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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.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Daily Drift


Some of our readers today have been in:
Makati, Philippines
Petaling Jaya, Malaysia
Ljubljana, Slovenia
Cape Town, South Africa
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh, Vientam
Islamabad, Pakistan
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Sofia, Bulgaria
Cairo, Egypt
Cukai, Malaysia
Kuwait, Kuwait
Djibouti, Djibouti
Dhaka Bangladesh

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Today in History

657   Mu'awiyan defeats Caliph Ali in the Battle of Siffin in Mesopotamia.
1526   Lucas Vasquez de Ayllon and colonists leave Santo Domingo for Florida.
1529   Francisco Pizarro receives a royal warrant to "discover and conquer" Peru.
1758   British forces capture France's Fortress of Louisbourg after a seven-week siege.
1759   The French relinquish Fort Ticonderoga in New York to the British under General Jeffrey Amherst.
1775   The Continental Congress establishes a postal system for the colonies with Benjamin Franklin as the first postmaster general.
1790   An attempt at a counter-revolution in France is put down by the National Guard at Lyons.
1794   The French defeat an Austrian army at the Battle of Fleurus, France.
1830   King Charles X of France issues five ordinances limiting the political and civil rights of citizens.
1847   Liberia becomes the first African colony to become an independent state.
1848   The French army suppresses the Paris uprising.
1886   William Gladstone is replaced by Lord Salisbury as Prime Minister of England.
1918   Britain's top war ace, Edward Mannock, is shot down by ground fire on the Western Front.
1920   The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified.
1948   In an Executive Order, President Harry Truman calls for the end of discrimination and segregation in the U.S. armed forces.

More Than Just Chivalry

3 of the Aurora Shooting Victims Were Boyfriends Defending Their Girlfriends It's amazing what people will do instinctually for the people they love. 
It's amazing what people will do instinctually for the people they love.  
By Lauren Passell

We're starting to see the names of the Colorado theater shooting victims, and it is really gut-wrenching.

Joe Blunk, Matt McQuinn, and Alex Teves were three of the casualties.

Joe Blunk, 25, according to reports, threw his girlfriend Jansen Young to the ground, pushing her under the theater seat, and throwing himself on top of her. (He was a veteran of the US Navy.)

Alex Teves, 24 also protected his girlfriend, Amanda by throwing her to the ground. He was about to put his body on top of hers to protect her when he was shot and killed.

Matt McQuinn, 27, too, was protecting his girlfriend Samantha Yowler with his body when they were both shot. But Samantha, who was shot in the knee, made it out with the help of her brother Nick.

It's amazing what people will do instinctually for the people they love. And let this be a reminder -- guys aren't always jerks.

Hannah Rosin, author of The End Of Men and co-founder of Slate's DoubleX says: Couples will often insist that the man is the head of the household even when he doesn't seem to be checking any of the traditional boxes. When I ask how it's possible that he should retain the title without any of the attending duties, I almost always get some version of the same answer: If anyone threatened us, he would rescue us. If someone broke into the house, I would call him. If anything happened to the children, if a fire, if a tornado, etc. Papers have described what happened in the theater as "chivalry." But it's not really that. Chivalry is a code of conduct connected to social propriety. Throwing your body in front of your girlfriend when people all around you are getting shot is an instinct that's basic, and deeper. It's the same reason these Batman and Spider-Man franchises endure: Because whatever else is fading away, women still seem to want their superhero, and men still seem to want to be him.

Unfuck Your Habitat: tidy advice for messy people

I've been really enjoying "Unfuck Your Habitat," which offers advice and community for messy people who struggle to stay organized and tidy. I especially like the before and after shots of messy rooms that have been successfully put to rights. I'm a super-tidy neat-freak, and compulsive enough about it that I annoy my family with it -- but for most of my early life, I was a total slob. Basically, I got into a somewhat rigid habit of cleaning up continuously and it became a kind of low-grade mania for me.
At least once a day, someone asks: “Why should I make my bed? Isn’t it kind of pointless?”
Well, there are a few reasons, as far as I’m concerned:
* It’s a habit that’s relatively easy to form, and helps to make way to form other habits that are beneficial. If you spend 30 seconds making your bed every morning, 20 minutes doing housework in the evening isn’t such a difficult thing to conquer.
* A messy bed tends to give a room an overall sense of chaos, whereas a made bed can make even a messy room seem more put together.
* It’s a small but tangible form of control over one’s environment. So many people let their homes get and stay in states of disarray, messiness, and chaos because it seems like the mess has more power than we do. If you can’t do everything, you can’t do anything, right? Wrong. You can make your bed.
* Because I said so.

Airline Fees

Gambling on a UFO at London Olympics

And bettors can wager on lots more than the competitive sports.

There are odds on UFO sightings and whether the final torch bearer trips while ascending to light the flame.

Did you know ...

Top Romney foreign policy adviser endorses Bachmann's anti-Muslim witchhunt

I wonder how Team Romney would feel about an anti-Mormon witch hunt?  Would that be okay too?  Or is religious bigotry acceptable in the Romney campaign only when it's focused on religions the Mormons don't like?
From Think Progress:
Today on Center for Security Policy president Frank Gaffney’s radio show, Mitt Romney foreign policy adviser John Bolton defended Rep. Michele Bachmann’s (r-MN) call for the U.S. government to investigate suggestions that government employees — including a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — are affiliated with a Muslim Brotherhood plot to infiltrate the U.S. government.
[Romney foreign policy adviser John] BOLTON: What I think these members of Congress have done is simply raise the question, to a variety of inspectors general in key agencies, are your departments following their own security clearance guidelines, are they adhering to the standards that presumably everybody who seeks a security clearance should have to go through, are they making special exemptions? What is wrong with raising the question? Why is even asking whether we are living up to our standards a legitimate area of congressional oversight, why has that generated this criticism? I’m just mystified by it.
Here's the problem. Some have expressed the concern that Romney will toe the Mormon line and do what his faith wants if he wins the presidency. That would be the same thing Romney adviser Bolton, and Bachmmann (and Dimbulb and Brick) are accusing Muslims of.

So, if Romney adviser Bolton thinks it's okay to ask government agencies to make sure that Muslims in government aren't secretly following the orders of Islam-central, wherever that may be, does Team Romney think it's okay to ask government agencies to do the same with Mormon federal employees?

Romney adviser says Obama doesn't appreciate America's white heritage

Why doesn't Romney simply start running ads saying "Vote Romney, he's whiter."
In an age in which it's apparently okay for Mitt Romney to repeatedly just make stuff up about President Obama, this interpretation of these incredibly inappropriate comments by a Romney advisers is more than fair.  

From ThinkProgress:
An adviser to Mitt Romney told a London paper that Obama has not been an effective partner for Britain because he doesn’t “fully appreciate” America’s “Anglo-Saxon heritage.” The racially tinged comments come hours before Romney lands in London for a series of high level meetings and the opening of the Olympic Games.

Jon Swaine of the Daily Telegraph has the story:
In remarks that may prompt accusations of racial insensitivity, one suggested that Mr Romney was better placed to understand the depth of ties between the two countries than Mr Obama, whose father was from Africa.

“We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special,” the adviser said of Mr Romney, adding: “The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have.”
Funny, because America's Anglo-Saxon heritage wasn't very important to the Romney family when they abandoned America and moved to Mexico in order to avoid US anti-polygamy laws (the 19th century's version of the Swiss bank account).  Even Mitt Romney's father was born in Mexico.  Not very Anglo-Saxon of him.  Not that I care, but Romney obviously cares - so he needs to explain the contradiction: Does he love America or not?

I don't know about you, but my family never abandoned America.  Romney's did.

"Obamacare" will reduce the federal deficit

That's the conclusion of the Congressional Budget Office:
President Barack Obama's health care overhaul will shrink rather than increase the nation's huge federal deficits over the next decade, Congress' nonpartisan budget scorekeepers said Tuesday, supporting Obama's contention in a major election-year dispute with repugicans.

About 3 million fewer uninsured people will gain health coverage because of last month's Supreme Court ruling granting states more leeway, and that will cut the federal costs by $84 billion, the Congressional Budget Office said in the biggest changes from earlier estimates.

The repugicans have insisted that "Obamacare" will actually raise deficits — by "trillions," according to presidential candidate Mitt Romney. But that's not so, the budget office said...

At the time it was approved in 2010, CBO estimated the law would reduce the deficit by $143 billion from 2010 to 2019. And CBO estimated that last year's repugican repeal legislation would increase deficits by $210 billion from 2010 to 2021. 
That may sound like a lot of money, but it's actually a hair-thin margin at a time when federal deficits are expected to average around $1 trillion a year for the foreseeable future. 
More details at the New York Times.


The repugicans to make rich tax cuts permanent, while doing away with tax cuts for middle class and poor

From the NYT. Classic.
Senate repugicans will press this week to extend tax cuts for affluent families scheduled to expire Jan. 1, but the same repugican tax plan would allow a series of tax cuts for the working poor and the middle class to end next year.

The repugicans say the tax breaks for lower-income families - passed with little notice in the extensive 2009 economic stimulus law - were always supposed to be temporary. But President Obama had made them a priority in 2009 and demanded their extension in 2010 as a price for extending the shub-era tax cuts for two years, and both the White House and Senate Democrats are determined to extend them again.

That sets up a potentially tricky issue for repugicans. They have said they do not want taxes to go up on anyone while the economy struggles to gain altitude, but under their plan, written by Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, the senior repugican on the Finance Committee, about 13 million families would see their tax refunds reduced, and some would see their taxes increase.

Former FBI cyber cop worries about a digital 9/11

In April, an obscure U.S. government agency slipped a hair-raising disclosure into its monthly newsletter: Hackers had successfully penetrated the networks of several natural gas pipeline operators.

The truth be told

Arizona sheriff faces his own words in lawsuit

When Joe Arpaio, the tough-talking Arizona law enforcement official, found himself in the awkward position of having his own words used against him in a discrimination lawsuit, the usually brash sheriff was unusually quiet.

The Maricopa County sheriff, testifying in the lawsuit accusing his office of racially profiling Hispanics, spoke in a hush.

Man charged for refusing to leave jail

A man who'd just been released from jail in northern North Carolina was arrested again for refusing to leave the jail after authorities wouldn't give him a ride to a motel.
Meanwhile in Oregon:
$2.1M bogus refund = prison time
A 25-year-old woman who duped the state of Oregon into giving her a $2.1 million tax refund pleaded guilty Tuesday and was sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison.

Venezuela deports alleged drug lord to Colombia

Venezuelan authorities on Wednesday deported an alleged Colombian drug lord who is accused of smuggling cocaine to the U.S. and running Colombia's biggest right-wing criminal gang.

Man who set fire causing $400m damage to nuclear-powered submarine wanted to go home early

A civilian maintenance worker who has been charged with setting fire to a nuclear-powered submarine was suffering from anxiety and wanted to leave work early, according to a US Navy investigation. Casey James Fury was taken into custody last Friday and was later charged with arson in connection with the fire on board the USS Miami on May 23 while it was in a dry dock at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine.

It caused an estimated $400m (£258m) in damage to the Los Angeles Class attack submarine, which was undergoing repairs and retrofitting. Fury is also charged with setting a second, smaller fire on June 16. The painter and sandblaster denied involvement in the first fire until he was given a lie detector test last Friday, according to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

When he was told some of his statements registered untrue, Fury finally admitted his involvement. He said he had begun to get anxious at around 5.30pm and left the torpedo room where he was working with his cigarettes and lighter. He saw a bag of rags in the corner of a room in the sub and allegedly set them on fire with alcohol wipes and his lighter.

"The reason he set the fire was in order to get out of work," NCIS special agent Jeremy Gauthier said. He added that Fury told investigators he was taking a variety of medications for anxiety, depression, allergies and insomnia at the time of the first incident. Fury also said he was anxious about a text conversation with his former girlfriend and wanted to leave work when he set the second blaze. If convicted, the 23-year-old faces up to life in prison.

Some 248 human fetuses found in forest

Villagers in Russia's south Urals have stumbled upon a gruesome discovery - four barrels containing 248 human fetuses left in a forest.

Polish couple face investigation 'for abandoning two-year-old daughter with expired passport at airport'

A Polish couple who jetted off on holiday after leaving their two-year-old daughter at the airport because she had an invalid passport will face a criminal investigation when they return from vacation. Airport staff reported the girl was left in tears after being abandoned at Katowice airport while the rest of her family boarded a flight to Greece.
Her parents had failed to notice that her passport had expired on May 25. Although a grandmother arrived later to collect the girl, police are investigating whether the well being of the child was threatened when her parents left, and are also checking the family's background.

"There are reports that the girl was hysterical when her mother left, and we want to check this," said Rafal Biczysko, a police spokesman. "We also want the family court to assess the care and upbringing of the child." Police will formally interview the parents when they return from their fortnight's holiday.

Cezary Orzech, spokesman for Katowice airport, explained the airport did not have the facilities to care for small children. "We have a point for lost luggage but the this is an airport is not a kindergarten," said. "We have never had a situation like this before."

Randon Celebrity Photo

Diana Dors.
Diana Dors

Dawn Of The Flick

The Doctors, Physicists, And Mathematicians Who Made The Movies
Early optical toys from the 19th century are expressions of our almost primal urge to animate the inanimate. Or so believes Richard Balzer, one of the foremost collectors of optical toys, magic lanterns, camera obscuras, and other objects that play tricks on the eye.

For Balzer, these early optical toys, as well as our continued fascination with flipbooks, are part of a continuum that has culminated in the movies.

Could Iron Man Get A DUI?

I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve always kind of wondered, “shouldn’t Tony Stark get a DUI for flying around in his suit while drunk?” As it turns out, I guess I’m not the only one who takes this matter seriously, as it turns out, Vista DUI lawyer Peter Liss has some thoughts on the matter as well:
In fact, the first time that Iron Man could potentially face a DUI charge in the films is when, in The Avengers, he enjoys a glass of scotch before Loki throws him out of the window. Fortunately, Stark is saved by his Mark VII armor, which suits him up and lets him fly away just before hitting the ground. As this is at the climax of the movie (we’ll try to leave out as many spoilers as possible), Tony then goes on to fight, until crashing to the ground at the end of the battle. In all, the epic battle scene only lasts about 15 minutes.
This is the type of situation where drinking and driving laws get a little bit tricky. You see, assuming Stark consumed about 4 ounces of alcohol and that he weighs around 170 pounds, he did drink enough to put him over the legal limit of 0.08% BAC.
Find out if Tony should, in fact, get arrested or not at the link.

Random Photo

Lab-Grown Mother of Pearl

Scientists have tried and tried to recreate nacre or mother of pearl, the iridescent material in the inner shell of many mollusks. Their attempts in copying nature have failed ... until now:
The previous attempts to make artificial nacre failed largely because the alternating layers of material didn't hold together—sort of like plywood with bad glue. In the latest research, the scientists solved this delamination problem by alternatively dipping a sheet of material into solutions of a vinyl polymer and an acrylic acid. They then dissolved the dried acid and hardened the remaining polymers by exposing them to ultraviolet light. Finally, the team slathered the porous surface with a noncrystalline form of calcium carbonate, which infiltrated the material and then slowly crystallized when placed in a container of humid air. By repeating this sequence of steps, the researchers created a multilayered coating (on strip at right above) that is tougher and even more iridescent than natural mother-of-pearl.

Ancient Poop Gives Clues to Diabetes Epidemic

Native Americans of the desert Southwest subsisted on a diet that was much higher in fiber than our modern foods. 
Analysis of ancient humans' poop revealed our diet used to contain significant quantities of fiber. Scientists believe as our diet changed our endocrine systems couldn't keep up.

DNA studies confirm validity of a shrunken head

Not all of them are fakes:
The study, published in the latest issue of Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, marks the first successful effort to unveil the genetic make-up of a shrunken head...

For the study, she and her colleagues used DNA testing and other techniques to examine the authenticity and possible cultural provenance of a shrunken head displayed at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv. The head remains in an incredible state of preservation, with the deceased man's hair, facial features and other physical characteristics intact.

Many shrunken heads are forgeries, with some 80 percent suspected to be fakes. The late 19th through the 20th centuries saw a rise in manufacture of such fakes for profit...

"The shrunken head we studied was made from a real human skin," Kahila Bar-Gal said. "The people who made it knew exactly how to peel the skin from the skull, including the hair," she added, mentioning that it was also salted and boiled. 

The researchers determined that the skin belonged to a man who lived and died in South America "probably in the Afro-Ecuadorian population." The genes reveal the victim's ancestors were from West Africa, but his DNA profile matches that of modern populations from Ecuador with African admixture.
More details at Discovery News.

Critical history of the war on sympathetic magic

"Very Superstitious," Colin Dickey's essay for Lapham's Quarterly, presents a critical take on The Golden Bough, James G. Frazer's 1890 classic text on superstition. Dickey frames contempt for sympathetic magic and its practitioners in the context of the decline of the British empire, and connects it with earlier critiques stretching all the way back to Plato. The essay ends with a section on witchhunting and the persecution of both midwives and promoters of the germ theory of disease, who were accused of practicing their own form of sympathetic magic.
The conviction that witches were behind dangerous storms and other unexpected perils highlights a curious reversal that had taken place with regard to sympathetic magic. If it had once been used as a ward against uncertainties, against the caprices of nature and sudden death, now many saw it primarily as a cause of these dangers. (The Malleus Maleficarum warns that witches “can also, before the eyes of their parents, and when no one is in sight, throw into the water children walking by the waterside; they make horses go mad under their riders.”) These primal anxieties, of course, hadn’t gone away, and James, afraid of drowning at sea, certainly hadn’t yet learned the Christian art of dying well.
Such subtleties were no doubt lost as the crush and waste of humanity that was the European witch panic took on a logic and inertia of its own. After all, it was good business. Agnes Sampson’s torture and execution, like most witch trials, wasn’t cheap, employing judges, scribes, bailiffs, jailers, and executioners—each of whom had a financial stake in further trials. The trial record of Suzanne Gaudry, executed in 1652 in Ronchain, France, notes that each member of the court was to be paid 4 livres, 16 sous, while the soldier who accompanied her to Roux for the trial was to be paid 30 livres. Around 1593 in Trier, the scholar Cornelius Loos quipped that witch persecutions were a new kind of alchemy, whereby “gold and silver [were] coined from human blood”—before all his books were burned and he was forced to publicly recant ever having said such a thing.
As the world was becoming more ordered and codified via patriarchal religion and a burgeoning system of capitalism, magic was seen as a threat because it circumvented these structures: it offered a life outside the authority of the Church and the hierarchies it had carefully cultivated. Little had changed; people still felt powerless in the face of nature, but now instead of turning to magicians, they blamed them. The Church, after all, rarely attacked sympathetic magic on the grounds that it was empirically fallacious or ineffective—rather, it was a rival source of power. Among the many scandalous aspects of witches’ sabbaths as they were popularly depicted was the commingling of social classes: women—and increasingly men—of all walks of life, from peasants to the aristocracy, all were equal at the Midnight Mass. This vision of a dark Utopia was as threatening—if not more so—than any of the black rites practiced therein.

Non Sequitur


Drought will push up food prices in 2013, USDA says

The record drought gripping half the country will help push food prices up by 3 percent to 4 percent next year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Wednesday.

Climate Change on the Alaska Highway

A 70-year-old highway linking Alaska and Canada is showing signs of a problem with potentially global consequences. 
  Climate Change on the Alaska Highway

July Scorcher Turns Greenland Into Giant Slushy

NASA: Strange and sudden massive melt in Greenland
These undated handout images provided by NASA shows the extent of surface melt over Greenland’s ice sheet on July 8, left, and July 12, right.

July's record-breaking scorcher hit Greenland hard this month, melting 97 percent of the surface ice cover to some degree in just a few days. Read more
July Scorcher Turns Greenland Into Giant Slushy

'Seeds' of Supermassive Black Holes Discovered

Three examples of the rarest class of black hole may have been uncovered near the center of our galaxy. Read more
  'Seeds' of Supermassive Black Holes Discovered

Daily Comic Relief

The Breathtaking Beauty of Milford Sound

Dusk light at Milford SoundGolden sunset over Milford SoundFiordland snowy peaksMitre Peak and mossy rocksMt Christina and the Darran Mts at dawnWaterfall into lake in Fiordland
Majestic and breathtakingly beautiful, Milford Sound was, surprisingly, relatively unexplored until quite recently. Mind-blowing photos of this Fiordland wonder follow. More 

Red Stone Valley

or ...  红石

Image: Guoxiang Liu
It's easy to see how the "Red Stone Valley," in China's Mount Gongga got its name. Those colorful rocks look like they're painted, but the red actually comes from a newly discovered variety of a species of algae:
Related algae have long lived here, but only in 2005 did this vast red algal mat appear, becoming a spectacular local tourist attraction. Now Guoxiang Liu of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Wuhan, Hubei, China, and colleagues have discovered that this was the result of a newly discovered variety of the algae Trentepohlia jolithus that suddenly expanded.
Why did it happen? Uniquely, this variety only grows on local rocks. In recent years, large debris flows combined with human activity, such as road construction, have exposed vast swathes of fresh native rock, ripe for the algae to colonise - and the mat has remained.
The mat's shocking red colour is related to organic pigments in the algae called carotenoids. These offer protection from UV radiation, allowing the algae to live in high altitude regions

Life of Flowers is Beautiful

Flowers usually bloom too slowly. This video speeds up the process so you can enjoy them on the go! Read more
  Life of Flowers is Beautiful: Gotta-See Videos

Record Summer Heat Brings Out the Bugs

Ants, fleas, ticks, earwigs and mosquitoes are among the pests making a strong showing this summer. Read more

Never before seen video of Orca attack at Sea World just released

It gets wild about 1:30 into the video. This was just released via FOIA request. It's of a 2006 attack where an Orca grabbed a trainer's foot and pulled him under.  He finally got free, but has wounds to both feed, including some breaks. I've got the video and screen captures below.

The video is really quite horrifying but also fascinating. The man gets pulled under, then after a while the animal resurfaces and stays at the surface for a while, still holding his foot in its mouth. He keeps patting the animal, trying to calm it, occasionally the Orca pulls him under again, as his foot is still in its mouth, then you notice from a different camera angle that his foot is free yet he's still patting the animal. It's not clear why until you realize that he's seems to be slowly pushing the animal towards the entry ramp to the pool. Just as he gets close enough, he releases the Orca then runs for his life to get out of the pool. It's amazing.

Here's the video, then some screen caps for those who may not wish to watch the entire video:

Screen captures:

The orca pulls the trainer down further.
The orca then swims around with the trainer's foot still in his mouth.
Finally, the animal and trainer are on the surface - you
finally realize at one point that his foot is free.
The trainer keeps slowing pushing the orca towards the entry
to the pool. 
The trainer makes a break for it, just as the orca realizes
and starts to turn around.
The trainer swims frantically for the edge of the pool,
the orca now clearly following him.
He gets to the edge of the pool, orca still coming.
Another trainer reaches out to help him as he frantically
tries to get out of the pool with a broken foot, the orca is now
at the edge of the pool, but diving.
He's out, the orca has moved on.