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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.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Daily Drift

The mountains in Autumn

Some of our readers today have been in: 
Jakarta, Indonesia
Tomsk, Russia
Cape Town, South Africa
Khariv, Ukraine
Ipoh, Malaysia
Cebu City, Philippines
St. John's, Antigua and Barbuda
Ponce, Puerto Rico
Islamabad, Pakistan
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Moscow, Russia
Hamburg, Germany
Makati, Philippines
Paris, France
Ampang, Malaysia
Caracas, Venezuela
Manama, Bahrain
Pasig, Philippines
Warsaw, Poland
Petaling Jaya, Malaysia
Lviv, Ukraine
Centurion, South Africa
Berlin, Germany
Rabat, Morocco
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tbilisi, Georgia
Tallinn, Estonia
London, England
Johannesburg, South Africa
Klang, Malaysia
Kiev, Ukraine
Riga, Latvia
Cairo, Egypt
Copenhagen, Denmark

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Today in History

1529   Ottoman armies under Suleiman end their siege of Vienna and head back to Belgrade.
1582   The Gregorian (or New World) calendar is adopted in Italy, France, Spain, and Portugal; and the preceding ten days are lost to history.
1783   Francois Pilatre de Rozier makes the first manned flight in a hot air balloon. The first flight was let out to 82 feet, but over the next few days the altitude increased up to 6,500 feet.
1813   During the land defeat of the British on the Thames River in Canada, the Indian chief Tecumseh, now a brigadier general with the British Army (War of 1812), is killed.
1863   For the second time, the Confederate submarine H L Hunley sinks during a practice dive in Charleston Harbor, this time drowning its inventor along with seven crew members.
1878   Thomas A. Edison founds the Edison Electric Light Co.
1880   Victorio, feared leader of the Minbreno Apache, is killed by Mexican troops in northwestern Chihuahua, Mexico.
1892   An attempt to rob two banks in Coffeyville, Kan., ends in disaster for the Dalton gang as four of the five outlaws are killed and Emmet Dalton is seriously wounded.
1894   Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish army officer, is arrested for betraying military secrets to Germany.
1914   Congress passes the Clayton Anti-Trust Act, which labor leader Samuel Gompers calls "labor's charter of freedom." The act exempts unions from anti-trust laws; strikes, picketing and boycotting become legal; corporate interlocking directorates become illegal, as does setting prices which would effect a monopoly.
1924   German ZR-3 flies 5000 miles, the furthest Zeppelin flight to date.
1941   Odessa, a Russian port on the Black Sea which has been surrounded by German troops for several weeks, is evacuated by Russian troops.
1945   Vichy French Premier Pierre Laval is executed by a firing squad for his wartime collaboration with the Germans.
1950   President Harry Truman meets with General Douglas MacArthur at Wake Island to discuss U.N. progress in the Korean War.
1964   Nikita Khrushchev is replaced by Leonid Brezhnev as leader of the Soviet Union.

Non Sequitur


Accused of infringement?

AT&T will take away YouTube and Facebook and send you to Copyright Reeducation Gulag
David sez, "According to TorrentFreak, a leaked AT&T training doc indicates that starting on Nov. 28, if a customer is flagged 4-5 times for copyright infringement, AT&T, Comcast, Cablevision, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon will block access to unspecified "popular sites" until the customer completes an 'online education tutorial on copyright.' No, there's nothing even remotely Soviet about continuous surveillance that judges you via a faceless bureaucracy without appeal, and punishes you by blocking access to information until you come back from re-education camp. Nothing Soviet at all, comrades!"
The documents inform AT&T staff about the upcoming changes, beginning with the following overview.
“In an effort to assist content owners with combating on-line piracy, AT&T will be sending alert e-mails to customers who are identified as having been downloading copyrighted content without authorization from the copyright owner.”
“The reports are made by the content owners and are of IP-addresses that are associated with copyright infringing activities. AT&T will not share any personally identifiable information about its customers with content owners until authorized by the customer or required to do so by law.”
The papers further reveal the launch date of the copyright alerts system as November 28. A source connected to the CCI previously confirmed to TorrentFreak that all providers were planning to start on the same date, which means that Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon are expected to have a simultaneous launch.
AT&T Starts Six-Strikes Anti-Piracy Plan Next Month, Will Block Websites

Facebook disables facial recognition data from European users

Facebook said it would turn off the automatic tagging feature to existing users in Europe by Monday and has already shut it off to new European users.

Romney lied about dad walking out of 1964 repugican convention

http://americablog.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Screen-Shot-2012-10-15-at-12.11.21-AM-e1350274521363.jpg People already know that Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney both have a bit of a problem with the truth. And today things just got a little worse.
John Bohrer at Buzzfeed:
It is observed that Mitt would never draw a line in the sand like his father did in 1964, when George dramatically “charged out of the 1964 repugican national cabal over the party’s foot-dragging on civil rights,” as the Boston Globe’s authoritative biography, “The Real Romney,” put it earlier this year. Outlets from the New York Times to the New Republic have recalled this story of the elder Romney’s stand against Goldwater’s hard-line conservatives. Frontline’s documentary “The Choice 2012” reported it as a formative event: “when Goldwater received the nomination, Mitt saw his father angrily storm out.” A Google search for the incident produces hundreds of pages of results. In August, Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne cited the episode to write that Mitt “has seemed more a politician who would do whatever it took to close a deal than a leader driven by conviction and commitment. This is a problem George Romney never had.”
Only George Romney did not walk out of the 1964 repugican national cabal. He stayed until the very end, formally seconding Goldwater’s eventual nomination and later standing by while an actual walkout took place. He left the convention holding open the possibility of endorsing Goldwater and then, after a unity summit in Hershey, Pennsylvania, momentarily endorsed the Arizona senator. Then he changed his mind while his top aides polled “all-white and race-conscious” Michigan communities for a “secret” white backlash vote against LBJ’s civil rights advances — a backlash that might have made a Goldwater endorsement palatable at home. Finding the Republican label even more unpopular than civil rights in Michigan, Romney ultimately distanced himself from the entire party, including his own moderate repugican allies.
Exactly where the 1964 myth entered the public consciousness is difficult to pinpoint, but it has been promoted by Mitt, who made one of its earliest print mentions in an interview during his 1994 U.S. Senate campaign. (Romney’s longtime spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom did not an inquiry about Mitt’s recollection of the incident.) “[My father] walked out of the repugican national cabal in 1964, when Barry Goldwater said, ‘Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice,’” he told Bay Windows, a LGBT interest magazine in Boston.
Bay Windows? That must have been back when Romney was claiming he was more pro-gay than Ted Kennedy. Another lie. Or is Romney lying today when he claims he agrees with Pat Robertson and the rest of the religious right gay-haters?

Ryan photo opp was fake, head of soup kitchen says

The repugicans cut half billion from embassy security before Libya attack

The repugicans don’t like the State Department. They never have. The find diplomats, and diplomacy, too soft, too squishy. The repugicans like war. They like guns and weapons and shooting up things. The State Department doesn’t do that. The State Department is Democrat to the Pentagon’s repugican.
http://americablog.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Screen-Shot-2012-09-26-at-4.36.57-PM-150x120.jpgSo repugicans, for a very long time, have done all they can to cut the State Department’s funds, and Paul Ryan and the repugican House majority were no different.
But that’s not stopping Ryan and the Republicans from now yelling about how much they care about embassy security, after they cut it. There’s an election after all, and the repugicans are going to milk every “opportunity” they can.

Here’s a NYT editorial on the matter:
The ugly truth is that the same people who are accusing the administration of not providing sufficient security for the American consulate in Benghazi have voted to cut the State Department budget, which includes financing for diplomatic security. The most self-righteous critics don’t seem to get the hypocrisy, or maybe they do and figure that if they hurl enough doubts and complaints at the administration, they will deflect attention from their own poor judgments on the State Department’s needs.
But as part of the repugican majority that has controlled the House the last two years, Mr. Issa joined in cutting nearly a half-billion dollars from the State Department’s two main security accounts. One covers things like security staffing, including local guards, armored vehicles and security technology; the other, embassy construction and upgrades. In 2011 and 2012, President Obama sought a total of $5 billion, and the House approved $4.5 billion. In 2009, Mr. Issa voted for an amendment that would have cut nearly 300 diplomatic security positions. And the draconian budgets proposed by Mitt Romney’s running mate, Representative Paul Ryan, would cut foreign affairs spending by 10 percent in 2013 and even more in 2016.
We ought to be having hearings, all right. Hearings about Paul Ryan and why he cut embassy security right before our consulate was attacked and our ambassador and three others were killed.

A $200/month increase in Medicare premiums under Romney/Ryan

Wow.A new study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-partisan health care outfit, says that under the kind of voucher plan that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are proposing, Medicare costs could up $200/month in some states.
The study makes clear that it is based on the Romney/Ryan plan.
The analysis does not attempt to model any specific proposal, but is generally based on an approach included in House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s fiscal year 2013 budget plan, the proposal Chairman Ryan co-sponsored with Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, and; in the plan put forward by former Senator Pete Domenici and Dr. Alice Rivlin. In the first two proposals, people who are at least 55 years old, including current beneficiaries, would be exempt from the new system. Republican presidential nominee Gov. Mitt Romney has supported a premium-support system along these lines.
And what they found are huge increases for most seniors.
Nearly six in 10 Medicare beneficiaries nationally could face higher premiums for Medicare benefits, assuming current plan preferences, including more than half of beneficiaries enrolled in traditional Medicare and almost nine in 10 Medicare Advantage enrollees. Even if as many as one-quarter of all beneficiaries moved into a low-cost plan offered in their area, the new system would still result in more than a third of all beneficiaries facing higher premiums.
Premiums for traditional Medicare would vary widely based on geography under the proposed premium support system, with no increase for beneficiaries living in Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Wyoming and the District of Columbia, but an average increase of at least $100 per month in California, Florida, Michigan, New Jersey, Nevada and New York. Such variations would exist even within a state, with traditional Medicare premiums remaining unchanged in California’s San Francisco and Sacramento counties and rising by more than $200 per month in Los Angeles and Orange counties.
At least nine in 10 Medicare beneficiaries in Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts and New Jersey would face higher premiums in their current plan. Many counties in those states have relatively high per-beneficiary Medicare spending, which would make it more costly to enroll in traditional Medicare rather than one of the low-bidding private plans in those counties. In contrast, in areas with relatively low Medicare per-capita spending, it could be more costly to enroll in a private plan.

Why 72 Is the New 30

You can thank industrialization since 1900 for the fact that you're likelier than ever to live through the day.  
Read more

Salem Witch Trials: The Fungus Theory

More than three centuries after the end of the Salem witch trials, they continue to defy explanation. In the mid 1970s, a college undergraduate developed a new theory. Does it hold water? Read on and decide for yourself.


In the bleak winter of 1692, the people of Salem, Massachusetts, hunkered down in their cabins and waited for spring. It was a grim time: There was no fresh food or vegetables, just dried meat and roots to eat. Their mainstay was the coarse bread they baked from the rye grain harvested in the fall.

Shortly before the New Year, the madness began. Elizabeth Parris, the 9-year-old daughter of the local preacher, and her cousin, 11-year-old Abigail Williams, suffered from violent fits and convulsions. They lapsed into incoherent rants, had hallucinations, complained of crawly sensations on their skin, and often retreated into dull-eyed trances. Their desperate families turned to the local doctor, who could find nothing physically wrong with them. At his wit's end, he decided there was only one reasonable explanation: witchcraft.

Word spread like wildfire through the village: an evil being was hexing the children. Soon, more "victims" appeared, most of them girls under the age of twenty. The terrified villagers started pointing the finger of blame, first at an old slave named Tituba, who belonged to Reverend Parris, then to old women like Sarah Good and Sarah Osborn. The arrests began on February 29; the trials soon followed. That June, 60-year-old Bridget Bishop was the first to be declared guilty of witchcraft and the first to hang. By September, 140 "witches" had been arrested and 19 had been executed. Many of the accused barely escaped the gallows by running into the woods and hiding. Then, sometime over the summer, the demonic fits stopped -and the frenzy of accusation and counter-accusation stopped with them. As passions cooled, the villagers tried to put their community back together again.

What happened to make these otherwise dour Puritans turn on each other with such destructive frenzy? Over the centuries several theories have been put forth, from the Freudian -that the witch hunt was the result of hysterical tension resulting from centuries of sexual repression- to the exploitive- that it was fabricated as an excuse for a land grab (the farms and homes of all the victims and many of the accused were confiscated and redistributed to other members of the community). But researchers had never been able to find real evidence to support these theories. Then in the 1970s, a college student in California made a deduction that seemed to explain everything.

Linnda Caporael, a psychology major at U.C. Santa Barbara, was told to choose a subject for a term paper in her American History course. Having just seen a production of Arthur Miller's play The Crucible (a fictional account of the Salem trials), she decided to write about the witch hunt. "As I began researching," she later recalled, "I had one of those 'a-ha!' experiences." The author of one of her sources said he remained at a loss to explain the hallucinations of the villagers of Salem. "It was the word 'hallucinations' that made everything click," said Caporael. Years before, she'd read of a case of ergot poisoning in France where the victim had suffered from hallucinations, and she thought there might be a connection.

(Image credit: Flickr user Jasja Dekker)
Ergot is a fungus that infects rye, a grain more commonly used in past centuries to bake bread than it is today. One of the byproducts present in ergot-infected grain is ergotamine, which is related to LSD. Toxicologists have known for years that eating bread baked with ergot-contaminated rye can trigger convulsions, delusions, creepy-crawly sensations of the skin, vomiting, …and hallucinations. And historians were already aware that the illness caused by ergot poisoning (known as St. Anthony's Fire) was behind several incidents of mass insanity in medieval Europe. Caporael wondered if the same conditions might have been present in Salem.

They were. Ergot needs warm, damp weather to grow, and those conditions were rife in the fields around Salem in 1691. Rye was the primary grain grown, so there was plenty of it to be infected. Caporael also discovered that most of the accusers lived on the west side of the village, where the fields were chronically marshy, making them a perfect breeding ground for the fungus. The crop harvested in the fall of 1691 would have been baked and eaten during the following winter, which was when the fits of madness began. However, the next summer was unusually dry, which could explain the sudden drop in the bewitchments. No ergot, no madness.


Caporael continued to research her theory as she pursued her Ph.D., publishing her findings in 1976 in the journal Science, which brought her support from the scientific community and attention from the news media. Caporael had been careful to say that her theory only accounts for the initial cause of the Salem witch hunts. As the frenzy grew in scope and consequence, she's convinced that the actual sequence of events probably included not only real moments of mass hysteria but also some overacting on the part of the accusers (motivated as much by fear of being accused themselves as by any actual malice toward the accused).


Caporael's theory remains one of the most convincing explanations for what started the madness that tore apart the village of Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692 …but there are others.

* Encephalitis Lethargica. Historian Laurie Win Carlson compared the symptoms of the accused in Salem (violent fits trance or coma-like states) with those experienced by victims of an outbreak of Encephalitis Lethargica, an acute inflammation of the brain, between 1915 and 1926. The trials were likely a "response to unexplained physical and neurological behaviors resulting from an epidemic of encephalitis," she says.

* Jimson Weed. This toxic weed, sometimes called devil's trumpet or locoweed, grows wild in Massachusetts. Ingesting it can cause hallucinations, delirium, and bizarre behavior.

It's a Fact


Celebrating Earth Science Week

To kick off Earth Science Week check out these amazing maps of changes in Earth's sea level taken over 18 years. Read more
sea level maps

Scientists ID trigger for explosive volcanic eruptions

Scientists from the University of Southampton have identified a repeating trigger for the largest explosive volcanic eruptions on Earth.
Continue Reading

This picture is outta space

Hilarious photo of a crater on Mercury...
But there is no mistaking the resemblance of the sweet-loving muppet in this bizarre picture of an impact basin with two smaller craters above it spotted on Mercury.

The Golden Rock

The Gilt Boulder Of The Buddha
It looks as if it is just about to fall off the edge of Mount Kyaiktiyo and roll down in to the sweeping landscape of Myanmar. Yet the enormous granite boulder, known as the Golden Rock, has perched precariously here for as long as the land's recorded history.

The Kyaiktiyo Pagoda, built atop, is over 7 meters (23 feet) in height. The whole edifice is said to be balanced on a single strand of the Buddha's hair.

Pandas on the Plate in Prehistory

Slash marks on bones indicate ancient humans put panda on their plates.  
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Pandas on the Plate in Prehistory

Giant Eyeball Likely Belonged to Swordfish

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission now believe that the giant eyeball found on a Florida beach belonged to a swordfish. Read more
Giant Eyeball Likely Belonged to Swordfish

Can A Bee Colony Replace Its Queen?

In a bee hive, there's usually just one queen. Ever wondered what happens when the queen dies? How do the bees replace her?

Animal Pictures

Wolf 11 by Dan Newcomb Photography on Flickr.