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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Daily Drift

The Daily Drift
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Today in History

Today in History
917 A Byzantine counter-offensive is routed by Syeon at Anchialus, Bulgaria.
1619 The first group of twenty Africans is brought to Jamestown, Virginia.
1667 John Milton publishes Paradise Lost, an epic poem about the fall of Adam and Eve.
1741 Danish navigator Vitus Jonas Bering, commisioned by Peter the Great of Russia to find land connecting Asia and North America, discovers America.
1794 American General "Mad Anthony" Wayne defeats the Ohio Indians at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in the Northwest territory, ending Indian resistance in the area.
1847 General Winfield Scott wins the battle of Churubusco on his drive to Mexico City.
1904 Dublin's Abbey Theatre is founded, an outgrowth of the Irish Literary Theatre founded in 1899 by William Butler Yeats and Lady Gregory.
1908 The American Great White Fleet arrives in Sydney, Australia, to a warm welcome.
1913 700 feet above Buc, France, parachutist Adolphe Pegond becomes the first person to jump from an airplane and land safely.
1914 Russia wins an early victory over Germany at Gumbinnen.
1940 After a previous machine gun attack failed, exiled Russian Leon Trotsky is assassinated in Mexico City, with an alpine ax to the back of the head.
1940 Radar is used for the first time, by the British during the Battle of Britain. Also on this day, in a radio broadcast, Winston Churchill makes his famous homage to the Royal Air Force: "Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few."
1941 Adolf Hitler authorizes the development of the V-2 missile.
1944 United States and British forces close the pincers on German units in the Falaise-Argentan pocket in France.
1971 The Cambodian military launches a series of operations against the Khmer Rouge.

Non Sequitur

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The 'True That' Edition

Did you know ...

Did You Know ...
About how to prove Obama lowered the deficit in 4 easy steps

About the lingerie for the 1%

About these 8 ways privatization has brought pain and misery to American life

About the16 of your favorite things climate change has screwed up

‘We want to cut this’ is repugican Code For ‘Nigger, nigger’

Lunatic Fringe
If you're tired of repugicans telling you that they're not racists because Democrats were the party of the South way back in history, you're not alone.…
obama-racism
If you’re tired of repugicans telling you that they’re not racists because Democrats were the party of the South way back in history, you’re not alone. But don’t blame the wingnuts—they do, after all, live in their repugican fantasy land of Perfect White America, which naturally was many, many years ago (actually, it never existed).
Here’s the tape to quote when stuck in the logic failure of an argument with a very defensive racist wingnut who may or may not be calling you “retarded” in an effort to show prove that you are the bully (irony really is dead and it hurts my head). They won’t get it, but others will, and after all, it’s time to just take pity on the lost people while trying to reach the semi-conscious.
Now, y’all aren’t quoting me on this? You start out in 1954 by saying, “Ni**er, ni**er, ni**er.” By 1968 you can’t say “ni**er”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract now; you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.
And subconsciously maybe that is part of it, but I’m not saying that. I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, that coded, that we’re doing away with the racial problem one way or another. Obviously sitting around saying “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Ni**er, ni**er.” Anyway you look at it, race is coming on the back burner.”
No, that’s not from the 1880s. That’s Lee Atwater in 1981, a major repugican strategist then working in Ronald Reagan’s White House, being interviewed by political scientist Alexander Lamis. Atwater spoke like that while working in the White House under Reagan. Seriously.
But repugicans denied this fact for a very long time. They claimed he was taken out of context, and that Lamis lied. After Lamas died in 2012, James Carter IV (masked avenger of social inequality) approached his widow, Renée Lamis, to see if she might be interested in finally publishing the full interview. She was. After all, for years, repugicans had claimed it was a lie. Carter gave the entire Atwater interview to the Nation last December, where you can listen to the entire audio. Nope. Not out of context. In fact, he clearly admits this after demanding that he won’t be quoted – and that is why Lamis left Atwater’s name off of the quote. The repugicans repay ethics and class with character assassination and lies. It’s so sad to see a party without an ounce of integrity left it in.
In the interview, Atwater admitted exactly what anyone who has spent any time in the South already knows. The code words are so enshrined in white privilege that they bear the same unctuous concern as the “kind master” showed his “slave”.
I wont bother explaining that away, because if you’re going to deny that slavery was a bad thing, as many in the repugican cabal do, you certainly aren’t ready to make the leap to realizing that equality doesn’t mean one color should be spoken to and about as if they are automatically a non-producing, lazy government teat sucker.
After all, that trait seems well imbued in plenty of white repugicans, rural Southern whites to boot (see food stamp distribution). And red states themselves feel entitled to suck off the federal teat while basking in their do-nothing laziness, steeped in bad policies that don’t generate money or reward productivity, but rather encourage big business to seek welfare from the government. Apparently individual and state level productivity is for Yankees. (I have family who fought on both sides of the war, simmer down.)
Atwater was from South Carolina, where his particular brand of noxious mudslinging still colors the voting patterns of the lost state. They have the starving repugican rural whites shooting each other to prove it, too. Values voters, get it? They hate all the right people because jesus told them to love their gun, not their neighbor. Thanks, Lee.

The repugicans Call for Freedom In Egypt While They Arrest Hundreds of Americans

Lunatic Fringe
If Americans wonder how events in Egypt could ever occur here they can harken back to the shrub junta and recall that it started slowly and progressed to…

The repugicans Trot Out a Parade of Losers to Sell Their cabal’s Fail

Lunatic Fringe
The repugicans trotted out their losers like climate change minimizer Carly outsource-our-jobs Fiorina to sell repugicanism on ABC's This Week ... gop-fail
The repugicans were working it hard this week. They deployed Bill Krystal and Reince Priebus to ABC, John McCain to CNN, and climate change minimizer Carly outsource-our-jobs Fiorina to ABC’s This Week to sell repugicanism and the winning, WINNING, ways of repugicans.

The repugican cabal Tries to Convince Women That Having Their Rights Taken Away is a Good Thing

Lunatic Fringe
Carly Fiorina was on This Week pretending that the repugican cabal is really not-so-extreme on women's issues and thus, you single ladies should vote repugican. …

Poor Prospects in a "Middle Class" Society

Did You Know ...
by Gary Lapon
Open hands
One of the biggest myths about the United States is that it's a mostly "middle class" society, with poverty confined to a minority of the population.
The reality is exactly the opposite: The vast majority of people in the United States will experience poverty and economic insecurity for a significant portion of their lives.
A recent Associated Press feature article--relying on data from an exhaustive survey to be published next year by Oxford University Press--has put this in stark terms: Around four out of every five people in the U.S. will endure unemployment, receive food stamps and other forms of government aid, and/or have an income below 150 percent of the official poverty line for at least one year of their lives before age 60.
That startling statistic shows the truth about a society where there are a lot more have-nots or have-littles than have-enoughs. But there are so many other myths and misconceptions about poverty in America. For example, the AP and Oxford statistics show that while people of color suffer economic difficulties at disproportionately high rates, large numbers of whites fall into the same category. Similarly, more whites benefit from social programs such as welfare and food stamps than any other group.
These facts contradict the racist stereotypes about who is poor or at risk of falling into poverty. And they underline the reality that the vast majority of Americans of all races are in the same boat--they scramble to get by, at best--while only a small minority of people live comfortably throughout their lives, and a tiny few are obscenely rich.

The official government statistics measuring poverty often obscure more than they reveal.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2011, there were 46.2 million people living below the federal poverty level--15 percent of the 308 million people living in the United States.
If this statistic were an accurate reflection of the number of people living in poverty, it would still represent a crisis. However, actual levels of economic and social deprivation and insecurity are much higher than the official figures show--because they are based on outdated measures that greatly underestimate the true level of impoverishment in the richest country in the world.
For example, in 2013, an individual living in the continental U.S. must make less than $11,490 a year to be counted as officially poor. For a family of four, the poverty level is $23,550.
Those are paltry sums, as anyone reading this article knows. Even the figure used in the AP and Oxford research of 150 percent of the federal government's poverty level--$17,235 for an individual and $35,325 for a family of four--is painfully low. In many parts of the country, making ends meet on twice the federal poverty threshold is difficult if not impossible.
That's what the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found when its researchers developed their "Family Budget Calculator," which, unlike the federal measures, takes into account specific regional differences in the prices of necessities. The EPI looks at the costs of a variety of goods and services--housing, food, health care, child care, transportation and other basic needs – to determine what a family in a given area would need to earn "in order to attain a secure yet modest living standard."
Regional variations can be extreme. For example, average rent in New York City is now over $3,000, compared to just under $600 in Oklahoma City. But according to EPI, its calculator shows that families everywhere "need more than twice the amount of the federal poverty line to get by."
Nationally, four in 10 people live at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Thus, the number of people in the U.S. who would be classified as poor based on this more accurate standard is more than two-and-a-half times greater than the official figure.
The survey data reported by AP reveal even more widespread experiences with poverty--79 percent of everyone in the U.S. will spend at least one year of their lives facing "periodic joblessness, reliance on government aid such as food stamps or income below 150 percent of the poverty line."
The researchers who calculated that statistics believe things will only get worse if current trends continue--by 2030, they expect that percentage to reach 85 percent.
So economic insecurity isn't the exception, but the rule. Another recent survey found that:
Fewer than one in four Americans have enough money in their savings account to cover at least six months of expenses, enough to help cushion the blow of a job loss, medical emergency or some other unexpected event, according to the survey of 1,000 adults. Meanwhile, 50 percent of those surveyed have less than a three-month cushion and 27 percent had no savings at all.
The consequences of all this plays out in numerous ways in people's day-to-day lives.
For example, bouts of unemployment can have serious, lasting impacts on those affected, even for those who find another job. Unemployment is associated with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, as well as chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
For children, "poverty experienced at any stage of the child's development is associated with reduced cognitive outcomes," according to researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia.
Increasingly, a period of unemployment can trigger a longer term, if not permanent, drop in living standards. According to the National Employment Law Project, during the Great Recession, 60 percent of lost jobs were at the middle level of wages, paying between $13.84 and $21.13 an hour, but only 22 percent of new jobs in the recover fell into this category. By contrast, low-wage jobs accounted for 58 percent of all new jobs created in the recovery.
Many of these new jobs are in retail and fast food, where workers are often forced to work multiple jobs and still fail to make ends meet. As Terrance Wise, a worker at Pizza Hut and Burger King in Kansas City, who went on strike this month to demand $15 per hour, told Democracy Now!:
I have three lovely daughters and an equally lovable fiancée. And I'm working two jobs at about 50, 60 hours a week, so I'm leaving in the morning...and my daughters were still sleeping. When I get off tonight, they will probably be asleep again. So it's consecutive days where I don't get to see my daughters... That's one element that's really the hardest...
It's just an everyday hustle. I use public transportation every day, so I have to leave early to get to work. So I'm gone 15, 17 hours a day. It's just really hard--a struggle every day.
The flip side of that struggle--and of the fact that vast majority of people in the country live in poverty now, have lived in poverty in the past, or will in the future--is that a relatively small minority has amassed such fantastic wealth that they will never have to worry about going without, even if they never earn another cent.
The 400 richest Americans, with a total net worth of $1.7 trillion as of last year, were worth an average of $4.2 billion each, enough to support over 89,000 families of four at 200 percent of the poverty level for an entire year.
It is no coincidence that overall corporate profits, measured as a share of the gross domestic product, are at record highs while overall wages are at record lows as a percentage of the GDP. The threat of economic insecurity is an important part of discouraging workers' struggles and increasing profits at the expense of the living standards of the vast majority. The personal experience of going without--and the constant reminder from seeing family, friends and others in the community deal with stretches of poverty and unemployment--sends the message that workers who step out of line can face the same fate.

The research covered in the AP feature shows growth in the rates of white poverty, something often overlooked in mainstream media accounts. According to AP:
By race, nonwhites still have a higher risk of being economically insecure, at 90 percent. But compared with the official poverty rate, some of the biggest jumps under the newer measure are among whites, with more than 76 percent enduring periods of joblessness, life on welfare or near-poverty.
According to the Census Bureau, there were more than 19 million non-Latino whites living below the poverty line in 2011, compared to 11 million African Americans and 13 million Latinos.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that 36.9 percent of food stamp recipients are non-Latino whites, while 22.8 percent are Black and 9.6 percent are Latino(the race of recipients was unknown in 18.4 percent of cases, according to the USDA). Blacks, whites and Latinos each accounted for roughly the same percentage--between 30 and 32 percent--of recipients of the main welfare program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
Despite these facts, poverty in the U.S. is often racialized by political leaders--more often and more brazenly by Republicans, but by Democrats, too. The common stereotype about these government programs is that they benefit an "undeserving" (read: Black) minority, not workers of all races.
Ronald Reagan, for example, explicitly made race a part of his caricature of Cadillac-driving (Black) "welfare queens" and "young bucks" who were taking advantage of hard-working (white) "taxpayers." During the 2012 Republican primaries, Newt Gingrich recycled the same racist filth when he called Obama the "food stamp president."
But Democrats have latched on to the same stereotypes when they were the ones wielding the budget act. It was a Democrat, Bill Clinton, who promised to "end welfare as we have come to know it"--and carried through his campaign pledge when he signed the "Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act." Likewise, Hillary Clinton, in her losing bid for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, was playing the same racist game when she claimed she was better positioned than Barack Obama to win the support of "hard-working Americans, white Americans."
The facts, however, undermine these commonly used stereotypes. As the AP pointed out, "For the first time since 1975, the number of white single-mother households living in poverty with children surpassed or equaled Black ones in the past decade, spurred by job losses and faster rates of out-of-wedlock births among whites."
The fact that widespread poverty and insecurity crosses racial lines on the one hand, but that racist stereotypes are used to justify attacks on social programs that benefit the majority on the other, means that struggles for economic and racial justice must be intertwined in order for either one to be successful. Those who seek to defend and extend unemployment insurance, welfare, food stamps and other benefits that help working people must challenge the racism used to undermine them--while those who seek racial justice must also struggle for economic justice.
On this 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, it is important to remember that the civil rights demonstrators were demanding jobs and freedom. The calls for racial and economic justice were linked, as they were again in the Poor Peoples' Campaign that Martin Luther King Jr. would help launch a few years later. Speaking of the campaign, King called it "a new co-operation, understanding, and a determination by poor people of all colors and backgrounds to assert and win their right to a decent life and respect for their culture and dignity."
That struggle for the right to a decent life is still with us today.

The Surprising Truth About Government Fraud

Did You Know ...



Government programs, from food stamps to Medicare, don't have unusually high fraud rates -- and the culprits are usually managers and executives, not "welfare queens."



I’ll never forget the day after Christmas 2005, standing alongside my car, which was tilted at a 45-degree angle in the ditch that passed for a curb alongside a pitted, crumbling road. As the sky darkened, not a light glowed anywhere within sight; neither a single police car nor any other sign of public authority appeared for hour after gloomy hour. I was in post-Katrina New Orleans.I’d been asked by the State of Louisiana to advise on the design of programs to aid homeowners dispossessed by the hurricane -- what ultimately became known as the “Road Home” program. I don’t claim to know much about housing policy, but I do know about the ways governments screw things up. I quickly recognized a classic case in the making.
The receding waters in the Gulf had left behind the conditions for a perfect storm of fraud: hundreds of thousands of poor people clamoring for billions of dollars of federal aid that needed to get out the door as quickly as possible. As a result, post-Katrina discussions were shaped by the perceived need to ensure multiple safeguards and to move slowly in releasing the intended aid.
I thought that was backward. If the money were made more easily available, there would have been more fraud. But if the program had stated upfront that ill-gotten gains would be met with fierce investigation and prosecution on the back end, it could have distributed the cash faster, enabling more people to rebuild their homes, and their lives, much quicker. Instead, it was two to three years before most victims started receiving any money. Two and a half years after the storm, nearly 40 percent still had not received a cent.
Meanwhile, there was fraud anyway. The federal government reported about $500 million of it -- or a little less than 10 percent of the total aid payout. Most of this wasn’t undeserving poor people ripping off the system just so they could get a new house in one of the grimmest neighborhoods in the country. More frequently, it was undeserving middle-class people ripping off the system to pocket the money for themselves. It turns out fraud was rampant among officials at government agencies and even charities. The resulting federal report was so scathing that some of these folks actually gave back $18.2 million in fraudulent gains; no one knows how much more disappeared. Those who did properly receive payments were often ripped off by shifty contractors and, as a result, never able to rebuild their homes.
None of this was unique or unpredictable, however -- because the problem with fraud isn’t government programs or beneficiaries. It’s that fraud losses are a cost of doing business in just about everything.






According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), the typical business loses 5 percent of its revenue to fraud each year. Even when detected, 40 to 50 percent of victimized companies don’t recover their losses. The industries most likely to be victims of fraud are the banking and financial sector; government and public administration; and manufacturing. I can’t quite figure why manufacturing is on the list, but it’s easy to conjecture that banks and governments are frequent targets of fraud because they’re in the business of handing out money. But as ACFE reports -- and as we just saw in the Katrina example -- it’s usually managers and executives who commit the worst fraud.It’s not easy to get agreement on actual fraud levels in government programs. Unsurprisingly, liberals say they’re low, while conservatives insist they’re astronomically high. In truth, it varies from program to program. One government report says fraud accounts for less than 2 percent of unemployment insurance payments. It’s seemingly impossible to find statistics on “welfare” (i.e., TANF) fraud, but the best guess is that it’s about the same. A bevy of inspector general reports found “improper payment” levels of 20 to 40 percent in state TANF programs -- but when you look at the reports, the payments appear all to be due to bureaucratic incompetence (categorized by the inspector general as either “eligibility and payment calculation errors” or “documentation errors”), rather than intentional fraud by beneficiaries.
A similar story emerges with everyone’s favorite punching bag, food stamps (or, as they’re known today, SNAP). Earlier this year, Senator John Thune of South Dakota and Rep. Marlin Stutzman of Indiana, both Republicans, introduced legislation to save $30 billion over 10 years from SNAP, purportedly by “eliminating loopholes, waste, fraud, and abuse.” Once you dig into their fact sheet, however, none of the savings actually come from fraud, but rather from cutting funding and tightening benefits. That’s probably because fraud levels in SNAP appear to be as low as with the other “pure welfare” programs we just touched on: “Payment error” rates -- money sent in incorrect amounts and/or to the wrong people -- have declined from near 10 percent a decade ago to 3 to 4 percent today, most of it due, again, to government error, not active fraud. The majority of food-stamp fraud appears to be generated by supermarkets “trafficking” in the food stamps. Beneficiaries intentionally ripping off the taxpayers account for perhaps 1 percent of payments.
No one knows for sure how much Medicaid and Medicare fraud there is. According to the FBI, the cost for Medicare fraud is anywhere from 3 to 10 percent, while Attorney General Eric Holder estimates $60 to $90 billion in fraud in Medicare and almost the same amount in Medicaid fraud -- approaching 20 percent. While nowhere near as large as Medicare and Medicaid, the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) programs are each estimated to be paying about 10 percent of their expenditures in fraudulent claims.
To round out the picture, you can toss in defense contractor fraud -- perhaps as much as another $100 billion per year, roughly in the same range as Medicare and Medicaid combined. All told, fraud in federal programs may come to $300 billion a year or about 10 percent of the budget (as with financial services). Simply cutting that in half, to the average fraud levels in the private sector -- which, as we’ve seen, the federal government has done in recent years with error rates in SNAP – would achieve as much in savings as the entire sequester. Fraud doesn’t consume government, and eliminating it -- as I previously discussed with waste -- won’t solve the deficit problem.
But it would help. A number of techniques have been developed for identifying fraud and its perpetrators:
  • Tap the profit motive. Florida uses private-sector audits conducted in return for a portion of the money recovered from fraudsters.
  • Cross-reference benefit-recipient lists. Cross-referencing databases of social benefit recipients can cut down on fraud, such as recipients who did not disclose income from one programs that would make them ineligible for another; prisoners collecting benefits to which they are no longer entitled, like unemployment; or those who are simply dead.
  • Use new technologies. Artificial-intelligence detection systems are programmed to learn normal billing patterns and identify aberrant billing activities. The systems can also identify collusion between provider networks.
  • Do it the old-fashioned way -- just more. Research has shown that the typical anti-Medicaid-fraud worker recovers, on average, $200,000 per year. As unpopular as it is to say, sometimes hiring more government workers saves taxpayer money.
  • Enlist beneficiaries in fighting fraud. This may sound heretical to government-haters, but the fact is that any program’s intended beneficiaries aren’t the problem -- they’re the stakeholders. Road Home beneficiaries reported fraudulent claimants. Medicare and Medicaid patients have been enlisted to spot billing fraud.
And that takes us back to the main point:  For the most part, fraud isn’t the product of scheming low-income beneficiaries -- Mitt Romney’s 47 percent -- living high on the hog on your dime, but rather someone other than the beneficiary standing to make a buck off it. Medicare and Medicaid fraud is largely committed not by patients -- very few people are trying to rip off taxpayers to obtain unneeded spinal taps or root canals -- but by providers: unscrupulous (or sometimes just incompetent) doctors and hospitals billing for procedures the patient didn’t need or didn’t receive.
A landmark 2012 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association not only found that fraud rates are consistent across both government programs and wholly private health care; it also concluded that a “less harmful strategy” than the “common” approach “to contain costs us[ing] cuts, such as reductions in payment levels, benefit structures, and eligibility” would be to “reduce waste” -- mostly on the provider side. “The savings potentially achievable from systematic, comprehensive, and cooperative pursuit of even a fractional reduction in waste are far higher than from more direct and blunter cuts in care and coverage.”
Combatting fraud requires efforts and investments that target the real perpetrators, not cheap shots at beneficiaries and reflexive cuts in their programs. There are, after all, equal levels of fraud and theft in other fields, most notably finance -- but we don’t try to reduce it by shutting down the entire industry and blaming the customers.

Colorado repugican cabal Probe of Alleged Voter Fraud Comes up Empty

Lunatic Fringe
The Republican Secretary of State's investigation of alleged voter fraud is more a political wild goose chase than it is a serious attempt to root out actual voter…
Colorado GOP Probe of Alleged Voter Fraud Comes up Empty
A month ago, Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler (r) sent a letter to Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garrett requesting that he verify the eligibility of seventeen voters suspected of illegally voting as non-citizens. The suspicion was apparently based on the seventeen voters submitting a green card or work visa as identification when they applied for their Colorado driver’s licenses. Garnett’s office was able to easily verify that all seventeen voters were in fact legal US citizens who were eligible to vote and that none of the  voters had broken any election laws. Garnett questioned the motives of the Secretary of State ‘s probe, stating:

The truth hurts

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The 'Real Voter Fraud' Edition

Guilt by Association

Odds and Sods



These are Not Dirty Words

Although they might look like it, none of the words or expression listed below is in any way dirty, and to prove it we're giving you the correct definitions. But use them at your own risk.

Bed Load: Solid particles, like the pebbles in a stream, that are carried along by flowing water.

Titbits: The British spelling for the word "tidbits." Tit-Bits was the name of of a British weekly magazine published from 1881 to 1984.

Loose Smutt: A fungus that attacks wheat crops.

Oxpecker: A small bird native to sub-Saharan Africa. Also known as tick birds, they eat parasites that infest the hides of livestock.

Dick Test: If your doctor suspects you have scarlet fever, you may be given this diagnostic test invented by Dr. George Dick and his wife Gladys in 1924.

Vaginicola: A singled-celled organism found in pond water.

Crack Spread: The difference in value between unrefined crude oil and the products that can be made by refining, or "cracking" the oil.

F-holes: The f-shaped sound holes cut into the front of violins, cellos, and other stringed instruments.

Rump Party: In British politics, when one faction of a political party breaks away to merge with or form a new party, the faction left behind is known as the "rump party."

Urinator: A person who dives underwater in search of pearls, sunken treasure, or other riches.

Spermophile: A genus, or grouping of more than 20 species of ground squirrel.

Crap Mats: The name of a mountain in the Swiss Alps.

Fucoid: An adjective that means "having to do with seaweed."

Fucose: A type of sugar found in human breast milk and in seaweed.

Titubate: To stumble, either in step or in speech.

Dickcissel: A species of finch native to the U.S.

Man who filled soon to be ex-wife's hot tub with manure arrested after police tractor chase

Odds and Sods

A Quebec man is facing charges after he allegedly filled his estranged wife's hot tub with manure after being served with divorce papers.
On Tuesday morning, Quebec provincial police were called to a house in the small town of Sainte-Émélie-de-l'Énergie, located about an hour and a half north of Montreal, after receiving a mischief complaint. “On site, the officers saw a man with a tractor placing manure in the spa, or the hot tub, of his ex-wife and [at] the front door,” said Sûreté du Québec Sgt. Audrey-Anne Bilodeau.
The man allegedly refused to stop when ordered to by police and then tried to take off on the tractor. Police soon caught up with him. “He was arrested within minutes,” Bilodeau said. “One police officer was injured, but from what I heard it was only minor injuries.”

The suspect is a retired police officer and had just received notice that his estranged wife had started divorce proceedings. He had to be subdued with pepper spray. A 64-year-old man faces four charges, including hit and run and assaulting a police officer. He appeared in court in Joliette and has been released pending his next court date.

World's Largest Ship

Odds and Sods
The world's largest ship, which has just set sail from the South Korean port of Busan, is 1312 feet (400m) long. It reaches as high as a 20-storey building and can carry 18,000 standard 20f containers.

The Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller set sail on its maiden voyage from Busan in South Korea on July 16 and is due in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, on August 16. The ship has been designed to move at a lower speed (16 knots, or approximately 30 kh/h) for the purposes of better fuel economy and lower carbon emissions.

The World's Smallest Mona Lisa

Odds and Sods

Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology have painted the smallest-ever image of Mona Lisa.

The painting was created using an atomic force microscope and a process called 'Thermo Chemical Nano Lithography' and is painted on a substrate that is 30 microns in width or about one-third the width of a human hair.

The painting by Keith Carroll from Georgia Tech proves that it is possible to create nanoscale devices using the latest technique as it could control concentration of molecules on small-scale.

What 1939 Thought Fashion in 2000 Would Look Like

Odds and Sods
It's Saturday. It's hot. Why not look at retro-futuristic fashion predictions from 1939? Okay.
In this British Pathé clip, fashion designers predict what the future of fashion will be. It mostly involves removable sleeves and adjustable-length gowns, though there is a nifty cantilevered heel design shown. But my favorite is the one male outfit shown at the end, which predicts that the man will carry "a telephone, a radio, and containers for coins, keys, and candy for cuties." That's...partly accurate. Okay, roll the minute of odd fun:

Ziggy

Daily Comic Relief
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The 'Philosophy' Edition

Some 3,000-year-old nomad shields excavated in Xinjiang

Scientific Minds Want To Know
Archaeologists have excavated a set of stone shields in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region which they believe were used in sacrifices by nomads nearly 3,000 years ago.
3,000-year-old nomad shields excavated in Xinjiang
Stone shields which is believed to be 3,000-year-old nomad shields have been
discovered in Northwest China's Xinjiang autonomous
region [Credit: Xinhua]
The shields were discovered by Huahaizi (sea of flowers) Lake in the Altai mountains, which borders Mongolia. The lake shore meadow is home to huge stone relics, including what archaeologists believe to be the largest temple of sun on the Eurasian steppe. The area is strewn with numerous deer stones.

The shields are pentagonal stones, one with a circle carved in the center, surrounded by a herringbone pattern.

"Initial researches show the shields could date back to the late Bronze Age, roughly 3,000 years ago," said Lyu Enguo, researcher with Xinjiang's archaeological institute.

Lyu describes the discovery as a "breakthrough" for research on the life of ancient nomads.

Experts from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and the cultural relic bureaus of Altay Prefecture and Qinghe County started the excavation in July to find ways of better protecting the relics.

Badly affected by earthquake and climate change, the stone complex has been eroded by the lake water, and will be further damaged if protective measures are not taken as soon as possible.

Archaeologists have compared the patterns carved on the shield with those on deer stones. Pentagons and herringbone are on many deer stones found on the Eurasian steppe.

Deer stones are ancient megaliths carved with symbols that can be found all over the world, but are largely concentrated in Siberia and Mongolia. The name comes from their carved depictions of flying deer. There are many theories behind their existence and the people who made them, but expert opinion remains divided.

The patterns at the current site are especially similar to those on deer stones from Mongolia's Khovsgol Province, roughly 2,000 km away to the east, said Lyu.

Experts believe the stone shields were not used for combat, but for sacrifices after they were blessed and dedicated.

"They are most likely to be ritual objects for high-level sacrifices, to drive out evil spirits,"  said Guo Wu, associate researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Modern Shaman often wear small shields as ritual objects. The discovery of these shields may show that such practices date date back to at least 1,000 years ago, said Guo.

Between the late Bronze Age and the early Iron Age, residents on the steppe switched a society based on livestock - mobile pastoralism - to nomadic. Nomadic culture was prosperous at the time in the Altai Mountains.

"The stone complex which experts believe to be ritual sites for ancient nomads, provides important material for research on social and economic evolution in the Eurasian steppe," said Guo.

"It also offers us a rare look at ancient nomads' spiritual world, which mainly focused on Shamanism," Guo added.

Archaeologists have also excavated an exquisitely well-preserved deer stone carved with deer head, with a dagger at the center, an arrow quiver on the left and a battleaxe on the right.

Recent researches by Lin Meicun, professor with Peking University, showed that the site is most likely to be left by Arimaspi, who occupied the Sayan and Altai region since the eighth century BC.

World's oldest temple built to worship the dog star?

Scientific Minds Want To Know
The world's oldest temple, Göbekli Tepe in southern Turkey, may have been built to worship the dog star, Sirius.
World's oldest temple built to worship the dog star?
The original star sign? [Credit: Vincent J. Musi/National Geographic]
The 11,000-year-old site consists of a series of at least 20 circular enclosures, although only a few have been uncovered since excavations began in the mid-1990s. Each one is surrounded by a ring of huge, T-shaped stone pillars, some of which are decorated with carvings of fierce animals. Two more megaliths stand parallel to each other at the centre of each ring.

Göbekli Tepe put a dent in the idea of the Neolithic revolution, which said that the invention of agriculture spurred humans to build settlements and develop civilisation, art and religion. There is no evidence of agriculture near the temple, hinting that religion came first in this instance.

"We have a lot of contemporaneous sites which are settlements of hunter-gatherers. Göbekli Tepe was a sanctuary site for people living in these settlements," says Klaus Schmidt, chief archaeologist for the project at the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) in Berlin.

But it is still anybody's guess what type of religion the temple served. Giulio Magli, an archaeoastronomer at the Polytechnic University of Milan in Italy, looked to the night sky for an answer. After all, the arrangement of the pillars at Stonehenge in the UK suggests it could have been built as an astronomical observatory, maybe even to worship the moon.

Magli simulated what the sky would have looked like from Turkey when Göbekli Tepe was built. Over millennia, the positions of the stars change due to Earth wobbling as it spins on its axis. Stars that are near the horizon will rise and set at different points, and they can even disappear completely, only to reappear thousands of years later.

World's oldest temple built to worship the dog star?
Pillars at Göbekli Tepe in southern Turkey seem to align with the rising of Sirius, hinting that the bright star may have triggered a frenzy of religious construction [Crediy: NewScientist]
Today, Sirius can be seen almost worldwide as the brightest star in the sky – excluding the sun – and the fourth brightest night-sky object after the moon, Venus and Jupiter. Sirius is so noticeable that its rising and setting was used as the basis for the ancient Egyptian calendar, says Magli. At the latitude of Göbekli Tepe, Sirius would have been below the horizon until around 9300 BC, when it would have suddenly popped into view.

"I propose that the temple was built to follow the 'birth' of this star," says Magli. "You can imagine that the appearance of a new object in the sky could even have triggered a new religion."

Using existing maps of Göbekli Tepe and satellite images of the region, Magli drew an imaginary line running between and parallel to the two megaliths inside each enclosure. Three of the excavated rings seem to be aligned with the points on the horizon where Sirius would have risen in 9100 BC, 8750 BC and 8300 BC, respectively.

The results are preliminary, Magli stresses. More accurate calculations will need a full survey using instruments such as a theodolite, a device for measuring horizontal and vertical angles. Also, the sequence in which the structures were built is unclear, so it is hard to say if rings were built to follow Sirius as it rose at different points along the horizon.

Ongoing excavations might rule out any astronomical significance, says Jens Notroff, also at DAI. "We are still discussing whether the monumental enclosures at Göbekli Tepe were open or roofed," he says. "In the latter case, any activity regarding monitoring the sky would, of course, have been rather difficult."

"Cat people" vampire burials

Scientific Minds Want To Know
Archaeologists excavating the site of future road construction near the town of Gliwice in Silesia, southern Poland, discovered four skeletons buried with their heads between their knees. Stones were placed on the skulls. Further digging unearthed another nine skeletons buried with their heads out of place. Eleven were found with the skull between the legs, one with skull between the hands, two with the skull perched directly on the shoulders. Most of the skeletons found buried this way appear to be female.

Putting the head anywhere but on top of the neck was a common folk practice in Slavic countries for ensuring that the dead would not rise from the grave to harry the living. The idea was that if the dead person attempted to rise, without her head in place she wouldn’t be able to see his victims or even coordinate the climb out of the grave...

There were no grave goods, not even the remains of clothing like buttons, in the initial discoveries that could give an idea of when they were buried. The ritual was in regular use in Poland from the arrival of Christianity in the 10th century until the First World War (the last known vampire burial in Poland took place in the east-central village of Old Mierzwice in 1914), so that doesn’t help narrow it down...

Osteological examination has already returned extraordinary results: the eye sockets are much larger than average while the nasomaxillary area (the part between the nose and the upper jaw) is narrower than average. This would have given them a cat-like appearance, a genetic mutation that suggests the deceased are related and that might explain why this group of people were seen as dangerous by their community.
More information at The History Blog.

What's The Difference Between White Eggs And Brown Eggs?

Scientific Minds Want To Know
We've all noticed the difference in price at the grocery store as we stand scratching our heads, but have you ever stopped to wonder what the difference really is between white and brown eggs?

Most of us inevitably choose whichever eggs are on sale, or we just buy the color egg we've always bought. Well, it turns out there actually is a difference between white and brown eggs.

Science News

Scientific Minds Want To Know







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