Welcome to ...

The place where the world comes together in honesty and mirth.
Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Daily Drift

Badbury Hill, Oxfordshire
(by Phil Selby)
Serenity be with you.

Today's readers have been in:
Singapore, Singapore
Cape Town, South Africa
Groningen, Netherlands
Bangkok, Thailand
Warsaw, Poland
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Zurich, Switzerland
Haderslev, Denmatk
Liege, Belgium
Bern, Switzerland
Palermo, Italy
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Jerudong, Brunei Darussalam
London, England
Budapest, Hungary
Karachi, Pakistan
Manchester, England
Durban, South Africa
Krakow, Poland
Amersfoort, Netherlands
Diksmuide, Belgium
Hluhluwe, South Africa
Bratislava, Slovakia
Nyon, Switzerland
Glasgow, Scotland
Naaldwijk, Netherlands
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Chisinau, Moldova
Tranberg, Denmark
Caracas, Venezuela
Kuantan, Malaysia

Today in History

1433   Sigismund is crowned emperor of Rome.
1678   The Godiva procession, commemorating Lady Godiva's legendary ride while naked, becomes part of the Coventry Fair.
1862   At the Battle of Fair Oaks, Union General George B. McClellan defeats Confederates outside of Richmond.
1879   New York's Madison Square Garden opens its doors for the first time.
1889   Johnstown, Pennsylvania is destroyed by a massive flood.
1900   U.S. troops arrive in Peking to help put down the Boxer Rebellion.
1902   The Boer War ends with the Treaty of Vereeniging.
1909   The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) holds its first conference.
1913   The 17th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, providing for direct election of senators, is ratified.
1915   A German zeppelin makes an air raid on London.
1916   British and German fleets fight in the Battle of Jutland.
1928   The first flight over the Pacific takes off from Oakland.
1941   An armistice is arranged between the British and the Iraqis.
1955   The Supreme Court orders that states must end racial segregation "with all deliberate speed."
1962   Adolf Eichmann, the former SS commander, is hanged near Tel Aviv, Israel.
1969   John Lennon and Yoko Ono record "Give Peace a Chance."
1974   Israel and Syria sign an agreement on the Golan Heights.
1979   Zimbabwe proclaims its independence.
1988   President Ronald Reagan arrives in Moscow, the first American president to do so in 14 years.

This Is What Happens When You Try To Make Protests Illegal

After months of student protests over exponential tuition hikes, the Government of Quebec passed a draconian emergency anti-protest law. Then this happened.
By Mansur Gidfar 
Protests started over a month ago after the Quebec Cabinet proposed province wide tuition hikes, triggering widespread student boycotts. In response, The National Assembly of Quebec passed Bill 78 as an emergency law in an attempt to limit protest rights. What followed is being described as the single biggest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history.
ORIGINAL: found on /r/occupywallstreet. You can read more about this historic protest here.

Syrian diplomats expelled as bombing continues

Obviously little matters at the UN until China and especially Russia come to agree with any action though Syria's actions have complicated the steadfast support of Russia. Later this week new French president Fran├žois Hollande will host Russia's Putin to discuss the unraveling situation in the Middle East.
Al Jazeera:
Japan has joined 11 Western countries in expelling Syrian diplomats after the UN said most of the victims of the massacre in Houla village were summarily executed without decisively saying who carried out most of the killings.

The government asked Mohamed Ghassan al-Habash, the Syrian ambassador in Tokyo, to depart "as soon as possible", a Japanese foreign ministry official told AFP news agency on Wednesday.

The US, Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Australia, Canada, Spain, Belgium, Bulgaria and the Netherlands said on Tuesday they were protesting against Friday's massacre in Houla of at least 108 people.

The truth hurts

Romney - who fought Vietnam in a palace in France - warns of shrinking military budget

Like most Vietnam Vets, Mitt Romney
spent the war in a palace in Paris.
Oh please, Mitt. As if it's not amusing enough that Romney replaced his military service during the Vietnam war with a few years living in the posh and flashy 16th arrondissement. (It's the new money, flashy part of Paris on the western edge of town.) Somehow service in the neighborhood of nannies and sports cars has made Romney certain that what the already bloated Pentagon needs is more money. Uh huh.

Maybe Romney math is different from real math, but US defense spending already dwarfs the rest of the world and it's not even close. One would need to add countries ranked second through fifteenth to slightly pass the annual US military spending so spare me the story about how damaging cuts would weaken the US.

What is weakening the US is too much war spending and not enough spending at home. But for the Romney class, spending on social programs that benefit the 99% is a waste of money. The real waste of money in the US these days is giving away tax cuts to people like Mitt Romney, who hasn't worked in years yet still makes millions each year thanks to GOP tax cuts.

Dear god, the man has all kinds of money but can't buy a clue.
Echoing portions of his stump speech in which he cites the threat of a resurgent Russia, a nuclear Iran and a rising China as obstacles to an "American Century," Romney closed his speech at this Memorial Day tribute to veterans with a political message about a choice between divergent military philosophies this November.

"We have two courses we can follow: One is to follow the pathway of Europe. To shrink our military smaller and smaller to pay for our social needs. And they of course rely on the strength of America and they hope for the best. Were we to follow that kind of course, there would be no one that could stand to protect us," Romney told an audience his campaign said numbered roughly 5000 people.

"The other is to commit to preserve America as the strongest military in the world, second to none, with no comparable power anywhere in the world. We choose that course. We choose that course for America not just so that we can win wars, but so we can prevent wars."

CEO of failed Spanish bank to walk away with over $17 million

Bankers being bankers. Any government led bailout has to include terms for canceling luxurious pay plans like this. The bank in question, Bankia, is eagerly waiting for a massive bailout to stay afloat after only one year in operation.
Unemployment in Spain is over 23% with youth unemployment running over 50% and their economic situation is nowhere near stabilizing. The banks are on life support now and there is at least a decade of surplus housing on the market, plus years of bad loans that still need to be cleaned up.

There is absolutely no way Spain can or should provide any retirement for the CEO who led the bank into the ground so quickly. It would be immoral and a slap in the face to the million of unemployed to tolerate such gross mismanagement.

Bank of America moves jobs out of America

Classy bunch, as always. Between the bailouts that were more about bailing out banker lifestyles than saving the banks and now this, there's very reason to do any banking with these mega banks. Their service has never been known to be good for the 99% and now they think so little about their retail customers that they're handing over sensitive customer data to the Philippines.
Besides habit and the hassle of changing, there's no good reason to stick with any of these big banks. More on the latest slap in the face to America by Bank of America at Mother Jones:
Roman Romulo, deputy majority leader of the Philippine House of Representatives, bragged to the Manila Standard Today earlier this month that the Philippines "has secured its place as the world's fastest-growing outsourcing hub." Romulo pointed out that BofA is the last of the "big four" US banks to move their business-support network to his island nation, where the average family makes $4,700 a year.

A spokesman for Bank of America, Mark Pipitone, was unable to provide additional information about the bank's off-shoring plans on Friday. "We have employees and operations where we can ensure that we best serve our customers and clients," he told me in an email.

The bank's outsourcing comes amid rising concerns about the security of customers' financial data in the hands of foreign contractors. In March, undercover reporters for England's Sunday Times met in India with "IT consultants" who claimed they were call center workers and offered to sell them credit card and medical information for 500,000 Britons—including account holders at major banks such as HSBC.

Romney Economics

 Cheat Main Street
Mitt Romney made a boatload of money for himself and his fellow fat cats. No doubt about it. Billions. But he made it the way Americans hate most – Wall Street style wheeling and dealing.
Americans hate it because when all that scheming went bad, when the market collapsed, it was the 99 percent who footed the bill to bailout Wall Street. The same is true of Romney and Bain. When Bain bankrupted the companies it bought – and Bain did that shockingly often – workers and Main Street businesses paid the price.

The truth be told

Court says YouTube not obligated to control content

A Paris court on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit against YouTube filed by French television, saying the video-sharing website was not obligated to control content of uploaded material. YouTube is "a priori not responsible for the content of videos posted on its website" and "is under no obligation to control the content of videos posted online," said the ruling by the Tribunal de Grande Instance, a civil court that adjudicates major cases.The court ordered the national private TF1 channel and its affiliates, which had sued YouTube, to pay 80,000 euros ($100,000) in court costs.
TF1 had sued YouTube in 2008 after various videos were posted on the website, including television shows and interviews to which the channel said it had commercial rights.
The channel had accused YouTube of unfair competition, saying it had profited from the videos at TF1's expense.
The court rejected the argument, saying the channel failed to show any loss of sales.
YouTube France hailed the decision, with chief Christophe Muller saying the ruling "represents a victory for the Internet and for all those who use it to exchange ideas and information."
"This decision defends the right of innovation on content platforms generated by users, allowing them to do even more to help French artists and creators to reach new audiences in France and abroad," he said.
A spokesman for TF1 said the channel was surprised by the decision and was studying options to appeal the ruling.
Google bought YouTube in 2006 for $1.65 billion.

Legal News

Jailhouse Visitor Demands Own Arrest
Police said the man had shown up drunk at the Okaloosa County Jail to visit with his girlfriend, the Northwest Florida Daily News reported.
Musical magazine prompts courthouse evacuation
Authorities say a package containing a magazine with a musical device, similar to those in greeting cards, prompted the evacuation of a federal courthouse in southeastern Idaho.

Man Robs Hardware Store, Tries to Use Golf Cart from Nudist Club as Getaway Vehicle

A man in Osceola County, Florida stands accused of robbing a Lowe’s outlet. Unfortunately for him, the golf cart that he picked up at a local nudist club was not up to the task of delivering him away from the scene:
“He tried to run across Pleasant Hill Road, and a white pickup truck was blocking his way, so he walked up to that pickup truck driver and punched him in the face,” Lizasuain said.
Officials said the driver was not hurt.
Deputies said Hodges then stole a golf cart from a nudist community near the Lowes.
By that time, deputies were already at the scene to make the arrest.
This would make a pretty good mission scenario for the next Grand Theft Auto game.

Retro Photo

1906 Ford, Model N, Roadster by crackdog on Flickr.
A 1906 Ford Model N Roadster


Japan’s hidden tropical island
Tofugu has a short article on this unusual and beautiful Japanese island: Aogashima.
Aogashima (“blue island”) is a tropical, volcanic island in the Phillipine Sea. Despite being over 200 miles away from the country’s capital, Aogashima is governed by Tokyo. In fact, a whole stretch of tropical and sometimes uninhabited islands called the Izu Islands are technically part of Tokyo. Volcanic islands? Not typically what comes to mind when you think of Tokyo.
As you might imagine, Aogashima isn’t the most crowded place in the world. As of this year, only about 200 people live on Aogashima. The island only has one post office and one school.
There are two ways on and off the island: by helicopter or by boat. There’s only one, small harbor where the boats go in an out of, and it seems to be a little unreliable. Because Aogashima is so remote and isolated, it can sometimes be hard to get a boat to or from the island safely.
A fellow named Izuyan has been traveling to isolated islands of Japan and taking excellent photos.
Here's his Flickr set for Aogashima.
Japan’s Hidden Tropical Island: Aogashima

Health News

NIH identifies new HIV-inhibiting protein

Scientists have identified a new HIV-suppressing protein in the blood of people infected with the virus. In laboratory studies, the ...
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Neuron Function Restored to Huntington’s Brains

Researchers from South Korea, Sweden, and the United States have collaborated on a project to restore neuron function to parts ...
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Aspirin may protect against skin cancer

A new study suggests that aspirin and other similar painkillers may help protect against skin cancer. Published early online in ...
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Here's 26 Wild Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Fast Food

Did you know that due to a copyright issue, Burger King is called Hungry Jack’s in Australia? If you are Australian, yeah, you probably already knew that. But there are some things on this list that will be new to you, like the fact that McDonald’s is Brazil’s largest employer, or that you can buy a Bacon Potato Pie at McDonald’s in Japan. See the rest of these trivia tidbits at Buzzfeed.

Researchers say tart cherries have ‘the highest anti-inflammatory content of any food’

Tart cherries may help reduce chronic inflammation, especially for the millions of Americans suffering from debilitating joint pain and arthritis ...
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Study shows link between night shift and health risks

The disruptions to sleep patterns makes sense but I wouldn't have guessed the end results could be so serious.

The Guardian:
In the latest study, from the Danish Cancer Society's institute of epidemiology, those who had worked nights at least three times a week for at least six years were more than twice as likely to have the disease as those who had not. But there was "a neutral link" for those who worked only one or two night shifts per week.

The study also challenged a hypothesis that less exposure to the sun and vitamin D might be a risk factor for those women who worked night shifts. The researchers found that in fact night workers tended to sunbathe more than those who worked during the day.

Night work can not only disrupt body clocks and result in sleep deprivation, however. It has been argued that it also suppresses production of the hormone melatonin and other metabolic and physiological processes that may increase the growth of tumors.

Goodbye flu season, for now

Now that summer has unofficially begun, the Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention is closing the books on the past flu season.

This Spring Was the Hottest Ever

In case, you know, you haven't been outside in the past three month, it's about to become official: unless a freak blizzard blankets the country by Thursday, the spring of 2012 will go down as the warmest for the U.S. in 117 years of record-keeping. The National Climatic Data Center won't release a report on the temperatures in May until sometime ...

Short movies stored in an atomic vapor

The storage of light-encoded messages on film and compact disks and as holograms is ubiquitous—grocery scanners, Netflix disks, credit-card images ...
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Are we prepared to talk with aliens?

We have been deliberately or accidentally sending signals into space and we are trying to listen to the signals or broadcast given by the aliens. But if we detect any signal from aliens then have we made any plan for that? If a signal is sent by aliens then it will be received by SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). SETI is the group of a few dozen scientists across the world and they are expected to that they will receive signals from space. SETI often faces the shortage of funds and they have been made fun of too. They observe the signals and unusual things through the world’s largest telescope. SETI was launched in 1959 just by a person that had a telescope, and nowadays the expecting signals from space are observed by the computers. But what would happen when the scientists receive signal from the aliens? Some say that the government will try to keep it secret while some say that the world will lose a dirge. But SETI astronomy expert Doctor Seth Shostak says nothing will happen. It’s absolutely stupid that the government will try to hide it or else people would be mad. When it was said in the early 1900 that there were canals on Mars people did not get panic. People said perhaps the aliens are present.” He said that if a computer warns about any kind of signal then we will contact several telescopes for the confirmation of that signal and this process can take a week. During this period, people will must call their relatives to inform them.
In 1997 such messages confirmed that it is impossible to hide it. Doctor Seth Shostak says that we were waiting and watching what would be told about it officially. But nobody bothered to know about it else the media. So is there any planning according to such situation? If we receive any signal, whom are we supposed to inform? Doctor Seth Shostak says there isn’t any such plan at the moment. If any signal is received it will be announced. When SETI contacted with office of United Nations Organization in Vienna, in order to know that what steps should be taken after receiving the signal then the office replied “We don’t know.” At the moment it is responsibility of Arizona State University to make the proper plan about it. They said they have no idea what kind of signal they receive and it can take many years to understand them. May be a very short signal is received in which it is said “hello people of earth” or a very complicated message.
The scientists of SETI say that signal must be answered. But nobody agrees what should be replied. We will have to be careful about their likes and dislikes while replying about what we don’t have any information. And the thing that is common between them and us are Mathematics and physics. SETI says whatever we reply but we should have consensus on it.

Redneckus Americanus

And in answer to the question posed in the previous post ... What do YOU think?!

Socrates Narrowly Acquitted at Retrial 2,400 Years after His Execution

The Greek philosopher Socrates was accused of irreverence to the gods and corrupting the young people of Athens. For this, he was tried, convicted and sentenced to death. Socrates drank a cup of hemlock and died.
This, it has seemed to some observers of history, was a bum rap. So a panel of legal experts in Athens retried him. Their votes tied 5 to 5, thus narrowly securing an acquittal:
“Socrates comes before us feigning humility, yet demonstrating arrogance,” said Loretta Preska, a New York district judge who presided at Friday’s trial and voted to convict him.
“He is a dangerous subversive.”
Pleading earlier in Socrates’ defence, prominent French lawyer Patrick Simon said: “An opinion is not a crime. Socrates was searching for the truth.
He added: “My client has one fault: he likes to poke fun and is fiercely ironic. By acquitting him, you will show how solid and reliable democracy is.”
Versed in Socratic literature, the legal brains came from Britain, France, Germany, Greece, Switzerland and the United States.
“In order not to complicate this trial unnecessarily, penalty will not be decided,” Preska said.
That was probably a prudent decision.

Ancient Harappan Civilization’s Collapse Explained

The mysterious fall of the largest of the world's earliest urban civilizations nearly 4,000 years ago in what is now India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh now appears to have a key culprit — ancient climate change, researchers say.
Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia may be the best known of the first great urban cultures, but the largest was the Indus or Harappan civilization.
This culture once extended over more than 386,000 square miles (1 million square kilometers) across the plains of the Indus River from the Arabian Sea to the Ganges, and at its peak may have accounted for 10 percent of the world population.
The civilization developed about 5,200 years ago, and slowly disintegrated between 3,900 and 3,000 years ago — populations largely abandoned cities, migrating toward the east.
"Antiquity knew about Egypt and Mesopotamia, but the Indus civilization, which was bigger than these two, was completely forgotten until the 1920s," said researcher Liviu Giosan, a geologist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts.
"There are still many things we don't know about them."
Nearly a century ago, researchers began discovering numerous remains of Harappan settlements along the Indus River and its tributaries, as well as in a vast desert region at the border of India and Pakistan.
Evidence was uncovered for sophisticated cities, sea links with Mesopotamia, internal trade routes, arts and crafts, and as-yet undeciphered writing.
"They had cities ordered into grids, with exquisite plumbing, which was not encountered again until the Romans," Giosan said.
"They seem to have been a more democratic society than Mesopotamia and Egypt — no large structures were built for important personalities like kings or pharaohs."
Like their contemporaries in Egypt and Mesopotamia, the Harappans, who were named after one of their largest cities, lived next to rivers.
"Until now, speculations abounded about the links between this mysterious ancient culture and its life-giving mighty rivers," Giosan said.
Now Giosan and his colleagues have reconstructed the landscape of the plain and rivers where this long-forgotten civilization developed. Their findings now shed light on the enigmatic fate of this culture.
"Our research provides one of the clearest examples of climate change leading to the collapse of an entire civilization," Giosan said.

The researchers first analyzed satellite data of the landscape influenced by the Indus and neighboring rivers.
From 2003 to 2008, the researchers then collected samples of sediment from the coast of the Arabian Sea into the fertile irrigated valleys of Punjab and the northern Thar Desert to determine the origins and ages of those sediments and develop a timeline of landscape changes.
"It was challenging working in the desert — temperatures were over 110 degrees Fahrenheit all day long (43 degrees C)," Giosan recalled.
After collecting data on geological history, "we could reexamine what we know about settlements, what crops people were planting and when, and how both agriculture and settlement patterns changed," said researcher Dorian Fuller, an archaeologist with University College London.
"This brought new insights into the process of eastward population shift, the change towards many more small farming communities, and the decline of cities during late Harappan times."
Some had suggested that the Harappan heartland received its waters from a large glacier-fed Himalayan river, thought by some to be the Sarasvati, a sacred river of Hindu mythology. However, the researchers found that only rivers fed by monsoon rains flowed through the region.
Previous studies suggest the Ghaggar, an intermittent river that flows only during strong monsoons, may best approximate the location of the Sarasvati.
Archaeological evidence suggested the river, which dissipates into the desert along the dried course of Hakra valley, was home to intensive settlement during Harappan times.
"We think we settled a long controversy about the mythic Sarasvati River," Giosan said.
Initially, the monsoon-drenched rivers the researchers identified were prone to devastating floods.
Over time, monsoons weakened, enabling agriculture and civilization to flourish along flood-fed riverbanks for nearly 2,000 years.
"The insolation — the solar energy received by the Earth from the sun — varies in cycles, which can impact monsoons," Giosan said.
"In the last 10,000 years, the Northern Hemisphere had the highest insolation from 7,000 to 5,000 years ago, and since then insolation there decreased.
All climate on Earth is driven by the sun, and so the monsoons were affected by the lower insolation, decreasing in force.
This meant less rain got into continental regions affected by monsoons over time."
Eventually, these monsoon-based rivers held too little water and dried, making them unfavorable for civilization.
"The Harappans were an enterprising people taking advantage of a window of opportunity — a kind of "Goldilocks civilization," Giosan said.
Eventually, over the course of centuries, Harappans apparently fled along an escape route to the east toward the Ganges basin, where monsoon rains remained reliable.
"We can envision that this eastern shift involved a change to more localized forms of economy — smaller communities supported by local rain-fed farming and dwindling streams," Fuller said.
"This may have produced smaller surpluses, and would not have supported large cities, but would have been reliable."
This change would have spelled disaster for the cities of the Indus, which were built on the large surpluses seen during the earlier, wetter era.
The dispersal of the population to the east would have meant there was no longer a concentrated workforce to support urbanism.
"Cities collapsed, but smaller agricultural communities were sustainable and flourished," Fuller said. "Many of the urban arts, such as writing, faded away, but agriculture continued and actually diversified."
These findings could help guide future archaeological explorations of the Indus civilization.
Researchers can now better guess which settlements might have been more significant, based on their relationships with rivers, Giosan said.
It remains uncertain how monsoons will react to modern climate change. "If we take the devastating floods that caused the largest humanitarian disaster in Pakistan's history as a sign of increased monsoon activity, than this doesn't bode well for the region," Giosan said.
"The region has the largest irrigation scheme in the world, and all those dams and channels would become obsolete in the face of the large floods an increased monsoon would bring."

Geological News

Greenland shedding ice
The Greenland ice sheet continues to lose mass and thus contributes at about 0.7 millimeters per year to the currently ...
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Auction House and Mongolian President to Cooperate in Fight Over Fossil

Strange Bedrock Fellows
Nine days after an uncharacteristically exciting natural history sale , in which an auction of near-complete Tyrannosaurus bataar skeleton was forcibly interrupted  by a lawyer over concerns that the bones had been looted from Mongolia, a partnership has been struck.

'Steak-Knife Teeth'

Reptile has 'steak-knife teeth'Tuatara (c) Marc Jones

The unique saw-like chew of a New Zealand reptile could be the secret of its success, say scientists. BBC Nature

Animal Pictures


Corsac Fox