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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 9, 2012

The Daily Drift


Valley view, yosemite (by Rajesh Bhattacharjee)

Some of our readers today have been in:
Lima, Peru
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Wronki, Poland
Cape Town, South Africa
Vancouver, Canada
Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
Panama City, Panama
Bandar Labuan, Malaysia
Sparta, Greece
Kuantan, Malaysia
Khulna, Bangladesh
Kirtipur, Nepal
Durban, South Africa
Islamabad, Pakistan
Tirana, Albania
Johannesburg, South Africa
Maribor, Slovenia
Manchester, England
Orleans, France
Liberty, Philippines
Ljubljana, Slovenia
Athens, Greece
Manila, Philippines
Midrand, South Africa

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Today in History

480 BC   The Persian army defeats Leonidas and his Spartan army at the battle Thermopylae, Persia.
48 BC   Julius Caesar defeats Gnaius Pompey at Pharsalus.
1483   Pope Sixtus IV celebrates the first mass in the Sistine Chapel, which is named in his honor.
1549   England declares war on France.
1645   Settlers in New Amsterdam gain peace with the Indians after conducting talks with the Mohawks.
1805   Austria joins Britain, Russia, Sweden and the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia in the third coalition against France.
1814   Andrew Jackson and the Creek Indians sign the Treaty of Fort Jackson, giving the whites 23 million acres of Creek territory.
1842   The Webster-Ashburn treaty fixes the border between Maine and Canada's New Brunswick.
1859   The escalator is patented. However, the first working escalator appeared in 1900. Manufactured by the Otis Elevator Company for the Paris Exposition, it was installed in a Philadelphia office building the following year.
1862   At Cedar Mountain, Virginia, Confederate General "Stonewall" Jackson repels an attack by Union forces.
1910   The first complete, self-contained electric washing machine is patented.
1936   Jesse Owens wins four gold medals in track and field events at the Berlin Olympics.
1941   President Franklin Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill meet at Placentia Bay, Newfoundland. The meeting produces the Atlantic Charter, an agreement between the two countries on war aims, even though the United States is still a neutral country.
1945   The B-29 bomber Bock's Car drops a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan.
1969   Charles Manson's followers kill actress Sharon Tate and her three guests in her Beverly Hills home.
1974   Gerald Ford is sworn in as president of the United States after the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

Is Obama going to win in a landslide?

Michael Tomasky of the Daily Beast think so.
There’s a secret lurking behind everything you’re reading about the upcoming election, a secret that all political insiders know—or should—but few are talking about, most likely because it takes the drama out of the whole business. The secret is the electoral college, and the fact is that the more you look at it, the more you come to conclude that Mitt Romney has to draw an inside straight like you’ve never ever seen in a movie to win this thing. This is especially true now that it seems as if Pennsylvania isn’t really up for grabs. Romney’s paths to 270 are few.
Sure, something big could happen to alter the dynamic completely. But we’ve watched these guys go, what, six or seven rounds now (out of 15). After seven rounds, you can pretty well tell some things. All the supposedly game-changing events of the last few weeks haven’t changed much of anything. This is a paradoxical situation that has little or no modern precedent, which makes it hard for people to accept. Liberals are too nervous to think it, reporters too intent on a “down to the wire” narrative, and conservatives too furious and disbelieving, but it’s shaping up to be true: An extremely close election that on election night itself stands a surprisingly good chance of being not that close at all.
I will say that the level of vitriol, and outright lies, coming from the Romney folks, and the repugicans generally, have started to make me wonder if the repugican party isn't already in panic mode about November election.

Non Sequitur


July in U.S. was hottest month ever in history books

By Seth Borenstein
  • FILE - In this July 18, 2012 file photo, Jazia Pratt, 8, fills a bucket with water from a fire hydrant in the afternoon summer heat in Philadelphia. Federal scientists say July was the hottest month ever recorded in the Lower 48 states, breaking a record set during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. The average temperature last month was 77.6 degrees. That breaks the old record from July 1936 by 0.2 degree, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Records go back to 1895.
This probably comes as no surprise: Federal scientists say July was the hottest month ever recorded in the Lower 48 states, breaking a record set during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.
And even less a surprise: The U.S. this year keeps setting records for weather extremes, based on the precise calculations that include drought, heavy rainfall, unusual temperatures, and storms.
The average temperature last month was 77.6 degrees. That breaks the old record from July 1936 by 0.2 degree, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Records go back to 1895.
"It's a pretty significant increase over the last record," said climate scientist Jake Crouch of NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. In the past, skeptics of global warming have pointed to the Dust Bowl to argue that recent heat isn't unprecedented. But Crouch said this shows that the current year "is out and beyond those Dust Bowl years. We're rivaling and beating them consistently from month to month."
Three of the nation's five hottest months on record have been recent Julys: This year, 2011 and 2006. Julys in 1936 and 1934 round out the top five.
Last month also was 3.3 degrees warmer than the 20th century average for July.
Thirty-two states had months that were among their 10 warmest Julys, but only one, Virginia, had the hottest July on record. Crouch said that's a bit unusual, but that it shows the breadth of the heat and associated drought.
For example in 2011, the heat seemed to be centered mostly in Oklahoma and Texas. But this summer "the epicenters of the heat kind of migrated around. It kind of got everybody in the action this month," Crouch said.
The first seven months of 2012 were the warmest on record for the nation. And August 2011 through July this year was the warmest 12-month period on record, just beating out the July 2011-June 2012 time period.
But it's not just the heat that's noteworthy. NOAA has a measurement called the U.S. Climate Extreme Index which dates to 1900 and follows several indicators of unusually high and low temperatures, severe drought, downpours, and tropical storms and hurricanes. NOAA calculates the index as a percentage, which mostly reflects how much of the nation experience extremes. In July, the index was 37 percent, a record that beat the old mark for July last year. The average is 20 percent.
For the first seven months of the year, the extreme index was 46 percent, beating the old record from 1934. This year's extreme index was heavily driven by high temperatures both day and night, which is unusual, Crouch said.
"This would not have happened in the absence of human-caused climate change," said Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann.
Crouch and Kevin Trenberth, climate analysis chief of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said what's happening is a double whammy of weather and climate change. They point to long-term higher night temperatures from global warming and the short-term effect of localized heat and drought that spike daytime temperatures.
Drought is a major player because in the summer "if it is wet, it tends to be cool, while if it is dry, it tends to be hot," Trenberth said.
So the record in July isn't such a big deal, Trenberth said. "But the fact that the first seven months of the year are the hottest on record is much more impressive from a climate standpoint, and highlights the fact that there is more than just natural variability playing a role: Global warming from human activities has reared its head in a way that can only be a major warning for the future."
Here are some more numbers unlikely to provide cold comfort. The coolest July on record was in 1915. The coldest month in U.S. history was January 1979 with an average temperature of 22.6 degrees.

Daily Funny

There was once a man and woman who had been married for more than 60 years. They had shared everything. They had talked about everything. They had kept no secrets from each other except that the little old woman had a shoe box in the top of her closet that she had cautioned her husband never to open or ask her about.

For all of these years, he had never thought about the box, but one day the little old woman got very sick and the doctor said she would not recover. In trying to sort out their affairs, the little old man took down the shoe box and took it to his wife's bedside. She agreed that it was time that he should know what was in the box.

When he opened it, he found two crocheted doilies and a stack of money totalling $25,000. He asked her about the contents.

"When we were to be married," she said, "my grand-mother told me that the secret of a happy marriage was to never argue. She told me that if I ever got angry with you, I should just keep quiet and crochet a doily."

The little old man was so moved, he had to fight back tears. Only two precious doilies were in the box. She had only been angry with him two times in all those years of living and loving.

He said, "But what about all of this money? How did you manage to save all this money?"

"Oh," she said, "that's the money I made from selling doilies."

Did you know ...

At the repugican convention there are no puppets allowed
(Well, there goes that convention - they'll be no one there because they're all puppets

csi: target

That Romney will lower your taxes - if you're part of the richest 5%
(Aw, now ain't that just sweet)

Did Faux cause Olympian Gabrielle Douglas to stumble

We wrote about Faux News' not so subtle racist attack on Olympian Gabrielle Douglas.  Other media decided to go after her mother.  And some folks decided to criticize her hair.
Well, she spoke out about all of this, as it was clearly getting to her.  Not something an Olympian needs before a competition.

So what happened next?  She stumbled and lost what might have been her next medal.  Was it because her country was rooting for him, but rather was criticizing her, incessantly, in her moment of glory?

More on this from Sally Jenkins at the Washington Post:
It took just four days to suck all the energy out of Douglas.First, she awoke after the achievement of a lifetime to a ludicrous, racially loaded conversation about the neatness of her coif, started by a bunch of Twitter critics. To be frank, anyone who eyed Douglas’s ponytail was looking for a reason to criticize. Her performances were so entrancing that you could only notice her hair if you dragged your eye there with a malicious purpose. So instead of reveling in her victory, Douglas found herself addressing her coif.
Faux is worried about black Olympians' patriotism.  Perhaps it should examine its own.

Five Olympians Who Won Fame by Losing

jamaican Bobsleigh Team
People love to root for the underdog, and we all love a good story. Every once in a while an athlete or a team makes it to the Olympics and fails so spectacularly (often with an interesting backstory) that they become a fan favorite just for participating. Remember the Jamaican bobsled team?
Their underdog status endeared them quickly to fans and inspired the 1993 film "Cool Runnings." The Jamaicans had not practiced much before shipping off to Calgary, where they had to borrow sleds from their competitors to race.
Despite their poor showing in Calgary and in the 1992 Olympics in Albertville, France, the team surprised skeptics with a 14th-place finish in the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, beating out the United States, Russia and France.
Read more about the team and four other fan favorites at ABC.

Talking about cars

BUICK LeSabre Concept.

Former MPAA CTO who switched sides explains to the White House why SOPA is stupid

You may remember Paul Brigner, the geek who quit his job as CTO of the MPAA to work for its arch-rival net-freedom advocates at the Internet Society, who manage the .ORG top-level domain. He has just filed comments with the White House's IP Czar rubbishing the techniques proposed in SOPA, which contemplated censoring the Internet by tinkering with the domain-name service in the hopes of reducing copyright infringement. At the time that Brigner left the MPAA for ISOC, a lot of us were worried that he'd officially endorsed SOPA and argued in favor of it at Congress. Brigner and ISOC both assured us that he'd had a genuine change of heart, and these comments are the proof in the pudding. As Mike Masnick notes, Brigner was a pretty half-hearted, ineffective SOPA advocate, but he's a rip-snortin', ass-kicking critic of it.
We are also of the opinion that any enforcement attempts – at both national and international levels – should ensure and not jeopardize the stability, interoperability and efficiency of the Internet, its technologies and underlying platforms. The Internet – a network of networks – is based on an open and distributed architecture. This model should be preserved and should surpass any enforcement efforts. For the Internet Society preserving the original nature of the Internet is particularly significant, especially when enforcement is targeting domain names and the Domain Name System (DNS) in general. There are significant concerns from using the DNS as a channel for intellectual property enforcement and various contributions have been made on this issue by both the Internet Society and the technical community. It needs to be highlighted that from a security perspective, in particular, DNS filtering is incompatible with an important security technology called Domain Name Security Extensions or DNSSEC. In fact, there is great potential for DNSSEC to be weakened by proposals that seek to filter domain names. This means that DNS filtering proposals could ultimately reduce global Internet security, introduce new vulnerabilities, and put individual users at risk.
Our second recommendation relates to the legal tools that should be in place in any enforcement design. ISOC would like to stress the absolute need for any enforcement provisions to be prescribed according to the rule of law and due process. We believe that combating online infringement of intellectual property is a significant objective. However, it is equally important that this objective is achieved through lawful and legal paths and in accordance with the notion of constitutional proportionality. In this regard, enforcement provisions – both within and outside the context of intellectual property – should respect the fundamental human rights and civil liberties of individuals and, subsequently, those of Internet users. They should not seek to impose unbearable constitutional constraints and should not prohibit users from exercising their constitutional rights of free speech, freedom of association and freedom of expression.
As a general recommendation, we would like to emphasize our belief that all discussions pertaining to the Internet, including those relating to intellectual property - both at a national and international level - should follow open and transparent processes.
Former MPAA CTO Tells The White House Why SOPA Is The Wrong Approach For IP Enforcement

Japanese Company Switches Entirely to the English Language

Hiroshi MikitaniHiroshi Mikitani, the founder of Rakuten Inc., has a bold approach to making his company competitive in international markets. He's making employees conduct all of their communications--meetings, emails, verbal conversations--in the English language:
At the time of the 2010 announcement, only about 10 percent of Rakuten’s 6,000 Japanese employees could function in English, according to a case study by the Harvard Business School. Rakuten operated in just two foreign countries — it has since expanded into 10 more — and most of its business came from Japan. Critics argued that Rakuten’s employees, forced to hold meetings and write memos in English, would simply become less articulate, less efficient and far less happy.
At times, the two-year transition from Japanese to English — dubbed by the company as “Englishization” — has been as awkward as the term itself. Workers were told they would face demotions if they didn’t reach target test scores, and a handful of employees quit, Mikitani said. Other workers, quoted without the use of their names in the 2011 Harvard case study, saw it as an “exercise in perpetual humiliation” or as a “layoff tool.” [...]
At Rakuten, workers scrambled to improve their language skills by the July 1 target date, after which all major internal documents and meetings were to be in English. About 75 percent of Rakuten’s employees are based in Japan, the company says, and its foreign employees face the same language requirements.

Mexican-US illegal migration has been largely static since the 1950s

Princeton's alumni magazine has an excellent profile of Douglas Massey, Henry G. Bryant Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs and director of Princeton’s Office of Population Research. Massey studies patterns of US migration, particularly illegal immigration from Mexico. His research is the only rigorous census of Mexican-American illegal immigration flows, and its conclusions are that the US perception of Mexican migration is completely backwards, and that the major immigration problems are the result of bad policy, not changes in volume:
The MMP’s reports are freely available to anyone through its website, http://mmp.opr.princeton.edu. But statistics can be sterile things. Get Massey going, and one gets an earful about the true state of affairs along the border. To wit:
* We are not being flooded with illegal Mexican migrants. The total number of migrants from Mexico has varied very little since the 1950s. The massive influx many have written about never happened.
* Net illegal migration has stopped almost ­completely.
* Illegal migration has not stopped because of stricter border enforcement, which Massey characterizes as a waste of money at best and counterproductive at worst.
* There are indeed more undocumented Mexicans living in the United States than there were 20 years ago, but that is because fewer migrants are returning home — not because more are sneaking into the country.
* And the reason that fewer Mexican citizens are returning home is because we have stepped up border enforcement so dramatically.
Mull over that last point for a minute. If Congress had done nothing to secure the border over the last two decades — if it had just left the border alone — there might be as many as 2 million fewer Mexicans living in the United States today, Massey believes.

US seeks smooth but unlikely transition in Syria

But the U.S. faces a hard sell with Syria's fighters after refusing to back them militarily and watching them squabble for months over how to reshape their country the day after President Bashar Assad's regime crumbles, as expected.

American off-duty cop complains he couldn't pack heat in Canada, worries about guys who talked to him and then went away

"This letter to the editor for a Kalamazoo police officer to the Calgary Herald has been floating around Twitter and the internet today, mostly for the purposes of mocking it. The officer describes an incedent that he feels is a good example of why Canada should allow concealed firearms. Two men came up to him and his wife to ask if they had been to the Calgary Stampede, and...that's all. The newspaper has already released an editorial explaining that it's a real letter they received from a real police officer, and that it isn't a hoax. I thought it might be right up Boingboing's alley. It really does illustrate a cultural divide between Canadian and (some) Americans' views on gun control. It has also sparked the Twitter hashtag #NoseHillGentleman." Even with the newspaper's reassurance, I find it hard not to believe that this guy isn't trolling -- the cliche is too perfect.
Recently, while out for a walk in Nose Hill Park, in broad daylight on a paved trail, two young men approached my wife and me. The men stepped in front of us, then said in a very aggressive tone: "Been to the Stampede yet?"
We ignored them. The two moved closer, repeating: "Hey, you been to the Stampede yet?"
I quickly moved between these two and my wife, replying, "Gentle-men, I have no need to talk with you, goodbye." They looked bewildered, and we then walked past them.
I speculate they did not have good intentions when they approached in such an aggressive, disrespectful and menacing manner. I thank the Lord Jesus Christ they did not pull a weapon of some sort, but rather concluded it was in their best interest to leave us alone.
Would we not expect a uniformed officer to pull his or her weapon to intercede in a life-or-death encounter to protect self, or another? Why then should the expectation be lower for a citizen of Canada or a visitor? Wait, I know - it's because in Canada, only the criminals and the police carry handguns.

Random Celebrity Photo

Charles Chaplin

Sikh temple killing suspect's ex-con, white power, ex-girlfriend, busted on illegal gun rap

Misty Cook, 31, and Wade Michael Page drifted apart in the weeks before the killing, a neighbor says. She is forbidden to own firearms because of a felony conviction for fleeing and eluding a traffic officer.  

Police have taken the ex-girlfriend of Wisconsin Sikh temple gunman Wade Michael Page into custody on a weapons charge, ABC News reported. Misty Cook, 31, is forbidden to own a firearm because she is a convicted felon. But cops in Milwaukee say they found a gun in the home she shared with Page and arrested her Tuesday.

Another man arrested for bringing Glock, four knives, ton of ammo to Dark Knight movie

Westlake Patch (Ohio):
No one else was in the theater when Smith sat down in the middle of the back row, Arcuri said.

"Where he was sitting, he had the tactical advantage," Arcuri said. "He had targets to the left, to the right, and straight ahead."

While the manager had let Smith through, off-duty Westlake police officer Jeremiah Bullins grew suspicious of Smith and followed him into the theater. When he spotted Smith in the back row, Smith had removed the bag from his waist and placed it on the floor.

Bullins asked Smith if he could search the bag and Smith agreed. That's when Bullins opened the zippered compartment and found a loaded 9MM Glock semiautomatic handgun, two additional fully loaded magazines, and three knives. A fourth knife was found elsewhere on Smith.

Also in the bag, Arcuri said, were a flashlight, medicated bandages that help clot blood, and a capsule that is dropped in fresh water to make it safe to drink.
At his home, police found pistols, shotguns and rifles, "thousands" of bullets, and a gas mask.

Because what rabbit hunter doesn't need thousands of bullets and a gas mask?

The NRA, and their gun nuts in Congress, keep defending our lax gun slaws, claiming they're all we need to keep crazy people from getting guns.  Yet the crazy people keep getting guns, lots of them, not to mention additional gear like kevlar and gas masks that will help improve their kills during the next mass slaughter.

We've tried it the NRA's way, and they failed.

Criminal Mastermind Tries to Carjack US Marshals

US Marshals sealA carjacker in Shreveport, Louisiana experienced a major failure in the victim selection process when he tried to take a car that was stopped at a red light. Inside were three US Marshals:
Authorities say when Carter realized he had just tried to carjack three officers, he started running, but was caught a short time later.
He was booked into jail for attempted carjacking.
"To us, it's kind of comical. It's the kind of thing a police officer almost wishes would happen to him so somebody in the general public doesn't become a victim," said Turner

Man Tries to Sell Counterfeiting Machine at a Famous Pawn Shop

moneyAmerican Jewelry and Loan in the famous Detroit pawn shop where the reality TV show Hardcore Pawn is shot. According to its flamboyant owner Les Gold, people travel enormous distances to visit it and possibly appear on the hit show. One customer took even more extreme measures. He tried to sell his counterfeit money and the machine that he used to make it:
So Gold didn’t bat an eyelash when Smith showed up and wanted to sell him his counterfeit money and machine. He wanted to be on the show. Smith told Gold he would bring his counterfeiting equipment to the store. A short time later the Secret Service showed up at American Jewelry and Loan. They had been tracing Smith's activities since he had been passing his fake bills.
Gold filled them in on what Smith had told him and the agents found out Smith's counterfeiting claims had been captured on camera for the show. [...]
 As Gold says, “All because he wanted his five minutes of fame on TV."
Smith actually signed a waiver to be on the TV show.

Covered wagon rams police car

Imagine getting hit by a covered wagon on the highway pulled by mules.
That's what happened to police in Oklahoma Saturday night when they arrested Keith Woolery.

Smuggler's Blues

6 charged in NY with smuggling drugs in candy
They allege 39-year-old Jorge Guerrero arranged to ship innocent-looking but drug-laden packages on cargo planes from Guayaquil, Ecuador, to New York's Kennedy Airport.

Firm formerly known as Blackwater fined $7.5 million
The international security contractor formerly known as Blackwater has agreed to pay a $7.5 million fine to settle federal criminal charges related to arms smuggling and other crimes.

Dewani accused admits murder charge

Briton Shrien Dewani who is accused of organizing the murder of his wife in South Africa - one man has pleaded guilty to the killing One of two men accused of being hired by British newlywed Shrien Dewani to kill his bride on their honeymoon in Cape Town has pleaded guilty.

Daily Comic Relief

Near-Intact Roman Ship Holds Jars of Food

Italian police divers have discovered an almost intact Roman ship in the sea, buried in mud that has preserved the food inside its jars.  
Near-Intact Roman Ship Holds Jars of Food

World's earliest known matchsticks

 Media Images 62103000 Jpg  62103034 Tools
Small clay and stone artifacts found in Israel's Jordan Valley, long thought to be phallic symbols, may actually be 8,000-year-old matchsticks. Scientists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem used electro-microscopy to examine the objects, kept in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, and found friction marks and possible burn marks suggesting that the cylinders had been used to start fires.
"We have fire evidence in modern humans and Neanderthals, from charcoal, ashes and hearths, but there was nothing ever found that was connected with how you ignite the fire," lead author Prof Naama Goren-Inbar of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem told BBC News. But on a visit to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, Professor Goren-Inbar recognized the shape of structures discovered at the Sha'ar HaGolan archaeological site as that found in tools used for purposes other than simply cultural ones.
"I saw this object and immediately it came to my mind that this was very, very similar to all the sticks that you see [used as] 'fire drills'. I made the connection and it slowly developed," she said.

Graphic Design History Carved Into Stone

These motto stones are known as the Babson Boulders, named after millionaire philanthropist Roger Babson, who commissioned out of work stonecutters to carve words into the boulders around Dogtown Common, Massachusetts.
The Babson Boulders date back to the 1930s, and many of the slogans have that Depression Era air of inspired determination, like a stony band of self-help gurus.

First Website Ever Celebrates 21st Birthday

Twenty-one years ago, on August 6, 1991, the first website was published. It was just basic text, with some words oddly highlighted (see here).

Tim Berners-Lee, who is widely credited with inventing the World Wide Web, published that site from CERN, the world's largest physics lab in Geneva, Switzerland. He used the machine pictured above - a NeXT computer - to create the page.

Thirty Giant Figures Seen from Google Earth

Once upon a time, in the far, far away land of Techgeeks lived two university pals named Larry Page and Sergey Brin. They spent long hours dreaming of a company that one day would be the biggest search engine in the world, offering mere mortals the opportunity to traverse the great plains of the planet without moving their lazy asses.

Information would be available at the touch of a square key and people could search for the most bizarre, beautiful, weird and wonderful images relayed by satellites dotted around the globe. This would make for a very happy life. This is Google Earth.

Seven Amazing Natural Landmarks

Still sizing up your summer travel plans? Well, if you’re looking to enjoy some of the most fascinating locations ever created by Mother Nature, then you might want to check out one of these gorgeous and strange natural landmarks.

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

The title of “world’s largest salt flat” might not sound all that exciting, but when you actually see pictures of these gorgeous 4,000 miles of flatlands, you’ll immediately see why they are so special. The entire salar is covered with a salt crust that becomes a giant mirror when it gets rained on. The mirror-like planes offer such a strong reflection that satellites even use the salar to recalibrate their systems. As if that weren’t a cool enough sight, the area is also a major breeding ground for flamingos who feed on the brine shrimp and red algae that thrive in the shallow water. Vacationing in the salt flats is a unique experience, as you not only get to enjoy the beauty of the landmark, but you will most likely stay in a hotel built from the only available natural resource in the area –blocks of salt. At many of these local hotels, even the furniture is made from salt!

Pamukkale, Turkey

When you see the pictures of these natural hot springs, consisting of a multitude of natural mineral terraces, you’ll see why the ancient Turks called it “cotton castle,” and why the area was named a World Heritage Site. The terraces are made from travertine, a sedimentary rock that is created from jelly-like calcium deposits in the hot springs themselves. Of course, while people come to see the terraces, they stay for the stunning hot springs, which range in temperature from nice and warm at 95 degrees to nice and deadly at 212 degrees. While bathing in the pools has been a popular attraction for millennia, these days, it is illegal to wear shoes in the water in order to protect the mineral deposits from damage.

Dallol, Ethiopia

The salt and sulfur formations at Dallol look more like a set on a sci fi film than a real place on Earth, but these gorgeous hot springs, formed in a volcanic crater, are very real –and very dangerous. Unlike the hot springs of Pamukkale, the springs and geysers here release brine and toxic fumes, the very reason Dallol has such a fascinating color scheme. And the water’s still not safe once it’s on the surface, the pools of green water are dangerously acidic, hence the area’s name, which translates to “disintegration” in the local tongue. As if all that weren’t enough to keep you away, Dallol is one of the hottest places on earth, with an average yearly temperature of 93 degrees –keep in mind that means that it can get much, much hotter throughout the year. This is definitely one of those landmarks that is better seen in pictures than in person.

Jellyfish Lake, Palau

If someone wants you to “sleep with the fishes,” that’s a threat. On the other hand, if they say you might soon be “swimming with the jellyfishes,” they could be offering you a magical experience on the Eil Malk island in Palau. While snorkeling around a bunch of jellyfish is usually a terrible idea, this is a special circumstance because these two particular species do not have enough toxins in their bodies to hurt humans. That’s because they evolved in a lake where they have so few natural predators and their diet consists of zooplankton and algae, which do not need to be captured using the jellyfish’s stinger. Scuba diving is illegal in the lake because the bubbles may injure the jellyfish and because the bottom layer of the lake consists largely of hydrogen sulfide, which can be deadly if absorbed through the skin. Snorkeling requires the swimmer to stay somewhat near the surface and since this deadly lake layer sits 50 feet below the surface, it is safe to snorkel. In a way, swimming with jellyfish in a stratified lake that contains deadly levels of hydrogen sulfide is one of the safest (and most fun) ways to cheat death, which is probably why the lake is such a popular tourist destination.

Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

Here’s one you Led Zeppelin fans are no doubt familiar with, as it was famously featured on the cover of their Houses of the Holy album. For those that aren’t aware though, the Giant’s Causeway is a massive area of interlocking basalt columns created after an ancient volcanic eruption. The lava cooled rapidly and then contracted, leaving many deep cracks that were further deepened thanks to erosion, creating around 40,000 pillar-like structures. The World Heritage Site is now considered one of the top natural landmarks in all of the U.K. and the most popular tourist attraction in Northern Ireland. Of course, the legends surrounding the amazing landmark only add to the area’s intrigue. The most famous legend says that an Irish warrior built the causeway so he could walk to Scotland to fight his Scottish rival. Unfortunately, after seeing his enemy’s size, he fled in fear and then asked his wife to help disguise him as a baby. When the Scotsman came calling and saw the massive “infant,” he assumed the father must be a giant, so he ran back to Scotland, destroying the rest of the causeway in order to stop the giant from following him home. The legend fits in with nature as there are similar basalt formations on the isle of Staffa in Scotland that were actually created by the same ancient lava flow.

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, China

If you were one of the many people to fall into a deep depression after realizing you’d never be able to get to visit the land of Pandora featured in Avatar, then you might feel better after taking a trip to Zhangjiajie National Forest Park. After all, the stunning natural setting was one of the biggest inspirations for the floating forests of Pandora and the most famous of the mountains has even recently been renamed the “Avatar Hallelujah Mountain” in honor of the film. Even if the entire area doesn’t become a bioluminescent wonderland after dark, it is still simply gorgeous, consisting of dozens of massive, pillar-like rock formations covered in rich, natural foliage. The massive columns were created by erosion and given that the weather in the park is pretty wet all year round, it’s easy to imagine massive cliffs getting readily worn down by the constant moisture, particularly by the expanding ice that freezes the area in the winter. The area is so famous in China that it actually became the country’s first national forest park and it can be seen represented in hundreds of ancient Chinese paintings.

The White Desert, Egypt

While we tend to think of deserts all consisting of orange sand dunes, they really do come in all sorts of textures and colors. Even so, the White Sesert located in the greater Sahara Desert is still a drastic change from the usual. The gorgeous white and cream chalk formations, that look like they could fall at a moment’s notice, were created as a result of sandstorms in the area breaking down a large plateau that was created millennia ago, when the area was still under the sea. In some areas, it almost looks as though the desert recently was buried under a bizarre snow storm.

Retro Photo

Amtrak's $16 Burger

You can get $16 hamburgers at fancy restaurants, but it takes Big Government's Amtrak to sell hamburgers that cost that much AND incur a loss of $834 million over the past 10 years.
The secret? Amtrak sells microwaved burgers for $9.50, but pays out over $16 in food cost and labor:
Amtrak spent $1.70 for every dollar it earned on food and beverage sales last year, leading to a loss of $84.5 million on the service, according to information provided to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee this week.
Committee Chairman John Mica (r-FL) blasted the “inefficient and wasteful” record of the nation’s rail line, pointing out the substantial cost to taxpayers occurring with each transaction.
“Over the last 10 years, these losses have amounted to a staggering $833.8 million,” said Mica. “It costs passengers $9.50 to buy a cheeseburger on Amtrak, but the cost to taxpayers is $16.15. Riders pay $2 for a Pepsi, but each of these sodas costs the U.S. Treasury $3.40.”

Lobster and Caviar Burgers ...

Lobster and Caviar Burgers...at Wendy's?
Lobster lovers in Japan can now get their favorite shellfish at an unlikely location.

What you can learn from a chimpanzee's diet

Given the trend lately to look backwards, historically, in search of the ideal human diet, I found this article by Rob Dunn really interesting. Dunn discusses some new research that gives us a better idea of what our closest relatives—chimpanzees and bonobos—are eating out in the wild.
Some of the takeaways fit neatly into the current human food zeitgeist—chimpanzees eat a diverse and varied diet, only consume small amounts of meat, and (for obvious reasons) focus on what happens to be in season and available. But some of the information is less apparently applicable to us. For instance, chimpanzees fracking love figs. In fact, different species of figs make up nearly half of all the food the chimpanzees in the study were eating. Figs, people. Can't get enough of 'em.
But the larger point, Dunn writes, is that we can't really apply any of the facts about chimpanzee diets directly to ourselves in a "Just So Story" sort of way. Geography, resource availability, and culture don't work like that. Neither does biology.
You are unlikely to eat like a chimpanzee eats. If you are the average American, you eat more meat and more simple sugar. You eat differently because of choices you make and choices our societies have made (e.g., to produce huge quantities of the foods that most simply satisfy our ancient urges). You also eat differently because the species around you are different, unless you happen to own a greenhouse specializing in tropical African trees.
But even if you were to abandon agricultural food and move into a forest in Tanzania you would still not eat exactly like a chimpanzee. By most reports the food chimpanzees eat tastes bad, at least to humans, (though, one hopes, not to chimpanzees). By some accounting the food chimpanzees eat is also insufficient to keep a human alive and fertile.
Four mutilations of livestock in Gunnison, Colorado over the last few months are freaking out area ranchers. Recently, a horse was shot, its head skinned, and tongue and anus yanked out. And in June, a prize cow was killed and its tongues, lips, and anus removed. Now, I think it's unlikely that high school biology classes from Sirius are swooping down to dissect our livestock. But man, these cattle mutilations are fucking bizarre. From the Denver Post:
The recent mutilations have similarities to mutilations that occurred in the 1960s in neighboring Saguache County. The most famous incident was reported in 1967 when a horse that became known as Snippy" had its head and neck skinned. Like in the most recent cases, there was no blood at the scene or tracks. The mutilations were never solved.
In 2009, a San Luis Valley rancher found four calves with their tongues sliced out, udders removed, eyes cored and faces skinned. Those cases were never solved and there also was no blood nor tracks around those animals.

The Monkey Whisperer

Do you have an unruly monkey? Lisa Whiteaker, a professional pet monkey trainer, can come to your rescue:
Whiteaker, 48, has been a monkey trainer since 1992, and her specialty is privately owned pets. She rehabilitates monkeys adopted by people with no primate experience—customers who, in her words, “saw The Hangover Part II and thought, ‘I want a monkey too!’” By her own estimate, she’s “fixed” 6,700 monkeys so far in her 20-year career, not just in the U.S.: She’s traveled from South Africa to Mexico to Panama to the United Kingdom, and she Skypes with hundreds of troubled monkeys and their owners every week. But getting an appointment to see her isn’t easy. “I’m completely booked until March or April of 2013,” she says.

Fishermen Catch 1,100 Pound Sturgeon on a Rod and Reel

It's not uncommon for fishermen to catch 30 to 100 pound white sturgeon in British Columbia's Fraser River. But this one, caught on a rod and reel, weighed about 1,100 pounds and was more than 12 feet long. It may be over a hundred years old:
It could also be 35 years older than the angler, Michael Snell, 65, of Salisbury, England. Snell, who was fishing with his wife, Margaret, called the catch a fish of a lifetime.
"It is the most excitement I've ever had with a fish," said Snell, who took 1 1/2 hours to eventually land the fish along the shoreline. "It all happened so quickly. When we picked her head up out of the water, it was almost three-feet wide. I never knew a fish could be that large."
By comparison, the world-record swordfish is 1,182 pounds. The world record for a white sturgeon? It is 468 pounds taken in Benicia, Calif., according to the 2012 International Game Fish Association book of World Record Game Fishes.
The Snells and their professional guide took photos of the fish, tagged it and released it back into the river.

Invasive species: From the classroom to the creek

A survey of 2000 science teachers in the United States and Canada found that, of those who used live animals in the classroom, 1 in 4 were releasing those animals into the wild afterwards. Why worry about that? Because the animals they reported releasing were often potentially invasive species: including crawdads, amphibians, and aquatic plants. The survey results don't show a massive trend here, but it's something to think about, given that teachers are not usually considered when state agencies create programs to prevent invasive species release.

'Lone Ranger' Bird Flies Remote Forest

The animal kingdom has a new member on record, a recently discovered bird that sports a Lone Ranger-type black mask.  
'Lone Ranger' Bird Flies Remote Forest

Animal Pictures