at a time when she was seven months pregnant.

'To Novartis, discrimination is one big joke,' Mr Sanford told the jury.

'There was an old boys' network at Novartis running rampant. The discrimination continues to this very day. Absolutely nothing was ever done to help women at Novartis.'

In advance of their ruling, Novartis attorney Richard Schnadig urged the jury not to react emotionally. 'The company is taking everything you said to heart and is going to change,' he said.

Next week a judge could order Novarties to make additional payments and demand 'injunctive relief', which would force the firm to take steps to end discrimination.

Mr Sanford had sought up to $285million in punitive damages. He said he came up with that amount by estimating that the company should have to pay two to three per cent of the $9.5billion in revenues it made in 2009.

Creationism in the classroom

This video has it all, ignorance, intolerance, hatred (not cleverly veiled either - just listen to the final soliloquy from the last student to speak " ... how could black people have evolved from white people ... we have different skin ..."), perversion, etc.
And you wonder why American students fail to measure up to even the lowest standards of intelligence?
Hell, 70% of students in America today can not find the United States on a map of the world and of the 30% that are left over half come close but still put the nation a bit further north than it is. That's Canada by the way.

Lunatic Fringe

Lunatic Fringe
When dealing with wingnuts ... Remember the rule: 
If they accuse someone of something, then they're already guilty of it.
Liars and Fools
Faux's Glen Brick distorts FEMA facts to lie: Obama is "destroying charity and our faith"
Typical NAZI - taking disparate items and combining them into 'facts' and still looking like the idiot he is 
in doing so.

Newt Gingrich (reptile-Georgia) continues dooms-day rhetoric: The "left" is "contemptuous of" and "very dangerous to the future of America"
Wrong there Newt ol'boy, that'd be you and yours. The world has known it for years as have sane Americans and in the past decade you have proven it to some of your "own" kind as well.

Faux's Gretchen Carlson lies: American flag is being "assaulted"
Where? And by whom? The land of Dementia where the little green men run about doesn't count you know.

Actually, Lush he represents them - you on the other hand ...

Repugican teabagger candidate Rand Paul also believes 'a free society' will allow 'hate-filled groups to exclude people based on the color of their skin'

He's not a racist. He just believes people should be free to discriminate against black people. And the difference in practice is?
In a May 30, 2002, letter to the Bowling Green Daily News, Paul's hometown newspaper, he criticized the paper for endorsing the Fair Housing Act, and explained that "a free society will abide unofficial, private discrimination, even when that means allowing hate-filled groups to exclude people based on the color of their skin."

Arizona in Mexican Standoff with Los Angeles and Other U.S. Cities

Arizona Threatens to Cut Power to Los Angeles
In the month since it enacted a controversial law intended to reduce illegal immigration, Arizona has faced a steady stream of rebuttals from sane people.

Editor's Note: Also true to form for the idiots they are the threat to cut power to LA was as idiotic as the law itself - California utilities own the power generating plants in Arizona ... so the threat in reality is in reverse. Should the California utilities choose to do so Arizona will be the one without electrical power.

Wizard of Id


The Party of No lives!

They might break out with a severe case of the hives if they were somehow associated with anything as progressive as science and technology.
They're tripping over themselves to save Big Oil from their financial responsibilities but somehow it's OK to spend taxpayer money for oil spills caused by bad the oil industry.
It was strike two for a major science funding bill Wednesday as House Republicans again united to derail legislation they said was too expensive.

Going down to defeat was the America COMPETES Act, which would have committed more than $40 billion over three years to boost funding for the National Science Foundation and other federal agencies involved in basic and applied science, provided loan guarantees to small businesses developing new technologies and promoted science and math education.

Indiana Souder and the Temple of Abstinence

Via Skippy:
I present a video made by Mark Souder, the repugican congressional representative from Indiana who resigned a day or so ago when it was revealed that he had an affair with a member of his staff. the topic of the video is "abstinence education". Souder, the congressman who cheated on his wife, is a big proponent of abstinence education. The person "interviewing" him in the video is Tracy Jackson. "Why is that relevant?", you might ask. "It is relevant," I might answer, "because Tracy Jackson is Souder's mistress." One feels a palpable irony while watching this video, especially since, as interviews go, this one is a real handjob, which is understandable given the relationship between interviewer and interviewee.

Wingnut America: Early Marriage, Early Divorce, Early Pregnancy, Early Abortion

Few observers have failed to notice that while the religo-fascists vehemently opposes abortion, they also oppose policies which would reduce the demand for abortions.

Texas school books

History .... or the lack thereof:
Greatest Texan Ever
“We are fighting for our children’s education and our nation’s future,” Dunbar said. “In Texas we have certain statutory obligations to promote patriotism and to promote the free enterprise system. There seems to have been a move away from a patriotic ideology. There seems to be a denial that this was a nation founded under God. We had to go back and make some corrections.”
Those corrections have prompted a blizzard of accusations of rewriting history and indoctrinating children by promoting wingnut views on religion, economics and guns while diminishing the science of evolution, the civil rights movement and the horrors of slavery.
Several changes include sidelining Thomas Jefferson, who favored separation of church and state, while introducing a new focus on the “significant contributions” of pro-slavery Confederate leaders during the civil war.
How does the effect the rest of the country?
The curriculum has alarmed liberals across the country in part because Texas buys millions of text books every year, giving it considerable sway over what publishers print. By some estimates, all but a handful of American states rely on text books written to meet the Texas curriculum. The California legislature is considering a bill that would bar them from being used in the state’s schools.

'Ghostbusters' parody astonishes onlookers

A group of comedians storms the New York Public Library chasing "ghosts" covered in sheets.  

World Sauna Championships

ESPN's Rick Reilly files a stomach-churning account of his participation in the 2007 Sauna World Championships in Heinola, Finland. One of two Americans in the competition, Reilly witnessed otherwise sane adults (including him) subjecting their body to horrible torture, resulting in burns and blisters:
"Dude, were you breathing through your nose?" I asked. "Yeah, why?" he said.
"Your skin is all gone under your nose! It's burned off!"
He felt his upper lip in horror. He ran to the mirror. The tops of his ears were split open and bubbling. Under his arms and on his back were bright purple patches. His forehead was painted bright red and blistering in front of his eyes. "Man, I'm burning up. Even my tongue is burned." His wife begged him to quit, but he refused. Said he had trained too hard. She shook her head.
For the record, I've paid a few visits to the Finnish Society for the Preservation of Sauna Culture in Helsinki -- delightful, traditional wood-fired saunas on an icy Baltic Sea inlet, and it was nothing like this (I even did the avanto, jumping into the frozen sea in the middle of the winter and then going back into the sauna -- man, that lets you know you're alive!).

Odds and Sods

Odds and Sods
In Cop News
Texas sheriff's department won't name jail guard facing drug charges

Washington sheriff's deputy shoots in-laws, kills himself

New Mexico jail guard charged with smuggling heroin, marijuana and meth

Federal narc charged with stealing money in sting operation

Aussie detective found guilty of murder after he killed his wife by pushing her off a cliff

Florida police officer arrested in drug sting

New Jersey cop charged with sending lewd video to 13-year-old

Wisconsin cop arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct

Former cop arrested for impersonating cop in North Carolina

Philadelphia cop charged with assault, stalking day after retirement

Connecticut cop pleads no contest in theft of Taser