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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.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Daily Drift

Remember the Blue Moon is this weekend!
Some of or readers today have been in:
Islamabad, Pakistan
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Cebu City, Philippines
Panama City, Panama
Addia Ababa, Ethiopia
Manila, Philippines
Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei
Orleans, France
Kuching, Malaysia
Erbil, Iraq
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Cape Town, South Africa
San Jose, Costa Rica
Kuantan, Malaysia
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Kajang, Malaysia
Lahore, Pakistan
Kluang, Malaysia
Makati, Philippines
Puchong, Malaysia
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Athens, Greece
Jakarta, Indonesia
Port-Of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
Vienna, Austria
Johor Bahru, Malaysia

Don't forget to visit our sister blog!

Today in History

70 The Temple of Jerusalem burns after a nine-month Roman siege.
1526 Ottoman Suleiman the Magnificent crushes a Hungarian army under Lewis II at the Battle of Mohacs.
1533 In Peru, the Inca chief Atahualpa is executed by orders of Francisco Pizarro, although the chief had already paid his ransom.
1776 General George Washington retreats during the night from Long Island to New York City.
1793 Slavery is abolished in Santo Domingo.
1862 Union General John Pope's army is defeated by a smaller Confederate force at the Second Battle of Bull Run.
1882 Australia defeats England in cricket for the first time. The following day a obituary appears in the Sporting Times addressed to the British team.
1942 The American Red Cross announces that Japan has refused to allow safe conduct for the passage of ships with supplies for American prisoners of war.
1945 U.S. airborne troops are landed in transport planes at Atsugi airfield, southwest of Tokyo, beginning the occupation of Japan.
1952 In the largest bombing raid of the Korean War, 1,403 planes of the Far East Air Force bomb Pyongyang, North Korea.
1992 Thousands of Germans demonstrate against a wave of racist attacks aimed at immigrants.

Two more Tibetan teens die in self-immolations, protesting Chinese rule

Lobsang Kalsang, an 18-year-old monk, and Damchoek, a 17-year-old former monk, set themselves on fire on Monday morning near Kirti Monastery in Aba county, in the Tibetan region. This brings the number of Tibetans who have set themselves on fire since 2009 to 51.

Woman took part in search for herself

A tourist in Iceland who was declared missing and the subject of an intense police search had no idea she was missing, and in fact took part in the search itself.

The story began on Saturday when the woman, who was described as "of Asian origin, aged 20-30, about 160cm, wearing dark clothing and speaks fluent English" was declared missing somewhere in the vicinity of Eldgjá, in south Iceland. The search found no sign of her.

However, on Sunday morning, she was reported found - and had no idea she was missing in the first place. This was apparently the result of a misunderstanding regarding her appearance. While it was initially reported that she had stepped off the bus at Eldgjá and never returned, in fact she changed clothing before getting back on the bus.

It appears she had even taken part in the search, without realising that she was the woman being searched for. Eventually, it occurred to her that she could very well be the "missing person" being described, and reported the matter to the police. The search was called off shortly thereafter.

Comrade Jindal complains Obama isn't giving him enough taxpayer socialism for hurricane damage

That crazy socialist governor from the People's Republic of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, and the rest of the teabagging repugicans are such complete frauds but can't admit it.

They're always glad to complain about handouts - such as when Jindal turned down $90m in stimulus monies meant to help 24,000 unemployed in Louisiana, or when Jindal turned down $300m for high speed rail - but then, when it's politically popular (like during a hurricane) suddenly Jindal is Chairman Mao begging at the people's teat, like Jindal is now doing over federal disaster monies for Hurricane Isaac.

The repugicans like Jindal believe that the bible has all the answers, not science and of course not the government - but the only thing they're praying for right now is more money from Uncle Sam. You know, the kind of handouts and money that they dismiss and blast when it's for others.

Jindal should quit complaining and join the modern world.  Or figure out how to raise his own money.  CBS News:
The White House said Obama informed Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal of the emergency declaration in a phone call. The declaration makes federal support available to save lives, protect public health and safety and preserve property in coastal areas.

Jindal, a repugican, shot back late Monday in a letter to the Obama administration that the declaration fell short of the help he was requesting.

"We appreciate your response to our request and your approval," Jindal wrote. "However, the state's original request for federal assistance .... included a request for reimbursement for all emergency protective measures. The federal declaration of emergency only provides for direct federal assistance."
One day someone in Washington needs to call out the crazies like Jindal. If you're going to make a name for yourself ripping science and government taxes they don't ask for them and don't accept them. Why should Jindal dirty his hands with socialist tax dollars that probably came from the Blue States who pay much more into the federal government than they receive. What does the bible have to say about that?

Let's also not forget that it has been the repugicans who have been chopping the FEMA budget, so Governor Jindal ought to be talking with his repugican friends instead of complaining about the president.

Comrade Jindal now demanding MORE fed disaster aid than states normally get

We know what you are, Comrade Jindal, we're simply haggling over the price.

We wrote above about "conservative" Governor Bobby Jindal of the People's Republic of Louisiana complaining that he wanted the Obama administration to give him more federal disaster aid than he was already getting.

We noted that it was, well, odd that proud red-stater Jindal, who famously turned down stimulus funds for unemployed Louisianans and for a high-speed rail, is now such a fan of all that tainted socialist "welfare" from Washington.

But now we learn that Jinda is even a bigger hypocrite than we thought.

You see, Comrade Jindal is now demanding more from the federal teet than states normally get during these "disasters."

He wants the federal government to reimburse him for state money spent on preparing for the hurricane.  That's not something FEMA normally covers because, you know, this is America, not the Soviet Union, and states like Louisiana, and governors like Jindal, are supposed to prepare for things like bad storms on their own.

Oh but it gets even better: Jindal had no such complaint when the shrub didn't offer to pay state preparations for a hurricane in 2008.  So either Jindal is playing politics with his state's impending hurricane, or he blew off the welfare of his own state in 2008 so as not to embarrass a repugican pretender.

Which one is it, tovarisch?

From Brian Beutler:
Asked today to respond to Jindal’s push for further assistance, FEMA administrator Craig Fugate explained, “primary responsibility for evacuations really [falls to] state and local governments and when it’s extraordinary the federal government can support that with financial assistance. What the President said yesterday was if you have a request for specific federal assistance, we’re ready to provide that life safety issues. We’re not going to hold anything up. But we’ll look at the impacts and determine, does this really exceed the state’s capability that require federal tax dollars to support that response and particularly if they start having damages. So, early on the request was direct federal assistance. If the financial impacts are greater than the state of Louisiana can manage, we assess that and we’ll make recommendations again looking at what the governor has requested.”

That’s the same approach the shrub cabal took when Gustav was bearing down on Louisiana in 2008.

According to the Louisiana Times-Picayune, “Though Jindal called on the federal government to shoulder the full cost of the federal, state and local efforts, he did not publicly make the same criticisms when former pretender the shrub issued a similar declaration that included a cost ceiling as Hurricane Gustav approached the state…though as the storm was trailing off, the state and the shrub cabal fought over exactly who would pay for what portion of the federal response.”

Romney aide: We won't let our ads be dictated by facts

A Romney aide just admitted that their campaign ads aren't true.  That they know they're not true.  And they don't care."  From Ben Smith at Buzzfeed:
Mitt Romney's aides explained with unusual political bluntness today why they are spending heavily — and ignoring media criticism — to air an add accusing President Barack Obama of "gutting" the work requirement for welfare, a marginal political issue since the mid-1990s that Romney pushed back to center stage.

"Fact checkers come to this with their own sets of thoughts and beliefs, and we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers," he said. The fact-checkers — whose institutional rise has been a feature of the cycle — have "jumped the shark," he added after the panel.
It's not just fact checkers like:
* The Washington Post ("Four pinocchios");

CNN ("Fact check: Romney's welfare claims wrong");

FactCheck.org ("It's simply not true"); and

Politifact ("The ad’s claim is not accurate, and it inflames old resentments about able-bodied adults sitting around collecting public assistance. Pants on Fire!").
Even MSNBC's wingnut host Joe Scarborough, who was a former uber-repugican congressman, concluded: "I've been looking for a week-and-a-half to try to figure out the basis of this welfare reform ad," Scarborough said. "I've scoured the Wall Street Journal editorial pages … the ad's completely false. It's just completely false."

What does it say about your candidate when his entire campaign is based up on a lie? Not just the welfare ad - but the candidate himself?

Mitt Romney isn't running for president. Some guy, who isn't Mitt Romney at all, is running.

The guy who's running is a social conservative who's against the Massachusetts health care reform law, who isn't more pro-gay and pro-abortion than Ted Kennedy, who loves guns and Ronald Reagan, and who now is apparently very concerned that President Obama "gutted" welfare reform when everyone agrees that President Obama did no such thing.

What does it say about Mitt Romney when his team admits that "Our most effective ad is our welfare ad"?  It means that the truth about Mitt Romney must be pretty bad, and the truth about President Obama must be darn good, if the best argument Team Romney has for why Mitt should be president is a lie.

Buzzfeed on how it became okay for the repugican cabal to be openly racist towards Obama

Interesting analysis. Though in simpler terms, if you give an inch they take a mile. From the first repugicans getting away with calling Obama a socialist four or five years ago, the repugicans were given the clear go-ahead that it was open season on Obama and nobody was going to fight back. And now, even the repugican presidential candidate is making birther comments, while the head of the rnc is insinuating that the President is a socialist, or a foreigner, or something.

Here's an excerpt from Buzzfeed:
The Overton Window, a theory named for the late think tank executive who developed it, postulates that there’s a finite range of policies or statements a politician can put forward, that are considered acceptable to the “mainstream” of that particular zeitgeist. If an idea is deemed politically and publicly acceptable, it is considered within the Window -- and, if it is not, proponents will seek to shift the window so that the statement no longer seems controversial.
Consider the effect of events like these on the Overton Window. In mainstreaming pronouncements of Obama’s otherness and displays of disrespect for his presidential legitimacy, federal and statewide elected officials steadily moved the border of publicly acceptable discourse crosswise. In so doing, they have served to normalize the kinds of messages – Obama isn’t working, Obama is in over his head, Obama is angry – that Romney has personally delivered for much of this campaign. After all, if questioning the president’s very legitimacy is now in bounds, Romney questioning his intelligence or work ethic hardly seems extraordinary in that context.
And it’s this same new climate that regularizes jokes that Obama is so inept he must rely on a teleprompter in order to speak, and which makes us almost immune to shock when a reporter barks at the president during a press conference in the Rose Garden.
Which brings us back to Romney’s remarks on Friday. Four years ago, describing Obama’s election as a risk was met with public disapproval. Today, questioning his very legitimacy has become a mainstream position pushed by some prominent elected officials in the repugican cabal.

The repugican "We Built It" speaker got millions from feds, gives speeches on fed aid

In other words, she didn't build it, WE BUILT IT.  We, the taxpayers who subsidized yet another repugican small business that's now out there dissing the very government help she got to put her on the map.

Seriously, this is getting embarrassing at this point.

Andrew Kaczynski at Buzzfeed has her powerpoint on how to get rich at the government trough, here's a sample image:

Media Matters has another presentation she also gave on feeding at the government trough,  including the fact that her company received millions in federal loans and contracts.
The experience of a small business owner who will be promoted at the repugican national cabal sharply diverges from the right-wing media myth her speech is intended to promote.

On the day that the repugican cabal will tout Faux-fueled myth "We Built It" as its primary theme, Delaware Lt. Gov. candidate and small business owner Sher Valenzuela is slated to deliver a speech about small business issues. But contrary to the evening's theme, Valenzuela's company, First State Manufacturing, has received millions of dollars in federal loans and contracts. Valenzuela has not only attributed her success in part to this outside assistance, but urged other small business owners to follow the same strategy of seeking government funds.
But the rnc isn't lying. When it comes to Valenzuela's company, in fact, we the taxpayers did built it.

Coal miners required to attend Romney rally, give up day's pay

What do you expect from a guy who likes being able to fire people?  

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
When repugican presidential candidate Mitt Romney visited an Ohio coal mine this month to promote jobs in the coal industry, workers who appeared with him at the rally lost pay because their mine was shut down.

The Pepper Pike company that owns the Century Mine told workers that attending the Aug. 14 Romney event would be both mandatory and unpaid, a top company official said Monday morning in a West Virginia radio interview.
And this was priceless from the coal company CFO Rob Moore:
Moore told Blomquist that managers "communicated to our workforce that the attendance at the Romney event was mandatory, but no one was forced to attend."
Ha! If that wasn't a perfect Romneyism: Your attendance is mandatory, says your boss, but no one is forcing you to attend.

You'll be surprised to hear that the coal company has contributed $900,000 to repugican candidates over the past few years.

Then there's this, from the king of flip-flops himself:
Romney used his appearance at the coal mine to blast what he called a "war on coal" by the Obama administration that he said was costing jobs in the coal industry.
You know what else costs jobs in the coal industry? Not paying coal miners because their attendance is required at a Soviet-style Romney rally.

Paul Ryan blames Obama for GM plant closed in 2008 under the shrub

GM stopped production at its Janesville, Wisconsin production facility in 2008, when the shrub was still pretending to be president, but according to Paul Ryan the person to blame is President Obama.

Ryan told a crowd in North Canton, Ohio yesterday that the president's energy policies had led to the factory's closure in 2009. Ryan delivered the attack in personal terms, saying he had high school buddies who worked at the factory. "A lot of my high school buddies worked at that GM plant," Ryan said. "One of the reasons that plant got shut down is $4 gasoline. You see, this costs jobs. The president's terrible energy policies are costing us jobs."
But despite Ryan's emotional story, GM announced the plant's closure in June of 2008. In October of 2008, the date was accelerated from 2010 to the end of the year. And on December 23, 2008 the last SUV rolled off the line.
Ryan said the factory closed because gas prices had climbed to $4 per gallon. Gas prices were that high, but that was in June of 2008, when the shrub was the pretender president. Gas prices today are lower than they were then, though they do remain high.
Ryan also claimed the President Obama had promised to keep the factory open—but that's not true according to The Detroit News, USA Today, and TPM.
Bottom line: Without the benefit of facts, Ryan's story sounded compelling, but once you learn what really happened, you quickly realize Ryan was telling a tall tale that was just too perfect to be true. And with that kind of thing starting to become a pattern with Ryan, it's no wonder that Mitt Romney likes him so much.

To add—Ryan is INSISTENT that the plant closed because of bad energy policy. Hence, it was shrub's energy policy that closed down that plant. So how is Mitt Romney's energy policy any different?

Can We Learn as We Sleep?

Studies show it's possible -- at least when it comes to learning smells.  
Read more
Can We Learn as We Sleep?

Did you know ...

About the  reasons illegal immigrants are more patriotic than corporations
Do beavers mate for life? not these 4

That the IMF admits: Iceland was right to throw out the banksters

And here's the most brilliant palindrome of all time

More: Did you know ...

About long-term joblessness: the quiet monster

That birtherism is no laughing matter

That 40% of American workers live paycheck to paycheck

About the poll that  finds majority of NYC thinks police favor whites

Exploiting the Fine Print

caramadreLawyer and financial planner Joseph Caramadre has made a career out of reading the fine print and exploiting loopholes. He's under fire now for a scheme in which he sold variable annuities with life insurance. The catch he found is that Rhode Island doesn't specifically state that you have to have some kind of relationship with a person in order to insure their life. And during the latest economic boom, insurance companies were very eager to sell policies. So Caramadre sold variable annuities to investors, tagged the attached life insurance policy on someone else who was close to death, and made himself and/or his investors the beneficiary of their insurance policy.
There is something morally unsettling about this. Put simply: Caramadre was setting himself and his clients up to profit from the demise of strangers. While the macabre aspect of his scheme offends many, it did not make Caramadre squeamish. He rationalized that a lot of people — funeral homes, hospitals and cemeteries — make money from the dead and dying, why not him?

Caramadre's insight might have remained a curiosity were it not for something called "the arms race." As competition intensified in the mid-2000s, many life insurance companies launched an unprecedented war for customers, offering benefits they now acknowledge were far, far too favorable.

The insurance companies' contracts provided little defense against Caramadre's approach. For policies under a million dollars, they didn't check the health status of people receiving variable annuities. Instead, they limited the ages of annuitants or the amount that could be invested. All that the companies required for persons to serve as a measuring life was their signature, birthdate and Social Security number. Some didn't even require the signature.

There was usually only a single line that touched on insurable interest in the contract. Companies would ask if a relationship existed between the investor and the annuitant. Caramadre and the men with whom he worked would either leave the answer blank or type in "none." The companies, eager for business, took the policy anyway.
Insurance companies have sued Caramadre left and right, and he is also being investigated for criminal conspiracy. The question is not whether the scheme was despicable; the question is whether it was strictly illegal. More

Bank left unlocked over weekend

The Royal Bank of Scotland has launched an investigation after the main doors to one of its branches were left unlocked over a weekend.
The problem at the branch in Carnoustie near Dundee was only discovered when a member of the public leaned against them setting off the alarm. The bank said the internal doors were locked.

A spokeswoman added that they were "pleased the alarm system worked as planned". The member of the public is understood to have lent on the wooden front doors at the bank, pushing them open, as she waited for a bus.

Tayside Police were called to the scene when the alarm activated. The Royal Bank of Scotland spokesman said: "We are investigating why these doors could have opened."

School demands that boy must change his name from Hunter because it violates its weapons policy

In the interest of safety, a preschool is insisting that a deaf boy named Hunter change his name at school so people don't accidentally shoot and kill someone with their finger when they use sign language to say his name.
hunterThree-year-old Hunter Spanjer is deaf and talks with his hands. In the S.E.E. (Signing Exact English) language, the gesture that means his name violates his school's weapons policy. Grand Island Public School wants Hunter to change his name so he won't have to use the sign.
Grand Island's "Weapons in Schools" Board Policy 8470 forbids "any instrument...that looks like a weapon," But a three year-old's hands?

"Anybody that I have talked to thinks this is absolutely ridiculous. This is not threatening in any way," said Hunter's grandmother Janet Logue.

"It's a symbol. It's an actual sign, a registered sign, through S.E.E.," Brian Spanjer said.
The sign may look a little bit like a gun, but Hunter's name is a slightly modified sign to designate it as his name, in which he crosses his fingers. His fingers still look too much like a gun for school authorities. The National Association of the Deaf has been notified, and is expected to send lawyers to talk to officials from the school.

Better safe than sorry!
Oh, for the love of Pete grow some gonads people!

More Infants Born Addicted to Prescription Drugs

The national rate of newborns suffering from withdrawal rose 330 percent from 2000 to 2009. Read more
More Infants Born Addicted to Prescription Drugs

Your medical needs total $15,000 ...

 ... but your voucher is only worth, say, $5,000. "You're shit outta luck" say the repugicans. That's the privatization way.
In a leaked party platform circulating on the eve of their cabal, repugicans reveal in candid detail how they intend to remake medicare. - More

Oh, and Democrats ... could you show some fuckin' backbone and start calling social security, etc as "earned benefits?" Cut the crap with the repugican talking point phraseology of "entitlements."

We pay into the program. We earn the right to collect on the benefits of paying into the programs..

Thief infected with Ebola from stolen phone

A thief nicked a cell phone from a patient at Kagadi Hospital in Kibaale District, Uganda. Turns out, the owner had Ebola and the thief became infected. From The Monitor:
Police detectives began tracking him after he apparently began communicating to his friends using the phone. But as police zeroed in on him, he developed symptoms similar to those of Ebola and sought medication at the hospital. While at hospital he reportedly confessed stealing the phone and has handed it to Kagadi police.
“Kagadi Police Station received that complaint and investigations are underway,” Mr John Ojokuna Elatu, the district police commander confirmed to Sunday Monitor.

How police can obtain your records without a subpoena

Over at Wired News, David Kravets writes about the administrative subpoena, a nifty legal tool that allows government agents to access sensitive personal data without court warrants if agents believe the data is “relevant” to an investigation.
"With a federal official’s signature, banks, hospitals, bookstores, telecommunications companies and even utilities and internet service providers — virtually all businesses — are required to hand over sensitive data on individuals or corporations, as long as a government agent declares the information is relevant to an investigation. Via a wide range of laws, Congress has authorized the government to bypass the Fourth Amendment — the constitutional guard against unreasonable searches and seizures that requires a probable-cause warrant signed by a judge.

GA Murder Case Unveils Bizarre Terror Plot by Soldiers to Overthrow Government

Prosecutors say a murder case against four soldiers in Georgia has revealed they formed an anarchist militia within the U.S. military with plans to overthrow the federal government.

Israeli court rules US activist Rachel Corrie's death an accident

The death of 23-year-old Rachel Corrie, an American pro-Palestinian activist crushed to death by an Israeli military bulldozer, has been ruled an accident that occurred during “a military activity meant to prevent terrorist activity.”

Man accused of attacking brother with Styrofoam plate

A Florida man was charged with battery after he allegedly hit his brother with a Styrofoam plate.
On Aug. 17 the two brothers and their father were in the dining room of a Fort Walton Beach residence when an argument. According to the father, the spat began when one of the brothers began making disparaging comments about his mother.

During the argument, one brother apparently picked up a Styrofoam plate and swung at his brother, striking him in the face. The victim suffered several small cuts to his cheek and the left side of this face, an Okaloosa County Sheriff's deputy wrote in the arrest report.

The brother was charged with misdemeanor battery and will report to a judge on Sept. 4.

Music Idol Causes Women to Swoon

LisztIn the 20th century, we became used to seeing hoards of girls excitedly screaming over a musician: Frank Sinatra, Elvis, the Beatles ...all the way to Justin Bieber in the 21st century. But the phenomenon did not start with Frankie; musician-mania just became better publicized in the modern era.
In the year 1842, five years into the proper Victorian Era, and that's when Lisztomania swept the land. [Hungarian musician Franz] Liszt was 31 years old the year he landed in Berlin. He'd established a new mode of performance — the solo piano recital — and new kinds of non-narrative music that people compared to musical poetry. He also developed a violent playing style that broke strings and sometimes brought down entire pianos. The Berliners were enchanted. At his concerts, they worked themselves up to screaming, fainting ecstasies. Women followed Liszt down the street and picked up his old cigarette stubs, made bracelets from his broken piano strings — and tried to rush him en masse, and pull out or cut locks of his hair. The craze spread outward from there, getting Britons and Italians as Liszt moved around.
Read more about Liszt and his fans here

Sky Garage

Problem: You want to be close to your Ferrari and don't want to leave it at a cold and lonely garage in the basement, but you live in a high-rise apartment.
Solution: A car lift that brings you car straight into your living room.

Climate Change Killed Egypt's Pyramid Builders

Pollen and charcoal buried in the Nile Delta 4,200 years ago tell the tale of a drought of Biblical proportions associated with the fall of the pyramid builders. Read more
Climate Change Killed Egypt's Pyramid Builders

Weird loud booms in northern California

Mysterious booms are rattling citizens of El Dorado County, California. Quarry owners require government permission to use explosives. The local Naval Air Station denies any supersonic flights over the area. Some have suggested that perhaps wineries are employing propane canons to scare away birds. From CBS Sacramento:
According to USGS, there aren’t enough seismic stations to pinpoint the exact location. Meanwhile, some say the booms have been around so long and happen so often they barely notice them anymore. Still, others want to solve the mystery.
“I would like to know what it is, yeah. And I’d like to know when it’s going to stop too,” said (Pleasant Valley resident Peter) O’Grady.

It's official: Arctic ice caps smallest on record

Scientists expected it to happen soon and now, it's happened. The climate change deniers (also called the repugican cabal) will come up with excuses, just as they will come up with silly stories about how natural disasters are messages from god. They're anti-science, anti-learning and as Bill Nye said, they're dangerous for the youth of America.
In the modern industrialized world, it's the US that stands alone in ignorance thanks to the GOP. This has to change.

The Independent:
The news that came yesterday should be, environmental campaigners said, a global wake-up call. The ice cap covering the top of the world is now smaller than it has been at any point since scientists started to measure it precisely from space.

Satellite data released last night show that the sea ice floating on the Arctic Ocean has reached a record low, retreating further than it has done since detailed records began more than 30 years ago.

The US National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado said that the 2007 record was broken on Sunday with two or three weeks of the melt season still remaining, suggesting that this year's sea ice will retreat substantially further than at any time in the satellite era. The snow and ice center said that the surface area of the Arctic Ocean covered by floating sea ice fell to 4.10 million square kilometers (1.58m square miles), which was 70,000 square kilometers below the previous record minimum of 4.17 square kilometers set in September 2007.

The beauty of the night sky

“At the dead hour of the night, when the world is hushed in sleep and all is still; when there is not a sound to be heard save the dead beat escapement of the clock, counting with hollow voice the footsteps of time in ceaseless round, I turn to the Ephemeris and find there, by calculations made years ago, that when that clock tells a certain hour, a star which I never saw will be in the field of the telescope for a moment, flit through and then disappear. The instrument is set; the moment approaches and is intently awaited—I look—the star mute with eloquence that gathers sublimity from the silence of the night, comes smiling and dancing into the field, and at the instant predicted even to the fraction of a second, it makes its transit and is gone. With emotions too deep for the organs of speech, the heart swells out with unutterable anthems; we then see that there is harmony in the heavens above; and though we cannot hear, we feel the ‘music of the spheres.’” — Matthew Fontaine Maury, in an 1849 presentation to the Virginia Historical Society. Maury was superintendent of the U.S. Naval Observatory.
Read more about Maury and other retro scientists in Caren Cooper's guest posts at the Scientific American blogs.
Video: Yosemite Nature Notes on night skies and light pollution.

Artificial Universe Created Inside a Supercomputer

A simulation of our evolving universe is the most accurate yet, producing spiral galaxies not too dissimilar to the Milky Way.  
Artificial Universe Created Inside a Supercomputer

What Is A Black Hole?

Black holes may be among the strangest - and most commonly misunderstood - objects in our universe. The remnants of the most massive stars, they sit at the limit of our understanding of physics. They can contain several times the mass of our sun in a space no larger than a city.

With gravity so intense that not even light can escape their surfaces, black holes can teach us about the absolute extremes in the cosmos and the very structure of space itself.

The first recorded human voice transmission from Mars

Snip from statement of Charlie Bolden, NASA Administrator, speaking via broadcast from the Curiosity Rover on the surface of Mars: "The knowledge we hope to gain from our observation and analysis of Gale Crater, will tell us much about the possibility of life on Mars as well as the past and future possibilities for our own planet. Curiosity will bring benefits to Earth and inspire a new generation of scientists and explorers, as it prepares the way for a human mission in the not too distant future."

Curiosity Zooms in on Martian Mountain

NASA's new Mars rover has returned stunning telephoto views of the layered deposits at the base of Mt. Sharp.
Curiosity Zooms-In On Mt. Sharp's Layers: Big Pic

Curiosity rover captures stunning vistas of rugged Mars

NASA's Curiosity rover, giving earthlings a glimpse of its ultimate target, has beamed back spectacular high-resolution photos of the rugged foothills of Mount Sharp, showing a khaki-colored landscape marked by towering hills, gaping canyons and sand dunes reminiscent of the American southwest, scientists said Monday.

A Boy and His Marmot Friends

Four years ago, Matteo Walch and his family went to the Austrian Alps and made some quite unusual friends, a colony of marmots! Since then, Matteo has returned to the same place every year to visit his furry buddies:
The family return to visit the colony in Groslocker in the Austrian Alps for two weeks every year.
Matteo’s father Michaela, said: 'Their friendship has lasted for more than four years now.
'He loves those animals and they are not at all afraid of Matteo because he has a feeling towards them and they understand that.
‘We go there every year now for two weeks - it’s amazing to watch the connection between a boy and his animal friends.’

Bigfoot hoaxer killed

Randy Lee Tenley, 44, of Kalispell, Montana was killed yesterday while reportedly attempting to stage a Bigfoot hoax. Tenley was walking on a highway wearing a hunter's ghillie suit, likely similar to the one seen here, when he was struck by two different vehicles driven by teenagers.

From KAJ18.com:
 Wp-Content Uploads Ghilliebfa Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Jim Schneider says friends of the victim said Tenley was wearing a military-style camouflage ghillie suit in hopes of creating a Bigfoot hoax…
"It's still a crash involving vehicles and a pedestrian. So we're still doing the same investigation, but once we started speaking to parties, then someone involved in it, trying to ascertain exactly what brought that gentleman out to Highway 93 … I would not guess that would motivate anybody to be out on Highway 93," Scheider said.
"Man dressed as Sasquatch hit and killed near Kalispell"

"Man Pulling Off Bigfoot Hoax Killed"

Oh, the irony

Dog obedience irony


Tiny bugs found trapped in amber
Scientists have found three well preserved ancient insects frozen in amber - and time - in what is Earth's oldest bug trap.

Cancer threatens Tasmanian Devils with extinction by "devil facial tumor disease"

In the last 2 decades, some 85% of wild Tasmanian Devils have been wiped out. The primary cause isn't poachers or habitat destruction, but a bizarre kind of *contagious* cancer. "A recent epidemic disease, known as devil facial tumor disease, has brought an extremely rare, but equally devastating, set of circumstances together to threaten the devil population. Facial tumor disease, unlike every form of cancer known to affect humans, is transferred directly from devil to devil when they bite each other, which is 'something they do a lot during feeding or mating.'” 

Koala paddles across river and climbs aboard passing canoe

Koalas aren't normally known for taking a dip, but one curious creature on Queensland's Gold Coast wasn't shy about exploring new terrain.

The koala was caught on camera swimming across Burleigh Point and up to a stunned group of local paddlers, joining them in the canoe. Julie Elliott, who filmed the rare encounter, said she and her colleagues from the local Outrigger Canoe Club were amazed when the koala came paddling towards them.

"It took a sip of water and then saw us and obviously decided to come straight over," she said. "Then it started clawing at the boat and we didn't know what to do."

"We were thinking it was going to drown so my mate behind me just grabbed him and put him straight in the boat." The group later released the koala on an embankment at a local golf club where koalas were known to populate the gum trees.

There's a news video, including interview with Ms Elliott, here.

Marine Corps Mascot Promoted under Controversial Circumstances


Chesty XIII* is an enlisted bulldog in the United States Marine Corps and that force's official mascot. His recent promotion from corporal to sergeant was almost aborted after Chesty angrily confronted a golden retriever owned by the Secretary of Defense. It was a major breach of protocol that, according to some Marines, indicated that Chesty wasn't ready to become a sergeant:
Other senior Marines worried about the message promoting Chesty might send. In military chain of command, Bravo is second only to Bo Obama, the president's hypoallergenic Portuguese water dog. The Constitution puts the military under civilian control, and some senior officers thought promoting Chesty might appear insubordinate.
"The standards in the barracks had lowered," said one senior Marine officer. "The dog didn't really deserve it."
Col. Montanus, who had the dog's fate in his hands, acknowledges that Chesty was wrong to shove his short snout in Bravo's face. "There absolutely was a protocol break," he said. "We don't bark at guests, whether they are human or the canine variety."
*Named after Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Lewis "Chesty" Puller, the most decorated Marine in history.

Venezuelan Poodle Moth

Is that mothra as a baby? Zoologist Arthur Anker of Brazil's Federal University snapped this fantastic photo of a Venezuelan poodle moth or muslin moth in the Gran Sabana region of Venezuela's Canaima National Park:
It's been compared to a fluffy dog, a Pokemon character and a Power Rangers villain — but whatever it is, the Venezuelan poodle moth has captured the Internet like Mothra in a bad Japanese movie. Now it's up to the experts to figure out exactly where this moth belongs on the tree of life.
The first thing to emphasize is that the poodle moth is no phony concoction like the jackalope, dogerpillar or chupacabra. Its cute, furry, scary look is totally in line with what's expected for a neotropical ornamental moth. In fact, cryptozoologist Karl Shuker found a similar picture of a white, fuzzy critter known as Diaphora mendica, or muslin moth, a member of the lepidopteran family Arctiidae.
Alan Boyle of Cosmic Log has more: here

Animal Pictures