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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.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Daily Drift

Another day

Today's readers have been in:
Galati, Romania
Reykjavik, Iceland
Prague, Czech Republic
Sampaloc, Philippines
Lomonosov, Russia
Karachi, Pakistan
Amman, Jordan
Dublin, Ireland
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Bern, Switzerland
Groningen, Netherlands
London, England
Paramaribo, Suriname
Cairo, Egypt
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Guatemala City, Guatemala
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Singapore, Singapore
Bangkok, Thailand
Zagreb, Croatia
Naaldwijk, Netherlands
Cork, Ireland
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Paris, France
Zurich, Switzerland
Klang, Malaysia
Montreal, Canada

Today in History

St. Gregory II begins his reign as Catholic Pope.
French explorer Jacques Cartier sets sail for North America.
Anne Boleyn is beheaded on Tower Green.
Defeated by the Protestants, Mary, Queen of Scots, flees to England where Queen Elizabeth imprisons her.
The Spanish Armada sets sail from Lisbon, Spain.
The Protestant states form the Evangelical Union of Lutherans and Calvinists.
Cardinal Richelieu of France intervenes in the great conflict in Europe by declaring war on the Hapsburgs in Spain.
The French army defeats a Spanish army at Rocroi, France.
Near total darkness descends on New England at noon. No explanation is found.
Senator Charles Sumner speaks out against slavery.
A pro-slavery band led by Charles Hameton executes unarmed Free State men near Marais des Cygnes on the Kansas-Missouri border.
Union General Ulysses S. Grant's first attack on Vicksburg is repulsed.
The Union and Confederate armies launch their last attacks against each other at Spotsylvania, Virginia.
Congress sharply curbs immigration, setting a national quota system.
The National Football League adopts an annual college draft to begin in 1936.
U.S. diplomats find at least 40 microphones planted in the American embassy in Moscow.
U.S. planes bomb Hanoi for the first time.

Romney slams Obama for not fixing the shrub/repugican financial problems

What part of the Great repugican Recession did Mitt Romney not see? Oh that's right, he didn't see it because nobody in his elite group has been touched by the Great Recession. Everyone would love to see the national debt reduced, including Obama. What is even more important now is improving the employment problem, which should dwarf all other discussions. Employment may not be an issue for the Romney class, but it certainly is for everyone else.
It's important to note that what Romney is suggesting when he talks about cutting the debt is strict austerity. As the world has noticed, austerity is having a disastrous impact on economies across the UK and Europe. Austerity works when there's an already growing economy but it deepens and extends a crisis when an economy is failing.

One can blame Obama for failing to appreciate how serious the banking crisis was in 2008 (thanks to his delusional economic team) but had he chopped deeper into the Republican-created debt problem, the US would be in much worse economic condition today.

To be clear, what Mitt Romney is promoting on the fund raising trail is the failed policy of austerity. Maybe someone in the Corporate Media world wants to call him out for this and ask him where such policies have ever worked in a weak economy? While they're at it, they can also ask him how removed from the real world he must be if he's managed to miss the Great Recession.

“I find it incomprehensible that a president could come to office and call his predecessor’s record irresponsible and unpatriotic, and then do almost nothing to fix it,” he said.

Bush began his first term in 2001 with a budget surplus that was wiped out by the cost of two wars and tax cuts initiated in his presidency, and the yearly government deficit reached $454.8 billion shortly before he left office in January 2009. Under Obama, the deficit rose to $1.42 trillion at the end of his first year, and is projected by the Congressional Budget Office to be $977 billion in fiscal 2013.

At a fundraiser later in the day -- the first of a four- stop, almost $10 million money tour Romney is making at lavish hotels, country clubs and private homes around Florida -- the former Massachusetts governor kept up his criticism of the president and promised his donors he’d run a more business- friendly government if elected.

JPMorgan losses expand to $3 billion

Sometimes the market really does work. JPMorgan had been taking such large positions in the market that others had to know where they were. Once there's blood in the water, you can count on other sharks stepping in and joining the feeding frenzy.
How's that risk genius team doing at JPMorgan now and why is Dimon still CEO?
The trading losses suffered by JPMorgan Chase have surged in recent days, surpassing the bank’s initial $2 billion estimate by at least $1 billion, according to people with knowledge of the losses.

When Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan’s chief executive, announced the losses last Thursday, he indicated they could double within the next few quarters. But that process has been compressed into four trading days as hedge funds and other investors take advantage of JPMorgan’s distress, fueling faster deterioration in the underlying credit market positions held by the bank.

A spokeswoman for the bank declined to comment, although Mr. Dimon has said the total paper trading losses will be volatile depending on day-to-day market fluctuations.
Meanwhile the Federal Reserve is investigating the JPMorgan trades to confirm that they were within the guidelines of a federally insurance bank. Dimon currently sits on the board of the NY Federal Reserve, though Elizabeth Warren is calling for his resignation.

Merkel gives herself a pay raise, Hollande gives himself a pay cut

The pro-austerity Angela Merkel and her team are giving themselves a pay raise during an economic crisis while the pro-stimulus, anti-austerity government of François Hollande are forcing a pay cut. Huh.

Merkel now open to stimulus to save Greek economy

At this point it's probably too late for any option other than default. Angela Merkel has repeatedly missed critical timing moments for little more than political posturing at home, so her latest compromise position is frustrating to say the least. During the previous rescue attempts she forced Greece to accept lousy terms and harsh austerity, policies which most knew would destroy the Greek economy.
Merkel got what she wanted and Greece went the way that most economists predicted. Once again, it's too little, too late and mismanagement of the eurozone by Angela Merkel. Heaven forbid this mindset is voted in this November during the US elections.
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said Wednesday that she was ready to discuss stimulus programs to get the Greek economy growing again and that she was committed to keeping Greece in the eurozone, signaling a softer approach toward the struggling country.

The fierce rhetorical salvos out of Germany in the past week gave way to conciliatory gestures by Merkel, who throughout the crisis has shown a propensity for managing through brinkmanship. "I have the will, the determination to keep Greece in the eurozone," she said in an interview on CNBC on Wednesday, in what appeared to be an attempt to relax an increasingly tense situation.

If Greek officials are looking for "stimulus to be pursued for growth in the eurozone, which we could pursue in the interest of Greece, we're open for this," Merkel said. "Germany is open for this."

Random Photos

Appeals court affirms minority voting rights law

A federal appeals court on Friday upheld a key provision of the landmark U.S. voting rights law aimed at protecting minorities in states and local areas with a history of racial discrimination.

The Justice Deptartment supports right to film police

It's one of the few good moves to come out of this Justice Department. Police forces across the US have increasingly been abusing their power during legitimate protests, including taking away video recordings that show abusive police behavior. While such tactics may be normal in some countries, we should never accept that behavior in the US.
More via Wired:
In a surprising letter (.pdf) sent on Monday to attorneys for the Baltimore Police Department, the Justice Department also strongly asserted that officers who seize and destroy such recordings without a warrant or without due process are in strict violation of the individual’s Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

The letter was sent to the police department as it prepares for meetings to discuss a settlement over a civil lawsuit brought by a citizen who sued the department after his camera was seized by police.

In the lawsuit, Christopher Sharp alleged that in May 2010, Baltimore City police officers seized, searched and deleted the contents of his mobile phone after he used it to record them as they were arresting a friend of his.

The TSA is useless

A "former FBI Special Agent and head of the Los Angeles Joint Terrorism Task Force Al Qaeda squad" says the TSA is useless.  Not annoying - useless.

Here's a  summary at BoingBoing, with links to the source material.

Daily Comic Relief

Daily Video

Suite: Judy Blue Eyes by Crosby, Stills and Nash
Live at Woodstock 1969

Man robs store with underwear on head

Police in southwest Idaho say a man chose briefs over boxers to wear on his head as he held up a coffee shop and stole a safe.

And I Quote

Miles Davis turned to Nancy Reagan and said...

In 1987, he was invited to a White House dinner by Ronald Reagan. Few of the guests appeared to know who he was. During dinner, Nancy Reagan turned to him and asked what he'd done with his life to merit an invitation. Straight-faced, Davis replied: "Well, I've changed the course of music five or six times. What have you done except fuck the president?"

Touring indie band picks up hitchhiker who looks like John Waters. It was John Waters.

Indie band Here We Go Magic is driving across America on tour. Earlier this week, they spotted legendary director John Waters hitchhiking by the side of the road with a hat that said "Scum of the Earth." DCist has the story, and a followup interview with the band.
So what happened once the car pulls up alongside him and he gets in the van? We pulled up and we saw him and everyone went, "That's definitely John Waters." We opened the door and I said, "Hello how you doing? Where ya coming from?" And he said Baltimore. We were like, "Uh huh," totally knowing that he was from Baltimore. So we said, "Come on in!" He got in the van and he got all tangled up in the seat belt, it was really adorable. That was the first thing that happened. We're traveling in a van and there are all these seat belts that block your way. You know, the ones that go from the side to the seats in the middle.
So he was totally tangled and he didn't even remove himself. He just sort of sat down, entrenched in seat belts. He was a perfect gentlemen. We addressed the fact that we knew it was John Waters and he very calmly accepted that information. It sort of rolls on from there. The shock of the event wore off pretty quickly in exchange for the warmth and the kindness and cleverness of this human being that's now sitting next to you. He became a human being very quickly. He answered every single question and he was even a little shy about photos. Finally it was like, "My mom wants a picture" and "Do you mind if I Tweet this" and he was fine with it. We were like, "What on earth are you doing this for?" He was like, "I have a lot of control in my life and I just wanted to let go of the reins a little bit, have an adventure." He's such a true artist and it's so cool!
Hitchhiking Director John Waters Picked Up In Ohio By Indie Rock Band
Band Who Picked Up Hitchhiking John Waters Talks About Their Six Hours With The Director

The Biography of Shoes

When you're getting to go about your in the morning have you ever stopped and wondered where and when did shoes come from? Even if you haven't, the origins of shoes is a rather interesting one.

Ten Landlocked Countries With Navies

While landlocked countries are obviously unable to develop a sea-going blue-water navy, they may still deploy armed forces on major lakes or rivers. There are a number of reasons a landlocked country may choose to maintain a navy. If a river or lake forms a national border, countries may feel the need to protect and patrol that border with a military force.

In some regions, roads may be unreliable or circuitous, and a river or lake may be the easiest way to move military forces around the country. Sometimes, possession of a body of water may actually be contested - for example, countries around the landlocked Caspian Sea have different views of how ownership should be divided.

Awesome Pictures

Musical Tesla Coils

The Gnome Experiment

If Earth was a perfect sphere of uniform density, then gravity would be consistent. But it's not, which means gravity varies wherever you go. A garden gnome from Germany, nicknamed Kern, travels the world to find out how much he weighs in different places.

So far, Kern has journeyed more than 20,000 miles across 15 countries, by plane, train, ship, bus and car. And as Kern travels, his weight varies, due to a combination of the spin of the Earth and the fact that our planet is not round, but more potato-shaped, according to scientists.

What Happened Between the Neanderthals and Us?

Svante Paabo's genome-sequencing project hopes to point up the differences that enabled humans, unlike the Neanderthals, with whom they interbred, to build complex societies.

More Americans using acupuncture for common ailments

A new survey demonstrates increasing acceptance and utilization of acupuncture for treatment and health promotion.

CDC considers recommending Hepatitis C test for boomers

It's a "silent epidemic," an "unrecognized health crisis," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

US doctors "rewire" paralyzed hand

This is an exciting medical development:
In a pioneering operation, US doctors took healthy nerves from the man and used them to bridge the damaged wiring that stopped signals getting from the man's brain to his hands.

Surgeons at Washington University's school of medicine said the operation may prove to be a breakthrough for some patients paralyzed by spinal cord injuries.

The 71-year-old broke his neck in a car crash in 2008 that left him unable to walk. Though he could still move his arms, he had lost the ability to grasp or hold things in either hand.

Where two oceans meet

Where two oceans meet, but do not mix! Incredible!

When two bodies of water merge in the middle of The Gulf of Alaska and a frothy foam develops at their meeting line. It is a result of the melting glaciers being composed of fresh water and the ocean has a higher percentage of salt causing the two bodies of water to have different densities and therefore makes it more difficult to mix.

Science News

Fighting bacteria’s strength in numbers

Scientists at The University of Nottingham have opened the way for more accurate research into new ways to fight dangerous [...]
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The Future of Fighting Blindness

Retinal degeneration is a leading cause of blindness. Patients with age related macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, and diabetes-associated blindness have [...]
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Annular solar eclipse, transit of Venus and other non-doomsday celestial phenomena

Supermoon May 5, 2012 

Doomsday, schmoomsday.
Why settle for dusty ol' Mayan calendars and 12/12/12 apocalyptic visions, when 2012 has been offering up so many stellar—and planetary—sightings? We Earthlings have already been treated to nice meteor showers as well as a magnificent supermoon, and this weekend brings an annular solar eclipse.
That's not even the best treat: Venus will be ambling between Earth and the sun in a rare (though non-earth-shattering) planetary alignment. Sure, the event might look like a black pimple floating across the face of the sun, but this celestial rarity once guided adventurous astronomers in their quest to determine the size of the solar system and yielded the first-ever global scientific collaboration. Don't blink—Venus doesn't cross our path again until December 2117.
Annular Solar Eclipse, Jan. 4, 2011 

An annular solar eclipse and that ring of fire: A solar eclipse happens this Sunday, except for the Eastern seaboard (sorry). It's an "annular" eclipse rather than a total one, which means the sun's edges peek out from behind the moon, creating the illusion of a ring of fire. (The word "annular" comes from the Latin word for ring.) The lower 48 states will have to wait until Aug. 17, 2017, for a total shutout. This weekend's eclipse
begins at dawn in southern China. It then sweeps across the Pacific Ocean, passing south of Alaska, and makes landfall on the Pacific coast near the California-Oregon border. It ends near Lubbock, Texas, at sunset. Partial phases of this eclipse will be visible over most of western North America. (May 9, Space.com)
Those of you in the annular path should head to higher ground (avoiding clouds and light pollution) and put solar filters either over your eyes or on your equipment. Thirty-three national parks will be hosting solar gatherings. Lucky Coloradans get to hang out for free at the University of Colorado at Boulder's Folsom stadium, starting 5:30 p.m. local time, thanks to the Fiske Planetarium.
Below, a chart of solar eclipse times. (Credit: Geoff Gaherty/Starry Night Software/SPACE.com)
May 2012 solar eclipse times

What kind of solar glasses to get: Designer sunglasses don't cut it. At this late date, check telescope stores or call your local planetarium. No. 14 welder's glass, carried in specialty welding stores, works too. Don't forget solar filters for your camera equipment. Then there's the cardboard method:
The safest and simplest technique is perhaps to watch the eclipse indirectly with the solar projection method. Use your telescope, or one side of your binoculars, to project a magnified image of the sun's disk onto a shaded white piece of cardboard.
The image on the cardboard will be safe to view and photograph. But make sure to cover the telescope's finder scope or the unused half of the binoculars, and don't let anybody look through them. (May 9, Space.com)
If you don't buy binoculars for this weekend, you may want to consider ordering a pair for the transit of Venus.
Transit of Venus, June 8, 2004 

Measuring the solar system with the transit of Venus: Yes, there's an app. With just the tap of a finger on a screen, people can do in hours what 18th-century scientists needed years to do: measure the solar system. This year's transit of Venus—the second of a pair—begins on the evening of June 5 for North Americans. Our previous glimpse was in June 2004, and before that, back in the 19th century. An explanation of this planetary alignment:
Mercury and Venus are the only planets closer to the Sun than Earth, both moving faster in their orbits and passing us regularly. But rather than crossing directly between us and the Sun, these planets are usually slightly above or below the Sun as we see them. When they line up just right we see the round, black silhouette of the planet slowly crossing the Sun, an even referred to as a "transit." Mercury transits the Sun 13 or 14 times each century. But Venus transits happen in pairs—two transits eight years apart—with more than 100 years between each pair. (Transit of Venus, Astronomers Without Borders)
How to see the transit of Venus: Astronomy Without Borders will stream a webcast from Mount Wilson Observatory. See above about solar glasses.
Measuring the solar system the old-fashioned way: In 1761 and 1769, obsessed stargazers undertook glorious, and sometimes fatal, journeys, in an orchestrated effort that took 45 years to coordinate.
In 1716, British astronomer Edmond Halley had called upon scientists to unite in a project spanning the entire globe. He predicted that on June 6, 1761, Venus would traverse the burning disc of the sun for about six hours.
At a time when it took six days to travel from London to Newcastle, dozens of them travelled to remote outposts of the world to observe the phenomenon, laden with clocks, huge telescopes and other instruments.
Many risked their lives. With the Seven Years' War [1756-63] tearing Europe apart, they were even sent into war zones. (May 12, The Daily Mail)
Most were not swashbuckling men by any measure, but they risked traveling with instruments and rum, barely surviving shipwrecks and warship attacks. In 1761 Venus didn't quite cooperate and messed up the calculations. The second transit—on June 3, 1769—saw more success. Sharing the information took years, but the calculated distance between Earth and the sun wasn't far off the 92,960,000 miles that scientists agree on today.

More to come: Put this on your night calendar or monitor: Sea and Sky. Marshall Space Flight Center astronomer Mitzi Adams recommends the Perseids in August, which always has very bright meteors. "The conjunction of Venus and Saturn in November (27) should be pretty spectacular and complements the conjunction of Venus and Jupiter that occurred in March," she tells Yahoo!.
Video written and directed by Chuck Bueter from http://www.transitofvenus.org/

Bacteria 'Good Bet' For Alien Life

Forget the bug-eyed green aliens with advanced technology.
Life on other planets may exist in forms too tiny to see, if mysterious tiny organisms like those found under our oceans live elsewhere.

Bacteria Survive Being Buried for 86 Million Years

It may sound like the plot of a Syfy movie, but it's real: scientists have discovered that bacteria can survive being buried for 86-million-years in deep-sea mud.
The scientists jammed a large metal pipe 30 meters into the sea bottom and used a piston to suck out a long column of reddish clay. After hauling the sediment onboard, they probed the core with a needlelike sensor to measure the oxygen concentration in each layer. The researchers knew how much oxygen should have diffused down into each section of sediment from the seawater, so any "missing" oxygen meant microbes had consumed it.
Moving deeper through the core is like moving back in time, studying older and older communities of microorganisms. "We can use the Pacific as a natural experiment that has been running for 86 million years," Røy says.

Animal Pictures