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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.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Daily Drift

Yeah, Baby
Some of our readers today have been in:
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Johannesburg, South Africa
Krakow, Poland
Pasig, Philippines
Makati, Philippines
Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
Mandaluyong City, Philippines
Manila, Philippines
Warsaw, Poland
Jakarta, Indonesia
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Shah Alam, Malaysia
Valencia, Venezuela
Cape Town, South Africa
London, England
Jerudong, Brunei
Bang Lamung, Thailand
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Zamboanga City, Philippines
George Town, Malaysia
Belgrade, Serbia

Today in History

841   Charles the Bald and Louis the German defeat Lothar at Fontenay.
1658   Aurangzeb proclaims himself emperor of the Moghuls in India.
1767   Mexican Indians riot as Jesuit priests are ordered home.
1857   Gustave Flaubert goes on trial for public immorality regarding his novel, Madame Bovary.
1862   The first day of the Seven Days' campaign begins with fighting at Oak Grove, Virginia.
1864   Union troops surrounding Petersburg, Virginia, begin building a mine tunnel underneath the Confederate lines.
1868   The U.S. Congress enacts legislation granting an eight-hour day to workers employed by the federal government.
1876   General George A. Custer and over 260 men of the Seventh Cavalry are wiped out by Sioux and Cheyenne Indians at Little Big Horn in Montana.
1903   Marie Curie announces her discovery of radium.
1920   The Greeks take 8,000 Turkish prisoners in Smyrna.
1921   Samuel Gompers is elected head of the American Federation of Labor for the 40th time.
1941   Finland declares war on the Soviet Union.
1946   Ho Chi Minh travels to France for talks on Vietnamese independence.
1948   The Soviet Union tightens its blockade of Berlin by intercepting river barges heading for the city.
1950   North Korea invades South Korea, beginning the Korean War.
1959   The Cuban government seizes 2.35 million acres under a new agrarian reform law.
1962   The U.S. Supreme Court bans official prayers in public schools.
1964   President Lyndon Johnson orders 200 naval personnel to Mississippi to assist in finding three missing civil rights workers.
1973   White House Counsel John Dean admits President Nixon took part in the Watergate cover-up.
1986   Congress approves $100 million in aid to the Contras fighting in Nicaragua.

Random Celebrity Photo


Americans better off since Obama

It's not clear what triggered the recent change, but it's good news for Obama. The Obama administration could and should be doing a lot more to address the serious problem of a declining middle class, but compared to Romney, at least there's something for Americans who aren't part of the 1%. Healthcare Reform needs a lot of improvement but it's at least a start to fixing a system that no longer works.

Anyone who looks at the Romney plan has to know that it's a return to the shrub playbook of tax cuts for the rich and stagnation (at best) for everyone else. The repugicans keep talking about shredding Healthcare Reform, but nothing about how they will fix the healthcare problem. In this context, it would be hard to imagine anyone outside of the 1% being optimistic about Romney as president.

Forty-five percent of those surveyed in a Bloomberg National Poll say they are better off than at the beginning of 2009 compared with 36 percent who say they are worse off. In March, poll respondents split almost evenly on that question after having been decidedly negative since the aftermath of the worst recession in seven decades.

“I’m just tired of the doom and gloom,” says Jim Seeley, 52, a mortgage banker in Traverse City, Michigan, and a poll respondent, in a follow-up interview. “I think it’s looking better. People just need to stay positive.”

The poll, conducted June 15-18, contains more unlikely cheer for the president, with larger numbers of respondents saying their household income is higher than a year ago. While 44 percent say they are treading water, the better off outnumbered the worse off by 28 percent to 22 percent.

And I Quote

The year 2012 to be a record year for women running for Congress

These numbers should be improving every year until we reach a 50/50 ratio in both houses of Congress. There's no reason why the number of women should be as low as it is today.
More on the big year for women at the Huffington Post:
Women currently hold 73 of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives. Four states -- Delaware, Iowa, Mississippi and Vermont -- have never had a woman serving in their congressional delegation.

"Research shows that women leaders introduce more bills, bring more resources home to their districts and advocate for new issues on the legislative agenda," said Mary Hughes, founder of the 2012 Project, in a statement.

Already in this election cycle, 294 women have filed to run for House seats, with four more expected to do so, breaking the previous record set in 2010 of 262 women.

There are also a record number of Democratic women running for Senate seats in the 2012 elections.

Mitt Lies

Romney to attend secret retreat with billionaires, including Koch brothers, in Utah

From CBS News:
It's going to be a big weekend in the world of big conservative money: Both Mitt Romney and billionaire industrialist brothers David and Charles Koch are holding hush-hush events with wealthy donors designed to keep the dollars coming in.

Romney's three-day retreat, which is being held at the Deer Valley Resort in Park City, Utah, is an opportunity for about 700 Romney's biggest fundraisers to get some face time with the presumptive repugican presidential nominee. (Many of them are "bundlers" - wealthy and well-connected individuals who call on their family, friends and associates to max out their contributions to Romney and the repugicans - who have raised in the area of $250,000 for Romney.) Some of the biggest names in the repugican party, and many of the top contenders to be Romney's running mate, are also coming to Park City: CBS News has confirmed that attendees will include former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, South Dakota Sen. John Thune, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, 2008 repugican presidential nominee John McCain, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, repugican agitator Karl Rove, former Reagan chief of staff James Baker, Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone and Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker.

The Shrub isn't going to be happy when he sees these new CIA documents about 9/11

From Jordan Michael Smith at Salon:
Over 120 CIA documents concerning 9/11, Osama bin Laden and counterterrorism were published last Wednesday for the first time, having been newly declassified and released to the National Security Archive. The documents were released after the NSA pored through the footnotes of the 9/11 Commission and sent Freedom of Information Act requests.

The material contains much new information about the hunt before and after 9/11 for bin Laden, the development of the drone campaign in AfPak, and al-Qaida’s relationship with America’s ally, Pakistan. Perhaps most damning are the documents showing that the CIA had bin Laden in its cross hairs a full year before 9/11 — but didn’t get the funding from the Bush administration White House to take him out or even continue monitoring him. The CIA materials directly contradict the many claims of Bush officials that it was aggressively pursuing al-Qaida prior to 9/11, and that nobody could have predicted the attacks. “I don’t think the shrub cabal would want to see these released, because they paint a picture of the CIA knowing something would happen before 9/11, but they didn’t get the institutional support they needed,” says Barbara Elias-Sanborn, the NSA fellow who edited the materials.

Did you know ...

Breaking News: Progressives aren't losers

That only 13.5% of food workers make a living wage

That ignoring the wingnut noise machine is the wrong thing to do

Life in Hell has ended.

That Romney made $20,000 for every worker he fired

That during the recession, credit card debt dropped

That 123 delegates to the repugican convention have filed suits asking they be allowed to not vote for romney

A job seeker sues company for asking when he was 'saved'

That Bristol Palin's reality show bombs in the ratings

Most repugicans still believe Iraq had WMD

Do these people not even try to educate themselves or are they proud to be ignorant? How does anyone have a rational discussion with people as irrational as this?

 Dan Froomkin at the Huffington Post:
How misinformed are repugicans about world affairs? If presumptive repugican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's assertion that Russia is "without question our number one geopolitical foe" is any indication, then the answer would appear to be very.

A new poll supports that theory.

The poll, constructed by Dartmouth government professor Benjamin Valentino and conducted by YouGov from April 26 to May 2, found that fully 63 percent of repugican respondents still believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the U.S. invaded in 2003. By contrast, 27 percent of independents and 15 percent of Democrats shared that view.

The Truth Be Told

Wall Street, like the mafia, only more ambitious

In Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi is his usual incandescent self in reporting on the United States of America v. Carollo, Goldberg and Grimm, a bid-rigging trial against brokers at GE Capital, which implicated virtually every bank on Wall Street (and many overseas banks) in a multibillion-dollar municipal bond bid-rigging fraud, a fraud that skimmed a piece of every substantial municipal project in America, from public pools and baseball diamonds to subway stations and housing projects. Bid-rigging, a process perfected by the mafia, has been practiced by the financial sector on a scale never dreamed of by the simple men of the crime syndicates, and the scam is starting to unravel.
The defendants in the case – Dominick Carollo, Steven Goldberg and Peter Grimm – worked for GE Capital, the finance arm of General Electric. Along with virtually every major bank and finance company on Wall Street – not just GE, but J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America, UBS, Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, Wachovia and more – these three Wall Street wiseguys spent the past decade taking part in a breathtakingly broad scheme to skim billions of dollars from the coffers of cities and small towns across America. The banks achieved this gigantic rip-off by secretly colluding to rig the public bids on municipal bonds, a business worth $3.7 trillion. By conspiring to lower the interest rates that towns earn on these investments, the banks systematically stole from schools, hospitals, libraries and nursing homes – from "virtually every state, district and territory in the United States," according to one settlement. And they did it so cleverly that the victims never even knew they were being ­cheated. No thumbs were broken, and nobody ended up in a landfill in New Jersey, but money disappeared, lots and lots of it, and its manner of disappearance had a familiar name: organized crime.
In fact, stripped of all the camouflaging financial verbiage, the crimes the defendants and their co-conspirators committed were virtually indistinguishable from the kind of thuggery practiced for decades by the Mafia, which has long made manipulation of public bids for things like garbage collection and construction contracts a cornerstone of its business. What's more, in the manner of old mob trials, Wall Street's secret machinations were revealed during the Carollo trial through crackling wiretap recordings and the lurid testimony of cooperating witnesses, who came into court with bowed heads, pointing fingers at their accomplices. The new-age gangsters even invented an elaborate code to hide their crimes. Like Elizabethan highway robbers who spoke in thieves' cant, or Italian mobsters who talked about "getting a button man to clip the capo," on tape after tape these Wall Street crooks coughed up phrases like "pull a nickel out" or "get to the right level" or "you're hanging out there" – all code words used to manipulate the interest rates on municipal bonds. The only thing that made this trial different from a typical mob trial was the scale of the crime.
USA v. Carollo involved classic cartel activity: not just one corrupt bank, but many, all acting in careful concert against the public interest. In the years since the economic crash of 2008, we've seen numerous hints that such orchestrated corruption exists. The collapses of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, for instance, both pointed to coordi­nated attacks by powerful banks and hedge funds determined to speed the demise of those firms. In the bankruptcy of Jefferson County, Alabama, we learned that Goldman Sachs accepted a $3 million bribe from J.P. Morgan Chase to permit Chase to serve as the sole provider of toxic swap deals to the rubes running metropolitan Birmingham – "an open-and-shut case of anti-competitive behavior," as one former regulator described it.

Feds to hospitals: stop abusive collections

Hospital patients who can’t afford to pay their bills would get protection from abusive collections practices, under proposed rules issued by the U.S. Treasury Department last Friday.

The Economic History of the Last 2,000 Years in 1 Little Graph

That headline is a big promise. But here it is: The economic history of the world going back to Year 1 showing the major powers' share of world GDP, from a research letter written by Michael Cembalest, an analyst at JP Morgan.

Job openings decline sharply

Americans should expect more cooperation from the political class but that's not likely to happen in the middle of an election cycle. There are options out there such as the jobs bill that the repugicans are blocking or another stimulus, but the repugicans are much more interested in damaging the economy so they can increase their chances of winning in November.
Although private industry is enjoying record profits, they're not hiring and won't hire until there is a stronger recovery. We can see from the UK and Europe that austerity is not the answer but that message hasn't made it through to the repugicans who believe that it's working well.

One of these days the repugicans are going to have to step up and do something about jobs instead of obstructing. Why can't they think of all Americans rather than just the 1%?
The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, or JOLTS, indicated 3.4 million job openings at the end of April, an 8 percent decline from the previous month.

The pace of total hiring also slowed, with 160,000 fewer jobs filled during the month.

Moreover, the drop showed weakness across the employment spectrum, with manufacturing seeing 62,000 fewer job openings and construction dropping by 2,000.

Up to 27 million living in slavery

Up to 27 million people are living in slavery around the world, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton estimated last Tuesday as the US unveiled its annual report into human trafficking.
But the report showed that as governments become more aware of the issue, instigating tough new laws and programs to help victims, progress is being made in wiping out what it called the "scourge of trafficking".

From the "Say it ain't so ..." Department:

New Yorkers Will Live Three Years Longer Than the Rest of Us
America, you will have smug New Yorkers around a little while longer than perhaps you'd prefer: data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation shows that Manhattan residents will live about three years longer than the national average.

Respect Matters and Tai Chi

Respect Matters More Than Money for Happiness in Life

New research suggests that overall happiness in life is more related to how much you are respected and admired by ...
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Tai Chi increases brain size, benefits cognition

Scientists from the University of South Florida and Fudan University in Shanghai found increases in brain volume and improvements on ...
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From NC Gardens

The Rise of the Fork

Hands have always been used to eat with. As food became hotter and sloppier, knives were developed from larger cutting blades, and spoons are simple scoops. But forks weren’t used in ancient eating. And when some started using them, they were considered somewhat pretentious.
In the 11th century, forks were in use in the Byzantine Empire. An illustrated manuscript from that period shows two men using two-pronged forklike instruments at a table, and St. Peter Damian, a hermit and ascetic, criticized a Byzantine-born Venetian princess for her excessive delicacy: “[S]uch was the luxury of her habits … [that] she deigned not to touch her food with her fingers, but would command her eunuchs to cut it up into small pieces, which she would impale on a certain golden instrument with two prongs and thus carry to her mouth.” Damian was sufficiently offended by the woman’s table manners that when she died of the plague, he regarded it as a just punishment from God for her vanity.
A detailed history of the fork can be found here.

Ten Of The World's Most Expensive Beers

Beer is the world's most widely consumed alcoholic beverage; it is the third-most popular drink overall, after water and tea. And it's usually pretty cheap. But not always. If you like sampling new beers or hate having money, you might want to try one of the world's most expensive beers.

Are WikiCells The Future Of Edible Packaging?

Biodegradable packaging, used to simulate and replace plastic packaging, is becoming more common every day, so is edible packaging that far behind?
Harvard professor David Edwards doesn’t think so, and he’s got a fun new form of packaging to prove it. It’s called WikiCells, and here’s how it works:
WikiCells are food and drink enclosed inside edible soft skins, that are made of food particles and held together by nutritive ions, so that users can eat the entire packaging (like grapes)—as an effort to reduce pollution accumulated from packaging of food.
At first Edwards worked with yogurts and mousses. But now, he has produced WikiCocktail—Cointreau suspended in skin made from orange zest—and Wiki IceCream, a high-end dessert of cream contained in a bagasse container made from sugarcane.
According to the company, users can wash the entire thing, hold it in their hands, eat it like an apple, poke it with a straw or drink it like a shake.
What a fun and creative way to help cut down on global waste!

Nature's Weird And Exotic Foods

Freaky Fruit
There's an array of oddly shaped, strangely flavoured and strikingly colorful fruits grown around the world. For centuries, humans have taken the wild fruit that nature has to offer and cultivated its most desirable features by cross-breeding different varieties, or by simply selecting the best fruits of a native variety to seed another crop.

The next thing ...

'Laughter yoga' club causing 'mental agony' to neighbors

When you're smiling, the whole world smiles with you, but when you're laughing your neighbors complain of "mental agony, pain and public nuisance". At least, they do in Mumbai where the High Court has ordered members of a 'laughter yoga' club to restrain their joy. The judges have told local police officers to find a way for the local residents of a Mumbai suburb to have the last laugh in a long running legal battle over whether the sound of laughter amounts to "aural aggression". The case was brought by 78 year old lawyer Vinayak Shirsat and his family after an informal yoga club started meeting in a lakeside gazebo by their bungalow.
They complained that between 10 and 30 devotees gathered outside their house every morning at 6am and started singing devotional songs, clapping and exhorting one another to laugh out louder. According to their lawyer, Veena Thadani, it is no laughing matter. "It's true that laughter is contagious, but if 30 people laugh every day in your window and you wake up to the sound of this cacophony you do not start laughing. They encourage each other to laugh louder – 'laugh through your belly! Laugh through your eyes! Laugh through your ears!' they shout," she said. Despite a number of rulings, the police have not yet taken action against the laughing yogis because they are not a formal registered club.

Mumbai's High Court judges have now voiced their frustration that their order has not been enforced. "Solve this problem. This is (an) unnecessary headache ... people coming and laughing outside your house," said Justice Bobde. Laughing yoga has grown in popularity throughout the world after it was developed by Mumbai doctor Madan Kartaria, who styles himself the 'Guru of giggling.' He began his 'movement' with just five followers in the early 1990s and has since inspired 6000 'laughter clubs' in 60 countries around the world. These clubs have proliferated throughout India's public parks where groups of devotees throw back their arms and heads in unison and laugh in exaggerated breathing exercises.

Despite its 17 year history, crowds still gather to enjoy the spectacle and in many cases laugh along with them. But according to Veena Thadani no one is laughing in the upmarket Mumbai suburb of Kurli, where residents are fighting for the right to be glum in peace. "It's aural aggression. You can't be forced to hear sounds you don't want to hear. Everyone is miserable because these activities are outside their home every day. What if you want to get up late or you're not feeling well? They're still waking you up with this cackling," she said.

Ten Untranslatable Words

English is so limited sometimes. There are so many kickass words in other languages, that describe concepts that we just don't have one word for in English. And that's a shame, because sometimes we find ourselves in situations that English just can't describe.
Science fiction and fantasy are full of those sorts of quirky situations and concepts, in fact. Here are 10 words that have no English equivalent, and the science fiction and fantasy classics that you'd want to use them to describe.

Adidas pulls "shackle shoe" design

Adidas has decided not to sell this particular shoe design after a photo of it on their Facebook page generated quite a negative response.
Shackleeeee "The attempt to commercialize and make popular more than 200 years of human degradation, where blacks were considered three-fifths human by our Constitution is offensive, appalling and insensitive," the Rev. Jesse Jackson said in a statement Monday...
The man behind the design responded days after the controversy broke. Jeremy Scott said it was never his intention to provoke that kind of response. His design, he said on Twitter, was inspired by a childhood toy.
"Adidas 'shackle' controversy: Artistic interpretation or insensitive product?"

Not Your Grandma's Cuckoo

Cuckoo clock clichés are hard to avoid: Say the word 'cuckoo' and people instantly picture kitschy dark-wood relics hanging in the homes of aging relatives. Justin Miller is painfully aware of this stereotype, but his fascination with primitive cuckoo technology long ago spread to the more obscure history of Black Forest clocks.

Miller's interest in the clock-making region of southwestern Germany began innocuously enough with a childhood gift from his grandfather, whom he actually called 'Grandpa Clock.'

A Googly Eyed God

Photo: Egypt Centre/Swansea University
Talismans usualy depict gods as fierce or solemn, but not this one! Recently found by Egypt Centre curator Carolyn Graves-Brown, the talisman of the Egyptian dwarf god Bes has googly eyes and a tongue sticking out:
A dwarf god and protector of pregnant mothers and young children, Bes may look goofy to us with his tongue sticking out, however, his appearance, tongue and all, had a purpose. Graves-Brown explained that he would sometimes bare sharp teeth and "it's assumed, but it's not known, that this [appearance] was supposed to scare off evil spirits and evil entities." That may well have been the intent of this object. Flinders Petrie, an archaeologist who encountered items similar to this, wrote in 1914 in his book "Amulets" (Constable and Company, 1914) that bells like these were probably "worn by children against the evil eye."

Man finds machete lodged into car bumper

It was a bizarre scene in Massachusetts after a man found a machete lodged into the bumper of his car.
Fred Dolan was driving on the interstate when he hit a piece of debris kicked up by the driver in front of him.

He says he didn't think much of it until he got out of his car 40 miles later and discovered the machete sticking straight out of the front bumper. "I walked around the front of the car, expected to see a broken headlight or some type of damage, and sticking straight out is a 2-foot long machete," he said.

"I couldn't believe my eyes. There was a guy coming out of the store with his family. He looked down at me, he looked at that. He couldn't believe his eyes either." Dolan said he is thankful the machete hit his bumper, added that a foot up and a foot to the left and the incident is a potential tragedy.

There's a news video here.

Man claims leprechauns beat him up for dancing

A “bunch of leprechauns” beat up a man in Belltown on Saturday, the bruised and bloodied victim told police.
Police say they received reports about the fight around 1:55 a.m. on Bell Street near the Alaskan Way Viaduct, but when they arrived they saw numerous people running from the scene. Police then saw a man on the ground, who was covered in blood and holding his head and screaming in pain.

When police asked the man who was involved in the fight he said, “It was a bunch of leprechauns,” that were mad because he was dancing with a girl, according to police. He told police one of the assailants was wearing a white tank top, but could not provide any more details about the leprechauns.

A witness at the scene told police a group of men beat him up. The man was taken to Harborview Medical Center with multiple head injuries and cuts and bruises on his face, back, knuckles and elbows. Police were unable to find the leprechauns or anyone else involved.

Hypnotism Show Gone Wrong Leaves Girls Stuck in Trance for Hours

A hypnotist in Quebec had to call in his mentor to pull several of his subjects out of a trance into which he had put them.

News of the absurd

Man gets prison for 'South Park' threat
A Muslim convert from Brooklyn who pleaded guilty to posting online threats against the creators of the "South Park" television show has been sentenced to 11 plus years in prison.

Principal Dresses as Lady Gaga, Milks Cow After Losing Bet to Students
A Massachusetts principal dressed as Lady Gaga and milked a cow on Wednesday after he lost a bet with his student body.

And the Most Peaceful Country in the World Is…

Tjörn Pond, Reykjavik, Iceland
According to the Institute for Economics & Peace, the most peaceful country in the world is Iceland. Yes, the country that disrupted air travel across Europe with its spewing, unpronounceable volcano a couple of years ago. Icelanders have an upside for everything: they use the energy of volcanoes for heat.
Iceland is one of the most progressive nations on the planet: its welfare system offers health care and higher education for each of its 320,000 citizens; it is powered in large part by renewable geothermal energy (see volcanoes, above); and it was one of the first countries in the world to legalize gay marriage.
Tying for second place are Denmark and New Zealand. Try to guess the nation that came in dead last before you check out the article at TIME Newsfeed.

The Nine Largest Countries Without Mountains

Rare are the countries that do not have mountains in their territory. The inhabitants of these countries have to go abroad if they want to engage in winter sports. This list deals with countries that have the largest area among the countries with no mountains.

Long-grumbling Alaska volcano has explosive ash burst

Asia's top companies are less upbeat on their business outlook than in the first quarter, with mounting concern over the euro zone crisis and a slowdown in China's growth, according to the latest Thomson Reuters/INSEAD Asia Business Sentiment Survey, published last Wednesday.

Greenland's Beautiful Icy Landscapes

After his breathtaking, prize-winning photographs of the coast of Greenland in 'Broken Line', photographer Olaf Otto Becker turns his attention to the interior of the island in his new series, 'Above Zero'.

Second only to Antarctica, Greenland has the largest inland ice surfaces in the world. Becker's spectacular portraits of this region are taken during physically strenuous, sometimes life-threatening treks among glacial crevasses and melting ice floes, with a cumbersome large-format camera.

Secretariat's winning time changed

Secretariat's winning time in the 1973 Preakness has been changed to reflect that the Triple Crown-winning colt's time was actually faster than the stakes record.

Cold News

Greenland shark (c) NRK/Armin MuckSlowest shark hunts sleeping prey

Greenland sharks swim so slowly that they must sneak up on seals as they sleep in order to catch them, research suggests. BBC Nature

Emperor penguins doomed by Antarctic sea ice loss?

A decline in the population of emperor penguins appears likely this century as climate change reduces the extent of Antarctic ...
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Animal Pictures