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.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Daily Drift

Yeah, it's like that ...

Some of our readers today have been in:
Warsaw, Poland
Ilsea, Nigeria
Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
Moscow, Russia
Cape Town, South Africa
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Makati, Philippines
George Town, Malaysia
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Jerudong, Brunei
Belgrade, Serbia
Krakow, Poland
Mandaluyong City. Philippines
Gdansk, Poland
Pasig, Philippines
Valencia, Venezuela
Johannesburg, South Africa
Belize City, Belize
Ajman, United Arab Emirates

Today in History

1096   Peter the Hermit's crusaders force their way across Sava, Hungary.
1243   The Seljuk Turkish army in Asia Minor is wiped out by the Mongols.
1541   Former followers murder Francisco Pizarro, the Spanish Conqueror of Peru.
1794   The French defeat an Austrian army at the Battle of Fleurus.
1804   The Lewis and Clark Expedition reaches the mouth of the Kansas River after completing a westward trek of nearly 400 river miles.
1844   Julia Gardiner and President John Tyler are married in New York City.
1862   General Robert E. Lee attacks McClellen's line at Mechanicsville during the Seven Days' campaign.
1863   Jubal Early and his Confederate forces move into Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
1900   The United States announces it will send troops to fight against the Boxer Rebellion in China.
1907   Russia's nobility demands drastic measures to be taken against revolutionaries.
1908   Shah Muhammad Ali's forces squelch the reform elements of Parliament in Persia.
1916   Russian General Aleksei Brusilov renews his offensive against the Germans.
1917   General Pershing arrives in France with the American Expeditionary Force.
1918   The Germans begin firing their huge 420 mm howitzer, "Big Bertha," at Paris.
1926   A memorial to the first U.S. troops in France is unveiled at St. Nazaire.
1924   After eight years of occupation, American troops leave the Dominican Republic.
1942   The Grumman F6F Hellcat fighter flies for the first time.
1945   The U.N. Charter is signed by 50 nations in San Francisco, California.
1951   The Soviet Union proposes a cease-fire in the Korean War.
1961   A Kuwaiti vote opposes Iraq's annexation plans.
1963   President John Kennedy announces "Ich bin ein Berliner" at the Berlin Wall.
1971   The U.S. Justice Department issues a warrant for Daniel Ellsberg, accusing him of giving away the Pentagon Papers.
1975   Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi is convicted of election fraud.
1993   Roy Campanella, legendary catcher for the Negro Leagues and the Los Angeles Dodgers, dies.

Retro Photo

Walking Away on the Streets of New York, 1948 by Stanley Kubrick

"Big spender Obama" is a repugican lie

There's a lot to agree with in this Business Insider article. Obama should not have continued the shrub's bank bailout (that was caused by the shrub) but the repugicans can't blame Obama for expenses that the shrub began. Read the entire article because we're sure to hear more of this "blame Obama" garbage in the coming months.
The document, “Fiscal Year 2013 Historical Tables,” was recently published by the Federal Government, and it shows (pages 22-23) that the Government’s actual “Outlays” have remained essentially flat since the 2009 budget, which was submitted under the shrub. In fact, Obama’s first budget, 2010, even went down 1.7% (following a year in which there had been 2.7% inflation, so the real increase was -1%); the 2nd, 2011, then increased 4.3% (following a year in which inflation was 1.5%, so the real increase was 2.8%).

That’s what was actually spent. What had been proposed by the President was, of course, a bit different. The shrub had proposed 2009 expenditures of $3.1 trillion, but the Federal Government actually spent $3.5 trillion, because of the crash, which the shrub caused. Barack Obama proposed 2010 expenditures of $3.6t, but again $3.5t were spent – virtually the same amount as in 2009 – because of the need to re-start “demand.” (Moreover, since the inflation-rate was 2.7% in 2009, federal expenditures actually went down 2.7% from 2009 to 2010, despite the Keynesian need that year to boost spending.) Obama then proposed for 2011 $3.8t, but $3.6t ended up being spent – a 4% hike from the prior year. (But the inflation-rate was 1.5% in 2010, so the real spending-increase proposed in 2011 was only 2.5%.)

Officials say NC has the highest BWI arrests in the US

By: Elise Esasky

Wildlife officials say North Carolina has the highest number of boating while intoxicated arrests in the country.
Law enforcement agencies have taken part in the Operation Dry Water Campaign for the past few years, and they say it seems to be working.
The number of arrests have steadily gone down on Lake Norman each year, during the campaign.
Officers say there have still been nearly 30 BWI arrests over the past two months alone.
The three-day long effort puts thousands of marine law enforcement officers on the water just before 4th of July weekend to give boating under the influence enforcement high visibility before the holiday known for deadly accidents related to drinking and boating.
"Out here on the lake you got usually it's a family event you're with family, you're pulling skiers. You got a lot of things that are taking up your attention and we always like to stress to the operators you really got to be focused," said Sgt. Barry Rowell.
Officials say far too often, people don't take boating as seriously as they do driving a car, and they say in many ways boating takes even more concentration.

Jimmy Wales to UK Home Secretary: don't render Richard O'Dwyer to the USA

Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has launched a signature drive to get the UK Home Secretary, Theresa May, to intervene to stop the extradition to the USA of Richard O'Dwyer, who created the TVShack website. TVShack had links to places from which users could download TV shows, and was legal under UK law. The US entertainment lobby has demanded O'Dwyer be rendered to an American court, which may persecute him for violating the law of a distant land. As Wales writes, it's time to stop letting the entertainment industry's priorities define the regulatory regime for the Internet.
Copyright is an important institution, serving a beneficial moral and economic purpose. But that does not mean it can or should be unlimited. It does not mean that we should abandon time-honoured moral and legal principles to allow endless encroachments on our civil liberties in the interests of the moguls of Hollywood.
One of the important moral principles that has made everything we relish about the internet possible, from Wikipedia to YouTube, is that internet service providers need to have a safe harbour from what their users do. There are and should be some limits to this. Under US copyright law, there are notice and take-down provisions requiring service providers to remove content under a properly formatted notification. And there is a distinction between hosting copyrighted material and telling people where it is. The latter is protected under the first amendment.
When I met Richard (along with his mother), he struck me as a clean-cut, geeky kid. Still a university student, he is precisely the kind of person one can imagine launching the next big thing on the internet. Enthusiastic, with a sharp mind and a quick wit, he reminds me of many great entrepreneurs. He tried to follow the law, and I would argue that he very likely succeeded in doing so.
Given the thin case against him, it is an outrage that he is being extradited to the US to face felony charges. No US citizen has ever been brought to the UK for alleged criminal activity on US soil. There is a disparity here that ought to raise concerns at the highest levels of government in both the US and UK.
Richard O'Dwyer and the new internet war

Top US drug cop can't tell the difference between marijuana and heroin

Drug Enforcement Administrator Michele Leonhart, a Bush appointee, was questioned by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) in a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing. Polis asks Leonhart about the relative harms arising from prescription painkillers, marijuana, heroin, and crystal meth. She is incapable of distinguishing between them, and stonewalls on questions regarding whether some substances are more addictive than others. It's a rather astonishing performance, and an amazing example of politicized science -- one of America's top drug cops can't bring herself to say what practically every adult knows: marijuana's harms, whatever they are, are not in the same league as heroin or crystal meth.
“Is crack worse for a person than marijuana?” Polis, who has called for an end to marijuana prohibition, asked.
“I believe all illegal drugs are bad,” Leonhart responded.
“Is methamphetamine worse for somebody’s health than marijuana?” Polis continued. “Is heroin worse for somebody’s health than marijuana?”
“Again, all drugs,” Leonhart began to say, only to be cut off by Polis.
“Yes, no, or I don’t know?” Polis said. “If you don’t know this, you can look this up. You should know this, as the chief administrator for the Drug Enforcement Agency. I’m asking a very straightforward question.”
Leonhart said that heroin was highly addictive, but accused Polis of asking a “subjective” question. After being pressed further, she conceded that heroin was more addictive than marijuana, but added “some people become addicted marijuana and some people become addicted to methamphetamine.”

Justices Roberts and Alito perjure themselves before Congress

Not that we have Rule of Law or anything — Nixon and Ford fixed that with their corrupt deal, the one that gave the presidency to Ford in exchange for Nixon's sweeping pre-indictment now-and-forever pardon.
How's that for a quid and a quo? I'll take either side of that deal.

But perjury before Congress is against the law, an actual crime. And Supreme Court justices can be removed (I hear).

With that in mind, here's Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast (my emphasis; h/t Cliff Schecter on Majority.fm):
Count this if you must as my attempt to "intimidate" John Roberts, but I was reading back through his statements about stare decisis at his hearings. What a liar.

Geoffrey Stone of the University of Chicago Law School is one of our leading legal scholars, so let me hand it over to him here for a few grafs, from a piece he wrote for HuffPo that's five years old but rings awfully true as we count down the days until the Supreme Court seems likely to hand down its most striking overturning of a law since the 1935 National Recovery Act decision.
The quote from Geoffrey Stone (again, Chicago Law School; again, my emphasis and some reparagraphing):
John Roberts assured the Senate Judiciary Committee [under oath] that judges must "be bound down by rules and precedents."

Invoking Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, he affirmed that "the founders appreciated the role of precedent in promoting evenhandedness, predictability, stability," and "integrity in the judicial process." Although acknowledging that it is sometimes necessary for judges to reconsider precedents, he stressed that this should be reserved for exceptional circumstances, where a decision has proved clearly "unworkable" over time.

But in general, "a sound judicial philosophy should reflect recognition of the fact that the judge operates within a system of rules developed over the years by other judges equally striving to live up to the judicial oath."

Similarly, Samuel Alito testified to the Senate that the doctrine of stare decisis is "a fundamental part of our legal system." This principle, he explained, "limits the power of the judiciary" and "reflects the view that courts should respect the judgments and the wisdom that are embodied in prior judicial decisions." Stare decisis, he added, it is "not an inexorable command," but there must be a strong "presumption that courts are going to follow prior precedents."

It is hardly surprising that Roberts and Alito would pay such obeisance to the doctrine of stare decisis in order to get themselves confirmed. Stare decisis is, after all, the bedrock principle of the rule of law [note, there's that phrase; Alito is right].

Not only does it promote stability and encourage judges to decide cases based on principle rather than on a preference for one or another of the parties before them, but it also serves importantly to reduce the politicization of the Court. It moderates ideological swings and preserves both the appearance and the reality that the Supreme Court is truly a legal rather than a political institution.
After some discussion of the Warren court's rulings, Tomasky concludes:
Roberts--and Alito--simply lied. Balls and strikes. Right. They are politicians in robes, nothing more.
Perjury with an excuse, like a note from Jesus or something.

In right-wing minds, it's Means v Ends all the time, and Ends always comes with a note from Jesus. It's how they roll, why they need right-wing Jesus and his personal, invisible and wholly-imagined blessing.

Consider, when John Mitchell, Nixon's former Attorney General and head of his Committee to Re-elect, was asked at the Watergate hearings (my paraphrase) — You testified that re-electing Nixon was a critical national imperative. You committed all these crimes to re-elect him. Would you kill to re-elect him?

Mitchell's answer — go ahead, guess; remember, he's under oath:
(Long pause) "Senator, you ask a hard question."
The song of the hyper-moral. (And remember, Mitchell was Attorney General.)

So, can a Supreme Court justice be impeached? Here's the answer:
A Supreme Court Justice may be impeached by the House of Representatives and removed from office if convicted in a Senate trial, but only for the same types of offenses that would trigger impeachment proceedings for any other government official under Articles I and II of the Constitution.

Article III, Section 1 states that judges of Article III courts shall hold their offices "during good behavior." "The phrase "good behavior" has been interpreted by the courts to equate to the same level of seriousness 'high crimes and misdemeanors" encompasses.
The answer, in other words, is yes; but only in an actual republic. Bananas are on their kleptocratic own.

By the way, when you start typing "can supreme court justices be impeached?" into the google, it prompts you with that very search after can supr is entered. Choice number one.

I must not be the only one who cares.

Judge orders woman to cut off daughter's ponytail in court

A US judge told the Utah mother of a 13-year-old girl who chopped off a toddler's long hair in a restaurant that he would reduce her daughter's sentence if she cut off the teenager's own ponytail in court. District Juvenile Judge Scott Johansen gave Valerie Bruno the option to either cut off her daughter Kaytlen Lopan's long hair "right now" with courtroom scissors or have the teen spend an extra 150 hours in detention as punishment for hacking off the locks of a three-year-old girl she befriended in a McDonald's in Price.
Bruno opted for the haircut but later expressed her anger over the judgment and said that she had filed an official complaint against the judge. "She definitely needed to be punished for what had happened," shesaidf. "But I never dreamt it would be that much of a punishment." Mindy Moss, the mother of the three-year-old girl, supported the decision and even was asked by the judge if she was satisfied with the length Bruno initially cut off her daughter's blonde hair in court.

"No," Moss replied. "My daughter's hair that had never been cut, that was down to [the middle of her back], was cut up to here [her jaw]." Johansen then ordered Bruno to "take it off clear up to the rubber band". On the day of the attack, Kaytlen and an unnamed 11-year-old female friend spoke to the girl in McDonald's, then asked a server there if they could borrow a pair of scissors. When their request was refused, the youngsters went to a nearby dollar shop to buy a pair and returned to the restaurant to carry out the act.

At an earlier hearing, Johansen ordered the 11-year-old girl to have her hair cut as short as his but allowed the child to have the haircut in a salon. Bruno added, "I guess I should have went into the courtroom knowing my rights because I felt very intimidated. An eye for an eye, that's not how you teach kids right from wrong." Kaytlen also admitted to charges in another case rising from eight months of phone calls she made to a Colorado teen that included threats of rape and mutilation.

There's a news video here.
A man ordered room service at the Old Town Inn in Manassas early last Wednesday morning, but he didn’t have a room.
An employee at the hotel called police after a man called for room service just after 2 a.m., said Manassas police spokesman Sgt. Eddie Rivera.

The employees said they realized that the room the man called from was not rented out at the time, Rivera said.

Vinod Adhikary, 30, of 6905 Compton Valley Court, was arrested and charged with unlawful entry and public intoxication. He is being held at the Prince William-Manassas Regional jail in lieu of a $2,000 bond. His next court date is July 10.

Malware author taunts security researchers with built-in chat

Security researchers from AVG were decompiling a trojan -- it had been originally posted to a Diablo III forum, masquerading as a how-to video -- when the malware's author popped up in a window on their screen. It turned out that the trojan had a built-in chat, as well as a screen-capture facility. The hacker who wrote the malware saw them working on defeating her or his virus and decided to tell them off for their audacity. Franklin Zhao and Jason Zhou, the AVG researchers, wrote up their experience:
The dialog is not from any software installed in our virtual machine. On the contrary, it’s an integrated function of the backdoor and the message is sent from the hacker who wrote the Trojan. Amazing, isn’t it? It seems that the hacker was online and he realized that we were debugging his baby...
We felt interested and continued to chat with him. He was really arrogant.
Chicken: I didn’t know you can see my screen.
Hacker: I would like to see your face, but what a pity you don’t have a camera.
He is telling the truth. This backdoor has powerful functions like monitoring victim’s screen, mouse controlling, viewing process and modules, and even camera controlling.
We then chatted with hacker for some time, pretending that we were green hands and would like to buy some Trojan from him. But this hacker was not so foolish to tell us all the truth. He then shut down our system remotely.

Going Camping?

Anyone going camping this 4th of July? Try one of these. Auto with tent and bed, 1922.

City Life Before Air Conditioning

Is it hot enough for ya? Don’t you hate hearing that? Imagine a world in which no one, except maybe the movie theater, had air conditioning. In 1998, playwright Arthur Miller wrote a nostalgic piece about the New York City summers of his youth in the 1920s, during which people had to use their creative juices to beat the heat.
We kids would jump onto the back steps of the slow-moving, horse-drawn ice wagons and steal a chip or two; the ice smelled vaguely of manure but cooled palm and tongue.
People on West 110th Street, where I lived, were a little too bourgeois to sit out on their fire escapes, but around the corner on 111th and farther uptown mattresses were put out as night fell, and whole families lay on those iron balconies in their underwear.
Reading the essay might make you feel cooler, or at least appreciate the modern convenience of air conditioning.

The Windcatchers Of Persia

They appear throughout the Middle East: Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan have these antique Persian designs dotted around their towns and cities. They are windcatchers, known in the area as Bâdgir.

Serving as ventilation systems they have given the people of the Middle East air conditioning for thousands of years. Yet despite their antediluvian origin, windcatchers may even provide a solution for some very modern architectural problems.

Mars Might Have A Lot More Water Than We Knew

Researchers have discovered evidence that there's a lot more water on Mars - at least on parts of Mars - than anyone previously thought. Using new technology, scientists examined the water content in meteorites from the planet, and it points to a lot of it in the Martian mantle.

The meteorites they studied are called shergottite meteorites, and they likely broke off from Mars about 2.5 million years ago. Even though the meteorites had a different elemental composition, the amount of water was consistent, bolstering the idea that they're representative of the planet as a whole.

Random Celebrity Photo


Carole Lombard.
Carole Lombard.

Man runs for India's presidency to prove he's not dead

A 'dead man' is running in India's presidential election next month to prove he is alive. Santosh Kumar Singh, a 32 year old cook, has spent nine years trying to prove to officials that he is alive after his high caste relatives declared him dead following a row over his decision to marry a Dalit woman, known as an "untouchable". He has written to the prime minister, without success, and has now registered himself as one of 12 candidates for the presidency in the hope that the paperwork will prove his existence.
He had left his village in 2000 for a job in Mumbai where he fell in love and married a Dalit woman. When he returned to introduce his new bride to his high cast relatives three years later they told him he was a disgrace and chased him away, he said. "They filed a missing persons report which was later changed into my death report. The villagers even conducted post-funeral ceremonies and gave alms to the poor to prove I was dead," he said.

"Some of my relatives with help of police grabbed my 12.1 acres of land. I went to the police for help but they attacked me. They said: 'So far you are dead only on official papers, if you don't vacate this village you will be dead for real.'" he added. A legal action to overturn his death certificate was dismissed last year, he said, and his mother-in-law has been ridiculed for allowing her daughter to "marry a dead man".

When he visited a police station in central Delhi to file a report challenging his 'death', he was told by officers he would need to commit a crime to generate case documents. His manifesto contains only one pledge – to be recognized as alive – and he has no desire to be president. "I filed nomination papers for the president's post to prove that I am alive. I don't want to be the president. All I want to do is prove I'm alive. If the government cannot declare me alive then I request them to kill me and issue a real death certificate in my name," he said.

Saudi Arabia to fund Syrian opposition forces

Better them than us, though it's highly likely that the US will be more deeply involved than anyone back home would want. As reported by the NY Times, the CIA is already operating inside Syria. The last thing the US needs now is yet another war that we can't afford. After eleven years of war, enough is enough.
The Guardian:
Saudi officials are preparing to pay the salaries of the Free Syria Army as a means of encouraging mass defections from the military and increasing pressure on the Assad regime, the Guardian has learned.

The move, which has been discussed between Riyadh and senior officials in the US and Arab world, is believed to be gaining momentum as a recent flush of weapons sent to rebel forces by Saudi Arabia and Qatar starts to make an impact on battlefields in Syria.

Officials in the Saudi capital embraced the idea when it was put to them by Arab officials in May, according to sources in three Arab states, around the same time that weapons started to flow across the southern Turkish border into the hands of Free Syria Army leaders.

What It Takes To Be Banned From the Olympics

Should Saudi Arabia be banned from the Olympics because of its policy of discriminating against women?
What It Takes To Be Banned From the Olympics

Q&A with a former member of the westboro baptist family

Nate Phelps, the 6th of 13 of Fred "God Hates Fags" Phelps's kids, took to Reddit for an Ask Me Anything Q&A. Nate escaped his father's notorious, hateful "church" when he was 18. As you'll see from the interview, the Phelps household was a microcosm of Fred's hateful, loony doctrine -- a place of grotesque violence and lunatic belief.
Thanks! The first three nights after I ran away, I slept in the bathroom of a gas station near the high school I attended (Topeka West). From there, my brother's (Mark) mother-in-law offered me a room at her home. Very little I miss. It was so destructive and took years to undue. I have talked about the sense of security and belonging I can recall feeling from time to time when we were having church services on Sunday evenings. Something about being tucked in that building that's half buried and feeling like we're the only one's that god loves...it's hard to articulate...
My father believes homosexuality is a special sin you can't recover from. He get's this from some obscure passage in Romans. Yes, there is a tremendous amount of selective quoting. But this is lost on them because they never really were taught to examine the Bible and decide for themselves. They were taught to believe what he believes. This leaves them wholly unable to truly debate anyone. They recognize certain sounds and respond to those sounds with the sounds they learned. They don't critically analyze the incoming sounds at all.
One of those sounds they recognize is "why do you preach if you don't think people can be saved" to which they respond with the sound "it's not our job to save, only to preach". It's what I call the divine Nuremberg defense...
I remember one of the Shawnee Mission (I think East) schools doing a killer counter protest. My personal favorite is the Jewish Center down in Texas that raised enough money at one of their protests to buy a new ice making machine for the center. They put a plaque on it that said something like: "The Fred Phelps Memorial 'Hell Froze Over' Ice Machine".

Real News Stories That Sound More Like Horror Movies

When you watch a scary movie, it’s easy to console yourself by simply recalling that “it’s only a movie.” The same can’t be said of these news stories that are terrifying enough to become horror movie plots. Take, for example, the cell phone stalker:
There’s annoying phone calls, and then there’s what happened to three families in Washington State in 2007. The Kuykendall, McKay, and Price families underwent weeks of harassment that went far beyond your typical obnoxious caller.
It started with 16-year-old Courtney Kuykendall’s phone sending texts to her friends that she didn’t write. Then she and her mother and father, Heather and Tim Kuykendall, began receiving disturbing phone calls at all hours from a raspy voice that threatened to slit their throats and kill their pets. This quickly turned even more terrifying when they discovered that the caller seemed to know when they were and weren’t home, who was in the house, what they were doing, and even what they were wearing.
The family began receiving voice mails that consisted of nothing but their own conversations being played back to them. After a talk with a police officer about the harassment, the caller sent the family a recording of the conversation. When the family installed a new security system, the caller was able to tell them the code.
Even odder, the majority of the calls appeared to come from Courtney Kuykendall’s phone, even when it was turned off. Not that the phone being off stopped the caller anyway, as he was apparently capable of turning the phone on and off at will.
Although the Kuykendalls got new phones, numbers, and wireless accounts on three separate occasions, the calls continued to come. The police admitted that they were baffled while the Kuykendalls’ cell phone provider, Sprint, claimed that the events they were describing were impossible. Experts have speculated that the calls might have been the result of some sort of advanced cell phone hacking combined with a close knowledge of the family.
While there are some theories of how the cell phone stalker worked in the comments at the link, the idea is creepy no matter how it was done.

A Visit to the Murphy Ranch

The Murphy Ranch in Southern California has an obscure history of being a compound for Nazi sympathizers from 1930 to 1942. Recently the Los Angeles chapter of the Obscura Society took a hike to the abandoned buildings at the ranch in Rustic Valley.
Located in the Santa Monica Hills and built in the 1930s, the compound once suspected of harboring Nazi sympathizers in WWII has stood more or less abandoned since the 1940s. It is now covered in graffiti and falling down around the edges, and there are rumors that it will soon be torn down once and for all.
We approached the remains of Murphy Ranch from the back, climbing down over 500 stairs to the valley floor to find the remains of the power station, shed and machine shop, then the collapsing and bee infested barn, before the winding ascent past a massive water tank to the front gate. Exploring does little to shed light on the mystery of the place, unfortunately, but in a city where so many people are disconnected from the local history it’s something amazingly weird to see, and always a conversation starter, even in jaded LA.
Read more about it, and see lot of pictures at the Atlas Obscura Blog here.

The Kamigamo Shrine Distance Illusion

In this Kamigamo Shrine Distance Illusion, Ritsumeikan University professor of psychology (and master optical illusionist) Akiyoshi Kitaoka asks: what is the middle point between A and B? X, Y or Z?


Kraplap is the Dutch word for bodice. The kraplap is part of some of the traditional costumes from the Netherlands. Originally the kraplap was a part of the underwear, but it has developed into an important decoration of the outerwear; often very visible and showy, but also sometimes hidden under shawls only revealing a small part under the chin.

Rare button phobia leaves student only able to wear zipped clothing

Student Hannah Matthews has one of the most bizarre phobias known. Her condition, koumpounophobia, means she panics in their presence and can only wear clothes with zips.
‘Something about the texture and shape really freaks me out,’ said the 21-year-old Portsmouth university student. 'My mum says I would freak out when it was time to get ready for school. I would scream, cry and as I got older I started to have panic attacks when faced with the prospect of touching them and getting ready.

'Ever since then even the word button makes me squirm.' She added: 'It really used to affect my chances in job interviews, but I know more about self-control techniques now, so if someone is wearing buttons I try really hard to control my reaction.

'It still makes me feel uncomfortable but I can now distract myself if it’s just on someone’s shirt, however if it starts coming towards me or the word is mentioned in conversation I still panic.' Late Apple boss Steve Jobs had the same phobia and only wore button-free turtle necks and denim.

Outrageous Folk Remedies that People Actually Believed

Urine cures acne!
Early American settlers had some pretty strange notions when it came to eradicating acne. One involved the application of urine to the outbreaks. Another called for using the water that collected in old tree stumps to bathe pimpled skin.

Gizzards cure diarrhea!
Though we absolutely don't recommend this treatment for treating an infant's diarrhea, we do find it fascinating and would love to know what inspired its creation. We offer it up strictly in the interest of history: Cut the lining from a chicken gizzard and let it dry. Then put it in boiling water to make a tea. Give 1 teaspoonful to your baby every half hour.

Dirty socks cure sore throats!
From Merry Olde England spring some mighty strange sore throat remedies. One, which was actually used widely until the 20th century, called for wrapping your own dirty socks around your throat. Another English treatment involved wrapping bacon around the throat before bedtime. Finally, we couldn't resist passing along this Irish gem: To heal a sore throat, simply apply salt herring to the soles of the feet.

Tobacco cures earaches!
These cures should be labeled "weird, wacky and disgusting." The first gross-sounding trick was to stuff the painful ear with a moist wad of chewing tobacco, or even to blow tobacco smoke into the ear. Another, mentioned in several compilations of old home remedies, calls for putting drops of urine in the affected ear. It's even been written that Elvis Presley's mother relied on this creepy remedy whenever The King had a childhood earache.

Chocolate-garlic cures memory loss!
An old, traditional memory-booster calls for dipping garlic cloves in chocolate and eating one to three of them a day. In theory, we think this makes tons of sense -- the garlic and the chocolate are loaded to the gills with the kind of antioxidants that protect brain cells. But seriously, in practice?

Rattlesnakes cures rheumatism!

An old cure for "rheumatism" was to kill a rattlesnake before it had a chance to strike (always a good idea), skin it, dry it, and then put the remains in a jug of corn whiskey. Then, drink the whiskey. There have been studies at Israel's Shulov Institute for Science looking at the possibility that snake venom, with toxins removed, could become a potential remedy for arthritis. Venom contains certain peptides -- a molecule containing amino acids -- that can turn off pain signals, which is handy for a reptile that needs to immobilize its prey.

Eggs cure bruises!
We admit that this ancient Chinese treatment is probably more fun to read about than to use. You need two things: a U.S. silver coin (dimes, quarters, and half dollars minted before 1964 are mostly silver) and a peeled, freshly hard-boiled egg. Slip the coin vertically all the way into the egg until its top edge is even with the top of the egg. Place the warm (not hot) egg on the bruise and leave it there for 30 minutes. This is said to immediately erase the discoloration.

Earwax cures cold sores!
We found this one in a book about old home remedies: "To heal a cold sore quickly, put earwax on it." Naturally, we don't recommend the earwax treatment, though we do wonder what prompted its inventor to try it.

Corpses cure boils!
This old English remedy, gets our vote for strangest of them all. Apply a poultice to the boil. When you remove the poultice, place it in a corpse-containing coffin. Theory was, the boils would leave you and pass on to the dead person, where they could do no harm.

When a car was a car ...

1954 Mercury Monterey Convertible.

The Legend of King Arthur

What do you think -was King Arthur a real person, or is he purely the stuff of legend? Either way, he makes for a good story.

In England, the most popular tales of chivalry are the Welsh legends of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table. No one knows for sure if there was a real person who served as the inspiration for Arthur …or if so, which historical figure it was. The earliest known mention of Arthur is a reference to a mighty warrior  in “Gododdin,” a Welsh poem written about 600 AD. Another 200 years would pass before Arthur would receive another mention, this time in The History of the Britons, which credits him with winning 12 battles against Saxon invaders.
It’s likely that tales of Arthur were also spread by word of mouth, because when Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote down the tales of Arthur in his History of the Kings of Britain in 1135, he recorded Arthur’s birth in the late fifth century, childhood, military conquests, marriage to Guinevere, relationship with his mentor Merlin, and his death in 542 when he was mortally wounded in battle by his treacherous nephew Mordred. Geoffrey is also the first person to identify Arthur as a king, not just a warrior.

So where did Geoffrey of Monmouth  get his information? He claimed to have gotten it from a “certain very ancient book written in the British language,” but did not identify it by name. Historians now believe there was no such book. They theorize that Geoffrey simply recorded the popular tales of his day, and when needed, made up his own details to fill in any gaps, drawing from legends surrounding leaders like Alexander the Great and Charlemagne. That didn’t stop readers from taking The History of the Kings of Britain seriously -it served as the standard text on British history for more than 600 years.

Geoffrey of Monmouth wasn’t the first to invent tales about King Arthur, and he certainly wasn’t the last. In 1155 another writer, Wace of Jersey, introduced the concept of the Round Table; five years later the French poet Chrétian de Troyes wrote five Arthurian romances that are credited with introducing the Holy Grail and Sir Lancelot’s affair with Queen Guinevere. A 13th-century French poet, Robert de Boron, contributed the famous story of the orphaned Arthur winning his crown by removing a magic sword from a stone.

One thing historians agree on is that even if “King Arthur” really did live in England in the early sixth century, he and his knights did not live in castles, wear suits of armor, or fight in tournaments -because none of those things existed in the sixth century. So why is Arthur so closely associated with them? Because Geoffrey of Monmouth and other contributors to the Arthurian legend had no sense of how different life had been 600 years earlier. They, not Arthur, lived in an age of castles and knights in shining armor, and they filled their stories with the trappings of their own era. In the process they created a world for King Arthur that he, if he did really exist, would never have recognized.

What about the generations of knights that grew up listening to the chivalrous tales of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table -how well did they live up to the noble example set by their hero? Did they give to the sick and the poor? Did they protect orphans and the elderly? Did they respect woman and treat captured knights with the same respect they’d show upon guests?
Not quite -medieval knights preached chivalry, but practicing it was another story, as Will Durant writes in The Story of Civilization:
Theoretically the knight was required to be a hero, a gentleman, and a saint. All this, however, was chivalric theory. The hero who fought one day bravely in tournament might on another be a faithless murderer. He might [preach] of protecting the weak,and strike unarmed peasants down with a sword; he treated with scorn the manual worker and with frequent coarseness and and occasional brutality the wife whom he had sworn to cherish and protect. He could hear Mass in the morning, rob a church in the afternoon, and drink himself into obscenity at night.

'Bizarre cow woman' found in Cambridgeshire Anglo-Saxon dig

Archaeologists excavating an Anglo-Saxon cemetery in Cambridgeshire say the discovery of a woman buried with a cow is a "genuinely bizarre" find. The grave was uncovered in Oakington by students from Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Central Lancashire. At first it was thought the animal skeleton was a horse. Student Jake Nuttall said: "Male warriors might be buried with horses, but a woman and a cow is new to us." He added: "We were excited when we thought we had a horse, but realising it was a cow made it even more bizarre."
Co-director of the excavation, Dr Duncan Sayer, from the University of Central Lancashire, said: "Animal burials are extremely rare, anyway. "There are only 31 horse burials in Britain and they are all with men. This is the first animal to be discovered with a woman from this period - the late fifth Century - and it's really interesting that it's a cow, a symbol of economic and domestic wealth and power. It's also incredibly early to find any grave of a woman buried with such obvious wealth."

The skeleton was found with grave goods including brooches and hundreds of amber and decorated glass beads. "She also had a complete chatelaine [keychain] set, which is an iron girdle and a symbol of her high status," Dr Sayer said. "It indicates she had access to the community's wealth. She is almost certainly a regional elite - a matriarchal figure buried with the objects that describe her identity to the people who attended her funeral." Joint director Dr Faye Simpson, from Manchester Metropolitan, said: "A cow is a big thing to give up.

"It's a source of food and something that would have been very expensive to keep, so to sacrifice it would be a big decision. They would have wanted to give her something really important to show respect and they wouldn't have done that for just anybody. That's why we don't find cows with burials," she said. Dr Sayer added: "The cow burial is unique in Europe which makes this an incredibly exciting and important find. I don't think I'll find anything as significant as this again in my lifetime."

Roman Artifacts Found in Fifth Century A.D. Japanese Tomb

Even with the limited transportation technologies of the time, the passage of trade over the world carried glass beads from the Roman Empire to the Fifth Century A.D. Utsukushi burial mound in Nagaoka, Japan:
It found that the light yellow beads were made with natron, a chemical used to melt glass by craftsmen in the empire, which succeeded the Roman Republic in 27 BC and was ultimately ended by the Fall of Constantinople in 1453.
The beads, which have a hole through the middle, were made with a multilayering technique — a relatively sophisticated method in which craftsmen piled up layers of glass, often sandwiching gold leaf in between.

Nine Abandoned Islands Where Time Has Stopped

Some islands were used for military purposes, for the construction of individual buildings or for permanent settlements in which people lived for centuries. However, loss of strategic position, natural disasters, nuclear tests or simply a wish to live in civilization, led to the abandonment of these islands.

A list of abandoned islands, where time has stopped, where homes, buildings and streets standing untouched for decades.

Random Photo

Shopping at bulk stores isn't always the best idea.

Center Pivot Irrigation Explained

If you have been in a plane over a large agricultural hub you may have casually glanced out of your window. And then you may have performed a very, very quick double take. What on earth are those circular shapes below? They are not the alien crop circles of infamy that's for sure - in fact whole fields seem to be circular in shape.

There are way too many of them, too, to have been done as some sort of practical joke. So, what are they? Welcome to the world of center pivot irrigation.

Plants Know More than We Thought

Think of ways that plants can communicate with each other: First, there's chemical signalling, where a plant releases chemicals into the air or soil which are then sensed by nearby plants.
There's touch - plants can respond to physical sensation either by a competing or parasitic plant growing nearby or an herbivore trying to eat it.
Then there's light - though this is a bit indirect. Plants can sense the level of light and indirectly gauge proximity of neighboring plants - for example, it can figure out that it's in a crowded neighborhood by perceiving the levels of certain wavelengths of light.
All those methods of communications are known. So how can you explain these results by Monica Gagliano at the University of Western Australia in Crawley and colleagues?
First, some background: sweet fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) sends out chemicals that can retard the growth of chilli peppers (Capsicum annuum) plants. So, chilli peppers grown near a sweet fennel would germinate more slowly than those grown by itself. Got that?
Here's the fun part: researchers placed a sweet fennel plant in a box and then surround it with chilli pepper seeds. In the first experiment, the sweet fennel is in an open box (so the chemical signals can reach the chilli peppers). In the second experiment, there's no sweet fennel in the box. And in the third, the sweet fennel is in a sealed box.

So, what do you think will happen?

Here's what she found:
1) The chilli peppers grown in the first experiment will germinate more slowly than the second. Just as expected.
2) The chilli peppers grown in the third experiment - where the seeds are nearby the sweet fennel plant, but no chemical or light signal can reach them, actually grow faster than the chilli peppers grown next to an empty box.
So how in the world did the chilli peppers know that there's a sweet fennel in that box?
More | The science paper over at PLoS One

That's just not right ...

Hip hop zebra

GM grass producing cyanide gas, kills herd of cattle

So far the cyanide gas-producing grass has only killed one herd, though the cyanide gas is also present in other nearby fields.

A mysterious mass death of a herd of cattle has prompted a federal investigation in Central Texas.

Preliminary test results are blaming the deaths on the grass the cows were eating when they got sick, reports CBS Station KEYE.

The cows dropped dead several weeks ago on an 80-acre ranch owned by Jerry Abel in Elgin, just east of Austin.
The other open question is what impact this may have on the cattle that don't die, that make it to the food plate.

R.I.P. Lonesome George

We’ve followed the saga of Lonesome George, the last Pinta Island Tortoise, for years. But George has been around much longer, and was believed to be around 100 years old. Fausto Llerena, George’s keeper for the past 40 years, found George dead in his pen Sunday morning.
Park officials said they would carry out a post-mortem to determine the cause of his death.
With no offspring and no known individuals from his subspecies left, Lonesome George became known as the rarest creature in the world.
For decades, environmentalists unsuccessfully tried to get the Pinta Island tortoise to reproduce with females from a similar subspecies on the Galapagos Islands.
The Pinta Island subspecies of Galapagos Tortoise can live up to 200 years, so George was not particularly old. Read his biography -what we know of it- at BBC News.

RIP Lonesome George and his subspecies

Staff at the Galapagos National Park in Ecuador say Lonesome George, a giant tortoise believed to be the last of its subspecies, has died. Scientists estimate he was about 100 years old. Park officials said they would carry out a post-mortem to determine the cause of his death. With no offspring and no known individuals from his subspecies left, Lonesome George became known as the rarest creature in the world.

For decades, environmentalists unsuccessfully tried to get the Pinta Island tortoise to reproduce with females from a similar subspecies on the Galapagos Islands. Park officials said the tortoise was found dead in his corral by his keeper of 40 years, Fausto Llerena. While his exact age was not known, Lonesome George was estimated to be about 100, which made him a young adult as the subspecies can live up to an age of 200. Lonesome George was first seen by a Hungarian scientist on the Galapagos island of Pinta in 1972. Environmentalists had believed his subspecies (Chelonoidis nigra abingdoni) had become extinct.

Lonesome George became part of the Galapagos National Park breeding programme. After 15 years of living with a female tortoise from the nearby Wolf volcano, Lonesome George did mate, but the eggs were infertile. He also shared his corral with female tortoises from Espanola island, which are genetically closer to him than those from Wolf volcano, but Lonesome George failed to mate with them. He became a become a symbol of the Galapagos Islands, which attract some 180,000 visitors a year. Galapagos National Park officials said that with George's death, the Pinta tortoise subspecies has become extinct.

They said his body would probably be embalmed to conserve him for future generations. Tortoises were plentiful on the Galapagos islands until the late 19th century, but were later hunted for their meat by sailors and fishermen to the point of extinction. Their habitat furthermore suffered when goats were introduced from the mainland. The differences in appearance between tortoises from different Galapagos islands were among the features which helped the British naturalist Charles Darwin formulate his theory of evolution. Some 20,000 giant tortoises of other subspecies still live on the Galapagos.


A few animals have made the deepest depths of the ocean their natural habitat, which means they evolved to withstand enormous pressure. We only get to see these animals by remote camera, unless you happen to be James Cameron. But now Océanopolis, an aquarium in Brest, France, has developed a special aquarium that maintains high pressure for those animals, and lets us take a look.
Most creatures of the deep can survive only a few hours at sea level (the drop in pressure messes up cell-to-cell communication and causes paralysis), and any decompression can be fatal. But AbyssBox inventor Bruce Shillito, a biophysicist at the Université Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris, has devised a new tool that will allow sea animals to be captured, brought to the surface, and transferred into an AbyssBox, all at a constant pressure. So you might be able to make eye contact with the deep-sea anglerfish before Cameron names himself king of the underworld.
Right now the AbyssBox has a few deep-sea shrimps and crabs inside its 4.25 gallon display unit.

Deformed deer found in Swedish garden

When Gothenburg resident Ola Enbågen went out to get his paper from his post box, he was gobsmacked to be facing a deer with a cactus-like growth on his head grazing in his garden. “He was looking straight at me and I just thought ‘damn, he looks strange’,” Enbågen said. The deer, which turned out to be suffering from a condition called gnarly cactus, or cactus buck, was startled at Enbågen’s arrival and jumped over the rhododendron shrubbery and disappeared.

“But when I was having breakfast he returned, so I took some pictures and filmed him through the window,” Enbågen said. Gnarly cactus is a condition which causes the animal’s antlers to continue growing until they cover its eyes. Normally, a hormonal impulse stirs the bucks to rub the velvet off its antlers every year, and eventually shed them.

When a hormonal imbalance disturbs the shedding of the animal’s antlers, each growing cycle produces more velvet and antler material on top of the previous year’s until they eventually grow over the deer's eyes, resembling a cactus. An animal with this condition will have very small or completely undescended testicles. “It didn’t have horns as such, more like a big lump or a hat on top of its head. It looked gnarly,” said Enbågen. Animals with this condition are not expected to live for a long time. Once the antlers grow over his eyes, the animal will be unable to fend for itself.

However, Leif Lithander of the Swedish Museum of Natural History (Naturhistoriska Riksmuseet), is skeptical against shooting an animal solely due to this condition. “But he should be kept under observation and if the horn grows over his eyes he should be culled,” he said. Enbågen has had plenty of deer visit his garden before, but never any animal that looked like this one. “It stayed around for a while, knocking over some water cans and grazing in the garden. It’s probably lurking around in the neighborhood still,” Enbågen said.

Animal Pictures