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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, November 26, 2012

The Daily Drift

Best friends aren't hard to find ...

Some of our readers today have been in:
Birmingham, England
Yerevan, Armenia
Bandung, Indoneis
Warsaw, Poland
Muntinlupa, Philippines
Edinburgh, Scotland
Hanoi, Vietnam
Ankara, Turkey
Cafe, Philippines
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Phuket, Thailand
Makati, Philippines
Krakow, Poland
Riga, Latvia
San Jose, Costa Rica
Narsingdoi, Bangladesh
Puchong, Malaysia
Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine
Bangkok, Thailand
Islamabad, Pakistan
Johor Bahru, Malaysia
Cagayan De Oro, Philippines
Poltava, Ukraine
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Santiago, Chile
Athens, Greece
Cape Town, South Africa
Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam
Cairo, Egypt
Kuching, Malaysia
Paris, France
Dublin, Ireland
Ipoh, Malaysia

Don't forget to visit our sister blog!

Today in History

1688   Louis XIV declares war on the Netherlands.
1774   A congress of colonial leaders criticizes British influence in the colonies and affirms their right to "Life, liberty and property."
1789   George Washington proclaims this a National Thanksgiving Day in honor of the new Constitution. This date was later used to set the date for Thanksgiving.
1812   Napoleon Bonaparte's army begins crossing the Beresina River over two hastily constructed bridges.
1825   The Kappa Alpha Society, the second American college Greek-letter fraternity, is founded.
1863   The first National Thanksgiving is celebrated.
1901   The Hope diamond is brought to New York.
1907   The Duma lends support to Czar in St. Petersburg, who claims he has renounced autocracy.
1917   The Bolsheviks offer an armistice between Russian and the Central Powers.
1922   Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter, archeologists, open King Tut's tomb, undisturbed for 3,000 years.
1938   Poland renews nonaggression pact with the Soviet Union to protect against a German invasion.
1939   The Soviet Union charges Finland with artillery attack on border.
1941   The Japanese fleet departs from the Kuril Islands en route to its attack on Pearl Harbor.
1947   France expels 19 Soviet citizens, charging them with intervention in internal affairs.
1949   India becomes a sovereign Democratic republic.
1950   North Korean and Chinese troops halt a UN offensive.
1957   President Eisenhower suffers a minor stroke.
1975   Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme is found guilty of an attempt on President Gerald Ford's life.
1979   Oil deposits equaling OPEC reserves are found in Venezuela.
1982   Yasuhiro Nakasone is elected the 71st Japanese prime minister.

Non Sequitur


Wildfire spreads in Caldwell County, NC

 A wildfire that started Friday evening continued growing Sunday in northwest Caldwell County and has spread to 150 acres, authorities say.
The U.S. Forest Service is working to control the blaze, off Globe Mountain Road, near Blowing Rock. Forest Service officials said Sunday morning they have set up a containment line around the fire. That containment line covers a 250-acre area, and Forest Service officials said they expect all that area to burn over the next few days.
The fire started late Friday night. It had spread to about 50 acres Saturday, then grew again Sunday morning.
The National Weather Service issued an advisory Sunday for an increased wildfire threat. Humidity levels are very low across the region, and rainfall for the last few months has been well below average. Breezy conditions also are forecast Sunday.
Authorities say no buildings have been consumed by the fire.

Here's Your Sign

Tuesday, November 20

The Truth Hurts

Then and Now

It's Hard to Make It in America

How the United States Stopped Being the Land of Opportunity  
For all the differences between Democrats and Republicans that were laid bare during the 2012 U.S. presidential campaign, the parties' standard-bearers, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, do seem to have agreed on one thing: the importance of equal opportunity.

In remarks in Chicago in August, Obama called for an "America where no matter who you are, no matter what you look like, no matter where you come from, no matter what your last name is, no matter who you love, you can make it here if you try." The same month, he urged the Supreme Court to uphold affirmative action in public universities, putting his weight behind what has been a mainstay of U.S. equal opportunity legislation since the 1960s.

"Fiscal cliff" talks stalled for now but progress possible

Darkness sets in over the U.S. Capitol building hours before U.S. President Barack Obama is set to deliver his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington January 24, 2012. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst  
U.S. lawmakers have made little progress in the past 10 days toward a compromise to avoid the harsh tax increases and government spending cuts scheduled for January 1, a senior Democratic senator said on Sunday. The United States is on course to slash its budget deficit nearly in half next year. Closing the gap that quickly, which in Washington is referred to as going over a "fiscal cliff," could easily trigger a recession.
"Unfortunately, for the last 10 days, with the House and Congress gone for the Thanksgiving recess ... much progress hasn't been made," Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, told ABC's "This Week" program.
Still, lawmakers in both the Democratic and repugican parties have been trying to convince the public - and financial markets - that they are willing to compromise and can reach a deal before the end of the year.
Durbin indicated Democrats might accept a reform of the government's Medicare health insurance program for the elderly that would make higher-income seniors pay more for their care.
Democrats traditionally oppose limiting Medicare benefits according to income, a practice known as "means testing." Durbin said Medicaid, a public health insurance program for the poor, also could be overhauled.
"We can make meaningful reforms in Medicare and Medicaid without compromising the integrity of the program, making sure that the beneficiaries are not paying the price for it, except perhaps the high-income beneficiaries," Durbin said.
A deadline looms over the talks. Without action by lawmakers and President Barack Obama, roughly $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts will start to hit households and companies in early January.
The repglicans and Obama's Democrats are at an impasse over the president's wish to raise income tax rates on the wealthiest Americans, which repugicans say would hurt job creation.
The repugicans also want to cut spending on social programs more than Democrats say they will accept.
Still, a growing group of repugican lawmakers are loosening their ties to Grover Norquist, the anti-tax activist famous for getting elected officials to sign a pledge that they will vote against any tax increases.
repugican Senator Lindsey Graham said repugicans will allow tax revenues to rise as long as social spending programs are reformed. "I will violate the pledge - long story short - for the good of the country, only if Democrats will do entitlement reform," he told "This Week."
Graham said he supported boosting revenues by closing tax loopholes rather than by raising tax rates.
repugican Senator Saxby Chambliss said last week he "cared more about the country" than a 20-year-old pledge, and on Sunday repugican Representative Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told NBC's "Meet the Press" he agreed with Chambliss.
Durbin said the Democrats' will for substantial entitlement reform did not extend to Social Security, the federal government pension program, which he said only needs small tweaks to ensure long-term solvency.
"Bring entitlement reform into the conversation. Social Security, set (it) aside," Durbin said.

The Truth Be Told

It looks that way ...

Is Wall Street really clueless about the fiscal cliff?

Black Friday sales numbers look weak

There are always a lot of early reports on Christmas shopping that contradict each other, so let’s see what they say next week.Maybe the early shoppers are just holding out for better deals.
Stay tuned
There were more shoppers in the nation’s malls and big-box stores on Black Friday than there were last year, according to a report issued Saturday. But retailers still aren’t sure that starting the holiday shopping season on Thanksgiving night proved successful.
ShopperTrak, which measures and analyzes foot traffic at more than 50,000 retail locations nationwide, says Black Friday store visits climbed 3.5% from last year to more than 307.67 million.
But Black Friday retail sales fell 1.8% to $11.2 billion, the firm said.
Having said that, Black Friday online sales topped $1 billion for the first time ever.  From Reuters:
Online sales jumped at least 22 percent on Black Friday – from sales of $816 million on the same day last year, according to comScore data.
E-commerce accounts for less than 10 percent of consumer spending in the United States. However, it is growing much faster than bricks-and-mortar retail as shoppers are lured by low prices, convenience, faster shipping and wide selection.

Professor finds profiling in ads for personal data website

Dr. Latisha Smith, an expert in decompression sicknesses afflicting deep sea divers, has cleared criminal background checks throughout her medical career. Yet someone searching the Web for the Washington State physician might well come across an Internet ad suggesting she may have an arrest record."Latisha Smith, arrested?" reads one such advertisement.
Another says: "Latisha Smith Truth... Check Latisha Smith's Arrests."
Instantcheckmate.com, which labels itself the "Internet's leading authority on background checks," placed both ads. A statistical analysis of the company's advertising has found it has disproportionately used ad copy including the word "arrested" for black-identifying names, even when a person has no arrest record.
Latanya Sweeney is a Harvard University professor of government with a doctorate in computer science. After learning that her own name had popped up in an "arrested?" ad when a colleague was searching for one of her academic publications, she ran more than 120,000 searches for names primarily given to either black or white children, testing ads delivered for 2,400 real names 50 times each. (The author of this story is a Harvard University fellow collaborating with Professor Sweeney on a book about the business of personal data.)
Ebony Jefferson, for example, often turns up an instantcheckmate.com ad reading: "Ebony Jefferson, arrested?" but an ad triggered by a search for Emily Jefferson would read: "We found Emily Jefferson." Searches for randomly chosen black-identifying names such as Deshawn Williams, Latisha Smith or Latanya Smith often produced the "arrested?" headline or ad text with the word "arrest," whereas other less ethnic-sounding first names matched with the same surnames typically did not.
"As an African-American, I'm used to profiling like that," said Dr. Smith. "I think it's horrendous that they get away with it."
Instantcheckmate.com declined to comment. The company's founder and managing partner, Kristian Kibak, did not respond to repeated emails and phone calls over a period of several months, and other employees referred calls to management. Company officials also declined to comment when visited twice at their call center in Las Vegas. Former employees said they had signed nondisclosure agreements that barred them from speaking openly about Instant Checkmate.
Instantcheckmate.com is one of many data brokers that use and sell data for a variety of purposes. The field is attracting growing attention, both from government and consumers concerned about possible abuse. Rapid advances in technology have opened up all sorts of opportunities for commercialization of data.
Anyone can set up shop and sell arrest records as long as they stay clear of U.S. legal limitations such as using the information to determine creditworthiness, insurance or job suitability.
Companies that compete with instantcheckmate.com include intelius.com and mylife.com. An examination of Internet advertising starting last March as well as Sweeney's study did not find any rival companies advertising background searches on individual names along racial lines.
In its own marketing, Instantcheckmate.com sums up its mission like this: "Parents will no longer need to wonder about whether their neighbors, friends, home day care providers, a former spouse's new love interest or preschool providers can be trusted to care for their children responsibly."
According to preliminary findings of Professor Sweeney's research, searches of names assigned primarily to black babies, such as Tyrone, Darnell, Ebony and Latisha, generated "arrest" in the instantcheckmate.com ad copy between 75 percent and 96 percent of the time. Names assigned at birth primarily to whites, such as Geoffrey, Brett, Kristen and Anne, led to more neutral copy, with the word "arrest" appearing between zero and 9 percent of the time.
A few names fell outside of these patterns: Brad, a name predominantly given to white babies, produced an ad with the word "arrest" 62 percent to 65 percent of the time. Sweeney found that ads appear regardless of whether the name has an arrest record attached to it.
Blacks make up about 13 percent of the U.S. population but account for 28 percent of the arrests listed on the FBI's most recent annual crime statistics.
Internet advertising based on millions of name pairs has only existed in recent years, so targeting ads along racial lines raises new legal questions. Experts say the Federal Trade Commission, which this year assessed an $800,000 penalty against personal data site Spokeo.com for different reasons (related to the use of data for job-vetting purposes), would be the institution best placed to review Instant Checkmate's practices.
The FTC enforces regulations against unfair or deceptive business practices. A deceptive claim that would be more likely to get people to purchase a product than they would otherwise would be a typical reason the FTC might act against a company, said one FTC official who did not want to be identified. For example, authorities could take action against a firm that makes misleading claims suggesting a product such as records exist when they do not.
"It's disturbing," Julie Brill, an FTC commissioner, said of Instant Checkmate's advertising. "I don't know if it's illegal ... It's something that we'd need to study to see if any enforcement action is needed."
Instant Checkmate's Kibak, who is in his late 20s, works out of a San Diego office near the Pacific Ocean. The son of a California biology professor, he did not respond to repeated phone calls and emails seeking comment about his business.
"We would consider the answers to most of your questions trade secrets and therefore would not be comfortable disclosing that information," Joey Rocco, Kibak's partner according to the firm's Nevada state registration, said in an email.
Instant Checkmate LLC maintains its official corporate headquarters at an address in an industrial zone across the highway from the Las Vegas strip. At the back of a long parking lot, the company shares a warehouse building with an auto repair shop. At one end, a large roll-up garage-style door opens to the company's call center. Workers face a gray cinder-block wall, their backs to the entrance. Staff declined to answer questions.
Professor Sweeney's analysis found that some instantcheckmate.com ads hint at arrest records when the firm's database has no record of any arrest for that name, as is the case with her own name. In other cases, such as that of Latisha Smith, the company does have arrest records for some people by that name, although not for the doctor of hypobaric medicine in Washington State.
Laura Beatty, an Internet Marketing Inc expert in helping companies achieve prominent placement in Web searches, said instantcheckmate.com appeared to choose its ads based on combinations of thousands of different first and last names and then segment them based on the first names.
"There does look like there is some definite profiling going on here," she said. "In the searches that I looked at, it seemed like the more Midwestern- and WASP-sounding the name was, the less likely it was to have either any advertisement at all or to have something that was more geared around the arrest or criminal background."
Internet firms selling criminal records and personal data to the public have proliferated in recent years, as low-cost computing enables even modest operations to maintain large databases on millions of Americans. Such sites sell access to users for a one-time fee - $29.95 in the case of instantcheckmate.com - or via monthly subscription plans.
Instant Checkmate, first registered in Nevada in 2010, said in a recent press release posted online that the firm had attracted more than 570,000 customers since its start and counted more than 200,000 subscribers.
According to alexa.com, an Amazon.Com Inc site analyzing website traffic, instantcheckmate.com has ranged roughly between the 500th and 600th most visited U.S. site in recent weeks, making it an increasingly major player in this area.
The company is able to target its ads on an individual name basis through a program called Google AdWords. Instantcheckmate.com and others companies like it use Google AdWords to bid to place small text advertisements alongside search results on major websites triggered by the names in their data base. Such ads typically cost a company far less than a dollar, sometimes just a few pennies, each time they're clicked.
Google says it does not control what names appear in AdWords. "Advertisers select all of their keywords, and ads are triggered when someone searches for that name. We don't have any role in the advertiser's selection of unique proper names," said a Google spokesman.
Some in Congress have raised concerns about developments in the use of personal data. In October, Senator John Rockefeller IV, a Democrat from West Virginia and chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, opened a probe into leading data brokers. "Collecting, storing and selling information about Americans raises all types of questions that require careful scrutiny," he said.

Police 99.999% certain that man found shot in the head in tied-up sack floating in river committed suicide

Police in Hamburg, Germany investigating the death of a man who was found shot in the head in a tied-up sack floating in a river, suspect that rather than having been the victim of a Mafia hit, he killed himself. The body of 43-year-old Uwe Sattler was found in the River Elbe in July by a fisherman. He was wearing a rucksack full of rocks and had been shot in the head and put into a sack fastened with cable ties before he hit the water. Local media was rife with speculation about a Mafia murder - but after extensive investigation, the police now say they are nearly certain that the Sattler killed himself.
"We are 99.999 percent certain it was suicide," a Hamburg police spokeswoman said. "There is no other explanation; no other motive and no other evidence." Detectives have worked out that there was enough of an opening in the sack between the cable ties for Sattler to get an arm out and shoot himself so that afterwards the gun would fall to the ground. He would have had to have done this while perched on the edge of a bridge or jetty to ensure falling into the water. Why he would make such an effort to do this remains a mystery - as does the whereabouts of the gun, which was never found.

"It just goes to show, there is nothing that does not exist," the police spokeswoman said. After using fingerprints to identify the body, police went to his flat in Hamburg which reportedly looked newly renovated - and held absolutely no furniture. Officers found only a small box of documents, including a note to say that the belongings in the cellar should be given to the building landlord. Back in the summer when detectives were trying to piece together Sattler's life, they also found little to work with. He was single and unemployed, and seemed to have no friends, nor any contact with his family. Despite intensive efforts, the police admitted in July that they had been unable to find a single friend or acquaintance.

He had moved from Berlin to Hamburg in September 2008, but no friends could be found in the capital either. Allegedly he had rented a van in 2004 and crashed head-long into a bridge pillar. He survived the crash but was seriously injured. When police went to his flat after the crash they found it was completely empty just like his place in Hamburg. This would seem to be reason to suggest he was suicidal - although might leave open some questions about the immensely complicated method he supposedly chose in Hamburg. The investigation has been put on ice, but the case remains open.

Man Accused Of Killing Teens Could Be Charged Today

A Morrison County Minnesota man accused of shooting and killing two teens will likely be charged on Monday.Sheriff’s deputies found a 17-year-old boy and an 18-year-old woman inside Byron Smith’s basement on Friday. He told authorities he shot the two after they broke into his home.
But investigators think there’s more to this story.
Authorities say Smith didn’t call for help after the break-in and shooting happened on Thanksgiving afternoon.
Deputies only showed up to his home after getting a report of suspicious activity the next day.
The sheriff did say that anyone has the right to defend their home, with deadly force, if necessary, but in this case investigators say there are clues that show Smith went too far.
Friends identified the teens as 18-year-old Haley Kifer and 17-year-old Nicolas Brady.
Kifer was an athlete — a gymnast and on the dive team at Little Falls High School.
Brady, her cousin, will be remembered for his willingness to help a friend.
“Nick was always the kid to go and talk to about problems but he’s not there anymore, which kind of has a huge impact on people,” said Devin Robbins, a friend. “She was an amazing person. I don’t even know where to start with her. She was a great role model. She always knows how to make people smile, she’s caring.”
Smith will be in court Monday and could face second-degree murder charges.
We did a search of his criminal background and there’s no history of any violent behavior.

Random Celebrity Photo

Reading, writing and playing games may help aging brains stay healthy

Mental activities like reading and writing can preserve structural integrity in the brains of older people, according to a new ...
Continue Reading 

Most Americans are Happily Overweight

A new poll shows that as Americans become heavier, their ideal weight also increases.
  Most Americans are Happily Overweight

Ireland opens new probe into death of woman denied abortion

A woman holds a poster during a vigil in Dublin November 17, 2012, in memory of Savita Halappanavar and in support of changes to abortion law. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton   
Ireland has opened a new investigation into the death of a woman denied an abortion of her dying fetus, as the government scrambled to stem criticism of its handling of an incident that polarized the overwhelmingly catholic country.
Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year old dentist, was admitted to hospital in severe pain on October 21 and asked for a termination after doctors said her baby would not survive, according to husband Praveen, but in a country with some of the world's most restrictive abortion laws, surgeons would not remove the fetus until its heartbeat stopped days later.
Husband Praveen Halappanavar, who believes the delay contributed to the blood poisoning that killed his wife on October 28, has said he would not cooperate with an investigation already launched by the country's health service because he did not believe it would be neutral.
On Friday, the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) watchdog, which is government-funded but independent of the state health service, said it had also launched an investigation after receiving information from the health service and University Hospital Galway, where Halappanavar died.
A solicitor acting on behalf of the husband said the new inquiry was unlikely to be enough to satisfy his client.
"My client has always made his position very clear ... He wants a public inquiry. He has made it clear he wants to get to the truth of the matter, so I don't think that the framework of HIQA will suffice," Gerard O'Donnell, told RTE radio.
He added that the next step would be to consider an application to the European Court of Human Rights, which criticized Ireland's abortion ban in 2010.
Halappanavar's death has reopened a decades-long debate over whether the government should legislate to explicitly allow abortion when the life of the mother is at risk.
Irish law does not specify exactly when the threat to the life of the mother is high enough to justify a termination, leaving doctors to decide. Critics say this means doctors' personal beliefs can play a role.
Though the influence of the Catholic Church over Irish politics has waned since the 1980s, successive governments have been loath to legislate on an issue they fear could alienate conservative voters.
Ireland's abortion stance is enshrined in a 1983 constitutional amendment that intended to ban abortion in all circumstances. In 1992, when challenged in the "X-case" involving a 14-year-old rape victim, the Supreme Court ruled that abortion was permitted when the woman's life was at risk, including from suicide.
But successive governments refused to make clear the circumstances under which a threat would make an abortion legal. After several challenges, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2010 that Ireland must clarify its position.
Prime Minister Enda Kenny, whose ruling Fine Gael party made an election pledge not to introduce new laws allowing abortion, said last week he would not be rushed into a decision on the issue.
The government was forced into an embarrassing u-turn this week when it removed three Galway-based consultants from the health service inquiry following criticism from Praveen Halappanavar.
The issue has raised tensions between Fine Gael and the more socially liberal Labour Party, its junior coalition partner, which has campaigned for a clarification of the country's abortion rules.
The country's president, Michael D. Higgins, a former member of the Labour Party, weighed into the debate this week when he said an investigation was needed that satisfied the dead woman's family.
Opposition party Sinn Fein introduced a motion to parliament on Wednesday calling for parliament to legislate on abortion, but it was rejected.
"Successive governments over the past 20 years have failed in respect of legislation. That failure is in large measure due to fear or cowardice," said Mary Lou McDonald, vice president of Sinn Fein.

Simple surgery heals blind Indonesians

In this Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012 photo, 20-year-old patient Ayu Pratiwi who has been blind since she was 10 lies on a bed as she waits for her cataract surgery at Putri Hijau military hospital in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia. Indonesians flocked to the hospital for free cataract surgery performed by a team led by Nepalese master surgeon Dr. Sanduk Ruit who is renowned for his high-volume assembly-line approach. During the eight-day eye camps held in two towns in North Sumatra, more than 1,400 cataracts were removed. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)
They came from the remotest parts of Indonesia, taking crowded overnight ferries and riding for hours in cars or buses — all in the hope that a simple, and free, surgical procedure would restore their eyesight.<
Many patients were elderly and needed help to reach two hospitals in Sumatra where mass eye camps were held earlier this month by Nepalese surgeon Dr. Sanduk Ruit. During eight days, more than 1,400 cataracts were removed.
The patients camped out, sleeping side-by-side on military cots, eating donated food while fire trucks supplied water for showers and toilets. Many who had given up hope of seeing again left smiling after their bandages were removed.
"I've been blind for three years, and it's really bad," said Arlita Tobing, 65, whose sight was restored after the surgery. "I worked on someone's farm, but I couldn't work anymore."
Indonesia has one of the highest rates of blindness in the world, making it a target country for Ruit who travels throughout the developing world holding free mass eye camps while training doctors to perform the simple, stitch-free procedure he pioneered. He often visits hard-to-reach remote areas where health care is scarce and patients are poor. He believes that by teaching doctors how to perform his method of cataract removal, the rate of blindness can be reduced worldwide.
Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness globally, affecting about 20 million people who mostly live in poor countries, according to the World Health Organization.
"We get only one life, and that life is very short." said Ruit, who runs the Tilganga Eye Center in Katmandu, Nepal. "The most important of that is training, taking the idea to other people."
During the recent camps, Ruit trained six doctors from Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore.

Chinese gold-farmer phrasebook for English-speaking gamers

A group of English-speaking gamers have compiled a phrasebook for chatting online with Chinese gold farmers, including phrases like "Would you like to join my group?" and "please do not steal my mobs."
jia you - GO GO GO! (Use as a cheer)
ni kan! - look!
Pao! - Run!
Deng yi xia. - Wait a moment.
Ni xian zou. - You go first.
bu yao sha ta - dont kill him/her/it
bu yao sha wo - don't kill me
Farmer Speak

The Classics


Three Springs

Silver Springs backers fight proposed cattle ranch. when scuba diver Guy Marwick looks at Florida's most famous spring, he sees that the sparkling white sand on the bottom has been smothered by globs of toxic algae. studies have found that 90 percent fewer fish are swimming in the spring compared to the 1950s, and pollution is increasing More

Florida's vanishing springs. A century ago Florida's gin-clear springs drew presidents and millionaires and tourists galore who sought to cure their ailments by bathing in the healing cascades. Now the polluted springs tell the story of a hidden sickness, one that lies deep within the earth More

Ginnie Springs owner fights off threats. part of what attracts divers to Ginnie Springs is the crystal clear water, which Jacques Cousteau once proclaimed to be the clearest in the world with "visibility forever." keeping it that way hasn't been easy More

Random Photo


US Science Could Face Fiscal Cliff Doom

US Science Could Fall Off the Fiscal CliffScientific R&D stands to lose 31,000 jobs and face a starvation diet of reduced funding if politicians fail to halt march towards the fiscal cliff's sequestration of federal funds. More

“Good chance NYC will sink beneath the sea”

The horrible flooding in Manhattan last month, documented in this amazing photos from Twitter, could become a regular thing.
A cool series of interactive maps from the NYT, showing where sea levels may be for major American coastal cities in the next several hundreds years.  (The title quote is from an opinion piece that doesn’t really explain much, the maps are more interesting.)
From the NYT:
These maps are based on elevation data from the U.S. Geological Survey and tidal level data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Maps show the extent of potential flooding relative to local high tide.
The 25-foot sea level rise is based on a 2012 study in the journal Science, which augmented findings from a 2009 Nature study. They found that 125,000 years ago — a period that may have been warmer than today but cooler than what scientists expect later this century without sharp pollution cuts — the seas were about 20 to 30 feet higher than today. If temperatures climb as expected in this century, scientists believe it would take centuries for seas to rise 20 to 30 feet as a result, because ice sheet decay responds slowly to warming.
They walk you through four maps per city, based on numbers of years passed:

The maps show that by the year 2300, even with moderate cuts in pollution, the following cities will be flooded to the percentage noted next to them:
  • Baltimore 5%
  • Boston 24%, Cambridge 51%
  • Charleston 42%
  • Houston 1%, Galveston 97%
  • LA 2%, Long Beach 20%, Sacramento 27%, SF 11%
  • Long Island 12%
  • Miami Beach 100%, Miami 73%
  • New Orleans 98%
  • New York City 22%
  • Atlantic City 97%
  • Philly 6%
  • Norfolk 78%
  • DC 7%
And here are the maps just for NYC over the next 300+ years, but there are a number of other cities to check out, including Washington, DC, Seattle, San Diego, Philly, New Orleans, Miami, Houston, LA, Boston. It’s kind of cool, in a terrifically frightening disaster movie kind of way.  The light blue is previously above-water land that has become submerged.

A bit more on the problem of rising sea levels, from National Geographic - their numbers seem to parallel the ones the Times is using:
Most predictions say the warming of the planet will continue and likely will accelerate. Oceans will likely continue to rise as well, but predicting the amount is an inexact science. A recent study says we can expect the oceans to rise between 2.5 and 6.5 feet (0.8 and 2 meters) by 2100, enough to swamp many of the cities along the U.S. East Coast. More dire estimates, including a complete meltdown of the Greenland ice sheet, push sea level rise to 23 feet (7 meters), enough to submerge London and Los Angeles.
And more from CBS:
New York City’s Office of Emergency Management predicts sea levels two to five inches higher in the next decade; seven to 12 inches higher by the 2050′s; and up to nearly 2 feet higher by the 2080s.
And more from the Washington Post on what can be done, and why even small improvements can help:
We’re going to need to adapt to sea-level rise no matter what we do on carbon emissions. Even the “optimistic” scenario in the NCAR paper still envisions sea-levels rising roughly 11 inches by 2100. That’s assuming we cut emissions drastically and the ice sheets don’t do anything too unpredictable. Even then, New York City will have a bigger flood zone than it does today. Storm surges on the coasts will be much larger. Low-lying areas will be at greater risk. In Bangladesh, for instance, the area prone to severe flooding would increase by 69 percent (pdf) with just a foot of sea-level rise.
That said, cutting emissions can make a significant difference this century. Keeping sea-level rise a foot or two lower than it otherwise might be is nothing to sneeze at. As this map of New York City shows, the flood zone increases dramatically with each additional foot of sea-level rise. A city like Norfolk, Va. could get swamped entirely by a Category 3 hurricane if ocean levels rose by two to five feet. Florida’s adaptation costs go up by billions of dollars with each additional foot of sea-level rise. Every little bit helps.

Astronomical News

Can Living Planets Exist Around Dead Stars?

Given their withering radiation and tidal stresses, white dwarfs are unlikely places to go looking for inhabited worlds -- but don't rule them out either. Read more
Can Living Planets Exist Around Dead Stars?

Large Mars Dust Storm is Brewing

As a Mars satellite tracks the evolution of a regional dust storm, NASA's rovers experience local weather changes. Read more
Large Mars Dust Storm is Brewing

Are urban chicken-keepers doing more harm than good?

This week it was suggested that the growing numbers of city dwellers keeping chickens were spreading disease and harming birds. But is it just bad blood on the part of big food producers? More

Helioceras heteromorph

This bizarre creature is an artists rendition of Helioceras heteromorph, a type of ammonite of the suborder Ancyloceratina. They lived during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.

Animal Pictures