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.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Daily Drift

Well, I'll be darned!

Some of our readers today have been in:
Surabaya, Indonesia
Makati, Philippines
Islamabad, Pakistan
Medellin, Colombia
Johannesburg, South Africa
Ankara, Turkey
Glasgow, Scotland
Jerudong, Brunei
Krakow, Poland
London, England
Caracas, Venezuela
Fort-De-France, Martinique
Edinburgh, Scotland
Kingston, Jamaica
Monteria, Colombia
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Warsaw, Poland
Cape Town, South Africa
Moscow, Russia
George Town, Malaysia
San Salvador, El Salvador
Bayan Lepas, Malaysia
Bangkok, Thailand
Kulim, Malaysia

Today in History

362   Emperor Julian issues an edict banning Christians from teaching in Syria.
1579   Sir Francis Drake claims San Francisco Bay for England.
1775   The British take Bunker Hill outside of Boston, after a costly battle.
1799   Napoleon Bonaparte incorporates Italy into his empire.
1848   Austrian General Alfred Windischgratz crushes a Czech uprising in Prague.
1854   The Red Turban revolt breaks out in Guangdong, China.
1856   The Republican Party opens its first national convention in Philadelphia.
1861   President Abraham Lincoln witnesses Dr. Thaddeus Lowe demonstrate the use of a hot-air balloon.
1863   On the way to Gettysburg, Union and Confederate forces skirmish at Point of Rocks, Maryland.
1872   George M. Hoover begins selling whiskey in Dodge City, Kansas–a town which had previously been "dry."
1876   General George Crook's command is attacked and bested on the Rosebud River by 1,500 Sioux and Cheyenne under the leadership of Crazy Horse.
1912   The German Zeppelin SZ 111 burns in its hanger in Friedrichshafen.
1913   U.S. Marines set sail from San Diego to protect American interests in Mexico.
1917   The Russian Duma meets in secret session in Petrograd and votes for an immediate Russian offensive against the German Army.
1924   The Fascist militia marches into Rome.
1926   Spain threatens to quit the League of Nations if Germany is allowed to join.
1930   The Smoot-Hawley Tariff Bill becomes law, placing the highest tariff on imports to the United States.
1931   British authorities in China arrest Indochinese Communist leader Ho Chi Minh.
1932   The U.S. Senate defeats the Bonus Bill as 10,000 veterans mass around the Capitol.
1940   The Soviet Union occupies Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.
1942   Yank a weekly magazine for the U.S. armed services, begins publication.
1944   French troops land on the island of Elba in the Mediterranean.
1950   Surgeon Richard Lawler performs the first kidney transplant operation in Chicago.
1953   Soviet tanks fight thousands of Berlin workers rioting against the East German government.
1963   The U.S. Supreme Court bans the required reading of the Lord's prayer and Bible in public schools.
1965   27 B-52s hit Viet Cong outposts, but lose two planes in South Vietnam.
1970   North Vietnamese troops cut the last operating rail line in Cambodia.
1972   Five men are arrested for burglarizing Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C.
1994   Millions of Americans watch former football player O.J. Simpson–facing murder charges–drive his Ford Bronco through Los Angeles, followed by police.

The Top 11 Historical Misquotes of All Time

History’s a funny thing, really. It’s never accurate. Why? Because caveman times never had the wonderful invention of the audio recorder! Or camcorder, for that matter.

UN confirms previous reports of child torture in Syria

Just because it's not surprising doesn't mean it's any less disgusting.
Children were slaughtered, tortured, sexually attacked and used as human shields by pro-government Syrian forces, according to a damning United Nations report released late on Monday.

"Children were victims of killing and maiming, arbitrary arrest, detention, torture and ill-treatment, including sexual violence, by the Syrian Armed Forces, the intelligence forces, and the Shabbiha militia," the U.N.'s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy said in a release issued along with the report.

The shabiha are a pro-government militia that recruits largely from the Alawite community- the same Muslim sect as President Bashar Assad. Sunnis, who make up the majority of the rebels, are an estimated 74 percent of the population.

And I Qoute

Well, well, well ...

Angela Merkel can take a bow for creating such confusion in the market. Rather than be serious about addressing the problem a few years ago, she chose to try and make a point that doesn't apply and then made sure to give the bankers a sweet deal during negotiations. Look at all of the money she saved Germany and the EU with that strategy.

Brilliant job, huh?
Greeks pulled their cash out of the banks and stocked up with food ahead of a cliffhanger election on Sunday that many fear will result in the country being forced out of the euro.

Bankers said up to 800 million euros ($1 billion) were leaving major banks daily and retailers said some of the money was being used to buy pasta and canned goods, as fears of returning to the drachma were fanned by rumors that a radical leftist leader may win the election.

The last published opinion polls showed the conservative New Democracy party, which backs the 130 billion euro ($160 billion) bailout that is keeping Greece afloat, running neck and neck with the leftist Syriza party, which wants to cancel the rescue deal.

Diesel exhaust can cause cancer

Exhaust from diesel engines can cause cancer, a prominent global cancer group that's part of the World Health Organization said Tuesday.

A $20 Fine for Profanity

Don't you dare swear in Middleborough, Massachusetts! The town got fed up with profanity and is now fighting back:
The residents of Middleborough, Massachusetts, have had enough of this *#%@&!
And on Monday night they voted to make those who curse put their money where their potty mouths are - to the sum of $20, that is.
Police in the town of 22,000 will be writing tickets bearing fines in that amount to those who foul its public places with profanity after residents voted 183-50 Monday night that they were mad as *#%@& and weren't going to take it anymore.

Federal Lunch Rules

There are rules, then there are federal lunch rules.
A high school in Utah was fined $15,000 for selling sodas during the lunch hour. Turns out, it's okay to sell the sodas beforehand and then to drink it during lunch. It's just not okay to sell it during lunch. And not only that, turns out the rules in selling candies is quite complicated, too.
See if the rules make sense to you:
Chris Williams, the Davis School District Spokesperson, says there are definite rules about how, and when carbonated beverages can be sold. “It is challenging when you can buy a Coke before lunch, and consume it during lunch, but you can't buy a coke during lunch."
It's not just soda sales that are a problem; candy can be too, depending on what kind it is. Davis High School’s Principal, Dee Burton, says Snicker Bars are considered nutritional and legal, but other candy is not. "We are not allowed to sell anything that is carbonated or any candy that sticks to your teeth”
Snicker Bars nutritious? That's great news! Thanks, Mr. Fed!

How repugican congressman Mica made the TSA, and your national security, his own personal pork

John Mica
To hell with national security.  There's pork in them there hills!

Sure, the Transportation Security Agency is meant to stop terrorists from causing another September 11 in which they kill thousands of US citizens, and this time maybe even destroy the White House or the Congress, like they wanted to do last time.

But national security is nothing compared to pork security.

The repugican House committee chair John Mica has been pushing for years for the TSA to be privatized.

With all the problems the TSA has, it's not entirely clear why anything would improve under private management.  If anything, at least now TSA has to worry about the ire of the administration and Congress when they strip search granny, but after they're privatized, kiss any real government oversight goodbye.

Privatizing the TSA just doesn't make any sense, unless you do some research - something The Hill didn't bother doing in yesterday's article about this story.  But privatize it we are going to do, because Congressman Mica got some legislation passed earlier this year making it so.

Now why would he do that?

Maybe because one of the main contractors who would profit from privatizing the TSA is a campaign donor to Congressman Mica and one of his constituents.

Mica's TSA conflict of interest, which the Washington Post was burying :
What the Washington Post doesn't tell you, until the end of the story, is that one of the big private contractors is in the House Transportation chairman's own district.
Covenant, based in Mica's home district in northeastern coastal Florida, has airport screening contracts in Sioux Falls, S.D., Tupelo, Miss., and seven small airports in northern and eastern Montana. Its deal at San Francisco International is by far its largest. Covenant employs nearly 1,100 people in the bay area, who make up nearly all of its 1,150 workers. The last four-year contract, from 2006 to 2010, totaled $314 million. A new contract has been put out for competitive bids. Meanwhile, Covenant is operating on a two-month contract ending in February.
Um, kind of a relevant fact that deserves to be highlighted a tad earlier. Rather than a story about airports ditching TSA, you may have a story about an incoming House committee chair trying to base our entire airport counter-terror security on who donates to his campaign - oh yeah, the post didn't tell you that one either, the president of the private contractor is also a donor to incoming Chairman Mica's campaign. Too bad the Washington Post didn't bother checking:

And a recent check of donations shows that Gerald Berry of Covenant Aviation donated to Mica again in 2011.

And what do you know, according to news reports "all signs are pointing to Covenant Aviation Security" getting the TSA privatization contract in Mica's own backyard.


What's especially interesting about Mica's Covenant having the inside track is that Covenant is not without controversy:
[I]n 2006, according to a government report, Covenant was caught cheating on performance tests at San Francisco International Airport.
Hard to believe a company caught cheating on performance tests would have the inside track on new TSA contracts. So how did they manage it?

Now, in most of the world, if a politician were lobbying for something on behalf of someone who gave them money, we'd send that politician to jail - or at the very least they'd recuse themselves from the matter. We certainly wouldn't make them the chair of an entire committee, and we certainly wouldn't accede to their demands when the national security of the country was at stake.

But this is the way Washington works.  Especially in the repugican party.

Members of Congress are guided by (controlled) their constituents and their campaign donors, even when the subject of debate is national security. And when the constituent and donor is a corporation, the sky's the limit!

Whether or not a privatized TSA helps stop the next September 11 is not what is foremost on a (corrupt) congressman's mind, when the opportunity presents itself to turn America's first line of defense against the next Mohammed Atta into their own personal pork dinner.

Pass the gravy, Cong. Mica.

How do privatized TSA agents solve the TSA problem?

I completely understand that Representative Mica loves to hand privatized deals over to campaign contributors or potential contributors but I have yet to hear how or why privatizing addresses the problems of the TSA. They will be following the same mission and rules as the TSA except that instead of some level of accountability via the government, there will now be an extra layer with a private company that is accountable to no one.
The privatized TSA will still be groping or using the porno-scanners that are expensive but easily beatable as we have seen recently as well as a few years ago. They will still be humiliating Americans and preventing babies from flying because of incorrect no-fly lists and declaring cream cheese dangerous.

Why isn't anyone asking Rep. Mica how the privatized TSA will be any different with these problems?

The Hill:
Rep. John Mica (r-Fla.) has long pushed for private screeners at Orlando's Sanford International Airport. He said Monday he hoped the move at the airport in his home state would open "a new era of reform for TSA operations, not only at Orlando Sanford but across the nation.

“It’s critical that TSA get out of the business of running a huge bureaucracy and human resources operation and refocus its attention on security, analyzing intelligence, and setting the highest risk-based security standards," Mica, who is a vocal critic of TSA, said in a statement.

FBI Investigating NC Airport, Employees

Officials at a North Carolina airport say federal agents have opened an investigation, and two employees have been suspended without pay.

The Mystery Of Alcatraz Escape Endures

50 Years On
Fifty years ago three men set out into the frigid waters of the San Francisco Bay in a raft made out of raincoats. It was one of the most daring prison escapes in U.S. history from what was billed as the nation's only 'escape-proof prison' - Alcatraz. Most people assume the men have been at the bottom of the bay or were swept out to sea since the night they broke free, tunneling out of their cells in part with spoons from the kitchen and climbing the prisons' plumbing to the roof.

But the legend of their escape has held that the men, Frank Morris and John and Clarence Anglin, would return on the 50th anniversary of their breakout. It's an unfounded rumor that drew an unlikely group to the island last week to mark half a century passed, including many of the Anglin brothers' family.

Feds Drop Remaining Charges Against John Edwards

Federal prosecutors dropped all charges Wednesday against John Edwards after his corruption trial ended last month in a deadlocked jury.

Federal prosecutors dropped the remaining charges against former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards on Wednesday, less than two weeks after his corruption trial ended in an acquittal and mistrial.

Ex-Russian spy Chapman on catwalk

Russian ex-spy Anna Chapman has walked a Turkish catwalk in a long red dress at a fashion show, flanked by two men posing as secret service agents in black suit and sunglasses.

The 100-year-old Battleship Texas springs massive leak

Children shimmy up the barrels of massive cannons on the upper decks of the 100-year-old Battleship Texas, focused on firing at an imaginary enemy and oblivious to the tension in the historic vessel's belly where a crew works on pumping out dozens of gallons of oil-laced water.

Tailsitter Airplanes

During World War II, both Germany and the U.S. began research on airplanes that could take off and land vertically, which would eliminate the need for huge runways. The basic idea was to have the plane sit on its tail, and also land on its tail! There were many designs and prototypes of “tailsitters,” but the idea fell by the wayside as helicopters took over that job. Aerospace engineers are still working on vertical takeoff and landing, but not by sitting on the craft’s tail.

Read about these experimental craft and see more pictures at Dark Roasted Blend.

Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose

The Hughes H-4 Hercules (also known as the 'Spruce Goose') is a prototype heavy transport aircraft designed and built by the Hughes Aircraft company. The aircraft made its only flight on November 2, 1947 and the project never advanced beyond the single example produced.

Built from wood because of wartime restrictions on the use of aluminum, its critics nicknamed it the 'Spruce Goose' despite it being made almost entirely of birch rather than spruce. The Hercules is the largest flying boat ever built and has the largest wingspan of any aircraft in history. It survives in good condition at the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville, Oregon, USA.

Daily Video

"The Mermaid"
A 1904 film by Georges Méliès.

Is This Jane Austen as a Teen?

Is This Jane Austen as a Teen?
Digital analysis of old photographs of the portrait suggest the young girl is in fact the famous author at age 13.
Read more

Life in the Middle Ages

This funny medieval drawing of a knight engaged in battle with an enormous snail inspired Donna D. to look up other strange illuminations that apparently had very little to do with the manuscript they accompanied. Images from the British Library have modern captions attached in a collection at Buzzfeed.

Ten Fairy Tale Plot Pieces That Are Usually Left Out

You’ve all seen the Disney versions of these classic fairy tales, but the company took a few liberties with the stories so they wouldn’t be so gruesome. For example, in Cinderella:
We all know that Cinderella’s nasty relations try to hoodwink the prince by cramming their feet into the glass slipper. What you may not remember is that these two hellcats chopped off their toes and heels to win his affections. Also, the prince wouldn’t have noticed the blood gushing from the slipper if a duo of chatty pigeons hadn’t informed him otherwise.
Nothing says romance like a shoe filled with the blood of your evil step-sisters.

The Ozone Layer & The Ocean's Salinity

Large Eruptions Could Eat Away at Ozone Layer

A large eruption in the volcanically active region of Central America could release enough ozone-depleting gases to significantly thin the ozone layer for several years. Read more
Nicaragua's Apoyo Caldera

Space View of Ocean's Salt

This week marks the one-year anniversary of a NASA mission designed to help answer an age-old question: How salty is the sea? Read more

Astronomical News

Italian Crop Circle Linked to Solar Eclipse

Could aliens be demonstrating their advanced knowledge of our eclipse system through spirals in wheat fields? Read more
crop circles

Earth Worlds Common, Pre-Earth ETs Possible

New research from the planet-hunting Kepler space telescope shows Earth-sized planets may be widespread in the Milky Way. Read more
Earth Worlds Common, Pre-Earth ETs Possible

Galaxy Close Encounter Created Giant Gas Bridge

The Andromeda and Triangulum galaxies appear to be linked by a vast bridge of gas. Read more
galaxy bridge

Incoming: How Sunlight Nudges an Asteroid's Path

It's hard to imagine that mere photons of light can alter the path of a 60-million-ton asteroid heading our way. But studies show they can -- and do. Read more
Incoming: How Sunlight Nudges an Asteroid's Path

Mars Rover Now Aiming for Sweet Spot

With growing confidence that the rover is on track for a precision landing, NASA is honing in on a 3-mile-high mound. Read more
Mars Rover Now Aiming for Sweet Spot

Largest 'Dark Sky' Reserve Named

A huge part of a New Zealand island will be free of light pollution for star-gazers. Read more
night sky

The Fragile Beauty Of Glen Canyon

Glen Canyon is located in southeastern and south central Utah and northwestern Arizona. Glen Canyon is a true paradise for nature lovers from all walks of life; there really is something for everyone. Whether you're a geologist, a biologist, an anthropologist or just a regular visitor, it's pretty much guaranteed you'll enjoy the splendor Glen Canyon has to offer.

But at this majestic site, it really pays to study rock formations, as they are the region's true storytellers, recording the environmental changes caused by climate, weather, fires and geological processes throughout the millennia.

Shark-Headed Human Ancestor Swam With Fishes

Peer far enough back in the human family lineage, and you'll find a ancestor that looked surprisingly like a shark.  

Mammoths Wiped Out By Multiple Killers

woolly mammoth
New findings dispel the idea of any one factor or event killing off the woolly mammoth.

Supermodels of the Underground

Naked Mole Rats
Immune to acids, toxins and heavy metals. Doesn't feel pain. Never gets cancer. Stays young forever. Lives 9 times longer than its peer. Oh, and naked all the time.
No wonder the naked mole rats is considered the "underground supermodel" by The Scientist magazine.
Naked mole-rats, unlike other mammals, tolerate variable body temperatures, attributed to their lack of an insulatory layer of fur. Their pink skin is hairless except for sparse, whisker-like strands that crisscross the body to form a sensitive sensory array that helps them navigate in the dark. Both the naked mole-rat’s skin and its upper respiratory tract are completely insensitive to chemical irritants such as acids and capsaicin, the spicy ingredient in chili peppers. Most surprisingly, they can survive periods of oxygen deprivation that would cause irreversible brain damage in other mammals, and they are also resistant to a broad spectrum of other stressors, such as the plant toxins and heavy metals found in the soils in which they live. Unlike other mammals, they never get cancer, and this maintenance of genomic integrity, even as elderly mole-rats, most likely contributes to their extraordinarily long life span. In contrast to similar-size mice that only live 2–4 years, naked mole-rats can survive and thrive, maintaining normal function and reproduction, into their 30s.

Dogs Waiting Patiently For Dinner

Whether it's beer or birthday cake, these dogs have no shame in using extreme cuteness to get the yum-yums they rightfully deserve.

Animal PIctures