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


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Daily Drift

The truth hurts. 

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Today in History

1408   The revolt of Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, against King Henry IV, ends with his defeat and death at Bramham Moor.
1701   Philip V of Spain makes his ceremonial entry into Madrid.
1807   Vice President Aaron Burr is arrested in Alabama for treason. He is later found innocent.
1847   Rescuers finally reach the ill-fated Donnor Party in the Sierras.
1861   Russian Tsar Alexander II abolishes serfdom.
1902   Smallpox vaccination becomes obligatory in France.
1903   The Austria-Hungary government decrees a mandatory two year military service.
1915   British and French warships begin their attacks on the Turkish forts at the mouth of the Dardenelles, in an abortive expedition to force the straits of Gallipoli.
1917   American troops are recalled from the Mexican border.
1919   The First Pan African Congress meets in Paris, France.
1925   President Calvin Coolidge proposes the phasing out of inheritance tax.
1926   Dr. Lane of Princeton estimates the earth's age at one billion years.
1942   Port Darwin, on the northern coast of Australia, is bombed by the Japanese.
1944   The U.S. Eighth Air Force and Royal Air Force begin "Big Week," a series of heavy bomber attacks against German aircraft production facilities.
1965   Fourteen Vietnam War protesters are arrested for blocking the United Nations' doors in New York.
1966   Robert F. Kennedy suggests the United States offer the Vietcong a role in governing South Vietnam.
1976   Britain slashes welfare spending.
1981   The U.S. State Department calls El Salvador a "textbook case" of a Communist plot.
1987   New York Governor Mario Cuomo declares that he will not run for president in the next election.

Non Sequitur

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Texas woman has two sets of identical twins in one day

 A Texas mother had a one-in-70-million kind of Valentine's Day this year when she gave birth to two sets of identical twin boys, a Houston hospital announced on Monday.
The four brothers were delivered at 31 weeks to Tressa Montalvo, 36, via Cesarean section at The Woman's Hospital of Texas in Houston, according to a news release from the hospital.
Tressa and Manuel Montalvo Jr. were not using any fertility drugs and had just hoped for a little brother or sister for their 2-year-old son, Memphis, according to the release.
"We planned the pregnancy - I guess we just succeeded a little too much!" said Tressa Montalvo, quoted in the release.
When Montalvo was 10 weeks pregnant, her physician told her she was having twins, and on a subsequent visit, the doctor detected a third heartbeat. The Montalvos were later informed they were having four babies - not quadruplets but two sets of twins.
The odds of delivering two sets of naturally occurring identical twins is somewhere in the range of 1 in 70 million, according to the hospital. Two boys shared one placenta and the two other boys shared another placenta.
Ace and Blaine were born at 8:51 a.m. on February 14 and weighed 3 pounds, 10 ounces (1.64 kg), and 3 pounds, 15 ounces (1.79 kg), respectively. Cash and Dylan followed a minute later, weighing 2 pounds, 15 ounces (1.33 kg), and 3 pounds, 6 ounces (1.53 kg), respectively.
"We tried to stick to the A-B-C-D theme when naming them," Tressa Montalvo said. "We didn't expect it, we were trying for just one and we were blessed with four."
Manuel Montalvo said in the release that they're not done yet - he still wants a girl.

The truth hurts

Russian lawmaker's body found in cement

A Russian lawmaker found stuffed in a barrel of cement last week may have been killed over unpaid debts, investigators said on Monday.

Contrary to repugican Myth, President Obama is a Better President for Business than Reagan ever was

obama-reagan-podium
It’s Obama v Reagan as the Business President.
The repugicans like to claim their party as the party of business, even though their policies (like refusing to lower taxes for small businesses unless too big to fail got some as well) aren’t exactly helpful for the economy. So, I thought we should pit Reagan against Obama and ask whose presidency was better for corporate profits?
In January, Bloomberg reported that corporate after-tax profits had grown 171% under President Obama. That’s more than any president since World War II.
In fact, “Profits are more than twice as high as their peak during President Ronald Reagan’s administration and more than 50 percent greater than during the late-1990s Internet boom, measured by the size of the economy.”
Corporate profits under Obama are more than twice as high as they were under Reagan.
Corporate profits are “now at their highest level relative to the size of the economy since the government began keeping records in 1947, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.”
Before wingnuts busy themselves unskewing the math, the business community did it for you, my friends. No need to jump off of a building, business leaders say they are doing this well, but guess what, it’s all due to their greatness, low labor costs and low interest rates. They say Obama doesn’t deserve any credit, and no, they will not share their toys with you even though you bailed them out. Fungu.
It’s not a surprise that business leaders are surly and petulant in the face of their huge profits. You see, everyone wants to have their egos stroked and President Obama snubbed them during his first term. Liberals might not believe this, but business leaders say that the President’s refusal to sit down with them and hear them out alienated the community.
But Obama has sat down with them. For example, in 2011, they told him that regulations were inhibiting business growth. (One might ask, what regulations, but that’s for another day.) Obviously, this isn’t true, unless by inhibiting business growth they mean doubling their profits.
The executives offered a list of policies they see as inhibiting job creation and business growth, many centered on what they see as overregulation and government indecision, one person said. Another said executives suggested the administration alter its tone when speaking about business. Another suggestion, to aid hiring, was to reduce the taxes on selling a home so it would be easier for people to move for jobs.
Yes, if only Obama would “alter his tone” about business, things would be rosy. Oh, they already are rosy for business, but not so rosy for the people? Now business is mad, even though their profits are soaring. Because, you see, they want their ideas to be heeded by the President, even if they are bad ideas. Implement the fail, President Obama, or else.
When Obama met with business leaders in December of 2012, many of them opposed his tax increases on the rich. Lloyd C. Blankfein, chief executive of Goldman Sachs, wrote in the Wall Street Journal that higher taxes for the rich were okay, but cuts needed to be made to “entitlement programs”, “I believe that tax increases, especially for the wealthiest, are appropriate, but only if they are joined by serious cuts in discretionary spending and entitlements.”
These attitudes are what makes the business community seem as tone deaf as they accuse the President of being; while they make huge profits, they fail to grasp that the middle class and poor are suffering. Not everyone got bailed out, and not everyone is doubling their profits. It’s tough to understand how business sees further impoverishing their customers as a great business plan. Consumers are the demand side of the equation, and they need money in order to make purchases. (This explains why President Obama chose to fight for unemployment benefits over tax cuts for the rich in 2010 — it was all about a secret stimulus, and it worked, much to the chagrin of some people.)
Of course, experts disagreed with the business leaders. They say the stimulus stopped unemployment from becoming a disaster. Bloomberg reported, “In a February 2012 survey, 80 percent of senior economics professors said unemployment was lower at the end of 2010 than it would have been without Obama’s stimulus spending.”
Wingnuts are probably googling how to blame Obama for this so they can resurrect their Reagan hero. But we all know that reality, math, and expertise play very small (if any) roles in wingnut “ideas” these days. Just stick with what works — self-righteous claims of persecution in the face of huge profits is always a win for public relations. If that fails, blame Obama.
Business leaders just can’t seem to face the daunting prospect of challenging their beliefs with the facts. Why not ask what, other than their greatness, low interest rates and low labor costs, might be contributing to their high profits. After all, weren’t they always “great”?
Either Obama isn’t overregulating them or regulations are not the death of business.
Which is it?
In the war of Obama v Reagan as the Business President, the math says President Obama wins by a landslide. Corporate profits are twice as high as they were under Reagan. That fact means that some of the business community’s ideas about the economy and indeed their own businesses are not accurate.
Maybe the business community needs to have a sit down where they listen instead of speak. Maybe a government that looks out for the people is not the death of business after all. Maybe the two can co-exist. Maybe common sense regulations and oversight actually help business by saving it from itself (see too big to fail).
Ronald Reagan is supposed to be the business president of all time. He’s the patron saint of trickle down deregulation. But corporate profits under Obama are double what they were under Reagan. It’s enough to make smart people question what they believe.

While repugicans Focus on Public Debt, the Real Issue is Private Debt

debt_consolidation_fees
In a nation where private debt ($38 trillion) eclipses public debt ($16 trillion), too many politicians and others constantly focus on public debt as a major factor in the health of our economy. This happens despite the research of economist Alan Taylor that suggests our nation’s major economic collapses, including the Great Depression and the Great Recession, were likely both caused by the weight of private debt (which includes corporate, household, and debt by the financial sector). His research does find that when governments have spent heavily during the same period that the private sector has become indebted, a magnification of the crisis occurs. This is because when the inevitable economic collapse happens, the government finds itself unable to spend money to help the economy rebuild. Instead, it becomes tethered to austerity pressures, which subsequently deepen the financial woes of the country. The people of the nation cannot produce the demand necessary to stimulate the economy, because they are encumbered with household debt. The government is forced by people who focus on revenue declines and rising debt to do the opposite of what it needs to do, like someone trying to solve a Chinese finger trap.
Two days after President Obama was re-elected, consumer debt hit another all-time high of $2.74 trillion. At the end of that quarter, economists reported that the economy had contracted for the first time since the recovery from the disastrous Shrub Recession had begun. Another major factor for this backward slide was the reduction in government spending forced by repugicans. It is the perfect mix of ingredients to send the economy back into a tailspin. Instead of responding to the dynamic with an increase in government spending, as prescribed by the ever-wise Keynes, our leaders are still forcing negotiations on sequestration to further cut back on government spending. This week, Thom Hartmann pointed out that public debt is currently about 100% of GDP. After World War II, it was about 120% of GDP. Right after the War, instead of shutting down government spending, our nation’s leaders actually did the opposite. They spent money rather copiously by investing in the country’s infrastructure. The Interstate Freeway System we enjoy today was built. The GIs returning home from war were all sent to college, if they wanted to go, on the GI bill. One of the interesting things about the time frame after the War ended is that private debt was below 50% of GDP. Marginal tax rates on the wealthy were also as high as a whopping 90%.
Fast forward to the present, and we have the opposite situation, created in many ways by Ronald Reagan. We have private debt looming over 250% of GDP. This has happened in several ways. Reagan’s policies have led to the extinguishing of the middle class through stagnation of wages. Despite the fact that Americans have steadily increased their productivity, their wages haven’t increased correspondingly. Fully 50% of workers made less than $26,000 a year in 2010. Nearly half of Americans are one paycheck away from financial disaster. Under these circumstances, it is little wonder that people have been attempting to maintain their middle class lifestyle using credit; they don’t have the cash on hand to do it any other way. Reagan set in motion the crushing of labor unions, which further depresses wages. He demonized the poor so thoroughly that cuts to the social safety net have become accepted as the norm for the country, demanded by citizens at every social stratum, including the poor themselves.
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Reagan gave corporations unfettered power when he ended the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. Thereafter, businesses merged into ever greater powerhouses, each time accumulating magnificent amounts of debt as vulture capitalists reaped profits. We’ve seen “bubble” after “bubble.” Each time, speculators drove up the value of stocks or homes well beyond what they are actually worth, only to skim magnificent profits, leaving behind small investors with empty pockets when the inevitable crash happens. Banks extending millions of mortgage loans to people that they knew had a dubious ability to repay them, then quickly selling the loans to profit before the scheme fell apart.
When it all went wrong, and some banks were left holding bad debt, they turned to the very people from which they had reaped unbelievable profits and said, “Give us some more money to bail us out.” Dutifully, and without consequence, the American people and their government complied. We’ve been told that the money was all repaid, but bailout guru, Matt Taibbi, says otherwise.
Economist Steve Keen  suggested a rather radical idea to stimulate the economy. It might be called a “We the People Bailout.” Or as Thom Hartmann calls it, a “Debt Jubilee.” Keen argues that we are at an impasse. Obama’s stimulus plan was unable to do as much as it should have, because when he invested dollars into American’s pocketbooks, they were so laden with debt, they simply used it to pay down that debt, rather than spent it to stimulate the economy. Further attempts to stimulate the economy are likely to be met with the same result. Thus, Keen recommends a one-time government debt payment program. In essence, this means that the government does a bailout of a sizeable proportion of household debt (e.g., credit card, mortgage, student loan).
The consequences would be two-fold. For banks, there would be much misery. They would lose out on billions of dollars in interest payments. For anyone paying attention for at least the past 30 years to their behavior, this certainly appears to be a fitting consequence. For the economy, it would be the greatest stimulus ever reckoned. People would have billions of dollars freed up to spend on goods and services. Financial literacy is very poor in this country, and offering extensive education to prevent a re-indebtedness would be exceptionally prudent. For example, how many people will ever hear that, this week, the Federal Trade Commission released a report showing that 20% of Americans have errors on their credit report that could be lowering their credit score, potentially affecting how much they pay for interest, whether they can rent or buy a home, or even whether they get a job? Worse yet, disputing those errors can be a nightmare in terms of actually getting the credit bureaus to fix the problem.
For repugicans, this notion of debt forgiveness even has precedence in the bible, the koran, and in many Native American traditions. Within the bible’s Old Testament specifically, there are passages about the cancellation of debt that occurred every 49 years, when slaves were freed, people were given their original property, and freedom was celebrated. You don’t have to be religious or traditional to see to why early judeo-christian, muslim, or Native American societies saw the merit in maintaining a healthy society by freeing people from debt. Wingnuts are always preaching that we need to look to the past for the wisdom of our ancestors, yet here is one example where they likely wouldn’t dream of upholding that principle.

Paul Ryan Calls Eliminating Food and Healthcare for 600,000 Kids ‘Smarter Cuts’

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While trying to blame President Obama for the sequester, Rep. Paul Ryan referenced the smart cuts that the House passed. Those ‘smarter cuts’ would take away food and healthcare for hundreds of thousands of kids.
Video:

Transcript from ABC News:
KARL: Well, let’s get to the biggest other issue out there right now which is these automatic spending cuts. You’ve been pretty clear. You’ve predicted for some time that you think that this so-called sequester is going to happen.
Let me ask you this, congress is now on recess for ten days, the president is playing golf in Florida this weekend. Is there really any everyday underway to try to avert these cuts right now? Are you even trying.
RYAN: Well, there have been from the House repugicans.
Let’s take a step back. Don’t forget it’s the president that proposed the sequester and designed sequester and House repugicans who twice passed legislation replacing the sequester with smarter cuts in other areas of government.
Rep. Ryan proposed (r-P90X), and the House passed, the Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act of 2012 last summer. After it died in the Senate, the Sequester Replacement Act was slightly tweaked and brought back by House repugicans during John Boehner’s fiscal cliff Plan B fiasco.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) noted during the Plan B debate on the House floor that the Ryan/repugican cuts would throw a combined 600,000 poor children off of food stamps and Medicaid. Literally, Paul Ryan is trying to protect the defense industry by starving hundreds of thousands of economically disadvantaged children.
The “smarter cuts” that Rep. Ryan is touting would slash food stamps, and throw 300,000 children off the program. The cuts are so extensive that they would eliminate food assistance for 1.8 million adults and children. Ryan’s cuts would also eliminate Meals on Wheels, federal funding for child protective services, and healthcare for disabled adults and children.
Children may have a “right to life” in the repugican cabal, but the eingnut culture of life doesn’t include food. If kids want to eat, they’re on their own.

Lush Dimbulb Smears President Obama by Suggesting He is Cheating on His Wife

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Lush Dimbulb smeared President Obama today by suggesting that the president was cheating on his wife while playing golf with Tiger Woods.
Transcript via Lush Dimbulb:
By the way, there are some in the Drive-Bys (and we have the evidence coming up) who are not happy that Obama invited Tiger while Moochelle is half a continent away with the children. It’s a guy’s weekend, and there’s Tiger in there, and there are no cameras. So there are some people in the media, particularly over at CNN, who are very, very worried about this.
Not us here at the EIB Network. It never crossed our minds. I saw a busload of women when I was out yesterday on 95. I was up as far as Jupiter, and I did see a busload of women heading north on 95. Now, I had no idea where it was going. It was the afternoon. It was after, like, three o’clock. (interruption) No, no, no, Snerdley! I’m not leveling any accusations, but I did see a busload of women. (interruption) No, Clinton’s not there. Well, that’s a good question. I don’t think Clinton’s in town. Anyway, hee-hee, we have the evidence coming up.

But the way the sports media treats these guys is that they’re gods, in essence. Of course that veil was lifted on Tiger. Before we get to that, I had a bunch of people e-mail me during the break here. “Lush, come on! Obama’s a very loyal and devoted husband. He doesn’t care about women.” Maybe not, but who else was up there? That’s what the media’s concerned about at CNN, which you will hear in mere moments.

LUSH ARCHIVE: [T]he parallels between Barack Obama and Tiger Woods are stunning. We don’t know if there’s rampant sex romps going on with Obama. We doubt that. But everything else, they created for us a puff piece image of Obama, starting with his speech at the 2004 Democrat convention. We don’t know who he is. We don’t know anything about the man other than his years agitating the community in Chicago, the things he’s written about in his books. But there’s this image of “we’ve never had someone like this before, there’s never been a man like this. He transcends normal people.” Remember all these people gushing over him. Mark my words. At some point the same unmasking that has happened to Tiger Woods will happen to Barack Obama.
LUSH: Well, it hasn’t happened yet. I predicted that, at some point, the veil would be lifted on Obama. I still say this. I thought it would happen by now, but it hasn’t yet. But it has been on Tiger. You know, Tiger created this image, along with his sports-marketing people and his corporate partners. They created this image of Mr. Perfect: Perfect husband, perfect golfer, perfect workout guy, more disciplined than you, devoted, committed — and that was all done in the media. Of course, then it all blew up. When the media makes you, the media can break you — and that is going to be true of Obama at some point. It may be too late to matter when it does, but it will.
The shrub. and Laura took a separate vacation in each year of his junta. Was the media concerned about the impression that this sent then? Was Lush Dimbulb speculating that the shrub was cheating on his wife? Of course, he wasn’t. This was a non-story when the shrub did it, but the Obamas take one separate vacation and wingnuts turn it into a big Obama secret. To be fair, when some liberal message boards noticed that the the shrub and Laura took separate vacations in 2006, they speculated too, but the story wasn’t on CNN.
Besides Dimbulb’s daily agenda of Obama hate, the media is making an issue out of this because the president wouldn’t let them tag along while he golfed with Tiger Woods. Ed Henry of Faux News and president of the White House Correspondents Association, filed a complaint about the the White House’s lack of golf outing transparency. Henry wrote, “Speaking on behalf of the White House Correspondents Association, I can say a broad cross section of our members from print, radio, online and TV have today expressed extreme frustration to me about having absolutely no access to the President of the United States this entire weekend. There is a very simple but important principle we will continue to fight for today and in the days ahead: transparency.”
Of all the transparency issues to be concerned about, Henry is most outraged because he didn’t to cover Obama playing golf. When things like this happen, it is easy to see why the mainstream media is held in such low regard.
The media is grumpy because that they didn’t get to play TMZ. Lush Dimbulb, who has cheated on a few of his wives, is perpetuating the stereotype that the nation’s first African-American president is cheating on his wife, and nobody gave a damn when the shrub. and Laura took separate vacations every year.

Buster Wilson Claims President Obama Wants to Declare christians to be Mentally Ill and Lock Them Up

Hello, Funny Farm. One of your residents is loose ...


Buster Wilson 
The anti-American anti-Family Association’s Buster Wilson is fascinated by his meat. It might seem reasonable, therefore, for him to worry about being classified as mentally ill. Yes, Buster Wilson lets go of his meat long enough to claim Obama thinks he’s crazy and wants to lock him up. Must be one heck of a fantasy. Just sayin’.
If you don’t remember Buster’s meat issues, here’s a refresher from last July:
Buster seems unaware of this and claims that the reason we left-wingers use terms like “right-wing fanatics” and “radicals” is not because Buster and his friends, are, in fact, right-wing radicals, but because if we can somehow make the label stick we can get the CDC to launch “attacks against christians based on some form of mental illness diagnosis.”
This is what Buster had to say:
Someday I believe that they are going to be attacks against christians based on some form of mental illness diagnosis. I think it is not without reason that the left refers to people like us as those loony, right-wing fanatics or right-wing radicals, far-right-wing nut jobs. I think it is by design that they use those kinds of terminologies against us because one day I think there is going to be something in the hand of doctors, something in the hands of the CDC, something in the hands of the government that will be able to classify us a certain way and get us out of the picture. Again, who does the government hate? Who are they against? Who are they worried the most about? Those are the ones they are going to attack, you keep your eyes open to that.
Really, it doesn’t sound like such a bad idea. Clearly, something is wrong with people like Buster Wilson and his cohort, Bryan Fischer and others like Ralph Reed. Mental illness is certainly one possible explanation. And it’s not just these religious bigots, it’s the politicians they inspire, like Rand Paul.
Buster doesn’t get credit for this particular conspiracy theory. Rather, he took a conspiracy theory hatched by Erik Rush and ran with it…and ran…and ran.
Erik Rush convinced himself that Obama was going to use the American Psychiatric Association to do away with christians. Now, while I have a grudge of my own against the APA (their crappy  publication manual), I have to say Rush is pretty far out there:
Along with his disdain for European society and what Obama perceives as the vestiges of imperialism, colonialism, and white supremacy (which includes America), he also despises that which gave rise to it, which serves as its cultural adhesive, and which stands as the chief impediment to a Marxist America: christianity…In the case of those who pose the most dire threat to Obama’s designs – christians – these will certainly be targeted. After all, who more demonstrably epitomizes mental instability in the eyes of the Marxist atheist than those who commune with and rely upon that which is unseen? To the Marxist, god is no more real than Elwood’s “Harvey,” and even more antiquated than the Constitution.
There is no disputing the fact that these wingnut radicals engage in what can only be described as “crazy talk.” There is a reason we use the term “bat-shit crazy” after all. If the shoe fits….
Which brings us right back to Rush, who cites as evidence “the political left’s intense derision for christianity, and this most definitely includes Obama.”
Despite having passed himself off as a Christian in the eyes of the grotesquely ignorant, it is clear that he is functionally an atheist. Many argue that he is in fact a Muslim; my belief is that while he holds a marked affinity for Muslims, he is far too narcissistic to deign worshiping anything other than himself. More than anything else, he is a Marxist.
Literally, people like Rush just sit back and make this shit up. or they hear some equally crazy shit from somebody else and adopt it as fact, as has happened here with first Rush, and then Wilson. It’s almost like crazy talk is contagious, and maybe it is. Perhaps this is a pernicious form of mental illness that can pass from one person to another. Perhaps these wingnut radicals should be interred somewhere. It would certainly satisfy their martyr complexes.
There is a lot wrong with these men. As Right Wing Watch observed with regards to Buster Wilson:
Wilson’s bold stance against heated political rhetoric may come as a surprise since he frequently describes progressives as the “progressive-homo-left-christian-bible-conservative-traditional value-hating crowd,” a “hate filled, heterophobic, christiphobic, and conservaphobic group” and “bible hating, christian hating, conservative knocking, vile, foul mouthed name calling, socialist hetero/christo-haters.”
And they’re in good company with Janet Mefferd, who falls back on the ancient christian lament that even being forced to live in the same world with pagans was a form of persecution:
Everything is so upside down in our society now and right and wrong have completely switched where what is really wrong is to say you shouldn’t have two boys allowed to go to the high school prom. Now we can get into a big issue of the public schools are morally bankrupt at this point and we all ought to exit and just let them, let them do their thing, and that may be the ultimate answer; on the other hand, I feel for these christian kids who are in a prom or kids who are at this high school who say, ‘you know something, do we have to go down this road?’ Whether the homosexual activists like it or not, and I know this isn’t politically correct to say this, but not everybody wants to see that. I know that that’s offensive to the activist crowd, they want us all to see it, they want us all to approve of it, they want us all to call it blessed and okay and rejoice and have parties and throw confetti in the air over this whole thing. But the fact of the matter is it’s a moral issue. You will always have christians who will disagree with this and why should the rights of the activists trump the rights of christians?
Mentally ill? You tell me. I mean, come on, Janet, we could as easily turn your argument around and ask why you think your right to be obnoxious bigots trumps our rights as tolerant humans? Really, shouldn’t you just get off the planet already? Can’t you just disappear in a puff of logic? We just shouldn’t have to deal with your whiny little bitch of a god any more.
Somehow, I don’t think jesus’ ego was this fragile.

In the News

International Jazz Day to celebrate Turkish/Jazz link

This publicly distributed handout photo made available by the Library Congress shows from left, Lawrence Brown, Johnny Hodges, and Adele Girard, performing at the Turkish Embassy in Washington, in the 1930s. Pianist Herbie Hancock is looking forward to paying tribute to the special connection between Turkey and jazz music forged decades ago when the Turkish ambassador opened his residence for white and black musicians to jam together at a time when segregation held sway in the U.S. capital. (AP Photo/The Library of Congress, William P. Gottlieb)  
Pianist Herbie Hancock will celebrate the special connection between Turkey and jazz music forged decades ago when the Turkish ambassador opened his residence to white and black musicians at a time when segregation held sway in the U.S. capital. Hancock, a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, is organizing a gala concert with jazz stars from around the world on April 30 at the famed Hagia Irene in the outer courtyard of Topkapi Palace in Istanbul, which has been designated the host city for the second annual U.N.-sanctioned International Jazz Day.
"There's an amazing history of the relationship between Turkey and jazz," Hancock told The Associated Press in a telephone interview ahead of Tuesday's official announcement of the 2013 International Jazz Day program.
It began in the '30s and '40s when the two sons of Turkish Ambassador Mehmet Munir Ertegun pursued their passion for jazz by frequenting the capital's black neighborhoods to buy "race" records not available elsewhere, and attend concerts at the Howard Theater, a mecca for leading African-American entertainers.
Their father readily agreed when the brothers began inviting musicians to the ambassador's mansion for Sunday lunches followed by integrated jam sessions in an upstairs music parlor. The guests included jazz royalty from the Duke Ellington and Count Basie bands such as Lester Young, Benny Carter, Harry Carney, Johnny Hodges and Rex Stewart.
Hancock says he was particularly impressed by a story told to him by Turkey's current ambassador, Namik Tan, about how his predecessor responded whenever outraged Southern senators would complain that "a person of color was seen entering your house by the front door (which) is not a practice to be encouraged."
The ambassador would offer a terse one-sentence reply such as: "In my home, friends enter by the front door — however we can arrange for you to enter from the back."
"That was fantastic ... that he always had the embassy open to jazz musicians," Hancock said. "Think about the state of civil rights and race relations at that time."
After the ambassador died in 1944, his sons remained in the U.S. Ahmet Ertegun founded Atlantic Records where he helped move African-American music into the mainstream of American pop culture, launching the careers of Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin, among others. His older brother, Nesuhi, headed the label's jazz department, producing significant recordings by jazz legends such as the Modern Jazz Quartet, John Coltrane, Charles Mingus and Ornette Coleman.
Tan acknowledged the tradition by launching the Ertegun Jazz Series of concerts at the Embassy Residence in 2011. He hopes that International Jazz Day will further spotlight the "unknown, or even surprising" connection of Turkey with jazz.
"International Jazz Day 2013 will provide a unique opportunity to pay tribute to the legacy of the Ertegun Brothers by bringing together artists from all around the world to celebrate jazz music's universal messages of peace, freedom and fraternity in the unique city of Istanbul where continents and civilizations meet," Tan said in an email.
Hancock will kick off the April 30 celebration with an early morning educational performance for students at Galatasaray High School, Turkey's oldest secondary school. Two local universities will be hosting seminars, workshops, panel discussions, film screenings and master classes during the day.
The festivities conclude with an evening concert at Hagia Irene, known for its phenomenal acoustics, which is the city's oldest church dating back to the 4th century and now a museum. The concert will be streamed live and taped for broadcast on public television stations worldwide.
The lineup includes such American jazz stars as Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Jimmy Heath, George Duke, Robert Glasper, Christian Scott, Marcus Miller, Lee Ritenour, Al Jarreau and Dianne Reeves, with pianist John Beasley serving as musical director. The international contingent features Hugh Masekela and Abdullah Ibrahim (South Africa), Keiko Matsui (Japan), Anat Cohen (Israel), Milton Nascimento (Brazil), John McLaughlin (Britain), Igor Butman (Russia) and Jean-Luc Ponty (France), among others. Clarinetist Husnu Seniendirici and trumpeter Imer Demirer will represent Turkey.
Tom Carter, president of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, says Istanbul is symbolically well suited to foster the goals of International Jazz Day because it bridges two continents.
"We look at jazz music as a means of bridging people together around the world," Carter said. "Turkey is a Muslim nation that has embraced democracy and is a very open society. That's very much what jazz represents — peace, harmony and democracy."
The Monk Institute is sponsoring the day's festivities along with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the Istanbul Foundation for Culture & Arts.
Some 80 International Jazz Day events have already been confirmed in countries worldwide for April 30 — from an open-air concert in Yerevan, Armenia, to a program "Jazz Across Borders and Cultures" with workshops, jam sessions and concerts in Swaziland.
Hancock hopes to build on the success of last year's inaugural event which included star-studded concerts at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, New Orleans' Congo Square, and the U.N. General Assembly Hall in New York.
"This was a special occasion to share the music with the rest of the world and have it honored in a way that made everybody proud," said Hancock. "It accomplished what I believe to be a new vision of cultural diplomacy."

U.S. could resume direct Mali military aid if elections successful

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson (2nd L), U.S. Congresswoman Terri Sewell (3rd L), U.S. Senator Christopher Coons (3rd R), Force Commander Major General Shehu Abdulkadir (2nd R) and U.S. Congresswoman Karen Bass (R) pose for a picture at the Malian air base, where French soldiers are based, in Bamako February 18, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer (  
The United States is likely to eventually resume direct support for Mali's military, but only after full restoration of democracy through elections, the head of a visiting U.S. Congress delegation said on Monday.
Senator Christopher Coons, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on Africa, was leading the first American congressional visit to the West African nation since France sent a military force there last month to halt an offensive by al Qaeda-allied insurgents.
The United States has been providing airlift and refueling support for the French-led operation involving hundreds of French and African troops that has driven the Islamist rebels from a string of northern Malian towns in the last five weeks.
Washington has also been sharing intelligence to back the operation, but has ruled out sending its own ground troops.
Coons, heading a four-member delegation from the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, said both French and African military commanders were happy with the support that Washington was providing, but he indicated they might welcome more.
"There is the hope that there will be additional support from the United States in these and other areas," the Democratic Senator from Delaware told reporters in Bamako.
Asked if increased U.S. support for the military intervention could materialize, Coons said U.S. law prohibited direct assistance to Mali's armed forces because of the military coup there last year that toppled the elected government.
"After there is a full restoration of democracy, I would think it is likely that we will renew our direct support for the Malian military," he added.
French and African forces are hunting the Islamist insurgents who have retreated to Mali's remote northeast, and Malian interim President Dioncounda Traore has said presidential and parliamentary elections will be held in July.
Coons, whose delegation held talks with Traore, said the United States would strongly support inclusive elections.
"VERY REAL THREAT"
Coons said al Qaeda's North African wing AQIM and its allies in Mali and elsewhere posed a "very real threat" to Africa, the United States and the wider world and he said the United States wanted to be part of the response to this security challenge.
"We are committed to ensuring support of the United States in the ongoing fight against extremism," he added.
Before last year's coup in Mali - led by a U.S.-trained Malian army captain - the American military had been providing combat training to several Malian army battalions.
But this was quickly suspended after the coup, which plunged Mali into chaos and led to the occupation of its Saharan north by jihadists who hijacked a rebellion by Tuareg separatists.
Although the French-led offensive has driven the bulk of the Islamist forces northwards back up to the Algerian border, there are fears their fighters and sympathizers could strike back with reprisal attacks in Africa and elsewhere.
A top U.S. defense official last week called for international efforts to counter a "growing terrorist presence" of al Qaeda and its allies in Africa.
Coons was accompanied on the one-day visit by Georgia Republican Senator Johnny Isakson, and Congresswomen Karen Bass from California and Terri Sewell from Alabama, both Democrats.

Time to refer Syrian war crimes to ICC

Member of the Commission of Inquiry on Syria Carla del Ponte addresses a news conference at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva February 18, 2013. Syrians in "leadership positions" who may be responsible for war crimes have been identified, along with units accused of perpetrating them, United Nations investigators said on Monday. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse  
United Nations investigators said on Monday that Syrian leaders they had identified as suspected war criminals should face the International Criminal Court (ICC). The investigators urged the U.N. Security Council to "act urgently to ensure accountability" for violations, including murder and torture, committed by both sides in an uprising and civil war that has killed about 70,000 people since March 2011.
"Now really it's time ... We have a permanent court, the International Criminal Court, who would be ready to take this case," Carla del Ponte, a former ICC chief prosecutor who joined the U.N. team in September, told a news briefing in Geneva.
But because Syria is not party to the Rome Statute that established the ICC, the only way the court can investigate the situation is if it receives a referral from the Security Council. Russia, Assad's long-standing ally and a permanent veto-wielding member of the council, has opposed such a move.
"We cannot decide. But we pressure the international community to decide because it's time to act," del Ponte said.
Brazilian expert Paulo Pinheiro, who leads the U.N. inquiry set up in 2011, said: "We are in very close dialogue with all the five permanent members and with all the members of the Security Council, but we don't have the key that will open the path to cooperation inside the Security Council."
His team of some two dozen experts is tracing the chain of command in Syria to establish criminal responsibility and build a case for eventual prosecution.
"Of course we were able to identify high-level perpetrators," del Ponte said, adding that these were people "in command responsibility...deciding, organizing, planning and aiding and abetting the commission of crimes".
She said it was urgent for the Hague-based war crimes tribunal to take up cases of "very high officials", but did not identify them, in line with the inquiry's practice.
"We have crimes committed against children, rape and sexual violence. We have grave concerns. That is also one reason why an international body of justice must act because it is terrible."
Del Ponte, who tried former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia on war crimes charges, said the ICC prosecutor would need to deepen the investigation on Syria before an indictment could be prepared.
Karen Koning AbuZayd, an American member of the U.N. team, told Reuters it had information pointing to "people who have given instructions and are responsible for government policy, people who are in the leadership of the military, for example".
The inquiry's third roster of suspects, building on lists drawn up in the past year, remains secret. It will be entrusted to U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay upon expiry of its mandate at the end of March, the report said.
Pillay, a former ICC judge, said on Saturday Assad should be investigated for war crimes, and called for outside action on Syria, including possible military intervention.
Pinheiro said the investigators would not speak publicly about "numbers, names or levels" of suspects.
SEVEN MASSACRES IDENTIFIED
The investigators' latest report, covering the six months to mid-January, was based on 445 interviews conducted abroad with victims and witnesses, as they have not been allowed into Syria.
"We identified seven massacres during the period, five on the government side, two on the armed opponents' side. We need to enter the sites to be able to confirm elements of proof that we have," del Ponte said.
The U.N. report said the ICC was the appropriate institution for the fight against impunity in Syria. "As an established, broadly supported structure, it could immediately initiate investigations against authors of serious crimes in Syria."
Government forces have carried out shelling and air strikes across Syria including Aleppo, Damascus, Deraa, Homs and Idlib, the 131-page report said, citing corroborating satellite images.
"Government forces and affiliated militias have committed extra-judicial executions, breaching international human rights law. This conduct also constitutes the war crime of murder. Where murder was committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population, with knowledge of that attack, it is a crime against humanity," the report said.
Those forces have targeted bakery queues and funeral processions to spread "terror among the civilian population".
Rebels fighting to topple Assad have also committed war crimes including murder, torture, hostage-taking and using children under age 15 in hostilities, the U.N. report said.
"They continue to endanger the civilian population by positioning military objectives inside civilian areas" and rebel snipers had caused "considerable civilian casualties", it said.
George Sabra, a vice president of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, asked about the U.N. report, told Reuters at a conference in Stockholm: "We condemn all kind of crimes, regardless who did it.
"We can't ignore that some mistakes have been made and maybe still happen right now. But nobody also can ignore that the most criminal file is that of the regime."

Fighting breaks out in Sudan's Blue Nile border state

Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir attends a meeting with leaders from South Sudan at the National Palace in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa January 5, 2013. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri 
Fighting broke out in a Sudanese border state between the military and rebels trying to overthrow President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, both sides said on Monday, and the government said its forces had killed scores of insurgents. The rebels gave a different account, saying the government forces had attacked civilian areas.
The conflict in Blue Nile started in September 2011, a few months after neighboring South Sudan seceded under a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war.
Rebels in Blue Nile and South Kordofan, another Sudanese border state, fought as part of the southern rebel army during that war, but were left on the Sudanese side of the border after partition.
Hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes because of the fighting since 2011.
On Monday, Sudanese state media reported the armed forces had taken the Muffa area in Blue Nile and "expelled the remnants of the rebels," who had been backed by tanks and artillery.
The army killed 66 rebels, it said, quoting the armed forces spokesman al-Sawarmi Khalid. The armed forces suffered a "small number" of casualties, it said, without giving details.
The rebels, known as the SPLM-North, said the Sudanese armed forces and allied militia had started a "military dry season campaign" on February 14 in a heavily populated area at Muffa.
It said the fighting had forced thousands of civilians to flee toward Ethiopia and South Sudan.
Events in the two states are difficult to verify independently because of government restrictions on media, and the two sides often give conflicting versions of the fighting.
Some 2 million people died in Sudan's north-south civil war, which ended in 2005 with the peace deal that paved the way for South Sudan's independence.
Khartoum accuses Juba of continuing to back the rebels in Blue Nile and South Kordofan. South Sudan denies the accusation.

Pirate Bay calls cops on Finnish copyright enforcement thugs that ripped off its website

You may have heard that the private Finnish copyright enforcement agency CIAPC (the same creeps who confiscated a 9 year old girl's Winnie the Pooh laptop because she downloaded a song from an artist whose CD, t-shirt and concert tickets she went on to buy) have ripped off the sourcecode for The Pirate Bay in order to launch a website opposed to The Pirate Bay. In response, The Pirate Bay has reported CIAPC to the economics crimes unit of the Finnish police.
The “parody” defense doesn’t apply under Finnish law, TPB argues, citing a recent case in Finland.
“In a similar case, the prosecution and the Helsinki Court of Appeals have found that a parody site can violate the moral rights of the original author. Changing the logo or making slight edits to the text are not enough to remove this liability,” they informed the police...
“While The Pirate Bay may have a positive view on copying, it will not stand by and watch copyright enforcing organizations disrespect copyright,” Pirate Bay’s Winston says in a comment.
“CIAPC is like an ugly high school bully without friends. It’s time to take a stand. Cyber bullying is a serious matter to us all,” Winston continues.
Should The Pirate Bay be awarded damages they won’t keep that money for themselves. Instead, the money will go to the 9-year old girl who was “harassed” last year.
But, even if they “lose” it wouldn’t be a big deal, as that’s a win for the right to parody.
This right to parody is part of a new copyright law proposal in Finland, crowd-sourced by the public. Besides parody exceptions the Common Sense in Copyright campaign also aims to get rid of harsh punishments for non-commercial file-sharers.
I love that even if they lose, it will establish the case for a parody exception to Finnish copyright law, which The Pirate Bay supports and which CIAPC vehemently opposes.

Understanding the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act: can you go to jail for violating a clickthrough agreement?

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) is a creaking, 1986-vintage US anti-hacking law. It makes it a felony to "exceed authorized access" on a computer you don't own, and some federal prosecutors (including Carmen Ortiz, who prosecuted Aaron Swartz) claim that this means that any time you violate the terms of service on website, that you commit a felony and can be imprisoned.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published detailed, user-friendly documentation for the CFAA, including the relevant case-law. It's a must-read for anyone who cares about justice in the 21st century. We click through dozens of impossible terms-of-service every day, and if violating them is a felony, we'll all vulnerable to threats of a long sentence.
The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”), 18 U.S.C. § 1030, is an amendment made in 1986 to the Counterfeit Access Device and Abuse Act that was passed in 1984 and essentially states that, whoever intentionally accesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access, and thereby obtains information from any protected computer if the conduct involved an interstate or foreign communication shall be punished under the Act. In 1996 the CFAA was, again, broadened by an amendment that replaced the term “federal interest computer” with the term “protected computer.”18 U.S.C. § 1030. While the CFAA is primarily a criminal law intended to reduce the instances of malicious interferences with computer systems and to address federal computer offenses, an amendment in 1994 allows civil actions to brought under the statute, as well.

Daily Comic Relief


The 10 Most Devastating Homemade Street Drugs

Drugs and drug addictions ruin lives. But the individual using drugs isn't the only one affected. Family members undergo fundamental personality changes as a reaction to the addiction - and to each other. Whatever particular form the drug takes, there's so much pain involved, as well as so many other complex issues, that a lot of people need professional help to confront the problem and move forward.

When it comes to getting high, drug addicts and dealers are notoriously resourceful and inventive. If they can't get their hands on regular substances, they often resort to less conventional, homemade types of intoxicants. Here's a list of 10 of the most devastating street drugs wreaking havoc on people's lives.

Does Fear Drive Kids' Paranormal Experiences?

A new study may explain why some children report paranormal experiences with ghosts, fairies and monsters.

“Stagecoach” Mary Fields

auntada:

“Stagecoach” Mary Fields (c. 1832-1914) was born a slave in Tennessee and following the Civil War, she moved to the pioneer community of Cascade, Montana. In 1895, when she was around 60 years old, Fields became the second woman and first African American carrier for the US Postal Service. Despite her age, she never missed a day of work in the ten years she carried the mail and earned the nickname “Stagecoach” for her reliability. Fields loved the job, despite the many dangers and difficulties such as wolves and thieves (she was an excellent marksman, defending her route with a revolver and a rifle).
The people of Cascade so loved and respected Fields, that each year on her birthday they closed the schools to celebrate the occasion. They even built her a new house when she lost her home in a fire in 1912.
Photo source: Examiner.com
“Stagecoach” Mary Fields (c. 1832-1914) was born a slave in Tennessee and following the Civil War, she moved to the pioneer community of Cascade, Montana. In 1895, when she was around 60 years old, Fields became the second woman and first African American carrier for the US Postal Service. Despite her age, she never missed a day of work in the ten years she carried the mail and earned the nickname “Stagecoach” for her reliability. Fields loved the job, despite the many dangers and difficulties such as wolves and thieves (she was an excellent marksman, defending her route with a revolver and a rifle).
The people of Cascade so loved and respected Fields, that each year on her birthday they closed the schools to celebrate the occasion. They even built her a new house when she lost her home in a fire in 1912.

A Case for Camping Under the Snow

By T. Edward Nickens 

Winter backpacking might make you shiver at the mere thought. But before you shake your head no, consider what you’re missing.
Winter Camping We knew it was cold when we tried to make breakfast. I hadn’t thought too much about it as I brushed against the inside of the tent and frozen condensation fell on us like snow, or when I needed a rock to pound my boots free of frozen mud before I could slide my feet in. That was all pretty typical for a winter backpacking trip. But when I tried to crack the eggs for breakfast, I found them hard as granite. Frozen solid. So solid that my pals and I took turns hurling the eggs as hard as we could at a nearby boulder, howling with delight as the eggs shattered into shards of amber and white ice.
Like kids at Christmas, we tore through the food bags to see what other oddities a minus-4 degree night had delivered. What a jackpot: country ham slices solid as circular saw blades, bagels that could dull an ax, a head of broccoli I could have clubbed a bear to death with like it was a green, medieval mace. Now that’s cold.
That was 30 years ago, up on the mile-high trails that cross the Mount Mitchell backcountry, but you can bet the memory is still as sharp as a two-foot icicle. That’s one thing about backpacking in the winter. So many moments are unforgettable. Frozen, you might say, in time.
Winter backpacking in North Carolina might seem like an exercise in masochism, but in many parts of the country, backcountry winter sports are as common as a summer game of roll-a-bat around here. I have friends in Colorado who think nothing of ice-climbing frozen waterfalls. Pals in Michigan for whom ice fishing is just what you do when the mercury goes into hiding.
But North Carolina? Here, the notion of sleeping outdoors in winter is met with a whiff of bless-your-heart. I mean, why not head to the hills a month or two earlier, when autumn color is at its peak and the air has but a brisk hint of winter? Or shouldn’t you wait a month or two, at most, until the redbuds and dogwoods fight for the title of prettiest spring harbinger, and the nights are still cool enough for a campfire?
Learn how to prepare for winter backpacking with John Pugh, an expert guide at Great Outdoor Provision Company. 
Common-sense approaches, every one. And there’ve been times when I shivered by the fire, thawing my frozen socks on a stick like a roasting marshmallow, when perhaps I would have agreed. But then I think of what I’d miss by pulling a Punxsutawney Phil just because of a minor blizzard or three. Southern Appalachian balds coated with frozen cloud droplets — every twig, every rock, every needle on every balsam bough encased in a jacket of rime. Streams locked in ice, like a time-lapse photograph. Woods utterly empty of humans. (For good reason, perhaps.) And eggs hard as granite.
To tell you the truth, my winter backpacking trips did have roots in machismo. At the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, my crowd bypassed the spring break trips to Cabo and CancĂșn for weeklong campouts at Mitchell and Merchants Millpond. We had good tents, good boots, and the good fortune to have fallen in with like-minded companions. It didn’t hurt that we were young and relatively fit and pugnacious enough so that hardheadedness carried us through those places where good sense would have prevented our going.
About the time some folks were packing beach towels, we were hoping: Let it snow, let it sleet, let it hail, let the bottom fall out of the biggest winter storm since the dinosaurs died. We wanted nighttime lows with a minus sign. We double-dog-dared Old Man Winter to a showdown of fleece and endurance.
•••
One of our first spring break trips set the tone. We drove to Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi, under clear, blue skies, but we knew what was coming. We’d been watching the weather, with the national map a mass of angry lines and ugly, jagged marks that resembled the Civil War battlefield maps in history books. A deep arctic low curved across the television screen like a giant, frosted scimitar. Right on cue, the front slammed into the Appalachians. When we woke up on our first morning, the world outside the trail shelter was blanked in more than a foot of powder. We couldn’t hike farther; we couldn’t retreat. We were hopelessly, helplessly, blissfully snowed in.
So we ate a whopper breakfast. Then we broke into an intense snowball fight. We warmed ourselves by the fire. We made snowmen and snow angels. We took a halfhearted stab at an igloo. We ate again, napped again, more fire, more snowballs.
By then it was lunchtime.
These days, my winter trips aren’t quite so purposefully extreme. Thirty years later, I’m as likely to run from the rough stuff as once I pursued it, but I still grab a pack or canoe when the going gets frigid. One recent winter, I headed out with my son, Jack, who was 10 at the time, and his buddy, Robbie Simmons, and Robbie’s dad, Chris. We had grand plans of an assault on Mount Mitchell, or Roan Mountain up on the Tennessee line, but heavy snows just about everywhere had us thinking twice. At Roan Mountain, the Appalachian Trail had been closed. To get to the trailhead at Mitchell would have required a helicopter.
But South Mountains State Park was still open to all comers, and every inch of the park’s 40 miles of trail was new to us. On a loop trip along Shinny Creek to the Horseridge Trail, we climbed through huge oak forests with 100-yard views through the spare winter woods. Leaves on the rhododendrons atop the ridgelines were curled up with the cold, but we shucked our fleece and soaked in the sun, warmed by exertion. In the cove forests along the creeks there was just enough snow and ice to keep the kids’ attentions sharp. In places, the trails were wide enough for Jack and me to hike side by side, keeping up an easy banter.
What a pleasant surprise. I’d always skipped South Mountains because it wasn’t quite big enough, not quite dramatic enough. But picking my way down the Sawtooth Trail and climbing up to the gorgeous Chestnut Knob overlook, I learned that I didn’t know it all. My native state still had surprises up her sleeve.
It goes to show that not every winter trip needs to be a boreal kick in the pants. The rewards of backpacking in winter are as likely to be subtle and nuanced as they are draped with drama.
For every roaring storm there is the distant groan of a tree, its frozen trunk creaking in a night breeze. For every blizzard, a beech tree alone in a grove of oaks clinging to the last of its dry, brown leaves like a child grasping a parent’s hand. You have to look for these winter payoffs. They won’t grab you by the eyeballs like autumn color or a waterfall’s rush. There are tracks of turkeys in day-old powder, a glimpse of deer with snow-coated whiskers, night hikes in snowy woods brightly lit with moon glow. The rewards of a winter backpacking trip are likely to be set pieces of imagery, preserved in memory like a woolly mammoth trapped in a glacier.
And truthfully, much of the pleasure is the realization that whatever climactic trials you face are temporary. There is calm after the storm.
•••
I remember another February walkabout to Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest among its virgin timber. For two days, the heavens spewed rain and sleet. Frozen precipitation accumulated on our parkas like a rhino’s protective plates. At times visibility was next to nothing as clouds swarmed over our mountain. There was little to do but keep marching on.
We finally topped out on Stratton Bald just as the soupy clouds began to thin. The rain stopped and ragged patches of blue opened in the sky as the front pushed the clouds eastward. Within minutes the sun was at full strength, setting the sleet-slicked valley below afire in a sparkling, white blaze.
We shucked our soaked parkas and hung our shirts to dry. For nearly eight hours, we’d kept up a pace as steady as the winter storm, hoping that the end of it all waited just beyond the next switchback, just over the next mountain.
We didn’t see a single cloud for the rest of the trip.
Such agony I’d wish on everyone.

Climate contradiction: Less snow, more blizzards

FILE - In this Jan. 5, 2012 file photo, man-made snow coats a ski run next to barren ground under a chairlift at Shawnee Peak ski area in Bridgton, Maine. Scientists point to both scant recent snowfall in parts of the country and this month's whopper of a Northeast blizzard as potential global warming signs. It may seem like a contradiction, but the explanation lies in atmospheric physics. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty) 
With scant snowfall and barren ski slopes in parts of the Midwest and Northeast the past couple of years, some scientists have pointed to global warming as the culprit.
Then when a whopper of a blizzard smacked the Northeast with more than 2 feet of snow in some places earlier this month, some of the same people again blamed global warming.
How can that be? It's been a joke among skeptics, pointing to what seems to be a brazen contradiction.
But the answer lies in atmospheric physics. A warmer atmosphere can hold, and dump, more moisture, snow experts say. And two soon-to-be-published studies demonstrate how there can be more giant blizzards yet less snow overall each year. Projections are that that's likely to continue with man-made global warming.
Consider:
— The United States has been walloped by twice as many of the most extreme snowstorms in the past 50 years than in the previous 60 years, according to an upcoming study on extreme weather by leading federal and university climate scientists. This also fits with a dramatic upward trend in extreme winter precipitation — both rain and snow — in the Northeastern U.S. charted by the National Climatic Data Center.
— Yet the Global Snow Lab at Rutgers University says that spring snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere has shrunk on average by 1 million square miles in the last 45 years.
— And an upcoming study in the Journal of Climate says computer models predict annual global snowfall to shrink by more than a foot in the next 50 years. The study's author said most people live in parts of the United States that are likely to see annual snowfall drop between 30 and 70 percent by the end of the century.
"Shorter snow season, less snow overall, but the occasional knockout punch," Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer said. "That's the new world we live in."
Ten climate scientists say the idea of less snow and more blizzards makes sense: A warmer world is likely to decrease the overall amount of snow falling each year and shrink snow season. But when it is cold enough for a snowstorm to hit, the slightly warmer air is often carrying more moisture, producing potentially historic blizzards.
"Strong snowstorms thrive on the ragged edge of temperature — warm enough for the air to hold lots of moisture, meaning lots of precipitation, but just cold enough for it to fall as snow," said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center. "Increasingly, it seems that we're on that ragged edge."
Just look at the last few years in the Northeast. Or take Chicago, which until late January had 335 days without more than an inch of snow. Both have been hit with historic storms in recent years.
Scientists won't blame a specific event or even a specific seasonal change on global warming without doing intricate and time-consuming studies. And they say they are just now getting a better picture of the complex intersection of man-made climate change and extreme snowfall.
But when Serreze, Oppenheimer and others look at the last few years of less snow overall, punctuated by big storms, they say this is what they are expecting in the future.
"It fits the pattern that we expect to unfold," Oppenheimer said.
The world is warming so precipitation that would normally fall as snow in the future will likely fall as rain once it gets above the freezing point, said Princeton researcher Sarah Kapnick.
Her study used new computer models to simulate the climate in 60 to 100 years as carbon dioxide levels soar. She found large reductions in snowfall throughout much of the world, especially parts of Canada and the Andes Mountains. In the United States, her models predict about a 50 percent or more drop in annual snowfall amounts along a giant swath of the nation from Maine to Texas and the Pacific Northwest and California's Sierra Nevada mountains.
This is especially important out West where large snowcaps are natural reservoirs for a region's water supply, Kapnick said. And already in the Cascades of the Pacific Northwest and in much of California, the amount of snow still around on April 1 has been declining so that it's down about 20 percent compared to 80 years ago, said Philip Mote, who heads a climate change institute at Oregon State University.
Kapnick says it is snowing about as much as ever in the heart of winter, such as February. But the snow season is getting much shorter, especially in spring and in the northernmost areas, said Rutgers' David Robinson, a co-author of the study on extreme weather that will be published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.
The Rutgers snow lab says this January saw the sixth-widest snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere; the United States had an above average snow cover for the last few months. But that's a misleading statistic, Robinson said, because even though more ground is covered by snow, it's covered by less snow.
And when those big storms finally hit, there is more than just added moisture in the air, there's extra moisture coming from the warm ocean, Robinson and Oppenheimer said. And the air is full of energy and unstable, allowing storms to lift yet more moisture up to colder levels. That generates more intense rates of snowfall, Robinson said.
"If you can tap that moisture and you have that fortuitous collision of moist air and below freezing temperatures, you can pop some big storms," Robinson said.
Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann points to the recent Northeast storm that dumped more than 30 inches in some places. He said it was the result of a perfect set of conditions for such an event: Arctic air colliding with unusually warm oceans that produced extra large amounts of moisture and big temperature contrasts, which drive storms. Those all meant more energy, more moisture and thus more snow, he said.

Russian Meteor Blast Bigger Than Thought

The meteor that exploded over Russia Friday was slightly larger than previously thought, and more powerful.

Harvesting quantum dots

Harvesting quantum dots: Turning Waste Heat into Electricity on the Nanoscale

A new type of nanoscale engine has been proposed that would use quantum dots to generate electricity from waste heat, potentially making microcircuits more efficient. “The system is really a simple one, which exploits certain ...

What Makes Hair Curly?

Why a strand of hair bends or falls the way it does may sound like a simple question, but the answer is rather convoluted. On one level, the texture of a person's hair derives from his or her genes. A 2009 study looked at the genetics of waves and curls and reported a heritability of between 85 and 95 percent.

How does this play out at the level of a single hair? Research shows that the curvature of a strand depends on the nature of its follicle. When a follicle is asymmetrical, the hair that it produces is oval in shape and tends to curl. When it's symmetrical, the strand that emerges grows round and straight.