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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.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Daily Drift


say what??????

Some of our readers today have been in:
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Tbilisi, Georgia
Shah Alam, Malaysia
Trana, Albania
Algiers, Algeria
Al Jizah, Egypt
Jakarta, Indonesia
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Quito, Ecuador
Cebu City, Philippines
Caracas, Venezuela
Manila, Philippines
Hanoi, Vietnam
Sylhet, Bangladesh
Montreal, Canada
Luxembourg, Luxembourg
Montevideo, Uruguay
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Surabaya, Indonesia
Abay, Kazakhstan
Karachi, Pakistan
Sofia, Bulgaria
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Cairo, Egypt
Amman, Jordan
Bangkok, Thailand
As Salimiyah, Kuwait
Al Muharraq, Bahrain
Ankara, Turkey
Johannesburg, South Africa
Belgrade, Serbia
Cape Town, South Africa

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Today in History

536 Having captured Naples earlier in the year, Belisarius takes Rome.
1861 The U.S. Senate approves establishment of a committee that would become the Joint Committee on the Conduct of War.
1863 Major General John G. Foster replaces Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside as Commander of the Department of Ohio.
1867 The capital of Colorado Territory is moved from Golden to Denver.
1872 P.B.S. Pinchback becomes the first African-American governor of Louisiana.
1900 The Russian czar rejects Boer Paul Kruger's pleas for aid in South Africa against the British.
1908 A child labor bill passes in the German Reichstag, forbidding work for children under age 13.
1917 The new Finnish Republic demands the withdrawal of Russian troops.
1940 The British army seizes 1,000 Italians in a sudden thrust in Egypt.
1941 Franklin D. Roosevelt tells Americans to plan for a long war.
1948 The United States abandons a plan to de-concentrate industry in Japan.
1949 The United Nations takes trusteeship over Jerusalem.
1950 President Harry Truman bans U.S. exports to Communist China.
1950 Harry Gold gets 30 years imprisonment for passing atomic bomb secrets to the Soviet Union during World War II.
1955 Sugar Ray Robinson knocks out Carl Olson to regain the world middleweight boxing title.
1960 The Laos government flees to Cambodia as the capital city of Vientiane is engulfed in war.
1990 Lech Walesa is elected president of Poland.
1992 U.S. Marines land in Somalia to ensure food and medicine reaches the deprived areas of that country.

Non Sequitur


Talk is cheap, it’s time to act

Gore to Obama on climate change

Just as we’re discovering that the tough talk about the “fiscal cliff” is false, and that President Obama and the Democrats appear to possibly be folding, again, on the important topic of climate change, what we’re hearing from the Democrats is more talk than action.
Al Gore spent a lot of time in Washington, so he has to be well aware of the ability of the political class to talk a lot, yet do nothing.
As we saw with Hurricane Sandy, the problem of climate change is getting worse and we can’t afford to keep letting the party of ignorance dictate the discussion.
The Hill:
Al Gore, climate change

Al Gore is calling on President Obama to make climate change a higher priority in his second term.
“I deeply respect our president and I am grateful for the steps that he has taken, but we cannot have four more years of mentioning this occasionally and saying it’s too bad that the Congress can’t act,” Gore said in New York City on Thursday, Reuters reports.
The remarks come three weeks after Obama pledged to focus on climate but offered no specific second-term plans and noted political hurdles to legislation.
“I don’t know what either Democrats or repugicans are prepared to do at this point, because this is one of those issues that’s not just a partisan issue,” Obama said at a post-election press conference on Nov. 14. If the pathetic “deal” on the fiscal cliff is accurate, there’s little reason to believe that the political class will do anything about climate change either.
Until the Faux News studio is underwater, the repugican flat-earth society will continue to mock Al Gore, and mock climate change, and pretend that it’s not a problem. And the Democrats will continue talking as though they care, but still will do nothing, because they don’t.

Good Question

Some pretty important words

John Cassidy at the New Yorker ...
"With repugicans in Congress still intent on pursuing a strategy similar to the failed one adopted by the Brits, this is a story that needs trumpeting. Austerity policies are self-defeating: they cripple growth and reduce tax revenues. The only way to bring down the U.S. government’s deficit in a sustainable manner, and put the nation’s finances on a firmer footing, is to keep the economy growing. Spending cuts and tax increases can also play a role, but they need to be introduced gradually. [...] That austerity has led to recession is undeniable. … consumer and investment spending have remained depressed. [...] In adopting a fiscal stimulus of gradually declining magnitude over the past four years, the Obama Administration has administered what was, until recently, the standard medicine for a sick economy. As one would have expected on the basis of the textbooks, the American economy, while hardly racing ahead, has fared considerably better than its British counterpart. [...] Having adopted the policies of Keynes in response to a calamitous recession, the United States has grown more than twice as fast during the past three years as Britain, which adopted the economics of Hoover (and Paul Ryan)."

Truth is ...


The truth hurts

Rural America becoming less relevant

FILE - In this July 18, 2012, file photo, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack talks about the drought during a press briefing at the White House in Washington. Vilsack has some harsh words for rural America: It's "becoming less and less relevant," he says. A month after an election that Democrats won even as rural parts of the country voted overwhelmingly Republican, the former Democratic governor of Iowa told farm belt leaders this past week that he's frustrated with their internecine squabbles and says they need to be more strategic in picking their political fights. "It's time for us to have an adult conversation with folks in rural America," Vilsack said in a speech at a forum sponsored by the Farm Journal. "It's time for a different thought process here, in my view." He said rural America's biggest assets — the food supply, recreational areas and energy, for example — can be overlooked by people elsewhere as the U.S. population shifts more to cities, their suburbs and exurbs. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)  
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has some harsh words for rural America: It's "becoming less and less relevant," he says.
A month after an election that Democrats won even as rural parts of the country voted overwhelmingly Republican, the former Democratic governor of Iowa told farm belt leaders this past week that he's frustrated with their internecine squabbles and says they need to be more strategic in picking their political fights.
"It's time for us to have an adult conversation with folks in rural America," Vilsack said in a speech at a forum sponsored by the Farm Journal. "It's time for a different thought process here, in my view."
He said rural America's biggest assets — the food supply, recreational areas and energy, for example — can be overlooked by people elsewhere as the U.S. population shifts more to cities, their suburbs and exurbs.
"Why is it that we don't have a farm bill?" said Vilsack. "It isn't just the differences of policy. It's the fact that rural America with a shrinking population is becoming less and less relevant to the politics of this country, and we had better recognize that and we better begin to reverse it."
For the first time in recent memory, farm-state lawmakers were not able to push a farm bill through Congress in an election year, evidence of lost clout in farm states.
The Agriculture Department says about 50 percent of rural counties have lost population in the past four years and poverty rates are higher there than in metropolitan areas, despite the booming agricultural economy.
Exit polls conducted for The Associated Press and television networks found that rural voters accounted for just 14 percent of the turnout in last month's election, with 61 percent of them supporting Republican Mitt Romney and 37 percent backing President Barack Obama. Two-thirds of those rural voters said the government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals.
Vilsack criticized farmers who have embraced wedge issues such as regulation, citing the uproar over the idea that the Environmental Protection Agency was going to start regulating farm dust after the Obama administration said repeatedly it had no so such intention.
In his Washington speech, he also cited criticism of a proposed Labor Department regulation, later dropped, that was intended to keep younger children away from the most dangerous farm jobs, and criticism of egg producers for dealing with the Humane Society on increasing the space that hens have in their coops. Livestock producers fearing they will be the next target of animal rights advocates have tried to undo that agreement.
"We need a proactive message, not a reactive message," Vilsack said. "How are you going to encourage young people to want to be involved in rural America or farming if you don't have a proactive message? Because you are competing against the world now."
John Weber, a pork producer in Dysart, Iowa, said Friday that farmers have to defend their industries against policies they see as unfair. He said there is great concern among pork producers that animal welfare groups are using unfair tactics and may hurt their business.
"Our role is to defend our producers and our industry in what we feel are issues important to us," he said.
Weber agreed, though, that rural America is declining in influence. He said he is concerned that there are not enough lawmakers from rural areas and complained that Congress doesn't understand farm issues. He added that the farm industry needs to communicate better with consumers.
"There's a huge communication gap" between farmers and the food-eating public, he said.
Vilsack, who has made the revitalization of rural America a priority, encouraged farmers to embrace new kinds of markets, work to promote global exports and replace a "preservation mindset with a growth mindset." He said they also need to embrace diversity because it is an issue important to young people who are leaving rural areas.
"We've got something to market here," he said. "We've got something to be proactive about. Let's spend our time and our resources and our energy doing that and I think if we do we're going to have a lot of young people who want to be part of that future."

The truth be told

Hope and fear in gay marriage cases at high court

FILE - This Sept. 6, 2011 file photo shows opponents of gay marriage outside a courthouse in San Francisco where the California Supreme Court was hearing arguments on California's ban on same-sex marriage. The Supreme Court will take up California's ban on same-sex marriage, a case that could give the justices the chance to rule on whether gay Americans have the same constitutional right to marry as heterosexuals. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)  
Gay marriage supporters see 41 reasons to fret over the Supreme Court's decision to take up the case of California's ban on same-sex unions.
While nine states allow same-sex partners to marry, or will soon, 41 states do not. Of those, 30 have written gay marriage bans into their state constitutions.
That fact is worrisome to those who firmly believe there is a constitutional right to marry, regardless of sexual orientation, but who also know that the Supreme Court does not often get too far ahead of the country on hot-button social issues.
"Mindful of history, I can't help but be concerned," said Mary Bonauto, director of the Civil Rights Project at Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders and a leader in the state-by-state push for marriage equality.
Bonauto was speaking before the court decided on Friday to take up cases on California's constitutional ban on gay marriage and a federal law that denies to gay Americans who are legally married the favorable tax treatment and a range of health and pension benefits otherwise available to married couples.
In 2008, California voters approved the ban, Proposition 8, after the state Supreme Court ruled that gay Californians could marry. Since then, a federal appeals court struck down the constitutional provision, but did not authorize the resumption of same-sex marriages pending appeal.
Bonauto identified three earlier seminal rulings that once and for all outlawed state-backed discrimination, and observed that in each case the number of states that still had the discrimination on the books was far smaller.
Thirteen states still had laws against sodomy when the court said in 2003 that states have no right to intrude on the private, personal conduct of people, regardless of sexual orientation.
Interracial marriage still was illegal in 16 states in 1967 before the high court outlawed race-based state marriage bans.
In 1954, when the court issued its landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education, 17 states had formally segregated school systems.
Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf said those cases illustrate a widespread misperception about the justices.
"There is a commonly held but inaccurate view that the Supreme Court does is to impose its views on the country. It very rarely does that. Much more frequently, it will take a view that is either a majority in some place or a majority of elite opinion, and speed up acceptance," said Dorf, who was a Supreme Court law clerk to Justice Anthony Kennedy.
The forces that mounted the legal challenge to Proposition 8 have said all along that the right to marry is so fundamental that it should not depend on success at the ballot box or the votes of state legislatures. Washington lawyer Theodore Olson, representing gay Californians who wish to marry, said he will argue that there is a "fundamental constitutional right to marry for all citizens."
But are there five justices, a majority of the court, willing to endorse that argument?
The fear among gay marriage proponents is that the court will refuse to declare that states can no longer define marriage as the union of a man and a woman, because to do so might provoke a backlash in public opinion and undermine acceptance of its authority.
A high court loss for gay marriage advocates would prevent same-sex marriages in the nation's largest state. It would not affect the District of Columbia and the nine states — Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Washington — where gay couples can or soon will be able to marry.
But it could push back the day that many in the gay rights movement, looking at strong support for gay marriage among younger Americans, see as inevitable: the Supreme Court's endorsement of full marriage equality nationwide.
Commenting after the court's action, Bonauto said she believes the court can uphold an appeals court ruling that struck down Proposition 8 in a way that applies to California only and "leave to a later day questions about broader bans on committed same-sex couples marrying."
Opponents of gay marriage look to another court case, Roe v. Wade, that they say should serve as a cautionary tale. In 1973, the court voted 7-2 to declare that the Constitution protects a woman's right to an abortion.
"Should the Supreme Court decide to overturn the marriage laws of 41 states, the ruling would become even more divisive than the court's infamous Roe v. Wade decision," said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. "Marriage, unlike abortion laws in the 1970s, has been incorporated into the state constitutions of 30 states. Voters in these states will not accept an activist court redefining our most fundamental social institution."
To a degree, Perkins and Bonauto get some support from one of the nine people with a say in the matter, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
In February, Ginsburg questioned the timing of the abortion decision and suggested it may have contributed to the ongoing bitter debate about abortion.
"It's not that the judgment was wrong, but it moved too far too fast," Ginsburg said at Columbia University.
At the time of Roe v. Wade, abortion was legal on request in four states, allowed under limited circumstances in about 16 others, and outlawed under nearly all circumstances in the other states, including Texas, where the Roe case originated.
The court could have put off dealing with abortion while the state-by-state process evolved, she said. Or her predecessors could have struck down just the Texas law, which allowed abortions only to save a mother's life, without declaring a right to privacy that legalized the procedure nationwide, Ginsburg said.
"The court made a decision that made every abortion law in the country invalid, even the most liberal," Ginsburg said. "We'll never know whether I'm right or wrong ... things might have turned out differently if the court had been more restrained."

Back in the Day

Dweebs of yesteryear

Did you know you have stripes?

Before you go looking, they're invisible - if they were visible, we wouldn't need to tell you about them! The stripes (or Blaschko's lines, after the discoverer Alfred Blaschko) typically follow the same basic pattern - V-shapes on the back, S-shapes on the abdomen and an inverted U-shape around the breast and upper arm. They seem to be a clue to embryological development, though they do not correspond to structures such as nervous, endocrine, lymphatic or vascular.

Though we still don't know where they come from, the current idea is that each tissue patch is made of cells all originating from a single cell during development. The clone cells then follow a set pattern, resulting in Blaschko's lines. The biologist PZ Myers uses the analogy of a clay figurine to describe this idea: "Imagine taking a piece of yellow clay and sandwiching it between two pieces of green clay into a block, and then pushing and stretching the clay block to make a human figurine. The yellow would make a band somewhere in the middle, all right, but it wouldn’t be a simple rectilinear slice anymore — it would express a more complex border that reflected the overall flow of the medium."

Though these stripes are invisible for the majority of people, some conditions cause them to become very visible. The best examples generally come from people who are mosaics/chimeras (mosaics have two or more genetically-distinct cell populations but come from a singly zygote, Chimeras also have geneticially distinct cell groups but come from two zygotes). The stripes betray the different genotypes. Additionally, if one of the genotypes is predisposed toward dermatological conditions, these conditions can develop according to the lines.

They can also become visible in women as a result of X-inactivation, where an X chromosome is shut down in each cell (you may have two, but you only need one to function). Some cells will have the father's X chromosome active, other cells have the mother's. Technically, this means all women are mosaics, because different X chromosomes are silenced in different cells. Visible Blaschko's lines can result from an X-linked skin condition.

So what do they mean? Well, we like Myers' take. "The cool thing about [Blaschko's lines] is that there is a hidden map of your secret history as an individual embedded in silent patterns in your skin - you were not defined as a single, simple, discrete genetic entity at fertilization, but are the product of complicated, subtle changes and errors and shufflings and sortings of cells. We’re all beautiful pointillist masterpieces."

Tax hike proposed for witch doctors

"A Swazi Member of Parliament has urged the government to hike taxes on traditional healers and soothsayers to help solve a funding crisis in Africa's last absolute monarchy."

Most Americans Sit During Commute

Just a fraction of Americans say they incorporate walking or biking during their daily commutes.  
  Most Americans Sit During Commute

Multiple media use tied to depression, anxiety

Using multiple forms of media at the same time – such as playing a computer game while watching TV ...
Continue Reading 

Random Celebrity Photo

The World's Most Expensive Cheese

It's Made From Donkey Milk

There's a burger priced at $5,000 on the menu at a gourmet restaurant in Las Vegas, and a $1,000 caviar-coated omelette on offer at a plush New York hotel. Now food-lovers with expensive tastes - and deep pockets - can pick up what is thought to be the world's priciest cheese on a donkey farm in Serbia.

Produced in Zasavica - one of Serbia's most famous natural reserves - the cheese, known as pule, is made from donkey milk and costs a whopping €1,000 ($1,300) per kilogram.

The Museum of American Packaging

Flickr user Roadsidepictures, has quite a collection of photographs of vintage product packaging from most of the 20th century. Looking through these will surprise you (with items before your time) and bring back memories (with items you recall vividly). Surely I'm not the only one who remembers back when Tang came in metal cans! More

Solar system quilt from 1876

NewImage Amateur astronomer Ellen Harding Baker of Cedar County, Iowa made this stunning solar system quilt in 1876. The quilt is now in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution. From the Smithsoian's History Explorer:
Ellen used the quilt as a visual aid for lectures she gave on astronomy in the towns of West Branch, Moscow, and Lone Tree, Iowa. Astronomy was an acceptable interest for women in the nineteenth century and was sometimes even fostered in their education.

Random Photo

Natural Kazakhstan

A Russian photographer Alexander Popov went to Kazakhstan to see its nature and take photographs of wonderful Charyn Canyon and a local ski resort Chimbulak. Some of his works are presented below. More

Canadian wingnut government guts protections for 99+% of waterways, spare handful of lakes with high-cost cottages

Canada used to have 2.5 million protected lakes and other bodies of water. 
After recent wingnut Omnibus bills, it's down to 97.
87 of which are located in wingnut ridings (rich cottage country).  
More info.


The Lake That Randomly Vanishes
Loughareema, also known as the Vanishing Lake, is located a few miles from the seaside town of Ballycastle in Ireland. The lake sits on a leaky chalk-bed with a 'plug hole' that often becomes jammed with peat causing the Loughareema depression to fill, especially during heavy rain. When the plug clears, the lake drains rapidly underground. A passerby who is not aware of the lake and its disappearing act would never even know it existed in the first place.

Interestingly, the road to Ballycastle runs right through the lake, though the modern road sits high enough to avoid flooding, unlike the original. It is quite possible that even the road engineers who built the road were fooled by the lake's trickery. In former days the route was frequently under water, sometimes for weeks on end, making crossing treacherous.

Incredible Boulder-Strewn Landscapes

Boulders of different shapes and sizes fill these seven stunning landscapes around the world... Incredible boulder-strewn scenes. More

Did you know ...

About the livestock falling ill near fracking regions.

Fluorescent Coral Reefs

This footage was shot by scuba diving at night with a backlight in the Red Sea, off the coast of Egypt. After you marvel at the lovely bioluminescence of the coral reef, stop and marvel at what an adventure that had to have been. Then you can read more about the bioluminescence of the coral reef at Deep Sea News.

The Extinction of the Great Auk

The Little Ice Age may have reduced the population of the Great Auk by exposing more of their breeding islands to predation by Polar Bears, but massive exploitation for their down drastically reduced the population. By the mid-16th century, the nesting colonies along the European side of the Atlantic were nearly all eliminated by humans killing this bird for its down, which was used to make pillows.
In 1553, the auk received its first official protection, and in 1794 Great Britain banned the killing of this species for its feathers. In St. John's, individuals violating a 1775 law banning hunting the Great Auk for its feathers or eggs were publicly flogged, though hunting for use as fishing bait was still permitted...
If you come for their Feathers you do not give yourself the trouble of killing them, but lay hold of one and pluck the best of the Feathers. You then turn the poor Penguin adrift, with his skin half naked and torn off, to perish at his leisure. This is not a very humane method but it is the common practice. While you abide on this island you are in the constant practice of horrid cruelties for you not only skin them Alive, but you burn them Alive also to cook their Bodies with. You take a kettle with you into which you put a Penguin or two, you kindle a fire under it, and this fire is absolutely made of the unfortunate Penguins themselves. Their bodies being oily soon produce a Flame; there is no wood on the island.
It was on the islet of Stac an Armin, St Kilda, Scotland, in July 1840, that the last Great Auk seen in the British Isles was caught and killed. Three men from St Kilda caught a single "garefowl", noticing its little wings and the large white spot on its head. They tied it up and kept it alive for three days, until a large storm arose. Believing that the auk was a witch and the cause of the storm, they then killed it by beating it with a stick.

Animal Pictures


hahahahahah what a cutie