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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.

Monday, December 31, 2012

The Daily Drift


~Freedom~ ♦♦♦ American/Nature Blog

I really did it this time. Can you put down the camera and give a sheep a hand?
Mama never said they'd be days like this!

Some of our readers today have been in:
Nicosia, Cyprus
Birmingham, England
Hanoi, Vietnam
Waterloo, Canada
Ipoh, Malaysia
Fethiye, Turkey
Jakarta, Indonesia
Lahore, Pakistan
Yerevan, Armenia
Puchong, Malaysia
Lublin, Poland
Ankara, Turkey
Bordeaux, France
Sialkot, Pakistan
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Baghdad, Iraq
Vienna, Australia
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Kenitra, Morocco
London, England
Sofia, Bulgaria
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

In case you hadn't noticed today is the last day of the year 2012

Don't forget to visit our sister blog!

Today in History

1775   George Washington orders recruiting officers to accept free blacks into the army.
1852   The richest year of the gold rush ends with $81.3 million in gold produced.
1862   Union General William Rosecrans' army repels two Confederate attacks at the Battle of Murfreesboro (Stone's River).
1910   John B. Moisant and Arch Hoxsey, two of America's foremost aviators, die in separate plane crashes.
1911   Helene Dutrieu wins the Femina aviation cup in Etampes. She sets a distance record for women at 158 miles.
1915   The Germans torpedo the British liner Persia without any warning killing 335 passengers.
1923   The Sahara is crossed by an automobile for the first time.
1930   Brewery heir Adolphus Busch is kidnapped.
1941   General MacArthur reports that U.S. lines in Manila have been pushed back by the Japanese.
1942   After five months of battle, Emperor Hirohito allows the Japanese commanders at Guadalcanal to retreat.
1944   Hungary declares war on Germany.
1965   California becomes the largest state in population.
1977   Cambodia breaks relations with Vietnam.

Non Sequitur


Cheers to Noble Rot!

While sipping the perfect wine for this New Year’s midnight toast, thank the community of microorganisms that grew on the grapes. Read more
  Cheers to Noble Rot!

The wisdom of Calvin

An Estimated 1 million to ring in 2013 in NYC

FILE - In this Dec. 31, 2011 file photo, confetti flies over New York's Times Square as the clock strikes midnight during the New Year's Eve celebration as seen from the balcony of the Marriott Marquis hotel. It’s no small task making sure the annual celebration remains safe, but the New York City police use an array of security measures for the event that turns the "Crossroads of the World" into a massive street party in the heart of Manhattan. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)  Hours before Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Rockettes were set to usher in the new year, Times Square was teeming Monday with revelers wearing plastic "2013" glasses and snapping photos.
An estimated 1 million people were expected to cram into the neon-lit district to see the crystal ball drop and countdown to 2013, organizers said.
Among the early celebrants were Kevin and Laura Concannon of Hingham, Mass., and his parents, Jim and Ellen Concannon of Boston. They were in town to attend a wedding in New Jersey but came to Times Square to try to see the New Year's Eve ball, take photos and perhaps make a few wishes for a better 2013, for themselves and the nation.
"It's been an OK year for us but, obviously, with all the sadness in the country, we're looking for some good changes in 2013," Laura Concannon said.
On a personal level, she and her husband, who have five children between 5 and 15, are hoping 2013 is better for Kevin professionally and financially. Kevin Concannon, who is in technology sales, said business was down this year.
On a broader scale, "no more talk about the fiscal cliff," Jim Concannon said. "We're all tired of it. Let's start doing the jobs in Washington that we sent you there for."
The crystal ball is covered with 2,688 Waterford crystal triangles and illuminated by more than 32,000 LEDs in red, blue, green and white. One crystal panel is engraved with the name of longtime host Dick Clark, who died in April at the age of 82.
Square-inch pieces of paper with tributes to Clark are part of the confetti that will shower Times Square as the clock strikes midnight.
Ryan Seacrest will host the countdown show from Times Square, with Taylor Swift, Carly Rae Jepsen, Neon Trees, Flo Rida and Pitbull among the musical guests. Seacrest hosted the past few years with Clark making short appearances; a stroke had diminished Clark's communications skills.
Security in Times Square was tight.
Along with an army of uniformed officers, police were using barriers to prevent overcrowding and for checkpoints to inspect vehicles, enforce a ban on alcohol and check handbags.
Plainclothes officers were assigned to blend into the crowd.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly predicted that Times Square would be the "safest place in the world on New Year's Eve."
Elvis Rivera of Manhattan was among the early revelers in Times Square.
He wasn't planning to ring in the new year there but came by to take pictures.
How did he feel about the end of 2012?
"Relieved," Rivera said, adding that there had been a death and job losses in his family this year.
His hopes for 2013?
"A better life" — and more money, he said.

New Years News You Can Use

Recycle calendars

The Mysterious Disappearance Of The Russian Crown Jewels

A recently-discovered book at the U.S. Geological Survey Library in Reston, Virginia is supposedly a 1922 catalog of the Russian crown jewels, which once belonged to the Romanov family and fell into the hands of revolutionaries when the last the czar was toppled in 1917. When compared to the official inventory of the jewels published in 1925, it became apparent that four items in the earlier book are missing from the 1925 volume. One, a sapphire brooch, was traced to a London auction in 1927, but the fate of the other three items is a mystery. Read more about the discrepancies at NPR.

Three New Year’s Jokes

Did you hear what the dyslexic Highway Patrolman did on New Year's?

He spent the whole night handing out I.U.D.'s


Carl's New Year's Eve party was an annual occurrence with numerous guests arriving.  During the evening, a man knocked on the door, was greeted heartily although no one knew who he was, and was led to where the drinks were, in the kitchen. 

He sat there happily, chatting away, for a couple of hours before a strange light dawned on his face.

'You know,' he confided to Carl, 'I wasn't even invited to this party.  I just came over to tell you that some of your guests' cars are blocking my drive.'

He continued, 'My wife's been sitting out in the car waiting for me to get them moved, so that we can go out.'


Sally was taking an afternoon nap on New Year's Eve before the festivities. After she woke up, she confided to George, her husband, 'I just dreamed that you gave me a diamond ring for a New Year's present. What do you think it all means?'

'Aha, you'll know tonight,' answered George smiling broadly.

At midnight, as the New Year was chiming, George approached Sally and handed her small package.  Delighted and excited she opened it quickly. There in her hand rested a book entitled: The Meaning of Dreams.

Funny Pictures


Teletubby transport.

Brutsch Mopetta

Did you know ...

About 9 great things that happened in 2012 that Progressives can cheer about

About the 5 biggest repugican fails of 2012

And I Quote

Bank executives in Iceland jailed for banking collapse

Oh how interesting, who would have imagined — jailing bank execs.We prefer letting our bankers keep all of the bonus money paid out for bogus deals, then let them walk away with millions more. On top of that, we keep distorting the economy and weakening the middle class by diluting any money they leave in the banks, while showering free money onto the entire banking system so that they can maintain their beloved lifestyle.
Gosh, the thought of jailing a banker just sounds so crazy. It’s as if they are actually being held responsible for the destruction they left in their wake of their greedy, self-centered, feeding frenzy. Go figure.
NY Times:
rich guy bank 1%
A Reykjavik court sentenced Glitnir’s former chief executive, Larus Welding, and former head of corporate finance, Gudmundur Hjaltason, each to nine months in jail, of which six months were suspended for two years. They had denied the charges.
Prosecutors said the two approved a loan to a company which owned shares in Glitnir so that the company could in turn repay a debt to Morgan Stanley.
The decision, taken outside the regular decision-making process, meant Glitnir was too exposed to the company and cost the bank at least 53.7 million euros (43 million pounds), the prosecution said.

The Classics


Dream car.

The repugicans say to seniors ...

We love our uber wealthy handlers more, suckers!

Fiscal cliff discussions break down after repugicans demand social security cuts - More

Minimum wage gap grows wider between states

This Friday, Dec. 28,2012 photo Kaylee Feight talks about the impact of a minimum wage increase on her job at Quiznos in Helena, Mont. Montana's minimum wage workers are getting a small pay raise on New Year's Day when an automatic cost-of-living increase takes effect. (AP photo/Matt Gouras)
With a bump in the minimum wage to $9.19 an hour on Tuesday, high school student Miranda Olson will edge closer to her goal of purchasing that black Volkswagen Beetle she's been researching online.
Olson is only able to pick up part-time hours, working after classes and on weekends. But the extra pennies she'll earn in 2013 will add up over the coming weeks and months.
"It's not much, but it's something," said Olson, 16, who works at Wagner's European Bakery and Cafe in Olympia. "Every bit helps."
Many workers around the country won't be as lucky as the ones in Washington state, which is raising its salary minimum even though it already has the highest state baseline in the country. Workers one state over — in Idaho — will make nearly $2 per hour less in 2013.
Automatic minimum wage increases designed to compensate for inflation have steadily pushed up salaries in some states, even through the recession, expanding the pay gap between areas that make annual adjustments and those that don't. Of the 10 states that will increase the minimum wage Tuesday, nine did so automatically to adjust for inflation.
Rhode Island lawmakers approved that state's wage increase this past year.
Paul Sonn, legal co-director at the National Employment Law Project, said he hopes more states will start looking at automatic adjustments as the economy recovers. He said the model — which Washington state first adopted in 1998 — helps avoid sudden jolts as states try to catch up to their peers.
"We think there's a case that it's better for everyone, including the business community, to have predictable, regular, small increases every year," Sonn said.
The automatic adjustments aren't much. Washington's bump of 15 cents will mean those who work 40-hour weeks will earn an extra $6 per week — enough for a couple lattes — or about $300 per year.
Hundreds of thousands of workers are expected to get a pay increase with the wage adjustments that begin New Year's Day. Along with Washington and Rhode Island, the changes will also occur in Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, and Vermont.
Between the nine states with automatic adjustments happening this year, the average minimum wage is $8.12 per hour, up from a little under $8. States that do not have automatic changes operate with an average minimum wage of about $7.40 — a difference of about $1,500 per year for a full-time worker.
Many states, including Idaho, follow the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, either because they've tied their minimum wage to that threshold or because the state-enacted minimum is lower than that.
San Francisco has set the highest local minimum wage and will have workers paid at least $10.55 an hour in 2013.
Groups like the National Restaurant Association oppose further increases in federal or state minimum wages, arguing that it's an ineffective way to reduce poverty and forces business owners to cut hours, raise prices or lay off workers.
At Tom's 1st Avenue Bento, a downtown Portland lunch spot, owner Tom Hume said he boosted pay for minimum-wage workers before the end of the year in order to get ahead of the game. He also raised prices on one-third of his menu items by 25 cents.
Natasha Baker, 22, who works at Hume's restaurant, recently moved back in with her mother but hopes to move to another apartment in January. She said the extra $5 or $6 she's earning every week with the salary boost is OK but won't make a huge difference.
"I don't usually look at what I get paid," she said. "I'm more directed on what's being taken out, which is more discouraging than anything."

Malls are dying

There's something nice about going into a well-maintained, well-thought-through shop -- indeed, there's a whole genre of fiction about this. But the dark side of retail is the sprawling American megamall, the original killer of the downtown and the mom-and-pop shop, which turned the public square into a private space and brought crushing sameness to the land.
So while we lament the Internet's deleterious effect on the friendly used bookstore, let's not forget to celebrate the its even harsher effect on malls:
A report from Co-Star observes that there are more than 200 malls with over 250,000 square feet that have vacancy rates of 35 percent or higher, a "clear marker for shopping center distress." These malls are becoming ghost towns. They are not viable now and will only get less so as online continues to steal retail sales from brick-and-mortar stores. Continued bankruptcies among historic mall anchors will increase the pressure on these marginal malls, as will store closures from retailers working to optimize their business. Hundreds of malls will soon need to be repurposed or demolished. Strong malls will stay strong for a while, as retailers are willing to pay for traffic and customers from failed malls seek offline alternatives, but even they stand in the path of the shift of retail spending from offline to online.
This in turn creates further opportunity for online commerce. If I were thinking of starting a new retail brand right now, I would unquestionably start it online.

The truth hurts

How To Photograph Fireworks Displays

Fireworks Displays are something that evoke a lot of emotion in people as they are not only beautiful and spectacular to watch but they also are often used to celebrate momentous occasions. But how do you photograph fireworks displays?

Of course it's not just a matter of going out finding a fireworks display - there are, as usual, things you can do to improve your results. With New Years Eve just around the corner here are a few fireworks digital photography tips.

Awesome Pictures

Why the stuff you don't see at the museum matters

Chicago's Field Museum isn't just a science museum. It's also a research center, especially for archaeologists and anthropologists who come to the museum to make use of its extensive collections of artifacts — only a tiny fraction of which is on public display at any given time. Unfortunately, the museum is currently up to its neck in debt, and part of the current administrators' plan to deal with that problem is to restructure the research department and cut back on curators and staffing there.It's hard to understand why this has the archaeology community so on edge unless you really understand what the Field Museum has in those vast Indiana-Jones-inspiring storage collections. Here's Michael Smith, an archaeologist who studies the ancient Aztecs, explaining why the Field Museum is so important to his work and that of his colleagues.
The photo above shows an Aztec flute in the museum. I have excavated many small fragments of these objects in Aztec domestic middens, but never an entire example. When one just has the animal's ear, or a segment with a hole, or a fragment of the mouthpiece, it is hard to figure out just what these are pieces of. It is through study of the whole flutes in the Field Museum or other museums that I learned to interpret the tiny fragments of musical instruments, and of many other unusual items, from my excavations. Or consider our knowledge of Aztec music. Scholars such as Adje Both have reconstructed aspects of Aztec music by studying flutes like this and by playing them (and recording the tones and doing analyses of the sound diagrams). Museums are the only places with the resources for such research, and the Field Museum is one of the most important in the U.S. and the world.

Ancient Roman Socks

These magnificently preserved socks date back to Roman Egypt, c. 250-420 A.D. Are they designed for two-toed people? Not quite:
The big toe divided from the others suggest that the socks were probably meant to be worn with sandals. It is unclear whether the socks formed offerings to the dead or were used as foot coverings. Note that the holes have not laddered (though they have spread somewhat). 

The 1,000-Year-Old Wooden Bridges That Keep Modern China Moving

Still standing and still in every-day use - the arched wooden bridges built in China nearly 1,000 years ago demonstrate the true skill of the master craftsmen who first constructed them. These stunning structures show how not every part of China has been altered by its remarkable rate of development.
The bridges, suspended between two banks of lush greenery and built from the wood of the trees surrounding them, are still a fully functional part of life in the Fuijan and Zhejiang provinces along China's south east coast.

Several 1000-year-old modded skulls discovered in Mexico

13 unusually-shaped skulls were recently unearthed in Mexico when workers were digging an irrigation system. They are about 1,000 years old. Time reported that researcher Cristina Garcia Moreno of Arizona State University said, “We don’t know why this population specifically deformed their heads.”
Tai-wiki-widbee said: "There's more information at the Artificial Cranial Deformation page at Wikipedia, where I found the image at right (Painting by Paul Kane, showing a Chinookan child in the process of having its head flattened, and an adult after the process) and these notes:"
Early examples of intentional human cranial deformation predate written history and date back to 45,000 BC in Neanderthal skulls, and to the Proto-Neolithic Homo sapiens component (12th millennium BCE) from Shanidar Cave in Iraq. It occurred among Neolithic peoples in SW Asia. The earliest written record of cranial deformation dates to 400 BC in Hippocrates' description of the Macrocephali or Long-heads, who were named for their practice of cranial modification.

The Principality of Poyais

In the 1820s, many Europeans saw the value of investing in the exploration and exploitation of the New World. Governments were being organized up and down the map, and natural resources were there for the taking. People wanted to emigrate, too, and start all over in a rich and exotic place. In this atmosphere, Scotsman Gregor MacGregor stepped in and offered in investment opportunity in a nation he owned, an attractive Latin American coastal plot called Poyais.
MacGregor claimed that Poyais covered 8m acres (an area larger than Wales). It was rich in natural resources but in need of development. That would require both cash and manpower. Through an elaborate publicity campaign, he succeeded in persuading people not only to invest their savings in the bonds of a non-existent government, but also to emigrate to a fictional country. How on earth did he manage it?
The investors lost money, but many of those who emigrated to Poyais lost their lives. Read the story of MacGregor's outrageous con at The Economist.

Random Celebrity Photo

britt ekland
Britt Ekland

Were you aware ...

That 2012 was officially hottest year on record

Of the top ten science stories of 2012

A toast to physics

You will be pleased to note that multiple physicists are at work on the problem of why a piece of falling toast tends to land with the butter side down.

Your Brain

Why can’t we tickle ourselves but Schizophrenics can?

Have you ever tried to tickle yourself? Try it; you will find that the feeling will be nothing like the ...
Continue Reading 

Chinese medicine yields secrets to scientists

The mysterious inner workings of Chang Shan—a Chinese herbal medicine used for thousands of years to treat fevers associated with ...
Continue Reading 

Fluctuating environment may have driven human evolution

A series of rapid environmental changes in East Africa roughly 2 million years ago may be responsible for driving human ...
Continue Reading 

How Did Humans Develop Lactose Tolerance?

vThe majority of the world's people become lactose-intolerant as they mature into adulthood. The exceptions are mostly people of European ancestry, who continue to drink milk all their lives. Why? It's a case of genetic mutation, in which an adult continues to produce lactase, the enzyme that digests the milk sugar lactose. But why did the mutation become so prevalent in the population so quickly (about 20,000 years)? Evolutionary geneticist Mark Thomas says there had to be something about drinking milk in Europe that led to increased chances of survival or higher fertility. Here are a couple of possibilities:
First, the farmers that settled there came from the Fertile Crescent, and they brought crops native to that region, like wheat and barley. But with Northern Europe's shorter growing season, these crops were more likely to fail, causing famine.

Additionally, the colder Northern European climate lent itself to natural refrigeration. "If you're a farmer in Southern Europe, and you milk a cow in the morning and you leave the milk out, it will be yogurt by noon. But if you do the same thing in Germany, it'll still be milk," says Thomas. A healthy lactose-intolerant person who drank that still-fresh milk would get a bad case of diarrhea. "But if you're malnourished, then you'll die," Thomas says.

In times of famine, milk drinking probably increased. And the very people who shouldn't have been consuming high-lactose dairy products — the hungry and malnourished — would be the ones more likely to drink fresh milk. So, with milk's deadly effects for the lactose intolerant, individuals with the lactase mutation would have been more likely to survive and pass on that gene.
Read more about lactose-tolerance at NPR.

Random Photo

Microbes lose in Amazon deforestation

Research from an international team of microbiologists has revealed a new concern about deforestation in the Amazon rainforest ...
Continue Reading 

Man Cuddles With Pythons To Celebrate The New Year

Burmese pythons aren't generally thought of as cute or cuddly, but maybe the guy in this picture can change our minds.
He's cuddling with a bunch of pythons, some of which are over ten feet in length, as a celebration of the new year.
Ain't no party like a snake cuddlin' party, cause a snake cuddlin' party don't stop...until you've been swallowed whole!

Vivacious Variant of Vulpes Vulpes

The Silver Fox

Many people think the silver fox is a species related to the red fox. But they are the same species. The silver fox looks so different to the red because of something called melanism. Effectively, this is the opposite of albinism - it is the development of a dark pigment in the skin or fur of animals.

So, although a silver fox may look like a visiting relative it is still the Vulpes vulpes that we see more regularly in its red form. However, the rarity of this melanistic mutation has meant that throughout history the silver fox has been even more persecuted than its red counterpart.

Bee Named to Honor The Big Bang Theory

New Bee
I hate to make a bad joke, but the joke just can't be contained. Looks like Bazinga, a catchphrase used by Sheldon Cooper on the Big Bang Theory, is officially a 'buzz word.' Instead of naming the brand new orchid bee species after himself or the species' appearance, Andre Nemesio and his team named the bee Euglossa bazinga. Why, you may ask?
The specific epithet honors the clever, funny, captivating “nerd” character Sheldon Cooper, brilliantly portrayed by the North American actor James Joseph “Jim” Parsons on the CBS TV show “The Big Bang Theory”. Sheldon Cooper’s favorite comic word “bazinga”, used by him when tricking somebody, was here chosen to represent the character. Euglossa bazinga sp. n. has tricked us for some time due to its similarity to E. ignita, what led us to use “bazinga”. Sheldon Cooper has also an asteroid named after him (246247 Sheldoncooper).

They'll eat anyfin!

Great white shark filmed devouring Great White Shark
A great white shark ends up as a snack for an even greater white shark as a fisherman tries to reel him in.

Animal Pictures

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Daily Drift

Somethings have always been ...

Some of our readers today have been in:
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Waterloo, Canada
Baghdad, Iraq
Jakarta, Indonesia
Yerevan, Armenia
Johor Bahru, Malaysia
Sialkot, Pakistan
Lublin, Poland
Sofia, Bulgaria
Cape Town, South Africa
London, England
Bayan Lepas, Malaysia
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Lahore, Pakistan
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Doha, Qatar
Vienna, Austria
Puchong, Malaysia
Kenitra, Morocco
Ankara, Turkey
Bordeaux, France
Tallinn, Estonia
Birmingham, England
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
San Jose, Costa Rica
Kiev, Ukraine
Karachi, Pakistan
Bekasi, Indonesia
Chisinau, Moldova
Beirut, Lebanon

Today is Bacon Day

Don't forget to visit our sister blog!

Today in History

1460 The Duke of York is defeated and killed by Lancastrians at the Battle of Wakefield.
1803 The United States takes possession of the Louisiana area from France at New Orleans with a simple ceremony, the simultaneous lowering and raising of the national flags.
1861 Banks in the United States suspend the practice of redeeming paper money for metal currency, a practice that would continue until 1879.
1862 The draft of the Emancipation Proclamation is finished and circulated among President Abraham Lincoln's cabinet for comment.
1905 Governor Frank Steunenberg of Idaho is killed by an assassin's bomb.
1922 Soviet Russia is renamed the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
1932 The Soviet Union bars food handouts for housewives under 36 years of age. They must now work to eat.
1947 Romania's King Michael is forced to abdicate by Soviet-backed Communists. Communists now control all of Eastern Europe.
1965 Ferdinand E. Marcos is sworn in as the Philippine Republic's sixth president.
1972 After two weeks of heavy bombing raids on North Vietnam, President Nixon halts the air offensive and agrees to resume peace negotiations with Hanoi representative Le Duc Tho.
1976 Governor Carey of New York pardons seven inmates, closing the book on the Attica uprising.
2006 Saddam Hussein, former Iraq dictator, is executed by hanging for crimes committed against his own people during his rule.

Non Sequitur


Fun Facts for New Year's

Wear Red Underwear, Lock Your Car and Eat Black-Eyed Peas

If you're celebrating New Year's Eve this year and find a lull in the conversation, impress your family and friends with this New Year's trivia.
  • According to statistics from the National Insurance Crime Bureau, more vehicles are stolen on New Year's Day than on any other holiday throughout the year.
  • Why should you ring in the New Year with family and friends? It is thought that the first visitors you see after ringing in the New Year would bring you good or bad luck, depending on who you keep as friends and enemies. Keep your friends close and your enemies far, far away!
  • The Times Square New Year's Eve Ball came about as a result of a ban on fireworks. The first ball, in 1907, was an illuminated 700-pound iron and wood ball adorned with one hundred 25-watt light bulbs. Today, the round ball designed by Waterford Crystal, weighs 11,875-pounds, is 12 feet in diameter and is bedazzled with 2,668 Waterford crystals.
  • Due to wartime restrictions, the New Year's Eve ball was not lowered in 1942 and 1943.
  • Throughout the year, visitors to Times Square in New York City write their New Year's wishes on pieces of official Times Square New Year's Eve confetti. At the end of the year, the wishes are collected and added to the one ton of confetti that showers the crowd gathered in Times Square in celebration of the New Year.
  • The top three destinations in the United States to ring in the New Year are Las Vegas, Disney World and New York City.
  • Food plays a big role in New Year's traditions. Eating black-eyed peas, ham or cabbage are thought to bring prosperity. However, stay away from bad luck foods like lobsters, because they move backwards, and chicken, because they scratch in reverse. It is believed that eating these on New Year's day might cause a reversal of fortune.
  • In Colombia, Cuba and Puerto Rico families stuff a life-size male doll called Mr. Old Year with memories of the outgoing year and dress him in old clothes from each family member. At midnight he is set on fire - thus burning away the bad memories of the year. 
  • According to this survey , 40 to 45 percent of American adults make one or more resolutions each year. The top New Year's resolutions include weight loss, exercise, quitting smoking and better money management. By the second week of January, 25 percent of people have abandoned their resolutions.
  • In Italy, people wear red underwear on New Year's Day as a symbol of good luck for the upcoming year.

New N.C. laws cover immigration status, fishing, used cooking oil

1229 Atlantic Thread Herring Sixteen new laws take effect Tuesday.
Most are technical fixes, but there are new ones that affect companies selling kitchen grease, day care owners and fishermen.
Some of the more noteworthy changes:
A law passed in 2011 that takes a phased approach at requiring government agencies and businesses to verify employees’ immigration status will expand to include smaller businesses.
Cities, counties and companies with more than 500 employees are already required to use federal E-Verify software, but businesses with 100 to 500 employees will also need to comply. The law will be in full effect July 1, 2013, when companies with 25 to 100 employees need to comply.
Protecting grease
A modification to the state’s Rendering Act offers harsher penalties to those who steal used cooking oil.
Steal more than $1,000 worth of grease and you’ll be charged with a felony; less than that and it’s a misdemeanor.
Kitchen grease has become a valuable commodity because it’s also used in producing biodiesel fuel.
Changes to the original law also makes it easier for small businesses that collect the grease. Instead of requiring a state license and requiring $1 million in liability insurance as the law originally stated, collectors must now provide a certificate of grease ownership. The liability insurance requirement shifts to the companies making biodiesel.
House Bill 512 was sponsored by Rep. John Torbett, r-Stanley.
Fishing without a net
Industrial-scale purse seine fishing for Menhaden and Atlantic Thread Herring has been banned. A law, which calls for studying fees associated with coastal fishing licenses makes it unlawful to take those species of fish with a purse seine net using a mother ship and runner boats in coastal fishing waters.
The goal is to conserve the fish populations.
Senate Bill 821 was sponsored by Sens. Harry Brown, r-Jacksonville, Thom Goolsby, r-Wilmington, and Bill Rabon, r-Southport.
New definition of dependent child
The state health plan for teachers and public employees has been changed so the definition of “dependent child” complies with the Affordable Care Act. Previously, parents of foster children and court-appointed guardians needed to be “legally responsible” for caring for a child to claim them as a dependent. Now, caretakers of any child may claim them as a dependent.
House Bill 1085 was sponsored by Rep. Nelson Dollar, r-Cary.
Day care protections
Owners of child-care facilities have long been regulated by the state, and will now face more regulations.
Several criminal offenses have been added to a list of crimes the facilities will check for during mandatory criminal background checks: burglary, larceny, credit fraud, identity theft, bribery, riots and cruelty to animals.
The state will also be allowed to prevent someone who is a habitual alcohol user, consumer of illicit drugs or mentally or emotionally unstable from running a child-care facility.
The law, from House Bill 737, was sponsored by Reps. Ruth Samuelson, r-Charlotte, Fred Steen, r-Landis, Beverly Earle, D-Charlotte, and William Brisson, D-Dublin.

Indian rape victim, whose attack sparked massive protest, dies

It’s a horrific story.  An Indian woman on a bus with a male friend, coming home from a movie, brutally attacked by six men and raped for over an over.  This, in a country whose police, and politicians, often don’t take charges of rape seriously.I had heard something about this the other day, but was so busy with other stories I neglected to look into it. Then caught a bit of it on the news tonight, and now this.
Not only was the crime horrible. But the official reaction to it by some in India was, of course, to blame women.
From AP:
The woman and a male friend, who have not been identified, were traveling in a public bus in the Indian capital, New Delhi, after watching a film on the evening of Dec. 16 when they were attacked by six men who raped her. They also beat the couple and inserted an iron rod into her body resulting in severe organ damage. Both of them were then stripped and thrown off the bus, according to police.
Indian police have arrested six people in connection with the attack, which left the victim with severe internal injuries, a lung infection and brain damage. She also suffered from a heart attack while in hospital in India.
The woman has now died in Singapore.
India’s government doesn’t seem terrible interested in moving the ball forward on this one. From NPR:
Prime Minister Singh said Friday that the public can be assured his government is committed to punishing the guilty. The six accused in the gang rape will reportedly be charged next week.
Singh did not publicly address the rape that unleashed the mass protests until Monday, eight days after the attack occurred. Nor did any government official address the crowds, deepening a perception of indifference.
Unfazed by the public outcry, the president’s son, Abhijit Mukherjee ignited new anger Thursday when he described the women protesting the rape as “dented and painted,” as if they were a damaged car.
The son, a national lawmaker, has since apologized.  Not enough.  He should resign.
More evidence of the Indian government’s rank idiocy and misogyny:
rape woman fear women

Meanwhile, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said he was not obligated to speak to the protesters, and he equated them with Maoist rebels who have long infiltrated the countryside.
The Delhi police, overseen by the central government, used tear gas and water cannons on the protesters, whose ranks included families with children. India apparently has a problem with police not taking rape cases seriously.
From CBS News:
Indian authorities have been accused of belittling rape victims and refusing to file cases against their attackers, further deterring victims — already under societal pressure to keep the assaults quiet — from reporting the crimes.
Indian attitudes toward rape are so entrenched that even politicians and opinion makers have often suggested that women should not go out at night or wear clothes that might be seen provocative.
CBS notes that another woman, age 18, killed herself a month after reporting to the police that she was gang-raped:
The Press Trust of India reported that the woman was raped Nov. 13 and reported the attack to police Nov. 27. But police harassed the girl, asked her embarrassing questions and took no action against the accused, PTI reported, citing police sources.
Authorities in the eastern state of Chhattisgarh also suspended a police officer on accusations he refused to register a rape complaint from a woman who said she had been attacked by a driver.
No wonder people are in the street.  What a horrific story.

What is wrong with them?

Congress decides every aspect of your electronic life can be spied on without a warrant and you can't know how much spying is going on

They voted down every single privacy amendment to FISA, the act that lets the NSA spy on you without a warrant. They voted down the amendment that would let you hear rough estimates of how much the NSA was spying on you. Obama spoke out against amendments that offered less privacy protection than the ones that he voted for in 2008.
The common-sense amendments the Senate hastily rejected were modest in scope and written with the utmost deference to national security concerns. The Senate had months to consider them, but waited until four days before the law was to expire to bring them to the floor, and then used the contrived time crunch to stifle any chances of them passing.
Sen. Ron Wyden's amendment would not have taken away any of the NSA's powers, it just would have forced intelligence agencies to send Congress a report every year detailing how their surveillance was affecting ordinary Americans. Yet Congress voted to be purposely kept in the dark about a general estimate of how many Americans have been spied on.
You can watch Sen. Ron Wyden's entire, riveting floor speech on the privacy dangers and lack of oversight in the FISA Amendments Act here.
Sen. Jeff Merkley's amendment would have encouraged (not even forced!) the Attorney General to declassify portions of secret FISA court opinions—or just release summaries of them if they were too sensitive. This is something the administration itself promised to do three years ago. We know—because the government has admitted—that at least one of those opinions concluded the government had violated the Constitution. Yet Congress also voted to keep this potentially critical interpretation of a public law a secret.
Tellingly, Sen. Rand Paul's "Fourth Amendment Protection Act," which would have affirmed Americans' emails are protected from unwarranted search and seizures (just like physical letters and phone calls), was voted down by the Senate in a landslide.
Congress Disgracefully Approves the FISA Warrantless Spying Bill for Five More Years, Rejects All Privacy Amendments bipartisan,privacy,fisa,videos,youtube,surveillance

Daily Comic Relief

"Too big to prosecute"

Remember "too big to fail."  Here's what comes next...
Over the last year, federal investigators found that one of the world's largest banks, HSBC, spent years committing serious crimes, involving money laundering for terrorists; "facilitat[ing] money laundering by Mexican drug cartels"; and "mov[ing] tainted money for Saudi banks tied to terrorist groups". Those investigations uncovered substantial evidence "that senior bank officials were complicit in the illegal activity." As but one example, "an HSBC executive at one point argued that the bank should continue working with the Saudi Al Rajhi bank, which has supported Al Qaeda."

Needless to say, these are the kinds of crimes for which ordinary and powerless people are prosecuted and imprisoned with the greatest aggression possible. If you're Muslim and your conduct gets anywhere near helping a terrorist group, even by accident, you're going to prison for a long, long time. In fact, powerless, obscure, low-level employees are routinely sentenced to long prison terms for engaging in relatively petty money laundering schemes, unrelated to terrorism, and on a scale that is a tiny fraction of what HSBC and its senior officials are alleged to have done.

But not HSBC. On Tuesday, not only did the US Justice Department announce that HSBC would not be criminally prosecuted, but outright claimed that the reason is that they are too important, too instrumental to subject them to such disruptions. In other words, shielding them from the system of criminal sanction to which the rest of us are subject is not for their good, but for our common good. We should not be angry, but grateful, for the extraordinary gift bestowed on the global banking giant:
"US authorities defended their decision not to prosecute HSBC for accepting the tainted money of rogue states and drug lords on Tuesday, insisting that a $1.9bn fine for a litany of offenses was preferable to the 'collateral consequences' of taking the bank to court. . . .

"Announcing the record fine at a press conference in New York, assistant attorney general Lanny Breuer said that despite HSBC"s 'blatant failure' to implement anti-money laundering controls and its willful flouting of US sanctions, the consequences of a criminal prosecution would have been dire.

"Had the US authorities decided to press criminal charges, HSBC would almost certainly have lost its banking license in the US, the future of the institution would have been under threat and the entire banking system would have been destabilized...
There's more at The Guardian, where it is noted that the financial penalty "represents about four weeks' earnings given the bank's pre-tax profits of $21.9bn last year."

Did you know ...

That the failure to prosecute bank fraud is what's really destroying the economy.

Demand side economics

I have marveled over the wingnut position that putting money into the hands of the upper class will create more jobs because they are the job creators. The notion, as those of us who've watched this debate for any time know, is that the money will trickle down. Unfortunately this has been the manner in which the U.S. Government has conducted it's business since the Ronald Reagan junta. And we have been on a downhill slide ever since.

Middle class wages have languished, the rich have taken an ever increasing slice of America's wealth and plowed it into speculative investments instead of into jobs and businesses because demand for goods and services is dwindling. The very notion that businesses will create jobs just to create jobs is foolish - if there are no customers, why would they hire more people?

The U.S. is in dire need of improving its infrastructure - improved roads, high speed rail, upgraded energy delivery systems, etc. Obama knows this, but can't get legislation through Congress that would invest money in construction and in the middle class. THIS would create middle class wealth - THIS would create jobs - THIS would create more demand and lead to growing businesses.

But too many morons are in too many positions of power and so our great nation languishes. Will this lead to the end of the great American story? Or will there be a resurgence of intellectualism that will lead to more enlightened leadership in the next few years? We are probably on the cusp.

Correcting the flaws in America.

Kinder children are more popular

Children in a playgroundKinder children are more popular

Performing “random acts of kindness" makes pre-teen children more popular with their peer group, researchers discover.


The World's Hottest Burger

A super-spicy burger so hot it must be eaten wearing protective gloves has gone on sale - but only to over-18s who sign a disclaimer. The mega-hot Atomic Fallout burger, which contains two of the world's hottest chillies, contains a sauce registering a volcanic 1million on the Scoville scale.

Chefs at Atomic Burger, Bristol, used two of the world's hottest chillies to create it, the Naga Bhut Jolokia, also known as the Ghost Chilli, and the Scotch Bonnet. And the burger's size is almost as daunting as its spiciness, with the usual bun replaced by two deep fried pizza slices. The Atomic Fallout also contains 18oz of minced beef as well as 18oz of cheese and is served up with a triple portion of chilli fries.

A "real-life" Quasimodo

In August 2010 Adrian Glew, a Tate archivist, announced evidence for a real-life Quasimodo, a "humpbacked [stone] carver" who worked at Notre Dame during the 1820s. The evidence is contained in the memoirs of Henry Sibson, a 19th-century British sculptor who worked at Notre Dame at around the same time Hugo wrote the novel.

Sibson describes a humpbacked stonemason working there: "He was the carver under the Government sculptor whose name I forget as I had no interaction with him, all that I know is that he was humpbacked and he did not like to mix with carvers."

Because Victor Hugo had close links with the restoration of the cathedral it is likely he was aware of the unnamed "humpbacked carver" nicknamed "Le Bossu", who oversaw "Monsieur Trajin".

Adrian Glew also uncovered that both the hunchback and Hugo were living in the same town of Saint Germain-des-Pres in 1833, and in early drafts of Les Misérables, Hugo named the main character "Jean Trajin" (the same name as the unnamed hunchback carver's employee), but later changed it to "Jean Valjean".

Top 20 Strangest Stories of 2012

Doomsday, cannibals, robotic butts and more. 2012 sure was a weird year. Read more Doomsday

Twisted Sifter's Top 100 Pictures of 2012

This shot of an outdoor Jacuzzi near the Matterhorn at a resort in Zermatt, Switzerland is one of 100 photographs selected by Twisted Sifter as the best of their 2012 "Picture of the Day" features. From sleeping whales to knitted Mexican buses to meteor showers, this collection of spectacular photos challenges anyone who says life is mundane.

See the top 100 at Twisted Sifter.