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Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

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Today in History

1484   Pope Innocent VIII issues a bill deploring the spread of witchcraft and heresy in Germany.
1776   Phi Beta Kappa is organized as the first American college Greek letter-fraternity, at William and Mary College, Williamsburg, Va.
1791   Composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart dies in Vienna.
1861   In the U.S. Congress, petitions and bills calling for the abolition of slavery are introduced.
1862   Union General Ulysses S. Grant's cavalry receives a setback in an engagement on the Mississippi Central Railroad at Coffeeville, Mississippi.
1864   Confederate General John Bell Hood sends Nathan Bedford Forrest's cavalry and a division of infantry toward Murfreesboro, Tenn.
1904   The Japanese destroy a Russian fleet at Port Arthur in Korea.
1909   George Taylor makes the first manned glider flight in Australia in a glider that he designed himself.
1912   Italy, Austria and Germany renew the Triple Alliance for six years.
1916   David Lloyd George replaces Herbert Asquith as the British prime minister.
1921   The British empire reaches an accord with the Irish revolutionary group the Sinn Fein; Ireland is to become a free state.
1933   The 21st Amendment ends Prohibition in the United States, which had begun 13 years earlier.
1934   Italian and Ethiopian troops clash at the Ualual on disputed the Somali-Ethiopian border.
1936   The New Constitution in the Soviet Union promises universal suffrage, but the Communist Party remains the only legal political party.
1937   The Lindberghs arrive in New York on a holiday visit after a two-year voluntary exile.
1945   Four TBM Avenger bombers disappear approximately 100 miles off the coast of Florida.
1950   Pyongyang in Korea falls to the invading Chinese army.
1953   Italy and Yugoslavia agree to pull troops out of the disputed Trieste border.
1955   A bus boycott begins under the leadership of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Montgomery, Alabama.
1966   Comedian and political activist Dick Gregory heads for Hanoi, North Vietnam, despite federal warnings against it.
1978   The Soviet Union signs a 20-year friendship pact with Afghanistan

Non Sequitur


No fiscal cliff deal without higher rates

National Governors Association (NGA) Vice Chair, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, center, talks to reporters outside the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012, following a meeting between the NGA executive committee and President Barack Obama regarding the fiscal cliff. From left are, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Fallin, Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe, and NGA Chairman, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)   
President Barack Obama says there will be no deal to avert the "fiscal cliff" unless Republicans drop their opposition to raising tax rates on the wealthiest Americans.
However, Obama is signaling flexibility on where the rates eventually wind up. Obama says he knows he won't get everything that he wants in negotiations with congressional Republicans. He made the comments Tuesday in an interview with Bloomberg News.
The president campaigned for re-election on a plan to raise the rates on the top 2 percent of income earners to 39.6 percent, which is where they were under former President Bill Clinton. Obama administration officials have indicated they would be open to keeping the rate lower if the same amount of revenue can be achieved through closing tax loopholes and other measures.

The truth be told

Good Question

Did the repugicans deliberately crash the us economy?

Tea Party group chief quits, cites internal split

Eased out with an $8 million payout provided by an influential GOP fundraiser, former Republican House Majority Leader Dick Armey says he has left a conservative Tea Party group, FreedomWorks, because of an internal split over the group's future direction.
FILE - This Feb. 18, 2010 file photo shows former House Majority Leader Dick Armey speaking in Washington. Eased out with an $8 million payout provided by an influential GOP fundraiser, Armey says he has left a conservative Tea Party group, FreedomWorks, because of an internal split over the group's future direction. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File)A confidential contract obtained by The Associated Press shows that Armey agreed in September to resign from his role as chairman of Washington-based FreedomWorks in exchange for $8 million in consulting fees paid in annual $400,000 installments. Dated Sept. 24, the contract specifies that Armey would resign his position at both FreedomWorks and its sister organization, the FreedomWorks Foundation, by the end of November.
According to the contract, Armey's consulting fees will be paid by Richard J. Stephenson, a prominent fundraiser and founder and chairman of the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, a national cancer treatment network. Stephenson is on the board of directors of FreedomWorks.
Armey's departure comes as a new sign of acrimony in conservative and Republican ranks as the party's bruised leadership struggles with its November electoral losses and uncertainty over how to recast its principles and issues to compete with an ascendant Democratic party.
Armey confirmed his departure Tuesday, telling the AP that "my differences with FreedomWorks are a matter of principle." Armey said he made the decision to quit FreedomWorks in August, but Stephenson and other board members urged him not to leave until after the Nov. 6 election. Stephenson did not immediately respond to calls from AP for comment.
Armey would not describe his specific concerns, but the former House majority leader told the Mother Jones website that the Tea Party group was moving in an unproductive direction. He also indicated dissatisfaction with the November election results, in which several GOP candidates supported by FreedomWorks Super PAC donations were beaten by Democratic party rivals.
In an internal Nov. 30 resignation memo published by Mother Jones, Armey told FreedomWorks CEO Matt Kibbe to remove his "name, image and signature" from all of the group's materials and web operations. Kibbe and other FreedomWorks officials were not immediately available for comment.
Armey, who had been with the Tea Party group since its 2004 founding, is a veteran Texas GOP political figure who was intimately involved in the GOP's conservative "Contract with America" congressional movement in the 1990s. While Armey, 72, was the group's eminence and at first, its public face, the younger Kibbe has been its most active official, appearing at FreedomWorks' public gatherings.
FreedomWorks flourished after a wave of Tea Party House candidates swept into office in 2010, but despite spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to back favored GOP candidates in November, the group's influence appeared to wane at the polls. Among the GOP losers supported by FreedomWorks in November were Senate candidates Josh Mandel in Ohio, Connie Mack in Florida and Richard Mourdock in Indiana.
Overall, Tea Party-influenced House legislators fared better in the recent elections, though their ranks thinned. At least 83 of 87 Republican House members who were allied with Tea Party anti-government spending causes ran for re-election in November, and all but eleven were returned to office. A twelfth — Rep. Jeff Landry, R-La., faces an uphill runoff election this month against another GOP incumbent.
FreedomWorks' internal secrecy and its role as a high-financed super political action committee became an issue in the weeks before the election when federal campaign finance documents revealed that a shadowy Tennessee-based corporation had funneled seven donations totaling $5.28 million to the Tea Party group. The amount was the largest political contribution to a super PAC in 2012 from a business group that would not identify its donor.
FreedomWorks would not identify the anonymous donor, and a Tennessee lawyer who helped set up the group would also not divulge the head of the firm, Specialty Group Inc. The Tennessee firm later changed its name to Specialty Investments Group Inc. on Nov. 28.

And I Quote

Repugicans McCain, Graham, Collins used same language as Rice to describe Benghazi attack

If Susan Rice is a Liar about Benghazi, then so are McCain, Graham, Collins and McConnell

Via ABC News’ Jonathan Karl and Sunlen Miller we discover that UN Ambassador Susan Rice’s chief critics in the US Senate – John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Susan Collins – used the same “lie,” as they call it, to describe the people who killed our ambassador in Benghazi as Susan Rice did.
Even Republican Senate Leader McConnell used the same language as rice.
Both Rice and the Senators used the term “mob” to describe those who perpetrated the attack on our consulate and CIA station in Libya.  None of them referred to terrorists, or Al Qaeda.  Yet the Senators are now faulting Rice for not referring to Al Qaeda when the Senators themselves did not refer to Al Qaeda.
In essence, what happened is that the US Senate passed a resolution about the Benghazi attack and in the resolution said the following:
“The violence in Benghazi coincided with an attack on the United States Embassy in Cairo, Egypt, which was also swarmed by an angry mob of protestors on September 11, 2012.”
ABC notes that the resolution passed by unanimous consent.  But more importantly, the resolution was created by GOP Senator, and foreign policy expert, Dick Lugar, and sponsored by GOP Senator leader Mitch McConnell, and GOP Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Susan Collins.  Cosponsoring means that the resolution was passed to their office, their office reviewed the langage and agreed to it.  Note the GOP Senators in red, below, who signed on to, and off on, this resolution:
Note the Republicans in light red who cosponsored this resolution.

So Mitch McConnell, John Mccain, Lindsey Graham, and Susan Collins all used the exact same language that Susan Rice did, language that they criticized her for using when they used it too.
When ABC asked McCain’s office about the contradiction, McCain’s spokesman became a bit unhinged:
Sen. McCain’s office called the comparison between the language of the resolution and Rice’s words “pathetic.”
“This is total nonsense,” McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said in a statement to ABC News.
“This was a resolution honoring Ambassador Chris Stevens and the other brave Americans who died in Benghazi, drafted by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and passed with the unanimous consent of all 100 members of the U.S. Senate one day after the attack.”
That’s McCain’s usual response to a factual inquiry, to go ballistic and hope that his histrionics divert attention from the facts at hand.  What exactly is “pathetic” about pointing out that John McCain used the same “lie” as Susan Rice to describe what happened in Benghazi?
No, what’s pathetic is that John McCain told the American people a “lie” the day after we were attacked, and now wants to crucify an American public servant for saying nothing more than what McCain himself said as well.
Of course, maybe if John McCain actually attended those Benghazi hearings he’s been demanding, he’d learn a thing a two about what actually happened, so that next time he won’t lie to the American people like he did in that Senate resolution.

Repugican opposition kills UN disability treaty

This handout video image provided by CSPAN2 shows former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, right, wheeled into the Senate Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 4,2012, by his wife Elizabeth Dole. Frail and in a wheelchair, Dole was a startling presence on the Senate floor as lawmakers voted on a treaty on disabilities. The 89-year-old Republican was in the well of the Senate on the GOP side of the chamber, his wife Elizabeth nearby. Dole recently had been hospitalized but came to the Senate to push for the treaty. (AP Photo/CSPAN2)
Led by repugican opposition, the Senate on Tuesday rejected a United Nations treaty on the rights of the disabled that is modeled after the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act. With 38 repugicans casting "no" votes, the 61-38 vote fell five short of the two-thirds majority needed to ratify a treaty. The vote took place in an unusually solemn atmosphere, with senators sitting at their desks rather than milling around the podium. Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, looking frail and in a wheelchair, was in the chamber to support the treaty.
The treaty, already signed by 155 nations and ratified by 126 countries, including Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia, states that nations should strive to assure that the disabled enjoy the same rights and fundamental freedoms as their fellow citizens. The repugicans objected to taking up a treaty during the lame-duck session of the Congress and warned that the treaty could pose a threat to U.S. national sovereignty.
"I do not support the cumbersome regulations and potentially overzealous international organizations with anti-American biases that infringe upon American society," said Sen. Jim Inhofe, r-Okla.
They were not swayed by support for the treaty from some of the party's prominent veterans, including the 89-year-old Dole, who was disabled during World War II; Sen. John McCain, who also suffered disabling injuries in Vietnam; Sen. Dick Lugar, the top repugican on the Foreign Relations Committee; and former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh. Eight repugicans voted to approve the treaty.
The treaty also was widely backed by the disabilities community and veterans groups.
Democratic support for the convention was led by Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. John Kerry, Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, one of the key players in writing the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.
"It really isn't controversial," Kerry, D-Mass., said. "What this treaty says is very simple. It just says that you can't discriminate against the disabled. It says that other countries have to do what we did 22 years ago when we set the example for the world and passed the Americans with Disabilities Act."
The ADA put the United States in the forefront of efforts to secure equal rights for the disabled, and it became the blueprint for the U.N. treaty, formally the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The treaty was negotiated by the shrub cabal. It was completed in 2006 and President Barack Obama signed it in 2009.
The United Nations estimates that 650 million people around the world are disabled, about 10 percent of world population.
Kerry and other backers stressed that the treaty requires no changes in U.S. law, that a committee created by the treaty to make recommendations has no power to change laws and that the treaty cannot serve as a basis for a lawsuit in U.S. courts.
They said the treaty, by encouraging other countries to emulate the rights and facilities for the disabled already existing in the United States, would be of benefit for disabled Americans, particularly veterans, who want to work, travel or study abroad.
Supporters also rejected the argument that it was inappropriate to consider an international treaty in a post-election lame-duck session. They said that since the 1970s the Senate had voted to approve treaties 19 times during lame-duck sessions.
But in September, 36 repugican senators signed a letter saying they would not vote for any treaty during the lame duck,
The opposition was led by tea party favorite Sen. Mike Lee, r-Utah, who argued that the treaty by its very nature threatened U.S. sovereignty. Specifically he expressed concerns that the treaty could lead to the state, rather than parents, determining what was in the best interest of disabled children in such areas as home schooling, and that language in the treaty guaranteeing the disabled equal rights to reproductive health care could lead to abortions. Parents, Lee said, will "raise their children with the constant looming threat of state interference."
Supporters said such concerns were unfounded.
"I am frankly upset," said Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., "that they have succeeded in scaring the parents who home school their children all over this country." He said he said his office had received dozens of calls from homeschooling parents urging him to vote against the convention.
The conservative Heritage Action for America urged senators to vote no against the treaty, saying it would be recorded as a key vote on their scorecard. It repeated the argument that the treaty "would erode the principles of American sovereignty and federalism."

Papa John’s, Denny’s, Applebees brands suffer after Obamacare criticism

Though it has many faults, one great aspect of the free market – the actual free market and not what we have on Wall Street – is that customers have choices. Since the Obama re-election victory in November, a few CEOs and business executives couldn’t accept that they lost, and chose instead to bash President Obama and Obamacare.It was especially strange to hear one CEO, Papa John’s’ John Schnatter, complain about the supposedly high costs of Obamacare forcing him to limit his workers’ hours, while he somehow found the money to build a moat around his mansion and a personal golf course. He’s also the same CEO who is facing a $250 million class action lawsuit for sending text messages to customers.
Then there was the local Denny’s franchisee who came up with the bright idea to tack on a 5% surcharge to every check to supposedly pay for Obamacare.
Or Applebee’s NY franchisee who claimed Obamacare may force him to institute a hiring freeze.
The result of the public tantrums? Well, let’s just say this is why smart CEOs stay out of politics in public.  From YouGov BrandIndex:
doctor health care obamacare
“Doctor, it hurts when I lie.”

Papa John’s, Applebee’s, and Denny’s were measured with YouGov BrandIndex’s Buzz score, which asks respondents, “If you’ve heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks, through advertising, news or word of mouth, was it positive or negative?” Results were filtered adults 18+ who have eaten at casual dining restaurants in the past month.Papa John’s Buzz score high point for the month came on Election Day – November 6th – with a score of 32. Eight days later, the score had dropped 10 points down to 22, when the spam text lawsuit was unveiled. A few days later, Papa John’s dropped below Pizza Hut’s score and is presently at 4.
Applebee’s had a 35 Buzz score on the eve of Election Day, when a few days later, Apple-Metro CEO Zane Tankel told Fox Business News he won’t build more restaurants or hire more people. By November 17th, Applebee’s score had fallen 20 points. As of this past Thursday, their score was 5.
After Denny’s franchisee John Metz’s Obamacare comments on November 17th, the chain’s buzz score dropped from 10 down to zero nine days later. However, they have since bounced back to 6, a higher score than both Papa John’s and Applebee’s. And here’s their graph showing the brands plummeting:
Now shareholders can start comparing the cost of implementing Obamacare versus the cost of lost business due to ridiculously partisan public rants after a heated election.
What do these companies think of the free market now?

Los Angeles port strike to go to federal mediation

Clerical workers carry signs in protest at the Port of Long Beach, Calif. on Tuesday, December 4, 2012. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa says both sides in a strike at the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have agreed to federal mediation. However, the union representing clerical workers says the strike now in its eighth day will continue. Clerical workers are striking 10 terminals at the nation's busiest port complex and dockworkers won't cross picket lines. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
A federal mediator will be called in to help resolve an eight-day strike that has cost the economy billions of dollars while paralyzing the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, officials said Tuesday.
Striking clerical workers and shippers agreed to mediation after an all-night bargaining session that continued into the morning, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced.
"The goal is to get back today, if we could, and I'm certainly hopeful that can happen," he said at a news conference.
The ports handle more than 40 percent of the cargo arriving in the United States by water.
Everything from food to fireworks, textiles to high-tech electronics, move through the docks and onto trucks and trains, headed to warehouses and distribution centers across the country.
The union said it would continue the strike, which Villaraigosa said has affected some 20,000 jobs.
Several hundred clerical workers from a unit of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union have been wrangling with 14 shipping terminal operators for 2½ years over a new contract. The workers claim the shippers are outsourcing their well-paid jobs overseas — a claim the shippers deny.
Villaraigosa, who flew back from a trip to South America to join the talks late Monday, said he saw progress in the negotiations.
However, both sides said they remain far apart on core issues.
"If it's close to any agreement, it's what kind of bagels we're going to bring in for breakfast," said Steve Getzug of the Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Employers Association, which is representing management in the talks.
Villaraigosa has "been helpful in getting folks closer but they're not there and there's still work to do," added Craig Merrilees, a union spokesman.
About 400 of the 600 unionized shipping clerks walked off the job on Nov. 27, and 10,000 members of their sister union, which represents dockworkers, refused to cross the picket lines.
That quickly shut down 10 of the ports' 14 terminals.
The clerks handle everything from filing invoices and bills to making sure cargo moves off the dock quickly and gets where it's supposed to go.
As the strike moved into its second week, labor experts said it was idling thousands of truckers who can't pick up cargo and disrupting rail traffic that could lead to empty warehouses across the nation.
"We estimate that the two ports handle about a billion dollars worth of cargo a day," said Art Wong, spokesman for the Port of Long Beach. "Three-quarters of the port complex is shut down, meaning $760 million a day worth of goods are just idled."
Some cargo vessels have been diverted to other ports while others remain stuck in the twin harbors awaiting loading or unloading.
Union leaders maintain that management wants to save money by outsourcing workers' jobs to places like China and Taiwan, where it can pay half the money for the same work. The result, they say, would be one more American sector taking an economic hit just to boost a giant company's profit margins.
Management maintains it won't outsource any jobs but it wants more flexibility for hiring future employees so it doesn't have to pay people to fill slots that aren't needed. It contends that the union wants "featherbedding" contract language requiring artificial staffing levels.
On Monday, the Harbor Trucking Association asked the Federal Maritime Commission to get involved, and the National Retail Federation called on President Barack Obama to do something.
Former President George W. Bush invoked the Taft-Hartley Act in 2002 to end a 10-day dockworkers lockout that had spread across the West Coast.
As they continue to negotiate, both sides say wages, pensions, vacations and other benefits are not an issue.
The union says average clerical salaries are $41 an hour, or about $87,000 a year. When benefits are factored in, that raises annual compensation to $165,000, Getzug said.

Less Vacations for Americans

Bummer news: U.S. workers are either too afraid or too busy to take all of their vacation. Read more Less Vacations for Americans: DNews Nugget

The truth hurts

'In Cold Blood' murderers investigated in Florida

At the end of 1959, two families of four — one in Kansas, the other in Florida — were brutally murdered.
Two men were arrested, charged and executed in the Kansas case, and writer Truman Capote captured the horrific tale in his iconic true crime book, "In Cold Blood."
The Florida murder of two parents and two children was investigated by dozens of detectives over the years, but it remained unsolved. Now, a detective is trying to prove that the men who were executed in Kansas were also responsible for the Florida slayings.
"It's like putting together a jigsaw puzzle," said Sarasota County Sheriff's detective Kimberly McGath, who began re-investigating the murders of Cliff and Christine Walker and their two young children in 2007.
The graves of Perry Edward Smith, lower left, and Richard Eugene Hickock, lower right, sit on a sloping hillside at the Mount Muncie Cemetery, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012, in Lansing, Kan. Smith and co-defendant Richard Eugene Hickock, the two men who were the subjects of Truman Capote's iconic book "In Cold Blood," were executed in April 1965 at the Kansas State Penitentiary for the killings of four members of the Herbert Clutter family in Holcomb, Kan. A Florida detective wants to exhume their bodies because he believes there’s evidence linking them to similar murders of a Florida family. (AP Photo/John Hanna)McGath said there is evidence that points to two men who are now in a Kansas cemetery for executed prisoners: Perry Smith and Richard Hickock.
DNA recovered from semen found on Christine Walker's underwear could be compared to the remains of Smith and Hickock, said McGath. She is working with Kansas authorities to petition a judge there to approve exhuming the bodies of the two men.
Linking long-dead killers to unsolved homicides is becoming more common.
In Chicago, the Cook County Sheriff's Department is trying to find out whether serial killer John Wayne Gacy could be responsible for any more deaths. Officials there are entering murderers' DNA profiles into a national database shared with other law-enforcement agencies. The move is based on an ironic legal distinction: The men were technically listed as homicide victims themselves because they were put to death by the state.
FILE - In this Jan. 6, 1960 file photo, Perry Edward Smith is led by police officers into the courthouse at Garden City, Kan. Smith was arrested in Las Vegas and charged with first degree murder in the slaying of four members of the Herbert Clutter family at their farm house in Holcomb, Kan. Fifty years ago, the Clutter murders inspired Truman Capote to write "In Cold Blood". A Florida detective wants to exhume the bodies of Edward Smith and accomplice Richard Hickock to see if there is evidence linking the two men to the 1959 murders of four in a rural community south of Sarasota. (AP Photo/William Straeter, FILE)Authorities hope to find DNA matches from blood, semen, hair or skin under victims' fingernails that link the long-dead killers to the coldest of cold cases. And they want investigators in other states to follow suit and submit the DNA of their own executed inmates or from decades-old crime scenes.
Kansas officials said this week they have talked with Florida detectives and would continue to help if the Florida detectives file an exhumation petition in court.
Hickock and Smith are buried on a gently sloping hill at the Mount Muncie Cemetery in Lansing, Kan. The state of Kansas interred its executed criminals there when their families didn't claim the bodies. There are about 28,000 graves.
Cemetery manager Gene Kirby said the Hickock and Smith graves regularly draw visitors, particularly around the anniversary of the Clutter slayings or when "In Cold Blood" receives media attention.
"We have a fair amount of people come out and ask where they're buried, want to come down and actually see the graves," Kirby said. "If there's anything in the news that kind of piques the interest."
The possibility that the pair was involved in the Florida murderers has been considered since 1960, according to records released by the Sarasota Sheriff's Office.
After Smith and Hickock killed the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kan., on Nov. 15, 1959, they fled to Florida in a stolen car. They were spotted at least a dozen times from Tallahassee to Miami and points in between.
On Dec. 18, the two men checked into a Miami Beach motel and checked out the next day. That day, the Walker family was killed at their home on a ranch in the small community of Osprey about four hours northwest of Miami near Sarasota.
Cliff Walker was shot to death and his wife was beaten, raped and then shot. Three-year-old Jimmie was shot to death and his 2-year-old sister was shot and drowned in a bathtub. The gruesome scene days before Christmas shocked investigators. News stories at the time noted that there were gifts around the tree.
At some point on the same day, Smith and Hickock bought items at a Sarasota department store. On Dec. 21, witnesses say they spoke with Smith and Hickock in Tallahassee.
McGath said the Walkers had been considering buying a 1956 Chevy Bel Air, which was the kind of car Smith and Hickock had stolen and were driving through Florida. McGath thinks that somehow, the Walkers and the killers met because of the car.
The detective found witness statements — and talked to people who are still alive — who said they saw Smith and Hickock in the Sarasota area around the time of the Walker murders. One witness said the taller of the two men had a scratched-up face.
The pair was later arrested in Las Vegas and a polygraph test cleared them of the Walker murders. But in 1987, a polygraph expert said those tests in the early 1960s were worthless.
Authorities said the Walkers still have some living relatives both in and outside of Florida but declined to give names. McGath has been the one leading the effort to find their killers.
She hopes the DNA will prove that Smith and Hickock killed the Walker family so the community can have closure, and so the dozens of people falsely accused over the years as suspects in the case can finally have peace of mind.
Kirby said it's likely that only bones remain in the Kansas coffins.
"In this case, it's going to require a backhoe," he said. "Especially with the drought we had this year, the ground is going to be extremely hard."
Kirby hopes that if an exhumation occurs, officials will be able to get the material they need by simply opening the coffin on site, without full removal. He was also concerned about the timing of any exhumation, because relatives visit other graves and decorate them around Christmas.

Kazakh cowboys tour North Dakota, get cattle-tending tips

In this Nov. 15, 2012 photo Viktor Kapinus inspects a Hereford bull on the Helbling Hereford Ranch near Mandan, N.D. The 21-year-old was one of several young Kazahk cattlemen who toured North Dakota ranches and got cattle-tending tips from veteran cowboys. (AP Photo/James MacPherson)  
Mananbai Sadykov cuffed his stiff blue jeans over intricately stitched cowboy boots and tread mindfully though minefields of cattle manure at the Helbling Hereford Ranch in central North Dakota.
Sadykov, 48, is no citified dandy, having worked with livestock most of his life in Kazakhstan. But he tried to keep his new duds — a gift from some North Dakota ranchers — cowpie-free. Western wear is rare in the former Soviet republic. And, until recently, so were cows.
About 15 Kazakh cattlemen, Sadykov included, visited North Dakota ranches in November to inspect the state's beef herd and get a hands-on tutorial in tending cattle from veteran cowboys.
"It's not splitting atoms growing cows. But it is hard work," said Mark Archibald, who ranches near Hettinger in southwest North Dakota and hosted a contingent of the Kazakhs. "They haven't had the background to build upon so we're showing them our way of doing things."
Kazakhstan's beef herd was butchered and all but sold off following the downfall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Cattle numbers dropped from about 35 million to about 2 million. To help rebuild that industry, more than 5,000 Hereford and Angus cattle bred to withstand North Dakota's notoriously nasty winters have been sent since 2010 via jumbo jets from Fargo to Kazakhstan, and a shipment of 3,000 more is planned before year's end.
Sadykov has been overseeing several hundred of the relocated ruminants in Kazakhstan, whose climate and landscape are similar to North Dakota's.
"Very good, very tough cows," Sadykov said through an interpreter, while eyeing dozens of hardy Herefords with their thick, hairy coats. "Very good in cold."
North Dakota's cows also typically have more marbling and fatty tissue, which gives the state an advantage in cattle sales, agriculture officials said.
"There are some marketing opportunities there," said Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, "It's going to take a long time for them to build up their inventory."
Dean Gorder, executive director of the North Dakota Trade Office, said the state has had a strong trade relationship with Kazakhstan and also exports farm machinery.
Gorder and Goehring both have made several visits to Kazakhstan, a million-square-mile landmass that stretches from central Asia to eastern Europe. The largely Muslim country's appetite for beef also is big, Goehring said.
"It's a country that consumes large amounts of meat," he said. "I watch those guys eat and I get a bellyache."
Daulet Chunkunov, a Kazakh trade representative, said the oil-rich nation currently buys the bulk of its processed beef from Europe and Australia but is prepared to spend billions building up its own cattle industry, which could take decades. The Kazakh government paid for the cattlemen's trip to North Dakota.
"We have oil money, a strong domestic market, support of the government and a labor force," Chunkunov said.
Cattle ranching also appeals to many young people in Kazakhstan, Chunkunov said. Several Kazakh cattlemen in their 20s were among those touring North Dakota ranches, getting tips on everything from bovine nutrition and branding to vaccinations and bull castrations.
"I like being a cowboy," said Viktor Kapinus, a tall, wiry 21-year-old who recently started working at a rural ranch well outside of his hometown of Astana in central Kazakhstan.
Kapinus, already comfortable around cows, fearlessly approached and petted a more than 2,000-pound Hereford bull grazing on hay, while of his less-bold sidekicks snapped pictures.
Fred Helbling, who owns the ranch with his brothers, Wayne and Jim, said the Kazakhs may not dress like typical North Dakota cowboys but many are master horsemen who have taken quickly to cows.
"You can't judge a book by its cover," said Fred Helbling, whose great-grandfather emigrated from Russia and homesteaded the sprawling ranch almost a century ago.
Jim Hebling added, "They do have a lot of passion."
Dauletgali Zhaitapov, 24, said his family owns hundreds of horses but only recently expanded into cows, many of which have come from North Dakota. Zhaitapov said he recently participated in a big cattle drive in his country, something he'd only seen before in "John Wayne movies."
"I was like the Marlboro man," he said.

For the love of Ginger

You too can be a loser at the game of social ostracism

Now you can play Cyberball — a computer game that psychology researchers use to study the effects of social ostracism and hurt feelings. Normally, the game is played by test subjects who are hooked up to some kind of brain scanning system and who are told that they are playing against other test subjects in other rooms. In reality, they (and now you!) are playing against a computer program that is designed to exclude you and make you feel unwelcome. Why would someone design such a thing? For science! Of course.

Negative Thoughts? Toss 'em

Physically throwing away negative thoughts helps rid them from the mind, finds research.  
  Negative Thoughts? Toss 'em

A Royal Spotlight on a Rare Condition

vKate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, is pregnant with a child who will be in a direct line to inherit the throne of England. The news is not all good, as the Duchess has been hospitalized for treatment of hyperemesis gravidarum, or severe and debilitating morning sickness. The New York Times spoke with Dr. Marlena Fejzo, an obstetrics researcher and former H.G. sufferer, about the condition.
Q. What is hyperemesis gravidarum?
A. It’s severe, debilitating nausea and vomiting in pregnancy that generally leads to more than 5 percent weight loss and requires fluid treatment. Sometimes, in more extreme cases, it requires nutritional supplements.

Q. Are there treatments?
A. Doctors try to give IV and anti-nausea medication at first. About 20 percent of the women who contact the Hyperemesis Education and Research Foundation require tube feeding. It’s very serious. They have to have a tube inserted above their heart. Blood tests have to be done every day, or every other day, and the bag of nutrients has to be monitored to make sure it’s personalized for the woman’s needs. But I don’t think Kate Middleton (based on news reports) has it that bad. She’s just gone in for the IV fluids.
Fejzo also tells us about the prevalence, prognosis, and possible complications of H.G. More

Tapping citizen-scientists for a novel gut check

This undated photo provided by the University of Colorado shows scientist Rob Knight in his lab at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he is leading the American Gut Project. The bacterial zoo inside your gut could look very different if you're a vegetarian or an Atkins dieter, a couch potato or an athlete, fat or thin. Now for a fee and a stool sample, the curious can find out just what's living in their intestines and help one of the hottest new fields in science. (AP Photo/University of Colorado)
The bacterial zoo inside your gut could look very different if you're a vegetarian or an Atkins dieter, a couch potato or an athlete, fat or thin.
Now for a fee — $69 and up — and a stool sample, the curious can find out just what's living in their intestines and take part in one of the hottest new fields in science.
This undated handout image provided by the Agriculture Department shows the bacterium, Enterococcus faecalis, which lives in the human gut. The bacterial zoo inside your gut could look very different if you're a vegetarian or an Atkins dieter, a couch potato or an athlete, fat or thin. Now for a fee and a stool sample, the curious can find out just what's living in their intestines and help one of the hottest new fields in science. (AP Photo/Agriculture Department)
Wait a minute: How many average Joes really want to pay for the privilege of mailing such, er, intimate samples to scientists?
A lot, hope the researchers running two novel citizen-science projects.
One, the American Gut Project, aims to enroll 10,000 people — and a bunch of their dogs and cats too — from around the country. The other, uBiome, separately aims to enroll nearly 2,000 people from anywhere in the world.
"We're finally enabling people to realize the power and value of bacteria in our lives," said microbiologist Jack Gilbert of the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory. He's one of a team of well-known scientists involved with the American Gut Project.
Don't be squeamish: Yes, we share our bodies with trillions of microbes, living communities called microbiomes. Many of the bugs, especially those in the intestinal tract, play indispensable roles in keeping us healthy, from good digestion to a robust immune system.
But which combinations of bacteria seem to keep us healthy? Which ones might encourage problems like obesity, diabetes or irritable bowel syndrome?
And do diet and lifestyle affect those microbes in ways that we might control someday?
Answering those questions will require studying vast numbers of people. Getting started with a grassroots movement makes sense, said National Institutes of Health microbiologist Lita Proctor, who isn't involved with the new projects but is watching closely.
After all, there was much interest in the taxpayer-funded Human Microbiome Project, which last summer provided the first glimpse of what makes up a healthy bacterial community in a few hundred volunteers.
Proctor, who coordinated that project, had worried "there would be a real ick factor. That has not been the case," she said. Many people "want to engage in improving their health."
Scott Jackisch, a computer consultant in Oakland, Calif., ran across American Gut while exploring the science behind different diets, and signed up last week. He's read with fascination earlier microbiome research: "Most of the genetic matter in what we consider ourselves is not human, and that's crazy. I wanted to learn about that."
Testing a single stool sample costs $99 in that project, but he picked a three-sample deal for $260 to compare his own bacterial makeup after eating various foods.
"I want to be extra, extra well," said Jackisch, 42. Differing gut microbes may be the reason "there's no one magic bullet of diet that people can eat and be healthy."
It's clear that people's gut bacteria can change over time. What this new research could accomplish is a first look at how different diets may play a role, "a much better understanding of what matters and what doesn't," said American Gut lead researcher Rob Knight of the University of Colorado, Boulder.
"We don't just want people that have a gut-ache. We want couch potatoes. We want babies. We want vegans. We want athletes. We want anybody and everybody because we need that complete diversity," added American Gut co-founder Jeff Leach, an anthropologist.
One challenge is making sure participants don't expect that a map of their gut bacteria can predict their future health, or suggest lifestyle changes, anytime soon.
"I understand I'm not going to be able to say, 'Oh, my gosh, I'll be susceptible to this,'" said Bradley Heinz, 26, a financial consultant in San Francisco. He is paying uBiome $119 to analyze both his gut and mouth microbiomes; just the gut is $69.
"The more people that participate, the more information comes out and the more that everybody benefits," he added.
Participants can sign up for either project via the social fundraising site Indiegogo.com over the next month. They also can send scrapings from the skin, mouth and other sites, to analyze that bacteria. Sign up enough family members or body sites, or be tracked over time, and the price can rise into the thousands. American Gut researchers plan some free testing for those who can't afford the fees, to increase the experiment's diversity.
Don't forget the pets: "We sleep with them, play with them, they often eat our food," Leach said. What bacteria we have in common is the next logical question.
Already, American Gut researchers are preparing to compare what they find in the typical U.S. gut with a few hundred people in rural Namibia, who eat what's described as hunter-gatherer fare. Also, Leach will spend three months living in Namibia next year, and is storing his own stool samples for before-and-after comparison.
But diet isn't the only factor. Your bacterial makeup starts at birth: Babies absorb different microbes when they're born vaginally than when they're born by C-section, a possible explanation for why cesareans raise the risk for certain infections. Taking antibiotics alters this teeming inner world, and it's not clear if there are lasting consequences, especially for young children.
Then there's your environment, such as the infections spread in hospitals. In February, a new University of Chicago hospital building opens and Gilbert will test the surfaces, the patients and their health workers to see how quickly bad bugs can move in and identify which bacteria are protective.
Whatever the findings, all the research marks "a huge teachable moment" about how we interact with microbes, Leach said.

Hey, Silicon Valley, meet Genome Valley

More than 100 biomedical and life science companies are clustered in Genome Valley, a research park in Hyderabad, India.

Greenland Ice Sheet Continues to Thin

Greenland Ice Sheet Continues to ThinThe disappearing Greenland Ice Sheet continues to thin along its edges, and could soon open up in the north. Read more 

Voyager 1 Can 'Taste' the Interstellar Shore

The 35-year-old probe hasn't quite entered interstellar space, but has entered a "magnetic highway" before it breaks free of the heliosphere. Read more Voyager 1 Can 'Taste' the Interstellar Shore

Cosmic radio waves mimic chirping of 'alien birds'

This undated image made available by NASA and the Goddard Space Flight Center shows an artist's rendition of the Van Allen Probes in orbit around Earth. The twin spacecraft have captured the clearest sounds yet from Earth's radiation belts - and they mimic the chirping of birds. NASA's Van Allen Probes have been exploring the hostile radiation belts surrounding Earth for just three months. But already, they've collected measurements of high-energy particles and radio waves in unprecedented detail. Scientists said Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012 these waves can provide an energy boost to radiation belt particles, somewhat like ocean waves can propel a surfer on Earth. (AP Photo/NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center)
Twin spacecraft have captured the clearest sounds yet from Earth's radiation belts — and they mimic the chirping of birds. NASA's Van Allen Probes have been exploring the hostile radiation belts surrounding Earth for just three months. But already, they've collected measurements of high-energy particles and radio waves in unprecedented detail.
Scientists said Tuesday these waves can provide an energy boost to radiation belt particles, somewhat like ocean waves can propel a surfer on Earth. What's more, these so-called chorus waves operate in the same frequency as human hearing so they can be heard.
University of Iowa physicist Craig Kletzing played a recording of these high-pitched radio waves at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco.
"Not only do you hear the chirps — the alien birds as my wife calls them — but you hear that sort of cricket-like thing in the background," Kletzing told reporters.
Before, those background sounds were inaudible.
"So this is really a fantastic new measurement," he said.
While the chorus has been audible even before the Space Age — ham radio operators could sometimes hear it in decades past — the clarity of these measurements is "really quite striking," Kletzing said.
Initial findings show the outer radiation belt to be much more dynamic and rapidly changing than anticipated, said the University of Colorado's Daniel Baker, principal investigator for the electron proton telescope on each probe.
The Van Allen probes — formerly known as the Radiation Belt Storm Probes — were launched from Cape Canaveral on Aug. 30. They were named after the late University of Iowa astrophysicist James Van Allen, who discovered the radiation belts that bear his name a half-century ago.

Daily Comic Relief


Hawaiian Corals Perishing in Polluted Paradise

The coral reefs around the Hawaiian islands Oahu and Kauai face an assault from a mysterious disease. Read more
  Hawaiian Corals Perishing in Polluted Paradise

The 10 Most Bizarre Cat Breeds on Earth

Did you know that the sphinx is just one of several hairless cat breeds? There are four, count 'em, four  hairless breeds in this list of ten from Environmental Graffiti. Shown here is the Elf cat, a new breed created by Karen Nelson and Kristen Leedom, that reminds one of a certain Jedi master. More

Grizzly managers look toward hunts in Rockies

FILE - This July 6, 2011 file photo shows a grizzly bear roaming near Beaver Lake in Yellowstone National Park, Wyo. Wildlife managers in the Northern Rockies are laying the groundwork for trophy grizzly bear hunts in the Northern Rockies as the government moves toward lifting the animals' threatened species status. (AP Photo/Jim Urquhart, File)
With bear-human conflicts on the rise, wildlife managers in the Northern Rockies are laying the groundwork for trophy hunts for the animals in anticipation of the government lifting their threatened species status.
It's expected to be another two years before about 600 bears around Yellowstone National Park lose their federal protections, and possibly longer for about 1,000 bears in the region centered on Glacier National Park.
Yet already government officials say those populations have recovered to the point that limited hunting for small numbers of bears could occur after protections are lifted — and without harm to the species' decades-long recovery. That could include hunts in areas of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho where bear-human conflicts and livestock attacks are on the rise.
A federal-state committee that oversees grizzly bears will consider adopting a pro-hunting policy next week during a meeting in Missoula. Precise details on bear hunts have not been crafted.
It's taken decades for grizzlies to rebound from widespread extermination, and some wildlife advocates say it's too soon to talk about a hunt.
But state wildlife officials said hunting is a proven approach of wildlife management that could work for grizzlies just as it does for species such as elk, mountain lions and black bears.
"We have bears that are in conflict (with people), and certainly one of the ways that we could deal with that would be to reduce populations through hunting," said Jim Unsworth, deputy director for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
"There's the additional benefit of providing probably one of the most sought-after opportunities in North America — the opportunity to hunt a grizzly bear," he added.
Hunting is not being considered for smaller populations of the bears in the Cabinet-Yaak, North Cascades and Selkirk areas of Idaho, Montana and Washington.
Hunting for grizzlies currently is allowed in Canada and Alaska, where hundreds are taken annually.
Grizzlies lost their threatened species status in 2007 in the Yellowstone region, but protections were restored two years later by a federal judge.
Based on that court ruling, the government is now conducting additional studies on a decline in an important food source for some bears — the cones of white bark pine trees. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to again seek to lift the animal's threatened status after the work is completed late next year.
Meanwhile, grizzlies already are dying regularly in the Northern Rockies as the slowly expanding population pushes out of wilderness strongholds and into areas with more people, ranches and croplands.
At least 51 bears have died so far this year in the Yellowstone area, according to the U.S. Geologic Survey. Most have died during run-ins with hunters, who sometimes shoot the animals in self-defense, and at the hands of wildlife agents who kill bears that cause repeated problems.
The bear population is closely tracked, and the government sets limits on the percentage of bears that can die in any given year for the population to remain healthy.
With such detailed accounting, grizzly managers could set hunting limits that the species could safely tolerate without risk to the overall population, said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grizzly coordinator Chris Servheen.
Dave Smith, a conservationist and author of a book on backcountry bear encounters, said there would be nothing to stop government officials from raising those overall mortality limits so more hunting could be accommodated.
"I think the plan is to delist grizzlies based on what we have now and then say, 'Whoa, we're changing everything,'" Smith said. "They can manipulate the numbers any way they want."
Wildlife officials said any hunts would be tightly controlled and highly conservative.
Servheen said they would differ significantly from wolf hunts now taking place in the Northern Rockies. For wolves, states have lifted quotas on the predators with the explicit aim of driving down their pack numbers through aggressive hunting and trapping.
By contrast, said Servheen, "you could probably count on one hand" the number of bears that could be legally killed in any given year if hunting is allowed, he said.
"Hunting is a tool, particularly to reduce populations in some areas on the periphery (of their range) where we may not want a lot of bears. We're trying to get it on the radar screen as we approach the management of healthy, recovered populations," he said.

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