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


Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Daily Drift

Run Mac Duff Run!

Some of our readers today have been in:
Santiago Chile
Bangkok, Thailand
Bridgetown, Barbados
Riga, Latvia
Enugu, Nigeira
Medan, Indonesia
Istanbul Turkey
Luhansk, Ukraine
Quatre Bornes, Mauritius
Pretoria, South Africa
Tbilisi, Georgia
Johor Bahru, Malaysia
Makati, Philippines
Kabul, Afghanistan
Beirut, Lebanon
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Mykolayiv, Ukraine
Ankara, Turkey
Tunis, Tunisia
Sandakan, Malaysia
Sofia, Bulgaria
Nairobi, Kenya
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Puchong, Malaysia
Luxembourg, Luxembourg
Kiev, Ukraine
Warsaw, Poland
Minsk, Belarus
Jakarta, Indonesia
Bau, Germany
Cape Town, South Africa
Karachi, Pakistan
Cairo, Egypt
Manila, Philippines
Doha, Qatar
Quito, Ecuador
Klang, Malaysia
San Jose, Costa Rica
Khartoum Sudan
Muscat, Oman

Today is International Mother Language Day 

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Today in History

1595 The Jesuit poet Robert Southwell is hanged for "treason" being a Catholic.
1631 Michael Romanov, son of the Patriarch of Moscow, is elected Russian Tsar.
1744 The British blockade of Toulon is broken by 27 French and Spanish warships attacking 29 British ships.
1775 As troubles with Great Britain increase, colonists in Massachusetts vote to buy military equipment for 15,000 men.
1797 Trinidad, West Indies surrenders to the British.
1828 The first issue of the Cherokee Phoenix is printed, both in English and in the newly invented Cherokee alphabet.
1849 In the Second Sikh War, Sir Hugh Gough's well placed guns win a victory over a Sikh force twice the size of his at Gujerat on the Chenab River, assuring British control of the Punjab for years to come.
1862 The Texas Rangers win a Confederate victory in the Battle of Val Verde, New Mexico.
1878 The world's first telephone book is issued by the New Haven Connecticut Telephone Company containing the names of its 50 subscribers.
1885 The Washington Monument is dedicated in Washington, D.C.
1905 The Mukden campaign of the Russo-Japanese War, begins.
1916 The battle of Verdun begins with an unprecedented German artillery barrage of the French lines.
1925 The first issue of New Yorker magazine hits the newsstands.
1940 The Germans begin construction of a concentration camp at Auschwitz.
1944 Hideki Tojo becomes chief of staff of the Japanese army.
1949 Nicaragua and Costa Rica sign a friendship treaty ending hostilities over their borders.
1951 The U. S. Eighth Army launches Operation Killer, a counterattack to push Chinese forces north of the Han River in Korea.
1956 A grand jury in Montgomery, Alabama indicts 115 in a Negro bus boycott.
1960 Havana places all Cuban industry under direct control of the government.
1965 El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcom X) is assassinated in front of 400 people.
1972 Richard Nixon arrives in Beijing, China, becoming the first U.S. president to visit a country not diplomatically recognized by the U.S.
1974 A report claims that the use of defoliants by the U.S. has scarred Vietnam for a century.

Non Sequitur

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US ready to strike back against China cyberattacks

The building housing “Unit 61398” of the People’s Liberation Army is seen in the outskirts of Shanghai, Tuesday Feb. 19, 2013. Cyberattacks that stole information from 141 targets in the U.S. and other countries have been traced to the Chinese military unit in the building, a U.S. security firm alleged Tuesday. According to the report by the Virginia-based Mandiant Corp., it has traced the massive amount of hacking back to the 12-story office building run by “Unit 61398”, and that the attacks targeted key industries including military contractors and companies that control energy grids. China dismissed the report as "groundless."(AP Photo)  
As public evidence mounts that the Chinese military is responsible for stealing massive amounts of U.S. government data and corporate trade secrets, the Obama administration is poised to spell out specific trade actions it may take against Beijing or any other country guilty of cyberespionage. According to officials familiar with the plans, the White House is eyeing fines, penalties and other trade restrictions as initial, more-aggressive steps the U.S. would take in response to what top officials say has been an unrelenting campaign of cyberstealing linked to the Chinese government. The new strategy is to be released Wednesday, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the threatened action.
The White House plans come after a Virginia-based cybersecurity firm released a torrent of details Monday that tied a secret Chinese military unit in Shanghai to years of cyberattacks against U.S. companies. After analyzing breaches that compromised more than 140 companies, Mandiant has concluded that they can be linked People's Liberation Army's Unit 61398.
Military experts believe the unit is part of the People's Liberation Army's cyber-command, which is under the direct authority of the General Staff Department, China's version of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. As such, its activities would be likely to be authorized at the highest levels of China's military.
The release of Mandiant's report, complete with details on three of the alleged hackers and photographs of one of the military unit's buildings in Shanghai, makes public what U.S. authorities have said less publicly for years. But it also increases the pressure on the U.S. to take more forceful action against the Chinese for what experts say has been years of systematic espionage.
"If the Chinese government flew planes into our airspace, our planes would escort them away. If it happened two, three or four times, the president would be on the phone and there would be threats of retaliation," said former FBI executive assistant director Shawn Henry. "This is happening thousands of times a day. There needs to be some definition of where the red line is and what the repercussions would be."
Henry, now president of the security firm CrowdStrike, said that rather than tell companies to increase their cybersecurity the government needs to focus more on how to deter the hackers and the nations that are backing them.
James Lewis, a cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that in the past year the White House has been taking a serious look at responding to China, adding that "this will be the year they will put more pressure on, even while realizing it will be hard for the Chinese to change. There's not an on-off switch."
The Chinese government, meanwhile, has denied involvement in the cyber-attacks tracked by Mandiant. Instead, the Foreign Ministry said that China, too, is a victim of hacking, some of it traced to the U.S. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei cited a report by an agency under the Ministry of Information Technology and Industry that said in 2012 alone that foreign hackers used viruses and other malicious software to seize control of 1,400 computers in China and 38,000 websites.
"Among the above attacks, those from the U.S. numbered the most," Hong said at a daily media briefing, lodging the most specific allegations the Chinese government has made about foreign hacking.
Cybersecurity experts say U.S. authorities do not conduct similar attacks or steal data from Chinese companies, but acknowledge that intelligence agencies routinely spy on other countries.
China is clearly a target of interest, said Lewis, noting that the U.S. would be interested in Beijing's military policies, such as any plans for action against Taiwan or Japan.
In its report, Mandiant said it traced the hacking back to a neighborhood in the outskirts of Shanghai that includes a white 12-story office building run by the PLA's Unit 61398.
Mandiant said there are only two viable conclusions about the involvement of the Chinese military in the cyberattacks: Either Unit 61398 is responsible for the persistent attacks or they are being done by a secret organization of Chinese speakers with direct access to the Shanghai telecommunications infrastructure who are engaged in a multi-year espionage campaign being run right outside the military unit's gates.
"In a state that rigorously monitors Internet use, it is highly unlikely that the Chinese government is unaware of an attack group that operates from the Pudong New Area of Shanghai," the Mandiant report said, concluding that the only way the group could function is with the "full knowledge and cooperation" of the Beijing government.
The unit "has systematically stolen hundreds of terabytes of data from at least 141 organizations," Mandiant wrote. A terabyte is 1,000 gigabytes. The new iPhone 5, for example, has 16 gigabytes of space, while the more expensive iPads have as much as 64 gigabytes of space. The U.S. Library of Congress' 2006-2010 Twitter archive of about 170 billion tweets totals 133.2 terabytes.
"At some point we do have to call the Chinese out on this," said Michael Chertoff, Homeland Security secretary under President George W. Bush and now chairman of the Chertoff Group, a global security firm. "Simply rolling over and averting our eyes, I don't think is a long-term strategy."
Richard Bejtlich, the chief security officer at Mandiant, said the company decided to make its report public in part to help send a message to both the Chinese and U.S. governments.
"At the government level, I see this as a tool that they can use to have discussions with the Chinese, with allies, with others who are concerned about this problem and have an open dialogue without having to worry about sensitivities around disclosing classified information," Bejtlich said. "This problem is overclassified."
He said the release of an unclassified report that provides detailed evidence will allow authorities to have an open discussion about what to do.
Mandiant's report is filled with high-tech details and juicy nuggets that led to its conclusion, including the code names of some of the hackers, like Ugly Gorilla, Dota and SuperHard, and that Dota appears to be a fan of Harry Potter because references to the book and movie character appear as answers to his computer security questions.
The White House would not comment on the report expected Wednesday.
"We have repeatedly raised our concerns at the highest levels about cybertheft with senior Chinese officials, including in the military, and we will continue to do so," said Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the National Security Council. "The United States and China are among the world's largest cyber actors, and it is vital that we continue a sustained, meaningful dialogue and work together to develop an understanding of acceptable behavior in cyberspace."

Security firm's report ties China’s army to hacking attempts against US

 
The NY Times had first dibs on a preview of the 60-page study released today by computer security firm Mandiant, which "tracks for the first time individual members of the most sophisticated of the Chinese hacking groups — known to many of its victims in the United States as 'Comment Crew' or 'Shanghai Group' — to the doorstep of [a Chinese] military unit’s headquarters."
Those headquarters are located in the building shown above (image via Mandiant's report). You can download the report for yourself here (PDF): "APT1: Exposing One of China's Cyber Espionage Units."
Mandiant claims APT1 "has conducted a cyber espionage campaign against a broad range of victims since at least 2006." More highlights from the report:

Our analysis has led us to conclude that APT1 is likely government-sponsored and one of the most persistent of China's cyber threat actors. The scale and impact of APT1's operations compelled us to write this report. In an attempt to bolster defenses against APT1 operations Mandiant is also releasing more than 3,000 indicators as part of the appendix to this report, which can be used with our free tools and our commercial products to search for signs of APT attack activity.
• APT1 is believed to be the 2nd Bureau of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) General Staff Department’s (GSD) 3rd Department, which is most commonly known by its Military Unit Cover Designator (MUCD) as Unit 61398.
• APT1 has systematically stolen hundreds of terabytes of data from at least 141 organizations.
• APT1 focuses on compromising organizations across a broad range of industries in English-speaking countries.
• APT1 maintains an extensive infrastructure of computer systems around the world.
• In over 97% of the 1,905 times Mandiant observed APT1 intruders connecting to their attack infrastructure, APT1 used IP addresses registered in Shanghai and systems set to use the Simplified Chinese language.
• The size of APT1’s infrastructure implies a large organization with at least dozens, but potentially hundreds of human operators.
• In an effort to underscore that there are actual individuals behind the keyboard, Mandiant is revealing three personas that are associated with APT1 activity.
• Mandiant is releasing more than 3,000 indicators to bolster defenses against APT1 operations.

Wal-Mart’s freaking out about the economy

Should the rest of us? “Well, we just had one of those weeks here at Walmart U.S. Where are all the customers? And where’s their money?”
Not doing so well. 

On Friday, Bloomberg published a couple of internal e-mails from Wal-Mart executives panicking about the company’s worst sales start in seven years — “a total disaster,” as one put it. The execs attributed Wal-Mart’s slump to the payroll tax hike that kicked in on Jan. 1, cutting the median family’s take-home pay by about $1,000 this year.
So if Wal-Mart is struggling, does that mean everyone else should worry? There are two ways to look at this. The first is that this is a terrible omen. Wal-Mart makes up such a huge chunk of the U.S. economy — 2.3 percent of GDP in 2006 — that many analysts look to it as a key bellwether. Matt Stoller wrote an excellent post last year on this topic:
Because of its scale and remarkable amount of data, the company actually has more granular data about the economy than most macro-economic forecasters. As Fed Board Governor Randall Kroszner said in a June 2006 meeting, Walmart officials “effectively know what retail sales are before the numbers are reported because their sales are so highly correlated with overall retail sales.”
Stoller combed through transcripts of meetings from the Federal Open Market Committee over the years and found that Wal-Mart was often warning about signs of trouble in the economy long before anyone else:
In 2004, Walmart began warning of high energy prices, and that consumers were “liquidity-constrained”. The company saw in its sales figures that consumers were increasingly living paycheck to paycheck. In 2005, the company began worrying about a “strange” situation – the consumer was tapped out, but sales were up and Walmart couldn’t figure out why. This was a hint of the credit bubble, but the Fed ignored it.
In other words, pay attention to Wal-Mart. They often know something the rest of us don’t.
But if gloom’s not your thing, there’s another way to look at Wal-Mart’s woes. Perhaps the firm is simply falling prey to competitors. Back in 2008, Emek Basker, an economist at the University of Missouri, published a paper suggesting that Wal-Mart actually does better in weak economic periods. The theory here is that Wal-Mart is an “inferior good” — when times are tough and incomes are falling, consumers switch to shopping at the cheaper retail giant.
The flip side of that: When the economy rebounds, Wal-Mart’s higher-priced rivals do better. As it happens, Target’s sales rose 3.1 percent in January, part of an overall uptick in merchandise and department store shopping. So it’s very possible that Wal-Mart’s woes are just specific to the company — and not part of a broader trend.
Further reading:
–This year’s payroll tax hike wiped out a year’s worth of wage gains, though economists are still unsure how consumers will respond to the cut in take-home pay. Will they cut back on spending, or just start borrowing more?
–Matt Stoller’s post on Walmart is worth reading in full — among other things, he notes that there’s evidence the company raises wages in response to the threat of protests and strikes.


TESCO attaches tracking armbands to employees

Salon: "The Irish Independent reports that grocery giant TESCO has strapped electronic armbands to their warehouse workers to measure their productivity, tracking their actions so closely that management knows when they briefly pause to drink from a water fountain or take a bathroom break. These unforgivable lapses in productivity impact workers' performance score, which management then apparently uses to terrify them into working faster." 

Woman was fired after voting for President Obama


A southwest Ohio woman says she was fired three days after the November election because she voted for President Barack Obama.
The woman has filed a lawsuit in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court seeking damages starting at $25,000 against Q-Mark Inc. and its president. The Dayton-based company is a sales firm representing manufacturers and defense contractors.
The Dayton Daily News reports that Patricia Kunkle alleges that company President Roberta Gentile told employees last year that Obama supporters would be the first to be terminated if he got re-elected.
The company says she was laid off for economic reasons and cited uncertainty over U.S. defense spending.
Kunkle had become a full-time employee of the company in May 2012 and says she never received any negative evaluations or disciplinary action.

Wingnuts Convince Themselves Obama Would be in Jail if He Wasn’t President

Obama-frown1
We have seen how since 2008 conservatives have been able to convince themselves of almost anything about our first black president, Barack H. Obama. What they have not, even after 4+ years, been able to convince themselves of is that a black man has been elected president. Therefore, it’s a small step for them to convince themselves that though Obama SHOULD be in jail even as president, he would certainly BE in jail if he were not. Where else can a black man reasonably belong?
That’s the line Cliff Kincaid of the inaccurately named and ultra-wingnut inAccuracy in Media went with when visiting with Rick Wiles on TruNews. TruNews is a neo-Luddite christian “news” network.  Wiles claims on his site that,
That is why the most important mission of TRUNEWS is not to report bad news – but to declare the Good News that jesus saves and He promised to resurrect His children into eternal life in god’s Kingdom. There just aren’t any bigger news stories to report than the marvelous acts of the Holy Spirit around the world to save the lost, heal the sick, raise the dead, restore broken lives, and bless god’s children; and the amazing world events and trends shouting that jesus christ is coming soon.
Apparently, there ARE bigger news stories: like how Obama is a Marxist Muslim jihadist. And though Wiles’ radio byline is “The Truth, the Whole Truth, Nothing but the Truth…so help us God” actual facts seem to matter very little and without facts, the much-vaunted truth gets short shrift indeed.
The two men engaged in some public locker room gossip about the man picked by Obama to be his next Secretary of State, Chuck Hagel, a repugican, and Obama’s counterrorism advisor, Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism John Brennan, the man who has been nominated by the president as the next director of the CIA.
Somehow, Obama’s choices for these positions tie into his really not being an American, because no real American (i.e. white evangelical) could ever have nominated either Hagel or Brennan. Only a black anti-colonialist Muslim could ever think of doing such a thing. If your brain is in knots, try to follow their logic as these braniacs talk themselves along what is really a very silly chain of logic:
Kincaid: We’ve got a President who couldn’t pass a background check, you know it’s not too surprising when we got a President like this putting into place people like Brennan, Hagel, we can go down the list, Van Jones, tick them off. It’s just that he gets away with it and the repugicans, I remember at our conference in Washington before the election, we had Congressman Lamar Smith there saying ‘well we’re not going to pursue impeachment because we hope the American people vote this guy out on November 6.’ Well, that didn’t work out so well, did it?
Wiles: No it didn’t. You know Barack Obama, if he wasn’t president, if he just worked into a government agency and said he wanted to apply for a job and he filled out an application, I think while he was sitting there and they were doing a background check on him I think agents would come out and handcuff him.
Kincaid: Yeah, yeah, you’re right. I mean, this is the guy—we don’t have to go through the whole history—this is the guy who Sarah Palin put it, ‘palled around with terrorists.’
So you start with a false premise, Obama could not pass a background check, and move on from that to a slander by the fact-challenged quitter-cum-grifter Sarah Palin, and presto! You have a black man in handcuffs. According to these two, Obama is one black man who couldn’t even get a job shining shoes at the White House.
To say their thinking strains credulity would be to put it lightly. They shouldn’t even be talking like this at a water-cooler. To think they get paid for it is almost criminal in itself. I don’t even want to think about the intellectual deficit required to be one of those listeners who nods his head as he listens.
So having established that they are unable to formulate a persuasive argument, they leap to another false premise, that Obama is tied into some global jihad. Asks Wiles,
So is Mr. Obama quietly orchestrating an Islamic takeover of the American government? The two big appointments before the U.S. Senate, our CIA nominee John Brennan, accused by an FBI agent of secretly converting to Islam, and Secretary of Defense nominee Chuck Hagel, Cliff Kincaid has been on the trail of Chuck Hagel and he’s on the telephone from Washington to tell us wear the rabbit trail leads us…. So Cliff, when you went down the bunny trail following Chuck Hagel’s tracks, what did you discover?
Kincaid, of course, was ready with an answer:
Kincaid: Rick, everything leads back to the global jihad. All elements of Obama’s foreign policy involve support for the Muslim Brotherhood, including its mouthpiece, Al Jazeera. Chuck Hagel is part of the puzzle. Brennan, that you just mentioned, is another but of course ultimately, the buck so-to-speak stops with Obama, the Marxist Muslim in the White House.

Kincaid: Hagel goes before these Arab institutes and Arab audiences and basically badmouths Israel, attacks the United States, attacks the relationship with Israel and we’re just trying to get more information and evidence about what motivates this guy. Clearly, he’s in the pay of those who are part and parcel of facilitating this global jihad against America.
A little bit of tortured logic here and there, like the incompatibility of Marxism with fundamentalist Islam, and again, presto! You have a man who, because you disagree with his foreign policy, absolutely must be in the pay of global jihadists. There is no other possible explanation.
Well, except that Wiles and Kincaid are complete idiots, and dishonest ones to boot, and that they, and their listeners, are guilty of criminal ignorance. There is always THAT explanation.

John Boehner Calls Eliminating Food for 1.7 Million Americans ‘Common Sense Cuts’


U.S. House Speaker Boehner pauses during remarks to the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in WashingtonJohn Boehner won’t tell you this, but the “common sense cuts” he referred to that would avoid the sequester, will eliminate food for 1.7 million Americans.
In a statement responding to President Obama’s call for a balanced approach to avoiding the sequester, Speaker Boehner said, “Today the president advanced an argument repugicans have been making for a year: his sequester is the wrong way to cut spending. That’s why the House has twice passed legislation to replace it with common sense cuts and reforms that won’t threaten public safety, national security, or our economy. But once again, the president offered no credible plan that can pass Congress – only more calls for higher taxes. Just last month, the president got his higher taxes on the wealthy, and he’s already back for more. The American people understand that the revenue debate is now closed. We should close loopholes and carve-outs in the tax code, but that revenue should be used to lower rates across the board. Tax reform is a once-in-a generation opportunity to boost job creation in America. It should not be squandered to enable more Washington spending. Spending is the problem, spending must be the focus.”
While it is technically true that the twice passed cuts that won’t jeopardize public safety or national security, Boehner didn’t mention what his cuts really do.
The cuts that the House has passed twice would end funding for the Meals on Wheels program. Meals on Wheels serves up to 1.7 million seniors with food security issues. According to Meals on Wheels, “1 in 7 Seniors is threatened by hunger. 8.3 million Seniors faced the threat of hunger in 2010. This reflects a 78% increase since 2001 – and a 34% increase since the start of the recession in 2007. The threat of hunger for seniors increased in 44 states since 2007.”
John Boehner isn’t the only member of House leadership to support cutting food for seniors. On December 20, 2012, Majority Leader Eric Cantor called them, “common sense spending reforms.” On Sunday, Paul Ryan called ending funding for food assistance and also throwing 600,000 children off food stamps and Medicaid, “smarter cuts.”
The fact that Boehner, Cantor, and Ryan all agree that these spending cuts are common sense demonstrates that this is the stated policy of the House repugican caucus. The House leadership, much like history’s most infamous dictators, believes that denying food and medical care to children and senior citizens is good policy.
This is what President Obama has to deal with as his opposition. There can be no middle ground for Obama when repugicans are advocating for starving kids and seniors.
There is nothing common sense about cutting aid to vulnerable people during a time of economic hardship, but to Boehner, Cantor, and Ryan, children and seniors are “takers.”
Speaker Boehner doesn’t want to tell you the truth, but it is time for you to tell him something.
Boehner has been quite active on twitter lately, so send him the message @SpeakerBoehner that there is nothing “common sense” about taking food and medical care away from seniors and children so that the wealthy can avoid paying a tiny bit more in taxes.
Speaker Boehner and his fellow House repugicans need to understand that the American people know what they are up to, and they aren’t going to get away with it.

Sequester “threatens national security,” then why is Boehner threatening to use it?

Boehner takes America hostage over the sequester 

There were some cracks in the conservative armor the past few days over the issue of the looming sequester – aka, across the board budget cuts to defense spending and domestic spending to take place on March 1 if a new budget-cutting deal isn’t reached.
In a nutshell: The repugican cabal has adopted two major talking points about the sequester.
1) The sequester was President Obama’s idea (which is a lie).
2) If the sequester happens, we’re all going to die.
We now know that talking point 1 above is a lie – in fact, it was John Boehner who proposed the sequester back in 2011, and we have Boehner’s own documents to prove it.
As for talking point 2, there’s actually a third repugican talking point that Boehner is also employing, and that, along with talking point 2, are getting him and the repugican cabal into a lot of trouble.
3) The repugican cabal will let the sequester happen if the Democrats don’t agree to huge cuts in Medicare and Social Security.
So, John Boehner thinks the sequester will destroy our country, and John Boehner is threatening to let the sequester destroy our country if he doesn’t get his way.
John Boehner just admitted that the key Democratic talking point on this issue, that the Republican party is holding Americans hostage to the GOP’s far-right Tea Party extremism, is correct.

  Repugican cabal increasingly concerned over Boehner sequester hostage-taking

The devastating contradiction wasn’t lost on repugican analyst Byron York:
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner describes the upcoming sequester as a policy “that threatens U.S. national security, thousands of jobs and more.”
Hostage, terrorist, prisoner, sequester, sequestration, budget

Which leads to the question: Why would repugicans support a measure that threatens national security and thousands of jobs?  Boehner and the repugican cabal are determined to allow the $1.2 trillion sequester go into effect unless President Obama and Democrats agree to replacement cuts, of an equal amount, that target entitlement spending. If that doesn’t happen — and it seems entirely unlikely — the sequester goes into effect, with the Grepugican cabal’s blessing….
The effect of Boehner’s argument is to make Obama seem reasonable in comparison. After all, the president certainly agrees with Boehner that the sequester cuts threaten national security and jobs.  The difference is that Obama wants to avoid them. Bill Kristol, another hugely influential wingnut repugican talking head, argues that the repugican cabal isn’t putting national defense or national interest first.
It’s understandable that repugicans are tempted by the prospect of allowing the “sequester”—the automatic cut to defense and domestic discretionary spending agreed to as an enforcement mechanism for the 2011 debt ceiling deal—to go into effect on March 1. It’s understandable because repugicans are in favor of cutting domestic spending. It’s understandable because repugicans are desperate to secure what they think could be a political victory over Barack Obama and Harry Reid. It’s understandable because going to the trouble of fixing the sequester would be difficult, and the effort to do so will create strains within the repugican conference.
But what’s understandable isn’t always responsible. Allowing the sequester to go into effect would be deeply irresponsible.
It’s true that the sequester will cut domestic discretionary spending. On the other hand, it will do so ham-handedly, with no reforms to domestic programs, and with the big-ticket entitlements untouched. Far more important, the sequester will endanger national security—cutting the military abruptly and arbitrarily to levels far below what repugicans have ever thought desirable….
Meanwhile, there’s the small matter of defense and the national interest. The sequester would do real damage to both. So repugicans should resist seduction by the sequester, overcome the temptation of embracing it, and should instead take the lead in fixing it….
A great political party, on matters of great moment, puts national defense, and the national interest, first.

  The repugican cabal has been a fan of taking America hostage for years

The repugican cabal has been a fan of taking America hostage for years now. Certainly, they’ve done it repeatedly in the budget talks, particularly with their threat to let the US default on its debt.  But the repugicans have held other things hostage as well, in order to get their way.  The repugican cabal has held consumer protection hostage.  They held the stimulus hostage, even though it threatened to send the country into another Great Depression.  The repugicans even threatened to shut down the entire government over Obamacare.
What’s perhaps most disturbing is the repugican willingness to hold our national defense hostage to their petty whims.  Remember the time the repugican Senate held the US Air Force hostage?  And we know Mitt Romney is a big fan of using hostage crises for political gain.  And the US currently doesn’t have a CIA director because Lindsey Graham is using the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi to run for re-election (Graham has been fundraising off the Benghazi deaths for a while now), and because John McCain is still upset that he lost the presidential election in 2008 to Barack Obama.
Graham and McCain are also holding up the President’s nominee for Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel, because  Hagel thinks the pro-Israel lobby is a tad too powerful in Washington, and it is, along with a number of other lobbies, like the NRA, Big Pharma and Wall Street.
Holding America hostage is nothing new for repugicans.  The repugican cabal sees our national security and economic survival as one big human shield to get what they want, or else.  This is what happens when extremist take over one of the only two political parties you have in a country.

When Faced With New Evidence That the Sequester Was His Idea, Boehner Blames Obama


boehner-white-flagDespite the fact that a PowerPoint presentation from 2011 surfaced today with his name on it, John Boehner continues to blame Obama for the sequester.
The “question” of who the sequester belongs to should no longer be in doubt after The Daily Beast uncovered a July 2011 PowerPoint presentation that Speaker Boehner gave detailing the the use of the sequester as a Republican strategy. The Speaker didn’t just give the presentation. His name was on the PowerPoint slides.
boehner-slide
Boehner responded to the destruction of his talking point by demonstrating the skills that have made him one of the worst Speakers in history.
In a statement, Rep. Boehner said,
I agree with the Secretary of Defense that the impact of the president’s sequester would be devastating to our military. That’s why the House has acted twice to replace the president’s sequester with common-sense cuts and reforms that protect our national security, and it’s why I’ve been calling on the president for more than a year to press his Democratic-controlled Senate to do the same. Despite dire warnings from his own Secretary of Defense for more than a year that the sequester would ‘hollow out’ our military, the president has yet to put forward a specific plan that can pass his Democratic-controlled Senate, and has exerted no pressure on the Democratic leadership of the Senate to actually pass legislation to replace the sequester he proposed. As the commander-in-chief, President Obama is ultimately responsible for our military readiness, so it’s fair to ask: what is he doing to stop his sequester that would ‘hollow out’ our Armed Forces?
When faced with new evidence that the sequester was his idea, Speaker Boehner continued to blame President Obama. House repugicans think that if they keep repeating the same false statements over and over again, the American people will eventually believe them and blame the president.
Speaker Boehner has nothing now. His Obama’s sequester attacks have gone nowhere. Boehner has no way left to spin this, and his party will be getting the blame if these automatic cuts aren’t avoided. From now on when repugicans try to blame Obama for the sequester, all Democrats have to do is hold up the slides with Boehner’s name on them, and the wrath of a nation will hit the Speaker and his repugican caucus like a house of bricks.
Despite the mainstream media’s best efforts to blame both the president and congress, the blame for this mess is going to come down on Boehner and his party. Last month, the Speaker reassured the conservative movement that the sequester was his trump card. It turns out that his trump card was a joker, and it is only a matter of time until Boehner starts plotting his exit strategy that will result in his biggest cave yet to President Obama.

Sequester’s “devastating” defense cuts were Boehner’s idea

So, the Daily Beast just caught John Boehner lying. Now there’s a surprise.  You might have noticed in the past several months the repugicans making this bizarre argument about President Obama being responsible for sequestration and the devastating cuts to domestic programs and defense that it will entail.And you might have scratched your head and said, “wait a minute, Congress passed the sequestration legislation before President Obama signed it.”  You might have also noted that sequestration was the deal everyone signed on to get the repugicans to stop holding the American, and world, economy hostage.
So it might have seemed odd to you that the repugicans were now claiming that the sequestration was President Obama’s handiwork.
Well.  The Daily Beast’s John Avlon uncovered one of Grepugican House Speaker John Boehner’s PowerPoint presentations from 2011.  It’s a presentation that Boehner gave to House repugicans in an effort to get the buy-in of the tea party crazies that now run the repugican cabal.
And what does John Boehner’s PowerPoint presentation show?  That Boehner came up with the idea of the sequestration – and the idea of including the defense budget equally in the sequestration – in an effort to woo the tea party crazies.
Here is John Boehner’s proposal to his repugican House caucus, including the sequester:
John Boehner PowerPoint presentation proposing sequester of defense budget, via John Avlon, Daily Beast
John Boehner PowerPoint presentation proposing sequestration of defense budget, via John Avlon, Daily Beast
Boehner and the repugicans are now running around town with big signs calling the sequestration the “Obamaquester.”  Now we know, thanks to the Daily Beast, and John Boehner himself, that John Boehner is a liar.
FactCheck.org has a list of a few other repugicans who are liars too:
Rep. Martha Roby, Feb. 16: My district is home to Fort Rucker, the primary flight training base for Army Aviation. If the president’s sequester takes effect, Fort Rucker would lose 500 students training to be combat aviators and roughly 37,000 hours of aviation training. Source: Weekly Republican Address
Sen. Mitch McConnell, Feb. 13: Take the Obama sequester as just one example. The President had a chance last night to offer a thoughtful alternative to his sequester, one that could reduce spending in a smarter way. That is what Republicans have been calling for all along, and it is the kind of thing the House has already voted to do not once but twice. We want to work with him to actually make that happen. Source: Congressional Record
Rep. John Boehner, Feb. 12: We are only weeks away from the devastating consequences of the president’s sequester, and he failed to offer the cuts needed to replace it. Source: Press release
Rep. Jeff Miller, Feb. 10: The Administration’s sequestration threatens to reduce our military’s readiness and throw our nation into another recession. Source: Newsletter
Rep. Howard McKeon, Feb. 8: Today the White House finally broke their silence on the consequences President Obama’s sequester would have on domestic spending. Source: Press release
Rep. Peter Roskam, Feb. 5: The sequester is the president’s sequester. Source: CNBC’s “The Kudlow Report

The Sequester Cuts are the Latest Crime in the repugican War on America

republicans-hate-america-500
In criminal law, intent is when a person proposes and anticipates certain consequences they foresee will happen if their series of acts or omissions continue, and desire it to happen, and generally informs a bad human being, or a criminal. Most Americans would like to believe their politicians are not criminals, or would not intentionally commit acts they know harm the people or government, and yet repugicans have made it clear for the past two years they have every intention of damaging the economy and the people they are elected to serve. As the dreaded sequester cuts and the certain damage to the economy, jobs, and most Americans loom large, repugicans have revealed that the harm their sequester cuts were intended to cause is part of their plan that defines them as criminals, enemies of the state and the American people.
Despite the devastation the repugican cuts will wreak on the economy and the people, another repugican joined leading Congressional repugicans in categorically stating the repugican cabal intends on allowing the cuts to occur and are reveling in the prospects of another recession and increased poverty. The repugican Senator John Barrasso (r-WY) said, “Let me be very clear, these spending cuts are going to go through on March 1st ….The repugican cabal is not in any way going to trade spending cuts for a tax increase. When you take a look at the total dollars there are better ways to do this, but the cuts are going to occur.” Barrasso echoed Ayn Rand devotee and failed vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan who said, “House repugicans twice passed legislation replacing the sequester with smarter cuts,” that include denying 600,000 poor children food stamps and Medicaid coverage, end food assistance for 1.8 million adults including Meals on Wheels, and healthcare for disabled Americans. In repugican parlance, smarter means more damage to Americans; particularly those Ryan considers “takers” that his running mate Willard Romney enumerated at 47% of the population who want “free stuff.”
Thus far, repugicans have not offered any proposals to offset the sequester cuts, and have rejected two different proposals from Democrats that achieve greater deficit reduction, create jobs,  and contain revenue that repugicans reject on principle, and their message to the President, and the people, is that  they have no intention of stopping the sequester damage. The repugican cabal’s backdoor austerity program has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to impede growth, destroy a million jobs, and send the economy into a recession, and it is their sole intention to see it come to pass. It is tempting to cite aversion to revenue that is their raison d’ĂȘtre in government, and it plays a role, but it is their aversion to the American people, especially those in need, that drives their Draconian intent to increase poverty and cull the takers from the population with slow-death starvation, untreated infirmities, and job-killing austerity.
The repugicans claim their adherence to cutting programs affecting 98% of the population is due to out-of-control spending, but spending is already at historically low levels, and if the sequester goes into effect, food safety, education, law enforcement, safety net programs, and economic growth will be, and already has been, dramatically impacted which is the repugican cabal’s intent. They have also laid the groundwork to blame their economic malfeasance on the President, and not their wont to create hardship on the population. In fact, repugicans’ only plan to avoid the sequester cuts is voiding the defense cuts and replacing them with more domestic cuts including those already in the sequester.
According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, allowing the automatic sequester cuts, regardless how they are apportioned, will subtract 0.6 % from gross domestic product growth and eliminate a minimum 750,000 jobs in 2013 alone. Conversely, eliminating the sequester, Budget Control Act cuts, in conjunction with the fiscal cliff’s tax increase on the extremely wealthy will boost real GDP by about 2¼% by the end of 2013. Still, repugicans are resolute to allow the sequester and impose deeper cuts the CBO did not include in the dire warning of defunding the economy in a deliberate, pre-meditated assault on America and the people. In fact, their abhorrence of new revenue to reduce the falling deficit, and stimulate the economy, informs more than just their wont to protect the richest 1% of income earners, it informs their hatred of the people.
America’s infrastructure is crumbling, people need jobs and a raise in the minimum wage, education funding is deplorable, and more Americans are living in poverty as a result of the repugican cabal’s inaction. The repugicans know spending creates jobs, boosts the economy, and yet their strategy is allowing sequester cuts to decimate the economy and the people instead of even considering new revenue. They are culling the population with cuts that affect Ryan’s “takers” and Romney’s 47%, and when they have starved children, seniors, Veterans, and killed off disabled Americans, they will replace them with the middle class their policies are decimating to protect the rich.
Intentionally taking the life out of the economy and the people is not to prevent President Obama from winning a second term, it is solely to create economic distress and it is not just because they abhor revenue; they abhor America. Their refusal to invest in jobs, the decrepit infrastructure, or lift a finger to continue economic recovery puts them in league with America’s enemies because their actions are intentional, they know the consequence, and desire it to happen.  With the damage repugicans intend imposing on the economy with job-killing sequester cuts, and the severe austerity calculated to decimate the American people, repugicans are not saying “so be it,” they are saying “bring it on.”

Worried Too Many Minorities Are Voting repugicans Try To Rollback the Constitution to 1913

african-american-voting
A group state representatives in Georgia are proposing a resolution that would ask Congress to begin the process of repealing the 17th Amendment, which provides for the direct election of U.S. Senators.
One of the representatives behind this effort, Rep. Kevin Cooke said, “It’s a way we would again have our voice heard in the federal government, a way that doesn’t exist now. This isn’t an idea of mine. This was what James Madison was writing. This would be a restoration of the Constitution, about how government is supposed to work. The fact that this coincides with the 100th anniversary gives us a pretty good snapshot of what has happened to the federal government since then. The federal government has grown exponentially since the amendment was ratified. This would restore the constitution to what it was in 1913.”
Of course, this isn’t really about states’ rights or the intentions of the Founders. The movement to take away the people’s right to directly elect their senators is about keeping repugicans in power. A recent PPP poll of Georgia found that if Max Cleland could be talked into running for his old Senate seat in the state, he would lead each of the top five repugican contenders. If the Democratic candidate is Rep. John Barrow, he would trail the repugican nominee by an average of four tenths of a point. Depending on who the repugicans nominate, the Democrats may have a chance at picking up a Senate seat in Georgia.
The idea of repealing the 17th Amendment is just the latest extreme example of how far repugicans are willing to go in order to hold on to power. Instead of trying to appeal to the changing face of the electorate, a group of repugicans would rather takeaway the popular election of United States senators.
Georgia’s demographics are changing quickly. People of color make up more than 40% of the state’s population. There is also an age gap, as 73.2% of Georgia residents over age 60 are white, but only 46.9% of the state’s school age children are white. The electorate in Georgia is shifting towards the Democratic Party.
Instead of changing with the times, some state repugicans have decided that the answer to their problems is to roll back the constitution to 1913.
Why stop at 1913? If they really want to hold off the demographic wave, they should also seek to repeal the 13th Amendment.

Mississippi “forgot” to abolish slavery

By now you may have heard that on February 7th of this year, 2013, the state of Mississippi officially  abolished slavery by adopting the 13th amendment to the Constitution.  Here’s the text of the document that Mississippi only got around to officially ratifying two weeks ago.
Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Let’s face it, due diligence in rectifying the crimes of the past hardly wins you any merit badges in Mississippi, a state where 46% of “hardcore repugican voters” polled in 2011 thought inter-racial marriage should be against the law, and in which a middle school in 2010 couldn’t understand why it was a problem that only white students were permitted to run for class president.
So it’s little wonder that “someone forgot” to file the paperwork to officially get rid of slavery until 148 years after the 13th amendment became a permanent part of the US Constitution in 1865. Oops.
Now, defenders of Mississippi will argue that this isn’t entirely true.  Mississippi didn’t just officially end slavery.  The  year Mississippi took its brave stand against enslaving African-Americans was not 2013.  It was 1995.  Only 130 years too late.  So there.
oops secret whoops
I knew I forgot something. 
But in the ensuing years, everyone in Mississippi simply “forgot” to officially notify the US Archivist of the amendment’s ratification by their state, so it never counted, until now.  It seems someone was watching the movie “Lincoln,” saw that Mississippi had yet to ratify, and he raised enough trouble back home to get the thing done.
But seriously.  Come on.  They just forgot?
You forget to get toothpaste.  You forget to pick up the laundry.  You might, on a really horrifically bad day forget your anniversary.  But you forget to end slavery?  Really, Mississippi?
You know what else Mississippi forgot?  To ratify the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote in 1920.  Mississippi finally got around to that one in 1984 – 64 years too late, and dead last among the states.

We can all laugh at this story, but these are the kind of people we have to deal with, negotiate with in Congress, to get things done in this country.  These are the kind of people who make up a good part of the base of the Republican party.  If it’s not about God, gays or guns, they’re not interested.  So it’s no wonder America is falling behind the rest of the world with regards to the civil rights of gays and trans people in comparison to, say, Mexico.  Mexico doesn’t  have to deal with Mississippi.
In Mississippi’s defense, when the resolution passed in 1995, it was unanimous.  Sort of.
“It was unanimous,” Frazier recalled. “Some didn’t vote, but we didn’t receive a ‘nay’ vote.”
Yes, not everyone voted to end slavery, but no one voted against ending slavery.  And in Mississippi, you take your civil rights victories however, and whenever, you can get them.

Missouri repugican wants to make it a felony to propose gun control laws

Fast on the heels of the “legitimate rape” of science by yet another Republican, Missouri is fast-tracking itself to be the center of the universe of idiocy for 2013 (you’re #1!).  You see, this time Republicans in Missouri want to make it a felony for a legislator to propose gun control legislation.Yes, because the best way to insure that Hitler doesn’t take over America is to start jailing your political opponents.
mike leara
Missouri repugican cabal’s Mike Leara who wants to throw politicians in jail who propose gun control legislation. Missouri state representative Mike Leara wants to make sure that Missouri is yet another gun-infested state where everyone can live in fear that the next crazy person they see at the movie theater, or the local nursery school, is about to let go with a  spray of automatic weapons fire.
You see, Rep. Leara, a repugican, has offered legislation that “specifies that any member of the general assembly who proposes legislation that further restricts an individual’s right to bear arms will be guilty of a class D felony.”
Why stop there?  Why not the death penalty?
Here’s the law Leara is proposing:
missouri to ban gun control
I hadn’t realized that Missouri had legalized marijuana as well.
Seriously though, is there something in the Missouri tap water these days or perhaps a gas leak in the repugican offices that is causing such idiocy? Who can forget the Missouri state senator (yes, another repugican) and “huge science buff” who helped ring in the new year by making Missouri the laughing stock of the industrialized world by proposing a bill that would scrap science for religion.
A repugican state legislator in Missouri, which is still vying for the title of “new Alabama” along with Arizona and Tennessee, wants to force college kids in the state to learn about “the destiny” of the universe, galaxies and the human race. Rick Brattin – who calls himself “a huge science buff” — also wants to force the redefinition, in law, of the phrase “scientific theory” to include “faith-based philosophy.” So this way, priests could call themselves “scientists,” and creationism would be “science.”
Why stop there? Why not just redefine the word “lie” to mean “truth” and cut out the middle man? After all, that is what all of this is about. Creationism doesn’t pass the smell test of science so the repugican cabal will either destroy science, deny science, or simply redefine science by legislative fiat.
Oh but it doesn’t stop there.  Remember, Missouri is the state that gave us Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin.
“And in Missouri, Todd Akin … was asked by a local news source about rape and he said, ‘Look, in a legitimate rape situation’ — and what he meant by legitimate rape was just look, someone can say I was raped: a scared-to-death 15-year-old that becomes impregnated by her boyfriend and then has to tell her parents, that’s pretty tough and might on some occasion say, ‘Hey, I was raped.’ That’s what he meant when he said legitimate rape versus non-legitimate rape. I don’t find anything so horrible about that. But then he went on and said that in a situation of rape, of a legitimate rape, a woman’s body has a way of shutting down so the pregnancy would not occur. He’s partly right on that.”
Then there was Missouri’s recent passage of Amendment 2, which lets parents and children opt out of school curriculum that might offend their Inquisitorial religious sensibilities, like math (show me in the Bible where it says 2+2=4).
Missouri is also the state where repugicans voted to stop country health clinics from dispensing birth control.  So they don’t want you to have an abortion, but they think condoms are evil too.
Missouri went for Santorum in the repugican presidential primaries. And isn’t that what the Missouri repugicans seem to embrace a lot of, Santorum.
It was Missouri’s Roy Blunt who wanted to end pre-existing condition protections for people getting health insurance, even though it’s wildly popular with the public, and makes sense.
It was Missouri that sent us homophobe Jo Ann Emerson to head the NRECA.
It was Missouri that refused to give death benefits to the gay partner of a state trooper who died on the job.
And it was Missouri that told a woman she was not permitted to live with her fiancĂ© because they weren’t married.
Olivia Shelltrack finally has her dream home. Her family moved into the five-bedroom, three-bath frame house in Black Jack last month. But now she fears she and her fiance face uprooting their children because of a city ordinance that says her household fails to meet Black Jack’s definition of a family.
Shelltrack and Fondray Loving, her boyfriend of 13 years, were denied an occupancy permit because of an ordinance forbidding three or more individuals from living together if they are not related by “blood, marriage or adoption.” The couple have three children, ages 8, 10 and 15, although Loving is not the biological father of the oldest child.
“I was basically told, you can have one child living in your house if you’re not married, but more than that, you can’t,” she said.
And repugican rep. Mike Leara isn’t the exception for Missouri, he’s the rule.
They call Missouri “the ‘show me’ state.”  Sounds a lot more like “show me hate.”

Flash a gun, get 15% off your pizza (seriously)

From the "Now, tell me what could possibly go wrong" Department:

A pizza joint in Virginia Beach, Virginia is offering a 15% discount to anyone who flashes a weapon in the store.
Gun nuts have been doing a lot of this since the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre, when a young man took his gun-nut mother’s guns and shot dead 20 six- and seven- year old children, taking care to shoot each child three times before moving on to the next child, in order to ensure they were truly dead.
So the gun-nut response to Sandy Hook is to get gun-nuttier.
You’d almost think they were the victims of Sandy Hook, the way the gun nuts are responding.  They’re the aggrieved party because the country got more than a bit upset that one of their own decided to go on a rampage, yet again, against innocent people, in this case small children.
So the gun nuts have decided they need to flaunt their guns in public, rub them in our faces, lest anyone get “too” upset about the mass slaughter of first-graders two weeks before Christmas.
Case in point: All Around Pizza and Deli in Virginia Beach, Virginia, offering a 15% discount to anyone who openly carries a weapon into the pizza joint or who showed a concealed carry permit.
All Aound Pizza gun ad
And who can forget the Utah gun nut who in mid-January went into a JC Penny with his assault rifle and a Glock in order to “make a statement.”  Folks got his statement, all right.
gun-nut-jc-penney-utah
One of these days, one of these guys is going to be mistakenly shot dead, by either a patron or the cops. But it’s actually worse than that.  Contrary to the notion that more guns make you safe, in places like Virginia and Utah, where gun nuts like to flaunt their guns in public, you won’t know when the next gunman comes into a place of business whether he’s a nut or a gun nut.  You really won’t know whether to call the cops until he’s shot his first child dead, then you’ll know to call.  That’s a problem.
Think about it.  If Sandy Hook Elementary had permitted guns at the school, and teachers had seen Adam Lanza, the guy who perpetrated the massacre, carrying a gun, they  might not be sure what to think.  Maybe he was a pistol-packing parent?  Or a Sherrif-Arpaio-type vigilante “posse” there to help keep the kids safe.  No one would really be sure.  And no one would call the cops, or challenge him, until the first bodies dropped. Just imagine the outrage, and the lawsuit, if you dared challenge a gun nut about why he was carrying a gun at a school?  You’d be violating his Second Amendment rights by even asking.
And could you imagine the 911 call?
Hello, Virginia 911.
Yes, there’s a man, he’s got a gun.
Yeah, so?
What do you mean ‘yeah so’? I’m calling from a pre-school.
Did he shoot anyone?
No.
Call us back when he kills someone.
Mass murderer, or just another guy with a fetish for violence?  The difference is becoming increasingly difficult to discern.

With Starbucks gift cards, marijuana grow house bribed neighbors not to snitch


"An alleged illegal marijuana grower reportedly showered his South of Market neighbors with coffee shop gift cards in an apparent attempt at keeping them quiet," reports the San Francisco Examiner.
His plans to keep the grow secret did not work: police say the man and three others were arrested Feb. 12 after a burglary call led officers to a clandestine grow (is there any other kind, under prohibition?) in a warehouse on Stillman Street.
The place reeked of pot (duh); the gift cards were evidently aimed at encouraging neighbors to hold their noses.
Of the accused grower, one neighbor said, "He drove an Audi and wore a cheap suit."
Ouch.

In other pot related news:

Washington state House panel hears bill to tax medical cannabis sales 

In Washington state, where medical pot has been voted legal, the House held a public hearing this week on a bill that would tax medical pot dispensaries 25% on weed sales. The measure is billed as "an effort to undermine any black market," and is one of several pot-related proposals pending in Olympia. 

Drug OD fatalities up for 11th consecutive year; not one was due to marijuana

 
Federal data to be released this week through the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that drug overdose deaths rose for the 11th year in a row. Most were accidents involving prescription painkillers: specifically, opioids like OxyContin and Vicodin which are commonly prescribed for pain management, and are widely abused. Those two drugs contributed to 3 out of 4 medication overdose deaths, according to the report.
Not one single death in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data set was due to overdosing on marijuana.
Why? Generally speaking, because of the way cannabis affects the human brain and nervous system, it is not medically possible to OD on marijuana—though you're welcome to try, and unconfined munchies could certainly cause some damage. Not that death by Doritos would be such an awful thing...
And yet in federal law, with the data once again proving that pot is non-lethal, cannabis remains classified as a schedule 1 drug. That classification means there are no federally-recognized medical applications for pot, while prescription drugs proven yet again to be potentially deadly remain readily and legally available.
As an aside, it's lulzy to note that in the letter of the DEA's law, it's spelled "marihuana." Both the spelling of the law and the logic behind it are antiquated.

Was It a ‘Phantom Pregnancy’ or Did the Hospital Steal Brazilian Woman’s Child?

A woman in Brazil is claiming that despite what doctors are saying, she gave to birth to a child that was stolen by hospital staff. When 19-year-old Layane Santos was in her 38th month of pregnancy, she had to be rushed to a maternity hospital in Sao Paulo after experiencing blood loss and abdominal pain. After arriving at the hospital ...

Authorities investigate whether man may have died from spontaneous combustion

Oklahoma authorities investigating a mysterious death have come up with a rare theory. They are looking into whether or not a 65-year-old man died from spontaneously bursting into flames."This is a case that I've never seen before," said Sheriff Ron Lockhart.

Family members found 65-year-old Danny Vanzandt dead on Monday inside his home near Muldrow. "The body was burned and it was incinerated," said Sheriff Lockhart. He said he believes the death could be a rare case of spontaneous human combustion. "I think there's only about 200 cases worldwide and I'm not saying that this has happened I'm just saying that we haven't ruled it out."


He says the fire didn't damage the house and there were no signs of struggle. "There was no damage to the furniture or anything around the fire, so it was a low heat fire." Family say they noticed the back window of the man's pickup truck was blown out. Investigators sent the body to the medical examiner's office in Tulsa.

"If you read about spontaneous human combustion that's what we have here," said Sheriff Lockhart. The Sheriff says Vanzandt was an alcoholic and avid smoker. When asked if it's possible Vanzandt accidentally killed himself some other way, like dropping a cigarette on himself, Sheriff Lockhart replied: "A cigarette burn will not do that." The autopsy report is pending.

Oymyakon, The Coldest Village In The World

Oymyakon is a rural locality in Russia. The village has the lowest recorded temperature for any permanently inhabited location. Temperatures can plummet to -71C (-95.8F), so cold even planes cannot land there in winter.

The valley of Oymyakon in northeast Russia is known as the 'Pole of Cold' and with an average January temperature of -50C (-58F), it is no wonder the village is the coldest permanently inhabited settlement in the world.

Smallest planet yet found outside solar system

It's about the size of our moon

Astronomers searching for planets outside our solar system have discovered the tiniest one yet — one that's about the size of our moon.But hunters for life in the universe will need to poke elsewhere. The new world orbits too close to its sun-like star and is too sizzling to support life. Its surface temperature is an estimated 700 degrees Fahrenheit. It also lacks an atmosphere and water on its rocky surface.
University of California, Berkeley astronomer Geoff Marcy, one of the founding fathers of the planet-hunting field, called the latest find "absolutely mind-boggling."
"This new discovery raises the specter that the universe is jampacked, like jelly beans in a jar, with planets even smaller than Earth," said Marcy, who had no role in the new research.
It's been nearly two decades since the first planet was found outside our solar system. Since then, there's been an explosion of discoveries, accelerated by NASA's Kepler telescope launched in 2009 to search for a twin Earth. So far, 861 planets have been spotted and only recently have scientists been able to detect planets that are similar in size to Earth or smaller.
While scientists have theorized the existence of a celestial body that's smaller than Mercury — the baby of the solar system since Pluto's downgrade — they have not spotted one until now. Nearest to the sun, Mercury is about two-fifths the Earth's diameter; the newly discovered planet and our moon are about a third the size of Earth.
The teeny planet was detected by Kepler, which simultaneously tracks more than 150,000 stars for slight dips in brightness — a sign of a planet passing in front of the star. The planet — known as Kepler-37b — orbits a star 210 light years away in the constellation Lyra. It's one of three known planets in that solar system.
Discoverer Thomas Barclay of the NASA Ames Research Center in Northern California was so excited when he spied the moon-sized planet that for days, he said he recited the "Star Wars" movie line: "That's no moon." It took more than a year and an international team to confirm that it was a bona fide planet.
The discovery is detailed in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.
Scientists are looking for an Earth-size planet that's in the so-called Goldilocks zone — that sweet spot that's not too hot and not too cold where water, which is essential for life, could exist on the surface.
While the newly discovered planet isn't it, "that does not detract from the fact that this is yet another mile marker along the way to habitable Earth-like planets," said Alan Boss of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, who was not part of the discovery team.

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Bigfoot's Genome is Published

vLast year, a group of Sasquatch investigators in Texas announced that they had sequenced Bigfoot's DNA, but they had trouble getting the results published in a scientific journal. Now that data has been published in a brand-new journal called DeNovo, which was recently purchased by the Texas researchers and contains only one paper: the Bigfoot DNA report. The thing is, you have to pay $30 to read it. However, Ars Technica got a copy and lets us in on some details. The researchers pose the hypothesis that Bigfoot is a hybrid of human and some unidentified primate.
To begin with, the mitochondrial DNA of the samples (when it can be isolated) clusters with that of modern humans. That isn't itself a problem if we assume that those doing the interbreeding were human females, but the DNA sequences come from a variety of different humans—16 in total. And most of these were "European or Middle Eastern in origin" with a few "African and American Indian haplotypes." Given the timing of the interbreeding, we should only be seeing Native American sequences here. The authors speculate that some humans may have walked across the ice through Greenland during the last glaciation, but there's absolutely no evidence for that. The best explanation here is contamination.

As far as the nuclear genome is concerned, the results are a mess. Sometimes the tests picked up human DNA. Other times, they didn't. Sometimes the tests failed entirely. The products of the DNA amplifications performed on the samples look about like what you'd expect when the reaction didn't amplify the intended sequence. And electron micrographs of the DNA isolated from these samples show patches of double- and single-stranded DNA intermixed. This is what you might expect if two distantly related species had their DNA mixed—the protein-coding sequences would hybridize, and the intervening sections wouldn't. All of this suggests modern human DNA intermingled with some other contaminant.
There will be more analysis coming from various science writers about this paper, but you can get a good overview from Ars Technica.

An appreciation of the Sawfish, one of Earth's most threatened fish

 
"The earliest sawfishes likely arose in the shallow Tethys Sea, that ocean surrounded by the ancient continents of Godwanda and Laurasia, during the Cretaceous period at least 60 million years ago," writes Dr. M. at Deep Sea News.
These "sole survivors of an ancient bloodline" now number only seven species which roam the muddy bottoms of coastal areas, bays and estuaries. 

All sawfishes can move easily between fresh and saltwater and often venture deep upstream into rivers. The sawfish lifestyle puts this both their size and saw near humans.  All seven species are considered critically endangered by the IUCN.  As much as we have impacted them, sawfish have also greatly influenced our culture.
And now, they're one of the most threatened species on our planet. Thanks, humans!
More: Exaltation to Extinction for Sawfishes 

Persistent little dog broke into courthouse desperately trying to find its owner

This little dog was crazy with worry when his owner left him outside a Miami, Florida, courthouse. He kept trying to get inside. He scratched the doors, he paced the floors, trying desperately to find a way in.


Finally he sneaked in through an open door, but the doggie's day in court didn't last long.

Less than a minute later, a bailiff tried to escort our him back outside. But he didn't go away without a fight.



Finally, the bailiff showed the cunning canine the stairs, but he simply ran up another staircase. The courthouse caper ended peacefully as man, and man's best friend were finally reunited.

New digs

Federal research chimps savor retirement An adult chimp plays with a young chimp at Chimp Haven in Keithville, La., Monday, Feb. 18, 2013. One hundred and eleven chimpanzees will be coming from a south Louisiana laboratory to Chimp Haven, the national sanctuary for chimpanzees retired from federal research. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) 
For the first time in their lives, four aging chimpanzees once used in federal research can go outside whenever they like. They can lie on the grass, clamber onto a platform 20 feet up on a chimp-style jungle gym and gaze freely at the open sky, the vista unbroken by steel bars.
Fifty-two-year-olds Julius and Sandy, 46-year-old Phyllis and 44-year-old Jessica have arrived. These and several other primates are now "living like chimpanzees" as they play, groom each other and tussle at Chimp Haven in northwest Louisiana — the only national sanctuary for retired federal research chimps.
Julius' group is among 111 chimpanzees coming to Chimp Haven over the next 18 months from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette's New Iberia Research Center. They could be the vanguard of a much larger immigration of former research chimps on the way to the refuge in Keithville, La.
A National Institutes of Health committee recommended Jan. 22 that most of the other 350 federally owned research chimpanzees be retired to "the federal sanctuary system" — a system of one. The agency's director will decide whether to accept the recommendations after a 60-day period for public comment.
The proposal to retire all but about 50 federally owned chimpanzees is the latest step in a gradual shift away from using chimps as test subjects, owing to technological advances and growing ethical concerns about research on primates that share more than 98 percent of the DNA of humans.
Research on the chimps has ranged from psychological studies to trying to develop vaccines for HIV and hepatitis.
The arrivals are staggered so the small staff can integrate small groups of newcomers with old-timers at Chimp Haven. And some of their living quarters and play spaces haven't yet been built at Chimp Haven, which opened in 2005.
The newcomers led by Julius were among nine that arrived Jan. 22. Another seven arrived later that week and eight more Tuesday.
Julius and his "girls" got their first view of unobstructed sky last week. New arrivals spend 17 days in quarantine before being moved into an indoor bedroom area near a bedroom occupied by chimps already settled into the sanctuary, to see how they get along.
Their first outdoor time is in one of two grassy, quarter-acre play yards that open onto the bedrooms. A network of steel mesh tunnels lets the staff move chimps from any part of the sanctuary to any other.
Staffers say it's amazing to see them savor new freedoms.
"They light up, look up at the sky, look at us watching them," behaviorist Amy Fultz said.
Like most newcomers to Chimp Haven, Julius' group first explored the edges of its new surroundings. Their play yards are surrounded by a high concrete wall that can't be climbed, and the larger areas of dense pine forest by similar concrete walls and, on one side, a moat.
Chimps in the wild make regular perimeter patrols, alert for any encroaching bands and for a chance to expand their own territory.
These retirees will send the rest of their lives at the 200-acre sanctuary in a forested park belonging to the Caddo Parish government, which donated the land to Chimp Haven.
They get about a month at a time with access to each of the quarter-acre play areas and the habitats of 3 to 5 acres populated by dense stands of pines where the primates can nest high in the trees.
Two other groups of recent arrivals from the university lab in New Iberia are getting acquainted with each other because each includes a youngster. The aim is to meld them and other groups with juveniles into a group with Chimp Haven's three "oops" babies, all sired by Conan, who has been at Chimp Haven for years.
The 111 incoming chimps include a total of eight youngsters; one was born to a female chimp with HIV, but the others and their mothers all are destined to become part of Conan's social group.
On Tuesday, Conan's crowd was in a play area, catching fruit thrown by staffers. A female named Sheila slapped her hands together and then held up an arm to attract attention.
A few minutes' walk away, another group of 15 chimps raced from the steel mesh tunnel between their sleeping area and a 5-acre forested habitat toward an array of fruits and vegetables strewn on the ground. Some grabbed a hoard of bananas, apples and oranges before starting to munch; others ate immediately.
After a bit, several turned to a tall, pointed structure with PVC pipes stuck in it — an imitation termite mound. In the wild, chimps poke sticks into termite mounds to pull out insects to eat. At Chimp Haven, the tubes may hold honey-coated bits of fruit or sugar-free candy, inducing the great apes to use tools as they would in the wild.
Fultz said some newcomers won't even step on the grass in the play yards, but Julius' group had no qualms.
"They sit and look around. They look up at the sky. To me, they seem to be thinking, 'There's no bars,'" Fultz said.
That isn't to say bars don't exist in the sanctuary.
Indoor bedrooms, furnished with straw and blankets for making nests, and old fire hose for climbing, have steel mesh interior walls to keep chimps in.
Chimps with HIV, hepatitis or other major medical or psychological problems have outdoor areas surrounded by the same wide, heavy steel mesh. The peaked ceilings are of pipes laid a few inches apart from each other so the chimps can swing across the ceiling arm over arm, as they might in trees.
"Those spaces are huge. They're huge," said Lori Gruen, a Wesleyan University philosophy professor who specializes in animal ethics. Chimp Haven is "a pretty remarkable facility. I think it will be quite interesting and exciting to see it expand."
But there's a major hurdle. When Chimp Haven was made the national sanctuary in 2002, Congress capped spending on the project at $30 million. That cap will be hit this year.
U.S. Rep. John Fleming, a Republican representing northwest Louisiana, said in a statement emailed by his press secretary that any additional federal spending "will be difficult" in the current budget climate of mounting federal debt and ongoing national security priorities.
Kathleen Conlee, vice president for animal research issues of the Humane Society of the United States, and other advocates say there's no need for additional spending if Congress would let NIH put money now spent on research contracts into the animals' retirement.
That would save money, because the 75 percent federal share of care at Chimp Haven is lower than the research contracts' cost, Conlee has said.
With help from the Humane Society and other nonprofit groups, the sanctuary has in recent months raised $2.6 million needed to add bedrooms, six play yards and an open-air enclosure to accommodate all 111 federal chimps coming from New Iberia and another $100,000 toward a total $5.1 million goal announced in November.
"We certainly expect and hope the cap will be extended," said Cathy Willis Spraetz, who became president of Chimp Haven three weeks ago.
If it isn't? "Then we have to rely on our wonderful donors," she said.