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


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Daily Drift

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Today in History

1327   Edward II of England is deposed by his eldest son, Edward III.  
1616   The French explorer Samuel de Champlain arrives to winter in a Huron Indian village after being wounded in a battle with Iroquois in New France.  
1783   Britain signs a peace agreement with France and Spain, who allied against it in the American War of Independence.  
1908   The Sullivan Ordinance bars women from smoking in public facilities in the United States.  
1930   Charles Lindbergh arrives in New York, setting a cross country flying record of 14.75 hours.
1935   Belgium arrests some Nazi agitators who urge for a return to the Reich.  
1941   Hitler meets with Mussolini and offers aid in Albania and Greece.  
1942   Nazi officials meet in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee to decide the "Final Solution of the Jewish Question."
1944   Allied forces in Italy begin unsuccessful operations to cross the Rapido River and seize Cassino.  
1945   Franklin D. Roosevelt is inaugurated for his fourth term.  
1945   The Allies sign a truce with the Hungarians.  
1946   France's Charles DeGaulle hands in his resignation.  
1952   British troops occupy Ismalia, Egypt.  
1954   Over 22,000 anti-Communist prisoners are turned over to UN forces in Korea.  
1977   President Jimmy Carter is sworn in and then surprises the nation as he walks from the U.S. Capitol to the White House.  
1981   Ronny Raygun becomes pretender at the same time 52 American hostages are released from their captors in Tehran, Iran.

Obama Drops A Saturday Night Bombshell On repugicans With Tax Plan That Targets The Rich

Obama tax plan
President Obama dropped a Saturday night bomb on repugicans by announcing a new tax plan that would provide tax breaks for the middle class while forcing the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share.
The White House laid out the president’s plan via a fact sheet:
Closing One of the Biggest Tax Loopholes – the Trust Fund Loophole: The President will propose to close the single largest capital gains loophole, which lets hundreds of billions of dollars escape taxation each year, to ensure the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share on inherited assets.

Raising the Total Top Capital Gains and Dividends Rate Back to the Level Under President Reagan: The President will propose to raise the top capital gains rate to 28 percent – the rate under President Reagan.

Making the Biggest Financial Firms Pay Their Fair Share: The President will continue to reform the way the largest financial firms do business by proposing a fee on the biggest financial firms, making it more costly for them to borrow heavily.
The President proposes to use the savings produced by these measures to reinvest in the middle class, helping millions of families each year and strengthening their standing in the 21st century economy:
Helping Working Families: The President will lay out a new $500 second earner credit to help cover the additional costs faced by families where both spouses work – benefiting 24 million couples.
Tripling the Child Care Tax Credit: The President’s proposal would streamline and dramatically expand child care tax benefits, providing up to $3,000 per child under 5, and helping 5.1 million families cover child care costs for 6.7 million children.
Making College Accessible and Affordable: The President’s plan reforms the education tax system by consolidating six overlapping education provisions into just two and providing students up to $2,500 a year toward completing a college degree. His plan cuts taxes for 8.5 million families and students and simplifies taxes for the more than 25 million families and students that claim education tax benefits. The President has also proposed to make the first two years of community college free to any hardworking student.

Saving for Retirement: The President’s plan makes it easy and automatic for workers to save for retirement – giving 30 million more workers the opportunity to easily save for retirement through their employer.
President Obama’s plan directly targets the mechanisms that the wealthiest Americans use to avoid paying taxes. For example, this plan would cause an exponential increase in Mitt Romney’s federal tax bill.
The president has once again beaten the repugicans to the punch. While Boehner and McConnell were focused on corporate tax reform, President Obama has announced a plan that would be a step towards addressing the growing gap between the very rich and everyone else.
President Obama’s plan will cut taxes for 8.5 million families and students. The repugicans will now have to decide if they are willing to argue against the very tax cuts that they claim to love.
Obama has dropped another bomb on the repugican cabal, and repugicans have revealed themselves to be over-matched and inept against this powerful president.

Get the Facts on President Obama’s Middle Class Tax Cut Plan

The following is a summation of President Obama's tax code proposals as well as a PDF fact sheet, both as provided by the White House.…
obama accomplishments and legacy
Saturday evening, President Obama dropped a policy bombshell on repugicans and the nation, introducing a tax proposal that targets the rich to pay their fair share. The following is a summation of President Obama’s tax code proposals as well as a PDF fact sheet, both as provided to the press by the White House.
FACT SHEET: A Simpler, Fairer Tax Code That Responsibly Invests in Middle Class Families
In the lead up to the State of the Union address, the President has put forward proposals to help strengthen the middle class and build on the progress we have made to create good jobs and grow our economy. From proposing to make community college free for every responsible student and extending sick leave to working families, to acting on his own to cut mortgage premiums by $900 for families looking to buy a home, the President has already taken steps to ensure that all Americans can share in the benefits of our economic recovery.
Over the past six years, we’ve rescued and begun to rebuild our economy on a new foundation. Now we have to build on this progress, to raise wages and incomes, and strengthen the standing of working families in a new economy. On Tuesday, the President will lay out his vision for how to do that. A key part of that vision will include a new strategy to simplify our complex tax code, make it fairer by eliminating some of the biggest loopholes, and use the savings to responsibly pay for the investments we need to help middle class families get ahead and grow the economy.
The President’s plan will eliminate the biggest loopholes that let the wealthiest and big corporations avoid paying their fair share of taxes:
Closing One of the Biggest Tax Loopholes – the Trust Fund Loophole: The President will propose to close the single largest capital gains loophole, which lets hundreds of billions of dollars escape taxation each year, to ensure the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share on inherited assets.
Raising the Total Top Capital Gains and Dividends Rate Back to the Level Under President Reagan: The President will propose to raise the top capital gains rate to 28 percent – the rate under President Reagan.
Making the Biggest Financial Firms Pay Their Fair Share: The President will continue to reform the way the largest financial firms do business by proposing a fee on the biggest financial firms, making it more costly for them to borrow heavily.
The President proposes to use the savings produced by these measures to reinvest in the middle class, helping millions of families each year and strengthening their standing in the 21st century economy:
Helping Working Families: The President will lay out a new $500 second earner credit to help cover the additional costs faced by families where both spouses work – benefiting 24 million couples.
Tripling the Child Care Tax Credit: The President’s proposal would streamline and dramatically expand child care tax benefits, providing up to $3,000 per child under 5, and helping 5.1 million families cover child care costs for 6.7 million children.
Making College Accessible and Affordable: The President’s plan reforms the education tax system by consolidating six overlapping education provisions into just two and providing students up to $2,500 a year toward completing a college degree. His plan cuts taxes for 8.5 million families and students and simplifies taxes for the more than 25 million families and students that claim education tax benefits. The President has also proposed to make the first two years of community college free to any hardworking student.
Saving for Retirement: The President’s plan makes it easy and automatic for workers to save for retirement – giving 30 million more workers the opportunity to easily save for retirement through their employer.
The President’s proposals to take these and other steps to make the tax system more fair will also finance the his plan to make community college free for responsible students and additional investments in improving child care quality, access, and affordability for working families.
End White House fact sheet.
Read the full FactSheet

Bernie’s On Board: Senator Sanders Stands With President Obama On Tax Cut Plan

Senator Bernie Sanders announced that he is supporting the president’s plan to cut taxes for the middle class while closing loopholes that the wealthiest Americans use to avoid paying their fair share. Sanders said, “President Obama’s plan moves us in the right direction.”
In a statement Senator Sanders said:
bernie sanders supports obama tax cut
“At a time of obscene levels of income and wealth inequality, President Obama’s plan moves us in the right direction. I look forward to working with the administration to adopt a tax system that eliminates unfair tax loopholes that only benefit the wealthiest people and largest corporations and to increase the take-home pay of working Americans.”
The Obama plan to cut taxes for the middle class while raising capital gains taxes on wealthiest Americans should enjoy broad support within Democratic caucuses of the House and Senate. Obama’s proposal is the first shot in what could be a year-long battle over tax reform. The repugicans thought they could get President Obama to agree to corporate tax reform, but they now know that the reforms they are seeking will come at a price.
Senator Sanders (I-VT) will be using his power position as the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee to push the president’s plan for tax cuts for those who have been harmed the most by the gap between the rich and the poor. The repugicans who are opposing the president’s plan are arguing that the wealthiest among us should not have to pay their fair share in taxes. In November 2014, Bernie Sanders and other congressional liberals teamed up with President Obama to kill a plan to give $440 billion in tax cuts to corporations. Senator Sanders blasted the corporate tax cut plan, “This tax cut agreement does exactly the wrong things. At a time of massive wealth and income inequality, it extends huge tax cuts to the rich and large corporations while threatening programs that help low-income children.”
The tax cut debate is a debate about values and priorities. The repugicans are committed to building an oligarchy by redistributing resources to those who already have the most. Democrats and their allies firmly believe that the middle class must be rebuilt and that strong economies grow from the middle out instead of top down.
Members of the congressional Democratic caucuses are standing with President Obama on his tax plan, which means that the repugican plan to divide Obama and his allies just became a lot more difficult.

Paul Ryan Responds To Obama Tax Cut With Lies And Calls For Tax Hikes On The Middle Class

Paul Ryan responded to President Obama’s plan to cut taxes for the middle class by lying about the president’s plan and calling for a tax increase on the middle class.
paul-ryan-this-week
Obama’s tax plan closes loopholes that the super-rich and corporations use to avoid paying their share of taxes while giving millions of middle-class families a tax cut. In a statement, Paul Ryan’s office responded by calling for tax cuts on the rich and tax increases for the middle class. Ryan spokesperson Brendan Buck said, “This is not a serious proposal. We lift families up and grow the economy with a simpler, flatter tax code, not big tax increases to pay for more Washington spending.”
What Ryan means by a flatter tax code can be found in each of his four budget. Paul Ryan’s flatter tax means cutting taxes for those at the top while eliminating deductions and tax breaks for everyone else. The Center For Budget and Policy Priorities broke down Ryan’s 2013 budget and found that in order to cut taxes on the wealthy, Ryan’s plan would raise taxes on the middle class, “As explained below, even with the same dramatic scaling back of tax expenditures for filers with incomes above $200,000 that TPC examined in its Romney analysis — including entirely wiping out their deductions for mortgage interest and charitable giving — families with children that have incomes below $200,000 would have to face tax increases averaging more than $3,000 a year, if policymakers were to avoid increasing the deficit while reaching Chairman Ryan’s 25-percent top-tax-rate goal.”
Ryan’s (r-WI) entire philosophy is centered around redistributing wealth to the rich. Ryan is the biggest proponent of the trickle down fairy tale. Each of  Ryan’s budgets has been built around the fantasy that the economy will grow if the super rich don’t pay any taxes. The philosophy that repugicans are trying to defend does not work.
“Almost all of the stimulative effect of tax cuts,” Zidar found, “results from tax cuts for the bottom 90%. A one percent of GDP tax cut for the bottom 90% results in 2.7 percentage points of GDP growth over a two-year period. The corresponding estimate for the top 10% is 0.13 percentage points and is insignificant statistically.”
Paul Ryan responded to the president’s proposal to do something that has been proven to work by proposing a course of action that has never worked.
The repugicans are married to a failed ideology that keeps the checks coming in from their rich backers, but will never create economic prosperity.

Reeling repugicans Can’t Find A Legitimate Reason To Be Against Obama’s Tax Plans

obama immigration address
Just hours after President Obama unveiled his tax proposal Saturday night that ask corporations and the rich to their part and stop forcing the middle class to bear the brunt of the burden, repugicans are already wailing about taxes and fear-mongering, claiming the proposals will hurt the middle class, tax cuts for the middle class don’t help the economy (LOL), and the usual cries of liberty (for the rich).
However, there is no legitimate reason why repugicans, who claim to be all about tax cuts, won’t help the President reform the tax code in a way that stops abusing the middle class. Matt O’Brien, who covers economic affairs for the Washington Post, explained in a tweet, “Obama wants to increase taxes on rentiers & heirs, 99 percent of which would come from the top 1 percent.”
In fact, some of Obama’s plan would hit the top .001 percent, according to O’Brien’s calculations in the Washington Post, and it incentivizes work for middle class families.
Obama’s State of the Union, you see, will call for $320 billion of new taxes on rentiers, their heirs, and the big banks to pay for $175 billion of tax credits that will reward work. In other words, it’s fighting a two-front war against a Piketty-style oligarchy where today’s hedge funders become tomorrow’s trust funders. First, it’s trying to slow the seemingly endless accumulation of wealth among the top 1, and really the top 0.1, no actually the top 0.001, percent by raising capital gains taxes on them while they’re living and raising them on their heirs when they’re dead. And second, it’s trying to help the middle help itself by subsidizing work, child care, and education.
Basically, President Obama is trying to reinvigorate the notion this country was founded on — opportunity if you’re willing to work hard. Seems like everything repugicans claim they are for. And in fact, some of Obama’s proposals are ideas repugicans can agree to or have even touted in the past.
But we all know that repugicans won’t give the middle class a break if it involves having corporations/ the rich pay their fair share.
The problem for repugicans is that this is a set up for 2016, and so repugicans can’t very well tell the middle class to get lost.
This is why repugicans’ new argument seems to be heading toward “Only tax cuts for rich people grow the economy.” The repugicans have only two other choices: Pushing the flat tax, which unfairly burdens the poor and middle class, or pushing their old tired stand by that when they are in power, “deficits don’t matter”.

Despite Kansas’ Continuing Economic Disaster, Sam Brownback Promises To Abolish Taxes

Kansas repugican Sam Brownback touted his trickle down tax cutting experiment would produce a bonanza in jobs, revenue, and economic growth the entire nation would marvel at  …
brownback governorMost human beings learn early in life that conducting an experiment by sticking their hand in a fire will result in them feeling intense pain. However, if they are vicious and cruel they will never hesitate to see what happens if they stick someone else’s hand in the same fire. Kansas repugican Sam Brownback touted his trickle down tax cutting experiment would produce a bonanza in jobs, revenue, and economic growth the entire nation would marvel at and cause the rich no pain. Of course, the results have been exactly the opposite with Kansas residents and state government experiencing all the pain that a leader with an ounce of compassion would do anything to relieve; unless they are a repugican committed to the Koch brothers and Grover Norquist’s vision of abolishing income taxes as a means of abolishing government once and for all.
When Brownback first proposed giving away a $600 million budget surplus courtesy of his Democratic predecessor and add in another $1.2 billion for tax cuts for the rich and corporations, he knew the effects on the state would be devastating to the people. In fact, the recently ‘former’ head of the repugican cabal warned Brownback at the time his trickle down tax cuts for the rich “will bankrupt the state within two years.” The House Democratic leader, Paul Davis said, “There is no feasible way that private-sector growth can accommodate the price tag of this tax cut for the wealthy. Our $600 million surplus will be a $2.5 billion deficit within just five years.” Instead of heeding the warnings, Brownback promised his tax cuts for the rich will produce nothing but economic success and gave thanks “for how god blessed our state.”
Apparently the damage to Kansas’ economy and its citizens from his Koch-Norquist tax-cutting scheme is insufficient for Brownback. During his recent state of the state speech he told Kansas lawmakers he had no intent of changing course and would accelerate his trickle down attack on government and the people. He also revealed that he was emboldened and came up with a new plan to punish the people after being in consultation with business and industry leaders regarding “our shared concerns. They have been generous with their time and frank with their advice, and we will continue our march to zero income taxes.”
That statement was music to the Kochs and Norquist’s ears. In 1980 when David Koch ran for the vice presidency on the Libertarian ticket one of the “big ten” issues was “the repeal of all taxation.” Grover Norquist has championed eliminating income taxes for a couple of decades as a means of “shrinking government down to a size I can drown in a bathtub.” Brownback’s tax elimination scheme is, besides a wealthy-enrichment plan, a process of cutting government to death and he started slowly with the conservatives’ vaunted trickle down scam.
Thus far, Brownback’s embrace of his “god blessed” trickle down experiment to enrich the wealthy and corporations will cost the state $5 billion in revenue within a few years despite a non-existent possibility of Brownback and repugicans addressing a $278 million revenue shortfall within a few months. Despite already “chopping government down to size;” the real reason for the Norquist-Koch tax cutting crusade, Brownback promises to shift money to cover just a fraction of the shortfall by further slashing much-needed infrastructure spending, and naturally just rob more from the state’s pension fund that is already suffering a major shortfall; all in an effort to preserve and increase tax cuts for the wealthy. Brownback’s tax cuts have failed to produce the storied trickle-down benefits he labeled “an economic shot of adrenaline” as the state lags every other state in the region in GDP improvement as well as a pathetic job growth record lagging the national trend of substantial job expansion. The tax cuts have also not helped the state’s per capita income ranking and Kansas residents are fleeing the state in record numbers to find jobs, adequately funded schools, and decent roads.
Since there is no way Brownback is going to abandon his tax cuts for the rich, both to increase their wealth and reduce government for Grover Norquist, he has few options to avoid immediate bankruptcy besides taking more from the people. He has already cut healthcare, education, pensions, infrastructure, and several state agencies, so his only recourse is to substantially raise taxes on the poor and middle class; a prospect Brownback told legislators is “definitely on the table,” and since he intends on abolishing income taxes he will use an “income inequality” widening scam repugicans can embrace; raise state sales tax rates.
Raising sales taxes is a perfect repugican scheme because doing so does “disproportionate damage to poor, low, and middle-income citizens.” Increasing sales taxes, according to several studies is the most regressive economic policy scheme and does the most possible damage to minimum wage workers who have to spend every penny they earn just to survive. A sales tax increase will not affect the rich proportionally, and according to The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, states with high sales tax are ‘fundamentally unfair” to poor, and lower-middle-income Americans; particularly in states with no income tax because they “disproportionally eat into low-wage workers’ meager incomes.”
The Tax Institute’s list of the “Terrible 10″ states with no income tax and higher-sales tax reveals that “the bottom quintile of wage earners pay up to seven times as much of their income in taxes as the top one percent does.” What that means for Kansas residents, especially poor and lower-income residents, is that they will pay more to help Brownback eliminate taxes on the wealthy and corporations besides losing more funding for education, healthcare, infrastructure, and domestic programs. It is doubtless that Brownback thinks making the poor pay more to enrich the rich and corporations will bring more of “dog’s blessings on the state’s richest one percent.
In four short years Brownback squandered a significant budget surplus on tax cuts for the rich, added another billion-plus dollars paid for with education, healthcare, pension, infrastructure, and child program cuts and still, the state is hemorrhaging cash. The state has suffered several credit downgrades, been ordered by two separate courts to adequately fund education, and lags the nation in every economic category. Instead of rescinding, or at least reducing, the epic tax cut gifts to the rich, Brownback met with business and industry leaders to plan a tax elimination scheme that forces more economic pain on the state’s poorest residents.
One wants to empathize with Kansans, but it is difficult to feel anything but contempt for those who re-elected a walking, talking, Koch trickle down devotee who just announced he is going to advance his experiment and inflict more pain on the people; except those who were smart enough to flee the state.

Defensive gun ownership is a farce

The story that gun owners defend themselves in numbers large enough to justify the tragic number of accidental gun deaths is pure fantasy.
From Politico:
SamDespite having nearly no academic support in public health literature, this myth is the single largest motivation behind gun ownership. It traces its origin to a two-decade-old series of surveys that, despite being thoroughly repudiated at the time, persists in influencing personal safety decisions and public policy throughout the United States.

Chinese official blames smoked bacon for smog

While experts point to car emissions and city construction for causing foul air, a government official in a southwest China city has laid the blame on people making smoked bacon. The city of Dazhou in Sichuan Province has endured heavy smog since the new year began, with the PM 2.5 reading frequently exceeding healthy levels.
Rao Bing, deputy head of Dazhou Environment Protection Bureau, said on January 4 that one of the causes of the city's lingering smog is smoking bacon, a traditional method of preserving pork by local residents. Eating preserved pork and sausages is a long-held tradition in Sichuan, and almost every household makes smoked bacon before the Chinese lunar new year, which falls on Feb. 19 this year.
Local chengguan, or public civil servants, have started to raid and forcibly demolish meat-smoking sites. The claim has invited public ridicule and skepticism. One resident mocked the official's argument by saying that Dazhou's air might "smell like smoked bacon." Another said :"Smoking bacon has a long history, but smog does not."
Smoking meat does contribute to air pollution, but only to a small degree, according to volunteers at Bayu Public Welfare Development Centre, a non-government environmental protection organization, which conducted a three-day survey at a dozen bacon-smoking sites. "The impact of the smoking process is confined within a 50-meter radius," a volunteer said.

Police release video of meat-throwing incident

Police in Framingham, Massachusetts, have released surveillance video of an incident inside a police station when a woman threw raw meat at officers.
On Dec. 26 at around 11am, Lindsey McNamara of Ashland walked into the Framingham Police Department holding a Dunkin' Donuts box, allegedly claiming she was there to "feed the pigs," and then threw raw meat at the officers.

McNamara, who was wearing a black fleece jacket and what appear to be pyjama pants and slippers, walked up to the dispatch window with the box in her hand. She then opened the box and threw raw bacon and sausages into the opening of the window. Some of the meat bounced off the window and onto the counter.
When the box was empty, McNamara folded up the box, then dropped it on the ground. Two police officers then came from around the window and placed her in handcuffs. The 24-year-old was arrested and charged with malicious destruction of property under $250 and disorderly conduct.

Man trying to outrun police caught when his prosthetic leg became stuck in a fence

A man from Taylor, Wisconsin, who led authorities on an 11-mile pursuit on Tuesday through La Crosse and Trempealeau counties surrendered when he lost his prosthetic leg while trying to outrun police.
Thomas Fuselier, 47, fled Holmen police when an officer tried to stop him for a defective brake light, according to the complaint filed on Wednesday in La Crosse County Circuit Court. He sped off, at one point sticking his hand out the window and waving at pursuing officers.
Fuselier continued into Trempealeau County at speeds that reached 80mph until officers lost him, later finding his car in a ditch. Authorities from both counties followed footprints into a wooded area for more than a mile and across a creek before a deputy found Fuselier on the ground unable to get up because his prosthetic leg was stuck in a fence.
Police found meth and a pipe in his car. Prosecutors charged Fuselier with attempting to flee a traffic officer and possession of meth and drug paraphernalia, both as a repeat offender.

Man attacked brother over bed sheets

A Florida man told deputies that he was attacked and threatened by his brother, who was upset about his bed sheets, officials said.
Eric Ortiz was arrested in Deltona on Monday on charges of aggravated assault. According to an incident report, Ortiz woke his brother, wanting to know who changed the sheets on his bed.
The brother told deputies that Ortiz struck him and made threats. Eric Ortiz told deputies he had been hanging out with a few girls the night before and his brother got jealous, starting an argument.
The brother, Jose Ortiz, told the deputy he was asleep when his brother woke him up about the sheets and began to threaten him. Eric Ortiz also punched his brother in the chest, deputies said. And though Jose Ortiz didn’t want to press charges and wasn’t hurt, Eric Ortiz was arrested on a charge of domestic battery anyway.

15 Unique Illnesses You Can Only Come Down With in German

Every language develops its own diagnoses of maladies, or on the milder side, descriptions of feelings. In German, they have some syndromes that could be called by another name in another language, but they sound much more debilitating in German. There’s also a few that are unheard of in other parts of the world.
3. KREISLAUFZUSAMMENBRUCH
Kreislaufzusammenbruch, or “circulatory collapse,” sounds deathly serious, but it’s used quite commonly in Germany to mean something like “feeling woozy” or “I don’t think I can come into work today.”
7. PUTZFIMMEL
Putzen means “to clean” and Fimmel is a mania or obsession. Putzfimmel is an obsession with cleaning. It is not unheard of outside of Germany, but elsewhere it is less culturally embedded and less fun to say.
9. OSTALGIE
Ostalgie is nostalgia for the old way of life in East Germany (“ost” means East). If you miss your old Trabant and those weekly visits from the secret police, you may have Ostalgie.
Can you imagine coming down with several at once? “I had to call in sick with Kreislaufzusammenbruch, because I have to clean the house so it will be the way it was in the East before the wall came down.” There are plenty more uniquely German illnesses in a list at mental_floss. No, German measles is not on this list.

The 'New York Times' Accidentally Invented a Country and the Internet Is in Love with It

Have you ever visited Kyrzbekistan? You should. It's a beautiful land with a rich culture and a friendly people. It also doesn't exist, but that shouldn't stop you.
Last week, a New York Times article described Kyrgyzstan, a real nation in central Asia. But it was misspelled as "Kyrzbekistan." The editors eventually corrected the error, but not before the people of the internet had run wild, describing the history, geography, and politics of it. You can find some basic facts about the landlocked nation here.
Kyrzbekistan has its own official Twitter feed, which you can follow to keep up on local news and learn about the Kyzrekistani culture. The nation is diversifying its traditional yak-based economy and encouraging international investment. So if you receive an email from a Kyrzbekistani prince asking for assistance in banking, you should probably take him up on the offer. There may also be an ambassadorship open.

Why Is It Called Area 51?

The United States Air Force facility commonly known as Area 51 is a remote detachment of Edwards Air Force Base, within the Nevada Test and Training Range. The base's current primary purpose is publicly unknown; however, based on historical evidence, it most likely supports development and testing of experimental aircraft and weapons systems.
The intense secrecy surrounding the base has made it the frequent subject of conspiracy theories and a central component to unidentified flying objects. Many questions about the site remain unanswered. One of the most innocuous, but nonetheless puzzling, is its choice of name.

The Trippy History of Flip Books

Long before there were smartphones or even animated .gif files (like the one below) on desktop computers, there were flip books. It's an old art form that Ben Zurawski continues today. He's an artist who specializes in the field. Pay him $400 and he'll make you a custom 15-second scene that you animate by flipping between your fingers.

Zurawski is also a collector of flip books from ages past and all around the world. He owns about 1,000 of them. Ben Marks of Collectors Weekly examined his collection and wrote a history of the medium. It emerged in the 1860s in Britain. During the Twentieth Century, companies often gave them away as promotional items, such as this chewing gum ad that shows two boxers in a match.
One of Zurawski's favorite pieces is this custom flip book made for a family. Biofix produced it and others like it showing individual families. It was like a home movie before video cameras became available:
The cover of one of Zurawski’s favorite flip-book series sports an even more durable material—tin, embossed to resemble the outside of a fancy leather-bound book. “The series is known as Biofix,” says Zurawski, “and it started in the late 1800s. Biofix was a company in London, Paris, and Brussels. People would sit in a photo booth and have a short scene of themselves filmed, like a husband and wife kissing or a family getting together. I have one of a little boy making faces. They’re like moving Polaroids, because there would only be the one copy of the flip book. There were no extras made, so they’re special, and they look really cool, too.”

6 Unusual Ways To Greet People Around the World

Handshakes, cheek-to-cheeks, brofists, and hand waves are what we see as usual actions when greeting someone. But there are more ways of greeting each other besides these. Learn more about the unusual greetings around the world.

The Strange Way to Say "Yes" in Northern Sweden

The Local news service journeyed to UmeƄ, a city in northern Sweden. There, a correspondent learned how to say "yes" in the local dialect of Swedish: purse your lips and suck in air for a moment. One native described it as the sound of sucking hard on a mint in your mouth.
I love it! We should adopt this word into American English.

Amazing Automatons, Robots And Victorian Androids

When we say that today's rapidly changing technology is set to transform the way we live in unimaginable ways, we should remember that people thought much the same thing in earlier centuries - whether in the time of the clockwork revolution in the eighteenth century or as a result of the scientific advances of the Industrial Revolution in the Victorian era.
Here are a few examples of fascinating early automatons, robots and Victorian androids.

Photographer Captures Flipped Iceberg in Antarctica


During an expedition to Antarctica, photographer Alex Cornell was lucky enough to see an iceberg flip over and was able to capture these spectacular images. Such flips are rare and often dangerous, because of the waves they make. Some iceberg flips can even cause tsunamis.
People use the phrase "the tip of the iceberg" to mean that the bulk of information about a situation or item is unknown/unseen. The phrase relates to the scientific fact that approximately 90% of icebergs are underwater, thus the part we see is literally just the top tip. This can be explained by the density of sea water versus that of ice. The density of ice is .92 grams per milliliter. The density of water is 1 gram per milliliter (salt water 1.03 g/mL). So ice has nine-tenths (ninety percent) of the density of water, and thus, 90 percent of the iceberg is below the surface of the water.Most icebergs appear white, though some look blue or green. Ice contains air bubbles that diffuse all color wavelengths the same amount, making the ice look white. When ice is compressed, its bubbles are forced out and blue light is disseminated more than any other colors, thus the ice appears blue. Icebergs that appear to have stripes of green are caused by algae growth.

Learn more about icebergs here, and see more of Cornell's beautiful photography from Antarctica at his website.


10 Living Things Thriving in Death Valley

There’s a reason it’s called Death Valley. This vast expanse of the Mojave Desert gets less than 2 inches of rain per year, the daytime temperatures can reach upwards of 120 degrees, and the landscape is so salt-laden and windswept that it’s nearly impossible for anything to take root. But there’s more life in Death Valley than you’d imagine. Here are 10 stubborn plants and animals that refuse to retire to greener pastures.
1. The Rat with a Drinking Problem
Like many Death Valley residents, the kangaroo rat lives for the nightlife. It spends most of its day napping underground, only venturing out after sunset. Of course, taking advantage of the cool nighttime temps is a common trick among desert mammals. What’s not common is how the kangaroo rat has adapted to deal with the scarcity of water: It never drinks the stuff! Special organs inside its nose allow it to absorb moisture directly from the air, and highly efficient kidneys keep its body hydrated. In fact, the kangaroo rat is so well adapted to the dry climate that even after living in captivity for years, it will still refuse water.
2. The Fish That Got Lucky in Las Vegas
Despite its bone-dry landscape, Death Valley is home to thousands of pupfish. The colorful, sardine-like fish live in isolated waterholes only a few feet wide. But how did all those aquatic animals get lured into the desert? The pupfish are actually stragglers from the ice age 10,000 years ago, back when the valley was a large glacial lake. As the glaciers melted, schools of pupfish became trapped in the waterholes and evolved into several distinct species. Today, the water in the small ponds can be as warm as a bath (around 90 degrees F), and the salt concentrations can exceed twice that of seawater. The conditions aren’t ideal, but the pupfish survive by drinking copious amounts of water and efficiently excreting the salt through their digestive tracts.
Life for the pupfish has become even more difficult in recent years. Beginning in the 1960s, farmers near Death Valley started pumping the desert’s groundwater for irrigation, which depleted the waterholes and caused serious declines in pupfish populations. One particular species, the Devils Hole pupfish, came close to extinction in 2006 when its numbers dipped below 40. But then an unlikely savior emerged: the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. The casino relocated several pupfish to its swank aquariums, successfully reviving the species before its luck dried out.
3. The Plant That Outshines the Sun
It’s no secret that Death Valley is a tricky place for plants to take root. The earth there is so salty that it would kill most vegetation. But the Desert Holly has developed a clever technique for dealing with the unfriendly soil. The low-growing shrub soaks up the salt in the ground along with any moisture, and then, during blooming season from January to April, it excretes the sodium deposits onto its leaves. As a result, the plant turns from green to silver—a color change that helps it reflect the scalding sunlight instead of absorbing it.
4. The Bird You Don’t Want Your Children to See
The turkey vulture primarily feasts on decomposing animals, but that’s not the most disgusting thing about it. To stay cool, the vulture makes use of a process known asurohydrosis, a fancy way of saying that it pees on its legs to keep from overheating. This serves two purposes: the evaporating urine cools the blood circulating through the vulture’s legs, and also acts as a disinfectant, killing any germs the scavenger may have picked up from its last meal. You know you’re a dirty animal when peeing on your own legs actually makes you cleaner.
7. Seeds of Greatness
Every so often, Death Valley reveals a rare and beautiful display of life—a sea of colorful wildflowers, blossoming by the millions. The flowers seem to emerge out of nowhere, but in truth, the seeds of these blooms are always hidden on the desert floor, just waiting for the right amount of sunlight and rainfall before sprouting. The seeds are protected by a thick, waxy coating that guards them against the extreme heat. But when the desert gets enough rain to wash away the coating (which isn’t often), the seeds sprout and the flowers bloom, temporarily transforming the barren landscape.
8. The Flower That Haunts
The Gravel Ghost wildflower lives its life with the utmost discretion. It starts off as a patch of grayish leaves that blends in with the surrounding landscape. Then it sprouts a wiry stalk about 3 ft. high, which is also camouflaged against the barren scenery. But when the bulb atop the stalk blooms, it produces a vibrant white flower that insects flock to pollinate. Still, the stalk is so difficult to see that it creates the eerie appearance of a floating flower—hovering, ghost-like, above the desert floor.
9. Winning, by a Hare
The black-tailed jackrabbit may get teased for its oversize ears, but those trademark appendages help it beat the heat in Death Valley. The rabbit’s 7-inch-long ears contain a wealth of blood vessels that dissipate heat and help the animal regulate its body temperature. But the jackrabbit’s voracious appetite also plays into its success against the harsh climate. Like many desert creatures, the jackrabbit gets its water from the plants it eats. The clever hare switches its grazing seasonally, waiting until the hot summer months to consume the more water-filled cacti and grasses, often eating several times its body weight every day just to remain hydrated.
10. The Lizard That Was Born to Run
Like a water bug racing across a pond, the fringe-toed lizard glides with gravity-defying grace over the loose sand of the desert. Specially shaped scales on its toes allow the small reptile to scamper across the dunes and outrun most predators. But speed isn’t the lizard’s only superpower; the lightning-fast reptile can also vanish in an instant by diving headfirst beneath the surface of the sand. Thanks to special scales that fold over its eyes, ears, and nostrils, the fringe-toed lizard can keep sand out of its delicate parts while steering clear of predators underground.

Stormtrooper Armor Saves 'Star Wars' Fan from Deadly Snake Bite

If you’re not wearing stormtrooper armor right now, you must have a death wish. Scott Loxley was on Wednesday and that’s why he’s still alive.
Loxley is currently walking across Australia in stormtrooper armor to raise money for a children’s charity. Last week, he had just departed the town of Yalboroo, Queensland when a King Brown snake tried to bite him. This deadly predator has the largest venom output of any known snake. Only one thing saved Loxley from its fangs: his armor. ABC News reports:
"He's lunged at me and bit me but the good news is the armor, he bit me in the shin, the armor actually protected me and stopped the bite," Mr Loxley said.
Thankfully, the force of the bite was not enough to penetrate the armor.
"I could feel the teeth on the plastic scraping but the armor actually stopped something," he said.
"So all those people who rag on the old stormtroopers, 'you know, the armor doesn't do this, it doesn't do that' … it stopped the snake bite and probably saved my life today."

Arachnophobic doctor caused fatal car crash after spider fell in her lap

A woman doctor accidentally killed an 87-year-old man when a spider landed on her lap as she drove her sports car. Arachnophobic Dr Amy Elizabeth Walpole, 38, from Penymynydd, near Llanelli, Wales, was at the wheel of her red Mazda MX5 when the spider fell from the sun visor - and a court heard it sent her into a "blind panic". The GP, who is terrified of spiders, was seen waving her arms frantically before smashing into the oncoming car of pensioner John Evans.
Prosecutor Vaughan Pritchard Jones said: "Walpole gave an explanation that a spider had dropped from the sun-visor landing in her lap. She has a fear of spiders and tried to throw it out of the window, as a result of the situation with a loss of concentration she drifted across the road causing the collision." Mr Evans died the day after the collision which happened at around 9am on November 11, 2013 between Carway and Pontyates on the B4317 in Carmarthenshire. Dr Walpole, who practices at Meddygfa'r Sarn in Pontyates, was driving towards Pontyates and Mr Evans had been in the other lane driving his white Alto Suzuki towards Carway.
John Allchurch, defending, told the court Dr Walpole was "terrified" of spiders and suffered from arachnophobia. He said: "It was a large spider which she was terrified of and tried to flick out of the window." Dr Walpole pleaded guilty to death by careless driving. The court heard careful driver Mr Evans suffered fractures and damage to his heart. He was able to walk from his car to an ambulance but died the following day. Judge David Powells paid tribute to victim Mr Evans as a well respected local man "who drove with confidence and caution".
Sentencing Dr Walpole at Llanelli magistrates court, he said: "What we are dealing with is a tragic accident. The witness account of seeing arms waving around was consistent with what you had said and your arachnophobia." Judge Powells said there were no aggravating circumstances such as irresponsible driving. He told the court: "This is not a case for prison, it is a case for a community order." Mr Evans's family asked for Dr Walpole to be dealt with leniently as they were aware of her "good reputation" as a GP. Judge Powells banned Walpole from driving for 12 months, ordered her to carry out 80 hours of community service, pay court costs of £85 and a £60 victim surcharge.

Cat's 'deadly tumor' turned out to be blade of grass in nose

Veterinary staff treating a cat who was thought to have a deadly tumor up her nose had a shock when they discovered a blade of grass was behind her symptoms.
Pixie, a six-year-old British Blue, was taken to the vet with a history of sneezing and was treated for cat flu. When staff at Wood Green animal shelter in Cambridgeshire discovered a nasal lump, they feared she had cancer. But a scan revealed Pixie had ingested a 4cm (1.5in) blade of grass, and tissue had started to grow over it.
"It seems like such a simple problem - a cat eating a blade of grass - but when it was undiagnosed it turned into something much more extensive and frightening," said Jane Harrup from Wood Green in Godmanchester. The offending flora was removed on New Year's Eve, the charity said.
"Pixie's story has been a real eye-opener for us, we were so upset because it really looked like a tumour - thank goodness for CT scans," added Ms Harrup. Pixie, who had been living at Wood Green since last October, has been rehomed following her operation.

Why Do Zebras Have Stripes?

New Study Makes Temperature Connection
A leopard may not be able to change its spots, but some zebras change their stripes. Zebras in warmer places have more stripes, a new study shows, which might help answer an age-old question: Why stripes?
The answer probably comes down to keeping zebras cool and fending off disease-causing insects that are more common in hotter climates, researchers reported in the journal Royal Society Open Science.

New Species of Legless Amphibian

The gray-brown creature resembling a snake was discovered in a remote but threatened area of Cambodian rainforest.

Angry Hippo Pursuit

A tour boat in Zambia needed all the horsepower it could get to evade a hippo in hot pursuit.

Heart Arrhythmias

Despite their incredible adaptations to being underwater, animals such as dolphins and seals are physiologically challenged by holding their breath while exercising.

Animal Pictures