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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, May 23, 2012

The Daily Drift

Yes, it still floats!
Today's readers have been in:
Groningen, Netherlands
Naples, Italy
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Arnhem, Netherlands
Makati, Philippines
Nassau, Bahamas
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Accra, Ghana
Bern, Switzerland
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Warsaw, Poland
Cork, Ireland
Baghdad, Iraq
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Dublin, Ireland
Jaffna, Sri Lanka
Bratislava, Slovakia
Bangkok, Thailand
Klang, Malaysia
Limerick, Ireland
Zurich, Switzerland
Petaling Jaya, Malaysia

Editorial Comment:
It appears (happily we might add) that the forced hiatus this blog endured did not adversely affect it's total readership. We lost a few readers in a few countries and we picked a few readers in a few countries and in the past couples of weeks that we have been back some of the lost readers have found their way back as well. We have also added new readers from new countries making CN read in almost every country on the planet. Thanks.

Today in History

1430 Burgundians capture Joan of Arc and sell her to the English.
1533 Henry VIII's marriage to Catherine of Aragon is declared null and void.
1618 The Thirty Years War begins.
1701 Captain William Kidd, the Scottish pirate, is hanged on the banks of the Thames.
1785 Benjamin Franklin announces his invention of bifocals.
1788 South Carolina becomes the eighth state to ratify U.S. Constitution.
1861 Pro-Union and pro-Confederate forces clash in western Virginia.
1862 Confederate General "Stonewall" Jackson takes Front Royal, Virginia.
1864 Union General Ulysses Grant attempts to outflank Confederate Robert E. Lee in the Battle of North Anna, Virginia.
1900 Civil War hero Sgt. William H. Carney becomes the first African American to receive the Medal of Honor, thirty-seven years after the Battle of Fort Wagner.
1901 American forces capture Filipino rebel leader Emilio Aguinaldo.
1915 Italy declares war on Austria-Hungary.
1934 Gangsters Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow are killed by Texas Rangers.
1945 Heinrich Himmler, the head of the Nazi Gestapo, commits suicide after being captured by Allied forces.
1949 The Federal Republic of West Germany is proclaimed.
1960 Israel announces the capture of Nazi Adolf Eichmann in Argentina.

Swept over 180-foot drop and lives

Man survives plunge over Niagara Falls
Onlookers watch in shock as he climbs over a retaining wall and leaps into the raging water.

Reagan's blood being auctioned off, now at $15,000

It's for sale! On the bright side, it's red.

The Reagan foundation is apparently very upset about Ronald Reagan's memory being used in such a "craven" manner.

Right, because it's not like Reagan's memory hasn't already been milked dry by the Republicans these past few decades, forcing us to name DC's airport after him (it was named after George Washington, but Republicans aren't so keen on him), among another 3,000 things around the country.

I got a chuckle out of this explanation for the sale, from the seller:
The seller claims to have contacted the Reagan National Library to see if they'd like to purchase the vial. In the auction description, he or she notes that the library asked him to donate the vial, to which he replied "that I was a real fan of Reaganomics and felt that Pres. Reagan himself would rather see me sell it rather than donating it.”

Former top editor of cult paper Washington Times suspected of possible plagiarism

Golly gee, imagine a repugican propaganda organ cheating.
On Jan. 3, a[n Arnaud] de Borchgrave column for UPI, headlined “Youth Bulge,” dealt with the emerging world of social networks. Here’s a paragraph from the report:

“Facebook is the global 900-pound gorilla of social media networks. It reaches 55 percent of the world’s global audience, accounting for roughly 75 percent of time spent on social networking sites. That’s one in every seven minutes spent online all over the world (comScore’s 10/11 data indicate).”

A week earlier, the site ClickZ.com had posted an item headlined “10 Social Media 2011 Highlights (Data Included),” which included this wording:

“Facebook remains the global 900-pound gorilla of social media networks. Facebook reached 55 percent of the world’s global audience accounting for roughly 75 percent of time spent on social networking sites and one in every seven minutes spent online globally according to comScore’s October 2011 data.”
Maybe he should pray to Rev. Moon for absolution.

Now here's an interesting question: Why is it okay for people to say that the Moonies (who founded the Washington Times) are a cult, and that Scientology is a cult, but when someone calls the Mormons a cult it's "religious bigotry"? Not that I want to defend the Moonies or the Scientologists, but is there a difference between the organizations, or is there a double standard at work?

Congress's vocabulary falls a full grade level in seven years

Nicko from the Sunlight Foundation writes,
The U.S. Congress speaks at nearly a full grade level lower than it did seven years ago, according to a new Sunlight Foundation analysis. Using the CapitolWords.org website -- which features the most popular words and phrases in the Congressional Record since 1996 -- Sunlight reviewed the vocabulary and sentence structure of what members of Congress are saying.
Today's Congress speaks at about a 10.6 grade level, down from a high of 11.5 in 2005. By comparison, the U.S. Constitution is written at a 17.8 grade level, the Federalist Papers at a 17.1 grade level and the Declaration of Independence at a 15.1 grade level. The Flesch-Kincaid test was used to conduct the analysis, which equates higher-grade levels with longer words and longer sentences.
A complete database of how each member in the current Congress ranks in the analysis is available. The analysis, written by Senior Fellow Lee Drutman in collaboration with Software Developer Dan Drinkard, is broken into three parts on the Sunlight blog:
* Summary and 'report card' infographic
* Full analysis and complete methodology
* Congressional use of top SAT vocabulary words
Top Five
* Rep. Daniel Lungren (R-CA) -- 16.01
* Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) -- 14.94
* Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA) -- 14.19
* Rep. Thomas Petri (R-WI) -- 14.19
* Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) -- 14.18
Bottom Five
* Rep. John Mulvaney (R-SC) -- 7.95
* Rep. Rob Woodall (R-GA) -- 8.02
* Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) -- 8.04
* Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) -- 8.09
* Rep. Tim Griffin (R-AR) -- 8.13
It should be noted that the Constitution was written at a 18th grade level while those spouting off about it today are on a 8th grade level ... see the disconnect? We're going with dumber.

Very, Very Important - You Could Be Scammed!

I've received three of these calls in the last month. The person on the other end is telling you they represent Microsoft or a similar company and that your computer is sending out a virus.

It's a scam.

Has your Internet Explorer browser ever crashed while you were cruising the Web? Of course it has. And you've probably then seen a box informing you that an error message was being sent to Microsoft.

Pretty impressive that Microsoft would want to fix the problem by having one of its tech people call you at home.

Too impressive, it turns out. Calls being made to computer users from the "Windows Maintenance Department" or "Microsoft Tech Support" are actually a scam intended to get you to download some nasty piece of software or reveal confidential information.

"We do not send unsolicited email messages or make unsolicited phone calls to request personal or financial information or fix your computer," Microsoft says. "If you receive an unsolicited call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft tech support, hang up. We do not make these kinds of calls."

Ken Slater, 68, of Long Beach, has been getting these calls about once a week for the last few months.

In each case, the caller claims to be with the Windows Maintenance Department and says an unusually high number of error messages have been coming from Slater's computer.

Slater, a former computer engineer at Hughes Aircraft, told me he knew from the get-go that something was up.

"Microsoft doesn't look at all those error messages it gets," he said. "Maybe they use them to improve their products, but they don't respond individually. It was obvious the callers were up to no good."

Slater's suspicions were confirmed when one of the callers provided instructions for accessing his computer's events log. This is a listing of all alerts and warnings generated by the system. They're all real and they're fairly routine.

It was at this point that Slater hung up. But according to various accounts of the scam available online, the caller will then try to dupe the unwary into believing the events log is evidence of a serious problem, probably a virus infection.

The caller then offers an easy fix. You're instructed to go to a specific website — Fixonclick123.com crops up frequently — where software can be downloaded that will kill the virus and save your computer.

The scam from this point on can work one of two ways. You might be asked for a credit card number to purchase the virus-killing software. Needless to say, your credit card number will be used for more than that.

The other variation of the racket is to offer the virus killer for free. But the software is in fact a malicious program that will be used to either take control of your computer or scan its entire contents.

"These con men and women are very good at this," said Matt Bishop, co-director of the Computer Security Lab at UC Davis. "They take advantage of the fact that computers are very mysterious to a lot people."

He said people should keep in mind that no major computer company calls people at home to troubleshoot their machines.

"If you don't know who you're talking to, don't talk to them," Bishop said. "And don't follow any instructions."

Richard Saunders, director of Microsoft's Trustworthy Computing division, echoed this advice.

"Treat callers as you would treat strangers in the street," he said. "Do not disclose personal or sensitive information to anyone you do not know."

Saunders added that "this is not the first scam of its kind, and it's unlikely to be the last."

Slater hasn't been able to stop the calls, but he's found some easy ways to make the scammers go away. For example, whenever he declares that he's a computer engineer, they immediately hang up.

They also hang up when he says he uses a Mac, or when he says he has no computer in the house.

I wonder what they'd do if, instead of them instructing you to visit a particular website, you told them you had somewhere for them to go: FBI.gov.

Supreme Court to hear arguments on legality of warrantless wiretapping in the USA

A number of civil rights groups including PEN, will be represented by the ACLU in a Supreme Court case on the legality of the US government's program of mass, warrantless surveillance.
The groups went to court in July 2008 to overturn provisions of the FISA Amendments Act that allow the dragnet surveillance of American’s international emails and phone calls, arguing that the expectation of monitoring harms their ability to communicate freely with international clients and colleagues. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have sought to have the suit dismissed on the ground that because the groups cannot show that their communications have been monitored under the secret program, they cannot demonstrate they have been harmed by the program and so lack “standing” to sue. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals rejected that logic, ruling that PEN and its co-plaintiffs have a reasonable basis to fear that the government may be monitoring their conversations under the terms of the law, and that the groups should be allowed their day in court.
The Obama administration appealed that decision, and today’s announcement means that the Supreme Court will review the standing question later this year. The ACLU, which is representing PEN and its co-plaintiffs, will argue the case.
“With the FAA up for reauthorization at the end of the year, it is disappointing that we must once again argue the standing question instead of examining the legality of the program itself,” said Peter Godwin, president of PEN American Center. “For us, the important question is whether the system of checks and balances works, so that laws allowing programs that are utterly secret must at least be subject to independent judicial review. We look to the Supreme Court to uphold our right to clarify how the NSA’s surveillance program affects our organization’s sensitive international communications.”
PEN Heading to Supreme Court in Warrantless Surveillance Case

Canada's telcos secretly backing revival of "dead" warrantless surveillance bill

Michael Geist writes,
Canada's proposed Internet surveillance was back in the news last week after speculation grew that government intends to keep the bill in legislative limbo until it dies on the order paper. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews denied the reports, maintaining that Bill C-30 will still be sent to committee for further study. My weekly technology law column reveals that behind the scenes, Canada's telecom companies have worked actively with government officials to identify key issues and to develop a secret Industry - Government Collaborative Forum on Lawful Access.
The secret working group includes virtually all the major telecom and cable companies, whose representatives have been granted Government of Canada Secret level security clearance and signed non-disclosure agreements. The group is led by Bell Canada on the industry side and Public Safety for the government. It is designed to create an open channel for discussion between telecom providers and government. As the uproar over Bill C-30 was generating front-page news across the country, Bell reached out to government to indicate that "it was working its way through C-30 with great interest" and expressed desire for a meeting to discuss disclosure of subscriber information. A few weeks later, it sent another request seeking details on equipment obligations to assist in its costing exercises.
At a September 2011 meeting that included Bell Canada, Cogeco, RIM, Telus, Rogers, Microsoft, and the Information Technology Association of Canada, government officials provided a lawful access regulations policy document that offered guidance on plans for extensive regulations that will ultimately accompany the Internet surveillance legislation. The 17-page document indicates that providers will be required to disclose certain subscriber information without a warrant within 48 hours and within 30 minutes in exceptional circumstances. Interceptions of communications may also need to be established within 30 minutes of a request with capabilities that include simultaneous interceptions for five law enforcement agencies.
How Canada's Telecom Companies Have Secretly Supported Internet Surveillance Legislation

Mexico arrests 'El Loco'

Authorities have arrested an alleged Zetas drug cartel leader nicknamed "El Loco," AKA the Fool or the Crazy One, on charges that he dumped 49 headless bodies on a highway outside Monterrey, Mexico.
When the Mexican Army came to arrest Daniel Elizondo Jesus Ramirez, say authorities, Ramirez attempted to elude capture by shooting at troops and throwing a fragmentation grenade. Zetas commanders nicknamed The Shrimp and The Speaker have also been linked to the body dump, but officials have not yet apprehended them.

Man Arrested With Shotgun Disguised as "Super Soaker"

A puppy fell almost 30 feet and survived after a hawk swooped down from its perch in Los Banos, California, picked up the pooch, then dropped it a few moments later into it's new home.
More news:
Man arrested for climbing Mt. Rushmore
Mount Rushmore spokeswoman Maureen McGee-Ballinger says the climber was arrested about 2:15 p.m. Monday on federal charges that include trespassing and climbing the memorial.

A 15-year-old blow-dart sniper arrested in Brooklyn

NewImage "Suddenly, I felt like a punch in my thigh. I saw a needle in my leg and the second time in my stomach," said one of three people who were shot by a blow-dart sniper on Sunday. One 15-year-old boy was arrested yesterday, and police are on the lookout for his alleged accomplice, also 15.

Fifteen-Year-Olds Responsible for Brooklyn Dart Attacks, Obviously

Photo or painting?

 Wpf Media-Live Photos 000 352 Cache Camel-Thorn-Trees-Namibia 35259 990X742

This is not a painting, it's a photograph. "Camel Thorn Trees, Namibia" by Frans Lanting/National Geographic. 

Health care costs rising five times the rate of inflation

Rahm Emanuel must be happy since the health care industry continues to get their way with Americans. When you either have Wall Street pay, or are living with government-subsidized (dare I say "socialist"?) health care like members of Congress, why would you care about prices going up?
We're really past due the point of forcing the political class to live with the same expensive health care as the general population. There are too many health care industry apologists and deal-makers within the political class as it stands today and that has to change.  Wouldn't it be interesting if Congress had to go out on the individual market and find its own health care just like real Americans.  Then see how tolerant they are of 25% annual premium increases.

Instead of talking about, and implementing, lower tax rates in the US, the political class needs to be a lot more serious about health care. Obamacare is a start, but it really doesn't go far enough. What good are middle class tax cuts when health care costs continue to explode, and eat up any extra money working families might see from decreased taxes?  In essence, the GOP is cutting taxes so families can afford to pay even more to the over-priced health care industry.  And maybe that was the Republicans' plan all along.

Fleeced again.
Higher prices charged by hospitals, outpatient centers and other providers drove up health care spending at double the rate of inflation amid the weak economy -- even as patients consumed less medical care overall, according to a new study.

Prices rose at least five times faster than overall inflation for emergency room visits, outpatient surgery and facility-based mental health and substance abuse care from 2009 to 2010, says the report by the Health Care Cost Institute, a nonpartisan research group funded by insurers. Prices declined in only one category: Nursing home care, which saw a 3.2 percent drop in the cost per admission.

One of the areas with the fastest growing spending, meanwhile, was children's medical care.

Crabby Road

The most dangerous place for a child in America is between a Palin and a TV camera

Why does it matter she has to say?
It matters because the media refuses to stop printing what this emotional and intellectual child has to say. Then so be it.

Two weeks ago, Sarah Palin's daughter, Bristol, weighed in about President Obama's support for marriage equality. Bristol opined that the President was failing to appreciate the important role fathers play in the lives of their children.

This from an unwed mom who refused to marry her child's father, or even live with him.

But it gets better.

Bristol has a new "reality show" in which she moves to Los Angeles with her child, leaving the kid's father 3,000 miles behind in Alaska.

And the show is specifically about how she's raising a child without a dad, in part by choice (hard to involve a dad in your kid's life when you move half a country away). This is a funny thing to do for someone who just lectured the President about the importance of fathers. (In another interview a while back, Bristol revealed that she's in no hurry to find a husband - aka, a father for her child. Again, after lecturing the rest of us about the importance of having a father for your child.)

Bristol's other idea for a reality show, that got shot down, was using her kid in a comedy based on Three's Company. Seriously.

The most dangerous place for a child in America is between a Palin and a TV camera. May the gods help the repugicans if this is truly the best they have to offer.

Teens' love of loud music tied to drinking, drug abuse

In a new study, teens who loved listening to music blasting at high decibels on their MP3 players were also more likely than others to smoke marijuana.
Not true. As a teen this author listened to their fair share of loud music and to this day I have not so much as tasted any alcoholic beverage, smoked any kind of weed (including tobacco), nor taken any type of drug (with the exception of those proscribed by my doctor and then it was a battle royale to get me to take them even on doctor's orders - still is by the way).

Daily Video

Homes built in the strangest places

Structures like Caveland, a converted sandstone mine, prove location really is everything. 

The world's largest outdoor pool

The Crystal Lagoon stretches over half a mile and requires 66 million gallons of water to fill. 

Awesome Pictures

by miles morgan

The Worst Fast Food Restaurant Names

Must be a translation problem. Always get a second opinion before you name your business in a language you don’t speak! This is one of a collection of strangely-named restaurants gathered from the picture site Stupidest and posted together for your convenience.

Daily Comic Relief

Monday, May 21

How the Chicken Conquered the World

From KFC to chicken tikka masala, people everywhere eat chicken. It’s versatile, relatively inexpensive compared to other meats, and has no major religious restrictions. But chicken for dinner wasn’t always this popular.
How did the chicken achieve such cultural and culinary dominance? It is all the more surprising in light of the belief by many archaeologists that chickens were first domesticated not for eating but for cockfighting. Until the advent of large-scale industrial production in the 20th century, the economic and nutritional contribution of chickens was modest. In Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond listed chickens among the “small domestic mammals and domestic birds and insects” that have been useful to humanity but unlike the horse or the ox did little—outside of legends—to change the course of history. Nonetheless, the chicken has inspired contributions to culture, art, cuisine, science and religion over the millennia.
Smithsonian has more than you ever thought you needed to know about chickens: their origins, history, cultural significance, and rise as a popular food item.

Climate Change Miscues May Shrink Species' Outer Limits

Male broad-tailed hummingbirds arrive in summer breeding grounds ahead of females to scout for territories before the first mountain flowers start blooming - and they're running out of time to do so thanks to climate change.

Less agreeable people like less agreeable dogs

A study carried out at the University of Leicester’s School of Psychology has found that younger people who are disagreeable ...
Continue Reading

A cure for Arachnophobia

Afraid of spider? You're not alone - arachnophobia or fear of spiders is very common (it's been estimated that more than half of women in the Western world are afraid of spiders to some degree).
But for some, spider phobia can be very severe and debilitating - but now, there's hope: researchers have found that a two-hour "exposure" therapy can "cure" the irrational fear of spiders by fundamentally changing the brain's fear response.

The catch? You have to hold a tarantula in your hand:
"Before treatment, some of these participants wouldn't walk on grass for fear of spiders or would stay out of their home or dorm room for days if they thought a spider was present," said lead study author Katherina Hauner, postdoctoral fellow in neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in a statement.
After a single therapy session lasting up to three hours, "they were able to walk right up and touch or hold a tarantula. And they could still touch it after six months," Hauner said.

"Stolen" Dinosaur Skeleton Auctioned Off

This file photo shows the mounted dinosaur skeleton of a Tyannosaurus bataar on exhibit in Cosmo Caixa, Barcelona.
A fossil similar to this one sold for $1.05 million at a New York auction house this weekend, but controversy surrounds its place of origin.

Animal Pictures