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Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Daily Drift

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Today in History

1788   After having been dissolved, the French Parliament of Paris reassembles in triumph.
1789   Congress passes the Judiciary Act of 1789, establishing a strong federal court system with the powers it needs to ensure the supremacy of the Constitution and federal law. The new Supreme Court will have a chief justice and five associate justices.
1842   Branwell Bronte, the brother of the Bronte sisters and the model for Hindley Earnshaw in Emily's novel Wuthering Heights, dies of tuberculosis. Emily and Anne die the same year.
1862   President Abraham Lincoln suspends the writ of habeas corpus against anyone suspected of being a Southern sympathizer.
1904   Sixty-two die and 120 are injured in head-on train collision in Tennessee.
1914   In the Alsace-Lorraine area between France and Germany, the German Army captures St. Mihiel.
1915   Bulgaria mobilizes troops on the Serbian border.
1929   The first flight using only instruments is completed by U.S. Army pilot James Doolittle.
1930   Noel Coward's comedy Private Lives opens in London starring Gertrude Lawrence and Coward himself.
1947   The World Women's Party meets for the first time since World War II.
1956   The first transatlantic telephone cable system begins operation.
1957   President Dwight D. Eisenhower sends federal troops into Little Rock, Arkansas, to protect nine black students entering its newly integrated high school.
1960   The Enterprise, the first nuclear powered aircraft carrier, is launched.
1962   The University of Mississippi agrees to admit James Meredith as the first black university student, sparking more rioting.
1969   The "Chicago Eight," charged with conspiracy and crossing state lines with the intent to incite a riot, go on trial for their part in the mayhem during the 1968 Democratic Party National Convention in the "Windy City."
1970   The Soviet Luna 16 lands, completing the first unmanned round trip to the moon.
1993   Sihanouk is reinstalled as king of Cambodia.

Non Sequitur


Did you know ...

About the distress of the privileged

That the tea party is less popular than atheists and muslims

Oh, pity the plutocrat's poor wife

Real life imitates breaking bad: chemistry teacher arrested for selling meth at school

And, speaking of breaking bad, scientists uncertain about Heisenberg's incertainty principle

Bryan Henry Illustrates That Unlike Conservatism, Progressive Values Offer Equal Access To Success

He breaks it down in an easy to understand manner. The bottom line is that conservative values are status quo values. As such society is stagnant in place and all past inequities stay unmitigated. For those that were fortunate to be born of the right class or hue conservatism is fine. For all the rest their current status in the aggregate is unchanged. Progressivism by definition is the constant move to improvement.

Conservative and Progressive Values: Personal Responsibility

by Bryan Henry
Bryan HenryMitt Romney made headlines last week when a video surfaced of him declaring that 47% of the country’s citizens do not take personal responsibility for their lives and are dependent on the government. He also mocked the idea that health care is an entitlement. Well, an entitlement is something that someone has a legal right to, something they are owed, based on legal principles and cultural values. In our political discourse, however, the word “entitlement” is often used to refer to something that someone does not deserve. Personally, I think everyone should have a right to health care because our society should value human dignity enough to guarantee access to medical treatment regardless of an individual’s ability to pay. I think health care should be an entitlement, in the sense that everyone should have a right to it based on our civil laws and religious values.
Health care aside, it seemed to be Romney’s assertion that people are not taking personal responsibility for their lives that upset most people. Why? Because, personal responsibility is not simply a conservative value; it is also a progressive value. The disagreement between conservatives and progressives is over whether or not today’s society provides equal opportunity for success. Progressives argue that today’s society does not provide equal opportunity, which invalidates the outcome of the “competition” between individuals. Conservatives mistake the progressive demand for equal opportunity with a demand for equal results. Progressives stand for equal opportunity rather than equal results.
What makes equal opportunity possible? Education. Health care. Housing. Safety. Basically, the overall social and economic environment within which an individual grows up largely determines their opportunity for success. Something that conservatives tend to forget when they judge the personal failure or success of the individual, and from that judgment vote for economic and social policies, is that all adults were once children. Again, all adults, those individuals who succeed or fail, were once children growing up in a certain type of social and economic environment. Family values cannot always overcome social and economic conditions.
Progressives argue that today’s society does not provide equal opportunity to all citizens due to a lack of education, lack of health care, lack of affordable housing, and lack of safety. Thus, the idea that everyone is competing on equal terms is false. In order to create equal opportunity, our society must create the conditions that equalize the opportunities of all children as much as possible. The creation of a society that provides equal opportunity requires spending by the government in the form of public education, health care, housing assistance, and neighborhood safety.
Conservatives argue that spending money to create equal opportunity is accomplished by “punishing” those who are “successful,” but what conservatives fail to understand is that using tax revenue to create equal opportunity is the only way to provide equal opportunity for all children. Conservatives want to hinder the ability of children to get a good education, have health-care, have housing, and live in a safe neighborhood simply because the children’s parents are “unsuccessful.” The argument, without conservatives being fully aware of it, is this: the parents are “lazy,” therefore the children do not deserve equal opportunity.
As a society, we cannot determine who deserves what, or who is truly “successful,” until everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed. Progressives believe in personal responsibility, but they understand that social and economic conditions play a huge role in determining whether or not a child can grow up to become what society defines as “successful.” Many people who view taxation as “punishment” fail to recognize how much their “success” was influenced by their own social and economic situation. They pride themselves on how responsible and successful they are, but fail to see that when they were children they did not teach themselves the K-12 curriculum, pay for their own doctor visits, build their own house, or choose what type of neighborhood they grew up in.
If our society wants to have a spectrum of economic inequality that is legitimate, that is the result of actual competition between people who had relatively equal opportunity to succeed, then our society must redistribute, yes, redistribute some wealth, in order to create a society that provides equal opportunity. Not only is the inequality within today’s society illegitimate, it is also immoral. Every child should have access to medical treatment when they are sick, regardless of how much money their parents have. Period. Every child should have access to a good school, regardless of how much money their parents have. Period. Education and health care should be guaranteed to everyone. They should be viewed as public goods, something that our society collectively guarantees, rather than private goods that people compete for in the marketplace.
Conservatives are currently defunding pre-school, eliminating college grants, and gradually eroding the funding for K-12 public education by emphasizing standardized test score accountability, supporting the expansion of for-profit charter schools, and promoting a voucher system. If pre-school is not available to everyone, if K-12 public education is privatized and if higher education continues to rise in cost, then the inequality that emerges within the next generation can hardly be considered the result of fair competition between people who had equal opportunity to succeed. The people who will succeed will be the people with money and they will continue to argue that they should not be “punished” for being “successful” and society will continue to become more unequal.
Progressives believe that education and health care are a right, not something to be earned. Education and health care are what make possible truly fair conditions for individuals to compete for success. Conservative arguments for “choice” and “competition” are really attempts to preserve existing inequality and increase corporate profits. Progressives reject the idea that everything is about competition and profit. Progressives and conservatives agree on many values, but disagree on how society should be governed. What type of society do you want to live in: one where the common good is at least part of the goal (progressive) or one where everything is governed by the profit motive (conservative)? Mitt Romney is a businessman who views the government as a business. He intends to cut spending (education) and externalize costs (health care) in order to make the business as profitable as possible. Profitable? Yes, as profitable as possible for the wealthy and the corporate elite.

How to handle the wingnuts — "join" them

I'm going to make a fun point and a serious point with this one.
The fun point

The story — a couple of dozen "Tea Party" activists held a rally in Manhattan on Thursday to "stand up to Occupy Wall Street extremists".

(I put "Tea Party" in quotes because the rally was organized by Americans for Prosperity, the operative arm of the Koch Bros. God knows who believes what in that outfit.)

The rally was foiled by Occupyers, however — who playfully joined in. The Guardian:
A conservative rally billed as an opportunity to "stand up to Occupy Wall Street extremists" fell flat on Thursday when it was co-opted by members of Occupy Wall Street.

Supporters of Americans for Prosperity, a Tea Party-esque group [-esque indeed] funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, gathered at the Rockefeller Center in midtown Manhattan to demonstrate against both Occupy Wall Street and President Obama.

But almost half of the sparse crowd were Occupy Wall Street protesters, smartly dressed and bearing signs parodying Americans for Prosperity's ultra-conservative message.

"My sign says: 'I'm dreaming of a white president, just like the ones we used to have,'" said Stan Williams, a labor organizer and member of the Occupy movement.
It must have been a lot of fun putting that together. Other signs included "I hate libraries" and "'Every man for himself.' –Jesus".

There are also several interesting videos in the article; it's worth a visit.

The serious point

Now my serious point. This is so under-appreciated as a technique. Not only is it non-violent, it's effective.

I'll give you three examples — one that should have happened, and two that still could.

Should have happened — When all those wingnuts open-carried guns to Democratic events, the only effective response was to do the same at their events. Mirror mirror.

But not dressed as sane counter-narrative gun-types. To do this right, you go as a wingnut gun-job — read your NRA bible, bone up on all your wingnut rights, and profess exactly what the guys at the Dem rallies profess.

Just be them, like in the story above. Be a Second-Amendment American to the bone. Chew tobacco if you think that helps. Spit.

Instantly two things will happen: (1) You'll strip all the political context from the act, and everyone who sees you will see how stupid (and dangerous) the act itself is. That will happen on camera, by the way, since you've timed this to get the same news coverage everyone like you is getting.

And (2), the wingnut Blackwater cop-jobs will jump you like nobody's business. You'll spout off about your wingnut rights, and your wingnut bro's and sisters will shuck those rights right out of you — also on camera. (Be sure to cover your face, and don't forget your lines.)

How perfect is that? The right doesn't stand by that stuff; they just pretend to. Here's a perfect chance to make them prove it. Believe me, they will, eagerly. You might even get a lawsuit out of it.

So that's one perfect opportunity that we missed. But file it, folks. This can be done anytime the time is ripe.

Still can happen — We're drowning in conscience objections from the rwingnuts, challenges in court, the whole nine yards. Even my alma mater is soiling itself.

To respond, don't use words; use deeds. You have a conscience too, right? Sure you do; what real American doesn't? So use it.

Go get a job at ... oh, Chic-fil-A would be nice ... then start using your conscience to object. You don't have to object to gays. Object to ... chicken. You'll serve anything on the menu, but not the chicken, because your religion worships birds.

You'll serve anything else — fries are good, and anyone who wants them can have all of the tasty sides. You'll serve breakfast sausage with both hand. Just not the bird. Make sure there's a camera handy when the boss objects to your objections.

I'm making this up, and you can probably do better. Opportunities for this kind of fun are endless.

Your model is the pharmacist who won't dole out birth control and Plan B.

Your advantage? Anyplace that honors one conscience objection honors all conscience objection — it's the dirty secret of conscience objection. All conscience is individual. Again, just strip politics from the act, and go with it. Be sure someone with a camera is handy.

Honors class project — Get a job at a pharmacy that has already supported someone who conscience-objects to vagina products (BC, Plan B, IUDs), and turn the tables. Refuse to dole out ... Viagra would make sense. Or asthma drugs. Or corn plasters, if there's a prescription version. You pick.

Then when the boss comes to see what the fuss is about, stand by your conscience and demand he defend it as well. After all, he did it before.

Put him on the spot and make sure there's a camera around. Just remember to play your role completely — be sincere, have a conscience, and object on that basis. If there's follow-up (and if you're good, there will be), stay in character.

You're not making a point; the point is making itself through you.

Your November dissertation — Want a real one you can do in two months? If you live in a state where wingers are challenging black and brown voters, you can Mirror-Mirror them at white polling places.

Don't go outside the script. Just find out what they're doing — word for word if need be — and do that. Make sure that the cameras covering the dust-up at black and brown polling places are covering yours.

This works if you mirror them and don't push further. Do that, get the press, and your diploma awaits. You've arrived. If this RW stuff is happening your state, and ten groups (say) on our side play the Mirror Game, I guarantee you a solid 15 minutes of fame. If not more.

Bottom line

The point of all of this is to strip the Right of its ability to make the ridiculous make sense — but only in the context of their presumed specialness. You do it by playing Mirror-Mirror without the context, then let the world play "who's the fool?".

A Hindu refusing to serve beef at a restaurant would be fired and laughed out of town. But a vagina-cop drug dispenser at a pharmacy makes sense?

Not after you're done doing the same. This is how you tar their act with your own (kind of the way the right tarred impeachment using Clinton; there will never be another one).

And to go back to my first point — this really is fun. There are plenty of worse ways to make a point. Effective tactics can also be a blast.

The truth be told

Romney was destroyed on the Sunday shows for the 47 percent remark

Romney family trust invested in China, bet against America

Much like his strange decision to pay more taxes than he had to pay in 2011, the supposedly blind trust sold off it's investments in China as the Romney campaign gained momentum. Wow, what are the odds of that happening in a blind trust?
And how about old Mitt taking bets against America? Who runs for president of the United States and makes financial bets against his own country?

NY Yimes:
The 2011 tax returns his campaign released on Friday show that Mr. Romney’s family trusts had invested in shares of a Chinese-owned state oil company but got rid of those investments this summer as Mr. Romney’s anti-Chinese rhetoric heated up on the campaign trail.

In 2009 and 2010, the W. Mitt Romney blind trust invested $77,262 in shares of Cnooc Limited, the state-owned Chinese oil company, and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. On Aug. 10, 2011, as Mr. Romney was emerging as a harsh critic of China, the shares were sold, producing a profit of $8,138, as the trust made money on the oil company but lost money on the bank.

The trust also invested in derivative securities linked to the Japanese stock market and to an index that includes stocks in every major country except the United States. It invested in a derivative that would profit if the dollar fell against a group of foreign currencies.
Is Mitt Romney arrogant enough to think that people are stupid and not paying attention or is he just arrogant?

Romney says it's "fair" that he only pays 14 percent taxes and you pay more

Romney on 60 Minutes  last night:
(PELLEY) Now you made, on your investments, personally, about $20 million last year. And you paid 14% in federal taxes. That's the capital gains rate. Is that fair to the guy who makes $50,000 and paid a higher rate than you did?

(ROMNEY) It is a low rate. And one of the reasons why the capital gains tax rate is lower is because capital has already been taxed once at the corporate level, as high as 35%.

( PELLEY) So you think it is fair.

(ROMNEY) Yeah, I-- I think it's the right way to encourage economic growth-- to get people to invest, to start businesses, to put people to work.

Is there $9 million missing from Romney's taxes?

Another day and another list of questions related to Mitt Romney's partial tax document dump on Friday.
Either his team of tax attorneys are complete idiots - doubtful, to say the least - or they're playing games. Romney's initial 2011 earnings estimates in January were $22.7 million, up from $21.58 million in 2010. In September, the updated tax filing showed $13.7 million for his 2011 earnings.

Just as there were a number of questions yesterday, there are more again today. Click through to read the full article at Lawsonry.com. It's disturbing, but will the traditional media ask questions?

- Is it credible to believe that his team was off by $9 million?
- Did this radical change help him lower his tax rate?

There are too many issues with the information that he provided and they all reflect poorly on his ability to ever come clean and be honest with the American public. When Romney is not making gaffes, he is providing spin that only the super rich can spin. All of his answers feel slippery, as though he's convinced himself that he just tricked everyone.

People of the Romney class have means beyond the reach of everyone else and they use every resource available to exploit the system. What's worse is that they then go out and try pointing the finger at the most vulnerable people who rely on assistance to keep living. The Romney class relies on loopholes and tax attorneys to fund the construction of an elevator in their house or for tax write offs to fund their Olympic show horse.

Romney: "I used to think that becoming rich and becoming famous would make me happy. Boy was I right."

Mitt Romney, on film:
"I used to think that becoming rich and becoming famous would make me happy. Boy was I right."

Keep in mind that Romney has based his entire campaign on attacking President Obama for out of context comments, so I'm not even going to give you the context. It doesn't matter when discussing the man whose first campaign ad was a lie (taking video of President Obama quoting John McCcain, but leaving out the McCain reference so it looks like Obama is saying the words on behalf of himself), and whose entire convention was devoted to another out of context quote ("you didn't built it," which was referring to roads and infrastructure, not your business).

In a related matter, don't forget that Mitt Romney thinks America is a foreign country.

A mormon with outspoken blog posts on the cult says he may face excommunication

David Twede's posts offer his account of the history of the cult's political involvement, criticism of fellow mormon and repugican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and the author's take on mormon fantasies about the nature of god and temple ceremonies. Twede, a 47-year-old fifth-generation mormon and the managing editor of mormonthink.com, said Saturday he was confronted over his posts and advised of the possible discipline at a meeting with local church leaders this week.
In a blog post on September 17, Twede described his meeting with church officials the day before. "Most of my family is true-believing Mormon, and they will be hurt by my probable excommunication for apostasy," he wrote.
The Utah-based cult of jesus christ of latter-day saints declined to comment specifically on Twede or his blog, saying that disciplinary matters were confidential.
But in a statement, cult spokesman Michael Purdy said it would be "patently false" to suggest a mormon would face discipline for having questions about their faith or for expressing political views.
"The cult is an advocate of individual choice. It is a core tenet of our faith." Purdy said. "Cult discipline
becomes necessary only in those rare occasions when an individual's actions cannot be ignored while they claim to be in good standing with the cult."
Public excommunications are rare in the mormon fantasy. But several high-profile scholars and feminists had their memberships revoked in the 1990s.
Cult leaders set a September 30 disciplinary meeting to address Twede's case, he said. Twede posted to his blog a letter he said is from a mormon cult official and that says Twede is "reported to have been in apostasy."
Twede said cult officials did not specify which articles they did not like, but told him being the website's managing editor was "antithetical to the cult."
He said he has asked cult officials to reconsider holding the disciplinary meeting.
In a letter posted on his blog, Twede wrote that he understands that "some of what I wrote in my blog may have treated the cult unfairly."
The mormon cult disciplinary decisions are made at the local level and the outcomes can include probation, dis-fellowship, excommunication or exoneration.
Excommunicated persons can still attend cult meetings, but cannot receive the sacrament, hold cult callings, speak at services or enter mormon temples.
Whoop-de-fucking-doo, who gives a flying rat's arse what this lunatic fringe cult does.

Keep moving, and other advice to keep men healthy with age

But before flopping down on that cherished spot on the sofa, along with the television remote, a salty snack and cold one, consider these tips about how to score some big points for your health and still enjoy the games.
Keep moving, and other advice to keep men healthy with age

Novel courts handle low-level crimes across US

By Fenit Nirappil
Judge Lillian Sing applauds a defendant on the bench of the Community Court Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2012, in San Francisco. While it’s been difficult for researchers to determine cost savings by the courts, new studies suggest the courts are helping stem crime. An evaluation of Washington, D.C.’s community court by the Westat research firm found this summer that defendants who successfully completed diversion programs from 2007 to 2009 were half as likely to reoffend as similar defendants in a traditional court. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
In most courtrooms, spontaneous applause could get you thrown out.
But in this San Francisco court, it's expected — and strongly encouraged for the >defendants
Bowls of hard candy rest in front of the judge's bench, as a reward for the men and women making their weekly court appearances and attending group therapy
. Almost daily, the judge awards one standout a $5 grocery store gift card — while the gallery claps and cheers.
These scenes have played out thousands of times at the Community Justice Center, a novel, 4-year-old court system in the city's rough-edged Tenderloin district. It's one of about 40 community courts
around the United States that tackle mostly low-level crimes in troubled neighborhoods using judges — not juries — to send defendants to drug treatment, shelter and social services, instead of handing down fines and time in overcrowded jails.
"We go to the root of the problems rather than just throwing them in jail," said the Community Justice Center's lone judge, Lillian Sing.
But it's not all carrots and no sticks. When obviously drunk or drugged defendants stagger into the courtroom, the judge swiftly sends them to jail for a few days to sober up.
"This is called tough love," Sing recently told one teary-eyed defendant as a deputy handcuffed him. "I don't want to see you die on the streets."
U.S. Department of Justice officials say community courts improve public safety by focusing on the crimes that are less high-profile but affect day-to-day life. They say the courts, along with similar rehabilitative courts, represent a shift away from judges just herding people through the system.
"Judges started figuring out they could help solve problems, so there was a switch to looking at outcomes instead of process," said Kim Ball, a senior policy adviser.
And unlike the thousands of specialized drug courts across America, community courts are designed to provide quicker, cheaper justice while improving life in specific neighborhoods or police precincts. Defendants perform community service in the neighborhoods where they broke the law. Taggers must paint over graffiti. And shoplifters are required to help distribute clothes to the poor.
The movement toward community courts began almost two decades ago in New York City, which established one in Midtown Manhattan to crack down on prostitution, graffiti and other street crimes.
The system has reached its "awkward teen years," after passing its experimental stage and steadily gaining acceptance, said Greg Berman, director of the New York-based Center for Court Innovation, a nonprofit that advises community courts using U.S. Department of Justice funding.
"We've seen these ideas which were derided and dismissed by many in the '90s as totally loopy and beyond the pale become, if not totally mainstreamed, more and more embraced by court systems and criminal justice systems across the country," Berman said.
States with community courts include Minnesota, Indiana, New Jersey, Connecticut, Virginia, Georgia
, Texas, Tennessee, Utah, Colorado, Oregon and Washington. Defendants often are brought into court and therapy several times a week, even for infractions such as sleeping on streets, aggressive panhandling and public urination.
"These are low-level offenses for which, in the past, there may not have been any kind of response from the criminal justice system," said Williams College Professor James Nolan, who has studied rehabilitative courts across the world.
Famously tolerant San Francisco was late to embrace community courts. But the city, along with a handful of others, took the model to a new level by also using the court as an alternative for prosecuting more serious but nonviolent crimes, including vehicle theft and felony drug offenses.
The Community Justice Center opened in a nondescript building amid an uproar from some progressives, who feared it would disproportionately target the poor and homeless.
But criticism subsided as the court helped relieve the caseload clogging traditional courtrooms by handling 4,500 defendants since it opened. And the city has found it metes out swift justice, with defendants on average coming to court a week after they are cited, compared with 45 days for a regular court.
Police Captain John Garrity, whose district is served by the Community Justice Center, says his officers can focus more on serious crime because the court gets the lower level offenders into social services, where they leave less likely to re-offend than they are from short jail stints.
Most defendants see an on-site social worker who creates a treatment plan and connects them to nonprofits and group therapy. Each is expected to comply with the plan or risk getting kicked back to the traditional courthouse, where jail time is more likely.
"Incarceration is not always the answer," said San Francisco's district attorney and former police chief, George Gascon. "It often leads to a cycle of re-offending, especially at the low-level offenses."
While it's been difficult for researchers to determine cost savings, new studies suggest community courts are helping stem crime.
An evaluation of Washington, D.C.'s community court
by the Westat research firm found this summer that defendants who successfully completed diversion programs from 2007 to 2009 were half as likely to re-offend as similar defendants in a traditional court. Russell Canan, presiding judge of the capitol's criminal courts, attributes this to defendants getting more attention.
"The judges are engaging with defendants to see what kind of work they are doing, what their school situation is, what type of social services they need," Canan said. And then they coach and inspire them to make good choices.
Researchers studying a New York court have released similar preliminary findings. San Francisco's court is undergoing a study.
But critics of community courts say recidivism statistics are misleading because many the courts' defendants are low-level offenders, rather than career criminals.
"There's a point at which it's plain overkill," said Steven Zeidman, a law professor at the City University of New York. "We bring in all kinds of things that are so minor: riding on the sidewalk, three kids arrested for smoking one joint together, kids shoplifting a piece of candy."

Dead militiamen found in Benghazi

It sounds like the people of Benghazi are not interested in seeing the extremists have their way in the area. The Guardian:
The Libyan city of Benghazi was tense after the bodies of six militiamen apparently executed after the storming of a base on the southern outskirts were discovered in a field.

The bodies were found the day after crowds marched on three militia bases, including that of Ansar al-Sharia, blamed by many in the city for the murder of the US ambassador, Chris Stevens, earlier this month. Funerals were held for nine protesters killed when crowds tried to force their way into the Rafallah al-Sahati militia base early on Saturday morning.

The militia was the only one of three to fire back when demonstrators swarmed over their bases, following a rally on Friday in which 30,000 people vowed to retake the streets of the city.

Goebbels' early letters show controlling behavior

By John Christoffersen

This undated photo provided by Alexander Autographs, of Stamford, Conn., shows a pre-World War II document by Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. Alexander Historical Auctions plans to sell the collection of Goebbels' writings Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012, in Stamford. (AP Photo/Alexander Autographs)This undated photo provided by Alexander Autographs, of Stamford, Conn., shows a pre-World War II document by Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. Alexander Historical Auctions plans to sell the collection of Goebbels' writings Thursday, Sept. 27, 2012, in Stamford. (AP Photo/Alexander Autographs)
The love letters, school papers and dramatic works of college-age Joseph Goebbels reveal a romantic young man beginning to show signs of anti-Semitism and egotistical and controlling behavior, according to a Connecticut auction house selling the pre-war writings of 's propaganda chief.
Alexander Historical Auctions plans to sell the collection on Sept. 27 in Stamford, saying it may prove invaluable in providing historical and psychological insights.
"It sums up the formative years of the number two man in the Third Reich, who was responsible for motivating the masses in Germany
to back Hitler," said Bill Panagopulos, the company's president. "In my opinion, it shows how this rather simple, shy and love-struck college student really just became radicalized." The thousands of pages include Goebbels' college dissertation, report cards, dozens of poems, school essays and letters from relatives, friends and girlfriends.
"You really get a feel for what's going on in his head," Panagopulos
said. "There's a lot of information if somebody wants to dig into the mind of this man who grew into a lunatic." In an early sign of his ego, Goebbels would sign some of his materials with numerous signatures. Toward the later years of the collection, Goebbels is starting to show anti-Semitic tendencies, Panagopulos said. He added that the auction house has only translated about 10 percent of the papers and has had a tough time with Goebbels' handwriting.
The sale sparked concerns by a leader of a Holocaust survivors group who criticized the auction house's sale last year of the journals written by Nazi death camp doctor Josef Mengele
"Alexander Auction House is making a business out of selling Nazi artifacts and memorabilia," said Menachem Rosensaft, vice president of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants. "They clearly have the legal right to profit here from such materials. I leave it to others to determine the morality of it all."
Rosensaft said such materials belong in an archive for historians to study. He expressed concerns that at an auction
, the materials could wind up in the wrong hands and be used as a shrine to the Nazi leader. Panagopulos said museums often depend on donations made by people buying items at auction. He said neo-Nazis don't collect the material.
Addressing another concern of Rosensaft's, that there is a cottage industry of creating fake Nazi memorabilia, Panagopulos said most of the Goebbels documents up for sale have been available to experts, scholars and researchers for years and no one has questioned their authenticity. He called their provenance "ironclad."
He said his own morals should not be questioned, noting that his father's hometown in Greece was largely wiped out in an act of German retribution.
The collection, which spans the period from Goebbels' childhood to shortly before he joined the Nazi party in 1924, is expected to sell for more than $200,000, Panagopulos said. It includes more than 100 letters written between Goebbels and Anka Stalherm, the first great love of his life, and show his desire to control others, he said. Letters from other girlfriends include a pair of sisters he seduced at the same time.
In a letter to his teacher after his sister died, he thanks his teacher for condolences but adds that his loss is minor compared to losses suffered by "our fatherland."
Goebbels and his wife killed their six children with cyanide before killing themselves the day after Hitler's suicide.
Panagopulos said the sale is on behalf of a Swiss company and would not benefit any relatives of Goebbels, but he said his auction house
does not identify consignors. He said the company received the materials from a man who obtained them from an earlier owner who won the rights to the writings in a 1950s court case with Goebbels' sister.
The auction house last year said it sold the journals written by Mengele, drawing criticism from Rosensaft who said the business was profiting off the sale of materials by one of the worst mass murderers in history. Alexander officials said the Jewish buyer wanted to remain anonymous and is building a collection for a museum.
Panagopulos said at the time his profit would be $15,000 to $20,000 and that he would make a donation to a war memorial. He said Mengele's journals have historical value and that many auction houses deal with Nazi-related items and the buyers are reputable.

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The World's Most Expensive Hotel Suites

Got a spare stack of hundreds lying around and don't feel like sleeping in your own bed tonight? The good news is that you can resolve both of these fist-world problems at the same time. The bad news is that you might have to take a flight or two to get to your destination. From a 4,ooo-sq ft suite in Hong Kong to a room that costs as much for one night as — oh, let's get creative here — 6,500 malaria-preventing mosquito nets, these are the world's priciest digs-by-the-night. More
Shown above: The Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong

Molly Crabapple describes and illustrates her Occupy arrest

Molly Crabapple's brief, illustrated editorial describing her arrest at the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street is a tale of police entrapment: petty, punitive justice; solidarity, and resolve.
At one corner, I saw a cop grabbing the arm of a woman in front of me and pulling her into the street. It was the same gesture you might use to escort an old lady, and, when the next officer did this to me, that is what I thought it was. But then, halfway across the street, he cuffed my hands behind my back.
There was no warning. No Miranda rights like in the movies. At first, I was incredulous. It was not until I got my desk ticket that night for blocking traffic that I had any idea what the officer was accusing me of doing.
I was a head shorter than the officer. I said to him, "You know I was on the sidewalk." He wouldn't meet my eyes. I was two blocks from my apartment. But because I was part of a protest, I was no longer a local. I was an obstruction to be cleared.
Going into the police van, they snapped my picture on a Fujimax Polaroid knockoff, hipster party style. I gave them my best grin. A man in a suit passed by, looked us over, and said to the police, "nice work."
My arrest at Occupy Wall Street

Texas inmate prepares for 3rd trip to death house

By Michael Graczyk
In this Aug. 29, 2012, photo, convicted killer Cleve Foster speaks from a visiting cage at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Polunsky Unit outside Livingston, Texas. Foster has received three reprieves from the U.S. Supreme Court, including two last year when he was within hours of execution for the slaying of a 30-year-old woman near Fort Worth in 2000. He is scheduled to die Sept. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/Michael Graczyk)
What Cleve Foster remembers most about his recent brushes with death is the steel door, the last one condemned Texas inmates typically walk through before their execution. "You can't take your eyes off that door," he says.
But twice over the past year and a half, Foster has come within moments of being escorted through the door, only to be told the U.S. Supreme Court
had halted his scheduled punishment.
On Tuesday, Foster, 48, is scheduled for yet another trip to the death house for participating in the abduction and slaying of a 30-year-old Sudanese woman, Nyaneur Pal
, a decade ago near Fort Worth.
In this Aug. 29, 2012, photo, convicted killer Cleve Foster speaks from a visiting cage at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Polunsky Unit outside Livingston, Texas. Foster has received three reprieves from the U.S. Supreme Court, including two last year when he was within hours of execution for the slaying of a 30-year-old woman near Fort Worth in 2000. He is scheduled to die Sept. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/Michael Graczyk)It takes just under an hour to drive west from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Polunsky Unit
, where the state's male death-row inmates are housed, to the Huntsville Unit, where condemned Texas prisoners have been put to death for nearly a century. The last 485 have been by lethal injection; the first 361, from 1924 through 1964, from the electric chair. On execution day, the condemned inmate waits, usually for about four hours, in a tiny cell a few steps from the steel door to the death chamber.
Foster, a former Army recruiter known to his death row colleagues as "Sarge," denies his role in the murder. Prosecutors say DNA ties him to the killing and that he gave contradictory stories when questioned about Pal's death.
"I did not do it," he insisted recently from a tiny visiting cage outside death row
Appeals again were pending in the courts, focusing on what his lawyers argued was poor legal help both at his 2004 trial in Fort Worth and by attorneys early in the appeals process. Similar appeals resulted in the three previous reprieves the courts subsequently have lifted, but his lawyers argue his case should get another look because the legal landscape has changed in death penalty cases.
"I don't want to sound vain, but I have confidence in my attorney and confidence in my God," he said. "I can win either way."
Pal's relatives haven't spoken publicly about their experiences of going to the prison to watch Foster die, only to be told the punishment has been delayed. An uncle previously on the witness list didn't return a phone call Friday from The Associated Press.
Foster, however, shared his thoughts of going through the mechanics of facing execution in Texas — and living to talk about it.
The process shifts into high gear at noon on the scheduled execution day when a four-hour-long visit with friends or relatives ends at the Polunsky Unit outside Livingston.
"That last visit, that's the only thing that bothers me," he said. "The 12 o'clock-hour hits. A dozen or so guards come to escort you."
By Foster's count, it's 111 steps to the prison gate and an area known as the box cage. That's where he's secured to a chair for electronic scrutiny to detect whether he has any metal objects hidden on his body.
It's the legacy of inmate Ponchai Wilkerson. Wilkerson, asked by the warden if he had a final statement after he was strapped to the death chamber gurney for execution in 2000, defiantly spit out a handcuff key he'd concealed in his mouth.
"You're in handcuffs, you're chained at the ankles, they give you cloth shoes and you have to shuffle to keep them on," he said.
As he waddles the 111 steps, he gets acknowledgement from fellow prisoners who tap on the glass of their cells.
At the prison gate, armed officers stand by as he's put in a van and secured to a seat for the roughly 45-mile trip to Huntsville that he says feels like a "90-mph drive." There are no side windows in the back of the van where Foster, accompanied by four officers, rides to the oldest prison in Texas. Only the back doors have windows.
"It's like stepping back in time, dungeons and dragons," he said of entering through two gates at the back of the Huntsville Unit, more commonly known as the Walls Unit because of its 20-foot-high red brick walls.
Prison officials then hustle him into the cell area adjacent to the death chamber.
"Going inside, it's a little spooky. You can tell it's been there a while," he said. "Everything's polished, but still it's real old. You look down the row. History just screams at you.
"It's almost like 'Hotel California,'" he said, referring to the song by The Eagles. "You can check out anytime, but you can't leave."
Both times he's been there, most recently last September, he's been treated "like a human being," Foster said. Officers look at him but don't smile, he said.
At one point, he saw someone walk by with a bulging envelope that he assumed contained the lethal injection drugs.
At 4 p.m., during his first trip to the death house in January 2011, he was served a final meal. He'd asked for several items, including chicken.
"It tasted so good," he said. "It actually had seasoning on it."
Two hours later, at the start of a six-hour window when his execution could be carried out, he received the Supreme Court reprieve.
Since then, inmates no longer get to make a final meal request. Procedures were changed after a state lawmaker complained that condemned inmates were taking advantage of the opportunity and that murder victims never get that chance.
Foster was looking forward to nachos and chicken, the same food served to other inmates the day last year that he made his second trip to the death house, but he never received it. Instead, his attorney tearfully brought him news of another Supreme Court reprieve just before dinner time.
He asked for a doggie bag but was refused. He was put back in the van and returned to death row.
"I've already told the chaplain: Take the phone off the hook before 4 o'clock," he said, anticipating his next trip Tuesday. "I want to get that last meal."

New York inmates sue over lack of dental floss

Eleven inmates in a suburban New York jail have sued their prison for $500m (£300m) and access to dental floss, saying they are losing their teeth.

In a civil rights lawsuit filed on 10 September, the inmates say they are suffering cavities and pain because they are unable to floss. Deputy Correction Commissioner Justin Pruyne defended the ban, saying the floss can potentially be used a weapon. Santiago Gomez, the lead plaintiff, says other jails permit flossing.

The inmates at the Westchester county jail in Valhalla say without floss they develop cavities and bleeding gums, despite brushing their teeth three times a day. They also say they need constant dental work for temporary fillings because they are denied crowns and root canals.

Mr Pruyne said staff were exploring if there were products "which would be appropriate in a custodial situation... maybe some sort of floss that breaks easily" but that "staff and inmate safety come first".

The Snookiville Law and Other Legislation Named for Famous People

It is an uncomfortable truth that Nicole 'Snooki' Polizzi is famous. (I'm sorry.) Equally uncomfortable is that, as a result of her reality-TV fame, a new law was recently proposed in New Jersey that would give locations hosting reality shows more control over filming within their jusrisdiction. For instance, production crews will have to pay the city for police escorts and increased security instead of leaving taxpayers to foot the bill. The so-called 'Snookiville law' is scheduled for introduction on Sep 24, 2012. Here's a look at this and other laws named for celebrities, including Tim Tebow, Tom Cruise and Sonny Bono. More

A report about reports about reports that recommends the preparation of a report about the report about reports about reports

This year's IgNobel Prizes were a characteristically great bunch, but as a writer, I'm particularly excited to see that the organizers awarded a prize in literature this year. The prize went to the US Government Accountability Office, for Actions Needed to Evaluate the Impact of Efforts to Estimate Costs of Reports and Studies, or as the IgNobels put it:
The US Government General Accountability Office, for issuing a report about reports about reports that recommends the preparation of a report about the report about reports about reports.
The feds didn't send anyone to accept.
Winners of the IgNobel Prize

The FanWing

FanWing is a new concept for a type of cyclogyro. It uses a fixed wing with a forced airflow produced by cylindrical fans mounted at the leading edge of the wing. Its makers claim it is the first horizontal-rotored integral lift and propulsion wing in history to sustain flight.

Patrick Peebles developed the FanWing concept in 1997. He formed the FanWing Company and applied for patents on his idea in several countries where aircraft are manufactured. In July 2005 the company advertised that the first FanWing aircraft concept has undergone wind tunnel tests and powered model flights. Recent design development has added a tail-plane which has increased the forward speed to the same as that of a helicopter.

The Powerbreather

The Powerbreather is a snorkel-based breathing system developed in Germany. It has the advantage that swimming can be learned on a methodically simplified basis. The Powerbreather has been developed to prevent water penetration and one can breathe freely at any time. The valve technology makes it possible that only fresh air is ever inhaled.

Fascinating Tombs In The World

Throughout the history of human civilization, different cultures mourn and treat the dead differently. Some, like Tibetan Buddhists, have no use for burials as they dispose the dead by feeding corpses to vultures or by burning them in funeral pyres. Most cultures, however, bury the dead, sometimes in complex and ornate tombs, crypts, and catacombs.

Here are ten of the most fascinating final resting places around the world, from the largest prehistoric burial mound in Europe to the the tombs of the pharaohs to the most beautiful mausoleum in the world.

Harvest Time


Time of the Harvest

And that's a fact

Environmentally conscious supermarket sold peeled bananas on plastic trays wrapped in clingfilm

A supermarket chain which advertises using a slogan that urges more common sense in shopping has been selling peeled bananas on plastic trays wrapped in plastic film.

German-owned Billa supermarket chain, part of the Rewe group has thousands of stores in 9 European countries. Staff said the sale of ready-peeled bananas was a "one off" mistake and apologised, saying it would not happen again.

Customers have threatened to boycott the shops in response. One said that selling ready peeled bananas in a plastic package was the ultimate symbol of waste and the throw-away society.

A spokesman for Greenpeace in Austria where the peeled bananas had been on sale said: "If there is an easy to open ready packed food it's the banana - peeling it only to pack it in environmentally unfriendly plastic is just madness."

Dirty Secrets of Internet Data Centers

Quick: what industry uses 30 billion watts of energy (the equivalent of the output of about 30 nuclear power plants), wastes 90% of that and pollutes the environment by belching diesel exhaust, all while cloaked in near total secrecy?
You're using it, actually. Behold the data centers that power the Internet:
“It’s staggering for most people, even people in the industry, to understand the numbers, the sheer size of these systems,” said Peter Gross, who helped design hundreds of data centers. “A single data center can take more power than a medium-size town.”
Energy efficiency varies widely from company to company. But at the request of The Times, the consulting firm McKinsey & Company analyzed energy use by data centers and found that, on average, they were using only 6 percent to 12 percent of the electricity powering their servers to perform computations. The rest was essentially used to keep servers idling and ready in case of a surge in activity that could slow or crash their operations.
A server is a sort of bulked-up desktop computer, minus a screen and keyboard, that contains chips to process data. The study sampled about 20,000 servers in about 70 large data centers spanning the commercial gamut: drug companies, military contractors, banks, media companies and government agencies.
“This is an industry dirty secret, and no one wants to be the first to say mea culpa,” said a senior industry executive who asked not to be identified to protect his company’s reputation. “If we were a manufacturing industry, we’d be out of business straightaway.”
James Glanz of The New York Times has the story: here.

North Atlantic 'Achilles heel' lets upper atmosphere affect the abyss


The simplified artist's conception shows how changes in polar vortex winds high in the stratosphere can influence the North Atlantic to cause changes in the global conveyor belt of ocean circulation.
A University of Utah study suggests something amazing: Periodic changes in winds 15 to 30 miles high in the stratosphere influence the seas by striking a vulnerable "Achilles heel" in the North Atlantic and changing mile-deep ocean circulation patterns, which in turn affect Earth's climate.

"We found evidence that what happens in the stratosphere matters for the ocean circulation and therefore for climate," says Thomas Reichler, senior author of the study published online Sunday, Sept. 23 in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Scientists already knew that events in the stratosphere, 6 miles to 30 miles above Earth, affect what happens below in the troposphere, the part of the atmosphere from Earth's surface up to 6 miles or about 32,800 feet. Weather occurs in the troposphere.

Researchers also knew that global circulation patterns in the oceans – patterns caused mostly by variations in water temperature and saltiness – affect global climate.

"It is not new that the stratosphere impacts the troposphere," says Reichler, an associate professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Utah. "It also is not new that the troposphere impacts the ocean. But now we actually demonstrated an entire link between the stratosphere, the troposphere and the ocean."

Funded by the University of Utah, Reichler conducted the study with University of Utah atmospheric sciences doctoral student Junsu Kim, and with atmospheric scientist Elisa Manzini and oceanographer Jürgen Kröger, both with the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, Germany.

Stratospheric Winds and Sea Circulation Show Similar Rhythms

Reichler and colleagues used weather observations and 4,000 years worth of supercomputer simulations of weather to show a surprising association between decade-scale, periodic changes in stratospheric wind patterns known as the polar vortex, and similar rhythmic changes in deep-sea circulation patterns. The changes are:

— "Stratospheric sudden warming" events occur when temperatures rise and 80-mph "polar vortex" winds encircling the Artic suddenly weaken or even change direction. These winds extend from 15 miles elevation in the stratosphere up beyond the top of the stratosphere at 30 miles. The changes last for up to 60 days, allowing time for their effects to propagate down through the atmosphere to the ocean.

— Changes in the speed of the Atlantic circulation pattern – known as Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation – that influences the world's oceans because it acts like a conveyor belt moving water around the planet.

Sometimes, both events happen several years in a row in one decade, and then none occur in the next decade. So incorporating this decade-scale effect of the stratosphere on the sea into supercomputer climate simulations or "models" is important in forecasting decade-to-decade climate changes that are distinct from global warming, Reichler says.

"If we as humans modify the stratosphere, it may – through the chain of events we demonstrate in this study – also impact the ocean circulation," he says. "Good examples of how we modify the stratosphere are the ozone hole and also fossil-fuel burning that adds carbon dioxide to the stratosphere. These changes to the stratosphere can alter the ocean, and any change to the ocean is extremely important to global climate."

A Vulnerable Soft Spot in the North Atlantic

"The North Atlantic is particularly important for global ocean circulation, and therefore for climate worldwide," Reichler says. "In a region south of Greenland, which is called the downwelling region, water can get cold and salty enough – and thus dense enough – so the water starts sinking."

It is Earth's most important region of seawater downwelling, he adds. That sinking of cold, salty water "drives the three-dimensional oceanic conveyor belt circulation. What happens in the Atlantic also affects the other oceans."

Reichler continues: "This area where downwelling occurs is quite susceptible to cooling or warming from the troposphere. If the water is close to becoming heavy enough to sink, then even small additional amounts of heating or cooling from the atmosphere may be imported to the ocean and either trigger downwelling events or delay them."

Because of that sensitivity, Reichler calls the sea south of Greenland "the Achilles heel of the North Atlantic."

From Stratosphere to the Sea

In winter, the stratospheric Arctic polar vortex whirls counterclockwise around the North Pole, with the strongest, 80-mph winds at about 60 degrees north latitude. They are stronger than jet stream winds, which are less than 70 mph in the troposphere below. But every two years on average, the stratospheric air suddenly is disrupted and the vortex gets warmer and weaker, and sometimes even shifts direction to clockwise.

"These are catastrophic rearrangements of circulation in the stratosphere," and the weaker or reversed polar vortex persists up to two months, Reichler says. "Breakdown of the polar vortex can affect circulation in the troposphere all the way down to the surface."

Reichler's study ventured into new territory by asking if changes in stratospheric polar vortex winds impart heat or cold to the sea, and how that affects the sea.

It already was known that that these stratospheric wind changes affect the North Atlantic Oscillation – a pattern of low atmospheric pressure centered over Greenland and high pressure over the Azores to the south. The pattern can reverse or oscillate.

Because the oscillating pressure patterns are located above the ocean downwelling area near Greenland, the question is whether that pattern affects the downwelling and, in turn, the global oceanic circulation conveyor belt.

The study's computer simulations show a decadal on-off pattern of correlated changes in the polar vortex, atmospheric pressure oscillations over the North Atlantic and changes in sea circulation more than one mile beneath the waves. Observations are consistent with the pattern revealed in computer simulations.

Observations and Simulations of the Stratosphere-to-Sea Link

In the 1980s and 2000s, a series of stratospheric sudden warming events weakened polar vortex winds. During the 1990s, the polar vortex remained strong.

Reichler and colleagues used published worldwide ocean observations from a dozen research groups to reconstruct behavior of the conveyor belt ocean circulation during the same 30-year period.

"The weakening and strengthening of the stratospheric circulation seems to correspond with changes in ocean circulation in the North Atlantic," Reichler says.

To reduce uncertainties about the observations, the researchers used computers to simulate 4,000 years worth of atmosphere and ocean circulation.

"The computer model showed that when we have a series of these polar vortex changes, the ocean circulation is susceptible to those stratospheric events," Reichler says.

To further verify the findings, the researchers combined 18 atmosphere and ocean models into one big simulation, and "we see very similar outcomes."

The study suggests there is "a significant stratospheric impact on the ocean," the researchers write. "Recurring stratospheric vortex events create long-lived perturbations at the ocean surface, which penetrate into the deeper ocean and trigger multidecadal variability in its circulation. This leads to the remarkable fact that signals that emanate from the stratosphere cross the entire atmosphere-ocean system."
More information: DOI: 10.1038/ngeo1586

Animated Cave Drawings

You thought movies were less than a couple hundred years old. Of course, zoetropes and other such optical toys go back hundreds of years. But archaeologist Marc Azema and French artist Florent Rivere say that prehistoric cavemen had their own way of making moving pictures! Cave paintings in Lascaux and other areas of France have animals with multiple heads and legs. This is a puzzle, until you imagine a Paleolithic storyteller waving a torch back and forth over the images to make... moving pictures!
“Lascaux is the cave with the greatest number of cases of split-action movement by superimposition of successive images. Some 20 animals, principally horses, have the head, legs or tail multiplied,” Azéma said.

Azema and other archaeologists have found small disks called thaumatropes which were carved from bone in Paleolithic times and acted as a crude, mini movie camera by tricking the eye. Azema thinks these artists used similar tools to create the drawings, which give us a glimpse at the first origins of what we know as cinema…and they did it well before those credited with the invention in the 19th century.
The cave movies depended on persistence of vision, just like the later zoetropes and film projectors. See examples in a video at WebProNews.

Flying Over the Untouched Land

This summer was a hard time for the land of Kazakhstan. It brought various incidents which ended with a terrible fire that destroyed one of the most beautiful places of Central Asia - mountain resort Medeo. Many zones are still under the threat of fire. Planes kept flying over the region for all the summer period and one journalist often joined them to collect some material about the nature of south-east Kazakhstan and take photos of the region. Some of them are presented in this post. More

The Fantastic Firefall Of Yosemite

Is there a fire on this mountain? Or is it some kind of volcanic eruption? The answer is neither. For a few days every February, Horsetail Fall in Yosemite National Park comes to life. A seasonal waterfall which flows only in the late winter and early spring, those short February days bring about a transformation. The waterfall is lit up by the setting sun and ignites in to a fiery spectacle.

Awesome Pictures


Rapids :) (by Sudheer.)

Horse makes weekly swim across Loch Lomond

You can take a horse to water, but instead of drinking, this filly prefers swimming across a loch to go shopping.

Shoshoni the horse loves to doggy paddle beside her owners’ boat in Loch Lomond from the island of Inchtavannach to the mainland. She enjoys joining Susan Gell and partner Roy Rogers on the weekly 400-yard trip, which takes about five minutes.

Shoshoni, now 19, has been swimming the loch since she was three. Susan, 48, who works in nearby Luss, said: “Horses love water, and do swim naturally.

“We live on an island and had no means of transportation to take her to the mainland so we tried swimming – and she loved it. Despite being a horse, she took to it like a duck to water. It helps to keep her fit, and we find swimming is good for her mentally as well.”

The Reticulated Python

A giant constrictor that swallows its prey whole, the reticulated python is one of the longest and most powerful snakes in the world.

A baby giant panda born just one week ago at the National Zoo in the US capital died on Sunday of still to be determined causes.

Panda keepers and volunteers "heard a distress vocalization from the mother, Mei Xiang, at 9:17 am and notified the veterinarian staff immediately," zoo officials said.
"The staff were able to safely retrieve the cub for an evaluation at 10:22 am. Veterinarians immediately performed CPR and other life-saving measures but the cub did not respond," the statement said.

At a first observation, veterinarians said there was no outward sign of trauma, no outward sign of infection, and the cub was "in good body condition" weighing just under 100 grams.

"The National Zoo community mourns the loss of the giant panda cub," the statement read, adding that mother panda Mei Xiang "is under close observation."

Zoo officials immediately turned off the "panda cam," the internet-accessible 24-hour camera trained on the animals.

Mei Xiang, on loan to the Smithsonian-run zoo from China, gave birth to the cub on September 16.

Zookeepers had chosen to keep a physical distance from Mei Xiang, in order to let her raise the cub naturally.

Giant pandas are rare and endangered, with as few of 1,600 surviving in the mountain forests of central China. More than 300 others live in zoos and breeding centers, mostly in China.

Animal Pictures