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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.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Daily Drift

 Monday, May 14
And, no, we are not apologizing to Shakespeare, either!

Today's readers have been in:

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Santiago, Chile
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Today in History

756 Abd-al-Rahman is proclaimed emir of Cordoba, Spain.
1213 King John submits to the Pope, offering to make England and Ireland papal fiefs. Pope Innocent III lifts the interdict of 1208.
1602 English navigator Bartholomew Gosnold discovers Cape Cod.
1614 An aristocratic uprising in France ends with treaty of St. Menehould.
1618 Johannes Kepler discovers his harmonics law.
1702 The War of Spanish Succession begins.
1730 Following the resignation of Lord Townshend, Robert Walpole becomes the sole minister in the English cabinet.
1768 By the Treaty of Versailles, France purchases Corsica from Genoa.
1795 Napoleon enters the Lombardian capital of Milan in triumph.
1820 The U.S. Congress designates the slave trade a form of piracy.
1849 Neapolitan troops enter Palermo, Sicily.
1862 The Union ironclad Monitor and the gunboat Galena fire on Confederate troops at the Battle of Drewry's Bluff, Virginia.
1864 At the Battle of New Market, Virginia Military Institute cadets repel a Union attack.
1886 Emily Dickinson dies in Amherst, Mass., where she had lived in seclusion for the previous 24 years.
1916 U.S. Marines land in Santo Domingo to quell civil disorder.
1918 Pfc. Henry Johnson and Pfc. Needham Roberts receive the Croix de Guerre for their services in World War I. They are the first Americans to win France's highest military medal.
1930 Ellen Church becomes the first airline stewardess.
1942 The United States begins rationing gasoline.
1958 Sputnik III is launched by the Soviet Union.
1963 The last Project Mercury space flight, carrying Gordon Cooper, is launched.
1968 U.S. Marines relieve army troops in Nhi Ha, South Vietnam after a fourteen-day battle.
1972 George Wallace is shot by Arthur Bremer in Laurel, Maryland.
1975 The merchant ship Mayaguez is recaptured from Cambodia's Khmer Rouge.
1988 Soviets forces begin their withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Random Photos

kateoplis:

White Man Contemplating Pyramids, Richard Misrach, from The Life and Death of Buildings at Princeton University Art Museum

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Funny Pictures

Global investors prefer Obama over Romney

Wait, I thought Obama was supposed to be a socialist who hates business. Is this poll suggesting that maybe Obama is not really the person the Teabaggers talk about?

Well I'll be darned.
Asked who would be the better leader for the global economy, 49 percent favor Obama against 38 percent for Romney, according to a quarterly Bloomberg Global Poll. In January, the two candidates tied on the question.

By the same margin, they say Obama has a better vision for the U.S. economy, according to the survey of 1,253 Bloomberg customers, who are investors, analysts or traders.

Obama “managed the U.S. economy pretty well, solving a lot of imbalances created by the previous administration,” says poll respondent Mario Di Marcantonio, 35, a senior portfolio manager at Eurizon Capital in Milan.
Despite the repugican talk, Obama is pretty much a Rockefeller Republican and anyone with open eyes can see that he's hardly a socialist.

Greek debt payment due today

The timing of this payment is especially interesting, as Greece is still deadlocked and may have to call another election to settle the government. Add to that the increasing discussions among EU leaders that a Greek departure from the euro is on the table and it gets interesting. Greece has 30 days after today to make that payment but otherwise, it defaults.
From the beginning of this crisis some have suggested the best of the worst cases scenarios was for Greece to default and move on but that was unacceptable for the political class of Europe. They shoved bailouts down the throats of Greece which only added more pain to an already suffering country. It did nothing to help. Now we're back to the discussion that should have occurred years ago.

More on the Greek bailout payment at CNBC:
And at this late hour, there appears to be no decision from Greece on whether those holders will get their money. There is huge internal division about what to do, particularly because Greece is without a government.

Advisors have told Greece not to pay it because they should not reward the hold-outs, especially after Greece made threats to the hold outs during the exchange, saying there would be no money for them.

Additionally, it’s likely a lot of that debt is held by hedge funds that paid only pennies on the euro. If they get paid in full, it could double their investment.

Shoe

Monday, May 14

Rebekah Brooks, husband & 4 others to be charged in Tabloid hacking scandal

Ex-News of the World editor and News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks, her husband and four others will face charges over Britain’s tabloid phone hacking scandal, British prosecutors said Thursday.

Brooks, 43, will face three separate allegations of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in relation to alleged attempts to hide evidence related to hacking from police.

Alison Levitt, the principal legal advisor to Britain’s Director of Public Prosecutions, said the ex-editor’s husband Charlie Brooks, a racehorse trainer, will also face similar charges.

Brooks’ former personal assistant Cheryl Carter, the ex-head of security at News International Mark Hanna, Brooks’ chauffeur and a member of the firm’s security staff also face allegations of obstruction of justice.

The charges are the first to be filed since police launched a new inquiry into phone hacking in Jan. 2011.

“All these matters relate to the ongoing police investigation into allegations of phone hacking and corruption of public officials in relation to the News of the World and The Sun newspapers,” Levitt said.

She confirmed that a seventh person, who was also a member of security staff, would not face any charges.

In a statement, Brooks and her husband said the decision to file charges was unjust.

“We deplore this weak and unjust decision. After the further unprecedented posturing of the CPS we will respond later today after our return from the police station,” the couple said in a statement.

Levitt said that all six people charged will be formally charged later Tuesday and appear in due course for hearings at Westminster Magistrates’ Court. No dates have been set for the hearings.

Best Buy's CEO Resigns Amid "Inappropriate Relationship" Allegations


Company's Founder Also Stepping Down
Brian Dunn [pictured] gave Best Buy's board of directors plenty of reason to doubt that he was the man to engineer the company's comeback.
Dunn, 52, who resigned as CEO of the struggling electronics chain last month while the company was investigating his "alleged misconduct," was taken down by an "inappropriate relationship" with a 29-year-old female employee. That was the finding of investigators who were hired to look into the relationship and Best Buy released their report today.

The four-page audit included details about Dunn loaning the woman money, giving her use of a hotel room and sending her text messages in which he "expressed affection" for the employee (more on this later). According to Best Buy's report, Dunn and the woman deny their relationship was sexual or romantic.

Even if it was romantic, is that a big deal? Plenty of executives from powerful companies are married to former employees. But Best Buy's board claims a line was crossed, a threshold of credibility and honesty. That's the same line Hewlett-Packard's board of directors claimed Mark Hurd, its former CEO, also crossed two years ago.

Mark Hurd's glittering five-year tenure as HP CEO imploded after Jodie Fisher, a former HP contract worker, claimed Hurd sexually harassed her.

In 2010, Hurd was pushed out at HP after he was accused of making unwelcome sexual advances towards a public-relations contractor, who was also a former actress and reality television star. Hurd was never accused of flaunting the relationship, but his other, more important relationship with HP's board of directors had soured so badly, he was forced to step down.

That brings us to Dunn. Even if Dunn's relationship with the Best Buy employee was -- like he and the woman say -- innocent and platonic, Dunn didn't use much common sense in the way he behaved. On the contrary, Best Buy's board concluded that Dunn showed a remarkable lack of good judgment.

Dunn loaned the woman $600 of his own money and gave her tickets to at least seven concerts and sporting events. At one event in Las Vegas, Dunn "solicited a vendor for a complimentary ticket" for the woman, according to the report.

Dunn and the employee acknowledged meeting numerous times for lunch and after-work drinks, as well as on weekends. Best Buy staff told investigators that they saw the pair meet alone on numerous occasions in Dunn's office and in conference rooms. On two trips Dunn took abroad last year, one for four days and another for five days, he contacted the employee a total of 224 times. They included 42 texts messages with photographs or video, as well as messages "expressing affection."

The company did not say what the videos contained.

Best Buy, which has more than 150,000 employees, suggested there wasn't much of a business reason for the CEO to meet with the woman "due to the disparity in position, power, and age."

Best Buy made it clear that Dunn violated company policy.

For starters, the relationship between Dunn and the female employee created a negative working environment for other Best Buy employees, the company said in the report. Some workers told investigators that the relationship lowered morale because they wondered if the CEO thought himself above the rules.

The woman spoke openly about her relationship with Dunn and the favors he did for her. That created the perception she was a favored employee. That perception, according to the report, made it harder for the woman's supervisor to manage her.

The most clear-cut violation was when Dunn asked a vendor to give his employee a concert ticket. Best Buy forbids employees to accept gifts of value from vendors.

Conceivably, Dunn's conduct could have put Best Buy at risk of a sexual harassment lawsuit, either by the female employee or a co-worker who might argue he or she was negatively affected by the relationship. Were Best Buy's directors worried about that? You bet.

When they noted Richard Schulze, the company's founder and chairman, had learned about the relationship in December and did not report it to the rest of the board, they criticized him saying: "the chairman failed to act in a manner consistent with the audit committee's mandate and good governance practices and he created serious risks of employee retaliation and company liability."

Schulze announced today that he is stepping down as chairman.

The good news for investors is that the board of directors at Best Buy and HP acted to protect investors. They should serve as an example.

Boards that see CEOs make questionable ethical choices shouldn't wait until there is an accounting scandal to make changes.

Daily Comic Relief


JPMorgan loss proves need for bank rules

President Barack Obama says JPMorgan Chase's $2 billion loss in high-risk trading demonstrates the need for the Wall Street rules that Congress passed two years ago.

JPMorgan loss due to loophole Dimon lobbied to have

There's nothing quite like being the victim of your own arrogance. The ugly $2 billion loss - which is probably only the beginning since the bank still owns those positions - sits squarely on the head of CEO Jamie Dimon. As we learned during the crisis of 2008 as well as this latest Wall Street failure is that we need much more transparency in the too-big-too-fail world.
Karma, anyone?
Soon after lawmakers finished work on the nation’s new financial regulatory law, a team of JPMorgan Chase lobbyists descended on Washington. Their goal was to obtain special breaks that would allow banks to make big bets in their portfolios, including some of the types of trading that led to the $2 billion loss now rocking the bank.

Several visits over months by the bank’s well-connected chief executive, Jamie Dimon, and his top aides were aimed at persuading regulators to create a loophole in the law, known as the Volcker Rule. The rule was designed by Congress to limit the very kind of proprietary trading that JPMorgan was seeking.

Even after the official draft of the Volcker Rule regulations was released last October, JPMorgan and other banks continued their full-court press to avoid limits.
The big problem that we see once again from Wall Street is that they know Washington is a bunch of spineless jellyfish, who talk the talk but won't walk the walk. Wall Street knows that when these big banks get into trouble, the gutless will always be there to bail out the banks. Heads they win, tails they win. It's a fixed game and Wall Street knows it.

Resignations this week at JPMorgan

As you might expect, none of the resignations this week are likely to include failed CEO Jamie Dimon. The biggest name in the resignations this week is Ina Drew, the "trader at heart" who was managing risk for JPMorgan. Whoever thought hiring a "trader" to manage a growing and now large risk team ought to be sent packing this week, but that's not likely to happen.

CNBC:
According to the report, the departures involve three of the highest-ranking executives with direct connections to the losses, these people say.

Separately, the Financial Times reported, also citing unnamed people familiar with the matter, that JPMorgan Chase is investigating whether London-based traders hid the extent of losses on credit derivatives positions. The paper also reported resignations were expected within the next 24 hours.

The Wall Street Journal listed those leaving as: Ina Drew, who since 2005 has run the risk-management unit that is responsible for the losses; Achilles Macris, who is in charge of the London-based desk that placed the trades; and trader Javier Martin-Artajo, a managing director on Mr. Macris's team.
There has to come a time though when investors realize that Dimon's big mouth will cost the bank even more money so he may also be on borrowed time. He's not there yet and for the moment, there are plenty of fools (including the retired GE CEO Jack Welch who squeezed GE for a lavish retirement plan) who lapped up Dimon's TV appearance yesterday. As more losses emerge - and they almost certainly will be coming - Dimon's PR offensive will not be enough to save his job.

The truth be told

EU carries out first air strikes against Somali pirates

The long coastline of war-ravaged Somalia provides a perfect haven for pirate gangs preying on shipping off the East African coast.

Newark Airport security supervisor assumed murdered man's identity for two decades

Bimbo Olumuyiwa Oyewole, a security supervisor at Newark airport, lived a double life for 20 years using the identity of the victim in an unsolved murder.
Since 1992, the undocumented Nigerian immigrant worked at EWR as Jerry Thomas, a man who was killed that same year in New York City. Oyewole continued to live as Thomas undetected for two decades, while overseeing security matters at one of America's busiest airports.
According to the Associated Press report, "the private security guards he supervised are responsible for manning TSA security checkpoints after passenger gates close for the evening and before they reopen in the morning. The guards also inspect delivery vehicles for possible unauthorized cargo."
Oops.

You da bomb!

  (surgically-implanted explosives)

According to Newsweek, US intelligence officials report that al Qaeda's explosives expert Ibrahim al-Asiri and medical doctors have been designing bombs to be surgically implanted into the bodies of suicide bombers. The idea is that the technique would somehow foil airport scanners. Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, "You da bomb!" From Newsweek:
An American government source familiar with the report described it as 15 to 20 pages, single spaced, and replete with schematics and pictures. “It was almost like something you’d see in Scientific American,” the source said. (In military parlance, the bomb is called a “surgically implanted improvised explosive device,” or SIIED.) A diagram with arrows and blocks of text explained the surgical process. “The idea was to insert the device in the terrorist’s love handle,” says the U.S. government source, who declined to be named discussing sensitive intelligence. While it was not clear whether the terror doctors had ever succeeded in implanting explosives in a human being, they had experimented with dogs and other animals.
Fortunately these devices are easier to describe than to detonate. “You would have to have a very unique firing system,” says Borelli. “If it’s a ‘body bomb’ you are going to have to have a way to initiate it from the outside—almost a stent, or something like a pacemaker.”

Egyptian Man Wakes Up at His Funeral

Here’s a sure-fire way to ruin a perfectly good funeral: wake the corpse up. It happened last week in Egypt. Hamdi Hafez al-Nubi of the village of Naga al-Simman suffered a heart attack while working as a waiter. Hospital officials pronounced the 28-year-old man dead.
His family says grieving relatives took him home and, according to Islamic tradition, washed his body and prepared him for burial Friday evening.
A doctor sent to sign the death certificate found it strange that his body was warm. At closer observation she discovered he was still alive.
His mother fainted upon hearing the good news.
But the funeral was not a waste- the family turned it into a celebration of al-Nubi’s survival.

Redditors Surprise Terminally Ill Man

Scott Widak is a 47-year-old artist with Down Syndrome. He is also terminally ill with liver disease. His nephew Sean O’Connor posted his story on reddit and said Widak really enjoyed receiving mail. His address was only up at the site for four hours, but produced an amazing response.
Following the post, Widak received hundreds of letters from all over the world, including the United States, Sweden, Finland, Australia, Japan, the United Kingdom and Mexico. According to O’Connor, there is still mail coming in.
In addition to beautifully written letters, Reddit users have sent custom artwork, art supplies, DVDs and personal keepsakes that they wanted to pass on to Widak.
Sony Music Entertainment sent him 15 CDs/DVDs, which were mostly by Johnny Cash.
“The mail that’s arrived has all been extremely positive and thoughtful,” says O’Connor. “My family and I are amazed at how so many strangers could come together for a random act of kindness.”

Urban landscape can hurt or heal

Research shows that street furniture, barriers, parks, public spaces and neighborhood architecture can stir up powerful emotions in local residents.
More

A 9-Year-Old Psychopath?

All kids scream and throw tantrums every now and then, but Michael is different. When he was 5 years old, the boy developed a disturbing ability to switch between full-blown rage to calm rationality in a blink of an eye.
After years of trying to diagnose Michael's condition, her parents were referred to Dan Waschbusch of Florida International University, who came up with "callous-unemotional" syndrome. Basically, Michael was diagnosed as a psychopath ... at age 9.
For this intriguing article over at the New York Times, Jennifer Kahn visited the family:
When I first met Michael, he seemed shy but remarkably well behaved. While his brother Allan ran through the house with a plastic bag held overhead like a parachute, Michael entered the room aloofly, then curled up on the living room sofa, hiding his face in the cushions. “Can you come say hello?” Anne asked him. He glanced at me, then sprang cheerfully to his feet. “Sure!” he said, running to hug her. Reprimanded for bouncing a ball in the kitchen, he rolled his eyes like any 9-year-old, then docilely went outside. A few minutes later, he was back in the house, capering antically in front of Jake, who was bobbing up and down on his sit-and-ride scooter. When the scooter tipped over, Michael gasped theatrically and ran to his brother’s side. “Jake, are you O.K.?” he asked, wide-eyed with concern. Earnestly ruffling his youngest brother’s hair, he flashed me a winning smile.
If the display of brotherly affection felt forced, it was difficult to see it as fundamentally disturbed. Gradually, though, Michael’s behavior began to morph. While queuing up a Pok√©mon video on the family’s computer upstairs, Michael turned to me and remarked crisply, “As you can see, I don’t really like Allan.” When I asked if that was really true, he said: “Yes. It’s true,” then added tonelessly, “I hate him.”
Glancing down a second later, he noticed my digital tape recorder on the table. “Did you record that?” he asked. I said that I had. He stared at me briefly before turning back to the video. When a sudden noise from the other room caused me to glance away, Michael seized the opportunity to grab the recorder and press the erase button. (Waschbusch later noted that such a calculated reprisal was unusual in a 9-year-old, who would normally go for the recorder immediately or simply whine and sulk.)
So, can you call a 9-year-old a psychopath? Read more of this intriguing article over at the New York Times: here.

Teenage Burglar Arrested after Leaving His Homework at the Crime Scene

Are you a diligent student working hard to earn good grades and succeed in life? If so, be prepared to pay the price:
An 18-year-old Utah man was arrested on suspicion of burglary after police say he left his homework at the crime scene.
Police in Orem say they tracked a USB drive found at the burglarized home to [redacted -- ed.]. They say the computer hard drive contained his homework and was in a backpack abandoned in the backyard.

Man charged with murder offers victim's foot for deal

Accused killer Leslie Sandoval says he can't remember much about a drinking spree in January that left his homeless friend Seth Foster dead and dismembered under a vacant Anderson, South Carolina, building.
"It is like a jigsaw puzzle and I can't put all of the pieces together," said Sandoval. "I am still putting pieces together today." Anderson police arrested Sandoval on Feb. 25 and charged with him murder and possession of a weapon in a violent crime.


He was apprehended at a rural Abbeville County home two days after investigators discovered Foster's decomposing torso in the crawl space of an abandoned building in downtown Anderson. The 53-year-old victim's head, hands and right foot were recovered from under a nearby building.

Sandoval said he may reveal the location of Foster's left foot, which police haven't found, if Solicitor Chrissy Adams is willing to bargain with him. "Depends on what kind of deal she wants to make,"he said. Sandoval, who turned 45 last month, is being held without bail at the Anderson County Detention Center.

Kansas man accused of hiring someone to kill his wife in Johnson County


A Leavenworth County man is scheduled to appear in Kansas City federal court this afternoon on charges that he tried to hire a hit man to kill his wife.Late Friday, prosecutors charged Lee D. Smith, 37, of Basehor, Kan., with agreeing to pay $1,800 to have his wife killed as she arrived at her Johnson County office Thursday morning.

From the Newswire

Man bit by rattlesnake at Wal-Mart
A man says he reached down to pick up a stick lying in the gardening aisle of a Wal-Mart in eastern Washington state, only to discover that it was a rattlesnake that then bit his hand.

NY man caught via Facebook gets 20 years in attack
A registered sex offender has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for beating a 12-year-old New York boy with a pool cue. A crime that was solved when the boy identified the man via Facebook photos.
  More

Cocaine in wheelchair's seat cushion at AZ border
Federal authorities say a Mexican man tried to smuggle more than 7 pounds of cocaine into Arizona by hiding it in his wheelchair's seat cushion.
 More

Louisiana takes throne as prison capital of the world

Thanks to the wasteful so-called war on drugs, the US has a thriving prison business that flushes taxpayer dollars down the drain every day. Somehow the pro-austerity (mostly repugican) crowd can overlook the excessive spending on making the US the incarceration capital of the world. Our numbers exceed even China yet that's acceptable. What exactly are we getting in return for this investment, dare I ask? Someone out there is profiting from this system but it's not the country.
How's that prison system working out for you, Louisiana?
Louisiana is the world's prison capital. The state imprisons more of its people, per head, than any of its U.S. counterparts. First among Americans means first in the world. Louisiana's incarceration rate is nearly triple Iran's, seven times China's and 10 times Germany's.

The hidden engine behind the state's well-oiled prison machine is cold, hard cash. A majority of Louisiana inmates are housed in for-profit facilities, which must be supplied with a constant influx of human beings or a $182 million industry will go bankrupt.

Several homegrown private prison companies command a slice of the market. But in a uniquely Louisiana twist, most prison entrepreneurs are rural sheriffs, who hold tremendous sway in remote parishes like Madison, Avoyelles, East Carroll and Concordia. A good portion of Louisiana law enforcement is financed with dollars legally skimmed off the top of prison operations.

Five Facts That Put America to Shame

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses...I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" These words, from poet Emma Lazarus, were inscribed on the Statue of Liberty over 100 years ago. Today the golden door has a lock on it, paid for with record profits from the health care, education, and financial industries.
1. We're near the bottom of the developed world in children's health and safety

According to a 2007 UNICEF report, the U.S. ranked last among 21 OECD nations in an assessment of child health and safety. The assessment measured infant mortality, immunization, and death from accidents and injuries.
A related 2009 OECD study generally agreed, placing the U.S. 24th out of 30 OECD countries for children's health and safety. It also showed the devastating effects of inequality in our country. Despite having the second-highest average income for children among the 30 OECD countries, the U.S. ranked 27th out of 30 for child poverty (percentage of children living in households that are below 50% of the median income).

2. We've betrayed the young people who were advised to stay in school
Over 40% of recent college graduates are living with their parents, dealing with government loans that average $27,200. The unemployment rate for young people is about 50%. More than 350,000 Americans with advanced degrees applied for food stamps in 2010.
As Washington lobbyists endeavor to kill a proposed bill to reduce the interest rates on student debt, federal loans remain readily available, and so colleges go right on increasing their tuition.
Meanwhile, corporations hold $2 trillion in cash while looking for investments and employees in foreign countries, and American students are forced to accept menial positions. Yet delusions persist about our new generation of would-be workers. Conservatives are all bubbly about today's young entrepreneurs creating their own jobs -- jobs that "don't yet exist."

3. The main source of middle-class wealth has been largely wiped out American homeowners owe almost as much as the students, with $700 billion of debt over and above the value of their homes.
This removes the only source of wealth for middle America, especially for blacks and Hispanics. Remarkably, for every dollar of NON-HOME wealth owned by white families, people of color have only one cent.
So when minority families were specifically targeted for high-risk, subprime loans that could be re-packaged and sold for a quick short-term profit, most of their assets were erased. Median wealth fell 66% for Hispanic households and 53% for black households. For whites the decline was 16%.
Article image
With a disturbing note of irony, Sanford Weill, the banker largely responsible for the reversal of the mortgage-protecting Glass-Steagall Act, was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences for "extraordinary accomplishment and a call to serve." 

4. We give prison sentences for smoking marijuana, but not for billion-dollar fraud
About half of our world-leading prison population is in jail for non-violent drug offenses. Americans have also been arrested for handing out free food in a park. Mothers in Ohio and Connecticut were jailed for enrolling their kids in out-of-district schools. As of 2003 in California there were 344 individuals serving sentences of 25 years or more for shoplifting as a third offense, in many cases after two non-violent offenses.
How does the market deal with this steady tide of petty crime? It strives for more. The new trend of private prisons is dependent on maintaining a sizable prison population to guarantee profits, with no incentive for rehabilitation.
As the number of inmates has surged, the people who devastated countless American lives "get out of jail free." The savings and loan fraud cost the nation between $300 billion and $500 billion, about 100 times more than the total cost of burglaries in 2010. The financial system bailout has already cost the country $3 trillion. Goldman Sachs packaged bad debt, sold it under a different name, persuaded ratings services to label it AAA, and then bet against their own financial creation by selling it short. Other firms accused of fraud and insider trading were Morgan Stanley, Bear Stearns, Bank of America, Countrywide Financial, and Wells Fargo. The New York Times reported in 2008 that the Justice Department had postponed the bribery or fraud prosecutions of over 50 corporations, choosing instead to enter into agreements involving fines and 'monitoring' periods.

5. You can have health care, if you pay for it
A recent Commonwealth Fund study compared U.S. health care spending to 12 other OECD countries. The data shows that reducing our costs to the median level of spending among the OECD countries would save us $1.5 trillion a year, more than our entire deficit.
Unfortunately, insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies and hospital administrators won't hear of it. There's too much money to be made. Bypass surgery in the U.S. costs 2 to 3 times more than in Great Britain, Canada, France, and Germany. Cataract surgery costs 4 times more.
That's if you can pay for it. There are currently about 50 million uninsured Americans. At the other extreme are $2,400 oxymoronic penthouse hospital suites complete with butler and grand piano. Or, for those who don't get out much, emergency rooms in the home, with private cell-phone access to "concierge doctors."
Inequality in our country is so severe that 120,000 health care workers could have been hired with the salary paid to one man. That's a $40,000 salary for 40 health care workers for every one of the 3,000 counties in the United States. Instead, $5 billion dollars went to one man who reportedly made his first big haul ($4 billion, in 2007) by conspiring with Goldman Sachs in the above-mentioned short sale subterfuge.
The result of ignoring the health needs of the greater population, according to a report in the Annual Review of Public Health, is that "the health rankings of the United States have declined substantially when compared with other nations."

Conclusion:

Privatization simply hasn't worked for health care, mortgage banking, higher education, or prison management. There is little incentive for profit motivated firms to invest in disadvantaged or underemployed Americans. That's why taxes are necessary -- to provide for the common good, and to return some of the gains from 60 years of productivity to the great majority of Americans who contributed to our growth. Unfortunately, the golden door on the Statue of Liberty seems to have an invisible hand holding it shut.

Funny Stuff

Culinary DeLites


7 nights of easy spring dinners

The Good, The Bad and The Mummy

Cereal Monsters
Over forty years ago, General Mills introduced its first monster cereals, Frankenberry and Count Chocula. You might not know that there were a total of five different monster cereals in the series, some not as successful as others. Read about each and a theory on what makes a monster cereal successful at Food Diggity.

Bandwiches

If bands were sandwiches, they would have some interesting ingredients.
AC/DC: Beer-battered kangaroo sausage, sliced hard-boiled egg, low-calorie port cheese, Dutch crunch.
The Pogues: Gin-fed lamb, whiskey-marinated turkey, beer-braised pork shoulder, mustard, soda bread.
Van Halen: Grilled 17-cheese sandwich on white bread; side of nacho cheese soup.
Ted Nugent: Cubed Grizzly bear, white buffalo brisket, unicorn haunch, Jim Beam barbecue sauce, white bread.
Oh there’s lots more of these at McSweeney's.

Weird and Unusual Uses for Vodka (Besides Drinking It)

Vodka is insanely popular, but not only among drinkers. Surprisingly, there's more you can do with vodka than just make cocktails.
 More

Bionic Eyes

Light-powered bionic eye inventedEye

A retinal implant - or bionic eye - which is powered by light has been invented by scientists at Stanford University in California.

Plastic-Eating Fungi Found in the Amazon May Solve World’s Waste Problem


Plastic-Eating Fungi Found In The Amazon
A group of students and professors from Yale University have found a fungi in the Amazon rainforest that can degrade and utilize the common plastic polyurethane (PUR). As part of the university’s Rainforest Expedition and Laboratory educational program, designed to engage undergraduate students in discovery-based research, the group searched for plants and cultured the micro-organisms within their tissue.
Several active organisms were identified, including two distinct isolates of Pestalotiopsis microspora with the ability to efficiently degrade and utilize PUR as the sole carbon source when grown anaerobically, a unique observation among reported PUR biodegradation activities.
Polyurethane is a big part of our mounting waste problem and this is a new possible solution for managing it. The fungi can survive on polyurethane alone and is uniquely able to do so in an oxygen-free environment. The Yale University team has published its findings in the article ‘Biodegradation of Polyester Polyurethane by Endophytic Fungi’ for the Applied and Environmental Microbiology journal.

Ten Famous Sea Stacks From Around The World

A sea stack is a rock formation made up of a steep or upright column of rock in the sea near a coast. They are formed when part of a headland is eroded by water crashing against the rock or as a result of wind erosion. These impressive formations are intricately created by nature only through time, tide and wind. Here are 10 famous sea stack formations from around the World.

Awesome Pictures

Zookeepers Drank Elephants’ Alcohol

The elephant keepers at the Marghazar Zoo in Islamabad, Pakistan, ordered a supply of alcohol each of the past twenty years -for the elephants. They said the  alcohol was necessary to calm the elephants down during mating season. The orders were filled each year, and listed under the elephant’s food expense budget. But the elephants never drank the liquor.
The bills amounted Rs80,000 at maximum and minimum at Rs40,000.
Locally-manufactured liquor would be supplied to the zoo and the cost would be added to the food expense.
Veterinary doctors while speaking to Express News said that alcohol cannot be consumed by elephants.
Once that fact came to light, an investigation was opened. Two of the zookeepers have been suspended.

Brittle Star Walks Like a Man

Whodathunk that brittle star walks like a man. After all, unlike the bilaterally symmetrical humans, the sea creature is round and has five limbs:
In a series of first-time experiments, Brown University evolutionary biologist Henry Astley discovered that brittle stars, despite having no brain, move in a very coordinated fashion, choosing a central arm to chart direction and then designating other limbs to propel it along. Yet when the brittle star wants to change direction, it designates a new front, meaning that it chooses a new center arm and two other limbs to move. Brittle stars have come up with a mechanism to choose any of its five limbs to be central control, each capable of determining direction or pitching in to help it move.
Not too shabby for a creature without a brain. Wait, come to think of it, that's something it has in common with some people I know!

Animal Pictures

p-e-r-e-g-r-i-n-e:

peacock tree frog