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

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Daily Drift


Drive it Like you stole It.
Drive it like you stole it!

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We would like to welcome our newest readers from the Cook Islands
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Today in History

1403   Henry IV defeats the Percys in the Battle of Shrewsbury in England.
1667   The Peace of Breda ends the Second Anglo-Dutch War and cedes Dutch New Amsterdam to the English.
1711   Russia and Turkey sign the Treaty of Pruth, ending the year-long Russo-Turkish War.
1718   The Treaty of Passarowitz is signed by Austria, Venice and the Ottoman Empire.
1773   Pope Clement XIV abolishes the Jesuit order.
1798   Napoleon Bonaparte defeats the Arab Mameluke warriors at the Battle of the Pyramids.
1861   In the first major battle of the Civil War, Confederate forces defeat the Union Army along Bull Run near Manassas Junction, Virginia. The battle becomes known as Manassas by the Confederates, while the Union calls it Bull Run.
1865   Wild Bill Hickok kills gunman Dave Tutt in Springfield, Illinois, in the first formal quick-draw duel.
1873   The James Gang robs a train in Adair, Iowa.
1896   Mary Church Terrell founds the National Association of Colored Women in Washington, D.C.
1906   French Captain Alfred Dreyfus is vindicated of his earlier court-martial for spying for Germany.
1919   The British House of Lords ratifies the Versailles Treaty.
1925   John Scopes is found guilty for teaching evolution in Dayton, Tenn., and is fined $100.
1941   France accepts Japan's demand for military control of Indochina.
1944   U.S. Army and Marine forces land on Guam in the Marianas.
1954   The French sign an armistice with the Viet Minh that ends the war but divides Vietnam into two countries.
1960   Sirimavo Bandaranaike becomes the first woman prime minister of Ceylon.

Mass shooting at Batman screening

A gas mask-wearing gunman opened fire early Friday at a suburban Denver movie theater, leaving at least 12 people dead and 50 others injured, police said.

The truth be told

Did you know ...

Holy conspiracy theories Batman! Lush Dimbulb thinks "the dark knight rises" is part of the plot against Romney

Zimmerman's cop connection in the Trayvon Martin case

That Faux News pressures Romney to let Palin speak at the convention

Desperate to change topic from taxes, Romney again misquotes Obama

I don't need to walk you through Romney's latest intentional misquote of President Obama. Greg does that nicely here.
What's important is to watch the Romney desperation meter rise as the discussion shifts from whether Romney is hiding something in his taxes to what exactly he's hiding? Just yesterday everyone was atwitter as to whether Romney paid any taxes at all in 2009. (His campaign now says he didn't pay zero. That's nice, did he pay 1 dollar? 2 dollars?)

And now that scores of repugicans, including hard-hitting wingnuts like Bill Kristol and George Will, have called on Romney to release his taxes, the Romney campaign has desperately tried to change the conversation to anything but taxes.  Even going so far as to accuse the President of not being American - anything, at any cost, to change the topic.

Every day the stench of desperation grows.

Oh so now govt spending DOES create jobs

Funny how when it's defense contractors who stand to lose, suddenly federal spending DOES create jobs.

BofA exec indicted in bid-rigging scheme

Former BofA executive indicted in a scheme to fix municipal bond investments

By Kirsten Valle Pittman
A former Bank of America Corp. executive has been indicted for his role in a widespread bid-rigging scheme that played out at the Charlotte bank and other major lenders, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Friday.
The indictment filed in federal court in Charlotte charges Phillip D. Murphy with participating in a wire-fraud scheme and separate fraud conspiracies from as early as 1998 through 2006. The scheme involved the bidding for contracts that state and local governments use to invest municipal bond proceeds.
Murphy, who could not be reached for comment, worked in Bank of America’s securities unit and had been under investigation for suspected bid rigging for years, according to records from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.
The website of a California-based advisory firm where he worked most recently said Murphy served as a managing director in Bank of America’s tax-exempt derivatives group. The site describes him as “one of the pioneers of the municipal derivative and investment agreement business, having developed or improved many of the structures being used in the market today.”
Bank of America spokesman Bill Halldin declined to comment. A principal at the advisory firm, Winters & Co. Advisors, said Murphy has not worked there since May.
The charges filed Thursday are related to a wide-ranging government investigation of the U.S. municipal bond market. In December 2010, four federal agencies and 20 states announced a sweeping $137 million settlement with Bank of America for its role in a scam authorities said defrauded state agencies, cities and nonprofits that sought to invest with banks the millions they borrowed through bond offerings for hospitals, apartment complexes and other projects.
That settlement, which included $3.4 million for North Carolina, resulted from a 2007 leniency agreement the bank reached with the Justice Department, sparing it from criminal prosecution. Bank of America, which officials then said was the first and only company to self-report its activities in the case, paid restitution but no fines after it approached the Justice Department, prompting the investigation.
Other banks also have reached settlements over bid-rigging allegations. Wells Fargo & Co. last year announced it would pay $148 million to resolve accusations that Charlotte’s Wachovia, which the bank bought in 2008, participated in the scheme. JPMorgan Chase & Co. settled similar charges last year for $228 million.
Market competition
The three-count indictment filed against Murphy alleges that he conspired with a California broker known as CDR Financial Products to fraudulently increase the number and profitability of investment agreements and other contracts awarded to his company, which was not named in the filing.
Murphy and his co-conspirators misrepresented that the bidding process complied with U.S. Treasury regulations, and Murphy sometimes arranged kickbacks for the broker and others involved in the scheme, authorities said.
As a result of the bid manipulation, banks “won investment agreements and other municipal finance contracts at artificially determined prices,” costing municipal issuers, the Justice Department said.
The indictment also charges that Murphy conspired with others to falsify bank records so his co-conspirators could pay the kickbacks to CDR and others.
“Yesterday’s charges outline a fraudulent scheme to subvert competition in the marketplace,” said Janice Fedarcyk of the FBI, which assisted the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, in a news release Friday. “Those who engage in this type of criminal activity not only stand to defraud public entities, but erode the public’s trust in the competitive bidding process.”
Murphy is charged with two counts of conspiracy and one count of wire fraud. He faces a maximum sentence of 30 years for the wire fraud charge and five years each for the fraud and false bank records conspiracy charges.
Murphy also could face fines of more than $1.5 million.
To date, one company and 13 people, including former Bank of America employees Douglas Campbell and Brian Zwerner, have pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the probe, which is continuing.

The Fed is "afraid to do its job" for fear of wingnut rantings

The headline  is Krugman talking.
Remember — the Fed by law has twin mandates:
  • Low inflation consistent with economic growth
  • Low unemployment
The current zero-interest-rate environment serves bondholders and kills fixed incomes. But that policy preference — sacrificing seniors to the bond market Bigs — is at least within the mandate.

But this is not a low-unemployment environment (the other mandate). What's a Fed to do?

Here's Krugman on that:
[M]y sense is that [Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's] latest testimony, in which he declared that the Fed has the power to take action, that the economy is in really bad shape, but declined to, you know, actually take action, has left even his usual defenders more or less speechless.

It really makes no sense — except in terms of politics. ...
So Bernanke says that the Fed has the power to act, but won't. Why won't the Fed "do its job"? Krugman's explanation:
fear of being accused of helping Obama
That's Krugman, and the comment is damning. (Remember, Krugman knows Bernanke personally. Bernanke was once Krugman's dept chair at Princeton.)

The implications of this are terrible. It means (a) that the "independent Fed" actually is helping Obama — by shielding him from right-wing criticism. And (b) that the "opposition party" is leading the Democrats around by the nose.

But if you think that's bad, there's a worse explanation — The Fed is sacrificing the entire economy (and everyone in it) to serve the top .01%, including the banks, who need low-interest Fed-sourced borrowing to survive.

After all, the current situation is unsustainable. No demand, no recovery. No jobs, no demand. Q.E.D. (Latin for "thus it is destroyed").

Your pick. I think Krugman, as always, is just a tad generous. Me, a little less so.

Random Celebrity Photo


Sheree North
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Sheree North

N.C. authorities find bombs in man's car on Interstate 85

GOP5GSTDQ.3 Anthony Steven Carpenter, 43, faces charges after leading police on a two-state chase Thursday on Interstate 85. Authorities say they found explosive devices in his car.

A 43-year-old man remains jailed Friday in Cleveland County, a day after authorities allegedly found two home-made bombs in the suspect’s vehicle.
The man, identified by Cleveland County authorities as Anthony Steven Carpenter, had led police on a two-state chase on Interstate 85. The discovery of explosives in his car forced officials to close the northbound lanes of I-85 for several hours.
Authorities say Carpenter had been living in Greenville and Cherokee counties in South Carolina, but records show he lived in Charlotte from about 2006 until last year.
The pursuit began in Cherokee County early Thursday afternoon. Deputies came to serve a warrant against Carpenter, who was wanted in Greenville County on fraud charges. The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office says it located Carpenter at a campground near Blacksburg, S.C.
When deputies arrived, they say Carpenter assaulted an officer, got into his Toyota Avalon, and drove off. Police followed, and the pursuit moved to I-85. Carpenter’s car crashed near mile marker 5 in Cleveland County, and when officers searched his vehicle, they reported finding the two explosive devices in the vehicle.
A bomb squad from Gaston County was called, and authorities closed the northbound lanes of I-85. The bomb squad detonated the two devices, and the road was reopened.
Carpenter was being held without bond in Cleveland County on state fugitive charges. He is wanted in South Carolina on several fraud-related charges. Additional charges are pending, authorities say.
Court records show Carpenter has been arrested dozens of times in at least 11 Carolinas counties over the past decade. Most of the charges involved fraud, identity fraud or worthless checks, according to court records.
The arrests include several in Mecklenburg County between 2000 and 2004. He also was charged in Chatham, Gaston, Henderson, Lee and Rutherford counties in North Carolina, and in Anderson, Chester, Greenville, Pickens and York counties in South Carolina.
Nearly all of the charges against him over the past decade were dismissed, records show.

Syrian capital in chaos

Almost every report coming in from Syria right now is contradicted by another report. The only claim for which there appears to be good evidence is that the capital is in chaos with gunfights and explosions being heard.
The government claims that the defense minister and President Assad's brother in law were killed by a suicide bomber is contradicted by claims of responsibility by the Free Syrian Army and Liwa al-Islam, an Islamist group. And those are not the only people claiming responsibility.

According to an alternative version of events, the defense minister was killed by his own bodyguard. If that is true it is possible that the attack was actually an attempt at a coup, a Syrian version of the Stauffenberg bomb plot against Hitler.

According to the BBC World Service, Russia and even Iran are losing patience with the Syrian regime. But these reports have to be read with some skepticism as the BBC World Service exists to promote the world view of the UK Foreign Office. The Russian Ambassador to the UN is extremely clear that Russia opposes and will veto any Security Council resolution under Chapter 7, that is one that would authorize military intervention.

Russia is in a particularly weak diplomatic situation right now, having been on the losing side in (almost) every single international crisis since 1979: The invasion of Afghanistan, the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Yugoslav civil war and most recently Libya.

The Arab Spring can be seen as a vindication of the 'domino theory', the revolution in Tunisia led to the uprisings in Egypt, Sudan and Libya. The fall of Libya has put renewed pressure on Syria. If Syria falls it is quite likely that there will be renewed unrest in the Gulf states, but what is likely to worry Russia rather more is the possibility that it would spread northward to the Caspian sea region.

With fighting in the capital, it now appears to be a question of when and how Assad falls rather than if he falls. Russian interests would certainly be best served if Assad was removed from the scene.

Judge says it's OK to use your seized phone to impersonate you and entrap your friends

A federal judge has upheld the practice of police using seized phones to impersonate their owners, reading messages and sending sending entrapping replies to contacts in the phone's memory, without a warrant. The judge reasoned that constitutional privacy rights don't apply to messages if they appear on a seized device -- even if the messages originated with someone who has not been arrested or is under suspicion of any crime:
A federal appeals court held that the pager owner's Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure were not violated because the pager is "nothing more than a contemporary receptacle for telephone numbers," akin to an address book. The court also held that someone who sends his phone number to a pager has no reasonable expectation of privacy because he can't be sure that the pager will be in the hands of its owner.
Judge Penoyar said that the same reasoning applies to text messages sent to an iPhone. While text messages may be legally protected in transit, he argued that they lose privacy protections once they have been delivered to a target device in the hands of the police. He claimed that the same rule applied to letters and e-mail. (Police would still need to seize or search a phone or computer legally, and phones are much easier for cops to seize than computers, which generally require a warrant.)
"On his own iPhone, on his own computer, or in the process of electronic transit, Hinton's communications are shielded by our constitutions," he wrote, referring to both the state and federal constitutions. "But after their arrival, Hinton's text messages on Lee's iPhone were no longer private or deserving of constitutional protection." Penoyar rejected Roden's privacy arguments on similar grounds.
It's legal: cops seize cell phone, impersonate owner

Odds and Ends

Two Men Stopped at U.S. Border for Illegal Candy
Two Seattle men got stopped at the Canadian border for attempting to bring home several chocolate eggs for friends and family.
Bank Clerk Accused of Stealing $71K for Plastic Surgery
A Barclays clerk in Britain pleaded guilty to stealing over 46k from the bank to get the body she desired.
Minnesota Woman Attacked by Otter
While training for her second Ironman Triathlon, a Minnesota woman was attacked by an otter that animal experts think was trying to protect its young.

Cow Waterbeds Spread to Dairies Across Oregon
In Oregon's Willamette Valley, at least four farms have furnished their dairies with the rubber-made waterbeds, according to Yahoo! News .

M&M maker Mars gives Smithsonian $5 million for exhibit
Candy maker Mars Inc. is donating $5 million to the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History to create a new gallery focused on business and innovation in the United States dating back to the 1700s, the museum announced Wednesday.

Elton John: I can smell cocaine
Sir Elton John has claimed he is able sense drugs when he goes to parties, so he can leave and avoid them.

The Curious Bodies of Modern Strongmen

Burkhard Bilger has a fascinating article in the New Yorker about modern strongman competitions. He addresses their history, their competitors and what they physically demand from athletes. One particularly interesting topic is why many champions in the sport don’t look extraordinarily strong:
And I remember, as a boy, being a little puzzled by the fact that the best weight lifter in the world—Vasily Alexeyev, a Russian, who broke eighty world records and won gold medals at the Munich and the Montreal Olympics—looked like the neighborhood plumber. Shaggy shoulders, flaccid arms, pendulous gut: what made him so strong?
“Power is strength divided by time,” John Ivy, a physiologist at the University of Texas, told me. “The person that can generate the force the fastest will be the most powerful.” This depends in part on what you were born with: the best weight lifters have muscles with far more fast-twitch fibres, which provide explosive strength, than slow-twitch fibres, which provide endurance. How and where those muscles are attached also matters: the longer the lever, the stronger the limb. But the biggest variable is what’s known as “recruitment”: how many fibres can you activate at once? A muscle is like a slave galley, with countless rowers pulling separately toward the same goal. Synchronizing that effort requires years of training and the right “neural hookup,” Ivy said. Those who master it can lift far above their weight. Max Sick, a great early-nineteenth-century German strongman, had such complete muscle control that he could make the various groups twitch in time to music. He was only five feet four and a hundred and forty-five pounds, yet he could take a man forty pounds heavier, press him in the air sixteen times with one hand, and hold a mug of beer in the other without spilling it.

The Agony of Feeling No Pain

Congenital Analgesia
On the surface, you might think that the inability to feel pain would be a good thing. Steven Pete, who was born with Congenital Analgesia, would disagree with you. By the time he was diagnosed, he had chewed a good part of his tongue off while teething.
There was one time, at the roller-skating rink. I can’t recall all of the details, but I know that I broke my leg. People were pointing at me because my pants were just covered in blood from where the bone came out. After that, I wasn’t allowed to roller skate until I was much older.
When I was five or six years old, I was taken away from my home by child protective services. Someone had reported my parents for child abuse.
I was in the state’s care for, I believe, two months. And during that time I broke my leg before they finally realised that my parents and the paediatrician were telling the truth about my condition.
Steven had to face the fact that his body did not provide the proper feedback to warn him of his limits, or of existing injuries. Read his story, and that of his brother who also inherited the condition, at BBC News. More

Healthy eating is matter of survival for this chef

In his signature work shirt and with his youthful demeanor, the 38-year-old chef looks the picture of ruddy health -- like he'd just hopped off a tractor at the Vermont farm he grew up on -- as he leads a visitor around Tertulia, his year-old, red-hot Spanish eatery in Greenwich Village.

Heat, Drought Make for More Flavorful Produce

The heat and drought across the upper Midwest have taken a toll on corn and soybeans, but the weather has helped make other vegetables more flavorful.

Colorado's Wildflowers Cope With Climate Change

A 38-year field study has seen Colorado's famed wildflowers shift their bloom dates.  
Read more
Colorado Wildflower Copes With Climate Change

So You Think YOU'RE Hot?

Death Valley, Calif. recorded the hottest low temperature ever -- 107 degrees Fahrenheit. Read more

Strange 2012 Summer Brings Downpours and Drought

The weather in the UK and in the USA has been out of synch this year, which shows that there is more to climate change than simple global trends. More

Are We At Risk For Another Dust Bowl?

As widespread drought threatens corn and other crops, fears are growing that we are headed for disaster.  
Read more

Sea Rise Threatens 'Paradise' Down Under

Australia's government estimates that 274,000 homes are at risk from erosion and inundation by 2100.
Read more
Bondi Beach, Australia

How Low Can You Go, Mississippi?

The mighty Mississippi River is nearing record lows, exposing treacherous sandbanks where river craft can run aground.
Read more
How Low Can You Go, Mississippi?

Water in Africa

Vast African water source foundDrilling for water

A newly discovered water source in Namibia could have a major impact on development in the driest country in sub-Saharan Africa.

Dazzling Aurora Appears Over Antarctica

View the unearthly green curtains of light hovering above Antarctica's Concordia Station  
  aurora antarctica

Exoplanet with Molten Lava

Image: University of Central Florida
Scientists have discovered a new alien planet, named UCF-1.-1, using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. The exoplanet 33 light-years away (making it possibly our nearest alien neighbor), is about two-thirds the size of Earth and seems to be covered in molten lava: More

Astronomical News

Artist’s rendering of galaxy BX442 and its companion dwarf galaxyDwarf 'kicks' first spiral galaxy

The existence of a well-formed spiral galaxy in the early Universe, when it was considered too chaotic to allow their formation, shock experts.

Random Photo


Elyse Taylor for Calzedonia Beachwear 2012

City of Berlin Owes Town Trillions of Euros

In 1562, the German town of Mittenwalde loaned the town of Berlin 11,200 guilders at 6% interest, compounded annually. It would now like to be repaid:
According to Radio Berlin Brandenburg (RBB), the debt would amount to 11,200 guilders today, which is roughly equivalent to 112 million euros ($136.79 million).
Adjusting for compound interest and inflation, the total debt now lies in the trillions, by RBB’s estimates. [...]
Schmidt and Mittenwalde’s Mayor Uwe Pfeiffer have tried to ask Berlin for their money back. Such requests have been made every 50 years or so since 1820 but always to no avail.
Reclaiming the debt would bring significant riches to Mittenwalde, a seat of power in the middle ages, which now has a population of just 8,800. Red brick fragments of medieval fortifications still dot the leafy town centre.
The people of Mittenwalde should remember the 111th Rule of Acquisition: Treat people in your debt like family…exploit them.

The World's Most Beautiful Buildings

There are just far too many styles of buildings, each worthy of a top 50: sacred buildings, homes, skyscrapers, theaters. This is a list showing the variety of architectural beauty across the globe.

Some will argue about the omissions - the Sydney Opera House, the Chrysler Building, Fallingwater - but consider this a starting point, a checklist of architectural must-sees for an eye-rewarding round-the-world trip.

The Stunning Cliffside City Of Ronda, Spain

Ronda is a city in the Spanish province of Málaga. It is located about 62 miles west of the city of Málaga. The city is situated in a very mountainous area. The Guadalevin River runs through the city, dividing it in two and carving out the steep El Tajo canyon upon which the city perches.

Three bridges, Puente Romano, Puente Viejo and Puente Nuevo, span the canyon. The Puente Nuevo is the tallest of the bridges, towering 390 feet above the canyon floor. All three serve as some of the city's most impressive features.

The Mysterious Engravings of Ireland's 5,000-Year-Old Megalithic Tomb

Stone circle of megalithic burial sitePointing stone, cairns at LoughcrewPeople on mound at LoughcrewRock carving at megalithic tombCircles rock carving, Hag’s ChairCross rock carving at Loughcrew
Described as "one of the most beautiful and powerful sites in Ireland," the megaliths at Loughcrew comprise a set of tombs enshrouded in mystery. More


Jarlshof is the best known prehistoric archaeological site in Shetland, Scotland. More




Retinal neuroscientist and photographer Bryan Jones sends in this gorgeous shot of an archaeopteryx fossil displayed in the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin, Germany.
"As a biologist, seeing this fossil represents something of a pilgrimage," says Bryan, "[Visiting this museum is] a journey that all biologists would benefit from making."

From his blog post:
This particular sample was found in the Solnhofen limestone formation in Bavaria and is the basis for the link between the dinosaurs and the feathered birds. Archaeopteryx itself is a feathered theropod, but is though of as the oldest documented bird dating back approximately 150 million years ago.
The fossil was found in 1874 by Jakob Niemeyer who traded it to Johann Dorr for a cow. Johann then sold the fossil to Ernst Haberlein for 2,000 German Marks. This sale was then turned around to the founder of Siemens, Werner von Siemens for 20,000 German Marks for the University of Berlin which has provided this specimen to scientists around the world as the best preserved specimen found with elegant feathers and an exquisitely preserved skull.

Rare Photographs of 12 Extinct Birds

We are used to seeing extinct species as drawings or fossils. However, there are plenty of species, including quite a few birds, that have gone the way of the dodo (literally) in the 180 years since the invention of photography. Seeing these birds as they really were makes you think about how extinction goes on today right under our noses. Shown is a laughing owl, photographed over a hundred years ago. More

Young Gorillas Disarm Hunters’ Traps

Photo: Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund
Researchers at the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund in Rwanda noticed that young gorillas in the reserve did something remarkable: they can disarm traps left by hunters.
On Tuesday tracker John Ndayambaje spotted a trap very close to the Kuryama gorilla clan. He moved in to deactivate the snare, but a silverback named Vubu grunted, cautioning Ndayambaje to stay away, Vecellio said.
Suddenly two juveniles—Rwema, a male; and Dukore, a female; both about four years old—ran toward the trap.
As Ndayambaje and a few tourists watched, Rwema jumped on the bent tree branch and broke it, while Dukore freed the noose.
The pair then spied another snare nearby—one the tracker himself had missed—and raced for it. Joined by a third gorilla, a teenager named Tetero, Rwema and Dukore destroyed that trap as well.
The speed with which everything happened makes Vecellio, the gorilla program coordinator, think this wasn't the first time the young gorillas had outsmarted trappers.
"They were very confident," she said. "They saw what they had to do, they did it, and then they left."
Ker Than of National Geographic News has the story: here

Just goes to show: Everybody's a Ham

This cheeky monkey found a hidden camera in the island of Borneo, and decided to strike a pose: More

Animal Pictures