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The place where the world comes together in honesty and mirth.
Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Daily Drift


Some of readers today have been in:
Manila, Philippines
Gurgaon, India
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Venice, Italy
Istanbul, Turkey
Waterloo, Canada
As Salimiyah, Kuwait
Tallinn, Estonia
Sofia, Bulgaria
Ipoh, Malaysia
Cape Town, South Africa
Batu Pahat, Malaysia
Belgrade, Serbia
Kota Bharu, Malaysia
Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Jakarta, Indonesia
Algiers, Algeria
Jawa Timur, Indonesia
Subang Jaya, Malaysia
Makati, Philippines
Bandar Seri, Begawan, Brunei
Cairo, Egypt
Kuching, Malaysia
Pasig, Philippines
Klang, Malaysia
Bogota, Colombia
Manchester, England
Shah Alam, Malaysia
Stuttgart, Germany
Sampaloc, Philippines
Polonnruwa, Sri Lanka
Amman, Jordan
Quezon City, Philippines
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Bursa, Turkey
Abucay, Philippines
Athens, Greece
Saravejo, Bosnia and Herzegovina 
Ankara, Turkey
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Today in History

43 BC Cicero, considered one of the greatest sons of Rome, is assassinated on the orders of Marcus Antonius.
983 Otto III takes the throne after his father's death in Italy. A power struggle between magnates ensues.
1787 Delaware becomes the first state to ratify the Constitution of the United States.
1808 James Madison is elected president in succession of Thomas Jefferson.
1861 USS Santiago de Cuba, under Commander Daniel B. Ridgely, halts the British schooner Eugenia Smith and captures J.W. Zacharie, a New Orleans merchant and Confederate purchasing agent.
1862 Confederate forces surprise an equal number of Union troops at the Battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas.
1863 Outlaw George Ives, an alleged member of an outlaw gang known as the "Innocents," robs and then kills Nick Thiebalt in the Ruby Valley of what would become Montana.
1917 The United States declares war on Austria-Hungary with only one dissenting vote in Congress.
1918 Spartacists call for a German revolution.
1931 A report indicates that Nazis would ensure "Nordic dominance" by sterilizing certain races.
1941 Japanese planes raid Pearl Harbor in a surprise attack.
1942 The U.S. Navy launches USS New Jersey, the largest battleship ever built.
1946 The president of the United Mine Workers, John L. Lewis, orders all striking miners back to work.
1949 The A.F.L. and the C.I.O. organize a non-Communist international trade union.
1970 Poland and West Germany sign a pact renouncing the use of force to settle disputes, recognizing the Oder-Neisse River as Poland's western frontier, and acknowledging the transfer to Poland of 40,000 square miles of former German territory.
1972 The crew of Apollo 17, the last manned mission to the moon, lifts off at Cape Canaveral, Florida.
1981 The Reagan Administration predicts a record deficit in 1982 of $109 billion.
1988 An earthquake in Armenia kills an estimated 100,000 people.

Non Sequitur


You Can Shave With Bacon Goodness

Is eating pounds of bacon seasoned with bacon salt and a dessert of bacon candy, then brushing your teeth with bacon still not leaving you with pork fat oozing through your pores? Well, until that does happen, you can at least use the next best thing to lubricate your face while shaving -bacon shaving cream!  Huzah JD's for introducing yet more bacon products in our life.

Did you lnow ...

That the U.S. is no longer one of the best countries to be born in.

The truth is ...

Ready to go over 'cliff' if necessary

President Barack Obama walks with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, as they returned from the Business Roundtable, an association of chief executive officers, where the president spoke about the fiscal cliff. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)  
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Wednesday that the Obama administration is "absolutely" ready for the U.S. economy to go over the "fiscal cliff" rather than accept a budget deal that doesn't include higher tax rates for top earners.
Geithner said the administration thinks budget deficits are so large that they can't be closed without boosting tax rates on the highest-earning 2 percent of Americans. Most repugicans oppose higher rates for any taxpayers.
"There's no prospect in an agreement that doesn't involve those rates going up on the top 2 percent of the wealthiest Americans," Geithner said in an interview on CNBC.
Geithner's comments immediately drew fire from a top repugican senator.
"This is one of the most stunning and irresponsible statements I've heard in some time," said Sen. Orrin Hatch. "Going over the fiscal cliff will put our economy, jobs, people's paychecks and retirement at risk, but that is what the White House wants, according to Secretary Geithner, if they don't get their way."
The fiscal cliff refers to the tax increases and deep spending cuts that will take effect in January unless Congress and the White House reach a budget deal first.
In the interview, Geithner also said the administration would reject a budget plan that didn't include an increase in the federal borrowing limit. The current limit is expected to be reached either late this month or early next year.
"We are not prepared to have the American economy held hostage to periodic threats that repugicans will force the country to default on our obligations," Geithner said. "That would be a terrible thing for the financial security of the average American, for businesses, for confidence around the world and the United States."
Geithner said he still thinks progress is being made in the budget negotiations and that the outlines of an agreement are becoming clearer.
"They look inevitable," he said.

The truth hurts

“Fire Boehner”: Speaker’s head demanded over tea party purge

A pitiful wingnut blog, run by CNN contributor Erick Erickson, is calling on repugicans to dump repugican Speaker of the House John Boehner because of a recent purge of tea party members from influential committee positions in the House.In a post titled “Fire Boehner: We Only Need 16 Votes to Depose Boehner,” Ned Ryun writes:
If wingnuts want to keep the House and win the Senate, we need to fire John Boehner as speaker of the House. We only need 16 House votes to do it.
As most wingnuts know, Boehner and the House repugican Steering Committee decided to purge four conservative House members from their committee. Congressmen Justin Amash and Tim Huelskamp were removed from the House Budget Committee, and Congressmen David Schweikert and Walter Jones were cut from the Financial Services Committee.
Tea Party protest
They seemed like such nice people.
Amash, Huelskamp, and Schweikert were targeted because they were too fiscally conservative—all three have voted against Boehner’s debt ceiling hikes. Amash and Huelskamp were the only two repugican votes against House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s budget.
Amash explained that vote at yesterday’s Bloggers’ Briefing at the Heritage Foundation, “It’s unacceptable to have unbalanced budgets until 2040.”
For anyone outside of DC, this statement seems obvious. Only in Washington is balancing the budget radical.
Many wingnuts voted for the Ryan budget because they didn’t want to “let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” I understand that, but we shouldn’t criticize those who actually understand the depth of our debt problem and plan to propose real answers.
If Speaker Boehner wants to purge independent, bold wingnuts—I think it’s time he gets fired as Speaker. Not only for the purge. He has failed to effectively win negotiations with President Obama and appointed moderate committee chairs. To the public, Boehner may appear radical but in reality he proposes milquetoast policies, like the tax-hikes he proposed this week.
We’d written about Amash yesterday, when the tea party congressman went to Facebook to whine about Boehner having kicked him off of the House Budget Committee for refusing to toe the repugican line by supporting the previous budget deals that were worked out with the administraition:
repugican House member Justin Amash posted a blistering broadside (in reality just a hissy fit from a loser) at the House repugican leadership last night, via Facebook, for being booted off a key House committee because of his insistence on voting against the House leadership in budget battles, and for Grover Norquist.
Remember, the tea party congressmen would have preferred that America default on its debt rather than do anything shortly of gutting the federal government.  And the repugican pandered to these nutjobs, and their overlords, personified by Dick Armey and Grover Norquist, for far too long.  And now the Frankenbaggers are coming home to roost.
Hey, we're all for 'Firing Boner' , too, but for the legitimate reason that he is a seriously fucked up moron just like the other wingnuts that are calling for his firing ... we just say fire all of them as well.

The cost of austerity? Just look at the UK economy, it’s a mess.

For some strange reason, the repugicans are no longer bragging about the austerity movement in the UK.In case you wondered why, check it out for yourself. It’s a colossal failure and it’s getting worse.
Just as many had predicted, austerity during a declining economy doesn’t fix anything. It only makes the problem worse, by cutting off critical finances and services when they’re needed the most. It’s much cheaper for governments to borrow the money and keep money moving during soft economic periods like this.
uk flag

Wingnuts laughed off criticism of austerity, but it’s clear they were wrong.
Joe Stiglitz previously compared austerity to “medieval medicine.”
Paul Krugman said it was a recipe for ten more years of a depression.
The IMF reported that it was costing tens of billions in the UK alone. The UK deficit has increased despite claims of the opposite and austerity already triggered a double dip in the UK. Again, outside of the right wing fantasy-land, this was all predicted from the beginning.
The next time any repugican, or blue dog democrat, calls for austerity, wake them up and tell them to read the news beyond their home town or inside the Beltway. The end result of austerity is ugly, especially in these economic times, and we have plenty of examples of how destructive and costly it is. When they’re done looking at the failures in the UK, they can turn to Spain and Greece for more.
The economic update in the UK is not pretty and it just gets worse. What fool would want to inflict this kind of damage in the US?  From the Guardian:
Fitch expressed concern at Osborne’s decision to put back by a year to 2016-17 the date by which Britain’s national debt will start to fall as a proportion of gross domestic product. “In our view, missing the target weakens the credibility of the UK’s fiscal framework, which is one of the factors supporting the [AAA] rating,” the ratings agency said.
Although two years of zero growth will mean that the government’s budget deficit next year will be almost double the £60bn predicted in Osborne’s first budget in June 2010, the chancellor said progress was being made. By including the expected £3.5bn proceeds of the auction of the 4G spectrum he was able to say that the deficit was coming down in each year of the current parliament.
More promises and more failures. Each time the right wing finance minister plays around with the economy, the worse it gets. Growth was talked about, never materialized, and now here come cuts to the social system (sound familiar?). But of course, that’s what all of this was about from the beginning – conservatives forcing budget crises that then force cuts in social programs.
Just as repugicans want to hack the social system to pieces in the US, that’s what the Tories have wanted to do in the UK from the start. In the case of the UK, they are raising taxes on the rich, but they’re also dismembering the social system. There will be a cost to the middle class as well as to the overall economy. The system is there to help people and without it, something has to give.
Once again, it’s an austerity bomb. That’s the point of these policies.

Walmart rejected safety upgrades at Asia factory where 100 die in fire

It seems a little too easy for Walmart to brush off safety upgrades at their supplier factories. Their reasoning is that the cost is too high. The dead factory workers in Bangladesh, and their families, might have viewed the safety issues differently.Whether it’s the appalling work conditions at Apple supplier factories in China where workers are available 24×7 and given a cup of tea and a biscuit, the Chinese factories that previously produced lead-tainted children’s toys for the US market or the garment factories throughout Asia, there’s a distinct lack of accountability by too many Western companies. Walmart is only the latest.
bangladesh walmart

At a meeting convened in 2011 to boost safety at Bangladesh garment factories, WalMart Stores Inc. (WMT) made a call: paying suppliers more to help them upgrade their manufacturing facilities was too costly.The comments from a Wal-Mart sourcing director appear in minutes of the meeting, which was attended by more than a dozen retailers including Gap Inc. (GPS), Target Corp. and JC Penney Co.
Details of the meeting have emerged after a fire at a Bangladesh factory that made clothes for WalMart and Sears Holdings Corp. killed more than 100 people last month. The blaze has renewed pressure on companies to improve working conditions in Bangladesh, where more than 700 garment workers have died since 2005, according to the International Labor Rights Forum, a Washington-based advocacy group. Walmart is claiming that it cut ties with that factory months before the fire, and blamed any connection to the plant to a supposed rogue supplier.  CNN:
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said Monday that the Tazreen Fashion factory in Ashulia, near the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, was no longer authorized to produce merchandise for its stores.
But one of its suppliers “subcontracted work to this factory without authorization and in direct violation of our policies,” Wal-Mart said in a statement. “Today, we have terminated the relationship with that supplier,” it said, without identifying the company in question.
But documents from the factory, as reported by the Nation, appear to shoot possible holes in Walmart’s defense:
[T]here were multiple Walmart suppliers using the Tazreen Factory as recently as April of this year, and at least one when the fire broke out. … [T]here are “strong indications in the documents, but short of certain, that it was still multiple suppliers at the time of the fire,” rather than the single rogue supplier implied by Walmart’s statement. … (Some of the Tazreen documents are posted below; they were provided to The Nation by the Corporate Action Network, which also posted them on its own website.)
For Western consumers, this callous bargaining can often mean cheaper prices (unless you’re buying an Apple product, where everyone but Apple gets screwed in all directions – but smile, ’cause it’s trendy to own something that cost two to four times the competition , with next to no warranty) but there’s a cost. Just as there’s a cost at home in the US when Walmart wants to deny workers bargaining rights, cut wages and benefits, there’s a price to pay for cutting costs with suppliers and it can even have deadly consequences.
What’s also disturbing about companies like Walmart cutting corners for workers at home, and suppliers abroad, is that the benefits are all focused on the top of the food chain. Whereas companies used to have a more level playing field where everyone prospered, now the benefits all go to the top. Workers are supposed to be impressed when they receive a few crumbs from three day old, stale bread tossed their way.  Look at Hostess.  In bankruptcy, and the workers are asked to take a pay cut while the management gets millions in bonuses.
Everyone can accept that times and business models change, but do we really want to be reinforcing bad behavior with businesses that show such little concern for their direct or indirect workers? Giving them your money might save you in the near term, but it’s clear that you could be next in line to get hit with cuts.
At some point, consumers need to stop rewarding bad behavior. We see that the anti-Obamacare extremists of Papa John’s, Denny’s and Applebees are feeling the pinch for their bad behavior, so we know it’s possible to have an impact when we choose to spend our money elsewhere.
As I’ve said before, the free market can work. Giving tax breaks and bailouts to those least in need is not the free market, but choosing to spend your own hard-earned cash with businesses that do the right thing is absolutely the free market. As consumers, we have a lot more power than people realize, and it’s time to start using it.

French businesses outraged over plan to turn lights out 1am to 7am

Sometimes I really wonder what goes through the heads of business leaders when they get worked up about issues such as saving energy.In this latest example of silly outrage, French businesses are furious over government plans to require shops and offices to turn out their lights between 1AM and 7AM. For the business leaders, this is a catastrophic event that they claim will damage their businesses.
As anyone who has ever visited Paris knows, this city shuts down early. It’s not a ’round-the-clock city like New York or Sao Paulo where clubs and restaurants are always open. The Metro closes at 1AM during the week, and 2AM on the weekends. There are a few 24 hour restaurants but very few. The 24×7 shopping culture of the US does not exist in France, with most shops closing at 8PM, perhaps a few grocery stores as late as 10PM and of course, most shops are closed on Sundays.
If nobody is walking the streets at these hours, who cares if the lights are on or off?
Putting this aside, is saving energy that horrible? It’s not clear why this group is so upset about something that will save them money since nobody is around anyway. Maybe these business leaders can find a real issue to get upset about because this is not worth their time or money.
champs elysees paris

The French minister for energy and environment unveiled last week a proposal for lights in and outside shops, offices, and public buildings — including the flagship Louis Vuitton store and the Lido cabaret house on Paris’s Avenue des Champs Elysees — to be turned off between 1 a.m. and 7 a.m. starting in July. The plan, to be applied across French cities, towns and villages, is aimed at saving energy and money and showing “sobriety,” Minister Delphine Batho said.The move has provoked an outcry from merchants, who say the government is being insensitive to France’s image as the world’s No. 1 tourist destination. They say the rule, on top of existing bans on Sunday store openings and night shopping, will hurt business at a time when the French economy has barely grown for a year and unemployment is at a 14-year high.
“Great! Another positive message sent to citizens and to tourists: the city will go dark!” said Sofy Mulle, vice- president of the France’s Commerce Council, which represents all of the country’s 650,000 merchants employing about 3.5 million people. “We are ready to make efforts, but the government is cutting a fine line between sobriety and austerity. Surely, we can work out environmentally friendly solutions that have less impact on our society and our economy.” Sure thing, whatever guys. Why is it that they always can self-regulate at times like this, but when they’re given the choice, they never do it? Tough luck.

Daily Comic Relief

College told construction crew to stop working until 'sexist' Men Working sign was removed

Oh, for the love of Pete ...

An Ohio community college demanded that a construction crew stop working on campus until it removed a “Men Working” sign that an administrator deemed “sexist.” Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio, made the call after a female employee raised concerns that the construction company’s sign was too biased.

The construction company, Jcrane Inc., said that it has used such signs “frequently and have never had a problem before.” “It is our obligation to the students of Sinclair to provide them with a safe learning environment,” the company said in a statement, adding that safety is its top priority. In no way is the signage provided by Jcrane, in particular a ‘men working’ sign, sexist."

A spokesman for Sinclair said that while the move may have been a step too far, the school is sticking to its policy of fostering a culture of openness. “While it may not have been necessary to suggest that work be stopped, Sinclair stands by its commitment to providing an environment that is inclusive and non-discriminatory,” Adam Murka, Sinclair’s director of Public Information, said in a statement.

Dayton residents fell on both sides of the argument. Sarah Belden pointed out that the sign was accurate. “There was no women in the crew working on the building, it was politically correct," she said. Alex Henry, on the other hand, suggested a compromise. "I'd rather have crew at work or construction going on, something more broad," he said. Jcrane has since taken down the sign and the project remains on schedule.

There's a news video here.

School evacuated after 11-year-old girl took World War II hand grenade to show-and-tell

A school in Australia was evacuated after an 11-year-old girl took a hand grenade to show-and-tell. A police bomb squad removed the device and cordoned off the area around the school after the girl turned up at a morning class with the grenade, which did not have a pin. Police said the girl's family thought it was a dummy.

The grenade has been taken for examination by Defense Force munitions experts but is believed to have been an inactive device, possibly from the First World War. The school's headmaster, Boyd Allen, said the girl's teacher brought the grenade to him and he immediately evacuated the 450 students and 60 teachers and called the police. "I wasn't sure if it was a dummy and I didn't want to take that chance," he said.

Mr Allen, from the Hunter Christian School in Newcastle, said the girl would not be punished. "She's bewildered, embarrassed – I tried to make her aware she's not in trouble,'' he said.  "She's a sweet young lady from a lovely family. She understood it to be a dummy hand grenade that had been deactivated, there was no firing pin, just the body of the grenade. It was heavy, but I assume practice grenades would weigh that much too."

YouTube link.

Police said the device had been inspected by Defense Force experts, who took it for testing and would probably destroy it. "There's no doubt that it did pose a potential threat and the actions we've had today are appropriate in the circumstances," said Police Inspector Gerard Lawson.  "In a classroom, certainly if it was live and it was a fully functioning device it would cause serious injuries to all the occupants."

Handyman kidnapped before being forced to do home repairs

Police arrested a California couple on Monday after they allegedly held a handyman hostage and forced him to do home repairs. Investigators said the 50-year-old victim was lured to a large Morgan Hill home. The sprawling 4,600 square foot home has five bedrooms and is equipped with a pool, a beach volleyball court, and a tennis court.

“He was assaulted, he was threatened with his life, and he was forced to do some work at the house,” said Sgt. Jose Cardoza of the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office. Detectives said 36-year-old Jason DeJesus and 33-year-old Chanelle Troedson beat the handyman, threatened to kill him and forced him to fix several items in the house over a six-hour span. The repairs included a dishwasher and a broken door. “The victim was pretty terrified. He was pretty shaken up and scared by this whole incident,” Cardoza said.

“What he did tell investigators is that he was just trying to do what he was being told, wait for the opportunity to escape.” Authorities said the suspects forced the handyman into his truck. With one of the suspects driving, the victim was told they were traveling to a suspect’s relative’s house in Santa Clara to perform additional repairs. They pulled over at a gas station on Santa Teresa Blvd. and Cottle Road in South San Jose. The handyman escaped when the suspects left to pay for gas and snacks.

YouTube link.

DeJesus and Troedson were arrested by police shortly after. Investigators said the handyman performed work for De Jesus’ mother two months ago. “The work wasn’t performed to the likes of the suspect’s relative at the time, and on top of that there was dispute over services rendered, the victim wasn’t paid entirely. That kind of boiled over into what occurred,” Cardoza said. DeJesus and Troedson face several felony charges including false imprisonment, kidnapping, assault with a deadly weapon, criminal threats, and conspiracy.

Guatemalan police arrest software guru McAfee

Software company founder John McAfee talks on his mobile phone after a press conference outside the Supreme Court in Guatemala City, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012. McAfee, 67, who has been identified as a "person of interest" in the killing of his neighbor in Belize, 52-year-old Gregory Faull, has surfaced in public for the first time in weeks, saying Tuesday that he plans to ask for asylum in Guatemala because he fears persecution in Belize. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo) Software company founder John McAfee was arrested by police in Guatemala on Wednesday for entering the country illegally, hours after he said he would seek asylum in the Central American country.
The anti-virus guru was detained at a hotel in an upscale Guatemala City neighborhood with the help of Interpol agents and taken to an old, three-story building used to house migrants who enter the country illegally, said Interior Minister Mauricio Lopez Bonilla.
It was the latest twist in a bizarre tale that has seen McAfee refuse to turn himself in to authorities in Belize, where he is a person of interest in the killing of a neighbor, then go on the lam, updating his progress on a blog and claiming to be hiding in plain sight, before secretly crossing the border into Guatemala.
Earlier Wednesday, McAfee said he had formally requested asylum in Guatemala after entering the country from Belize, where he says he fears for his safety because he has sensitive information about official corruption and refused to donate to local politicians.
"Yes, we are presenting this, and I want it to be clear, because of the persecution, not because of the murder," he told the AP about his asylum bid.
Police in Belize deny they are persecuting McAfee and say there is no warrant for his arrest. The country's prime minister has even questioned McAfee mental stability. Since there are no restrictions on his travels, it's unclear why McAfee would need any special status in order to stay in Guatemala.
The 67-year-old went on the run last month after officials tried to question him about the killing of Gregory Viant Faull, who was shot to death in early November on the Belize island where both men lived.
McAfee had engaged in a series of clashes with neighbors and authorities over allegations he kept aggressive dogs, illegal weapons and drug paraphernalia in his beachfront home on a Belize island. McAfee acknowledges that his dogs were bothersome and that Faull had complained about them, but denies killing Faull.
Faull's home was a couple of houses down from McAfee's compound.
The Faull family has said through a representative that the murder of their loved one on Ambergris Caye has gotten lost in the media frenzy provoked by McAfee's manipulation of the press through phone calls, emails and blog posts detailing his life on the lam.
McAfee dropped out of sight for weeks after police said they were seeking him, although he grabbed global attention with regular phone calls with reporters and blog updates. He refused to turn himself in to authorities in Belize and claimed to be wearing disguises and watching as police raided his house. It was unclear, however, how much of what McAfee — a confessed practical joker — said and wrote was true.
At one point, he even posted on his blog that he mounted an elaborate ruse in Mexico to cover his flight.
"My 'double,' carrying on (sic) a North Korean passport under my name, was detained in Mexico for pre-planned misbehavior," McAfee wrote in the posting, "but due to indifference on the part of authorities (he) was evicted from the jail and was unable to serve his intended purpose in our exit plan."
McAfee hasn't provided details on how he crossed from Belize into Guatemala.
He had earlier said he didn't plan to leave Belize but ultimately did because he thought "Sam" was in danger, referring to the young woman who has accompanied him since he went into hiding.
McAfee, the creator of the McAfee antivirus program, has led an eccentric life since he sold his stake in the anti-virus software company that is named after him in the early 1990s and moved to Belize about three years ago to lower his taxes.
He told The New York Times in 2009 that he had lost all but $4 million of his $100 million fortune in the U.S. financial crisis. However, a story on the Gizmodo website quoted him as calling that claim "not very accurate at all." He has dabbled in yoga, ultra-light aircraft and producing herbal medications.

Random Photo

The History of Peanut Butter

A Crunchy March of Progress 
peanut butter and bacon sandwichThat all-American food, peanut butter, began with the devastation of American cotton by the boll weevil and the cultivation of peanuts as an alternative cash crop. As America advanced in the world, so did peanut butter. Jon Krampner wrote Creamy and Crunchy, a history of peanut butter. In the New Yorker, Jon Michaud summarized and reviewed it. Here's how two of the three major brands developed:
Peter Pan, introduced in 1928, was the first dominant national peanut butter. It used a partial-hydrogenation process patented by Joseph Rosefield, an entrepreneur from Lexington, Kentucky. In 1932, after Peter Pan’s parent company sought to cut his licensing fee, Rosefield ended the partnership and started making his own brand: Skippy. Inventive and obsessed with quality control, Rosefield emerges as perhaps the most important and likable figure in the history of peanut butter. By the end of his career, he held ten patents relating to the food and numerous notable innovations. He set up his own research lab and conceived a new way of churning—rather than grinding—his peanuts to produce a smoother texture. By introducing fragments of crushed peanuts into his butter, he invented crunchy—or chunky, if you prefer. He instituted the wide-mouth jar that has been standard ever since. And he paid his employees well, to boot. Five years before Reese’s created its peanut-butter cup, Rosefield brought Choc-Nut Butter to market. He seems to have been a little too far ahead of the curve in combining peanuts and chocolate: the product failed. Nevertheless, Skippy thrived, overtaking Peter Pan in the late forties and remaining the nation’s favorite until 1980.

A Ponzi Scheme for Flappers

vThe Shifters was a name of a group of young people who called themselves that for a few months in 1922. Some considered them a subset of flappers, but men were welcome to be Shifters. Newspapers covered the group as if they knew what the culture meant. No one knows who started the fad, and there was no organization behind it. And, like many fads among young people, the Shifters died out as soon as the media paid attention to them. It was a sort of "secret society" of cool, hep people "in the know," but we still know rather little. One of the fascinating things about the Shifters was their method of recruiting new members.
Central to the Shifters’ rapid growth was a pyramid scheme of enrollment and enrichment that was encapsulated by the Shifter motto, “Get something for nothing.”

A Shifter would tempt a victim into joining, swear her to secrecy, make her pledge to “be a good fellow” and demand an initiation fee of anything from 5 cents to $6. The newly minted Shifter was then dismissed to find fresh victims and make good her investment.

According to The Border Cities Star, “down in New York one stenog. cleaned out 1,200 persons in the Woolworth building offices during her membership campaign, and naturally collected 1,200 dollars.”
As time went by, established businesses wanted in on the game as well, and they manufactured Shifters pins,  patches, and hats to sell. A lot of money changed hands, but when the Shifters were seen as mainstream, they disappeared. On to the next fad! The New York Times Sunday Review has the story, plus lists of "Shifter slang" terms, which may or may not be accurate, but it's fun to read. More

Craters Of The Moon

Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is a U.S. National Monument and National Preserve in the Snake River Plain in central Idaho. The protected area's features are volcanic and represent one of the best-preserved flood basalt areas in the continental United States.

Comprising of other-worldly lava-formed landscape, the Craters of the Moon National Monument is one of the strangest geographic areas in the USA. Harsh, dry and largely barren, this craggily beautiful area has been left untouched by a humanity that has never figured out a use for it.

The oldest Confederate volcano tells all

 There is an extinct volcano sitting directly beneath the city of Jackson, Mississippi. Specifically, it is approximately a half mile below the Mississippi Colosseum and state fairgrounds. In the late Cretaceous period — about 100 million years ago — this part of North America was under water. In fact, "North America" back then was actually more like a couple of mini-continents surrounded by ocean. The Jackson Volcano was the heart of a 400-square-mile island in that sea. It hasn't erupted in 65 million years, but the ground is still hot enough that some local wells pump up 102°F water. 

Largest Egyptian Sarcophagus Identified

The unusual coffin consisted of four sarcophagi nested together like Russian dolls. Read more Largest Egyptian Sarcophagus Identified

Cavemen Trump Modern Artists at Animal Drawing

Analysis shows cave people were more accurate in their depictions of four-legged animals walking than artists are today. Read more
  Cavemen Trump Modern Artists at Animal Drawing

New Dinosaur Had Giant Nose

With its oversized schnauzer, this newly identified dino likely had an impressive sense of smell. Read more New Dino Had Giant Nose

This Snake Is Ready to Star In An Anime

Admittedly, he's not exactly cute, but as fat as snakes go, it's pretty much as close as you can get. That's because he has such awesomely freakishly huge eyes and an incredibly thin, long body -making him look like the supermodel of the reptile world.
Interestingly, this uniquely lanky creature was only recently discovered. You can learn more about the fascinating snake over at io9.

Gene-altered mosquitoes could be used vs. dengue

In this Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012 photo, Brittany Mariscal, an entomological technician with the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, sorts and counts dead captured mosquitoes under a microscope in Key West, Fla. Mosquito control officials in the Florida Keys are waiting for the federal government to sign off on an experiment that would release hundreds of thousands of genetically modified mosquitoes to reduce the risk of dengue fever in this tourist town. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Mosquito control officials in the Florida Keys are waiting for the federal government to sign off on an experiment that would release hundreds of thousands of genetically modified mosquitoes to reduce the risk of dengue fever in the tourist town of Key West. If approved by the Food and Drug Administration, it would be the first such experiment in the U.S. Some Key West residents worry, though, that not enough research has been done to determine the risks that releasing genetically modified mosquitoes might pose to the Keys' fragile ecosystem.
Officials are targeting the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes because they can spread dengue fever, a disease health officials thought had been eradicated in the U.S. until 93 cases originated in the Keys in 2009 and 2010.
The trial planned by mosquito control officials and the British company Oxitec would release non-biting male mosquitoes that have been genetically modified to pass along a birth defect that kill their progeny before reaching maturity. The idea is that they will mate with wild females and their children will die before reproducing. After a few generations, Key West's Aedes aegypti population would die off, reducing the dengue fever risk without using pesticides and at relatively a low cost, the proponents say. There is no vaccine for dengue fever.
"The science of it, I think, looks fine. It's straight from setting up experiments and collecting data," said Michael Doyle, pointing to research Oxitec has had published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. He inherited the project when he took the lead at the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District in mid-2011.
The district's website says the modified genes will disappear from the environment after the mosquitoes carrying it die, resulting in no permanent change to the wild mosquito population. The district also says that the mosquito species isn't native to the Keys, nor is it an integral food source for other animals.
Dengue fever is a viral disease that inflicts severe flu-like symptoms — the joint pain is so severe its nickname is "breakbone fever." It isn't fatal but victims are then susceptible at subsequent exposures to dengue hemorrhagic fever, which can be.
"It's very uncomfortable. You ache all over, you have a terrible fever," said Joel Biddle, a Key West resident whose dengue fever symptoms lasted more than a week in 2009.
Biddle is among those concerned about the Key West trial. He worries the modified genetic material will somehow be passed to humans or the ecosystem, and he wants more research done. He and other Key West residents also chafe at the fact that the project was in the works long before it was made public late last year.
Only female mosquitoes bite, so the modified genetic material wouldn't be passed on to humans, Mosquito control and Oxitec officials said. They also say they're being transparent about their data and the trial.
Real estate agent Mila de Mier has collected more than 117,700 signatures on a petition she posted on Change.org against the trial. Most come from outside the Keys, which de Mier says shows that tourists don't support the mosquito control district.
"We are dependent here on our tourists, and people from all over the country have been sending the message," de Mier said.
A University of Florida professor who studies mosquito control said Oxitec's technology works and evidence from the company's experiments elsewhere show it can control mosquito populations, but it's not clear whether its methods are as effective at controlling the risk of disease transmission. Phil Lounibos of the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory also said it would take repeated releases of modified mosquitoes for the program to work, and the public outcry against genetically modified organisms, even when it's irrational, may be insurmountable.
"The public resistance and the need to reach some agreement between mosquito control and the public, I see that as a very significant issue, outside of the (operating) costs, since this is not just a one-time thing," Lounibos said.
The Aedes aegypti has shown resistance to pesticides used to control other species, and is the most difficult for the district to manage. Common in the Southeast and the Caribbean, it lurks in standing water around homes and businesses and can breed in containers as small as bottle caps.
District inspectors go door-to-door to remove the standing water where they breed, a time-consuming task. The district spends roughly $1 million a year to suppress Aedes aegypti, 10 to 15 percent of the agency's budget, Doyle said.
"Unfortunately, control of Aedes aegypti is a never-ending job," said Larry Hriber, the mosquito control district's research director.
In the trial, thousands of male mosquitoes bred by Oxitec would be released in a handful of Key West blocks where the Aedes aegypti is known to breed; the number of mosquitoes in those neighborhoods would be measured against the numbers from similar blocks where no modified mosquitoes were released.
The state's agriculture department oversees the mosquito control district, and Doyle said he would not expect any challenge from the state if the FDA signed off on the trial. The mosquito control district wouldn't need any local permit for the trial, either, but officials held a public meeting earlier this year and have posted information on the agency's website.
That trial may be years away. FDA spokeswoman Morgan Liscinsky said no genetically modified species can be released without approval.
There hasn't been a case of dengue fever in Key West since November 2010, but two other cases were reported elsewhere in South Florida this fall.
The mosquito trial proposed for Key West wouldn't be the first release of genetically modified insects in the U.S.
In 2009, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service concluded that integrating genetically modified pink bollworms, bred by Oxitec to be sterile but more competitive in mating than regular bollworms, into the agency's plant pest control program was "the environmentally preferable alternative" to combat the cotton pest. The program was discontinued, however, after officials found that the genetically modified insects were not as hardy as pink bollworms sterilized through irradiation, and that their use in organic cotton fields would cause farmers to lose their certification.
Oxitec said the USDA's environmental assessment is one of several examples of proof that the trial's risks and methods are being independently evaluated. The company has trials in Brazil, the Cayman Islands and Malaysia, and it says it's gotten positive reviews from the latter two governments. It also cites its published research in peer-reviewed journals.
But Biddle, the onetime dengue patient, wants Oxitec to continue testing the modified mosquitoes outside the U.S.
"Why the rush here?" the Key West man said. "We already have test cases in the world where we can watch what is happening and make the best studies, because wouldn't it be wonderful if we could find out how it can be fail-safe — which it is not right now. It's an open Pandora's box."

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