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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.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Daily Drift


Terry Moore
Gone Fishin'

Some of our readers today have been in:
Jakarta, Indonesia
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Cape Town, South Africa
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
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Tawau, Malaysia
Asuncion, Paraguay
Pt. Moresby, Papua New Guinea
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
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Beirut, Lebanon
Ampang, Malaysia
Cairo, Egypt
Diepholz, Germany
Makati, Philippines
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Cheboksary, Russia
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Chisinau, Moldova
Panama City, Panama
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Pretoria, South Africa

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Today in History

1492   Christopher Columbus and his crew land in the Bahamas.
1576   Rudolf II, the king of Hungary and Bohemia, succeeds his father, Maximillian II, as Holy Roman Emperor.
1609   The song "Three Blind Mice" is published in London, believed to be the earliest printed secular song.
1702   Admiral Sir George Rooke defeats the French fleet off Vigo.
1722   Shah Sultan Husayn surrenders the Persian capital of Isfahan to Afgan rebels after a seven month siege.
1809   Meriwether Lewis, of the Lewis and Clark expedition, dies under mysterious circumstances in Tennessee.
1899   The Anglo-Boer War begins.
1872   Apache leader Cochise signs a peace treaty with General Howard in Arizona Territory.
1933   Alcatraz Island is made a federal maximum security prison.
1943   The U.S. Fifth Army begins an assault crossing of the Volturno River in Italy.
1949   Eugenie Anderson becomes the first woman U.S. ambassador.
1970   President Richard Nixon announces the pullout of 40,000 more American troops in Vietnam by Christmas.
1971   The House of Representatives passes the Equal Rights Amendment 354-23.

Non Sequitur


The truth be told

Koran-burning U.S. relig-o-nut barred from entering Canada

Good going Canada! Florida pastor Terry Jones talks with reporters before holding a demonstration asking for a ban on sharia law in the U.S., on the steps of Dearborn City Hall in Dearborn, Michigan April 29, 2011. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook
The U.S. reli-o-nut known for burning Korans and inciting unrest in the Middle East was barred on Thursday from entering Canada, where he was set to attend a potentially divisive debate with a imam, Canadian media reports said.
Terry Jones was blocked at the U.S.-Canada border in Windsor, Ontario, because of a previous legal infraction in the United States and because the German government has issued a complaint against him, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp said.
Jones told the CBC that he would seek legal counsel on whether to appeal what he said was a "grievous act" against free speech.
"We are going to head back to Florida now and we are going to check whether we are going to appeal that," he said.
The Canadian government said it does not comment on individual cases and that border officials determine the entry of any individual on a case by case basis.
"Every person seeking entry to Canada must demonstrate that they meet the requirements to enter the country," said Julie Carmichael
, spokeswoman for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews.
Jones was scheduled to debate a Toronto imam, a Sikh leader and a Muslim author on Thursday evening on the grounds of the Ontario provincial legislature in Toronto, according to local organizers.
The once little-known pastor sparked riots in Afghanistan two years ago when he burnt copies of the Koran to mark the anniversary of Sept 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in New York.
He also promoted the film "Innocence of Muslims" this year, which Muslims said insults the Prophet Mohammed. The film sparked unrest across Middle East.
The U.S. ambassador to Libya and three embassy staff were killed in September when Islamist gunmen, blaming the U.S. government for the film, stormed the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

Much of odd weapons cache on plane was permissible

And you wonder why we don't trust the TSA? FILE - In this Nov. 17, 2011 photo, travelers move through the security area of Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, N.J. After a man was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport wearing a bulletproof vest, flame-resistant pants and had a suitcase full of weapons, the TSA has restated what air travelers are allowed to bring along. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)
In an age when air travelers grudgingly surrender bottled water at security checkpoints, the most striking aspect of the arrest of a passenger wearing a bulletproof vest and flying with luggage stocked with knives, clubs and body bags is that virtually all of it was permissible to have onboard.
Yongda Huang Harris
, 28, was taken into custody at Los Angeles International Airport last week during a stopover on a trip from Japan, when U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers noticed he was wearing the bulletproof vest under his trench coat, along with flame-retardant pants and knee pads.
By then, he had reached the U.S. after a stop in South Korea
with a suspicious array of knives and other weaponry in his checked luggage, including a smoke grenade, a hatchet, a biohazard suit, a collapsible baton, masks, duct tape, leg irons and plastic restraints, authorities say.
Most of the items — including the hatchet and knives — wouldn't violate Transportation Security Administration guidelines for what is permissible in checked luggage, and the protective vest and pants are not listed among items prohibited on flights.
The smoke grenade was X-rayed by police bomb squad officers in Los Angeles
, who said the device fell into a category that is prohibited on board passenger aircraft.
But in Incheon, South Korea
, where Harris deplaned and went through security before boarding a Los Angeles-bound flight, items such as axes, knives or smoke-generating cartridges are allowed in checked bags, according to a senior airport security official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak to media.
The official said Harris' checked luggage went through X-ray scans at Incheon but no hazardous materials were found and that no red flags were raised about its contents because the items did not violate that nation's guidelines for checked luggage.
Rules, or the lack of them, that govern what passengers can do, carry or wear on flights can seem alternately reasonable or unfathomable, sometimes even bizarre.
Increased airline security after 9/11 sought to armor flights against terrorist threats, but they can also test credulity for those getting on board.
An intrusive pat-down by security or the discovery of a too-big bottle of tanning lotion can leave a passenger feeling violated, while Harris appears to have triggered no alarm before arriving in Los Angeles.
"The one thing that concerns me is he was able to board a plane internationally with all these weapons and whatnot, and nobody in Japan, nobody in Korea, bothered to find these things until he got to America," said Gadisa Goso, 29, a school administrator and neighbor of Harris' mother in Boston. "That's a big concern for, like, for the U.S."
Michael Cintron of the International Airline Passengers Association said rules for passengers "can get very confusing, and it can get complex, and it can get disconcerting.
"For the average passenger, you see someone getting stopped for liquid, an innocuous object, then you hear about stories like this," Cintron said.
A U.S. Homeland Security official briefed on the investigation said Wednesday that South Korean security officials screened Harris and his carry-on luggage before he got on the Los Angeles
flight, but the smoke grenade somehow made it onto the plane in his checked luggage. The official was not authorized to discuss the case publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. Harris is not cooperating with federal officials who are trying to determine why he was headed to Boston with the cache of weapons, authorities said.
Tom Blank, a former deputy administrator at the TSA, said the U.S. will likely look at whether the failure to detect the grenade on a U.S.-bound jet was a one-time lapse or part of a wider security vulnerability.
If the U.S. determines a country's airport doesn't meet U.S. standards, it can ask for stronger security measures and even prohibit flights from flying directly to the U.S. from that country.
"This clearly looks like an error. Something slipped through that should not have slipped through," Blank said of the grenade.
There is no indication that Harris, who does not have a criminal record, is linked to a terrorist organization or planned to damage the plane, and it's not likely a smoke grenade could bring down the aircraft, the federal official said.
But the smoke grenade is banned from planes under the United Nations' explosives shipping rules. Depending on the conditions when it is ignited, the grenade could fill the cabin with smoke or cause a fire, officials said.
Asked about the grenade, the Korean airport security official pointed out that South Korean guidelines list as legal non-flammable, inert cartridges or tins that produce smoke, but said he would have to see the specific item before he could say more.
Customs officers also believed that the lead-filled, leather-coated billy clubs and collapsible baton might be prohibited by California law, according to an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court.
Harris has been charged with one count of transporting hazardous materials, an offense that carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. He made a brief court appearance Tuesday but his arraignment was delayed until Friday and he was ordered held until then.
Harris is a U.S. citizen whose permanent residence is in Boston, though he recently started living and working in Japan, officials said.
Attempts to reach Harris' family in Boston were unsuccessful. His attorney, Steven Seiden, was unavailable, said spokesman Chris Williams, who described Harris as very intelligent, earning A's in high school and college calculus.
Williams objected to characterizations that Harris was not cooperating with authorities, saying he followed his attorney's advice to exercise his constitutional right to remain silent.
"He has that right. He is an American citizen," Williams said Wednesday.
Harris graduated from Boston University's Metropolitan College in January 2011 with a bachelor of science in biomedical laboratory and clinical sciences, said Constance Phillips, the program director. She called Harris a shy, good student who completed several internships performing research at well-known labs in the Boston area.
Harris traveled from Kansai, in western Japan, to Incheon before landing in Los Angeles. South Korean officials said he traveled on all Asiana Airlines flights, though the airline declined to confirm that, citing South Korean law banning disclosure of passengers' information without their consent.
Security at Japanese airports is similar to security in the U.S. Metal detectors and X-rays screen every person and every bag, both checked and carry-on. Airport and immigration officials at Kansai International Airport said Wednesday that airlines are primarily responsible for luggage inspection, but no problematic cases have been reported recently.
An immigration officer at Kansai, Masahiro Nakamoto, said authorities did not report anything suspicious at the time Harris boarded, but arriving passengers are checked more closely than those leaving the country. Spokesman Keisuke Hamatani said Kansai security officials had not reported any suitcases containing the hazardous materials U.S. authorities say they found in Harris' luggage.
Yasunori Oshima, an official at Japan's Land and Transport Ministry's aviation safety department, said there had been no official inquiry or request from U.S. authorities to look into the case, which he said would have been more of a concern if the hazardous materials were brought into the cabin rather than checked.
"The case does not seem to pose any immediate concerns about aviation security measures in Japan," he said.
Airport police said they do not believe the case constitutes illegal conduct under the Japanese domestic criminal code, but Japan may cooperate at the request of U.S. investigators.

Man arrested for public intoxication has his mugshot taken

35-year-old Sean Payne of Humble, Texas, arrested outside Shamrock's bar early on Thursday morning was allegedly so drunk he couldn't hold his head up for a mugshot.

So an officer grabbed his hair and held his head up for his booking photo. Payne was charged with public intoxication.

Teachers make money selling materials online

In a photo from Sept. 14, 2012, Kristine Nannini passes out student data sheets she created to her fifth grade class at McGrath Elementary in Grand Blanc, Mich. Nannini spent her summer creating her own charts and student data sheets. It was something she imagined other teachers across the nation would want. So she decided to cash in on her prep time and sell her materials on teacherspayteachers.com. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Kristine Nannini spent her summer creating wall charts and student data sheets for her fifth grade class — and making $24,000 online by selling those same materials to other teachers. Teachers like Nannini are making extra money providing materials to their cash-strapped and time-limited colleagues on curriculum sharing sites like teacherspayteachers.com, providing an alternative to more traditional — and generally more expensive — school supply stores. Many districts, teachers and parents say these sites are saving teachers time and money, and giving educators a quick way to make extra income.
There is a lot of money to potentially be made. Deanna Jump, a first-grade teacher at Central Fellowship Christian Academy in Macon, Ga., is teacherspayteachers.com's top seller, earning about $1 million in sales over the past two years. She believes the site has been successful because educators are looking for new ways to engage their students, and the materials are relatively inexpensive and move beyond textbooks "I want kids to be so excited about what they're learning that they can't wait to tell mom and dad," she says.
Dozens of Internet forums have been created to help teachers distribute their material and pick up ideas from other educators. Teacherspayteachers.com is one of the biggest. It was started by a former teacher in New York in 2006 and quickly grew. Others followed, like the sharemylesson.com run by the American Federation of Teachers, the nation's second largest teachers union, where free curriculum ideas and materials are offered. While most characterize these sites as an inexpensive way for teachers to supplement textbook materials, some teachers may get pushback from administrators for their entrepreneurial efforts.
Seattle Public Schools' recently revised its ethics policy, with the new policy prohibiting teachers from selling anything they developed on district time, said district spokeswoman Teresa Wippel. "Anything created on their own time could also cross a gray line, depending on the item and how closely tied it is to classroom work," she said.
Teacherspayteachers.com currently has about 300,000 items for sale plus more than 50,000 free items.
All told, more than 1 million teachers have bought or sold items on teacherspayteachers.com since it began. Teachers had $5 million in sales during August and September, Edelman said. After paying the site fees, teachers have collectively earned more than $14 million on the site since it was founded.
At all of the websites, the quality varies. Jump said she learned over the years that her colleagues — and their students — are only interested in professional-looking materials that offer the kind of information and instruction they need. Teachers are able to rate items offered for purchase or distribution.
Teachers often spend their own money on classroom supplies, despite receiving a few hundred dollars a year for that purpose from their districts. Increasingly, teachers say, they are going to these curriculum sharing sites to look for materials like the ones Nannini and Jump made available because their funds go further than at traditional school supply stores.
"I guess I've created something that everyone really needs," said Nannini, a Grand Blanc, Mich., teacher who just started her fourth year in the classroom.
Jump has made a lot of her money selling science curriculum for the early grades, helping her colleagues teach 7-year-olds about scientific discovery. She has split her earnings between her family, charity and her school, including buying one classroom a smart board.
Stephen Wakefield, spokesman for ASCD, a prominent teacher training organization that has a blog promoting ways for teachers to get help online, said no national organizations approve or rate the multitude of online curricula available to teachers. However many offer lists of places for teachers to explore, he said.
Kathy Smith, a Seattle parent with two daughters in public school, says she knows teachers get materials from a variety of sources and she trusts them to make good decisions about what they choose to share with their students.
"I've got a lot of faith in teachers," she said. "I don't see any problem using computer sites for supplementation at all."
Becky Smith, a special education teacher from rural Alabama, says everything she has gotten off teacherspayteachers.com has been free. Smith says the website saves her driving time and cash, because she can buy only what she needs — not a $20 workbook filled with a variety of things.
She also likes the idea of supporting other teachers, not corporations.
"I was on there for hours just looking for things before school started," she said.

When Does The Age Of Aquarius Begin?

Remember the lyrics of 'Aquarius' by the cast of the musical Hair? When the moon is in the Seventh House and Jupiter aligns with Mars, then peace will guide the planets and love will steer the stars. This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius, the age of Aquarius. When does the Age of Aquarius begin? And what is the Age of Aquarius?

The World's Littlest Skyscraper

The world's smallest skyscraper is a four-story Newby-McMahon Building in downtown Wichita Falls, Texas. It's only 40 feet (12 m) tall.
So, why is it called a skyscraper? The whole thing began with a scam.
In 1919, oil man and engineer J.D. McMahon claimed that he would build a highrise and courted people to invest. With just a simple blueprint, McMahon raised $200,000 (over $2,500,000 in today's dollar).
After the structure was built as a 40 feet building instead of a 480 feet one that people were expecting, McMahon calmly explained that it was his plan all along. The 480 figure in the blueprint was in inches - not feet! When he was sued, the judge threw out the lawsuit because the blueprint was technically correct. McMahon promptly fled Wichita.
The Newby-McMahon Building was an instant embarrassment to the city - it didn't even have stairs, so people had to use ladders to reach the upper floors! It was featured in a Ripley's Believe It or Not! column as "The World's Littlest Skyscraper" and the name stuck ever since. Today, the building is a Texas Historic Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

How Dangerous Is Liquid Nitrogen?

A British teenager has had emergency surgery to remove her stomach after drinking a cocktail containing liquid nitrogen. Liquid nitrogen is used for a variety of things, such as a coolant for computers, in medicine to remove unwanted skin, warts and per-cancerous cells, and in cryogenics, where scientists study the effect of very cold temperatures on materials.

It has also become increasingly common at top restaurants as a method for instantly freezing food and drinks, or creating an impressive cloud of vapor or fog when exposed to air.
How dangerous is liquid nitrogen?

Awesome Pictures

The Biggest Hot Spring In The World

Frying Pan Lake
In 1886, Mount Tarawera, near the town of Rotorua on New Zealand's North Island erupted. It was New Zealand's largest volcanic eruption and it killed over a hundred people. It left behind a massive crater but nature had other plans for the place. Less than 130 years later New Zealand is the proud owner of the largest hot spring in the world.

Incredible Rock Pillar Landscapes

Rock pillar landscapes are some of the most impressive wonders of our world. Molded by geological phenomena and the action of the elements over millennia, these bizarre rock formations have, nowadays, become breathtaking tourist attractions.

Strange Star Spiral Offers Clues to Sun's Fate

The spiral structure around the red giant R Sculptoris allowed astronomers to study the history of pulses of mass from the star.

New study suggests "arsenic life" is actually a phosphate glutton

Remember arsenic life? In 2010 NASA researchers thought they'd found evidence that certain bacteria could use arsenic in their DNA where all other forms of life on Earth use phosphate. Then it turned out their research was really flawed. Then it turned out they were wrong. In general, there was a to-do.
Fast forward to this month, when scientists from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel published a study in which they were trying to figure out how bacteria can tell the difference between phosphate and arsenate and "know" to prefer the phosphate. They used phosphate-collecting proteins from four different species of bacteria in their research, including the one that had been at the center of the arsenic life controversy. And along the way, they discovered a fun twist to that story.
This new study suggests that "arsenic life" bacteria is, indeed, able to survive in arsenate-heavy solutions where other bacteria fail. But, the Weizmann researchers say their data shows that success isn't due to a preference for arsenic, or even an ability to use it. Instead, "arsenic life" is probably just much, much, much, much better at collecting and using every tiny trace of phosphate it can get its metaphorical paws on.
The researchers looked at five types of phosphate-binding protein — which bind phosphate in a molecular pathway that brings it into the cells — from four species of bacteria. Two of the bacterial species were sensitive to arsenate and two were resistant to it. To test how effective these proteins were at discriminating between phosphate and arsenate, the researchers put them in solution with a set amount of phosphate and different concentrations of arsenate for 24 hours, and then checked which of the molecules the proteins would bind to.
Their threshold for when ‘discrimination’ broke down was when 50% of the proteins ended up bound to arsenate — indicating that the ability to discriminate had been overwhelmed. Even in solutions containing 500-fold more arsenate than phosphate, all five proteins were still able to preferentially bind phosphate. And one protein, from the Mono Lake bacterium, could do so at arsenate excesses of up to 4,500-fold over phosphate.
... The latest paper shows that the “arsenic monster” GFAJ-1 goes to a huge amount of effort, “even more than other life”, to avoid arsenate, says Wolfgang Nitschke from the Mediterranean Institute of Microbiology in Marseilles, France, who co-authored a commentary questioning the conclusion that GFAJ-1 could replace phosphate with arsenate.

Softball-sized eyeball washes up on Florida beach

It's not that body parts never wash ashore on Florida beaches.

But usually it's not an eye the size of a softball.

Oldest Arthropod Brain is Surprisingly Complex

Photo: Xiaoya Ma
My, what large fossilized brain you've got! Nicholas Strausfeld of the University of Arizona and colleagues were studying fossils from China's Yunnan province when they encountered a 520-million-year-old brain ever found in an arthropod (a group of invertebrates that includes insects and crustaceans):
This complex, insectlike brain suggests that rather than insects arising from simple branchiopods, today's arthropods descend from a complex-brained ancestor. Branchiopods would later have shed some of this complexity, Strausfeld said, while other crustaceans and insects kept it. In fact, he said, the brain may have evolved to segment into three parts very early on; mammals, including humans, have a forebrain, midbrain and hindbrain, suggesting a common organization.
"Lots of people don't like that idea, sharing a brain with a beetle, but there's good evidence suggesting that you do," Strausfeld said.
Stephanie Pappas of LiveScience has the post: Here

Turtle Pees Through Its Mouth

Everything pees, even the weird-looking Chinese soft-shelled turtle. But not everything pees through its mouth, unlike the aforementioned creature:
When the turtle breaks down proteins in its liver, it ends up with an abundance of nitrogen, which it expels from its body in the form of urea. Humans are the same—we get rid of urea in the form of urine, via our kidneys. But the soft-shelled turtle has an altogether different route.
It’s well-adapted to life in the water, and lives in salty swamps and marshes. But Yuen Ip from the National University of Singapore noticed that when the turtle emerges from water, or is stranded on land during dry spells, it will plunge its head into puddles. While submerged, it rhythmically expands and contracts its mouth. Ip found that the turtle gets rid of most of its urea through its mouth rather than its kidneys, via gill-like studs in its mouth. It can breathe and urinate through the same structures.
Ed Yong of Not Exactly Rocket Science explains: Here

Animal Pictures