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The place where the world comes together in honesty and mirth.
Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Daily Drift

The Daily Drift
Today's horoscope says:
Ready to let loose and have some fun?
Some real fun?
Great -- because the heavens are in the mood to arrange quite the evening for you.
How about having the whole crew over to your place for munchies, videos and lighthearted conversations?
You might even break out the board games.
Call for a pizza or Chinese and stay up late, laughing.
It's about darned time, isn't it?

Some of our readers today have been in:
Edithvale, Victoria, Australia
Paris, Ile-De-France, France
Barrie, Ontario, Canada
Uberlanda, Minas Gerais, Brazil
Essen, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany
Sittard, Limburg, Netherlands
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, Netherlands
London, England, United Kingdom
Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada
Madrid, Madrid, Spain
Jakarta, Jakarta Raya, Indonesia
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Iloilo, Iloilo City, Philippines
Annecy, Rhone-Alpes, France

as well as China, Turkey, Russia, Italy, Saudi Arabia, New Zealand and in cities across the United States such as Wildomar, Warrens, Winter Park, Walla Walla and more.

Today is:
Today is Wednesday, October 20, the 293rd day of 2010.
There are 72 days left in the year.

Today's unusual holiday or celebration is:
Hagfish Day

Don't forget to visit our sister blog!

Editorial Comment

We're on track for another year of 100,000 plus readers.
Thanks to you.

Sitting Bull talks truth to power

In 1883, Sitting Bull was a guest of honor at the opening ceremonies for the Northern Pacific Railroad.
When it was his turn to speak, he said in the Lakota language, ‘I hate all white people. You are thieves and liars. You have taken away our land and made us outcasts.’
A quick-thinking interpreter told the crowd the chief was happy to be there and that he looked forward to peace and prosperity with the white people.
Sitting Bull received a standing ovation.

Don't Ask - Don't Tell

Despite a judge's injunction of "don't ask, don't tell," the status of the ban remains undetermined.  

A turn of a phrase

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing


A small amount of knowledge can mislead people into thinking that they are more expert than they really are.


'A little knowledge is a dangerous thing' and 'a little learning is a dangerous thing' have been used synonymously since the 18th century.
Alexander Pope - A little knowledge is a dangerous thingThe 'a little learning' version is widely attributed to Alexander Pope (1688 - 1744). It is found in An Essay on Criticism, 1709, and I can find no earlier example of the expression in print:
A little learning is a dangerous thing;
drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
and drinking largely sobers us again.
The similarity of the two phrases is demonstrated by what appears to be an impromptu coining of 'a little knowledge is a dangerous thing' in a piece in The monthly miscellany; or Gentleman and Lady's Complete Magazine, Vol II, 1774, in which the writer misquoted Pope:
Mr. Pope says, very truly, "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing."
Both Pope's original verse and the misquotation of it were predated by an anonymous author, signing himself 'A B', in the collection of letters published in 1698 as The mystery of phanaticism:
"Twas well observed by my Lord Bacon, That a little knowledge is apt to puff up, and make men giddy, but a greater share of it will set them right, and bring them to low and humble thoughts of themselves.
A little knowledge is a dangerous thingAgain, there is a degree of misquotation here, as what 'my Lord Bacon', the English politician and philosopher Francis Bacon, Viscount St Alban, actually said, in The Essays: Of Atheism, 1601, was:
"A little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion."
So, who coined the phrase? It appears to have been a group effort. Bacon can be credited with the idea, Pope with the 'learning' version and the mysterious 'A B' with the 'knowledge' version.

Could Facebook save your life?

Could Facebook save your life?Here’s how a nurse perusing photos and a blogger suffering from insomnia came to the rescue in two potentially life-or-death situations.

Is help really just a status update away if you’re in crisis?

Super Power


House crumples in hurricane wind test

Giant fans create 90-plus mph winds that topple an unreinforced structure in minutes. 

News-Worthy Weather From 2010

With this summer's swirl of hurricanes, freak tornadoes and, of course, good ol' global warming, it seems like the weather is getting stranger and more unpredictable every year.

And while not all experts agree about our changing climate, these 10 instances are pretty convincing evidence that something is amiss. Look back at which forces of nature have, thus far, been the most remarkable this year.

Southern China braces for super typhoon

Residents scrambled to stockpile food and authorities ordered ships to remain docked as southern China geared up Wednesday for a super typhoon after it killed 15 people and wiped out crops in the northern Philippines.

China surprises world markets

A move by the People's Bank of China illustrates the power of the world's second-largest economy. 

China and Africa - pay attention to this relationship

From the BBC:
It is not much to look at - a small pitted brass coin with a square hole in the center - but this relatively innocuous piece of metal is revolutionizing our understanding of early East African history, and recasting China's more contemporary role in the region.

A joint team of Kenyan and Chinese archaeologists found the 15th Century Chinese coin in Mambrui - a tiny, nondescript village just north of Malindi on Kenya's north coast.

In barely distinguishable relief, the team leader Professor Qin Dashu from Peking University's archaeology department, read out the inscription: "Yongle Tongbao" - the name of the reign that minted the coin some time between 1403 and 1424.

"These coins were carried only by envoys of the emperor, Chengzu," Prof Qin said. 
The coin was almost certainly brought to East Africa by one of the treasure fleets led by Zheng He (about whom some other time...)
"We're discovering that the Chinese had a very different approach from the Europeans to East Africa," said Herman Kiriama, the lead archaeologist from the National Museums of Kenya.

"Because they came with gifts from the emperor, it shows they saw us as equals. It shows that Kenya was already a dynamic trading power with strong links to the outside world long before the Portuguese arrived," he said.

And that is profoundly influencing the way Kenya is thinking about its current ties to the East. It implies that China has a much older trade relationship with the region than Europe, and that Beijing's very modern drive to open up trade with Africa may in fact be part of a far deeper tradition than anyone suspected.
This stuck a chord with me because it was only yesterday that I bookmarked this story at The Daily Nation about how the Chinese are providing free health care to Africans via a floating hospital.
Medical staff aboard the Chinese Navy hospital ship Peace Ark have been treating an average of 700 patients a day since last Thursday.

The crew, which leaves the port of Mombasa tomorrow, has been doing an average of six operations, 80 physical examinations, 110 dental check-ups, 35 CT scans, 200 DR examinations, 240 ultra sound cases and 170 heart check-ups per day.
The medical team also visited the Ziwani School for the deaf, Tom Mboya School for Cerebral Palsy, the Mji wa Salama Children’s home and did physical examination on 243 children, 30 of whom were taken to the ship for further treatment.

The Peace Ark hospital has 428 medical and support staff. They include neurologists, surgeons, radiologists, dermatologists, biomedical engineers and psychologists.
Other facilities are a rescue helicopter, 32 medical departments including Chinese herbal medicine, 300 hospital beds and a wide range of diagnostic medical equipment.

... the gesture was a clear sign of the long friendship between Kenya and the people of China.  “The relationship has been bolstered by knowledge and cultural exchange through programs such as the Confucius Institute at the University of Nairobi and transfer of technology, equipment, modern highways, state-of-the art hospitals, and a host of infrastructural edifices scattered all over Kenya...
These two articles reinforce the headline several years ago in the London Evening Standard: "How China's taking over Africa, and why the West should be VERY worried."
In the greatest movement of people the world has ever seen, China is secretly working to turn the entire continent into a new colony.

Reminiscent of the West's imperial push in the 18th and 19th centuries - but on a much more dramatic, determined scale - China's rulers believe Africa can become a 'satellite' state, solving its own problems of over-population and shortage of natural resources at a stroke.

With little fanfare, a staggering 750,000 Chinese have settled in Africa over the past decade. More are on the way.
Across Africa, the red flag of China is flying. Lucrative deals are being struck to buy its commodities - oil, platinum, gold and minerals. New embassies and air routes are opening up. The continent's new Chinese elite can be seen everywhere, shopping at their own expensive boutiques, driving Mercedes and BMW limousines, sending their children to exclusive private schools.

The pot-holed roads are cluttered with Chinese buses, taking people to markets filled with cheap Chinese goods. More than a thousand miles of new Chinese railroads are crisscrossing the continent, carrying billions of tons of illegally-logged timber, diamonds and gold.

All over this great continent, the Chinese presence is swelling into a flood. Angola has its own 'Chinatown', as do great African cities such as Dar es Salaam and Nairobi.

Exclusive, gated compounds, serving only Chinese food, and where no blacks are allowed, are being built all over the continent. 'African cloths' sold in markets on the continent are now almost always imported, bearing the legend: 'Made in China'.

From Nigeria in the north, to Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Angola in the west, across Chad and Sudan in the east, and south through Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, China has seized a vice-like grip on a continent which officials have decided is crucial to the superpower's long-term survival

Russian Biker Chicks


Japan's empress says she's slowing down

Japan's Empress Michiko, marking her 76th birthday on Wednesday, said she is starting to feel the affects of her age -- sometimes forgetting where she puts things -- but she hopes to keep up her official duties as long as she can.

Brigitte Bardot mulls French presidential bid

Actress Brigitte Bardot says she is seriously considering running for president of France after an offer from the Independent Ecology Alliance.

Bardot, 76, said she is interested in challenging French President Nicolas Sarkozy because he has reneged on a promise to outlaw Muslim animal slaughter practices she considers inhumane.
"Because you do the opposite of what you say, I am studying a proposition from the Independent Ecology Alliance to be their presidential candidate in 2012," Bardot said in a letter to Sarkozy published in the French press.

Bardot, an animal rights activist who has campaigned against the seal hunt, wants to make it mandatory to give animals anesthetic before their throats are slit in the prescribed way for halal meat.
"No matter whether it's someone from the political left or right, we just need a voice to stand up and defend animal rights," she says in the letter.

Bardot stopped making films in 1973 to devote her time to animal activism. She is notoriously outspoken and has gotten into trouble for her right wing views on immigration and homosexuality.
"We think she is the best person to represent us for the presidency," Ecology Alliance party chairman Antoine Waechter said. "If she accepts, a final decision will be taken next year.

Pakistan's largest city reels after 51 killed in 4 days

Latest attack targets a market
Pakistan's largest city reeled Wednesday after gunmen opened fire in a commercial market, killing 11 people in the latest spasm of violence to underscore the poor state of law and order in this U.S.-allied nation.

Explosives in local students' home

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police continue to look Wednesday morning for the mother of two teens who are accused by authorities of working with the same chemical compound used by "Shoe Bomber" Richard Reid.
Meanwhile, inspectors returned shortly after daybreak Wednesday to the Mount Holly Road home where dozens of local, state and federal agents searched Monday and Tuesday for the source of an explosive thought to have been used in a pen that detonated in a student's hand at a north Charlotte school.

Three firefighters suffered minor injuries Monday while investigating materials found at the house, in northwest Charlotte.
Police are searching today for Tracy Bauguess, who faces charges of malicious injury by use of an explosive device, and possession of a weapon of mass destruction.
Her 16-year-old son, Jessie Bauguess, is jailed under $500,000 bond and faces numerous charges. Also arrested in Tracy Bauguess' 15-year-old son, whose name has not been released.
Bauguess spoke briefly with police Monday when they arrived at her home for an initial search, but she has not been seen since. Police say she is driving a purple Honda Civic, with N.C. license tags XRJ-2678. Anyone who sees Bauguess or her car is asked to call 911.

Officer Robert Fey, a spokesman for Charlotte-Mecklenburg police, said investigators found a "significant quantity" of powerful and unstable explosives in the house, along with materials that could be used to make more explosives.
Authorities detonated materials several times Tuesday at the house, shaking the neighborhood.
Residents living near the house, in the 10600 block of Mount Holly Road, were forced from their homes Monday by police, but evacuations were not ordered Tuesday.

"The quantity located was capable of extreme damage and loss of life within the community," Fey said.
That explosive compound was identified by authorities as triacetone triperoxide. It is the same compound used by Reid, who placed the explosive in his shoes before boarding an American Airlines flight in December 2001. His attempt to detonate the explosive failed, and Reid is not in prison.

He was linked by authorities to Al Qaida.

It is unclear why the Bauguess teens were using the compound, but there were several broadcast reports Wednesday morning that Jessie Bauguess had gotten into trouble at a previous school, in part because of his fascination with explosives.

With federal agents, police blocked off about a mile of Mt. Holly Road for most of Monday and Tuesday as they conducted "render safe" operations at the single-story house the Bauguess family rents.

The series of events began about 9 a.m. Monday, when a student tried to open a pen in a classroom at Turning Point Academy, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg alternative school on West Sugar Creek Road for students who have experienced discipline problems at other schools. The pen exploded.
Jessie Bauguess was arrested at the school immediately after the pen blast, which left fragments lodged in the arm and chest of the 15-year-old boy, and also burned his hand. Police said they arrested Bauguess' 15-year-old brother at the home Monday afternoon, but did not release his name because he's a juvenile.
Initially, there was speculation that the incident might have been a prank, but police said Tuesday it was a serious matter.

N.C. court records show Jessie Bauguess has no criminal history as an adult in North Carolina, and that his mother has a single charge of driving without insurance, which was dismissed in 2006.
Jessie Bauguess now faces charges of with malicious use of explosives causing damage to property and causing injury, possession of a weapon on school grounds; and three counts of arson or unlawful burning causing injury to a firefighter. He was being held Tuesday in the Mecklenburg jail under $500,000 bond.

The injured firefighters suffered bumps and bruises, fire officials said, and were treated and released from local hospitals. Police identified the explosive that injured them as triacetone triperoxide, known as TATP.
Instructions to make TATP, which is powerful and often unstable, are easily found on the internet. The explosive has been used in terrorist attacks, including the 2005 London subway bombings.

The bomb squad caused "significant structural damage" to the Bauguess house, which was declared unsafe for occupancy Tuesday. A neighbor owns the home and had been renting it to the Bauguess family. A woman who answered the phone at the owner's house declined comment.

Jacqueline Carmack, another neighbor, said police left "a big old hole" in the back wall of the Bauguess' house. She said she didn't know the Bauguess brothers who live across the street, but she often saw them hanging out in front of the house and hadn't heard they were troublemakers.

The first explosion happened about 9 a.m. Monday in a classroom at Turning Point, when a student took the top off of an ink pen. Police said the pen contained the same TATP explosive found at the teens' home.
Bomb-sniffing dogs were sent through the school at least three times Monday, without finding other explosives.
Classes resumed Tuesday morning at Turning Point, but school staff collected all writing utensils from students as they arrived. The students were given new pens and pencils instead.

 More on TATP

The chemical compound that police say was being used by two teens arrested in connection with explosions that injured four people in Charlotte this week is known as the "Mother of Satan" by some terrorist groups.
Police have not suggested that the teen-age boys arrested this week in Charlotte had any significant plans for the explosives they were using, but the compound is considered by authorities to be an extremely dangerous material.

It was used by Richard Reid, the so-called "Shoe Bomber." And it is suspected of being used in subway bombings in London.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg police say they found quantities of triacetone triperoxide (TATP) inside the Mount Holly Road home where Tracy Bauguess and her two sons lived.

Three firefighters were injured Monday while searching the home. Earlier that day, a student at Turning Point Academy was hurt when a pen exploded in his hands.

Officer Robert Fey, a spokesman for CMPD, said the amount of TATP discovered in the house could have done significant damage in the community.

Over the past decade, TATP has become the weapon of choice by many terrorist groups. The chemicals needed to mix the compound are fairly easy to acquire, authorities say. The compound is very unstable, and accidental explosions have been reported.

The compound is a white powder with a strong acrid smell.

When it first started being used by terrorist groups, about a decade ago, TATP was difficult to detect by crime dogs. But scientists have developed new tools which have made it much easier to find.

Among the best-known incidents of TATP or suspected TATP use:
-- On Dec. 22, 2001, witnesses said Richard Reid, a passenger on American Airlines Flight 63, flying from Paris to Miami, tried to detonate an explosive in his shoes. The effort failed, and the flight, with 200 passengers, was diverted to Boston.
Reid was found guilty in a U.S. court and sentenced in January 2003 to life in prison. In his sentencing, Reid expressed support for Al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

-- On July 7, 2005, terrorists detonated several bombs on London subway trains. The attacks killed 52 civilians and four terrorists. While authorities are not certain, they suspect TATP was used in at least some of the bombs.

-- TATP also was discovered during the arrests of several other terrorist cells in recent years in Europe.

YouTube 'Cat Bin Lady' fined more than $2,000 after pleading guilty

Mary Bale, AKA the YouTube "Cat Bin Lady," has pleaded guilty to animal cruelty.

A woman filmed dumping a cat in a wheelie bin has been fined £250 after admitting a cruelty offense. The RSPCA charged Mary Bale after CCTV cameras showed her throwing four-year-old Lola into a bin outside her owners' home in Coventry. Bale, 45, pleaded guilty to causing unnecessary suffering to a cat. A charge of not providing the cat with a suitable environment was dropped. The judge said she had taken Bale's vilification into account.

District judge Caroline Goulborn said the potential for harm to the cat had been "substantial" but the reality was she had not been hurt. "The media interest in this case has resulted in you being vilified in some quarters and I have taken that into account," she said. Coventry Magistrates Court also heard that Bale's elderly father had been gravely ill at the time and that he had since died. "I accept you were in a stressful situation at the time, but that's no excuse for what you did," Judge Goulborn said.

Earlier, Nick Sutton, prosecuting on behalf of the RSPCA, said Bale lived three streets away from the cat's owners and did not know them. She had been walking from her mother's home to her own, and had often stopped to stroke Lola, he said. Bale's solicitor David Murray said his client could offer no explanation for her actions in Brays Lane in August. "Miss Bale, daily, almost hourly, for the past two months has asked herself that very question," he said.

He added that she was suffering from anxiety and depression and had resigned from her job after 27 years. Outside court, he said Bale "bitterly regretted" what she had done. "Despite a lengthy period of soul-searching she cannot still explain her behavior and wishes to again repeat her apology to the owners of Lola. She has received hate-mail, abusive telephone messages and death threats," Mr Murray said. In addition to the fine Bale was ordered to pay costs of £1,171 and banned from keeping or owning animals for the next five years.

Man sues over 'mercury poisoning' from tuna cans

A man who ate 10 cans of tuna a week for nearly two years is suing the canned food company Bumble Bee Foods for allegedly giving him mercury poisoning. Lee Porrazzo, of Westchester, New York, said he and his friend Roland Muccini would make regular trips to their local Stop & Shop store to load up on cans of tuna. "There was tuna in my diet every day, just about," Mr Porrazzo said. "I thought it was the cleanest source of protein."

But the 48-year-old BMW car salesman said he was soon plagued by a mystery malady that gave him chest pains and sent him to the hospital "believing he was having a heart attack," according to his White Plains federal court suit. He is blaming it on the canned tuna and wants unspecified damages for breach of warranty and negligence from the fish cannery. But he is also suing the supermarket chain - for putting the tuna on sale. Mr Porrazzo says he started eating the seafood in January 2006 because Bumble Bee commercials called it "heart healthy" and the brand was "usually on sale" for $1 a can.

No one could figure out what was ailing Mr Porrazzo until his doctor ordered a "heavy metals" blood test in October 2008 that revealed a "dangerously high" mercury level of 23 micrograms per litre, more than twice the normal amount, his suit says. "One day I got a call from the (state) Health Department," he said. "They said, 'Normally we don't contact people, but your levels are so high we had to contact you.' I was taken aback and I was scared." The Health Department staffer also told him to stop eating tuna.

Experts warn not to eat more than 140g of tuna a week to avoid high mercury levels. Mr Porrazzo said his mercury levels went back to normal a month later, but he remains concerned over potential long-term health problems stemming from his intake of the element. A Bumble Bee spokeswoman said that, to the company's knowledge, there's "never been a case of mercury toxicity from eating commercial seafood in the US" and that "alarmism" (sic) on this issue "can have an adverse impact" on people's health.

Tongue Sandwiches

Old School Cartoons are the best.

Eight-year-old has been on a diet for SIX years

A British mother has had her daughter on a diet for an astounding six years and the girl is only eight years old.

Eating mostly whole grains, few refined grains linked to lower body fat

People who consume several servings of whole grains per day while limiting daily intake of refined grains appear to have less of a type of fat tissue thought to play a key role in triggering cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes …

Health and Saving

Changing how you shop for produce, milk, and meat will start you on the right track.  

Save Not waste

5 Clever Ways Not to Waste Food
1. "Stop cheese from drying out by spreading butter or margarine on the cut sides to seal in moisture. This is most effective with hard cheeses sealed in wax." We have this trouble all the time in our house when zip-top bags aren't closed properly. (You know who I'm talking about.)

2. "In order to make cottage cheese or sour cream last longer, place the container upside down in the fridge. Inverting the tub creates a vacuum that inhibits the growth of bacteria that causes food to spoil." OK, I'm not sure why this works, and I haven't tried it yet. Anyone heard of this before?

3."Avoid separating bananas until you plan to eat them - they spoil less quickly in a bunch." Really? Since my family descends on bananas like wild animals, I may not have a chance to test this one.

4. "When radishes, celery, or carrots have lost their crunch, simply pop them in a bowl of iced water along with a slice of raw potato and watch the limp vegetables freshen up right before your eyes." Sadly I read this too late to save some sad-looking carrots that were dumped in the compost bin this week.

5. "Line the bottom of your refrigerator's crisper drawer with paper towels. They'll absorb the excess moisture that causes veggies to rot." This is interesting, but what I really need is a see-through drawer so I remember what I stashed in there before it starts to ooze.
Freeze chopped vegetables, ripe fruit, and coffee instead of tossing them out.  

Would you pay $500 for socks?

That's how much a hand-crocheted pair goes for at one New York store.  

Money savers you may have overlooked

There’s actually an optimal time of the year to stock up on grocery staples. 

A Kick in the Teeth


So, you want a loan

If you want a mortgage, car loan, or credit card, these are the rules to follow.

Feds forced to admit that it's legal to take pictures of federal buildings

The New York Civil Liberties Union and Libertarian activist Antonio Musumeci just won a court case that affirms the right of photographers to take pictures and record video out front of federal courthouses. The US federal government settled the case by apologizing to Musumeci for his arrest, acknowledging that it is legal to record at courthouses, and promising to issue guidelines to federal officers explaining this fact to them.
"Not only will this settlement end harassment of photographers outside federal courthouses, it will free people to photograph and film outside of all federal buildings," said NYCLU Associate Legal Director Christopher Dunn, lead counsel in the case. "The regulation at issue in this case applies to all federal buildings, not only courthouses, so this settlement should extend to photography near all federal buildings nationwide.

Bad Cops

New Mexico cop is accused of repeated rapes

Fired California cop is convicted after years of molesting relative

Canadian cop sues over internet mockery of his threat to arrest people for blowing bubbles

Michigan State Trooper pleads no contest in assault

Ohio police officer and his wife are both arrested on domestic violence charges

Virginia cop is sentenced for bank robbery

California cop is arrested in alleged scheme to torch car, collect insurance; second officer accused of cover-up

White House warns banks on foreclosures and the law

Better late than never, but still very much appreciated. The banks listen to little other than an iron fist so hopefully the White House is ready to carry through on their talk.
Federal law enforcement officials are investigating possible criminal violations in connection with the national foreclosure crisis, examining whether financial firms broke federal laws when they filed fraudulent court documents to seize people's homes, according to people familiar with the matter.

The Obama administration's Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force is in the early stages of an investigation into whether banks and other companies that submitted flawed paperwork in state foreclosure proceedings may also have misled federal housing agencies, which now own or insure a majority of home loans, according to these sources.

The task force, which includes investigators from the Justice Department, Department of Housing and Urban Development and other agencies, is also looking into whether the submission of flawed paperwork during the foreclosure process violated mail or wire fraud laws. Financial fraud cases often involve these statutes.

Florida foreclosure mill owner who chucked out 70,000 families in 2009 is unspeakably rich

David J. Stern is a Florida lawyer who operates a foreclosure mill, a firm that foreclosed on more than 70,000 homes last year. According to a deposition from Tammie Mae Kapusta, a former employee, Stern's firm cut many corners, foreclosing on homes without serving notice, ignoring mortgage payments that would have prevented foreclosure, and "yelling at" employees who talked to homeowners on the phone, because that was "giving them too much time." Apparently, it's working for Stern, who just bought the mega-mansion next to his mega-mega-mansion on a private island so he could tear it down and install a tennis court. Seriously, this guy sounds like the villain in a Carl Hiaassen novel, except Hiaassen's villains are more believable and less evil.
But while the banks are ultimately responsible, the root of the problem appears to lie with "foreclosure mill" law firms like Stern's. These operations process foreclosure cases on behalf of lenders, and their business model is based on moving the paperwork through as quickly as possible. That's why such firms have pioneered practices like "robo-signing" -- whereby their employees process thousands of court documents in pending foreclosures without ever actually reviewing them, as the law requires. Of course, it's in the banks' interest for their contractors to move quickly, because the faster a foreclosure moves, the less time a struggling borrower has to fight it... His $15 million, 16,000-square-foot mansion occupies a corner lot in a private island community on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. It is featured on a water-taxi tour of the area's grandest estates, along with the abodes of Jay Leno and billionaire Blockbuster founder Wayne Huizenga, as well as the former residence of Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball. (Last year, Stern snapped up his next-door neighbor's property for $8 million and tore down the house to make way for a tennis court.) Docked outside is Misunderstood, Stern's 130-foot, jet-propelled Mangusta yacht -- a $20 million-plus replacement for his previous 108-foot Mangusta. He also owns four Ferraris, four Porsches, two Mercedes-Benzes, and a Bugatti -- a high-end Italian brand with models costing north of $1 million a pop.

Insurance companies may not be able to reduce internal costs enough

Wow, private industry really can be much more efficient than the government. Somehow giving the insurance industry new customers isn't enough for them. They only want the right kind of customers, as in those who are happy to be ripped off with high internal costs. Maybe there will be no other choice but to bring back the public option if the industry can't manage to control their excessive internal costs.
The Obama administration is awaiting the recommendation of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, meeting in Orlando this week, for how and when to implement key changes to the "Medical Loss Ratio" rule.

Under health reform, beginning 2011, insurance companies will have to spend 80% to 85% of the premiums they collect on care instead of toward their own profits and overhead costs.

Prior to reform, requirements varied from state to state. In some cases, insurers didn't have to meet any minimum requirements.

For example, some plans have a 40% loss ratio. That means individuals could be paying $1 for 40 cents of care.

State pensions in trouble

The most immediate financial crises aren't where you would expect them.  

Your tax dollars at work

Thank the repugicans.

Suddenly the repugicans aren't listening to our Veterans

Even America's veterans think foreign money in U.S. campaigns is a bad idea:

On Monday, the Veterans' Alliance for Security and Democracy (vetpac) filed an FEC complaint against the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to the FEC, alleging that the organization's potential use of foreign funds for political purposes represents a "clear and present danger to our democracy."

From the letter to the FEC, obtained by the Huffington Post:
We understand that organizations may have "a reasonable accounting method" to separate funds into their general operations budget. However, the prohibition on foreign nationals indirectly contributing to U.S. elections should require additional scrutiny in the case of organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, where even segregated funds within their general operating budget could be said to indirectly finance their campaign work, given the volume of such activity as a percentage of their overall expenditures. [...]

Given the unseemly amounts of funds being poured into campaigns, we ask that you move expeditiously to require full disclosure of the funding sources of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Their actions present a clear and present danger to our democracy by shielding the electorate from the identities of foreign influences that are lurking behind the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's massive campaign spending.
"Our military veterans, who served to protect the Constitution of the United States, are concerned that foreign money could be used to influence our policies and buy seats in the House and Senate," said Lorin Walker, vetpac Vice President and Treasurer. "the Chamber's actions compromise the very rights for which our military men and women put their lives on the line."

Wingnuts are stupid

A voice mail left by Clarence Thomas's wife adds new intrigue to the 19-year-old case. 

Clarence Thomas' Wife Leaves Anita Hill Voice Mails

She might have gone just a wee hair over the line don't you think?

The wife of US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas bizarrely phoned her hubby's onetime sex-harass accuser, Anita Hill, last week -- and demanded an apology for her testimony before Congress in 1991, according to an ABC report last night.

"Good morning, Anita Hill, it's Ginni Thomas," said Virginia Thomas, who called Hill's office at Brandeis University, where Hill is a law professor, and left a message at 7:30 a.m. Saturday.

"I just wanted to reach across the airwaves and the years and ask you to consider something. I would love you to consider an apology sometime and some full explanation of why you did what you did with my husband. So give it some thought and certainly pray about this and come to understand why you did what you did. OK. Have a good day."

Hill -- who testified that when she worked with Thomas, he once held out his soda can and asked, "Who has put pubic hair on my Coke?" -- said she thought the call "was a prank."

But Virginia Thomas, 53, later confirmed it was her to a reporter.

"I did place a call to Ms. Hill at her office extending an olive branch to her after all these years, in hopes that we could ultimately get past what happened so long ago . . ." Mrs. Thomas said.

"That offer still stands, I would be very happy to meet and talk with her if she would be willing to do the same. Certainly no offense was ever intended."

Hill, 54, retorted: "Even if it wasn't a prank, it was in no way conciliatory for her to begin with the presumption that I did something wrong in 1991.

"I don't apologize. I have no intention of apologizing, and I stand by my testimony in 1991."

The anti-masturbation witch says the Constitution says nothing about the separation between church and state

Except of course, it does.
Republican Christine O'Donnell challenged her Democratic rival Tuesday to show where the Constitution requires separation of church and state, drawing swift criticism from her opponent, laughter from her law school audience and a quick defense from prominent conservatives.
The First Amendment states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

The phrase "separation of church and state" is usually traced to President Thomas Jefferson. In a letter in 1802, he referred to the First Amendment and said that it built "a wall of separation between Church & State."
Now imagine a whole Congress for of people like her.
Christine O'Donnell's church and state question causes a stir and stimulates questions about the law's power. Facts 

The truth be told


The Mayans got it wrong?

The conversion to the modern calendar means the much-hyped 2012 doomsday prediction may be way off.  

Archaeology News

Archaeologists in the Swiss city of Zurich have found a 5,000-year-old door that may be the oldest ever found in Europe.

Jewelery and tools from a cave in France were actually made by modern humans, if a new radiocarbon dating study is to be believed

Bones = buried treasure in Tennessee backyard

A buried treasure of sorts has been found in a Tennessee man's backyard. Archaeologists and Middle Tennessee State University students believe the remains of a mastodon are behind a Franklin home, about 20 miles south of Nashville.



Russian town issues etiquette tips on bear encounters

Officials in a remote Russian city have drawn up a list of practical tips for locals on how to survive encounters with bears, after growing numbers have wandered into the streets in search of food.

Escaped ape attacks police car

A 300-pound chimpanzee that broke free from its chains has been captured after briefly wandering around a Kansas City neighborhood and smashing out the window of a police car.

On how the leopard got its spots

The patterns of leopards' spots and tigers' stripes are a camouflage related to their individual habitats, researchers say.

The slow-moving mystery of the sloth's neck

Sitting quietly on a tree branch in South America, brown-throated sloths don't do much – except break a law of mammalian evolution.



Top 10 Worst Man Eaters In History

Most large predatory animals can, and will, see humans as suitable prey, under the right circumstances; however, true 'man eaters,' that is, individual animals that prefer human flesh over any other food, are very rare.

This list is a selection of some of the worst cases of man eaters recorded in history.

Odds and Sods

It's no surprise when a rock star or singer slaps their name on perfume or a clothing line, but not every celeb-product matchup makes any kind of sense.

Staff at a Lowell bank naturally became suspicious when a woman came in with a $10,000 bill.