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Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.


Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Daily Drift

And now for your moment of Zen

Some of our readers today have been in:
Dubrovnik, Croatia
Johannesburg, South Africa
Jakarta, Indonesia
Toa Alta, Puerto Rico
Taipei, Taiwan
Shah Alam, Malaysia
Bangkok, Thailand
Istanbul, Turkey
Saint George's, Grenada
Abucay, Philippines
Odessa, Ukraine
Panevezys, lithuania
Corlu, Turkey
George Town, Cayman Islands
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Sampaloc, Philippines
Poznan, Poland
Seremban, Malaysia
Montevideo. Uruguay
Oxford, England
Minsk, Belarus
Surabaya, Indonesia
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Edinburgh, Scotland
Ankara, Turkey
Manchester, England
Medan, Indonesia
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Warsaw, Poland
Vries, Netherlands
Cape Town, South Africa
Sandakan, Malaysia
Karachi, Pakistan
Delhi, India
Sao Paulo, Brazil
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Toronto, Canada
Mexico City, Mexico
Tokyo, Japan
Seoul, Korea
San Jose, Costa Rica
Puchong, Malaysia

 
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Today in History

1606   Guy Fawkes is hanged, drawn and quartered for his part in the Gunpowder Plot, an attempt to blow up Parliament.
1620   Virginia colony leaders write to the Virginia Company in England, asking for more orphaned apprentices for employment.
1788   The Young Pretender, Charles Edward Stuart dies.
1835   A man with two pistols misfires at President Andrew Jackson at the White House.
1865   House of Representatives approves a constitutional amendment abolishing slavery.
1911   The German Reichstag exempts royal families from tax obligations.
1915   Germans use poison gas on the Russians at Bolimov.
1915   German U-boats sink two British steamers in the English Channel.
1916   President Woodrow Wilson refuses the compromise on Lusitania reparations.
1917   Germany resumes unlimited sub warfare, warning that all neutral ships that are in the war zone will be attacked.
1935   The Soviet premier tells Japan to get out of Manchuria.
1943   The Battle of Stalingrad ends as small groups of German soldiers of the Sixth Army surrender to the victorious Red Army forces.
1944   U.S. troops under Vice Adm. Spruance land on Kwajalien atoll in the Marshall Islands.
1950   Paris protests the Soviet recognition of Ho Chi Minh's Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
1966   U.S. planes resume bombing of North Vietnam after a 37-day pause.
1968   In Vietnam, the Tet Offensive begins as Viet Cong and North Vietnamese soldiers attack strategic and civilian locations throughout South Vietnam.
1976   Ernesto Miranda, famous from the Supreme Court ruling on Miranda vs. Arizona is stabbed to death.
1981   Lech Walesa announces an accord in Poland, giving Saturdays off to laborers.

Non Sequitur

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Human Scum

As reported in The Guardian:
Islamist insurgents retreating from Timbuktu set fire to a library containing thousands of priceless historic manuscripts, according to the Saharan town's mayor, in an incident he described as a "devastating blow" to world heritage. Hallé Ousmani Cissé told the Guardian that al-Qaida-allied fighters on Saturday torched two buildings that held the manuscripts, some of which dated back to the 13th century...

The manuscripts were held in two separate locations: an ageing library and a new South African-funded research centre, the Ahmad Babu Institute, less than a mile away. Completed in 2009 and named after a 17th-century Timbuktu scholar, the centre used state-of-the-art techniques to study and conserve the crumbling scrolls...

The manuscripts had survived for centuries in Timbuktu, on the remote south-west fringe of the Sahara desert. They were hidden in wooden trunks, buried in boxes under the sand and in caves. When French colonial rule ended in 1960, Timbuktu residents held preserved manuscripts in 60-80 private libraries.

The vast majority of the texts were written in Arabic. A few were in African languages, such as Songhai, Tamashek and Bambara. There was even one in Hebrew. They covered a diverse range of topics including astronomy, poetry, music, medicine and women's rights. The oldest dated from 1204.

Seydou Traoré, who has worked at the Ahmed Baba Institute since 2003, and fled shortly before the rebels arrived, said only a fraction of the manuscripts had been digitised. "They cover geography, history and religion. We had one in Turkish. We don't know what it said."

He said the manuscripts were important because they exploded the myth that "black Africa" had only an oral history. "You just need to look at the manuscripts to realise how wrong this is."
The incident reminds me of how Spanish Catholic priests destroyed the illuminated codices of the Americas:
There were many such books in existence at the time of the Spanish conquest of Yucatán in the 16th century, but they were destroyed in bulk by the Conquistadors and priests soon after. In particular, all those in Yucatán were ordered destroyed by Bishop Diego de Landa in July of 1562. De Landa wrote: "We found a large number of books in these characters and, as they contained nothing in which were not to be seen as superstition and lies of the devil, we burned them all, which they (the Maya) regretted to an amazing degree, and which caused them much affliction." Such codices were primary written records of Maya civilization, together with the many inscriptions on stone monuments and stelae that survived. However, their range of subject matter in all likelihood embraced more topics than those recorded in stone and buildings, and was more like what is found on painted ceramics (the so-called 'ceramic codex'). Alonso de Zorita wrote that in 1540 he saw numerous such books in the Guatemalan highlands that “...recorded their history for more than eight hundred years back, and that were interpreted for me by very ancient Indians.” (Zorita 1963, 271-2). Fr. Bartolomé de las Casas lamented that when found, such books were destroyed: "These books were seen by our clergy, and even I saw part of those that were burned by the monks, apparently because they thought [they] might harm the Indians in matters concerning religion, since at that time they were at the beginning of their conversion." The last codices destroyed were those of Tayasal, Guatemala in 1697, the last city conquered in America. With their destruction, the opportunity for insight into some key areas of Maya life has been greatly diminished.
Addendum:  Here's more information from the report in the Los Angeles Times:
The library of the Ahmed Baba Institute held about 40,000 of the estimated 100,000 ancient manuscripts in Timbuktu...

“It’s the greatest loss of the written word in Africa since the destruction of the library of Alexandria,” Park said, referring to the great library of ancient Egypt. “It’s the destruction of information that was unknown and will now never be known.”..

Experts say the manuscripts included a wide array of court records and documents revealing international relations in the ancient world, giving them importance beyond Mali itself. The records may also have offered a window into the selling of slaves across the Sahara, shedding light on the roots of the trade. Many of them had not yet been read, Park said.

Tom the Dancing Bug

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Idaho gun-nut lawmakers freak out over man with gun in state Capitol (irony alert)

Idaho’s wingnut extremist repugican gun-nuts are experiencing a sudden case of Second Amendment NIMBY.

This story is beyond priceless.  Idaho gun-nut lawmakers are very disturbed about an armed man who walked around the state Capitol building, alongside a tour of Cub and Boy Scouts, in part because he was armed.
And so what?  I thought guns made us safer.  Why should it matter if the man was armed?  He was simply exercising his Second Amendment rights, right?  Sure, he might have had plans to murder all the kids, or take out a few state legislators, but that’s the price you pay for our precious constitutional freedoms.
Shotgun via Shutterstock

Seriously though, after you read through the story, it’s still not clear, from a gun-nut perspective, what the problem is here?  If the guy was creepy because he was tagging along with a bunch of kids, and going through legislators’ desks (another part of the story), then fine, he’s creepy.  But the fact that he was armed should have nothing to do with the creepiness because, remember, guns don’t kill people.  And in fact, the Idaho state Capitol lifted  an earlier ban on bringing firearms into the building, so what’s the problem?  He was simply following the expressed intent of the Idaho gun-loving legislature.
As for the Cub and Boy Scouts, there’s an easy solution to the creepy factor here.  Just arm the kids too.  And any of the legislators who were creeped out about their own personal safety should simply carry guns as well.  Then the entire building would be armed to the teeth and picture-perfect safe.
Look at some of the comments from the gun-nut legislators:
“Events like that should disturb all Idahoans,” said House Speaker Scott Bedke, r-Oakley. “It certainly disturbed me.”
Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill said: “To think that somebody is bold enough to have followed these children around with a sidearm in plain sight — who is also bold enough to go through trash cans, take pictures of representatives’ desks and shuffle their papers — all of that created a great deal of concern.”
Did you catch that?  Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill indicated that part of the problem was that the man had a “sidearm.”  So what?  He’s supposed to have a sidearm – he’s a gun nut, and in Idaho you don’t restrict a gun nut’s ability to parade around with his gun, even in the state Capitol.  So why did Hill mention it?  This is especially odd since  Brent Hill is a proud champion of the gun nuts.  Take a look at Brent Hill’s record on gun issues – 100% pure gun nut:
Idaho legislator Brent Hill on guns
So how dare Brent Hill even mention that the man had a “sidearm”?  Again, these jokers revoked the prohibition on carrying guns in the state Capitol, so what did they think was going to happen?
Oh but it gets better:
Hill has urged lawmakers to be careful about what they leave on their desks, but he is also concerned about larger security issues. “What happens when six people come and sit in the front row of the gallery with shotguns across their laps?” Hill said. “I sure as heck am not going to leave my senators in there with that.”
Anti-gun bigot.
I thought six people with shotguns across their laps was supposed to make us six times safer.  So what’s the problem?
Or are Idaho’s wingnut extremist repugican gun nuts experiencing a sudden case of Second Amendment NIMBY?

Six Times More People Tuned in For Clinton/Obama Interview than Watch Faux News

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Another blow to the repugican fantasy that America is a wingnut nation was delivered when over six times more people watched the Obama/Clinton 60 Minutes interview than watch Faux News.
According to Nielson, the Obama/Clinton joint interview was watched by 11.65 million Americans. On average 1.6-2 million people in the United States watch Faux News each day. In a non-election year the political audience is smaller across the board, and there is a huge difference between broadcast and cable television ratings, but the belief that is held by both the mainstream media and the repugicans that there is some huge outcry for wingnut programming is flat out wrong.
The ratings for the Clinton/Obama interview are both a tribute to the star power of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and a reminder that there really is no one in the wingnut delusion who can match the country’s top Democrats in terms of the ability to draw an audience. The mainstream media and the repugican cabal both pushed hard for Sarah Palin to be their answer, but we all know how that turned out.
The reality is that the political landscape is shifting. The myth of a vast wingnut America goes back to Nixon’s “silent majority,” and it has fed the wingnut persecution complex about the media for decades. The reality is that wingnuts control talk radio, and the top cable television network. This messaging apparatus has worked tirelessly day and night to diminish the popularity of top Democrats like Clinton and Obama, and they have resoundingly failed.
Faux News is supposedly the giant among cable news, but they are dwarfed by the power and popularity of the current president and the outgoing secretary of state. The influence and power of Faux News are both overstated and overrated. If Faux News was effective in any way, President Obama’s job approval rating wouldn’t be touching record highs, and Hillary Clinton would not be the most popular political figure in the country.
The Cult of Faux is a tiny, but loud, segment of the political landscape. Election results and television ratings are making it more difficult for the right to deny that wingnuttery is on run. The 2012 election was the first sign of a generational change, and a shift away from the Reagan dominated wingnuttery of the past three plus decades.
As the ratings for the Clinton/Obama interview demonstrate, Faux News represents the rumblings of a lunatic fringe, not the voice of America.

Wingnut Propaganda Has Done Nothing But Incite Fear and Hated of All Americans

America hate
Most people have interacted with an unusually prejudiced, spiteful, or maliciously ill-willed person whose hostility towards other human beings raises questions about their humanity. In America, there is a scourge of malevolence towards other citizens based on all manner of bigotry, but bigotry does not explain the aspirations of some Americans to increase the suffering of their fellow citizens that are likely in the same socioeconomic demographic and share the same political ideology. The repugicans typically support policies that favor the wealthy and corporations at the expense of the people, but it is a mistake to attribute growing conservative animus towards other Americans solely as  collateral damage of the repugican cabal’s deference for the rich. However, there is deep-seated malice among repugicans for the American people that is not founded solely in economic policy, and it informs that conservatives are callous human beings driven by seemingly sheer hatred toward humanity that repugicans have tapped into and propagated among their supporters for political expediency.
The level of hatred among conservatives, for what seems like all Americans, can reasonably be attributed to repugican politicians, right-wing media, and more than anything, a long-festering fear of change in a rapidly-changing America.  It is true the election of Barack Obama in 2008 brought out racial animus endemic to white supremacists and bigots in the population, but it does not explain increased expressions of hate elicited from religious fanatics toward gays and women, suspicion and open hostility towards Hispanics, denying food and healthcare to people in need, and increasing calls for civil war.
In a West Point study on the growing danger of violence from wingnut extremist groups, they laid out three major ideological movements; a racist white supremacy movement, an anti-government movement, and a fundamentalist christian movement that have always existed in this country, but they became the purview of the repugican cabal represented in the rnc’s platform for the 2012 general election. This is not  to say that repugicans promote wingnut extremism with a view towards violence against the government or other Americans, but their support for policies the extremists hold near and dear to their black hearts lends legitimacy to hate movements that are becoming mainstream among conservatives and having deleterious effects on the population.
Although the West Point study isolated three ideological movements threatening violence, combined they represent repugican policies wingnuts gravitated towards after four years of rhetoric against the perceived Obama threat; change. For example, white supremacists and racists are concerned with what they perceive as the natural racial and cultural hierarchy that defined America up until the Civil Rights Movement and persists today, and their goal of reasserting control over African Americans and minority communities is co-opted by repugican complaints that President Obama is stealing from white people to give to African Americans. When repugican supporters advocate cutting food stamps, healthcare, and any other assistance the repugican cabal hates, racist groups assume they are cutting assistance to minorities regardless that a higher percentage of white people use food stamps than African Americans and Hispanics combined. The repugicans understand the demographic distribution of food stamps, but they know the quickest way to inspire support for cutting them is inspiring underlying racial hatred permeating the lunatic fringe.
The repugicans have also tapped into, and garnered support from, the anti-government advocates whose main interest is undermining the legitimacy and effective sovereignty of the federal government over a wealth of issues from religious hatred of non-conformity to immigration to guns. Whether it is anti-gay sentiment, anti-women’s reproductive rights, or teaching religion in public schools, repugicans in Congress and state legislatures instigated a level of hate among so-called “christians” that is wreaking havoc on women and gays in primarily  Southern states. Of particular note is the religio-nutttery’s opposition to women’s choice and the ardent support of christian women for policies that adversely affect other christian women with invasive probes, forced birth, and having to prove they were “legitimately raped.” It never ceases to amaze how a woman, a good christian woman, could support a policy demanding a rape victim confirm they were assaulted or be forced to give birth, or deprive them of cancer and health screenings. What kind of deep-seated hatred for another human being drives a woman to help incur suffering on a victim of a heinous crime, or deny cancer screening? Unfortunately, the depth of hate among alleged “christians” is beyond quantification, and on myriad issues from supposed “pro-life” advocates supporting gun proliferation, to “personhood” advocates denying assistance the moment the baby is born, hatred is the driving force.
It is not just wingnut extremists, racial hate groups, or religious extremists projecting hate on their fellow Americans, it is the entire wingnut movement. There is little difference between Paul Ryan decrying wasting good government money on feeding the poor and the millions of Americans who support slashing safety net spending to provide healthcare and food aid to their neighbor, grandmother, or brother. It is hatred of humanity and nothing else.
The repugicans have assailed the federal government for myriad sins from immigration lapses to gun control that is driving Americans filled with hate to start shooting at the drop of a hat, or mistaken address. In Georgia, a man walked out of his home and opened fire on a car that pulled up to his house after the car’s GPS gave the driver the wrong address. One young man was killed and the man was arrested, but the point is his first reaction was to go out shooting and it is an increasing problem driven by fear-mongering, the NRA, and ALEC’s incitement to shoot first. A human being must have an inordinate amount of hate to pick up a firearm and gun down another human being in cold blood as an instant reaction.
What Americans are witnessing today is the culmination of four years of ultra-right wing propaganda inciting fear of change and hatred for other Americans; all Americans. There is no doubt that people who might have been decent human beings at one point, have been poisoned by the incessant fear mongering and attacks on “the other” that represents a changing America, and America is changing and that is the wingnut’s problem. There is no doubt repugicans in Congress hate Americans, they prove it with every proposal, obstruction, and Draconian legislation they attempt to pass, but they would never attempt such inhumane measures if they did not have a large segment of the population sharing their hate for their fellow citizens. But as  America changes, those who either cannot let go of the America that kept minorities and women in submissive roles, or harken back to a fallacy era where the ten commandments were immutable edicts on morality, are finding themselves in a fearful situation. The danger is when frightened people feel loss, and when your politician, television news, and cult tells you change endangers your way of life, fear and loss give way to hate and anger; the result is America with a large segment of anti-government religious racists with guns and  four years of hate looking for an outlet they are finding in repugican policies and on America’s streets.

Immigration reform requires repugican reform

Bitter old white male that he is, even Sen. John McCain knows immigration reform is not an option. You can either try and grow more fingers to plug up the cracks in the dike or you can learn how to swim.
Once again the repugicans are being forced to take a look in the mirror provided by attendance records at their 2012 repugican national cabal (and 2008, and 2004, and 2000, and…), where the only way the cameras could make it look like there were more than a handful of non-white people in the audience was to keep showing the same meager handful of darker skinned folks over and over and over again. Some not-quite-so-bright repugicans feel the best way to attack this issue is to just keep on gerrymandering. Just keep carving up those districts. No doubt it is that same dim bulb crowd who thinks it’s a smart idea to try and change the rules of the Electoral College so maybe they don’t get beat up so bad in 2016. Voter suppression didn’t quite yield the desired result in 2012 so let’s just try another form of suppression and see how that turns out, right guys?
Those who are slightly more enlightened and whose political IQ at least reaches the three-digit range have come to understand that America does not look like the repugican cabal. At all. And so if repugicans want to continue to lead a national political party that has a shot at remaining relevant for the next generation – hell, for this  generation - then it kinda makes sense to begin addressing issues that matter to these folks. And by ‘these folks’ I mean Americans. Denial is not a viable forward-looking strategy. And it’s better to be a little late to the party than to miss it altogether – or to be celebrating in the wrong house down the street.

Obama Cleverly Plants the Seeds for repugican Self Destruction on Immigration Reform

obama-immiagrtion
President Obama not only offered his own immigration reform plan, but he also planted the seeds for repugican self destruction.

The president said,
Members of both parties, in both chambers, are actively working on a solution. Yesterday, a bipartisan group of senators announced their principles for comprehensive immigration reform, which are very much in line with the principles I’ve proposed and campaigned on for the last few years.
So at this moment, it looks like there’s a genuine desire to get this done soon, and that’s very encouraging. But this time, action must follow. We can’t allow immigration reform to get bogged down in an endless debate. We’ve been debating this a very long time. So it’s not as if we don’t know technically what needs to get done.
As a consequence, to help move this process along, today I’m laying out my ideas for immigration reform. And my hope is that this provides some key markers to members of Congress as they craft a bill, because the ideas I’m proposing have traditionally been supported by both Democrats, like Ted Kennedy, and repugicans, like the shrub. You don’t get that match-up very often
So — so we know where the consensus should be. Now, of course, there will be rigorous debate about many of the details, and every stakeholder should engage in real give-and-take in the process. But it’s important for us to recognize that the foundation for bipartisan action is already in place. And if Congress is unable to move forward in a timely fashion, I will send up a bill based on my proposal and insist that they vote on it right away.
The president’s immigration reform proposal includes four parts, “First, continue to strengthen our borders. Second, crack down on companies that hire undocumented workers. Third, hold undocumented immigrants accountable before they can earn their citizenship; this means requiring undocumented workers to pay their taxes and a penalty, move to the back of the line, learn English, and pass background checks. Fourth, streamline the legal immigration system for families, workers, and employers.”
Since he came from the Senate to the presidency, Obama spent much of his first two years in office watching his agenda get bogged down in congressional trench warfare. The attitude of second term President Obama is completely different. He is the one telling Congress what he wants from them. If they drag their feet, or if repugicans in the House or Senate try to bog down the legislation, he is going to send his own bill to the Congress and demand a vote.
Obama wasn’t just showing leadership in his speech. He was also sowing the seeds for repugican self destruction. The scenario goes something like this. A group of congressional repugicans decide that they are going to kill immigration reform. They bog down the legislation in the congressional swamp of inaction that is our current legislative process. The president sends his bill to the Congress for a vote. Democrats and enough Senate repugicans come together to pass his bill. If House repugicans reject his legislation, the table is then set for Democrats to build on their support from Hispanic voters in 2014 and 2016.
The president’s is allowing the repugicans to pick their path. They can either do the right thing for the country, or they can sentence themselves to political oblivion by pandering to the immigration hardliners in their party. Obama is leaving nothing to chance. Whether repugicans realize it or not, their future as a viable national party may depend on the choices that they make on immigration reform.
President Obama has made sure that there will be a heavy political price to pay if repugicans try to obstruction immigration reform.

The truth be told

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The repugican cabal's plan to steal the 2016 election

The repugicans plan to woo Latinos in an effort to win big in 2016. 
But it is already too late for the repugican cabal.

In a democratic system the cure for extremism is delivered through the ballot box. Parties that step too far away from the mainstream start to lose elections. Eventually a faction within the party decides that they would rather have power than continue to plug extreme policies that the electorate rejects, and the party moderates.
Or at least that is the theory.
There are some forms of extremism that the electorate are not willing to forgive. The long term consequence of Nixon’s ‘Southern strategy’ of courting white supporters of segregation is that more than nine out of ten black voters favor the Democrats over the repugican cabal. The long term consequence of California Governor Pete Wilson’s Latino bashing prop 187 was to turn Ronald Reagan’s home state solid blue.
It isn’t hard to see the reason for the sudden repugican cabal about face on immigration. After ten years of increasingly bigoted anti-Latino rhetoric, the repugican party has suddenly realized that they are alienating 16% of the US population that is turning into a solid Democratic voting bloc.
Voters can (sadly) forgive and forget the ludicrous Romney/Ryan budget for the 0.01% easily enough. It takes a lot more to erase the memory of being targeted by opportunist politicians pandering to bigots who hate you.
Latinos 
The six largest states add up to 191 out of the 270 electoral college votes needed to win the White House. Only one, Texas, voted for McCain or Romney. Latinos are 38% of the population of Texas. If Texan Latinos voted in the same way that African Americans, or California Latinos, do, Texas would be a blue state. And it is not merely ‘difficult’ for a repugican to win the White House without winning Texas, it is next to impossible.
The repugican cabal’s born-again embrace of immigration reform is an effort by the more rational, and scared, wing of the party to save itself. The question remains as to whether repugicans have so demonized Latinos, and so turned off Latino voters in the process, that the damage done is beyond repair.
Which is how the process is supposed to work. But then there is the ultra wing of the repugican cabal that reads the same demographic trends and sees the repugican cabal electoral position becoming poisoned and come to a very different conclusion: The only way to win is to change the rules of the game with voter suppression schemes like Rick Scott’s scheme that caused 9 hour waits to vote in Florida. That was not enough in 2012. Which leaves rigging the electoral college so that the repugican cabal states remain winner takes all and Democratic states award most of their electoral college votes to the repugican cabal.
The launch of immigration reform may force the GOP to put their voter suppression and vote rigging schemes back in the closet for a while. But not for very long.

If repugicans Think Latinos Are Uneducated, They Should Look at Their Own Base

socilism
The repugicans seem unaware of the composition of their base. How else can they explain this thinking, which echoes Mitt Romney’s misunderstanding of where the takers are: repugican Representative laments working on immigration reform because there’s no point in repugicans trying to woo Latinos when they are uneducated and low-skilled, “They will become Democrats because of the social programs they’ll depend on.”
Rep. Lou Barletta (r-PA) scoffs at immigration reform and warns repugicans to stop trying to cater to Latinos politically because they will never vote repugican. Via Think Progress:
“It’s amnesty that America can’t afford,” Barletta said Monday. “We have to stop people from coming in illegally. This will be a green light for anyone who wants to come to America illegally and then be granted citizenship one day.” [...]
“I hope politics is not at the root of why we’re rushing to pass a bill. Anyone who believes that they’re going to win over the Latino vote is grossly mistaken,” Barletta said. “The majority that are here illegally are low-skilled or may not even have a high school diploma. The repugican cabal is not going to compete over who can give more social programs out. They will become Democrats because of the social programs they’ll depend on.”
This is more of the repugican propaganda that Obama is the “food stamp president” and that “all black people want are food stamps“.
Bartletta appears blissfully unaware of the largest segment of the repugican base (thanks to their southern strategy). Allow me to assist him in meeting them: Rural, uneducated whites from Southern regions. George Will explained this during the primaries as he lamented the southern strategy, “There’s also the problem that the repugican cabal has been, in recent years, too Southern. In the last five presidential cycles, they’ve got 79 percent of their electoral votes from the South. It’s too much.”
Jack Cafferty at CNN pointed out that most of the ten poorest states in the country are repgican. This isn’t new, but repugicans keep behaving as if they are the party of the white country club makers.
The biggest strengths for the repugican cabal according to CNN exit polling from the 2012 election are those who support the tea party (not exactly known for being educated about the issues) and born again christians. More high school graduates voted for Obama. By a slim margin (remember this is exit polling) more who attended college voted for Obama over Romney. More college graduates voted for Romney than Obama, but more post-graduates voted for Obama over Romney. The Washington Post’s exit polling concurs.
In 2008, the National Journal warned, “The repugican cabal’s focus on social, cultural, and religious issues cost its candidates dearly among upscale voters.”
Clearly the repugican cabal doesn’t own education any more than they own Hispanics.
Furthermore, a 2009 New York Times map revealed that the top ten counties in food stamp usage were all located in red states. 70% of all food stamp recipients are white. Low-skilled takers? Yes, Barletta, meet your base. The only difference is their skin color.
Barletta is just another repugican who believes what he hears on Faux News and reads on Breitbart; he’s operating as an elected official under misleading information.
In case you missed it, the repugican cabal is now the cabal of snobby elites who look down on low-skilled workers. If you don’t have a high school diploma, you’re a taker and you won’t vote repugican. That this is coming from the cabal that resents public education and is actively trying to defund it, from the cabal whose last presidential candidate wanted to defund the Department of Education, should be a warning bell. This is the cabal that recently tried to fool America into cutting taxes for millionaires by throwing 300,000 kids off food stamps.
Somehow the repugican base takes great comfort in sneering at the brown-skinned takers, even as they collect their food stamps and Medicare. They hyperventilate with misspelled signs about “Socilism” when they don’t even know what it is, support a party chasing their adolescence by worshiping a Russian fiction author and are being fed propaganda by a channel whose biggest shareholder outside of the Murdock family is a Saudi Prince, but none of this will never cause them a moment of confusion or self-doubt.
The truth is that you don’t need a formal education to know when you’re being duped. You don’t need a formal education to be smart. But you can’t think clearly if you’re operating under a fictional set of beliefs being force fed to you by a propaganda machine. Thus we have the failure of education evident in representatives like Barletta.
Also, repugicans overlook the fact that smart people know when they’re being conned by a cynical cabal, using them as a punching bag in order to stoke the resentments of their less than bright base.
The Party of Takers points their fingers at The Other Guy once again. Sneering contempt for the win. If Barletta thinks Latinos are uneducated takers, he really needs to get out and meet his own base.

Libor-rigging scandal shows failures of deregulation

If you needed another example of why self-regulation was a complete failure, look no more.

As much as the repugicans brag about the wonders of deregulation or self-regulation, they do a glorious job of glossing over the hard facts. Bankers being bankers, we have centuries of history to show us that when given the chance to abuse the system they will abuse the system.
But in the repugican cabal fairy tale land, this doesn’t count or it’s dismissed as just one example. The unfortunately reality is that this is more the rule than the exception. Even worse, it costs everyone else a lot of money in terms of mortgage rates paid, interest on your bank account, your student loans and more. In the case of Libor it meant higher borrowing costs for everyone and in extreme examples like RBS, it means taxpayers are actually forking out the hundreds of millions of dollars of fines.
What is especially offensive, though predictable, is that managers knew about this. In all fairness, they probably didn’t care since the entire industry has abused the system for so long and gotten away with it. When you are the law, you probably don’t care how bad the cheat was.
Bloomberg:
rich guy 1% cnbc bankers wall street
Danziger typically would have swiveled in his chair, tapped White on the shoulder and relayed the request to him, people who worked on the trading floor say. Instead, as White was away that day, Danziger input the rate himself. There were no rules at RBS and other banks prohibiting derivatives traders, who stood to benefit from where Libor was set, from submitting the rate — a flaw exploited by some traders to boost their bonuses.
The next morning, RBS said it would have to pay 0.97 percent to borrow in yen for three months, up from 0.94 percent the previous day. The Edinburgh-based bank was the only one of 16 surveyed to raise its submission that day, inflating that day’s rate by one-fifth of a basis point, or 0.002 percent. On a $50 billion portfolio of interest-rate swaps, RBS could have gained as much as $250,000.
Events like those that took place on RBS’s trading floor, across the road from Bishopsgate police station and Dirty Dicks, a 267-year-old pub, are at the heart of what is emerging as the biggest and longest-running scandal in banking history. Even in an era of financial deception — of firms peddling bad mortgages, hedge-fund managers trading on inside information and banks laundering money for drug cartels and terrorists — the manipulation of Libor stands out for its breadth and audacity. Can we finally stick a fork in the idealistic right wing idea about self-regulation? As we see time after time, this strange belief is not just limited to the repugicans (or the Tories in the UK) because somehow, both sides have taken this ludicrous idea and made it gospel.
Bill Clinton and Tony Blair (and also, sadly, Obama) have much more faith in this system than it deserves. Or at least I hope that it’s faith and not a blind obsession with the campaign money that flows from the banking industry.
Whichever it is, this also cuts to the heart of the “makers versus takers” load of garbage churned out by repugicans such as Paul Ryan. For ideologues like Ryan who have barely ever worked in the real world (he’s a political lifer) it’s not a complete surprise that he would be stupid enough to believe that Wall Street is made up of “makers.” As anyone with open eyes knows, the rent-seeking freeloaders of Wall Street are anything but makers. They’re takers and it’s not even close.
The big problem here is that people like Paul Ryan enabled real world takers and injected billions of dollars into their hands and thought that it made sense. Enabling them to make up rules on the fly with taxpayer money flowing (thanks to bad Fed policies by both Greenspan and now Bernanke) was just asking for trouble. Talk about naive, wow.
Regulation is not a dirty word but deregulation and a belief in the value of bankers certainly is.

The Classics

1955 Oldsmobile Starfire 98 Convertible - black over red - fvr by Pat Durkin - Orange County, CA on Flickr.
1955 Oldsmobile Starfire 98 Convertible - black over red

Boeing knew of 787 Dreamliner's battery woes before jet crisis

According to this NYT report, Boeing officials knew the lithium-ion batteries used on the 787 Dreamliners "had experienced multiple problems that raised questions about their reliability." Two battery failures led to the grounding of all Boeing 787 jets this month. Some of the issues could be compared to what happens if you leave your car door open overnight.

High-tech cargo airship being built in California

The Aeroscraft airship, a high-tech prototype airship, is seen in a World War II-era hangar in Tustin, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013. Work is almost done on a 230-foot rigid airship inside a blimp hangar at a former military base in Orange Co. The huge cargo-carrying airship is has shiny aluminum skin and a rigid, 230-foot aluminum and carbon fiber skeleton. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) 
The massive blimp-like aircraft flies but just barely, hovering only a dozen feet off a military hangar floor during flight testing south of Los Angeles. Still, the fact that the hulking Aeroscraft could fly for just a few minutes represents a step forward in aviation, according to the engineers who developed it. The Department of Defense and NASA have invested $35 million in the prototype because of its potential to one day carry more cargo than any other aircraft to disaster zones and forward military bases.
"I realized that I put a little dot in the line of aviation history. A little dot for something that has never been demonstrated before, now it's feasible," said flight control engineer Munir Jojo-Verge.
The airship is undergoing testing this month at Marine Corps Air Station in Tustin, and must go through several more rounds of flight testing before it could be used in a disaster zone or anywhere else. The first major flight test took place Jan. 3.
The biggest challenge for engineers is making sure the airship will be able to withstand high winds and other extreme weather conditions, Jojo-Verge said.
Worldwide Aeros, the company that developed the aircraft, said it also must secure more funding for the next round of flight testing, but is hopeful the Defense Department and others will step in again as investors.
The company says the cargo airship's potential to carry more cargo more efficiently than ever before would provide the U.S. military with an advantage on the battlefield and greater capacity to save more lives during natural disasters.
The lighter-than-air vehicle is not a blimp or a zeppelin because it has a rigid structure made out of ultra-light carbon fiber and aluminum underneath its high-tech Mylar skin. Inside, balloons hold the helium that gives the vehicle lift. Unlike hydrogen, the gas used in the Hindenburg airship that crashed in 1937, helium is not flammable.
The airship functions like a submarine, releasing air to rise and taking in air to descend, said Aeros mechanical engineer Tim Kenny. It can take off vertically, like a helicopter, then change its buoyancy to become heavier than air for landing and unloading.
"It allows the vehicle to set down on the ground. And then when we want to become lighter than air, we release that air and then the vehicle floats and we can allow it to take off," Kenny said.
The project has set abuzz the old hangars at the Marine Corps Air Station in Tustin. The structures were built to hold blimps during World War II. Now workers zip around in cherry-pickers, and the airship's silvery surface shines against the warm tones of the aging wood of the walls.
"You could take this vehicle and go to destinations that have been destroyed, where there's no ports, no runways, stuff like that. This vehicle could go in there, offload the cargo even if there's no infrastructure, no landing site for it to land on, this vehicle can unload its whole payload," said Kenny.
Next, Aeros wants to build a full-size 450-foot-long vehicle that can carry 66 tons of payload.

Rotting Twinkie For Sale on eBay

Rotting Twinkie For Sale on eBay
A rotting Twinkie for sale on eBay takes on a green color.

Here is some bad news for those who stocked up on Twinkies after Hostess shuttered its doors.
One man found proof that the famous golden sponge cake takes on a moldy green color after a year, so naturally he decided to sell the sweet treat on eBay.
This discovery flies in the face of urban legends that say Twinkies never spoil.
"I've never seen one, and neither have you! I really did believe that these things and cockroaches would be the only thing to survive a nuclear war, but I was wrong," seller high_order1 wrote on the product description. 
In fact, Twinkies have a shelf life of 25 days, according to The Washington Post and the seller warns that after a year in the cellophane wrapper the Twinkie is no longer edible.
"It is not food now," he wrote in large caps. "Do not eat. Do not eat. Do not eat."
The seller opened the box of Twinkies a year after his wife bought it for him. He "inhaled" one, he said, but as he was about to pop a second cake in his mouth, he noticed that it was green and not yellow.
"So, I survived," he said. "But I wrapped the green twinkie in clingwrap, and then decided I'd write Hostess. Obviously, they wanted it but I said no."
When Hostess Brands went belly up, the seller said he put it on eBay. The current bid is $46.00.
But while high_order1's Twinkie may be in a state of decay, Hostess is long from extinct. McKee Food Corp, maker of Little Debbie snacks, offered to pay roughtly $27 million to acquire the Drake's brand from Hostess, CNBC reported. Drake's is the maker of Devil Dogs, Ring Dings and Yodel.
Hostess Brands filed for bankruptcy in November.

You wear it well ...

Shea Vaughn at 72

Color film of the Three Stooges from 1938


Amazing color footage from 1938. The Three Stooges at the Steel Pier, Atlantic City, New Jersey. Film by George Mann of the comedy dance team, Barto and Mann. George Mann and his wife Barbara Bradford also appear in the film.
Three Stooges at Steel Pier, Atlantic City -- 1938

JFK Items: Lost, Now Found

Thousands of John F. Kennedy's personal items, discovered at the home of a trusted adviser, are set for auction.
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Once-doomed, NY's Grand Central turns 100 as celebrated landmark

A statue of Mercury sits above the clock over 42nd St. at Grand Central Terminal in New York, January 25, 2013. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid 
It made its debut in the heyday of cross-country train travel, faced demolition in the era of the auto, and got a new lease on life with a facelift in its eighth decade.
Now Grand Central Terminal, the doyenne of American train stations, is celebrating its 100th birthday.
Opened on February 2, 1913, when trains were a luxurious means of traveling across America, the iconic New York landmark with its Beaux-Arts facade is an architectural gem, and still one of America's greatest transportation hubs.
It is also the Big Apple's second-most-popular tourist attraction, after Times Square.
"We are among the top 10 most-visited sites in the world," boasted Dan Brucker, manager of Grand Central Tours at Metro-North Railroad, the commuter rail service that operates from Grand Central.
"Every day more than 750,000 people come through Grand Central Terminal - that is the entire population of Alaska that walks through here every day. It is the entire population of the state of North Dakota," he noted.
Many are commuters who arrive on trains every 58 seconds at the peak of the morning rush, pouring onto the terminal's dozens of platforms. Tourists gasp at the vaulted ceiling and sprawling 22,000-square-foot marble concourse, which has doubled as a film set for movies such as "The Fisher King" and "The Cotton Club." And thousands from both groups eat and shop at any of the 103 restaurants and stores.
"There are a lot of beautiful old train stations in this country but none as big, and none as ornate, and none as elevated and well-known as Grand Central," said Gabrielle Shubert, the director of New York Transit Museum.
HARDSHIPS, RENOVATIONS AND SECRETS
The February 2 anniversary will mark the start of year-long celebrations commemorating the centennial with exhibitions, performances, promotions and public events.
Since its beginnings in 1913, when Grand Central was dubbed the greatest railway terminal in the world with an $80 million price tag, it has been an integral part of New York.
In its early heyday Grand Central was a center of culture, with an art gallery, theater and tennis court, as well as a commerce hub with travelers boarding trains like the Yankee Clipper and the 20th Century Limited for luxurious long-distance trips.
"As early as 1929 there were individually controlled air conditioning in the staterooms," said Brucker, adding that chefs and hairdressers traveled with the well-heeled clientele.
But following World War Two, as government subsidies helped build airports and improve roads, the Golden Age of rail travel lost its luster, relegated to the status of dowdy old-timer as planes and autos took the forefront in travel, propelled by speed and lower prices.
During the ensuing decades Grand Central deteriorated, property prices in New York rose dramatically and plans were commissioned to demolish the terminal.
But a reprieve, spearheaded by former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, led to its designation in 1976 as a National Historic Landmark, a decision upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
By 1991 long-distance trains had stopped serving Grand Central, and Metro-North Railroad, which had been created a decade earlier to consolidate operates four lines into the terminal, had become the country's largest regional railroad.
A two-year restoration began in 1996 that returned the terminal to its former glory. Every detail, from the acorn motifs emblem of the Vanderbilt family who built it, to the marble walls and floors, and chandeliers, was meticulously replicated. More than $1 million was spent cleaning the black-stained ceiling.
"This place was redone perfectly to the way it looked in 1913," according to Brucker.
But just as impressive as its public face are the secrets of the terminal: the underground tracks; unmapped cellar, which is the largest in New York; the secret station, hidden staircase and crosswalks in the massive east- and west-facing windows.
"It was the power source for all the buildings around. Underneath Grand Central is steam production and electric production that powered not just the building itself but all the buildings around it. That's unique," said the Transit Museum's Shubert.
On Grand Central's lower level, the famous domed whispering gallery transmits soft sound across the arc of the ceiling, enabling visitors to whisper to each other from diagonal corners.
"Here is this country we don't have piazzas and plazas where people congregate," Shubert said. "We have Grand Central. People seem to amass themselves in Grand Central to mourn, to celebrate, to get news when there is a crisis going on.
"This is the only indoor space where people gather to share many moments of humanity."

A 17th century game board


The image above shows top and bottom view of a magnificent game board from the 17th century, whose story is detailed at The History Blog:
Attributed to Georg Schreiber of Königsberg, Prussia, a 17th century master craftsman famed as the chess set maker to royalty, the game board is made of opaque white amber and translucent red amber on a wood chassis with an ebony superstructure, carved Roman-style portrait busts and chased silver accents. There’s a Nine Men’s Morris board on one side, a chess board on the other, and it opens up to reveal a diptych backgammon board. Inside it holds 14 game pieces of cream amber, with a white amber profile in the center overlaid with translucent red amber, and 14 pieces of translucent orange amber. The profiles are of all the kings of England from William the Conqueror to James I...

This particular game board with its exquisite craftsmanship and royal English theme may have first been owned by King James I, who ruled England at the time of the board’s creation and who is the last English king portrayed on the game pieces... we know that King Charles I was an avid chess player, not even interrupting his game when he was told that the Scots had changed sides and were supporting Parliament. According to the tradition that has accompanied the piece for centuries, King Charles I brought the game board to the scaffold on the day of his execution, January 30th, 1649...
Further details on the provenance of the board at the link.  Here's a view of the board opened for playing backgammon:

Teen Solves Deep-sea Mystery

 
 “It was like a horror film,” reported 14-year-old Kirill Dudko of Donetsk, Ukraine.
An underwater camera 894 meters (close to 3,000 feet) deep in Barkley Canyon, off Vancouver Island was streaming live Internet video of the seafloor when Dudko witnessed a hagfish get slurped up by some animal that appeared in the corner of the image.
One minute the fish, known for producing enough slime to to clog the gills of sharks and conger eels that have tried to eat it, is hanging out in front of the camera moving just slightly with the current, and then gone. The nose and whiskers of the predator are the only clue.
Surprised and intrigued, Dudko wrote to the University of Victoria, which hosts the NEPTUNE Canada deep-sea camera network. The underwater observatory is designed to allow citizen scientists around the world access to deep-sea activity through the use of a video camera attached to 800-kilometers of fiber-optic cable.
“This creature wasn’t like a fish and I realized it was a mammal because of the nose and mustache,” Dudko reported. “But it did not look like a whale.”
What other mammal is capable of diving 3,000 feet deep? Kim Juniper, NEPTUNE associate science director, consulted marine mammal experts at Fisheries and Oceans and Oregon State University about Dudko’s query and concluded the predator was a female northern elephant seal.
“They’re not so much a diving seal as a surfacing seal. They spend 90 percent of their time under the water,” Juniper told Times Colonist.
And Dudko was the first person to ever see one eat a hagfish.
For a fish that can “secrete so much slime that it turns water in a five-gallon bucket into jelly,” reported Juniper, how a seal might eat one has been a mystery. “Now we know she didn’t bite or chew, she inhaled it,” Juniper said. “She created a low-pressure vacuum around her mouth.”
And instead of using her whiskers to find the fish, Juniper says the video shows the seal looks to have used the lights from the camera, which are turned on for five minutes every two hours.
Dudko told the Times Colonist that he wants to turn his hobby into a career as a marine biologist. “I spend a lot of time watching the NEPTUNE video feeds because I think that the underwater world keeps so many secrets and now it is possible for me to observe the life of its inhabitants online. It is really exciting.”

Random Photo

Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining

And Bacteria. 
Lots of Bacteria.
Every cloud has a silver lining, and if atmospheric chemist Athanasios Nenes is correct, it has tons of bacteria as well. When Nenes collected air samples from about 30,000 feet over land and sea, he found that the air high above us is teeming with microorganisms:
It's not exactly a friendly place. It's cold, it's dry, and there's a lot of damaging UV light.
But Nenes says the bacteria seemed to be able to handle it. "They were alive," Nenes says. "More than 60 percent of them were actually alive, and they were in an active state that that you could say they should be metabolizing and eating things that are up there."
Back on the ground, other members of the research team used genetic techniques to identify the bacteria. One of them was Georgia Tech microbiologist Kostas Konstantinidis.
"We were able to see at least close to 100 different species, of which about 20 were in most samples," Konstantinidis says. Some of those 100 species were from the ocean. Others came from the soil and from fresh water.
There were even some E. coli. But Konstantinidis says he's not sure yet whether it's a type that makes people sick. The sample is still being analyzed. "My feeling is it will also include pathogens," he says, "but we don't have direct evidence about that yet."
NPR's Morning Edition has the story: Here.

Radioactive Cattle Found Near Fukushima

Traces of radioactive cesium, silver and tellurium were found in cattle abandoned near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant after the 2011 disaster.

The Majestic Beauty Of Whales In The Wild

While whales are indisputably beautiful animals, photographing them can be somewhat of a challenge. You'll probably be shooting in the middle of the day on the water which throws up all sorts of exposure problems, and trying to line them up with a good background has obvious limitations. This collection shows some real skill with a camera by various photographers.

Leafy Seadragon

A Fish That Drifts Along Looking Like Seaweed
The leafy seadragon is a fish in the same family as seahorses. It is found along the southern and western coasts of Australia. The name is derived from the appearance, with long leaf-like protrusions coming from all over the body.

Animal Pictures


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Daily Drift

Life is like a naked ride. Ride it well.

Today some of our readers have been in:
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Johannesburg, South Africa
Poznan, Poland
Toa Alta, Puerto Rico
Montevideo, Uruguay
Shah Alam, Malaysia
Minsk, Belarus
Istanbul, Turkey
Medan, Indonesia
George Town, Cayman Islands
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Abucay, Philippines
Ankara, Turkey
Panevezys, Lithuania
Warsaw, Poland
Sampaloc, Philippines
Cape Town, South Africa
Seremban, Malaysia
Oxford, England
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Manchester, England
Puchong, Malaysia
Surabaya, Indonesia

Just a typical day here.

Don't forget to visit our sister blog!

Today in History

1649   Charles I of England is beheaded at Whitehall by the executioner Richard Brandon.
1844   Richard Theodore Greener becomes the first African American to graduate from Harvard University.
1862   The USS Monitor is launched at Greenpoint, Long Island.
1901   Women Prohibitionists smash 12 saloons in Kansas.
1912   The British House of Lords opposes the House of Commons by rejecting home rule for Ireland.
1931   The United States awards civil government to the Virgin Islands.
1933   Adolf Hitler is named Chancellor by President Paul Hindenburg.
1936   Governor Harold Hoffman orders a new inquiry into the Lindbergh kidnapping.
1943   Field Marshal Friedrich von Paulus surrenders himself and his staff to Red Army troops in Stalingrad.
1945   The Allies launch a drive on the Siegfried line in Germany.
1949   In India, 100,000 people pray at the site of Gandhi's assassination on the first anniversary of his death.
1953   President Dwight Eisenhower announces that he will pull the Seventh Fleet out of Formosa to permit the Nationalists to attack Communist China.
1964   The Ranger spacecraft, equipped with six TV cameras, is launched to the moon from Cape Canaveral.
1972   British troops shoot dead 14 Irish civilians in Derry, Ireland. The day is forever remembered in Ireland as 'Bloody Sunday.'
1976   The U.S. Supreme Court bans spending limits in campaigns, equating funds with freedom of speech.
1980   The first-ever Chinese Olympic team arrives in New York for the Winter Games at Lake Placid.

Non Sequitur

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If it is not stopped, the repugican war on democracy will tear this nation apart

The repugicans can't win national elections anymore, having lost the popular vote in five of the last six, and with demographics shifts moving solidly against them , rather than try to better represent the will of the American electorate, they're instead going to try to break the system so that the will of the American electorate no longer matters.

The truth be told


The £100 million Banknote

Heard about that brouhaha over the trillion dollar coin? Well, the Brits beat us to it. Sort of.
The note above doesn't look like much, but you're looking at a real £1,000,000 banknote, nicknamed "giant" in the British currency system. And if you think that's big, it's nothing compared to its cousin "titan." That one is £100 million!
Chris Bowlby of the BBC has the story:
"When it comes to a £1m note, everybody thinks, 'What a fantastic thing'," says Barnaby Faull, head of the banknote department at the auctioneers Spink.
"What most people don't realise is they do actually exist."
But the £1m pound note - known as a "giant" - is not in circulation and it is inconceivable it will be made available from cashpoints. How many of us would risk carrying one around in our wallet, let alone have sufficient funds in our account to get one out?
And if you're wondering, there were 4,040 giants and titans printed with a total value of £8 billion. The titans are printed on A4 sized paper (a little smaller than a legal sized paper for us Yanks here in the United States), whereas the giants are smaller at A5 (about the size of two letter papers side by side).

American insurers charge reckless rich drivers less than safe poor drivers

The Consumer Federation of America did a mystery shopper review of several auto insurers and found that drivers with at-fault accidents paid lower premiums than drivers with spotless records -- provided that the careless driver was rich and well-educated and the careful driver was a single renter without an advanced degree.
Using two hypothetical characters the group compared premiums offered to two 30-year-old women. Both had driven for 10 years, lived on the same street in a middle-income Zip code and both wanted the minimum insurance required by whichever state the group was researching.
The imaginary woman who wasn’t married, rented a home, didn’t have coverage for 45 days but has never been in an accident or ticketed with a moving violation was compared to a married executive with a master’s degree who owns her home and has always had continuous insurance coverage. But she’d been in an accident (again, hypothetically) that was her fault and caused $800 in damage within the last three years.
The results were somewhat surprising, although there were differences across the five insurers. Farmers, GEICO and Progressive always gave a higher quote to the safer driver than the woman who’d caused an accident. Across all 12 cities in the study, State Farm offered the lowest or second lowest premiums.
“State insurance regulators should require auto insurers to explain why they believe factors such as education and income are better predictors of losses than are at-fault accidents,” said J. Robert Hunter, CFA’s director of insurance and former Texas insurance

What the ban on unlocking phones means (worse than you think)

You will have heard that the US Copyright Office has lifted the temporary ruling under which you were allowed to unlock your phone. EFF explains in detail what this ruling means (it's not what you think -- and in some ways, it's worse):
First, the good news. The legal shield for jailbreaking and rooting your phone remains up - it'll protect us at least through 2015. The shield for unlocking your phone is down, but carriers probably aren't going to start suing customers en masse, RIAA-style. And the Copyright Office's decision, contrary to what some sensational headlines have said, doesn't necessarily make unlocking illegal.
Unlocking is in a legal grey area under the DMCA. The law was supposed to protect creative works, but it's often been misused by electronics makers to block competition and kill markets for used goods. The courts have pushed back, ruling that the DMCA doesn't protect digital locks that keep digital devices from talking to each other when creative work isn't involved. And no creative work is involved here: Wireless carriers aren't worried about "piracy" of the software on their phones, they're worried about people reselling subsidized phones at a profit. So if the matter ever reached a court, it might well decide that the DMCA does not forbid unlocking a phone.
Now, the bad news. While we don’t expect mass lawsuits anytime soon, the threat still looms. More likely, wireless carriers, or even federal prosecutors, will be emboldened to sue not individuals, but rather businesses that unlock and resell phones. If a court rules in favor of the carriers, penalties can be stiff - up to $2,500 per unlocked phone in a civil suit, and $500,000 or five years in prison in a criminal case where the unlocking is done for "commercial advantage." And this could happen even for phones that are no longer under contract. So we're really not free to do as we want with devices that we own.
All that said, if you were convicted, the maximum penalty under the law for unlocking your phone is now greater than the maximum penalty for turning it into an IED.

WTO gives Antigua the right to sell pirated American copyrighted goods

The WTO agreement is supposed to guarantee level playing fields for its member states, allowing each to sell into the others' markets. But US law bans online gambling, which is the major export from Antigua. Antigua has been going back and forth with the USA in trade court since 2003, and now the WTO has agreed that the US has violated its treaty obligations. By way of reparations, the WTO has given Antigua permission to set up a kind of legal pirate market, where American copyrighted works can be sold without permission or royalties. The initial ruling came in 2007, and was affirmed on Monday. Antigua has announced plans for a site for downloading US software, music and movies.
Antigua’s Finance Minister Harold Lovell said in a comment that the U.S. left his Government no other option than to respond in this manner. Antigua’s gambling industry was devastated by the unfair practices of the U.S. and years of negotiations have offered no compromise.
“These aggressive efforts to shut down the remote gaming industry in Antigua has resulted in the loss of thousands of good paying jobs and seizure by the Americans of billions of dollars belonging to gaming operators and their customers in financial institutions across the world,” Lowell says.
“If the same type of actions, by another nation, caused the people and the economy of the United States to be so significantly impacted, Antigua would without hesitation support their pursuit of justice,” the Finance minister adds.

Dutch Queen Beatrix announces she is to abdicate


The announcement, in a nationally televised speech, signaled an end to the reign of one of Europe's longest-serving monarchs, whose time on the throne was marked by tumultuous shifts in Dutch society and, more recently, by personal tragedy.
 More

Mali secures retaken towns, donors pledge funds

French troops, aboard an armoured vehicle, guard the Timbuktu airport in this January 28, 2013 picture provided by the French Military audiovisual service (ECPAD) January 29, 2013. REUTERS/Arnaud Roine/ECPAD/Handout 
French-backed Malian troops searched house-to-house in Gao and Timbuktu on Tuesday uncovering arms and explosives abandoned by Islamist fighters, and France said it would look to hand over longer-term security operations in Mali to an African force.
An 18-day offensive in France's former West African colony has pushed the militants out of major towns and into hideouts in the deserts and mountains.
French and Malian troops retook the two Saharan trading towns of Timbuktu and Gao at the weekend virtually unopposed.
Doubts remain about just how quickly the African intervention force, known as AFISMA and now expected to exceed 8,000 troops, could be fully deployed in Mali to hunt down and eradicate retreating al Qaeda-allied insurgents in the north.
International donors meeting in Addis Ababa pledged just over $455 million for the Mali crisis, but it was not clear whether all of this would go directly to AFISMA, which African leaders have estimated will cost almost $1 billion.
"You will certainly understand that it is not sufficient. But I think it is only the beginning. We hope that it will continue, and that the money we need will come," Malian interim President Dioncounda Traore told reporters in Addis Ababa.
He earlier announced his government would aim to organize "credible" elections for July 31 in response to demands from major western backers of the anti-rebel action.
Malian soldiers combed through the dusty alleys and mud-brick homes of Gao and Timbuktu. In Gao, they arrested at least five suspected rebels and sympathizers, turned over by local people, and uncovered caches of weapons and counterfeit money.
Residents reported some looting of shops in Timbuktu owned by Arabs and Tuaregs suspected of having helped the Islamists who had occupied the world-famous seat of Islamic learning, a UNESCO World Heritage site, since last year.
Fleeing Islamist fighters torched a Timbuktu library holding priceless ancient manuscripts, damaging many.
After the reports of reprisals by civilians and soldiers, France called for the swift deployment of international observers to ensure human rights are not abused.
Malian army sources told Reuters pockets of armed Islamist fighters, on foot to avoid French air strikes, were still hiding in the savannah and deserts around Gao and Timbuktu and near main roads leading to them, parts of which were still unsafe.
The West African country has been in political limbo since a March 2012 coup triggered the rebel takeover of the north.
France has sent around 3,000 troops to Mali at the request of its government but is anxious not to get bogged down in a messy counter-insurgency war in their former Sahel colony.
The French have also made clear that while the first phase of liberating the biggest north Mali towns may be over, a more difficult challenge to flush the Islamist desert insurgents from their lairs remains.
"We will stay as long as necessary. We want to make sure there will be a good handover between France and AFISMA. There is no question of us getting stuck in the mud," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said in Addis Ababa.
MORE FUNDS NEEDED
The leading donors pledging funds in Addis Ababa were Japan, the European Union and the United States. But African Union officials could not immediately break down how much was intended for the African intervention force, how much for Mali's army and how much for broader humanitarian purposes.
"The participants are of the view there is a need to continue to work together to mobilize further resources," said AU Peace and Security Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra.
Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara, who chairs the West African bloc ECOWAS that is contributing the most troops for the African Mali force, estimated its cost at more than $950 million.
The United States and European governments are backing the French and African military operation against the Islamist rebels with logistical, airlift and intelligence support, but they are not sending combat troops.
They see the intervention as vital to root out an al Qaeda-allied insurgency in West Africa that could threaten African governments and western interests from Mauritania to oil-producing Nigeria, as well as strike directly in Europe.
The head of the U.N. mission in Libya, Tarek Mitri, told the Security Council the French-led military intervention could worsen a "precarious" security situation inside Libya by pushing fighters and arms across its porous Saharan borders.
U.S. DRONES FOR NIGER
The bulk of the planned African intervention force for Mali is still struggling to get into the country, hampered by shortages of kit and supplies and lack of airlift capacity.
Around 2,000 troops are already on the ground to fight the retreating Islamist rebels, who have pulled back to the rugged northeast mountains of the Adrar des Ifoghas range on the border with Algeria.
Burkina Faso, Benin, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Niger and Chad are providing soldiers. Burundi and other nations have pledged to contribute. Hundreds of soldiers from Chad and Niger with desert warfare experience have already crossed into the country.
The commander of the Chadian forces in Mali, Abdu Aziz Hassan Adam, told Reuters in Gao his forces were ready to "sweep the terrorists out of the north of Mali". "They are a threat for all the countries of the world," he added.
Britain said on Tuesday up to 240 soldiers could take part in missions to train troops in Mali in addition to at least 90 already taking part in logistical operations.
The United States also extended deployment of surveillance drones that could track down rebel bases and columns in the Sahara desert. Mali's neighbor Niger on Tuesday gave permission for U.S. drones to fly from its territory.
TUAREGS HOLD KIDAL
Besides Gao and Timbuktu, another major Malian Saharan town, Kidal, had also been in Islamist insurgent hands but MNLA Tuareg rebels said on Monday they had taken control there after the Islamists left.
The MNLA's Tuareg leaders, whose pro-independence rebellion last year was hijacked by Islamist radicals leading to the current crisis, said their desert fighters were ready to join the French-led campaign against "terrorist organizations" - a reference to al Qaeda and its allies.
But they also asked for direct negotiations with the Malian government about their autonomy demands. Chadian troops were expected to deploy up to Kidal in the northeast to secure it, officials in Niger said.