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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.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Daily Drift

Ain't that the truth ...

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Today in History

1263 At Largs, King Alexander III of Scotland repels an amphibious invasion by King Haakon IV of Norway.
1535 Having landed in Quebec a month ago, Jacques Cartier reaches a town, which he names Montreal.
1862 An Army under Union General Joseph Hooker arrives in Bridgeport, Alabama to support the Union forces at Chattanooga. Chattanooga's Lookout Mountain provides a dramatic setting for the Civil War's battle above the clouds.
1870 The papal states vote in favor of union with Italy. The capital is moved from Florence to Rome.
1871 Morman leader Brigham Young, 70, is arrested for polygamy. He was later convicted, but the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the conviction.
1879 A dual alliance is formed between Austria and Germany, in which the two countries agree to come to the other's aid in the event of aggression.
1909 Orville Wright sets an altitude record, flying at 1,600 feet. This exceeded Hubert Latham's previous record of 508 feet.
1931 Aerial circus star Clyde Pangborn and playboy Hugh Herndon, Jr. set off to complete the first nonstop flight across the Pacific Ocean from Misawa City, Japan.
1941 The German army launches Operation Typhoon, the drive towards Moscow.
1950 The comic strip Peanuts, by Charles M. Schultz, makes its first appearance in newspapers.
1964 Scientists announce findings that smoking can cause cancer.
1967 Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court justice, is sworn in. Marshall had previously been the solicitor general, the head of the legal staff of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and a leading American civil rights lawyer.

This Curious Earth

Photos Catch Monster Storm's Approach

Two stunning photos captured a monster storm in Kansas: one from space and the other head-on. Read more

Valley of the Penitents

Curious ice formations line up like penitent worshipers high in the mountains of the Atacama Desert Read more
valley of the penitents

Editorial Comment

Over the past few days things have been up in the air scheduling wise so until the schedule falls into place we will be 'Blogging Lite' with respect to the number of posts but not content. And as noted the other day a bit later in the day as well.

Judge halts Pa.'s tough new voter ID requirement


Pennsylvania's divisive voter identification requirement became the latest of its kind to get pushback from the courts ahead of Election Day, delivering a hard-fought victory to Democrats who said it was a ploy to defeat President Barack Obama and other opponents who said it would prevent the elderly and minorities from voting.
Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson said in his ruling that he was concerned by the state's stumbling efforts to create a photo ID that is easily accessible to voters and that he could not rely on the assurances of government officials at this late date that every voter would be able to get a valid ID.
If it stands, it is good news for Obama's chances in Pennsylvania, one of the nation's biggest electoral college prizes, unless repugicans and the tea party groups that backed the law find a way to use it to motivate their supporters and possibly independents.
Simpson based his decision on guidelines given to him two weeks ago by the state's high court to determine whether the state had made photo IDs easily accessible to voters who needed them. It could easily be the final word on the law just five weeks before the Nov. 6 election, especially since Gov. Tom Corbett, who had championed the law, said he was leaning against appealing to the state Supreme Court.
"This decision is a big win for voters in Pennsylvania," said Witold J. Walczak of the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, which helped challenge the law.
Simpson's ruling would not stop the law from going into full effect next year, though he could still decide later to issue a permanent injunction as part of the ongoing legal challenge to the law's constitutionality.
The 6-month-old law — among the nation's toughest — is one of many that has passed a repugican-controlled state Legislature since the last presidential election, and has sparked a divisive debate over voting rights ahead of the contest between Obama, a Democrat, and repugican nominee Mitt Romney, for Pennsylvania's 20 electoral votes.
It was already a political lightning rod when a top state repugican lawmaker boasted to a repugican cabal dinner in June that the ID requirement "is going to allow Gov. Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania."
The law is one of about 20 tougher voter identification laws passed predominantly by repugican-controlled state Legislatures since the last presidential election. However, several states' laws are not strict in their requirement for a photo ID, several others were vetoed by Democratic governors and still others — such as in Texas and Wisconsin — were held up by courts.
It's not clear how the laws could affect the presidential election, or even if they will, considering that the toughest identification laws are not taking effect this year in presidential battleground states.
"The thing I'm concerned about is that it will lead to confusion on Election Day," said Nathan Persily, who teaches election law at Columbia University. "There will be spotty enforcement ... and there could be lines and slow voting as a result."
In Pennsylvania, election workers will still be allowed to ask voters for a valid photo ID, but people without it can use a regular voting machine in the polling place and would not have to cast a provisional ballot or prove their identity to election officials afterward.
Jon M. Greenbaum of The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law said he believes the Pennsylvania case will set an important principle going forward, that voter identification laws cannot disenfranchise voters.
Others, such as Michael J. Pitts, who teaches election law at Indiana University, said Pennsylvania's decision is distinctive because of the court's discomfort with changing the voter identification rules so close to an election.
The plaintiffs included the Homeless Advocacy Project, the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Simpson's ruling came after listening to two days of testimony about the state's eleventh-hour efforts to make it easier to get a valid photo ID. He also heard about long lines and ill-informed clerks at driver's license centers and identification requirements that made it hard for some registered voters to get a state-issued photo ID.
Pennsylvania, traditionally considered a presidential battleground state, is showing a persistent lead for Obama in independent polls. Pollsters had said Pennsylvania's identification requirement could mean that fewer people ended up voting and, in the past, lower turnouts have benefited repugicans in Pennsylvania.
But Democrats have used their opposition to the law as a rallying cry, turning it into a valuable tool to motivate volunteers and campaign contributions while other opponents of the law, including labor unions, good government groups, the NAACP, AARP and the League of Women Voters, hold voter education drives and protest rallies.
The law was a signature accomplishment of Corbett and Pennsylvania's repugican-controlled Legislature. Republicans, long suspicious of ballot-box stuffing in the Democratic bastion of Philadelphia, justified it as a bulwark against any potential election fraud.
Every Democratic lawmaker voted against it. Some accused repugicans of using old-fashioned Jim Crow tactics to steal the White House from Obama. Other opponents said it would make it harder for young adults, minorities, the elderly, poor and disabled to vote.

Double whammy of bad news for Romney

The news that we may be seeing the beginning of a mass exodus of donors from the Romney campaign comes from a surprising source, Faux News:
The Romney campaign is experiencing what some officials believe could be the beginning of a mass exodus of big money donors….
[A]nother person with direct knowledge of the matter says the trend, though nascent, is more geographically broad based, and reflects an increasing degree of anxiety both with what they believe is the tentative nature of the Romney campaign, and recent poll numbers that show President Obama with a lead, particularly in key battleground states, that some repugican contributors are starting to believe is insurmountable.
“This isn’t just a New York trend,” this person said. “It’s beginning to occur all over the place.”
Then Mitt Romney was hit by a double whammy. Because of massive fraud allegations affecting a repugican donor that was working in at least seven swing states, the repugican cabal is ending (early) voter registration drives in at least five of those states. Bloomberg:
The repugican national cabal ended efforts to sign up new voters before the deadline in key states for the presidential race because of questions raised over registration applications tied to the party.
The repugican cabals in Florida, Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina and Virginia — all states that both campaigns view as competitive — fired Glen Allen, Virginia-based Strategic Allied Consulting, the company in charge of registrations, said Kirsten Kukowski, a spokeswoman for the repugican national cabal. The national committee also canceled its contract with the company, its only vendor signing up new voters, Kukowski said.
Some more background on the problem, that I posted about the other night:
What first appeared to be an isolated problem in one Florida county has now spread statewide, with election officials in at least seven counties informing prosecutors or state election officials about questionable voter registration forms filled out on behalf of the repugican cabal of Florida….
Lux said there have been forms that listed dead people and were either incomplete or illegible. He met with local prosecutors on Friday, but added that his staff was still going through hundreds of forms dropped off by Strategic employees.
Lux, who is a repugican, said he warned local party officials earlier this month when he first learned the company was paying people to register voters.
“I told them ‘This is not going to end well,’” Lux said.
And, as I already noted, the firm was working in at least seven key swing states.

Did you know ...

Would you know if Joe Biden was your waiter

That melting arctic snow may be prolonging North American drought

That some people choose to not have kids

But if your sweetie is far away, try the long distance smartphone-enabled pleasuring devices

New York To Get The World's Largest Ferris Wheel

New York will get a new attraction alongside the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building: The world's largest Ferris wheel. This giant Ferris wheel will be located on the northeastern side of Staten Island. Constuction is expected to begun in April 2014 with a target operational commencement at the end of 2015.

The capacity of the New York Wheel will be 36 passenger capsules carrying up to 40 passengers each and a total maximum capacity of 1,440 people per ride. The Wheel expects up to 30,000 riders per day and about 4.5 million passengers per year.

TSA bans woman’s Smirnoff, so she offers shots to passengers

Out of her cold dead hands.
Adam witnessed this this morning at Dulles Airport outside of DC, and even snapped a photo (left). Here’s Adam’s post on Facebook describing the incident:
Woman at Dulles security line, unable to carry her plastic handle of Smirnoff vodka through security, is currently drinking it in line and offering swigs to other passengers. It’s 7:30am and TSA is not amused.
You gotta love the woman for sticking to her guns.  Adam says he got offered a shot as well.  He didn’t indicate whether he took accepted.
You can see the full photo, uncensored, on Adam’s Facebook page.

Former TSA employee: Common, easy, to steal from luggage

ABC interviewed a convicted TSA security officer who says it was “common” and “easy” to steal from passengers’ luggage, and that TSA didn’t really care.
A convicted TSA security officer says he was part of a “culture” of indifference that allowed corrupt employees to prey on passengers’ luggage and personal belongings with impunity, thanks to lax oversight and tip-offs from TSA colleagues.”It was very commonplace, very,” said Pythias Brown, a former TSA officer at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey who admits he stole more than $800,000 worth of items from luggage and security checkpoints over a four-year period.
“It was very convenient to steal,” he said.
Assigned to screen luggage behind the ticket counters, Brown said he often worked alone, was told when overhead surveillance cameras to prevent theft were not working, and was never asked about suspicious behavior.
“It was so easy,” said Brown, “I walked right out of the checkpoint with a Nintendo Wii in my hand. Nobody said a word.”
He said he soon learned how to read the X-ray scans to find the most valuable items to steal.
The article mentions that he was able to get cameras, laptops and video games, and could easily tell what the best pickings were just from the x-ray. I’m wondering who would put a camera or even a video game – let alone a laptop! – in their checked luggage?

Man who robbed two banks called police for help while standing outside third

Police said Florida man William Richard Kane III robbed a bank on Wednesday morning. Then, they said, he did the same thing on Thursday morning.
On Friday morning, he was about to rob a third bank, they said, when something stopped him. Kane called 911. The 51-year-old Oldsmar resident said he was stressed out and tired.

"He told dispatchers he wanted to go back to rehab," said St. Petersburg police spokesman Mike Puetz. "He'd fallen off the wagon." He also told the officers who arrived at the Wells Fargo Bank at 4125 Fourth St. N at about 10:15 a.m. on Friday that he was depressed and suicidal. Kane is addicted to crack cocaine, Puetz said.

Officers said Kane admitted to robbing St. Petersburg's First Bank at 6850 Central Ave. on Wednesday and then robbing the Chase Bank at 7360 U.S. 19 in Pinellas Park on Thursday. He was charged with two counts of robbery with a deadly weapon and is being held in the county jail in lieu of $100,000 bail.

Shootings expose cracks in US mental health system

A pallbearer cries after carrying the casket of Reuven Rahamim to the hearse at Beth El Synagogue in St. Louis Park, Minn., on Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012. Rahamim was killed in a workplace shooting Thursday. Andrew Engeldinger, 36, walked into the Minneapolis business on Thursday afternoon and fatally shot five people. (AP Photo/Star Tribune, Renee Jones Schneider)
Andrew Engeldinger's parents pushed him for two years to seek treatment for what they suspected was mental illness, but even though he became increasingly paranoid and experienced delusions, there was nothing more they could do. Minnesota law doesn't allow people to be forced into treatment without proof that they are a threat to themselves or others. Engeldinger's parents were horrified last week, when their 36-year-old son went on a workplace shooting spree that led to the deaths of a Minneapolis sign company's owner, several of his employees and a UPS driver. Engeldinger then killed himself.
"They wanted him to get treatment. They wanted him to get help," said Sue Abderholden, the executive director of the Minnesota
chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, who has acted as a family spokeswoman. She added: "You're not going to convince someone they're ill if they don't want to believe it."
This is a problem faced by many friends and relatives of people suffering from mental illness, along with the police officers and health care providers to whom they turn for help. While a small number of people with mental illness commit acts of violence, the difficulty of securing treatment and ensuring it is successful — and the catastrophic consequences of failure — are common threads that often link such outbursts.
"These are not random acts of violence," said Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, a psychiatrist at the nonprofit Stanley Medical Research Institute in Maryland. "It is my personal belief that these episodes will increase in number and severity and will continue until we figure out what to do about it."
Engeldinger was never formally diagnosed with a mental illness, but his family was concerned enough by their son's behavior, which included claims that he was being followed, to enroll in a free, 12-week course for loved ones of people with mental illness before he cut off contact in late 2010.
His willful estrangement kept his parents from the basement of his small bungalow, where police said he stockpiled 10,000 rounds of ammunition and a second gun on top of the 9mm Glock semi-automatic pistol he used in Thursday's shooting. Without evidence that he was a threat to himself or others, they were unable to force him into treatment under Minnesota law.
A successful patients' rights movement in the 1970s made it difficult — and illegal in some states — to force a person into treatment unless he or she was homicidal or suicidal. Dr. Darold Treffert, a Wisconsin psychiatrist, coined the phrase "dying with their rights on" in 1974, after collecting stories of people who didn't qualify for involuntary commitment and later killed themselves.
In the years since, 41 states have added "need for treatment" standards to their laws that allow more individuals to be placed into court-ordered treatment programs. Minnesota is not among them.
"The pendulum is slowly returning to a reasonable balance," Treffert said. "I have comforted myself on this long mission with the realization that some things can be learned and can't be taught. We do seem to be learning slowly from tragedies."
A sly suggestion from a police officer led Kevin Earley's father to lie and say the young man was violent so that he would get treatment. Earley, then 23, was arrested after breaking into someone else's house to take a bubble bath.
"He said, 'Unless you tell them your son threatened to kill you, they won't admit him and we'll take him to jail, and you don't want that,'" said Pete Earley, an author in Fairfax, Va., who has written about his son's experience in the mental health care system.
Kevin Earley was seeing secret messages all around him, but his father never heard his clearly psychotic son threaten himself or others.
"I went in and I lied. And that got him into the hospital," Pete Earley said.
But just getting patients diagnosed or enrolled in treatment often isn't enough. Virginia Tech gunman Seung-Hui Cho was ordered into outpatient treatment before he killed 32 people in 2007.
This summer, prosecutors say, James Holmes killed 12 people at a midnight premiere of a new Batman movie in Colorado. His attorneys say he had an undisclosed mental illness, and his psychiatrist tried to report him to a campus behavioral and security committee.
Experts say it can take years before patients agree to stick with a prescribed treatment. Elyn Saks, a law professor at the University of Southern California, has schizophrenia and, without medication, starts to believe she can kill hundreds of thousands of people with her thoughts. Until the mid-1990s, when she was in her 40s, Saks tried periodically to skip her drugs.
"I felt so ashamed," said Saks, a MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" winner for her contributions to mental health law. "It's an internalized stigma. I wanted to be whole, I wanted to be well. Each time I tried to get off medication, I did it with great gusto and failed miserably." Now, she takes her pills. "Frankly, I'm sorry I wasn't smarter sooner."
Earley initially didn't stick with treatment after his father lied to get him into a hospital. He became violent — he was shot with a Taser by a police officer at one point — and was hospitalized five times before he realized he couldn't live without his medication.
"I know I have a mental illness and if I leave it untreated it will destroy me," said Earley, who now works full time as a peer counselor in Fairfax County, Va., helping others with severe mental illnesses. With treatment, he said, "I have my own apartment, a car ... I'm able to do things with friends and family. I have a job I can go to that gives me pride."

Your drugs are tested on Russians

It's so difficult to get access to modern health care in Russia that the country is becoming a haven for medical testing — there are more people there willing to be guinea pigs for more stuff simply because they have no other way to see a doctor. This is one of those fun dilemmas where medical testing is necessary, but hard to talk wealthy, healthy people into if they already have access to health care. The result: Drugs and treatments get tried out, voluntarily, on whoever is most desperate.

Ancient Egyptian Fake Toes Earliest Prosthetics

The big toes, created between 950 to 710 B.C., were most comfortable when worn with sandals, volunteers discovered. Read more
Ancient Egyptian Fake Toes Earliest Prosthetics

How Bill Nye Became The Science Guy

bill nyeYou know Bill Nye -he's the Science Guy! But he wasn't always. It was a series of what might appear to be happy coincidences that landed him in the position of pop culture science teacher. But happy coincidences are often just the result of someone who leaps at the right opportunities. Fast Company has an interview with Nye in which he tells how he worked as an airplane engineer while his friends thought he should be the next Steve Martin. At one time he was working with a radio DJ.
Time to time, he’d have questions, and you could answer to win free tickets or what have you. One of them was a question that refers to the Back to the Future movie. And in the answer, he says“jigawatts.” So I called him, and I said, "Ross, you can say jigawatts, but really, we prefer gigawatts.”

[From then on] I called him every day at 4:45 and answered a listener question. And that went on for a few months. And then in January of 1987, we needed six minutes on the comedy show [because a guest cancelled].

I did this bit, "The household uses of liquid nitrogen." Because we all have liquid nitrogen around. So this was just reminder of some tips. I know normally you use it by fitting up your close-fitting machine parts, by getting one part really cold, but you can also use it for straightening out limp celery. You can slice onions with it, when you hit them with a knife, it’s really satisfying. It sounds like breaking glass. It’s a really striking sound. Striking, ah! Hilarious pun. Now the payoff, what I spent a lot of time doing, is you cook or roast marshmallows in liquid nitrogen and then you chew them and steam comes out of your nose. It’s really good.

Ancient Fortress Found in Spain

The 4,200-year-old fort consisted of 10-foot-thick walls that were once 22 feet high and was unusually advanced for its time. Read more
Ancient Fortress Found in Spain

Great Barrier Reef in trouble

These are not great times for coral reefs around the world. Coral reefs in the Caribbean are collapsing due to climate change and this new report from Australia is bad news as well. The Guardian:
Coral cover in the Great Barrier Reef has dropped by more than half over the last 27 years, according to scientists, a result of increased storms, bleaching and predation by population explosions of a starfish which sucks away the coral’s nutrients.
At present rates of decline, the coral cover will halve again within a decade, though scientists said the reef could recover if the crown-of-thorns starfish can be brought under control and, longer term, global carbon dioxide emissions are reduced.
“This latest study provides compelling evidence that the cumulative impacts of storms, crown-of-thorns starfish (Cots) and two bleaching events have had a devastating effect on the reef over the last three decades,” said John Gunn, chief executive of the Australian Institute of Marine Science.

SARS-Like Virus May Come From Bats

The SARS-like virus that has infected patients from the Middle East appears to be related to a virus found in bats. Read more
SARS-Like Virus May Come From Bats

Prehistoric builders reveal trade secrets

The most sophisticated animal architects that have ever lived on this planet. It has provided evidence that early organisms developed specialized roles ...
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