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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, August 2, 2012

The Daily Drift

IMG_0596 [800x600] by Evergreen_Photography on Flickr.
Autumn will be nice

Some of our readers today have been in:
Bogota, Colombia
Bayan Lepas, Malaysia
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Bangkok, Thailand
Cape Town, South Africa
Moscow, Russia
Kuantan, Malaysia
Guaynabo, Puerto Rico
Muar, Malaysia
Gdansk, Poland
Zagreb, Croatia
Caracas, Venezuela
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Rusanj, Serbia
Karachi, Pakistan
Khulna, Dangladesh
Johannesburg, South Africa
Makati, Philippines
Centurion, South Africa
Sofia, Bulgaria
Bucaramanga, Colombia
Southampton, England
Willemsted, Curacao

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Today in History

216 BC   Hannibal Barca wins his greatest victory over the Romans at Cannae. After avidly studying the tactics of Hannibal, Scipio Africanus eventually bested his Carthaginian adversary.
47 BC   Caesar defeats Pharnaces at Zela in Syria and declares, "veni, vidi, vici," (I came, I saw, I conquered).
1552   The treaty of Passau gives religious freedom to Protestants living in Germany.
1553   An invading French army is destroyed at the Battle of Marciano in Italy by an imperial army.
1589   During France's religious war, a fanatical monk stabs King Henry II to death.
1776   The Continental Congress, having decided unanimously to make the Declaration of Independence, affixes the signatures of the other delegates to the document.
1802   Napoleon Bonaparte is proclaimed "Consul for Life" by the French Senate after a plebiscite from the French people.
1819   The first parachute jump from a balloon is made by Charles Guille in New York City.
1832   Troops under General Henry Atkinson massacre Sauk Indian men, women and children who are followers of Black Hawk at the Bad Axe River in Wisconsin. Black Hawk himself finally surrenders three weeks later, bringing the Black Hawk War to an end.
1847   William A. Leidesdorff launches the first steam boat in San Francisco Bay.
1862   Union General John Pope captures Orange Court House, Virginia.
1862   The Army Ambulance Corps is established by Maj. Gen. George McClellan.
1876   Wild Bill Hickok is shot while playing poker.
1914   Germany invades Luxembourg.
1918   A British force lands in Archangel, Russia, to support White Russian opposition to the Bolsheviks.
1923   Vice President Calvin Coolidge becomes president upon the death of Warren G. Harding.
1934   German President Paul von Hindenburg dies and Adolf Hitler becomes chancellor.
1943   Lt. John F. Kennedy, towing an injured sailor, swims to a small island in the Solomon Islands. The night before, his boat, PT-109, had been split in half by the Japanese destroyer Amagiri.
1950   The U.S. First Provisional Marine Brigade arrives in Korea from the United States.
1964   U.S. destroyer Maddoxis reportedly attacked by North Vietnamese patrol boats.
1965   Newsman Morley Safer films the destruction of a Vietnamese village by U.S. Marines.
1990   Iraqi forces invade neighboring Kuwait.

Non Sequitur


Health Insurance Rebates: Is Your Check in the Mail?

A new provision of the Affordable Care Act - called the Medical Loss Ratio, or the "80/20 provision - could mean some Americans will see a rebate from their health insurance companies.

Let's just say it ...

Let's just say it: repugicans are the problem

"Romney will raise your taxes"

Obama seized on a new nonpartisan study suggesting Mitt Romney’s tax plan would raise taxes on most Americans in order to cut them for the very rich, accusing his opponent of favoring
millionaires over the middle class.

“Folks making $3 million a year or more, would get a quarter of a million dollar tax cut,”

Obama said. “But listen, it gets worse: under my opponent’s plan, who do you think gets
the bill for these $250,000 tax cuts? You do.”

Saying “you do not have to take my word for it,” Obama pointed to a new study which concluded

that even if Romney financed his reforms by eliminating existing tax breaks for the wealthy first,
the resulting changes would still raise taxes on the average family making under $200K by $2,000
while cutting taxes for the average American household making $3 million or more by close to $250,000.

“Here’s the thing: he’s not asking you to contribute more to pay down the deficit, he’s not asking you

to pay more to invest in our children’s education or rebuild our roads or put more folks back to work,”
Obama said.
“He’s asking you to pay more so that people like him can get a big tax cut.”

Powerful stuff - who's going to vote to have less so the super-rich can have more?

Romney's tax cuts will bust the budget

And the study says ...

What's particularly interesting is the study was done in the manner the repugicans have been demanding.

From the Washington Post:
The problem is, even when you do take the economic stimulus of tax cuts into account, Romney’s tax reductions still don’t come close to making up for the lost revenue. The Tax Policy Center used a “dynamic scoring” model that factors in the impact of economic growth brought on by tax cuts, devised by Romney adviser and Harvard professor Greg Mankiw and Harvard’s Matt Weinzierl. It’s exactly the kind of analysis that repugicans have been clamoring for, and the TPC finds that Romney’s individual tax cuts wouldn’t come close to paying for themselves. His tax cuts for individuals would spur economic growth that would ultimately bring $53 billion more to the government. But they would still cost the government about $307 billion in revenue, according to the study.

Mitt Romney Better Move to Right, Say Delusional Teabaggers

The Texas 'victory' of the bootlicking lacky, Ted Cruz, a young tea bag-backed repugican over an establishment candidate vying for a Senate seat, has already so emboldened the insurgent lunatic fringe wingnuts that agitators are warning Mitt Romney he had better get on board.
Note to all you teabaggers: Romney is already way too far to the right to even be considered a human being much less a candidate for public office.

Maurren Dowd on Romney's European misadventure

Maureen Dowd in the NYT:
Obama gave four press conferences and plenty of individual interviews when he went abroad as a candidate. But when reporters traveling with Romney mutinied as Mitt left a wreath-laying at a war memorial in Pilsudski Square, pressing on the gaffes and on why they were being shut out, campaign spokesman Rick Gorka shot back crudely that the press should kiss a part of his anatomy, noting incongruously: “This is a holy site for the Polish people. Show some respect.”

Romney himself tried the same silly spin with ABC News, telling David Muir when asked about the damaging headlines: “You know, I tend to tell people what I actually believe, and referring to the comments that were made in the media is something which I felt was an honest reflection of what was being concerned, or what was concerning folks.”

That quote is alarming on two levels: First, Romney never seems to say what he actually believes, and, second, he doesn’t seem to actually speak English.

The truth hurts

Call your Senator today and stop the Cyber Security Act of 2012

It legalizes spying on your email, chats, photos, social behavior, and location for any purpose
Tiffiny from champion SOPA-fighters Fight for the Future says:
This year, grassroots movements defeated SOPA in the US and ACTA in Europe. We might be able to make another bad-idea bill, CISPA, go down in flames too (or get the privacy protections we've been fighting for). CISPA-- which already passed the House -- would give government access to all your personal data with no restrictions on what they could do with it. The Senate version of CISPA, which is slightly better but could be made much, much worse is going to final vote today.
If you have a secret --
Or think it's creepy that the government listens in on your cell phone calls, knows your location right now, reads your emails, all without a warrant? A bill going to vote today in Congress would make all of this government spying legal.
Millions of us aren't aware of this bill or don't realize how far they go.
That's why we're sharing this link: doyouhaveasecret.org
We took some time to try to capture exactly what's so dangerous and disturbing about having secrets at all.
This year, grassroots movements defeated SOPA in the US and ACTA in Europe. We might be able to make another bad-idea bill go down in flames too (or get the privacy protections we've been fighting for).
This could be the year for internet freedom and the open internet to prevail above huge amounts of lobbying dollars. And racking up wins on SOPA, CISPA, ACTA -- that'd be unprecedented. Millions of people could help make that happen.

Desperate banks fall for the 419 advance-fee fraud

The FDIC has issues a special alert warning that America's debt-haunted, cash-strapped banks are falling prey to conmen working the advance fee fraud, the same scam used in the familiar "Nigerian prince" or "419" scam. The banks fork over big bucks to supposed high-flying investors who are supposed to come through with large sums in return, but who vanish into the ether instead.
The FDIC has become aware of multiple instances in which individuals or purported investment advisers have approached financially weak institutions in apparent attempts to defraud the institutions by claiming to have access to funds for recapitalization. These parties also may claim that the investors, or individuals associated with the investors, include prominent public figures and that the investors have been approved by one or more of the federal banking agencies to invest substantial capital in the targeted institutions. Ultimately, these parties have required the targeted institutions to pay, in advance, retention and due diligence fees, as well as other costs. Once paid, the parties have failed to conduct substantive due diligence or to actively pursue the proposed investment.

London mayor gets stuck on zip wire

London's eccentric mayor has provided comic relief to Olympic audiences once again, this time by getting stuck midway on a zip wire.

Speedo’s New Record-Breaking Swimsuit

It was just last night that I noticed that no Olympic swimmers are wearing the hi-tech full-body LZR suits that were all over the Beijing Olympics in 2008. It turns out those were banned by Olympic officials.
The new rules, in effect since 2010, permit only “jammers,” suits from the kneecap to navel for men, and from the knee to shoulder for women. The fabric must be air permeable, and a suit may not have any fastening devices such as a zipper, a response to companies that began creating wetsuit-like neoprene suits after the 2008 Olympics.
The swimsuit company Speedo took that as a challenge.
At Aqualab, researchers took four years and spent 55,000 man-hours to produce what Speedo calls the Fastskin 3 system. The internal team of 19 supplemented by outside experts talked to hydrodynamic experts, aircraft engineers and nano textile producers. They called on experts in kinesiology, biomechanics, fluid dynamics and even a sports psychologist, who suggested a blue-gray tinge on goggle lenses to instill a sense of calm and focus. They tried the “Six Thinking Hats” method of brainstorming, a green hat for creative ways to attack a problem, a black one to look at the feasibility of those ideas. They “reverse brainstormed,” picturing how to make a swimmer go as slow as possible with oversized goggles and a suit compressing the body so parts stuck out, creating drag. The crazier the idea, the better.
The result is the swimsuit you see Michael Phelps wearing here. Read about how it was developed and what makes it so special at Smithsonian. More

Did you know ...

About the Oxford English Fictionary

That a Florida man kills salesman for stepping on his property

Aw, it's the puppy cam!

And R.I.P brilliant writer, Gore Vidal

House approves new sanctions on Iran

The House voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to slap sanctions on Iran's energy, shipping and financial industries, convinced that increasing the economic pressure on Tehran will force it to abandon its suspected nuclear weapons program.

Obama authorized covert support for Syrian rebels

President Barack Obama has signed a covert directive authorizing U.S. support for Syrian rebels battling President Bashar al-Assad's forces, U.S. officials told CNN on Wednesday.

NATO should finish job in Afghanistan, Putin says

NATO forces should stay in Afghanistan until they have finished their job to ensure stability, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday, criticizing the planned withdrawal of most combat troops by 2014.

New Egyptian Cabinet has few holdovers, Islamists

Egypt's incoming Cabinet will have few Islamists and some holdovers from the outgoing military-backed team in key positions, according to a partial list released by state media Wednesday, a day before the first government under the country's new Islamist president is sworn in.

Syria's Assad urges his army to step up fight

Syrian President Bashar Assad urged his armed forces Wednesday to step up the fight against rebels as the UN reported a significant escalation in the civil war with the military using warplanes to fire on opposition fighters in the battle for Aleppo.

Palestinian women outraged by marketplace killing

Palestinian women hold signs in Arabic that read, "protecting women from violence is an official and social responsibility," right, and "shame on us.

Where extreme weather and infrastructure meet, bad things happen

When we lose our access to electricity, there's usually more than one thing that went wrong. But, one of the common things that does go wrong, especially in recent years, is extreme weather. The way the grid was built, and the way we manage it, was set up with predictable weather and climate norms in mind. When those things start to drastically shift—as we've seen over the last 10 years—the grid becomes vulnerable.And electricity isn't the only infrastructure affected.
On a single day this month here, a US Airways regional jet became stuck in asphalt that had softened in 100-degree temperatures, and a subway train derailed after the heat stretched the track so far that it kinked — inserting a sharp angle into a stretch that was supposed to be straight. In East Texas, heat and drought have had a startling effect on the clay-rich soils under highways, which “just shrink like crazy,” leading to “horrendous cracking,” said Tom Scullion, senior research engineer with the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University. In Northeastern and Midwestern states, he said, unusually high heat is causing highway sections to expand beyond their design limits, press against each other and “pop up,” creating jarring and even hazardous speed bumps.
The frequency of extreme weather is up over the past few years, and people who deal with infrastructure expect that to continue. Leading climate models suggest that weather-sensitive parts of the infrastructure will be seeing many more extreme episodes, along with shifts in weather patterns and rising maximum (and minimum) temperatures.
“We’ve got the ‘storm of the century’ every year now,” said Bill Gausman, a senior vice president and a 38-year veteran at the Potomac Electric Power Company, which took eight days to recover from the June 29 “derecho” storm that raced from the Midwest to the Eastern Seaboard and knocked out power for 4.3 million people in 10 states and the District of Columbia.
This story, by Matthew L. Wald and John Schwartz, will give you a great overview of the risks we're facing—and the high prices we're paying—as "the norm" becomes an old-fashioned concept.

Half Of US Counties Now Disaster Areas

More than half of U.S. counties now are classified by the federal government as natural disaster areas mostly because of the drought.

NW earthquake risk looms large; Oregon especially vulnerable

A comprehensive analysis of the Cascadia Subduction Zone off the Pacific Northwest coast confirms that the region has had numerous ...
Continue Reading

Crop circles appear in Washington

Spokane's KHQ-TV reports the appearance of crop circles in a Washington wheat field. Reporter Mike Perry:
The circles resemble a four-leaf clover and remind [landowner] Cindy Geib of Mickey Mouse ears. The design knocked down about an acre of their wheat. Some of it could be salvaged by combines when the harvest starts in a week or two, she said, but some will be lost.
"Of course, we don't have alien insurance," she said.

Pepper-spraying cop exits force

The cop who pepper-sprayed seated students at UC Davis last November is no longer employed by the force.
Nine months and $76,000 later, UC Davis's Pepper-Spray Pike is fired  
Lt John Pike, the UC Davis campus cop who attained infamy by casually walking a line of student protesters, pepper-spraying them at point-blank range, has been fired. He has been on administrative leave since the incident since the incident last November, and the university has paid him over $76,000 of his $110,243.12 salary during that period.

Man gets 125 years for stealing gun

A man convicted of stealing a gun used in a murder was given 125 years in prison - about a century longer than the actual killers received after taking plea deals.

Man hid meth in candy bars

A California man faces federal drug charges for allegedly trying to smuggle more than 4 pounds of methamphetamine to Japan in what looked like dozens of Snickers bars.

Perhaps you thought General Butt Naked in "Book of Mormon" was a fictional character?

You thought wrong. 
In Vanity Fair, Tom Freston profiles the former Liberian warlord turned evangelical minister whose alias many Americans know only through a character in Matt Stone and Trey Parker's Broadway hit, Book of Mormon. Snip:
Today known as Joshua Blahyi, he devotes himself to running a ministry, making amends, and rehabilitating former child soldiers. In his former life he ran the Butt Naked Brigade, a militia aligned with Samuel Doe. There were countless militias in those days, led by men who adopted noms de guerre such as General Bin Laden and General Mosquito. Butt Naked’s soldiers were particularly ruthless—killers and rapists who fought naked except for guns and shoes. Their nakedness was meant to instill fear and, they also thought, to protect them. By their own admission, before battle they often sacrificed young children, ate their hearts, and drank their blood. “The hearts were roasted,” Blahyi told me, as if that were a mitigating detail. In 2008, in front of Liberia’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, he claimed that he and his followers had killed more than 20,000 people.
Freston's June 2012 trip to Liberia was with the One Campaign, Bono's anti-poverty advocacy group. Freston is board chair.

Random Celebrity Photo

Kristin Kreuk

Yet another Marilyn Monroe mystery: Where are her 'censored' FBI files?

Like many of the stars of her era, Marilyn Monroe's movements, relationships and comments weren't just devoured by fans - they were followed closely by the FBI.

The history (and future) of kid's chemistry sets

Many of us are nostalgic for the lost golden era of certifiably dangerous children's chemistry sets. Even if we weren't alive when that era occurred, we're still, sort of, vicariously nostalgic. At the BBC, Alex Hudson has a story about what was really in those misty colored chemistry sets that have lodged themselves into our cultural memory. Along the way, we learn that their demise was only partly to do with unfounded safety fears—some of the fears were founded, for instance, and in other cases, money and seemingly unrelated legal issues got in the way of fun.
By the 1920s and 30s children had access to substances which would raise eyebrows in today's more safety-conscious times. There were toxic ingredients in pesticides, as well as chemicals now used in bombs or considered likely to increase the risk of cancer. And most parents will not need to be told of the dangers of the sodium cyanide found in the interwar kits or the uranium dust present in the "nuclear" kits of the 1950s.
Most will know cyanide as a deadly poison, but one of its main applications is in gold mining. It can make gold dissolve into water.
...Used often to test the presence of starch, the iodine solution once seen in kits is now regulated as a list I chemical in the US because of its use in the manufacture of methamphetamine. It can also be lethal if more than 2g of pure iodine is consumed.
Read the rest of this story at the BBC

Calculating the Cost of the Clue Mansion

In the board game Clue, you and quite a few murder suspects are in a mansion that contains a kitchen, ballroom, study, conservatory, billiard room, library, hall, lounge, dining room, and a cellar. How much would a real-life version of all that cost?
Turns out, regularly hosting your own criminal get-together requires a considerable amount of cash. Movoto Real Estate’s head economist estimated that Tudor Mansion would cost around $4,450,000 in American dollars–a fairly reasonable sum presuming that you’ll be using the house to shelter certain extermination practices.
To value the countryside estate, we had to first find the perfect Gothic death-chamber-evoking mansion.
Here’s the house we selected, and how we came up with our price tag.
It’s a nice house - you should go see it. More

All the way to Timbuktu

Timbuktu is, for the record, in the West African country of Mali. But how did it end up immortalized in Western idiom? Pamela Toler at Wonders and Marvels explains. Here's a hint: In the 14th century, the city was one of the major book-making centers in the entire world.

The Ancient Olympics: a “total pagan entertainment package”

National Geographic talked with Tony Perrotet, author of The Naked Olympics: The True Story of the Ancient Games about how the ancient Olympics compares with the modern version.
The Olympic Games were held every four years from 776 B.C. to A.D. 394, making them the longest-running recurring event in antiquity. What was the secret of the games’ longevity?
It was the sheer spectacle of it. Sports [were] one part of a grand, all-consuming extravaganza. It was first and foremost a religious event, held on the most sacred spot in the ancient world. It had this incredible aura of tradition and sanctity.
Today’s Olympics is a vast, secular event, but it doesn’t have the religious element of the ancient Olympics, where sacrifices and rituals would take up as much time as the sports. And there were all these pecripheral things that came with the festival: the artistic happenings, new writers, new painters, new sculptors. There were fire-eaters, palm readers, and prostitutes.
This was the total pagan entertainment package.
Perrotet elaborates on all those things in the rest of the interview at NatGeo.

Ancient Poisoners Discovered

Image: Francesco d’Errico and Lucinda Blackwell
Scientists studying the archaeological artifacts at the Border Cave in Africa discovered the earliest use of poison:
The researchers also dated a lump of beeswax mixed with toxic resin that was likely used to haft, or attach, stone points to the shafts of arrows or spears. The beeswax dates to about 35,000 years ago, making it the oldest known example of beeswax being used as a tool.
Finally, researchers dated a thin wooden stick scarred with perpendicular scratches. A chemical analysis revealed traces of ricinoleic acid, a natural poison found in castor beans. It’s likely that the stick was an applicator used to put poison on an arrow or spearheads, the archaeologists reported. At about 20,000 years old, the applicator marks the first use of poison ever discovered.

Elephant Crashes Pool Party

Remember the old joke: What does an 800-pound gorilla do? Anything he wants to! Along those lines, what do you do when an elephant crashes your pool party? Well, you really can’t do anything about it, so you may as well watch it on video. Notice how the camera shakes when he takes a step. That’s a big elephant.

Monkeys at ecological park treated for depression

Black howler monkeys at an Argentinian ecological park have been suffering depression following the death of two of the oldest females in the group and had to be given medication because they refused to eat.
Two alpha females died 1 1/2 years ago from natural causes at the Rio Cuarto Urban Ecological Park some 650 kilometres (400 miles) west of Buenos Aires, and from that moment "their male companions began suffering depression and four let themselves die of sadness," park director Miriam Rodriguez said. The black howler monkeys in this 12-hectare (30-acre) park "live in a group and are very close to one another," Rodriguez said.

"When the females died, we noticed the others behaving oddly, but we thought it might have been something they ate." Concerned about their lethargy and refusal to eat, park officials consulted specialists at the nearby Cordoba Zoo, who told them "the animals could be going through a phase of acute depression," Rodriguez said.

After several analyses, psychiatrist Sergio Castillo confirmed the diagnosis of depression and two months ago prescribed a treatment based on sertraline, "a mineral derived from the serotonin used in humans to reverse different symptoms originating from compulsive disorders or depression," veterinarian Ezequiel Carrizo said. There was initially some resistance to the treatment since it seemed "ridiculous to give them anti-depression medication even if it was only a minimum dose," Rodriguez said, adding that "it has begun to raise the monkeys' spirits."

Fruit flies on meth become anorexic, agitated

Now there's a Shocker for you ...
A new study published in the Journal of Toxicological Sciences shows that fruit flies on methamphetamine "drastically reduce their food intake and increase their physical activity, just as humans do." The U. of Illinois study tracked metabolic and behavioral changes in fruit flies on meth, and suggests that starvation is a primary driver of methamphetamine-related death in the little winged tweekers. Meth is, of course, not all that great for humans either. It "burdens the body with toxic metabolic byproducts and weakens the heart, muscles and bones," and "alters energy metabolism in the brain and kills brain cells."

Animal Pictures