Welcome to ...

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, October 3, 2012

The Daily Drift

It's been one of THOSE days.

Some of our readers today have been in:
Jerudong, Brunei
Orleans, France
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Cape Town, South Africa
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Bandar Labuan, Malaysia
Surabaya, Indonesia
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Petaling Jaya, Malaysia
Paris, France
Makati, Philippines
Seremban, Malaysia
Manila, Philippines
Rabat, Morocco
Kluang, Malaysia
Tegucigala, Honduras
Cainta, Philippines
Kuching, Malaysia
Centurion, South Africa
Kuwait, Kuwait
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Esbjerg, Denmark
Pasig, Philippines
Ampang, Malaysia
Windhoek, Namibia
Warsaw, Poland
Tallinn, Estonia

Don't forget to visit our sister blog!

Today in History

1739   Russia signs a treaty with the Turks, ending a three-year conflict between the two countries.
1776   Congress borrows five million dollars to halt the rapid depreciation of paper money in the colonies.
1862   At the Battle of Corinth, in Mississippi, a Union army defeats the Confederates.
1873   Captain Jack and three other Modoc Indians are hanged in Oregon for the murder of General Edward Canby.
1876   John L. Routt, the Colorado Territory governor, is elected the first state governor of Colorado in the Centennial year of the U.S.
1906   The first conference on wireless telegraphy in Berlin adopts SOS as warning signal.
1929   The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes officially changes its name to Yugoslavia.
1931   The comic strip Dick Tracy first appears in the New York News.
1940   U.S. Army adopts airborne, or parachute, soldiers. Airborne troops were later used in World War II for landing troops in combat and infiltrating agents into enemy territory.
1941   The Maltese Falson, starring Humphrey Bogart as detective Sam Spade, opens.
1942   Germany conducts the first successful test flight of a V-2 missile, which flies perfectly over a 118-mile course.
1944   German troops evacuate Athens, Greece.
1951   A "shot is heard around the world" when New York Giants outfielder Bobby Thomson hits a home run in the bottom of the ninth inning, beating the Brooklyn Dodgers to win the National League pennant.
1955   The children's television program Captain Kangaroo debuts.
1989   Art Shell becomes the first African American to coach a professional football team, the Los Angeles Raiders.
1990   After 40 years of division, East and West Germany are reunited as one nation.

Non Sequitur


More bad polls numbers for Romney

A quick look at latest polls continues to spell trouble for Mitt Romney on the morning of tonight’s crucial presidential debate.Obama is ahead of Romney in the NBC/WSJ poll:
Obama edges Romney by three points among likely voters, 49 percent to 46 percent, which is within the survey’s margin of error. Obama’s lead was five points, 50 percent to 45 percent, in the NBC/WSJ poll released two weeks ago, following the political conventions.
But among a wider pool of registered voters, the president is ahead of Romney by seven points, 51 percent to 44 percent.
Victim-gate took its toll on Romney:
Indeed, the poll also shows the toll the past month has taken on Romney, with a majority of registered voters saying that the events of the last couple of weeks had given them a less favorable impression of the repugican challenger.
What’s more, by a 2-to-1 margin, these voters have a negative reaction to Romney’s comment – caught on tape from a fundraiser back in May – that “47 percent” of Americans are dependent on government and believe they are victims.
Even the WSJ says the numbers are “challenging” for Romney, and that most Americans don’t see the presidential debates as game-changers.
Politico concurs that the 47% video hurt Romney:
Two-thirds of Americans have heard about repugican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s comments about the “47 percent,” and a majority of them said it makes them less likely to vote for the former Massachusetts governor.
Among Americans who knew Romney made the “47 percent” remarks, in which he said a portion of Americans saw themselves as “victims” dependent on government and were destined to vote for President Barack Obama, 55 percent had a negative reaction and 23 percent had a positive one, according to a Pew Research Center poll released Monday. A fifth had no reaction or a neutral reaction.
Independents were especially ticked.
Among independents, 18 percent had a positive reaction and 55 percent had a negative one.
Another poll shows that voters are finding Romney/Ryan more uncivil than Obama/Biden:
A majority of likely voters, 55 percent – 42 percent, considers President Obama’s campaign tone to be civil, while a plurality, 49 percent – 45 percent, perceives Governor Romney’s tone as uncivil. The civility gap is potentially significant because nearly half of likely voters polled, 48 percent, say the candidate’s civility will be a “very important” factor in how they vote.
The gap was much less pronounced for the Vice Presidential candidates. Vice President Biden was seen as civil by a margin of 49 percent to 43 percent while likely voters were evenly split in their assessment of Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, with 46 percent saying he was civil and the same number saying he had been uncivil.

Blogger featured on Romney site compares Obama to KKK

A blogger featured prominently on Mitt Romney’s campaign Web site, who I wrote about last week, compared voting for President Obama to voting for the KKK.  We noted last week that the same blogger, John Hawkins, frequently writes of  kneecapping President Obama (he says it’s a metaphor).  Yet, Mitt Romney seems to have no problem profiling the work of this blogger on the Romney/Ryan campaign site. It seems that Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski shares my concerns.
And lest the Romney campaign try to claim this was a “low-level staff” mistake, here’s Romney’s digital director, Zac Moffattm, tweeting approvingly of this guy’s post on the Romney Web site.  It wasn’t a mistake that they posted his work on their site.  He’s been viciously anti-Romney up until now, so they must have been hoping that this guy would help them get some of the right-wing anti-Romney Republicans back in line.  In other words, his extremism wasn’t a glitch, it was a feature they likely wanted to help them get other far-right Republicans to join their cause.

Scott Brown plays the race card again

Perhaps all the other commentators were watching a different debate the other night.  I saw absolutely nothing likable in Scott Brown’s debate performance against Democrat Elizabeth Warren.
David Gregory, the NBC moderator, did much of Brown’s work for him, starting the debate by requiring Warren to respond to Brown’s racist attack ad charges. The whole first third of the debate was spent re-litigating Brown’s smears with Gregory slapping down Warren’s attempts to turn the discussion to actual issues.
The heart of Brown’s case against Warren is the claim that she got her tenured position at Harvard through affirmative action. Disputing Warren’s native American heritage is just a way for Brown to make an appeal to the racist vote without appearing racist. Brown’s core constituency is angry white males who believe that they didn’t succeed in life because ‘minorities’ always went to the head of the queue in front of them.
Perhaps the real reason that the Brown campaign keeps returning to this non-story is that Brown considers himself to be one of those white males disadvantaged by affirmative action. If only he had thought to ‘check the box’ like Warren did, he might have been the Harvard Professor (as if). Midway through the debate I wondered if Brown was actually going to start make air quotes when he repeatedly called Warren ‘professor’ as a slur, rather than just implying the quotes with his tone of voice.
The heart of Warren’s case against Brown is that a vote for Brown is a vote for repugican control of the Senate. Brown ia a reliable vote for the repugican cabal whenever his vote is actually needed.
Warren’s apparent strategy was to allow Brown to show his ugly side as he tried to connect to the lizard brain of the repugican id. If so, she succeeded.

Did you know ...

The question begs to be answered: Is Paul Ryan really Eddie Haskell?

What the presidential debates won't tell you

Rasmussen always tilts right; too bad their polls are hardly ever right

That Mitt seems to be losing donors

Immigrant stole military technology for Russia

An FBI agent enters Arc Electronics Inc. Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012 in Houston. A Kazakhstan-born businessman was charged in the U.S. on Wednesday with being a secret Russian agent involved in a scheme to illegally export microelectronics from the United States to Russian military and intelligence agencies. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)  
An American success story of an immigrant from Kazakhstan who made millions off his Texas export firm took a Cold War-era turn on Wednesday when U.S. authorities accused him of being a secret agent who's been stealing military technology for the Russian military.
Alexander Fishenko was among 11 defendants named in a federal indictment filed in Brooklyn charging them in an alleged scheme to purposely evade strict export controls for cutting-edge microelectronics. It also charges Fishenko with money laundering and operating inside the United States as an unregistered agent of the Russian government.
Fishenko, a naturalized U.S. citizen and owner of Houston-based Arc Electronics Inc., and seven others were in custody in Houston following raids there by the FBI. He was expected to make his first court appearance on Thursday.
The name of Fishenko's attorney was not immediately available. His wife, Viktoria, who was identified as a co-owner of her husband's business but not charged, declined to comment Wednesday.
"I will speak when I know what's going on," she said.
The indictment alleges that since October 2008, the 46-year-old Fishenko and his co-defendants "engaged in a surreptitious and systematic conspiracy" to obtain the highly regulated technology from U.S. makers and export them to Russia.
U.S. authorities say the microelectronics could have a wide range of military uses, including radar and surveillance systems, weapons guidance systems and detonation triggers. They also say the charges come amid a modernization campaign by Russian military officials hungry for the restricted, American-made components.
"The defendants tried to take advantage of America's free markets to steal American technologies for the Russian government," Loretta Lynch, U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, said in a statement.
Stephen L. Morris, head of the FBI office in Houston, called the charges an example of how some countries have sought to bypass export safeguards "to improve their defense capabilities and to modernize weapons systems at the expense of U.S. taxpayers."
According to court papers, Fishenko was born in the former Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan and graduated from a technical institute in St. Petersburg before coming to America in 1994. He holds U.S. and Russian passports and has frequently traveled overseas to do business, making tens of millions of dollars on exports, authorities said.
An analysis of Arc's accounting records showed a "striking similarity between fluctuations in Arc's gross revenues and the Russian Federation's defense spending over the last several years," the court papers say. Investigators also recovered a letter to Arc from a Russian domestic intelligence agency lab complaining that microchips supplied by the company were defective, the papers add.
Phone calls and emails intercepted by U.S. investigators also "constitute devastating evidence of Fishenko's illegal procurement for the Russian government," the court papers say.
Prosecutors said the evidence revealed repeated attempts by Fishenko to cover his tracks. In one instance in March, he "directed an employee of a Russian procurement firm to 'make sure that our guys don't discuss extra information, such as this is for our military client,'" the papers say.
In an earlier conversation, Fishenko favorably referred to a business associate using "a Russian colloquialism for 'spy' or 'secret agent,'" the papers add.
About a dozen FBI agents in Houston executed a search warrant on Wednesday at Fishenko's firm, an unmarked business located in an industrial area in southwest Houston. They took at least 18 cardboard boxes of materials from inside the business to a large truck parked in an alley in the back of the business.
Under sentencing guidelines, Fishenko faces more than 12 years in prison if convicted on all charges.

Florida weighs case of illegal immigrant who passed bar exam

Florida's Supreme Court on Tuesday grilled attorneys on the implications of issuing a law license to an undocumented immigrant and law school graduate who passed the Florida Bar exam after disclosing he was in the United States illegally.
As 26-year-old Jose Manuel Godinez-Samperio of Mexico watched the proceedings from the gallery, one judge accused the Florida Board of Bar Examiners of putting the state in an awkward situation.
"It seems very strange," Justice R. Fred Lewis said in chastising the attorney for the board on why it allowed Godinez-Samperio to take the bar exam in the first place if it was not prepared to admit him when he passed.
"You bring a person to the edge and you push him off the cliff ... . I'm just at a loss as to how the board put the state in this kind of position."
The case is the latest chapter in a battle that pits the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, which has a new policy of granting temporary work permits to millions of young illegal immigrants, against states that seek to crack down on illegal immigration within their borders.
Known as "deferred action for childhood arrivals," the policy shields illegal immigrants aged 15 to 30 from deportation for at least two years and allows them to obtain work permits.
In August the U.S. Justice Department told California's high court that it should not allow an illegal immigrant, Sergio Garcia, 35, to practice law in the state even though he passed the bar exam and has the backing of state officials.
At Tuesday's hearing, several Florida justices asked if the Justice Department should be consulted in this case, too. A similar case is developing in New York, though it has not yet gone to court.
Godinez-Samperio passed the bar exam last year after disclosing that he was an undocumented immigrant and obtaining a waiver from the board's 2008 requirement to show proof of residency or citizenship.
After he passed the exam, the board asked the state's highest court to rule on whether undocumented immigrants should be allowed to legally practice law in Florida.
During oral arguments on Tuesday, Justice Charles Canady repeatedly referred to a 1996 federal immigration law, suggesting that it precludes Godinez-Samperio from practicing as a lawyer.
"Doesn't the board have a responsibility to follow the federal law?" Canady asked board attorney Robert Blythe. The law prevents state and local agencies from issuing professional licenses to unqualified immigrants.
But Talbot "Sandy" D'Alemberte, the attorney for Godinez-Samperio, argued that portions of the law apply to state agencies but not to the court.
Other justices inquired how Godinez-Samperio would legally work even if he had a license. D'Alemberte said he had applied in August for "deferred action."
Godinez-Samperio legally entered the country with his parents when he was 9, but the family overstayed its tourist visas.
His father and mother, both professionals in Mexico, took farming and factory jobs while Godinez-Samperio became an Eagle Scout, high school valedictorian and a graduate of Florida State University's law school.
Justice Barbara Pariente said the "deferred action" policy could be undone if Obama loses the November 6 election, while Justices Jorge Labarga and James Perry expressed interest in waiting to see if Godinez-Samperio's application is approved.
Godinez-Samperio told Reuters his life is in limbo until the court decides.
"I take one step at a time," he said before the hearing.

Rare century-old $5 Alaska bill to be auctioned



The $5 bill displayed for decades on Charles Fairbanks IV's wall was long a treasured family heirloom from Alaska. Now, to the surprise of the grandson of a turn-of-a-century vice president, it's also become a likely treasure trove.
The rare find is expected to fetch as much as $300,000 at auction this month when a Texas auctioneer plans to put it up for bids in Dallas and online as part of the American Numismatic Association National Money Show.
The bill was presented in 1905 to Vice President Charles W. Fairbanks — Theodore Roosevelt's No. 2 — and was from the First National Bank of Fairbanks, Alaska. The family has had it in their possession ever since and recently decided to auction it off through Dallas-based Heritage Auctions.
"It's a wonderful, wonderful find," said Dustin Johnston, director of Heritage's currency auctions.
Auction officials say the Fairbanks bill that features an image of President Benjamin Harrison is a highlight that's expected to sell for $200,000 to $300,000. The minimum starting bid is $120,000.
Fairbanks always knew the bill was special, at least to his family, given that it was presented to the former vice president as a memento from the frontier city named after him.
Fairbanks learned last year that the uncirculated note's estimated value had skyrocketed far beyond the estimate of $50,000 to $60,000 set in the mid-1990s, which prompted him to start locking it up whenever he traveled.
With the new estimate, the 66-year-old great-grandson no longer felt comfortable displaying it on a wall in his Santa Barbara, Calif., home.
It was no longer just a framed family keepsake, so off it went to a safety deposit box.
"Why stress out and worry about something?" Fairbanks said. "It'd be like having a Monet in the house."
But keeping it hidden didn't do anyone any good. So Fairbanks decided to consign it to Heritage. He said his family has plenty of other historical memorabilia, or he wouldn't have done it.
Charles W. Fairbanks was a U.S. senator from Indiana in the late 1890s when he was credited with playing a key role to resolve a border dispute with Canada triggered by the Klondike Gold Rush. As a result of his efforts, most of the disputed territory went to the United States.
But the real reason the city of Fairbanks was named after him was because he played a key role in the appointment of a federal judge, James Wickersham, a man Fairbanks met during the border dispute, according to University of Alaska Fairbanks historian Terrence Cole. To return the favor, Wickersham urged city founders to call the settlement Fairbanks.
"He said, 'I owe everything that I am to him,'" Cole said.
Auction officials also note the bill's rarity. Only three banks in Alaska — out of more than 12,000 banks nationwide — issued the bills.
The Fairbanks bill was just one of four notes of its kind in the $5 denomination that were issued in 1905 by a now-defunct Alaska bank and only one of two known to still exist, according to Dustin Johnston, director of Heritage's currency auctions. The other bill sold 15 years ago for close to $100,000 and the market has "really picked up for the rarest pieces," he said.
Johnston said the bill is unfolded and there is no wear. Its color is a little muted because the family displayed it for so long. There also have been some minor restorations to the back corners, but Johnston doesn't expect that to affect the selling price, given the bill's rarity, pedigree and history.
It's probably one of the better national bank notes that will come to auction over this decade, he said.
"It's easily in the top five of what I've handled," Johnston said.

Coming Soon To A Sky Near You: A Very Bright Comet

cAstronomers have discovered a new comet that should be visible from Earth in 2013, and shine even brighter than a full moon at its peak!
The new comet, named C/2012 S1 (ISON) was found by the International Scientific Optical Network (ISON) in Russia on 21 September when astronomers Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok captured it on CCD images taken through a 0.4-metre reflector. Its near-parabolic orbit suggests that it has arrived fresh from the Oort Cloud, a vast zone of icy objects orbiting the Sun, pristine remnants of the formation of the Solar System.

C/2012 S1 currently resides in the northwestern corner of Cancer. At magnitude +18 it is too dim to be seen visually but it will be within the reach of experienced amateur astronomers with CCD equipment in the coming months as it brightens. It is expected to reach binocular visibility by late summer 2013 and a naked eye object in early November of that year. Northern hemisphere observers are highly favored. Following its peak brightness in late November it will remain visible without optical aid until mid-January 2014.
Better write those dates down when you get your new calendars for 2013. Read more about the comet at Astronomy Now

Why Is The Sky Dark At Night?

One thing educators like to say is that there are no stupid questions. Even basic questions are worth asking, and sometimes can lead to profound insight.
For example, why is the sky dark at night?

Fourteen Interesting Tidal Islands

A tidal island is a piece of land that is connected to the mainland at low tide at which time they can be reached on foot. At high tide however it is completely cut off from the mainland and becomes a real island.

Tidal islands are sometimes connected to the mainland by a man-made causeway allowing easy access for visitors wishing to cross over but even these can get submerged by the sea. So always check the tide times before you visit, or get ready to swim back.

Pet Monkey on House Arrest After Biting a Man

A Florida man's 19-year-old Capuchin monkey is on house arrest after biting a man near Cocoa Beach last weekend.

Woman Photographed Riding A Manatee Turns Herself In

Manatees are an endangered species, which is just one of the many reasons you should not pose for the camera while riding one.

The Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act makes it a second-degree misdemeanor to intentionally “molest, harass, or disturb” any manatee. We’re not legal experts, but we’re willing to bet that includes riding one like a horse.

Seven Ways The World Could Be Completely Different

What if the Romans won the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest? What if Napoleon had kept going? What if the South had won the US Civil War? What if the Cuban Missile Crisis escalated into a full-scale war? Seven intriguing ways the world could be completely different.

Batman Proposes to Batgirl

In a romantic flashback moment, Ruby, dressed as Batman from the 1960s show, proposed to his girlfriend Jennnifer, dressed as Batgirl from the same show. It was a delicious event organized by actor Dean Cain at DragonCon 2012 in Atlanta. You can watch a video of it at the link.

An elephant made him do it

A 31-year-old New Castle, Delaware, man was arrested for his seventh felony DUI offense after he hit a guardrail to avoid hitting an elephant, state police have said.

Samuel Phipps was committed to Young Correctional Institution on charges of seventh offense DUI for driving a vehicle under the influence of a drug and failure to have the required insurance, Cpl. John Day said.

The incident occurred shortly before 9 p.m. Friday. Day said Phipps drove his red 2008 Land Rover off the road and hit a left guardrail. Day said a trooper found Phipps to be impaired at the scene and when asked, he told the trooper that prior to driving he had smoked a joint that had been dipped in PCP.

Phipps went on to tell the trooper that he had swerved to avoid hitting an elephant in the road that ran in front of his vehicle and crashed into the guardrail. Day said to the best of his knowledge, no elephants were running loose near New Castle on Friday night. Phipps is being held in lieu of $21,000 secured bail.

Orphan Baby Gorillas Rescued From Poachers

Two baby gorillas were rescued from poachers in separate incidents in September in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and are being cared for at a shelter in Virunga National Park. Isangi is about nine months old, and Baraka is around five months old. The gorillas are being fed human formula, and steps are taken to ensure they don't catch any human diseases.
"Gorilla mothers are very attentive toward their babies," Eddy Kambale said. "The mothers feed them, sleep with them, carry them on their chest or back, groom and clean them, watch them, and protect them against predators, and even rain, at all times."

In the sanctuary, the orphans spend time outside in the forest yard, but mostly their caretakers carry them, as their mothers would. The caretakers use gorilla vocalizations to calm the infants.

"If no one will try to imitate their mothers' behaviors, the infant gorillas can shortly die from stress, as they are very fragile," Kambale said.
When they are deemed healthy enough, the gorillas will be taken to the sanctuary GRACE (Gorilla Conservation and Rehabilitation Education Center), which is operated by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International. There, they will be integrated into a gorilla family in preparation for eventual release. See lots more pictures at  National Geographic News.

Animal Pictures


arctic fox.