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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.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Daily Drift

The Daily Drift
Today's horoscope says:
The games people play can get highly competitive, but everyone's machinations will be harmless and collaborative.
Step into the middle of the action and just focus on having fun!
It's not worth your time to get stressed out over competition or deadlines, so forget the 'win at any cost' idea.
It is definitely all about how you play the game.
Your life is entering a positive phase of easy conversations and non judgmental relationships.

Some of our readers today have been in:
Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Lloydminister, Alberta, Canada
Edithvale, Victoria, Australia
London, England, United Kingdom
Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
Sittard, Limburg, Netherlands
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Paris, Ile-De-France, France
Erfurt, Thuringen, Germany
Nepean, Ontario, Canada
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Daganzo De Arriba, Madrid, Spain
Perth, Western Australia, Australia
Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan
Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia
Rome, Lazio, Italy

as well as Georgia, Mexico, Peru, Serbia, Bangladesh, Latvia, Greece, Scotland, Hong Kong, Denmark, Wales, Iran, Singapore, Poland, Taiwan, Sweden, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Belgium, India, Croatia, Pakistan, Romania, Finland, Korea,  Argentina, Vietnam, Egypt, Russia, South Korea, Indonesia, Puerto Rico, Brazil, New Zealand, United Arab Emirates, China, Iraq, Ecuador, Nigeria, Morocco, Chile, Honduras and in cities across the United States such as Minong, Plano, Pleasanton, Manteo and more.

Today is:
Today is Thursday, December 9, the 343rd day of 2010.
There are 22 days left in the year.

Today's unusual holiday or celebration is:

Don't forget to visit our sister blog!

TSA offends India's ambassador with pat-down

To be fair, they offend most people with any dignity or common sense so it's not as though they necessarily singled out the ambassador who was wearing a sari.
India's sari-clad ambassador was pulled from an airport security line and patted down by a TSA agent in Mississippi after attending a conference, an act one state agency official called "unfortunate."

The hands-on search last week also embarrassed the university officials who invited Meera Shankar, India's ambassador to the United States, to give a speech for an international studies program.

"It was a wonderful program, maybe the best we've had, (but) this stupid incident ruined the whole thing. She said, 'I will never come back here,'" said Janos Radvanyi, chair of Mississippi State University's international studies department. "We are sending her a letter of apology."

Marines using all-female teams

The Marines say demand is high for "female engagement teams," which work with Afghan women.  

Operation Payback Strikes Again

Cripples Mastercard Site over the WikiLeaks Censorship; Visa Next

The websites of the international credit card MasterCard and the Swedish prosecution authority are among the latest to be taken offline in the escalating technological battle over WikiLeaks, web censorship and perceived political pressure.

Co-ordinated attacks by online activists who support the site and its founder Julian Assange – who is in UK custody accused of raping two Swedish women – have seen the websites of the alleged victims' Swedish lawyer disabled, while commercial and political targets have also been subject to attack by a loose coalition of global hackers.

The Swedish prosecution authority has confirmed its website was attacked last night and this morning. MasterCard was partially paralysed today in revenge for the payment network's decision to cease taking donations to WikiLeaks.

In an attack referred to as Operation Payback, a group of online activists calling themselves Anonymous appear to have orchestrated a DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack on the financial site, bringing its service to a halt.

Attempts to access www.mastercard.com have been unsuccessful since shortly after 9.30am.

The site would say only that it was "experiencing heavy traffic on its external corporate website" but insisted this would not interfere with its ability to process transactions.

But one payment service company told the BBC its customers were experiencing "a complete loss of service" on MasterCard SecureCode. The credit card company later confirmed that loss.

MasterCard tonight said in a statement it was "working to restore normal service levels" after "a concentrated effort to flood our corporate web site with traffic and slow access." The company added: "It is important to note that our systems have not been compromised and there is no impact on our cardholders' ability to use their cards for secure transactions globally."

MasterCard announced on Monday that it would no longer process donations to WikiLeaks, which it claimed was engaged in illegal activity.

Visa, Amazon, Swiss bank PostFinance and others have also announced in recent days that they will cease trading with the whistleblowing site.

The moves have led to concerted attempts by hackers to target companies they deem guilty of "censoring" WikiLeaks.

Operation Payback, which has been targeting commercial sites that have cut their ties with WikiLeaks for some days, has also made threats to other organisations including Twitter, which it says is suppressing the site.

"We will fire at anything or anyone that tries to censor WikiLeaks, including multibillion-dollar companies such as PayPal," a statement circulating online, apparently from Operation Payback, said.

"Twitter, you're next for censoring #WikiLeaks discussion. The major shitstorm has begun," it added.

Twitter has issued a statement denying it has censored the hashtag, and saying confusion had arisen over its "trending" facility.

Meanwhile it has also emerged that Visa has today ordered DataCell, an IT firm that helps WikiLeaks collect payments, to suspend all of its transactions – even those involving other payees – a day after it cut off all the firm's donations being made to WikiLeaks.

DataCell, a small Icelandic company that facilitates transfers made by credit cards including Visa and MasterCard, says it will take up "immediate legal actions" and warned that the powerful "duopoly" of Visa and MasterCard could spell "the end of the credit card business worldwide".

Andreas Fink, chief executive of DataCell, said in a statement: "Putting all payments on hold for seven days or more is one thing but rejecting all further attempts to donate is making the donations impossible.

"This does clearly create massive financial losses to WikiLeaks, which seems to be the only purpose of this suspension.

"This is not about the brand of Visa; this is about politics, and Visa should not be involved in this.

"Visa customers are contacting us in masses to confirm that they really donate and they are not happy about Visa rejecting them. It is obvious that Visa is under political pressure to close us down."

Earlier, PayPal, which has also been the subject of technological attack since it suspended payments to WikiLeaks last week, appeared to admit that it had taken the step after an intervention from the US state department.

PayPal's vice-president of platform, Osama Bedier, told an internet conference the site had decided to freeze WikiLeaks' account on 4 December after government representatives said it was engaged in illegal activity.

"[The US] state department told us these were illegal activities. It was straightforward," he told the LeWeb conference in Paris, adding: "We ... comply with regulations around the world, making sure that we protect our brand."

Though he later reined back the comments, saying that PayPal had not been contacted directly by the state department but had seen a letter it had sent to WikiLeaks, his remarks will undoubtedly intensify criticism from supporters of WikiLeaks that the site is being targeted for political reasons.

Operation Payback, which refers to itself as "an anonymous, decentralised movement that fights against censorship and copywrong", and has been linked to the influential internet messageboard 4Chan, argues that such steps "are long strides closer to a world where we cannot say what we think and are unable to express our opinions and ideas".

It added: "We cannot let this happen. This is why our intention is to find out who is responsible for this failed attempt at censorship.

"This is why we intend to utilise our resources to raise awareness, attack those against and support those who are helping lead our world to freedom and democracy."

The MasterCard action was confirmed on Twitter at 9.39am by user @Anon_Operation, who later tweeted: "We are glad to tell you that http://www.mastercard.com/ is down and it's confirmed! #ddos #WikiLeaks Operation: Payback (is a bitch!) #PAYBACK"

PostFinance was successfully hacked on Monday after it shut down one of WikiLeaks' key bank accounts, accusing Assange of lying. Its service since has been seriously disrupted.

PayPal has also been targeted a number of times, but while its internal blog was paralysed for more than two hours, the payment processing facility has so far been able to withstand the attacks.

Other cyber attacks were mounted yesterday on EveryDNS.net, which suspended dealings on 3 December, while Amazon, which removed WikiLeaks content from its EC2 cloud on 1 December, may also be a possible target.

According to bloggers monitoring the cyber attacks, those involved in the protests have also been targeting the websites of US senator Joe Lieberman, who is an outspoken critic of WikiLeaks, and Sarah Palin, who said Assange should be treated like a terrorist.

Claes Bergstrom, the lawyer of the two women who claim Assange raped or assaulted them, confirmed his website was shut down overnight, as was the site of a lawyer representing Assange in Sweden. This was the first time such an attack had occurred, he said.

DDoS attacks, which often involve flooding the target site with requests so that it cannot cope with legitimate communication, are illegal.

Hollywood combats terror

A WikiLeaks cable from Saudi Arabia reveals Hollywood's "profound effect" against jihadism. 

    Culinary DeLites

    Full-fat cheese seems like a diet don't, but a little bit may boost metabolism.  
    General Mills takes a delicate step to make brands healthier without violating a golden rule.

    What body language means

    Biting your lips when you're under stress is an attempt to soothe yourself.  

    Bad Cops

    Atlanta will pay $1M to settle lawsuit over wildly illegal raid on gay bar

    Tennessee cops arrested on domestic violence charges keep their jobs

    Lawsuit: Cops forced sobriety test on sober woman, Tasered husband

    Oregon cops end up paying $4K to man who flipped them off

    Two Queens cops probed following driver Michael Murphy's fatal beating

    FBI paid ex-con $177,000 to entrap Muslims

    The Father of the Yield

    The sign on the highway that tells you to yield to oncoming traffic is not as old as you might think. Oklahoma police officer Clinton Riggs came up with the “yield” sign in 1950, which spread from its birthplace in Tulsa to all corners of the US.
    It was during his time as a trooper that Riggs conceived the idea of the “yield” sign, and he began developing it while attending Chicago’s Northwestern Traffic Institute in 1939.
    He spent more than a decade experimenting with the sign, according to the Tulsa Police Department’s history book. His goal was a sign that would not only control traffic at an intersection but would also attach liability in a collision if one driver failed to yield.
    The sign was a hit, especially among women.
    …engineers in Dallas were pleasantly surprised by how grateful women were for the signs, the article said. Some women were apparently afraid to stop at night, so a yield sign helped them feel safe from roadside prowlers. 



    How Insurance Works

    After Mrs. O'Toole's barn burned down, she called her insurance agent to file a claim.
    She told the insurance man, "We had that barn insured for fifty thousand bucks, and we need that money immediately!"

    "Just a minute there, Mrs. O'Toole," the agent replied. "Insurance doesn't work quite like that."

    "What do you mean?!" she said.

    "The policy here says $50,000!"

    "That's a maximum," the insurance man said. "What we do is will ascertain the value of what was insured, and then provide you with a new one of comparable worth."

    After a long pause, she replied "That's how insurance works?!"

    "Absolutely," the agent said.

    "Well then," she said, "I'd like to cancel the policy on my husband immediately!"

    What landlords won't tell you

    Renters make up 40% of families facing eviction, due to landlords' mortgage problems.  

    Public picks top economy

    In a poll, only one in five said the U.S. is the top place for jobs and prosperity.  

    The Lifespan Of A US Dollar Bill

    The average lifespan of a $1 bill is 22 months, before it is destroyed and replaced. The average lifespan of a $5 bill is 16 months. A $100 bill lasts the longest at 89 months, or nearly 8 years.

    New ways to cut fuel costs

    Warehouse clubs and supermarkets are offering enticing fuel deals to keep loyal customers.  

    Middle class savings crisis

    Average Americans have put away only $20,000 of the $300,000 they expect to need.  

      On The Job

      Some companies are on the attack against the “Ferris Bueller” phenomenon.  
        Look for job growth in these fields, due to trends in tech, health care, and education.

        Real estate winners, losers

        Despite one of the worst recessions in history, some real estate markets held onto their gains.  

        Billionaire's art island

        A Russian steel magnate may convert a deserted island into a home for his vast collection.  

        Six forgotten vacation spots

        One famous spring-break beach town is now a luxury family-friendly destination.

          Weird Science

          Scientists have rediscovered a bizarre insect in Kenya, collecting the first Terrible Hairy Fly specimen since 1948.

          Researchers say a curled-up brown fossil dredged up off the Dutch coast is an ancient piece of hyena dung, the first found in the North Sea dating back to the Late Pleistocene era, 12,000-100,000 years ago.

          NASA’s 3D Tour of the Known Universe

          NASA scientists collected images from the Hubble space telescope and other sources and knitted them together to give us a visual representation of all the known galaxies in the universe, from the perspective of our tiny little spot. Cosmic.

          Fifteen Alien Vegetables Found on Earth

          The salak fruit, native to Indonesia, has an outer skin resembling that of a snake. The pulp inside divides into three edible lobes. Agriculture Guide has pictures of this fruit and fourteen other odd-looking fruits and vegetables.

          Believe it or not


          Paris hit by huge snowfall

          The largest storm in decades blankets the city, closing the Eiffel Tower and stranding commuters. 

          Dazzling sky shows ahead

          Don't miss a chance to catch a massive meteor shower and a sight that won't be repeated until 2014. 

            Oh, well

            Xmas might be a tad late this year.

            Laser beams endanger planes

            The FAA warns of a startling increase in reports of beams pointed at cockpits from the ground. 

            Ship slammed by massive waves

            An Antarctic vessel slams into treacherous waters measuring three stories high.  



              Backlash over NASA discovery

              The breakthrough that captivated the world sparks a backlash from some experts.  

                New organism ravages Titanic

                Scientists say a strange bacteria strain is one thing eating away at the historic ship's wreckage.  

                Frog and Toad Bladders Hunt and Remove Foreign Objects

                Zoologists implanted frogs with radio transmitters. The result was that most of the transmitters were found in the frogs’ bladders or fully excreted. Further experimentation indicated that certain species of frogs and toads have bladders that can detect, surround, and excrete foreign objects.

                At Wired, Dave Mosher writes:
                They enlisted five green tree frogs and five cane toads, implanting small inert beads in each the same way they implanted the radio transmitters. Each tree frog expelled its bead within 23 days. One cane toad also gave its bead the boot, and the beads in the other four toads had migrated to their bladders.
                To unravel the secrets of the process, the zoologists implanted beads in 31 more cane toads, toxic amphibians native to South America but introduced to northeastern Australia in 1935 to control beetle infestations. (Since then, Shine says, the toads have become invasive and poisoned populations of large predators such as pythons. As a result, ecologists now closely track their numbers and behavior.)
                Toads dissected on sequential days revealed that the bladder grew a thin offshoot of cells to surround the bead, which later developed into mature, bladder-like tissue and merged with the organ’s main cavity. From there, they “floated freely in the urine” and were peed out if near the bladder’s opening.

                Ten Weirdest New Animals of 2010

                National Geographic posts many lists in December rounding up up the top ten of subjects you won’t find anywhere else. The Ten Weirdest New Animals of 2010 has quite a few we’ve posted about, but seeing them all in one gallery is almost startling. Yes, the tiny purple octopus is there, and the snub-nosed monkey, and this friendly-looking bat.
                This tube-nosed fruit bat—which became a Web sensation as “Yoda bat”—is just one of the roughly 200 species encountered during two scientific expeditions to Papua New Guinea in 2009, scientists announced in October.
                Though seen on previous expeditions, the bat has yet to be formally documented as a new species, or even named. Like other fruit bats, though, it disperses seeds from the fruit in its diet, perhaps making the flying mammal crucial to its tropical rain forest ecosystem.

                Animal Pictures