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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.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Daily Drift

 Just that!

Today's readers have been in:
Zurich, Switerland
Groningen, Netherlands
Bern, Switzerland
Bangi, Malaysia
Dublin, Ireland
Kajang, Malaysia
Jakarta, Indonesia
Hanoi, Vietnam
Cork, Ireland
Makati, Philippines
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Bratislava, Slovakia
Nassau, Bahamas
Pretoria, South Africa
Naaldwijk, Netherlands
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Amersfoort, Netherlands
Limerick, Ireland
Petaling Jaya, Malaysia
Warsaw, Poland
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Vienna, Austria
Jaffna, Sri Lanka
Bangkok, Thailand
Kiev, Ukraine
Nyon, Switzerland
Islamabad, Pakistan
Oh, and by the way it's Nerd Pride Day or Geek Pride Day today.

Today in History

585 BC Thales of Greece makes the first known prediction of a solar eclipse.
1085 Alfonso VI takes Toledo, Spain from the Muslims.
1787 The Constitutional convention opens at Philadelphia with George Washington presiding.
1810 Argentina declares independence from Napoleonic Spain.
1851 Jose Justo de Urquiza of Argentina leads a rebellion against Juan Manuel de Rosas, his former ally.
1911 Porfirio Diaz, President of Mexico, resigns his office.
1914 The British House of Commons passes Irish Home Rule.
1925 John Scopes is indicted for teaching Darwinian theory in school.
1935 Jesse Owens sets six world records in less than an hour in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
1946 Jordan gains independence from Britain.
1953 The first atomic cannon is fired in Nevada.

China seeks to create their own Goldman Sachs

Imagine how exciting it will be to have their own team of gamblers with even more government sponsorship and government money. The financial gambles and eventually losses will make Wall Street's losses look like a rounding error.
The current regime in China has consistently proven themselves to be experts at cooking the books so there's no question this will lead to a spectacular crash at one point in the future. Nothing fuels an ugly banking crash quite like a government open wallet. It's bad enough in the US system which is limited to deep government ties, but making those ties deeper is asking for trouble.

Fun times ahead in China if they follow through with this plan.
China is rolling out sweeping brokerage reforms to nurture future global investment banks that officials hope could eventually compete with the likes of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley , a regulatory document showed.

The China Securities Regulatory Commission wants to allow domestic brokerages, which now get most of their money from trading stocks and underwriting new securities, to expand in futures and derivatives, asset management, private banking and private equity, according to a commission document distributed to securities firms earlier in the month.

A third Federal agency opens investigation into JPMorgan loss

JPMorgan can thank Jamie Dimon for this. He owns this problem after going far beyond defending the bank in recent years. Had he not rubbed everyone's nose in how brilliant he thought he was the fallout would have been less. Even the widely disliked Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman knew when to stop talking and lay low.
More on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) investigation via the NY Times:
The commodity commission’s members also voted on Friday to publicly disclose the existence of their investigation soon, an uncommon step that occurs only in the most serious cases. Last year, the agency confirmed that it was investigating the collapse of MF Global, the brokerage firm that misused customers’ money.

In the JPMorgan matter, the C.F.T.C. will potentially examine, among other things, whether the bank’s trading affected the market for credit derivatives — which lie at the heart of the bank’s trading debacle.

While the agency is not the bank’s front-line regulator, it does have jurisdiction over the derivatives industry. It started tracking the bank’s trading in April, one person said, after reports emerged that a London-based trader was taking large bets in credit derivatives that distorted the market. But it was not until recently that the agency opened a formal investigation.

Anti-stimulus economist Orszag now in favor of stimulus

When it counted, Peter Orszag was on the wrong side of the argument, afraid of a "wacko lefty" stimulus. We can blame Orszag for scaling back the stimulus that could have helped more Americans have jobs and pay taxes. It didn't matter to him though, because he was soon gone to make millions on Wall Street. Tough luck for everyone else.
It's more than revolting to see Orszag now come out in favor of more stimulus, knowing that the political atmosphere of 2012 is very different from early 2009 when Obama had plenty of political capital. Back then, everything was possible and now it's extremely unlikely that another stimulus could successfully pass the GOP controlled House.

Millenials want income equality

Considering the size of this group and their expected impact for generations, the repugicans may have their work cut out for them in the coming years. At the same time, the Democrats have plenty of work themselves to build ties with them. The Glass–Steagall Act repeal was a joint venture by repugicans and Democrats who celebrated the moment and thought it was going to be the start of a wonderful era.
We need the Millenials to join the process and help bring back Americans something closer to income equality.

Why Americans Hate Taxes

Everybody hates paying taxes (I mean, it's taxes for goodness sakes), but some American are vehemently opposed to them.
To find out exactly why, researchers polled a group of middle-class, small business owners in the South, an area known for its anti-tax stance and support for the Tea Party. They discovered that the issue of taxes isn't just about dollars and cents - it's basically about fairness:
The participants "portray taxation as a threat to the moral order because they believe taxes deprive deserving hardworking middle class people of dignity, while rewarding others who are undeserving (both rich and poor)," the researchers write this week in the journal Symbolic Interaction. [...]
The interviews in the new study revealed participants associated income taxes as violating the moral principle that hard work should be rewarded, the researchers noted. So rather than being associated with a free-market ideology or a person's own economic interests, at least for these taxpayers, tax hostility was more linked with moral principles.
"When Americans lash out at 'takeovers,' 'massive taxes' and 'bailouts,' they are looking at these issues from the perspective of a hardworking middle class besieged on all sides," Kidder said in a statement. "Tax talk is about dollars, but it is also about a moral sense of what is right."

The repugicans are upset that Obama is doing what the shrub did on health care

But remember kids, it's okay if you're a repugican.

 From ThinkProgress:
The repugicans are criticizing the Department of Health and Human Services for signing a $20 million contract with a public relations firm to educate Americans about the preventive health benefits included in the Affordable Care Act. The campaign — mandated by the law — “must describe the importance of prevention while also explaining preventive benefits provided by the healthcare law,” essentially informing the public about the availability of preventive services without additional co-pays.

The repugicans touted the benefits of preventive medicine before Obama signed health reform into law and claimed that it could help lower the nation’s skyrocketing health care costs. But they’re now denouncing this campaign as an “unconstitutional” “propaganda” effort
ThinkProgress goes on to list several examples of the shrub educating the public on his new health care laws.

Not to mention, anyone else remember when the shrub literally bragged to the American people, in a letter funded by the taxpayers, about the mini tax rebate/stimulus he got passed in 2001?
CNN has received a copy of a letter that the Internal Revenue Service will be sending to taxpayers to inform them they will receive a rebate check this summer as part of the recently enacted tax cut law.CNN was given the letter by a Democratic staff member in the House, who said he received it from career IRS employees upset by what they described as its political and congratulatory tone.The following is the letter, entitled "Notice of Status and Amount of Immediate Tax Relief." It is not dated."We are pleased to inform you that the United States Congress passed and the shrub signed into law the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, which provides long-term tax relief for all Americans who pay income taxes.
While one can argue, credibly, that people need to know the details of a health care law that affects them directly, and about which, the repugicans themselves often remind us, people know little of. But why did the shrub need to tell people that he got a tax rebate passed? Surely, people would have noticed it in their own tax returns.

This was nothing but bragging, politicking, at the taxpayer's expense. And the repugicans couldn't have cared less.

Repugican revisionism and civil rights history

Jonathan Chait takes to New York Magazine to explain how a revisionist version of American civil rights history paints the repugicans as the party of racial equality:
The civil rights movement, once a controversial left-wing fringe, has grown deeply embedded into the fabric of our national story. This is a salutary development, but a problematic one for conservatives, who are the direct political descendants of (and, in the case of some of the older members of the movement, the exact same people as) the strident opponents of the civil rights movement. It has thus become necessary for wing-nuts to craft an alternative story, one that absolves their own ideology of any guilt. The right has dutifully set itself to its task, circulating its convoluted version of history, honing it to the point where it can be repeated by any defensive college repugican in his dorm room.

Romney and the repugicans don't want poor Americans to eat anything

According to an analysis by the center for budget and policy priorities, Romney’s economic plan would throw 13 million people off of food stamps entirely 

Did you know ...

That the citizens of Jackson Hole, Wy, organized against anti-abortion protesters.

OK, like this is news ... the shrub is the incredible shrinking president.

There is a new declaration of independence: taking America back from the 1%.
That people who watch Faux News know less about current events than people who don't watch news at all.

That Bristol Palin sold Arizona home for a tiny profit.

That Lush Dimbulb takes a post-Sandra fluke ratings hit.

Let's kill CISPA: America's universal surveillance law

Tiffiniy from Fight for the Future (standard-bearers in the fight against SOPA) writes,
Congressional hero of the SOPA wars, Senator Wyden, said about cyber security legislation (CISPA and Lieberman-Collins) that is expected to be taken up and passed in early June: "I believe these bills will encourage the development of an industry that profits from fear and whose currency is Americans' private data. These bills create a cyber industrial complex that has an interest in preserving the problem to which it is the solution."
Furthermore, privacy is awesome -- it lets you be yourself without fear of unjust scrutiny. But, these bills would end meaningful privacy and install meaningful surveillance. But, we can change the game: www.privacyisawesome.com.
CISPA passed the house recently. That seems like a blow, but unless a similar bill passes the Senate, that means nothing. We have one week to kill CISPA indefinitely. The playbook for this is rolling out today. If we can get senators to just stop and think for a minute before they vote on the bill, the clock will run out on it. To do that, we need to call Senate offices in the thousands requesting meeting at and information on Memorial Day events and during the Senators' recess, and get meetings in every state.
We're looking for people who can help keep building the movement for internet freedom, and who want to help stop CISPA.

Mariela Castro blasts 'Cuban Mafia' in California talk

Mariela Castro, daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro, smiles before speaking to an academic conference at San Francisco General Hospital in San Francisco, Wednesday, May 23, 2012.

The daughter of Cuban President Raul Castro had some blunt words Wednesday for Cuban-Americans who support economic and travel restrictions between the U.S. and her country, saying "a Cuban Mafia" made up of emigres "who have no scruples" are holding the American people hostage.

Thousands of students protest media in Mexico

Thousands of university students have marched through central Mexico City to protest media coverage that they say favors the candidate of the former ruling party in upcoming presidential elections.

TV channel run solely by veiled women stirs controversy in Egypt

An Egyptian satellite television channel currently on test transmission and managed by a staff of women in niqaab (fully veiled) has stirred controversy in the country and revived the debate over the limits of individual freedom. Marya channel’s general manager Sheikha Safaa was quoted by various Egyptian media sources as saying that the television will be “exclusively female” and that men would not be allowed to interfere in its editorial policies or program content.

Sheikha Safaa noted that the channel’s owner, ultraconservative Salafi Sheikh Abu Islam Ahmad Abd Allah, will have a “consultative” role to play because of his “media and scholastic expertise.” “The work in operations of the channel will be handled by the sisters in charge of management, especially as women are the best one to talk about their needs,” she said, adding that the channel “aims at lifting injustice” on veiled women who suffer from marginalization.

The channel’s owner was quoted as saying he chose the name Marya for his television in reference to Mariyah al-Qibtiyyah, a woman who was gifted to the Prophet Mohammed and gave birth to his son Ibrahim. In an interview, veteran Egyptian TV host Tarek Habib denounced the idea of a TV channel only for veiled women, saying the niqab, has repeatedly been used in crimes. He said it was essential to know the identity and the gender of who goes on air and speaks to millions of viewers.

Egyptian actress Athar Al Hakim, meanwhile, was also quoted by women’s magazine Majalatouki as criticizing the channel. “I have the right to know who is talking to me on the television screen,” she said. “The issue of niqab is a national security one and it is unacceptable in Egyptian society despite the religious diversity.”

Average Portion Sizes Today vs. in the 1950s

This is why we're fat, says the CDC:
"Portion sizes have been growing. So have we. The average restaurant meal today is more than four times larger than in the 1950s. And adults are, on average, 26 pounds heavier. If we want to eat healthy, there are things we can do for ourselves and our community: Order the smaller meals on the menu, split a meal with a friend, or, eat half and take the rest home. We can also ask the managers at our favorite restaurants to offer smaller meals."

Random Celebrity Photo

A $1 Million Parking Spot

Getting parking in New York is pretty hard, so get ready to pay up if you want your own personal parking spot. How much, you ask? How bout a cool million bucks:
The private garage at 66 E. 11th St. costs six times more than the national-average price of a single-family home.
Buying it would be the same as paying a $115 ticket for illegal parking every day — for 24 years.
For moguls or celebrities, however, the rare commodity of a Manhattan parking space inside their building, with a curb cut at the street, is a huge status symbol and selling point. [...]
The hot space is about 12 feet wide, 23 feet long and more than 15 feet high.
The spot could be “duplexed” if the buyer decides to install an elevator lift so he or she can slide both the Maserati and the Lamborghini in at the same time.

Frat Boys Burning Textbooks Burned Down Their Frat House

A group of frat boys celebrating the end of classes got a bit more than they expected, when the textbooks they were burning caused a fire that burned down their frat house!
"I think some of the guys that were maybe doing an end of year celebration and burning some books or whatever, so we'll look into that," says Sophomore and Pi Kappa Alpha president John Chestnut.

From the newswire

Drunk Man Run Over by Train, Emerges Unscathed
A drunk man passed out on some train tracks in British Columbia and didn't wake up until 26 cars of a train had passed over him.

Man stabs 2 in Kansas TV station
TV in Topeka reported the man eventually was tackled and held down by several employees until police arrived.
Officer broke into house, did laundry
Rankin police Officer Jason Rocco is charged with trespassing and criminal mischief for allegedly breaking into a neighbor's home to wash his clothes.

Science News

Limpets (Lepetodrilus gordensis)Warning over deep-ocean stowaways

Care must be taken not to spread deep-sea creatures around the world during exploration of the remote ocean floor, scientists caution.

Reconstruction of the body of IchthyostegaAncient walking mystery deepens

An ancient creature thought to be the first to step on land could not have walked on four legs, 3D computer modelling shows.

Funny Picture

A practical use for volcanic lightning

(besides metal album covers)
Here's a story that combines two favorite bits of volcano news into one interesting discovery. You know those great, freaky photos of volcanic lightning? (In case you don't, I've got one posted above.) Remember how the Icelandic volcanic eruptions totally screwed up everybody's airplane travel plans?
Apparently, studying volcanic lightning could lead to better eruption detection systems that could make it easier to predict how big a plume of ash off that volcano will be—knowledge that can help airlines and travelers be better prepared.

At Nature, Richard Monastersky reports:
The researchers found that the amount of lightning correlated with the height of the plume, something they could not test using more limited data collected during an eruption at Alaska’s Mount St Augustine in 2006. This observation is important, says Behnke, because systems to monitor lightning could provide an estimate for the size of an eruption, which is not always easy to assess for remote volcanoes.
During a previous eruption at Mount Redoubt in 1989 and 1990, for example, the size of the plume wasn’t known and a plane nearly crashed after passing through the ash cloud and temporarily losing all power from its engines. Behnke and her colleagues suggest that VHF stations similar to the ones they installed at Mount Redoubt could be used to monitor volcanoes to give early warning of an eruption and an estimate of its size.

The Power of Positive Lightning

Airplanes are built to withstand bolts of lightning, because strikes on planes happen now and again. But in 1999, a glider soaring above Dunstable, England, was struck by a bolt out of the blue -literally, because the plane was not in a storm- which ripped the craft apart at the seams, including peeling apart the laminated layers of its surface.
Suspicion rapidly settled on the phenomenon known as ‘positive lightning’. Awareness of positive lightning’s significance has gradually increased in recent decades, and it is now believed to comprise up to 5% of all lightning strikes. The negative charge at a storm cell’s base is balanced by a strong positive charge at the cloud’s anvil-shaped top, up to 60,000 feet above the ground. While there is also a positive charge on the ground immediately underneath the storm cell, significant charge differentials can develop between cloud tops and negatively-charged land surfaces much further away. Occasionally these differentials are sufficient to spark a positively charged lightning strike— a huge high-energy arc capable of hitting the ground more than ten miles from the storm itself, often under clear skies and bright sunshine.
Vast energies are required to deliver these bolts from the blue. Research suggests that positive lightning can generate currents and potentials ten times greater than negative strikes: up to 300,000 amps and 1 billion volts, or approximately 300,000.21 gigawatts of power in a single discharge.
But what happened to the glider and the two men inside? Find out at Damn Interesting.

A 15 year old develops pancreatic cancer detector

 From HuffPo:
Another amazing teen scientist is making headlines for developing advances in cancer research in his after-school hours. Fifteen-year-old Jack Andraka from Maryland, winner of the world's largest high school science research competition, developed a test for pancreatic cancer that is not only 28 times cheaper and faster than current tests in place, but also 100 times more sensitive. Astoundingly, the urine and blood test that he developed can detect this type of cancer with 90 percent accuracy.
Two runners-up -- Nicholas Schiefer of Ontario, Canada and Ari Dyckovsky of Virginia -- earned $50,000 prizes for their innovations. Nicholas's "microsearch" research used information like tweets and Facebook status updates to improve search engine capabilities, while Ari looked into the atomic basis for quantum teleportation.

Hunter-Gatherers, Foragers Have Low Hypertension, Risk of Heart Disease

While age-related increases in blood pressure –– and the associated risk of atherosclerosis –– are commonplace in the United States ...
Continue Reading

Well-connected brains make you smarter in older age

Brains that maintain healthy nerve connections as we age help keep us sharp in later life ...
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The Future Past

“Two Flies Only”

Public restrooms are notoriously bad in China, so the authorities there are cracking down with a new "two flies only" rule:
Authorities in the Chinese capital have set new standards for public toilets, including a stipulation that they should contain no more than two flies.
The new rules, published by the commission of city administration, also set standards on odor and cleaning litter bins.
The third fly will mercilessly hunted down and swatted:

Five Animals Who Were The Last Of Their Species

We’ve posted before about species that have gone extinct in recent history. For some of these species, there was one last specimen that had a name and friends, although sadly, not friends of the same species. Read the stories of five who were the last of their lines at Buzzfeed. Shown here is Martha, the last passenger pigeon, who died in Cincinnati in 1914.

Animal Pictures