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Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Daily Drift


By Rien Poortvliet.
Wisdom comes from unexpected sources ...

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During the month of July we are celebrating our sixth birthday and counting!

Today in History

1302 An army of French knights, led by the Count of Artois, is routed by Flemish pikemen.
1346 Charles IV of Luxembourg is elected Holy Roman Emperor in Germany.
1533 Henry VIII is excommunicated from the Catholic Church by Pope Clement VII.
1708 The French are defeated at Oudenarde, Malplaquet, in the Netherlands by the Duke of Marlborough and Eugene of Savoy.
1786 Morocco agrees to stop attacking American ships in the Mediterranean for a payment of $10,000.
1799 An Anglo-Turkish armada bombards Napoleon Bonaparte's troops in Alexandria to no avail.
1804 Alexander Hamilton is mortally wounded by Aaron Burr in a duel.
1862 President Abraham Lincoln appoints General Henry Halleck as general in chief of the Federal army.
1942 In the longest bombing raid of World War II, 1,750 British Lancaster bombers attack the Polish port of Danzig.
1972 American forces break the 95-day siege at An Loc in Vietnam.
1975 Archaeologists unearth an army of 8,000 life-size clay figures created more than 2,000 years ago for the Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi.
1995 Full diplomatic relations are established between the United States and Vietnam.

Non Sequitur


Five-month-old baby spotted in baggage scanner after parents tried to smuggle him in their hand luggage

A couple were caught trying to smuggle their baby into the United Arab Emirates - when airport security staff spotted the five-month-old hidden in their luggage on a bag scanner. The Egyptian husband and wife arrived at Sharjah International Airport on Friday night but were held at immigration as they did not have a visa for the newborn. Officials allowed them to stay until the relevant office re-opened on the Sunday.

But in their desperation, the couple decided to make a run for it when the staff changed at the end of their shift. However, they still needed to get through Customs screening, so they put the baby into a bag and bundled him through the X-ray machine. But their plan became unstuck when security staff noticed the outline of the body on the monitor.

A Sharjah Police spokesman said: 'They were risking the life of the baby. They said in an interrogation they'd resorted to sneaking him through inside a bag because he did not have a passport or visa and they wanted to have him with them in the UAE.' And another police official said: 'When customs officials saw the baby inside the bag at the X-ray scanner, they were stunned. This machine is very dangerous for anyone, let alone a baby in a bag to pass through.

'A case will now be raised against the mother and father, they both have visas to come to the UAE, but they have put the life of their child at risk.' The couple were arrested and charged with endangering the baby's life, who could have been exposed to the dangers of radiation. The pair, who had previously been staying in the UAE illegally, left because the mother was pregnant and wanted to give birth at home in Egypt. It is unclear how the child was initially placed onto the aircraft without a passport.

Man arrested after trying to hide gun in planter

From the "You're a complete idiot" Department:

An Oregon man has been arrested after airport authorities saw him trying to hide his gun in a planter box so he could retrieve it upon his return.

Student Debt Suicides

There are no hard statistics about the number of suicides linked to student debt, but once the question is asked, many debt-ridden former students admit to thoughts of ending it all. And we know that the rate of suicide rises during times of unemployment and economic crisis. Take the story of 47-year-old John Koch, who has a law degree, but works as a painter and lives with his parents.
Koch originally borrowed $69,000 in 1997. The majority of that money was loans for law school, seemingly, he says, to “better myself.” After he graduated from Touro Law School, Koch struggled to find steady employment and eventually he defaulted on his loans. He was immediately slapped with $50,000 in penalties. For years, he had been filling out deferment forms every six months to buy himself more time but in 2009, Sallie Mae declared him in default. At the time of this writing, Koch owes over $320,000. That sounds staggering but it’s hardly unusual. Once a person defaults on a student loan, the balance grows exponentially, with interest compounding on interest, penalties and fees. By the time he “retires,” in 23 years, Koch figures he will owe close to $1.9 million. He can’t get even subprime credit, he tells me, and it’s not like there’s any way out of his trap: student loan debt cannot be absolved through bankruptcy.
Koch struggles with suicidal thoughts and admits to self-destructive behavior, such as heavy drinking and cigarettes. Eventually he channeled those feelings into a blog that draws more readers each month. In January of 2012, though, the Suffolk County police paid his parents an unpleasant visit to inquire about their son’s suicidal comments and posts

Why the U.S. Justice Dept is investigating the LIBOR scandal

This LIBOR scandal is both deep and wide. Wide enough to reach both sides of the Atlantic.
Why both sides, you ask? Good question, since LIBOR stands for the London Interbank Offered Rate. We're still digging to understand, we at La Maison, but the two bits below may help.

Robert Reich says this in The Guardian:
There are really two different Libor scandals, and both are about to hit America's shores. The first has to do with a period just before the financial crisis, around 2007, when Barclays and, presumably, other major banks submitted fake Libor rates lower than the banks' actual borrowing costs in order to disguise how much trouble they were in. This was bad enough. Had American regulators known then, they might have taken action earlier to diminish the impact of the near financial meltdown of 2008.

But the other scandal is worse, and is likely to get the blood moving even among Americans who assume they've already seen all the damage Wall Street can do. It involves a more general practice – starting around 2005 and continuing until … who knows, it might still be going on – to rig the Libor in whatever way necessary to assure the banks' bets on derivatives would be profitable. This is insider trading on a gigantic scale. It makes the bankers winners and the rest of us – whose money they've used to make their bets – losers and chumps.

Obviously, Libor is not limited to the UK. As the benchmark for trillions of dollars of loans worldwide – mortgage loans, small-business loans, personal loans – it affects the most basic service banks provide: borrowing money and lending it out. People put their savings in a bank to hold in trust, and the bank agrees to pay interest on those. And people borrow money from the bank and agree to pay the bank interest.
Note: Two scandals.

One involves self-dealing — the banks were rigging LIBOR so derivatives deals they were involved in would be profitable. This amounts to being the both the pitcher and the umpire in a baseball game.

The other involves LIBOR as a benchmark for hundreds of trillions in other deals — loans, mortgages and contracts. If the rates are wrong, people who should have been paid a higher interest were cheated. As I said earlier, this is fraud, and the victims are world-wide, including in the U.S.

One more piece of information from Reich:
Wall Street will almost surely be implicated in the scandal. The biggest Wall Street banks – including the giants JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America – are likely to have been involved in similar manoeuvres. Barclay's couldn't have rigged the Libor without their witting involvement.

The reason they'd participate in the scheme is the same reason Barclay's did – to make more money.In fact, Barclays' defence has been that every major bank was fixing Libor in the same way, and for the same reason.
I'll have more on this scandal, including a list of which banks are LIBOR banks. These three are among them:
  • The Bank of America
  • JP Morgan Chase
  • Citibank, NA
It may be a London rate; but it's not just London banks that set it.

Did the Bank of England approve Barclay's false LIBOR rate submissions?

See where this is headed? It spirals ever outward.
Not only are we looking at fraud and self-dealing by the largest banks in the West.

Not only are we looking at interest rate manipulation that deprives hundreds of trillions of dollars worth of interest-sensitive instruments of money they deserved to receive.

We now have some evidence that the Bank of England — the UK central bank — had knowledge of the LIBOR Lies, and approved Barklays' artificially lowered submissions as a solution for Barklays.

If so, the Bank of England knew about it all. From ProPublica (my emphasis and paragraphing):
In October 2008, with the financial crisis at full bore, Barclays was again on the higher end of rate submissions. That month, according to filings, a senior Barclays manager spoke with a Bank of England official about Libor rates, and the idea that they might be artificially low.

Hearing of this conversation, other Barclays managers “formed the understanding” that the Bank of England wanted Barclays to lower its submissions.

This week, Barclays released an email confirming the conversation was between Diamond and Bank of England’s deputy governor Paul Tucker. It was another Barclays manager, Jerry del Missier, who determined what he thought Tucker’s comments meant, Barclays says.
Shorter Barklays: Sir, these other lying banks are killing us, making our rates look too high.

Shorter Bank of England: So? How 'bout you lie too.

This is still iffy; interpretation land. But it's pretty certain that the conversation took place, whatever meaning either side attached to the statements.

Even so — if the UK central bank knew that LIBOR was being manipulated, that itself is enough to make ... who? the UK government? ... complicit.

The parallel case would be if the Fed knew that JPMorgan Chase — a LIBOR bank, by the way — were doing the same thing. Whom do you arrest? Ben Bernanke?

And you should know that there are starting to be reports that what the Bank of England knew, the Fed knew. Business Insider:
But a research paper from the Federal Reserve's Jeremy Berkowitz (now a professor at the University of Houston) indicates that the Fed was worried about LIBOR manipulation as early as February 1998.

In that paper, Berkowitz tests alternative methods of calculating LIBOR rates specifically because the Fed has already seen three examples of misreporting from one bank in early 1996. While he writes those incidents off as being "undoubtedly...unintentionally misreported," the composition of a paper to prevent against such errors suggests a great deal of interest from the Fed in this subject. ...

While Rabinowitz's paper does not imply that banks had been colluding to manipulate rates at the time it was written, it suggests that the Fed was already be concerned about the effects of inaccurate reporting by banks about their lending practices ten years before the financial crisis.
If the Fed was alerted in the late 1990s, they had to be paying attention. Do these Big Boy bankers talk to each other? I'm guessing once a month at least — at St. Andrews.

Just keep your eyes open. This hasn't begun to blow. (And if it never does, that will be even worse news.)


Wall Street workers lose billions betting on their own companies

If only they could see Enron-like results, but that's not likely to happen since they're so deeply intermingled with the government. While they've lost a few billion, everyone else has lost a lot more than that including jobs, benefits, savings, houses, and retirement accounts. During those losses for everyone else, the free-flowing bonuses never arrived as they do on Wall Street.
Does anyone care how much Wall Street loses betting on itself? If anything, most wish they'd lose a lot more since everyone else has been hit so hard due to Wall Street.

Workers at the five largest Wall Street banks saw the value of company stock in their 401(k) accounts, sometimes the biggest holding of those plans, decline more than $2 billion last year, according to annual filings. Those losses don’t include shares received as bonuses.

The 2001 collapse of Enron Corp. led to warnings that tying retirement funds to an employer’s stock could be more crippling when a company fails, resulting in the loss of both a nest egg as well as a source of income. Traders and bankers felt the pain of last year’s decline in revenue from job cuts and lower bonuses in addition to the shrinking of their 401(k) accounts.

“You’re already relying on that company for your job, your income, benefits and everything else,” said Chris Baker, co- founder of Carmel, Indiana-based Oaktree Financial Advisors Inc., which manages $100 million and primarily advises employees of drugmaker Eli Lilly & Co. “It’s not just another stock. It can magnify the impact on your personal finances if your portfolio takes a beating and your employer isn’t doing well.”

AT&T sued phone hacking victim for $1.15m

Michael Smith's phone bill is usually $700. In 2009, criminals hacked the Ipswitch, Mass. man's business phone and racked up $891,470 in calls to Somalia. Julie Manganis of The Salem News reports that AT&T—which isn't even his service provider, just a hop in the international call chain--sued him for $1.15m over fraudulent charges it admits he did not rack up.
The telecom giant is hinging its case, filed last year in U.S. District Court, on two legal theories: that Smith’s firm should have taken more precautions to prevent unauthorized access to its phone system, and that under Federal Communications Commission regulations, it’s entitled to collect from the owner of the phone line that was used to make the call, regardless of who actually made the call.
Smith said he’s tried to resolve the matter, even trying to contact the CEO of AT&T. But two weeks later, he was told by a secretary that because the matter was being handled by “outside counsel,” there was nothing the company could do for him.
The nastiest part? Hard to pick just one, but getting a federal magistrate to move the action from a real courtroom to "mediation" has PR optics to die for. Fortunately, AT&T dropped the case when the press noticed it: a happy, if hilariously unprincipled outcome. 


Lamar Smith is trying to quietly revive SOPA and cram it down the world's throats 

It's not just ACTA that is being snuck back into law through undemocratic means. Lamar Smith, the powerful committee chairman and corporatist archvillain who tried to ram through SOPA last year is now bent on reviving his slain monster and unleash it upon the earth.

The new bill, the Intellectual Property Attache Act, will create a class of political officers who will see to it that all US trade negotiations and discussions advance SOPA-like provisions in foreign law. And as we've seen with other trade deals, one way to get unpopular measures into US law is to impose them on other countries, then agree to "harmonize" at home.
True to form, Smith is trying to cram his law onto the books without any substantive debate or scrutiny, just as he tried with SOPA. When you're serving corporate masters instead of the public interest, the less debate, the better.
The specifics of the bill appear to go further than the version in SOPA. It is clear that the bill itself is framed from the maximalist perspective. There is nothing about the rights of the public, or of other countries to design their own IP regimes. It notes that the role of the attaches is: to advance the intellectual property rights of United States persons and their licensees;
The bill also "elevates" the IP attaches out of the US Patent and Trademark Office, and sets them up as their own agency, including a new role: the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property. Yes, we'll get another IP Czar, this time focused in the Commerce Department.
When even the USTR is recognizing the importance of limitations and exceptions to copyright, to have Congress push a bill that basically ignores limitations and exceptions and only looks to expand Hollywood's special thugs within the diplomatic corp. seems like a huge problem.
Lamar Smith Looking To Sneak Through SOPA In Bits & Pieces, Starting With Expanding Hollywood's Global Police Force

Are hearing aids really 'elective'?

If you lose a leg, insurance will likely cover the cost of your prosthesis.

 If you lose your arm, it's the same.

Study Says Cutting Couch and TV Time Could Bump Up Life Expectancy

Getting regular exercise is obviously an important part of staying healthy. But what about what we do with the rest of our time? A new study suggests that the time we all spend sitting is taking years off life expectancy in the U.S. Scientists are just beginning to investigate how sitting affects health, and early evidence has linked an excess of ... (more)

A Cautionary Tale for the News Industry

On June 28, the United States Supreme Court issued its ruling on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Both CNN and Fox News, in an effort to break the news quickly, announced the plan had been struck down by the court -which was wrong. Ten days later, enough information about the news errors had been unearthed and validated that a timeline of events could be constructed to explain how and why they happened. SCOTUSblog presents it all in a long but fascinating account.
The Court’s own technical staff prepares to load the opinion on to the Court’s website.  In years past, the Court would have emailed copies of the decision to the Solicitor General and the parties’ lawyers once it was announced.  But now it relies only on its website, where opinions are released approximately two minutes later.  The week before, the Court declined our request that it distribute this opinion to the press by email; it has complete faith in the exceptional effort it has made to ensure that the website will not fail.
But it does.  At this moment, the website is the subject of perhaps greater demand than any other site on the Internet – ever.  It is the one and only place where anyone in the country not at the building – including not just the public, but press editors and the White House – can get the ruling.  And millions of people are now on the site anxiously looking for the decision.  They multiply the burden of their individual visits many times over – hitting refresh again, and again, and again.  In the face of the crushing demand, the Court cannot publish its own decision.
The opinion will not appear on the website for a half-hour.  So everyone in the country not personally at 1 First St., NE in Washington, DC is completely dependent on the press to get the decision right.
That explains a lot, but it’s only a small part of the events leading to a major SNAFU in the broadcast news industry. As technical as the story is, I can see how it might be made into a movie someday. More

Verizon says it can edit your access to Web sites like the newspaper edits content

So, basically, Verizon is saying that it can pick and choose which Web sites Verizon broadband customers can access and which it can't, just like a newspaper picks and chooses which articles, or letters to the editor, it publishes.
Which is an interesting argument since, as Jeff Jarvis notes, that means Verizon is saying that it owns the content of every Web site a Verizon customer accesses just as a newspaper owns the copyright on everything it publishes in the paper.


What's next?  Does Verizon Wireless have the right to edit my phone conversations in the same way a newspaper edits itself?  Or does that only apply to VOIP phone calls done over a Verizon Internet connection?  And does Verizon own the content of my phone calls?

Americans pay an obscene price for their broadband connections as compared to Europe.  As we have noted before, in France you can get a much faster connection than we have here in the US, and get cable TV and phone service (with free calls at home and to dozens of countries), for about 30 euros a month (or $36). And on top of it, we have to deal with telecom companies that think they own us.

It is interesting that Verizon is so interested in controlling my Internet access when it can't even control my cell phone. Verizon says it has no way to block the telemarketer who calls my iPhone several times a day from an unknown number and then hangs up as soon as I answer.  Interesting that there's "no way" to block the person, but I can simply jailbreak my phone and then get an app that can - what? - block "unknown" callers.

Parents defend putting children to work on farms

But Mosbacher said the U.S. Labor Department was misguided in its attempts to protect children from farm accidents and he's relieved the agency dropped its plans this spring and has promised not to take up the matter again.

Deaf man writes that TSA agent mocked him as “Fucking deafie,” then stole his candy, ate it

You guys, you're not gonna believe this, but it seems that yet another TSA agent has bullied yet another innocent American.
teaandtheatre, who is deaf, writes about an upsetting incident of "ableist" or "audist" harassment he received from the TSA, while going through a screening at the Louisville, Kentucky airport.
He explains that he was returning home from the National Association for the Deaf's biennial conference, with friends who'd attended the same event for deaf rights advocacy. He writes on Tumblr that he wrote the post as a kind of heads-up for other deaf folks, but it has gone viral outside of that community. Snip:
While I was going through the TSA, some of them started laughing in my direction. I thought it might’ve been someone behind me, but I found out otherwise.
They went through my bag (for no reason), and found a couple bags of candy I brought. I was told I wasn’t allowed to fly with that (wtf? I’ve flown with food before — these were even sealed still because I brought them right in the airport). I was then asked if I would like to donate the candy “To the USO”. Since I know the airport there has an Air National Guard base, and I figured it would go to the soldiers, I (annoyed) said sure, why not?
The guards, as I was getting scanned, started eating the candy they just told me was for the soldiers. In front of me, still laughing at me (very clearly now). One of them asked why they were laughing, and one of them came up to me, pointed at my shirt, laughed at me and said, “Fucking deafie”. The Louisville TSA called me a “fucking deafie” and laughed at me because I was deaf, and they expected wouldn’t say anything back (or wouldn’t hear them). Make no bones about it — she was facing me and I read her lips. There was no mistake. I would later find out that they had called at least 4 other individuals the same thing.
Read the rest here. I have emailed the TSA to inquire about the reported incident. In subsequent posts, the author —who says he was not expecting the story be so widely read—adds,

Does it make me angry? Sure, I made that post didn’t I? But it’s like…..a 3 or 4 out of the 10 of some of the other stuff. It’s just a day in the life of being deaf.
In other words, it's not just the TSA. Dealing with non-deaf assholes is a routine part of daily life for people who are deaf.

Global warming, health care reform, repugican lies, and American ignorance

I guess it's good news that an increasing number of Americans believe in global warming. But come on. It takes some foul weather for Americans to start believing in science again? It really shouldn't matter what the weather is like. Either science and facts exist or they don't - we respect them or we don't.
Check out the second paragraph that I quote below. Only one third of Americans believe that “most scientists think global warming is happening,” even though that statement is true.

This reminds me of the Newsweek story we posted in 2010 that most Americans oppose health care reform until you tell them what's in it, then they love it. Sometimes we really are a decidedly un-intelligent, un-factually-based, people. And interestingly enough, in both circumstances it's repugican lies, and public ignorance, that give the repugicans the edge in beating (down) science.

It's a larger problem our nation faces, that the repglican party has chosen to delegitimize science in the public's eye.  The repugicans have done a bang up job destroying the credibility of the media (and the left, sadly, helped) - sadly, because the media was one of the few gatekeepers of truth that we had left.  Another key gatekeeper that seems to often contradict the repugicans is "science."  How do you impose an evangelical agenda in schools when teachers keep teaching the fact of evolution?

The repugicans survive by negating facts with lies (death panels comes to mind - it was the repugican's most effective argument against health care reform, a proven lie).  It's why the repugicans started Faux News.  Not just to usurp the mainstream media's fact-checking authority, but also to create their own facts based on lies.

Putting aside for a moment what it says about a political party that the best way it can win is by lying, what does it say about a country that the lies actually work?

Via Slate:
These generalizations are based on a series of Yale University studies over the last few years. According to Yale, Americans’ belief in global warming fell from 71 percent in November 2008 to just 57 percent in January 2010 but rebounded to 66 percent by this spring. The findings mirrored those of the National Survey of American Public Opinion on Climate Change, which showed belief in global warming bouncing from 65 percent in 2009 to 52 percent in 2010 and back up to 62 percent this year.

What accounts for the rebound? It isn’t the economy, which has thawed only a little. And it doesn’t seem to be science: The percentage of respondents to the Yale survey who believe “most scientists think global warming is happening” is stuck at 35 percent, still way down from 48 percent four years ago. (The statement remains just as true now as it was then—it’s the public, not the scientists, that keeps changing its mind.)

Lockheed Martin to send highly political email to employees

Be very afraid of an Obama re-election! Yes, the industry that has been about as fat and happy as the banking industry due to the modern US war machine state is preparing to send out emails to workers suggesting that an Obama win in November could mean their job is in jeopardy. Even more interesting is that they will be sending out the "vote for Obama and you're fired" emails shortly before the November election.
As always, very classy move by the industry that loves war and bribes hires top Pentagon brass with high paying jobs upon retirement.

Companies led by Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT), the world’s largest defense contractor, say federal and state laws may require them to send out blanket notifications of potential job cuts before the election unless President Barack Obama and Congress act by October to avert automatic defense reductions of $500 billion over a decade that would start on Jan. 2.

To employment-law attorney Margaret Keane, giving mass dismissal warnings in such uncertain conditions looks more like a lobbying tactic by corporations trying to ward off the cuts than an effort to follow the letter of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act.

“I just don’t think you need to do that,” said Keane, a partner with Littler Mendelson PC who advises employers on meeting the notification law’s requirements. “Are we really talking about complying with the WARN Act, or are we talking about political pressure being applied?”
Americans are fed up with being asked to accept cuts while fat cats like the military industry lines their pockets and destroys the economy. Remember that the majority of budget issues today are a result of the Bush tax cuts and wars. We need to shift money from the war machine over to business that actually benefits Americans, such as infrastructure.

Nice to see the FDA whoring for Big Pharma

goes off on a tear about drug companies:

There really is no other way to describe this outright lie on the federal Food and Drug Administration Web site that a reader just found:
Is it legal for me to personally import drugs?

In most circumstances, it is illegal for individuals to import drugs into the United States for personal use. This is because drugs from other countries that are available for purchase by individuals often have not been approved by FDA for use and sale in the United States. For example, if a drug is approved by Health Canada (FDA’s counterpart in Canada) but has not been approved by FDA, it is an unapproved drug in the United States and, therefore, illegal to import. FDA cannot ensure the safety and effectiveness of drugs that it has not approved.

FDA, however, has a policy explaining that it typically does not object to personal imports of drugs that FDA has not approved under certain circumstances, including the following situation:
The drug is for use for a serious condition for which effective treatment is not available in the United States;

There is no commercialization or promotion of the drug to U.S. residents;

The drug is considered not to represent an unreasonable risk;

The individual importing the drug verifies in writing that it is for his or her own use, and provides contact information for the doctor providing treatment or shows the product is for the continuation of treatment begun in a foreign country; and

Generally, not more than a 3-month supply of the drug is imported.
Excuse me, but I've been traveling to France for years and they have THE SAME EXACT DRUGS MADE BY THE SAME EXACT PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANIES SELLING FOR 1/3 TO 1/5 THE COST THEY CHARGE AMERICANS FOR THE EXACT SAME THING.  Period.  Advair, sold in both countries by same company, is 1/5 the cost in France.  Singulair, 1/4 the price.  Pulmicort, 1/3.

These aren't crazy knock-off drugs from Timbuktu.  They aren't stolen formulas being reproduced in the developing world.  They're drugs made by the same companies, often sold under the same names, and those same companies agree to sell the same drugs for significantly less in Europe because they know they can make up the difference, and then some, by gouging Americans at home (I have been told this by numerous sources on the inside).

We are subsidizing low drug prices in Europe in order to pad the profits of American drug companies.  You are paying what amounts to a tax on your prescription drug purchases in order to help Europeans buy cheaper drugs. How do you like them apples?

The FDA doesn't tell you any of that.  They don't tell you that one of the main reasons you can't buy cheaper drugs in Europe and Canada and bring them home is because the FDA is in cahoots with Big Pharma in order to line the pockets of Big Pharma at the expense of every day Americans.  Funny how that never made it into their cute little "explanation" as to why they don't want you buying cheaper drugs abroad.

It's is beyond offensive - I'd dare say criminal - that the FDA  is spouting repugican pro-Pharma propaganda.

The truth be told

The Chap Olympiad

Forget the Olympics! The fun is at the annual Chap Olympiad [self-starting video clip], which celebrates "eccentricity and athletic ineptitude with the emphasis on panache and style over sporting prowess."
Events include cucumber sandwich discus, ironing board surfing, and umbrella jousting. The Guardian has the pics: More
The annual Chap Olympiad, described as 'a celebration of eccentricity and athletic ineptitude with the emphasis on panache and style over sporting prowess', took place in Bedford Square, London, last weekend and featured events such as cucumber sandwich discus, umbrella jousting, ironing-board surfing, and butler racing.

Entire Home Made From 1 Billion Decommissioned Euro Notes

Ever wonder what happens to misprinted currency? In the case of decommissioned Euro notes, the money gets shredded and formed into a papery brick. The blocks hold no monetary value and are likely viewed as useless hunks of paper by the masses, but not to Irish artist, Frank Buckley.

Buckley collected the pulped bricks totalling over 1 billion euro's worth of paper shredded to build his art installation.

The Mysterious Coffins Of Arthur’s Seat

In 1836, five boys were hunting rabbits on the north-eastern slopes of Arthur’s Seat, the main peak in the group of hills in the center of Edinburgh. In a small cave in the crags of the hill they stumbled across seventeen miniature coffins carved in pine and decorated with tinned iron. Carefully arranged in a three-tiered stack, each coffin contained a small wooden figure with painted black boots and individually crafted clothing.

Eight Of The Most Unusual Tunnels In The World

Tunnels are mostly human creations that commonly pass through the mountains and hills. But there are tunnels that have a very unusual purpose, appearance or location.
This is a list of tunnels that you can not see often, because they are rare or unique. That is why some of them have become very popular tourist attractions.

Random Photo


Absolutely in love with my new bathing suit!

More Americans do the Math

Climate change seems real when it's 106 

Every summer it seems like a different kind of out-of-control weather pattern decides to strike.

In the past month alone, we've experienced deadly Colorado wildfires, early-season heat waves and a wind-whipping hurricane, convincing formerly dubious Americans that climate change is actually real.

"Many people around the world are beginning to appreciate that climate change is under way, that it's having consequences that are playing out in real time and, in the United States at least, we are seeing more and more examples of extreme weather and extreme climate-related events," Jane Lubchenco, head of the NOAA, said.

Glaciers are almost gone, the trees out West are turning brown, wildfire season started early...

Soon, only Jim Inhofe will still be yelling, "It's all a fraud," while the rest of the repugicans will soon pivot their position to "Sure, it's real, but are we causing it?"

It's how liars stay in business - you have to keep changing the lie. 

Sixty-one years of tornadoes, in one map

John Nelson—the data visualization designer responsible for that global map of earthquakes I posted last week—has also made a strangely beautiful map showing every tornado to hit the U.S. between 1950 and 2011.
Part of what makes this map interesting is that it shows not only the touchdown location, but also the path of the tornado as it moved. Better yet, Nelson has several other related maps that break the data down in different ways. For instance, if you look at the tornado map broken down by seasonality, you can see a really amazing pattern, where what constitutes "Tornado Alley" appears to move northward over the course of the year. In December, January, and February, the bulk of tornadoes have been centered on south and south-central states like Mississippi, Texas and Kentucky. In peak tornado season—March, April, and May—the southern states are still affected, but the reach of the tornadoes has extended north and west. By June, July, and August, most of the tornado activity is happening in states like Michigan and Minnesota.
Another interesting thing I spotted on these maps: There's a hole in tornado activity centered on West Virginia. All around the state, there's a history of tornadoes. In the Mountain State, though, the number of tornadoes drops off precipitously. I'm really curious what's causing that, or whether it's a flaw in the data.
Compare tornado habits throughout the seasons
Compare tornado numbers by F-scale
Compare tornado history before and after the historically devastating 2011 season.
Watch an animation of tornadoes by year

Physics 101

Earth's Biggest Unanswered Questions

What are today’s biggest unanswered questions in Earth science? 
And what would you like to see on this list?  
  Earth's Biggest Unanswered Questions

Panorama of Mars

Image: NASA/JPL Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.
Opportunity rover spent the Martian winter perched on the northern slope of Greeley Haven on the Red Planet, and snapped hundreds of images that NASA scientists stitched together to form this fantastic panorama.
Astronomy Picture of the Day has the larger version: here

What Would Happen If You Tried to Hit a Baseball Pitched at 90% the Speed of Light?

If the question "What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90% the speed of light?" has been keeping you up at night, you'd be pleasantly surprised that Randall Munroe of xkcd has devoted a lot of time researching the answer:
I sat down with some physics books, a Nolan Ryan action figure, and a bunch of videotapes of nuclear tests and tried to sort it all out. What follows is my best guess at a nanosecond-by-nanosecond portrait:
The ball is going so fast that everything else is practically stationary. Even the molecules in the air are stationary. Air molecules vibrate back and forth at a few hundred miles per hour, but the ball is moving through them at 600 million miles per hour. This means that as far as the ball is concerned, they’re just hanging there, frozen.
The ideas of aerodynamics don’t apply here. Normally, air would flow around anything moving through it. But the air molecules in front of this ball don’t have time to be jostled out of the way. The ball smacks into them hard that the atoms in the air molecules actually fuse with the atoms in the ball’s surface. Each collision releases a burst of gamma rays and scattered particles.
These gamma rays and debris expand outward in a bubble centered on the pitcher’s mound. They start to tear apart the molecules in the air, ripping the electrons from the nuclei and turning the air in the stadium into an expanding bubble of incandescent plasma. The wall of this bubble approaches the batter at about the speed of light—only slightly ahead of the ball itself.
Read what happened when the ball reaches the batter a fraction of a second later, over at xkcd.

Batman Would Die If He Tried to Glide

It would be Knightfall for Batman to actually try to glide using his cape. Physics students at the University of Leicester have calculated that he wouldn’t be able to survive the aerial maneuvers displayed in the movie Batman Begins:
Due to the high speeds he would be travelling, his impact with the ground would be equivalent to him being struck by a car travelling at 50 miles per hour.
David Marshall, Tom Hands, Ian Griffiths and Gareth Douglas found that the wingspan of Batman’s cape — at 4.7 metres — is around half that used by a hang glider.
If Batman jumped from a building 150 metres high, he could glide a distance of around 350 metres — but the problem arises as Batman’s velocity increases during his descent.
His velocity would initially rise to around 68 miles per hour, before reaching a steady 50 miles per hour as he gets down to ground level — a speed too fast for him to land safely.

Tigger Finally Apprehended

Oh, bouncing is indeed what Tiggers do best. But you can bounce only so many times before the law catches up with you. This Tigger was caught while playing an escaped tiger at a zoo in China during an emergency drill:
June 2nd, Sichuan Chengdu Zoo, a tranquilized “tiger” being carried away by workers, as a caged Chinese tiger watches through the glass. That day, the Chengdu Zoo conducted a escaped dangerous animal training drill/exercise. The training exercise simulated 2 Siberian Tigers escaping from their cages, with zoo workers working together with forestry police conducting an emergency response.
Note the guard’s good trigger discipline.

Now, that is something you don't see everyday

A Lynx as a pet

Pavel and Svetlana from Kaluga had kept 4 Kurilian bobteils but in 2009 a little lynx named Zen also became a member of their family. The owners say it behaves like an ordinary cat and even sleeps with them in one bed. More
Around here a Lynx is a supped up wildcat on speed and crack not a house pet. 

Smoking orangutan forced to kick habit

At Indonesia's Taru Jurug Zoo, a popular orangutan named Tori is being forced to butt out her filthy addiction to cigarettes.

Insect Smaller than an Amoeba

How tiny can tiny insects be? Ed Yong of Not Exactly Rocket Science, told us of the wasp Megaphragma mymaripenne, which is actually smaller than an amoeba!
Thrips are tiny insects, typically just a millimetre in length. Some are barely half that size. If that’s how big the adults are, imagine how small a thrips’ egg must be. Now, consider that there are insects that lay their eggs inside the egg of a thrips.
That’s one of them in the image above – the wasp, Megaphragma mymaripenne. It’s pictured next to a Paramecium and an amoeba at the same scale. Even though both these creatures are made up of a single cell, the wasp – complete with eyes, brain, wings, muscles, guts and genitals – is actually smaller. At just 200 micrometres (a fifth of a millimetre), this wasp is the third smallest insect alive* and a miracle of miniaturisation.

Animals Navigate With Magnetic Cells

Cells in the nose of trout respond to magnetism, offering a biological explanation for how animals orient themselves.  

Animal Pictures