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

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Daily Drift

Life ... live it.
Some of our readers today have been in:
Islamabad, Pakistan
Johor Bahru, Malaysia
Cape Town, South Africa
Bacolod City, Philippines
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Avarua, Cook Islands
Bangkok, Thailand
Kharkiv, Ukraine
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Ankara, Turkey
Maribor, Slovenia
Cairo, Egypt
Chelyabinsk, Russia
Skopje, Macedonia
Krakow, Poland
Fermont, Canada

Don't forget to visit our sister blog!

Today in History

1540   Thomas Cromwell is beheaded on Tower Hill in England.
1627   Sir George Calvert arrives in Newfoundland to develop his land grant.
1637   King Charles of England hands over the American colony of Massachusetts to Sir Fernando Gorges, one of the founders of the Council of New England.
1664   Wealthy, non-church members in Massachusetts are given the right to vote.
1793   The French garrison at Mainz, Germany, falls to the Prussians.
1803   Irish patriots throughout the country rebel against Union with Great Britain.
1829   William A. Burt patents his "typographer," an early typewriter.
1849   German rebels in Baden capitulate to the Prussians.
1863   Bill Andeson and his Confederate Bushwackers gut the railway station at Renick, Missouri.
1865   William Booth founds the Salvation Army.
1868   The 14th Amendment is ratified, granting citizenship to African Americans.
1885   Ulysses S. Grant dies of throat cancer at the age of 63.
1894   Japanese troops take over the Korean imperial palace.
1903   The Ford Motor Company sells its first automobile, the Model A.
1944   Soviet troops take Lublin, Poland as the German army retreats.
1962   The Geneva Conference on Laos forbids the United States to invade eastern Laos.
1995   Two astronomers, Alan Hale in New Mexico and Thomas Bopp in Arizona, almost simultaneouly discover a comet.

Retro Photo

The truth be told

Syrian rebels say fight for Aleppo has begun

The commander of Syrian rebels in the northern province of Aleppo says his forces have launched an operation aimed at "liberating" the country's largest city from regime troops.

Did you know ...

That a national insurer won't cover fracking

How to occupy Bohemian Grove

That elderly bees discover the fountain of bee youth

Corning: our negative taxes are too high

Corning, whose actual tax bill was -0.02 percent on $3B in earnings (that is, they got a refund), sent a rep to Congress to complain that its taxes were too high.
Of all the unmitigated gall!

Banks in Libor probe consider group settlement-sources

A group of banks being investigated in an interest-rate rigging scandal are looking to pursue a group settlement with regulators rather than face a Barclays-style backlash by going it alone, people familiar with the banks' thinking said.


And they wonder why no one likes them ...

$21 trillion has been stashed in tax havens by 0.001% of the world's population 

The Tax Justice Network's Estimating the Price of Offshore Revisted report says that over $21 trillion has been squirrelled away in offshore tax-havens by 90,000 super-rich tax-cheats (0.001% of the world's population). The crime was abetted by a network of "enablers" from banks like UBS, Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs.
Much of the money has been looted from the world's poorest countries, whose populations live in conditions of crushing poverty exacerbated by even more crushing international debt. The report estimates that if those countries' oligarchs and crime bosses were to pay their fair share of taxes that these debts could be settled. For example, Nigeria has lost £196b to tax havens -- while the country's national debt was about $37b as of 2011.
Heather Stewart has more in The Observer:
James Henry, former chief economist at consultancy McKinsey and an expert on tax havens, has compiled the most detailed estimates yet of the size of the offshore economy in a new report, The Price of Offshore Revisited, released exclusively to the Observer. He shows that at least £13tn – perhaps up to £20tn – has leaked out of scores of countries into secretive jurisdictions such as Switzerland and the Cayman Islands with the help of private banks, which vie to attract the assets of so-called high net-worth individuals. Their wealth is, as Henry puts it, "protected by a highly paid, industrious bevy of professional enablers in the private banking, legal, accounting and investment industries taking advantage of the increasingly borderless, frictionless global economy". According to Henry's research, the top 10 private banks, which include UBS and Credit Suisse in Switzerland, as well as the US investment bank Goldman Sachs, managed more than £4tn in 2010, a sharp rise from £1.5tn five years earlier.
£13tn: hoard hidden from taxman by global elite

Anxiety Disorders in Poor Mothers More Likely to be the Result of Poverty, Not Mental Illness

Poor mothers are more likely to be classified as having the mental illness known as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) because ...
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We Can't Afford It: The BIG LIE About Medicare Expenses

In his letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius rejecting the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, Texas Governor Rick Perry tells a whopper. Expanding Medicaid, he writes, would “threaten even Texas with financial ruin.” 
Further proof (as if needed) that Rick Perry is a complete idiot.

Random Celebrity Photo

Winston Churchill in his swimsuit

The Meaning of the Olympic Rings

Withe games less than a week away, you see the Olympic rings everywhere! The symbol was an invention of Baron de Coubertin, who spurred the revival of the ancient Greek games as the modern Olympics in the late 19th century.
After the 1912 Stockholm Games—the first Games featuring athletes from all five inhabited parts of the world—a design of five interlocked rings, drawn and colored by hand, appeared at the top of a letter Coubertin sent to a colleague. Coubertin used his ring design as the emblem of the IOC’s 20th anniversary celebration in 1914. A year later, it became the official Olympic symbol.
The rings were to be used on flags and signage at the 1916 Games, but those games were cancelled because of the ongoing World War. The rings made a belated debut at the 1920 Games in Antwerp, Belgium.
Read more about the rings, including how they were confused for an ancient symbol, what the colors mean, and the rules for their use at Mental Floss.

Goulding Sidecars

Motorcycle enthusiasts and history buffs alike will love the story of James Goulding and his sidecars.
One hundred years ago in 1910, my grandfather, James Goulding built his first sidecar in Melbourne, Australia. In 1956 He built his last sidecar in Saginaw, Michigan. A lot of Motorcycle History happened between these two events and James and his famous family were a part of 80 years of Bike History. Mr. Goulding was born in Carlisle, England in 1885. His family emigrated to Australia when he was four years old. James grew to be an energetic and ambitious worker and had his own home building business (and his first Harley-Davidson) by 1908. James designed his first sidecar to haul his building tools, and from the beginning he used his chassis idea with the floating axle system that made them so durable.
In 1915, he had his sidecar manufacturing business well underway.  In 1911, he married Mary Olive Ratford.  In 1912 Olive, as James called her, gave birth to motorcycling’s most famous lady, Dot (Goulding) Robinson.  She wasn’t born in a sidecar as legend has it, but her mother was rushed to the doctor in a 1911 Harley belt-drive motorcycle with a Goulding sidecar.  In 1915, Claude Goulding was born and in 1917 my mother Edna Goulding was added to the clan.  By 1917,  Goulding Sidecars were the primary brand in Australia and New Zealand.  In 1920, James decided to introduce his product in America.  He did this with a 12,000 mile tour of the U.S. using a 1917 Harley “J’ Model 1000cc with his sidecar.  One part of this tour was a transcontinental run from New York to San Francisco.  Photos attest to how nasty the dirt and sand roads were a good deal of the way.  The trip ended at Dudley Perkin’s Harley-Davidson dealership in San Francisco.
James started a motorcycle dynasty in which his sidecars became famous and his children became famous for endurance racing. And the website on Goulding Sidecars has tons of interesting material: stories, photographs, videos, technical information, and updates. More

The Great Wall Of China

The Great Wall - created over centuries to protect the Chinese Empire from intrusion and invasion - is one of the world's best known sights. Yet again and again we see the same stretch of wall, the same throngs of tourists and a stream of visiting politicians.

Take these elements away and there is a sublime change - a shift in perception. Here is the Great Wall of China from various diverse perspectives, some stretches of the wall you may not be familiar with and hardly a tourist or soldier in sight. The Great Wall of China suddenly becomes a mystery again, inscrutable and elegant, unfathomable and incredible.
 Great Wall from the Chinese Knot

White House Garden

Britons 'desire self-sufficiency'

The poll by specialty cheese maker Butlers Farmhouse Cheeses reveals that a majority of people would prefer a simpler, self-reliant existence - free from the pressures of modern living and consumerism.

Gardener's cheeky green finger gets up someone's nose

A Tamworth market trader with a talent for topiary has been accused of committing a public order offense after a passer-by objected to one of his creations which depicts a rude hand gesture. The unusually-shaped shrub has been a feature of Richard Jackson's garden for eight years and has made plenty of people smile as they pass by. But one person has recently taken offense at the depiction and complained to North Warwickshire Borough Council, who passed on the complaint to the police. A police officer called round to visit Mr Jackson and his wife Linda, to suggest that the bush be altered to avoid offense – or a possible fine.

If it could be proved that the shrub caused 'harassment, alarm or distress' to a passer by, then Richard could be fined under Section 5 of the Public Order Act which covers the display of 'any writing, sign or visible representation which is threatening, abusive or insulting'. But Richard, who says he would love to work as a gardener, said he hadn't meant to offend anyone. He said: "I'm just hoping all this will die down really. The bush was a bulky sort of shape and it is just what sprang to mind – I didn't think it would offend anyone. I have seen people smiling when they spot it as the they walk past and people take photographs of it. But it's been there for eight years, no-one has ever complained before.

"It's not directed at anyone, it's just a joke, it's light-hearted, it's meant to make people smile really." Richard says he has had many jobs, but despite his evident skill at topiary, he has never yet been a gardener. To trim his three shrubs takes all day, although it is a job he generally only has to do three or four times a year and he does the entire work with just a pair of hand shears. His wife Linda said: "The neighbors love it, we are friendly people, we know everyone in the village and everyone knows us. I can't think who would have complained." The couple have two grown-up daughters and three young grandchildren.

Richard added: "The grandchildren don't see it as a rude gesture, they wouldn't know that, why would they? As far as they are concerned, it is just a hand with a finger pointing. A few people have suggested I change it to two fingers, but I won't be doing that, I'm not out to offend anyone," he added. The rest of the village appear to be firmly on the Jacksons side – with the pub across the road, the Hatters Arms, urging people to support the bush. And local Councillor Richard Meredith, who lives in the village said: "I am aware of the sophisticated gardening at the front of the Jackson's house – it's been there for years and I have always envied the amount of time he can spend on his garden. But I'm appalled to think that someone has complained about such attractive shrubs. I think it's very small-minded."

There's a news video here.

Daily Comic Relief


The epic heat wave: "Of course it's about climate change"

Sorry, did I just say "climate change"?
I ought to say Climate Catastrophe. So should you.

This will be the first of many posts on climate catastrophe. In my opinion (but not only mine), we're passed the tipping point. And following Dornbusch's Law, having arrived, it's coming on faster than anyone expected.

Krugman, with the first bit:
The Burning Land

I’ve been searching for something useful to say about the epic heat wave and drought afflicting U.S. agriculture, other than that this is the shape of things to come.

Of course it’s about climate change: a rising number of temperature records is exactly what you’d expect given an underlying upward trend in global temperatures.

Just for good measure, this via Michael J. Roberts, whom Krugman links to in a different post:
The weather fluctuates and heat waves happen. But the data show that the relative frequency of extreme events like this has increased tremendously. Just look a few posts back or read Jim Hansen's Climate Dice paper (PDF). Statistically speaking, this is almost surely climate change.
Hansen is one of the big guns in the field.
After a brief consideration of the (considerable) consequences, The Professor looks at the prospect for change in policy:
there is no prospect whatsoever of getting action.
So there.

The outcome isn't good. It's still not too late to at least mitigate the catastrophe (yes, the c-word again; get used to it).

But that would take a dictatorship which transfers massive wealth from the Koch Bros and their Ilk to alternative energy ... now.

You could do that via a huge tax. But as I said, a (friendly) dictatorship would be needed, because the political system is locked up, both parties are compromised and complicit, and the media, which should be messaging on behalf of the solution ... is messaging on behalf of the problem.

Screwed, to use a carpentry term.

We'll have more on climate catastrophe very soon — there are now lots of voices with lots of data.

Stay tuned. If nothing else, the Blame Game should be hours of entertainment all by itself. (I'm serious; I can't wait until the complicit start dancing and pointing — and asking for Federal money.)

Math shows how simple shockwaves could crinkle space-time

Mathematicians at UC Davis have come up with a new way to crinkle up the fabric of space-time — at ...
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Peering Into the Heart of a Supernova

Each century, about two massive stars in our own galaxy explode, producing magnificent supernovae. These stellar explosions send fundamental, uncharged ...
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"Highly transparent" solar cells

UCLA researchers have developed a new transparent solar cell that is an advance toward giving windows in homes and other buildings the ability to generate electricity while still allowing people to see outside. Their study appears in the journal ACS Nano.
The UCLA team describes a new kind of polymer solar cell (PSC) that produces energy by absorbing mainly infrared light, not visible light, making the cells nearly 70% transparent to the human eye. They made the device from a photoactive plastic that converts infrared light into an electrical current.
"These results open the potential for visibly transparent polymer solar cells as add-on components of portable electronics, smart windows and building-integrated photovoltaics and in other applications..."
Very cool.  It's developments like this - not more drilling - that can most effectively and permanently decrease dependence on foreign oil.

More at the UCLA Newsroom and the Reddit discussion.

Did We Meet Martians 36 Years Ago?

Perhaps our first-ever contact with extraterrestrial life resulted in us immediately killing it.  
  Did We Meet Martians 36 Years Ago?

Astronomical News

M109 Barred Spiral Galaxy: DCT First Light Big Pic Gallery

The Discovery Channel Telescope has taken its first observations! Here's the DCT view of M109, a barred spiral galaxy. Read more
M109 Barred Spiral Galaxy: DCT First Light Big Pic Gallery

M51, The Whirlpool Galaxy: DCT First Light Big Pic Gallery

The Discovery Channel Telescope has taken its first observations! Here's the DCT view of the beautiful Whirlpool Galaxy. Read more
Whirlpool galaxy

M104, The Sombrero Galaxy: DCT First Light Big Pic Gallery

The Discovery Channel Telescope has taken its first observations! Here's the DCT view of the stunning Sombrero Galaxy. Read more
M104 'The Sombrero' Galaxy: DCT First Light Photo


Marine Corps creates law enforcement battalions

Marines in Bravo Company of the 1st Law Enforcement Battalion practice shielding from thrown rocks during non-lethal crowd control training at the Marine Corps base at Camp Pendleton, Calif., Thursday, July 19, 2012.

Driver left fatal accident to buy booze

Deputies say a 21-year-old man struck and killed a pedestrian in southwest Florida, then left the scene and stopped for an alcoholic drink.

Gun club owner rejected Colorado shooting suspect because of 'bizarre' voice mail message

Emergency crews, including a bomb squad unit, surround the apartment of alleged gunman James Holmes Saturday, July 21, 2012 in Aurora , Colo.
So, he was too crazy for the gun nuts, eh?

Using Twitter To Identify Psychopaths

Recent research says that psychopaths have discernible patterns in their writing. That study was done by Cornell researchers using conventional long form writing by known psychopaths. Chris Sumner of the Online Privacy Foundation along with Florida Atlantic University and Kaggle applied that idea to Twitter to see if psychopathy could be predicted from Tweets. They recruited 2,900 volunteer Twitter users to take a personality test and then allow their Tweets to be analyzed. The results were surprisingly accurate at connecting certain Tweet stylings to psychopathic test results.
What are some of the Twitter stylings of these undesirables? Curse words. Angry responses to other people, including swearing and use of the word “hate.” Using the word “we.” Using periods. Using filler words such as “blah” and “I mean” and “um.”
Sumner doesn’t recommend using such a system to find psychopaths on Twitter. There would be too many false positives. The research would be more useful in analyzing groups of people. But what about employers using this technique to screen job applicants?
Sumner admits though that his study could be applied to employee assessment as well. “If you want a competitive environment, you might want people with high levels of these traits,” he opines. (Psychopaths make great CEOS, after all.)

The Horrifying Physiological and Psychological Consequences of Being Aquaman

Aquaman doesn’t get the respect in the world of comic book super heroes that Superman, Captan America, and others get. On top of that, he inhabits an undersea world that contains few, if any, other heroes. But those are the least of his problems! Southern Fried Science takes a realistic look at what Aquaman would have to contend with -if he were real.
Aquaman is, for all intents and purposes, a marine mammal. And, with the exception of a healthy mane in later incarnations, he is effectively hairless. As a human, we would expect his internal body temperature to hover around 99°F, or about 37°C. Even at its warmest points, the surface temperature of the ocean around the equator is only about 80°F/27°C. At the poles ocean temperature can actually drop a few degrees below freezing. In the deep sea, ambient temperature levels out around 2 – 4°C. The ocean is cold, and water is a much better thermal conductor than air. Warm blooded species have evolved many different systems to manage these gradients, including countercurrent heat exchangers, insulating fur, and heavy layers of blubber.
That’s one thing, but there are plenty of other reasons ocean living isn’t all that pleasant. More

A Venzone mummy

For hundreds of years, a mystery surrounded the cathedral of Venzone, a small city in the province of Udine, Italy. Instead of decomposing normally, bodies buried in the tombs beneath the cathedral were perfectly preserved and still recognizable decades later, a fact which led the townspeople to periodically retrieve and commune with their dead loved ones. In modern times, scientists finally traced the source of this wonder to Hypha tombicina, a microscopic, parasitic fungus that rapidly dehydrates the bodies before decomposition can even begin. 
That's the explanation at Wondercabinet, and other sites. They have a different explanation at Virtual Tourist:
 They were already found in 1647 during works in the cathedral.  Venzone lies atop limestone bedrock. Groundwater in such regions is usually alkaline, an environment hostile to putrefaction. During floods, alkaline waters likely seeped through dirt floors in tombs 1 to 10, preserving the cadavers. Vaults 11 to 17 had sealed stone floors. Moreover, floodwaters in tombs 1 to 10 drained quickly through the porous limestone. Coffin wood from those vaults possessed just 7 percent water. In such aridity, water-soaked humans would have dried rapidly into mummies.

Funny Pictures

Where are you from
Yes, it really does exist.

The Funky Physics of Turning an Animal Transparent

Biology labs use a new chemical called Scale to turn specimens transparent, so they can look into them. The result makes a mouse embryo (pictured) look like a Gummi bear.
Discovered last year by researchers at Japan’s Riken Brain Science Institute, Scale is made from compounds commonly found in the biology lab, like urea and the detergent Triton X. Scale’s low cost means it can be used much more widely than previously developed sample-clearing agents, and it allows scientists to see deeper into tissue than ever before. The discovery enabled the Riken team to produce some of the most detailed maps of brain neurons ever published.
An article at DISCOVER magazine looks at the physics of light and explains how transparent molecules are different from opaque molecules. Which leaves me to wonder how scientists can see what they are looking for if it all turns transparent -and could making a specimen transparent change it so much that what you find is rendered meaningless? More

Lobstermen finding more odd colors in the catch

This photo by Rebecca McAleney, shows a bright orange, left, a bright blue, right, and a calico lobster at New Meadows Lobster in Portland, Maine.

Dog gives birth to 'cat'

A man in South Korea is claiming that his dog gave birth to what looks like a kitten.
Jeong Pyong-bong, a 63-year-old man from South Jeolla Province said that his dog gave birth to what looks and sounds like a baby cat. "It is unbelievable," said Jeong. "People from all over the town are coming over after hearing the news."

He said the mother dog seems to have become pregnant after wondering around the town last May. However experts said it is theoretically "impossible for a dog to give birth to a cat."

"The number and trait of chromosomes in Canines and felines are completely different. It is possible that (the animal) is a puppy that looks like a kitten" said Professor Son Chang-ho of Chonnam National University's College of Veterinary medicine.

Teddy bear helps keep baby sloth alive

Baby sloths really like to cuddle, especially when they nurse. So when infant sloth Sjakie needed more milk, its Dutch zookeepers had to turn to a teddy bear to keep their new addition company while it eats. The toddler who donated the toy is thrilled. Soon after Sjakie was born on May 19, the baby sloth began making noises that indicated it was hungry. Zookeepers at the Burgers' Zoo in Arnhem, the Netherlands, quickly figured out that the mother wasn't producing enough milk, and that the baby would need to be fed with a syringe.

The only problem is that baby sloths cling to their mother's fur while feeding, so they needed a cuddly substitute. "We tried to find something that resembled the fur of the mother," zoo biologist Wineke Schoo said. "In the zoo, we have lots of shops with teddy bears, so we tried some." Baby Sjakie, however, didn't care for any of them. But then the 2-year-old daughter of one of the zookeepers heard the story and offered up her own teddy bear. The infant took to the unnamed bear and now grasps it while zookeepers feed her extra milk as well as pureed vegetables, such as carrots, fennel and zucchini.

The toddler "likes it very much that the sloth is using her bear," Schoo said. Zookeepers got the idea after Sjakie's parents lost a baby in 2011, just a week after it was born. Even though the mother was "doing the right things," Schoo said, "it didn't go well." They contacted zoos in Germany to find an answer and realized that Sjakie's mother, who is from a zoo in Zurich, may not be able to produce enough milk. A zoo in the western German city of Dortmund gave them the idea of using a teddy bear, sending pictures of the practice to the Dutch zoo. In 2008, the Frankfurt Zoological Garden also used the same technique to feed their new sloth baby, Oskar.

Since sloth baby Sjakie sometimes urinates on the stuffed animal, its handlers got it a second similar teddy they can put in the washing machine. Sjakie's mother still takes care of her baby, too. The sloth "hangs with her mother, she is really relaxed," Schoo said. Keepers still don't know, however, whether Sjakie is a male or a female. Schoo says that because sloths' genitals are inside their bodies, they will need a sonogram to determine its gender. "But, for now, that is not important," Schoo said.

Animal News

Bear Cub Wanders into Pittsburgh Mall
The bear ran through a parking lot of the Pittsburgh Mills mall in Frazier, northeast of downtown Pittsburgh, around 9 p.m., according to the Valley News Dispatch .

Weird Cute alert: Goose looks after blind dog
Blind boxer dog Baks has got a new lease of life - after being taken under the wing of a pet goose called Buttons.

Animal Pictures