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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 30, 2012

The Daily Drift

Somethings have always been ...

Some of our readers today have been in:
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Waterloo, Canada
Baghdad, Iraq
Jakarta, Indonesia
Yerevan, Armenia
Johor Bahru, Malaysia
Sialkot, Pakistan
Lublin, Poland
Sofia, Bulgaria
Cape Town, South Africa
London, England
Bayan Lepas, Malaysia
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Lahore, Pakistan
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Doha, Qatar
Vienna, Austria
Puchong, Malaysia
Kenitra, Morocco
Ankara, Turkey
Bordeaux, France
Tallinn, Estonia
Birmingham, England
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
San Jose, Costa Rica
Kiev, Ukraine
Karachi, Pakistan
Bekasi, Indonesia
Chisinau, Moldova
Beirut, Lebanon

Today is Bacon Day

Don't forget to visit our sister blog!

Today in History

1460 The Duke of York is defeated and killed by Lancastrians at the Battle of Wakefield.
1803 The United States takes possession of the Louisiana area from France at New Orleans with a simple ceremony, the simultaneous lowering and raising of the national flags.
1861 Banks in the United States suspend the practice of redeeming paper money for metal currency, a practice that would continue until 1879.
1862 The draft of the Emancipation Proclamation is finished and circulated among President Abraham Lincoln's cabinet for comment.
1905 Governor Frank Steunenberg of Idaho is killed by an assassin's bomb.
1922 Soviet Russia is renamed the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
1932 The Soviet Union bars food handouts for housewives under 36 years of age. They must now work to eat.
1947 Romania's King Michael is forced to abdicate by Soviet-backed Communists. Communists now control all of Eastern Europe.
1965 Ferdinand E. Marcos is sworn in as the Philippine Republic's sixth president.
1972 After two weeks of heavy bombing raids on North Vietnam, President Nixon halts the air offensive and agrees to resume peace negotiations with Hanoi representative Le Duc Tho.
1976 Governor Carey of New York pardons seven inmates, closing the book on the Attica uprising.
2006 Saddam Hussein, former Iraq dictator, is executed by hanging for crimes committed against his own people during his rule.

Non Sequitur


Fun Facts for New Year's

Wear Red Underwear, Lock Your Car and Eat Black-Eyed Peas

If you're celebrating New Year's Eve this year and find a lull in the conversation, impress your family and friends with this New Year's trivia.
  • According to statistics from the National Insurance Crime Bureau, more vehicles are stolen on New Year's Day than on any other holiday throughout the year.
  • Why should you ring in the New Year with family and friends? It is thought that the first visitors you see after ringing in the New Year would bring you good or bad luck, depending on who you keep as friends and enemies. Keep your friends close and your enemies far, far away!
  • The Times Square New Year's Eve Ball came about as a result of a ban on fireworks. The first ball, in 1907, was an illuminated 700-pound iron and wood ball adorned with one hundred 25-watt light bulbs. Today, the round ball designed by Waterford Crystal, weighs 11,875-pounds, is 12 feet in diameter and is bedazzled with 2,668 Waterford crystals.
  • Due to wartime restrictions, the New Year's Eve ball was not lowered in 1942 and 1943.
  • Throughout the year, visitors to Times Square in New York City write their New Year's wishes on pieces of official Times Square New Year's Eve confetti. At the end of the year, the wishes are collected and added to the one ton of confetti that showers the crowd gathered in Times Square in celebration of the New Year.
  • The top three destinations in the United States to ring in the New Year are Las Vegas, Disney World and New York City.
  • Food plays a big role in New Year's traditions. Eating black-eyed peas, ham or cabbage are thought to bring prosperity. However, stay away from bad luck foods like lobsters, because they move backwards, and chicken, because they scratch in reverse. It is believed that eating these on New Year's day might cause a reversal of fortune.
  • In Colombia, Cuba and Puerto Rico families stuff a life-size male doll called Mr. Old Year with memories of the outgoing year and dress him in old clothes from each family member. At midnight he is set on fire - thus burning away the bad memories of the year. 
  • According to this survey , 40 to 45 percent of American adults make one or more resolutions each year. The top New Year's resolutions include weight loss, exercise, quitting smoking and better money management. By the second week of January, 25 percent of people have abandoned their resolutions.
  • In Italy, people wear red underwear on New Year's Day as a symbol of good luck for the upcoming year.

New N.C. laws cover immigration status, fishing, used cooking oil

1229 Atlantic Thread Herring Sixteen new laws take effect Tuesday.
Most are technical fixes, but there are new ones that affect companies selling kitchen grease, day care owners and fishermen.
Some of the more noteworthy changes:
A law passed in 2011 that takes a phased approach at requiring government agencies and businesses to verify employees’ immigration status will expand to include smaller businesses.
Cities, counties and companies with more than 500 employees are already required to use federal E-Verify software, but businesses with 100 to 500 employees will also need to comply. The law will be in full effect July 1, 2013, when companies with 25 to 100 employees need to comply.
Protecting grease
A modification to the state’s Rendering Act offers harsher penalties to those who steal used cooking oil.
Steal more than $1,000 worth of grease and you’ll be charged with a felony; less than that and it’s a misdemeanor.
Kitchen grease has become a valuable commodity because it’s also used in producing biodiesel fuel.
Changes to the original law also makes it easier for small businesses that collect the grease. Instead of requiring a state license and requiring $1 million in liability insurance as the law originally stated, collectors must now provide a certificate of grease ownership. The liability insurance requirement shifts to the companies making biodiesel.
House Bill 512 was sponsored by Rep. John Torbett, r-Stanley.
Fishing without a net
Industrial-scale purse seine fishing for Menhaden and Atlantic Thread Herring has been banned. A law, which calls for studying fees associated with coastal fishing licenses makes it unlawful to take those species of fish with a purse seine net using a mother ship and runner boats in coastal fishing waters.
The goal is to conserve the fish populations.
Senate Bill 821 was sponsored by Sens. Harry Brown, r-Jacksonville, Thom Goolsby, r-Wilmington, and Bill Rabon, r-Southport.
New definition of dependent child
The state health plan for teachers and public employees has been changed so the definition of “dependent child” complies with the Affordable Care Act. Previously, parents of foster children and court-appointed guardians needed to be “legally responsible” for caring for a child to claim them as a dependent. Now, caretakers of any child may claim them as a dependent.
House Bill 1085 was sponsored by Rep. Nelson Dollar, r-Cary.
Day care protections
Owners of child-care facilities have long been regulated by the state, and will now face more regulations.
Several criminal offenses have been added to a list of crimes the facilities will check for during mandatory criminal background checks: burglary, larceny, credit fraud, identity theft, bribery, riots and cruelty to animals.
The state will also be allowed to prevent someone who is a habitual alcohol user, consumer of illicit drugs or mentally or emotionally unstable from running a child-care facility.
The law, from House Bill 737, was sponsored by Reps. Ruth Samuelson, r-Charlotte, Fred Steen, r-Landis, Beverly Earle, D-Charlotte, and William Brisson, D-Dublin.

Indian rape victim, whose attack sparked massive protest, dies

It’s a horrific story.  An Indian woman on a bus with a male friend, coming home from a movie, brutally attacked by six men and raped for over an over.  This, in a country whose police, and politicians, often don’t take charges of rape seriously.I had heard something about this the other day, but was so busy with other stories I neglected to look into it. Then caught a bit of it on the news tonight, and now this.
Not only was the crime horrible. But the official reaction to it by some in India was, of course, to blame women.
From AP:
The woman and a male friend, who have not been identified, were traveling in a public bus in the Indian capital, New Delhi, after watching a film on the evening of Dec. 16 when they were attacked by six men who raped her. They also beat the couple and inserted an iron rod into her body resulting in severe organ damage. Both of them were then stripped and thrown off the bus, according to police.
Indian police have arrested six people in connection with the attack, which left the victim with severe internal injuries, a lung infection and brain damage. She also suffered from a heart attack while in hospital in India.
The woman has now died in Singapore.
India’s government doesn’t seem terrible interested in moving the ball forward on this one. From NPR:
Prime Minister Singh said Friday that the public can be assured his government is committed to punishing the guilty. The six accused in the gang rape will reportedly be charged next week.
Singh did not publicly address the rape that unleashed the mass protests until Monday, eight days after the attack occurred. Nor did any government official address the crowds, deepening a perception of indifference.
Unfazed by the public outcry, the president’s son, Abhijit Mukherjee ignited new anger Thursday when he described the women protesting the rape as “dented and painted,” as if they were a damaged car.
The son, a national lawmaker, has since apologized.  Not enough.  He should resign.
More evidence of the Indian government’s rank idiocy and misogyny:
rape woman fear women

Meanwhile, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said he was not obligated to speak to the protesters, and he equated them with Maoist rebels who have long infiltrated the countryside.
The Delhi police, overseen by the central government, used tear gas and water cannons on the protesters, whose ranks included families with children. India apparently has a problem with police not taking rape cases seriously.
From CBS News:
Indian authorities have been accused of belittling rape victims and refusing to file cases against their attackers, further deterring victims — already under societal pressure to keep the assaults quiet — from reporting the crimes.
Indian attitudes toward rape are so entrenched that even politicians and opinion makers have often suggested that women should not go out at night or wear clothes that might be seen provocative.
CBS notes that another woman, age 18, killed herself a month after reporting to the police that she was gang-raped:
The Press Trust of India reported that the woman was raped Nov. 13 and reported the attack to police Nov. 27. But police harassed the girl, asked her embarrassing questions and took no action against the accused, PTI reported, citing police sources.
Authorities in the eastern state of Chhattisgarh also suspended a police officer on accusations he refused to register a rape complaint from a woman who said she had been attacked by a driver.
No wonder people are in the street.  What a horrific story.

What is wrong with them?

Congress decides every aspect of your electronic life can be spied on without a warrant and you can't know how much spying is going on

They voted down every single privacy amendment to FISA, the act that lets the NSA spy on you without a warrant. They voted down the amendment that would let you hear rough estimates of how much the NSA was spying on you. Obama spoke out against amendments that offered less privacy protection than the ones that he voted for in 2008.
The common-sense amendments the Senate hastily rejected were modest in scope and written with the utmost deference to national security concerns. The Senate had months to consider them, but waited until four days before the law was to expire to bring them to the floor, and then used the contrived time crunch to stifle any chances of them passing.
Sen. Ron Wyden's amendment would not have taken away any of the NSA's powers, it just would have forced intelligence agencies to send Congress a report every year detailing how their surveillance was affecting ordinary Americans. Yet Congress voted to be purposely kept in the dark about a general estimate of how many Americans have been spied on.
You can watch Sen. Ron Wyden's entire, riveting floor speech on the privacy dangers and lack of oversight in the FISA Amendments Act here.
Sen. Jeff Merkley's amendment would have encouraged (not even forced!) the Attorney General to declassify portions of secret FISA court opinions—or just release summaries of them if they were too sensitive. This is something the administration itself promised to do three years ago. We know—because the government has admitted—that at least one of those opinions concluded the government had violated the Constitution. Yet Congress also voted to keep this potentially critical interpretation of a public law a secret.
Tellingly, Sen. Rand Paul's "Fourth Amendment Protection Act," which would have affirmed Americans' emails are protected from unwarranted search and seizures (just like physical letters and phone calls), was voted down by the Senate in a landslide.
Congress Disgracefully Approves the FISA Warrantless Spying Bill for Five More Years, Rejects All Privacy Amendments bipartisan,privacy,fisa,videos,youtube,surveillance

Daily Comic Relief

"Too big to prosecute"

Remember "too big to fail."  Here's what comes next...
Over the last year, federal investigators found that one of the world's largest banks, HSBC, spent years committing serious crimes, involving money laundering for terrorists; "facilitat[ing] money laundering by Mexican drug cartels"; and "mov[ing] tainted money for Saudi banks tied to terrorist groups". Those investigations uncovered substantial evidence "that senior bank officials were complicit in the illegal activity." As but one example, "an HSBC executive at one point argued that the bank should continue working with the Saudi Al Rajhi bank, which has supported Al Qaeda."

Needless to say, these are the kinds of crimes for which ordinary and powerless people are prosecuted and imprisoned with the greatest aggression possible. If you're Muslim and your conduct gets anywhere near helping a terrorist group, even by accident, you're going to prison for a long, long time. In fact, powerless, obscure, low-level employees are routinely sentenced to long prison terms for engaging in relatively petty money laundering schemes, unrelated to terrorism, and on a scale that is a tiny fraction of what HSBC and its senior officials are alleged to have done.

But not HSBC. On Tuesday, not only did the US Justice Department announce that HSBC would not be criminally prosecuted, but outright claimed that the reason is that they are too important, too instrumental to subject them to such disruptions. In other words, shielding them from the system of criminal sanction to which the rest of us are subject is not for their good, but for our common good. We should not be angry, but grateful, for the extraordinary gift bestowed on the global banking giant:
"US authorities defended their decision not to prosecute HSBC for accepting the tainted money of rogue states and drug lords on Tuesday, insisting that a $1.9bn fine for a litany of offenses was preferable to the 'collateral consequences' of taking the bank to court. . . .

"Announcing the record fine at a press conference in New York, assistant attorney general Lanny Breuer said that despite HSBC"s 'blatant failure' to implement anti-money laundering controls and its willful flouting of US sanctions, the consequences of a criminal prosecution would have been dire.

"Had the US authorities decided to press criminal charges, HSBC would almost certainly have lost its banking license in the US, the future of the institution would have been under threat and the entire banking system would have been destabilized...
There's more at The Guardian, where it is noted that the financial penalty "represents about four weeks' earnings given the bank's pre-tax profits of $21.9bn last year."

Did you know ...

That the failure to prosecute bank fraud is what's really destroying the economy.

Demand side economics

I have marveled over the wingnut position that putting money into the hands of the upper class will create more jobs because they are the job creators. The notion, as those of us who've watched this debate for any time know, is that the money will trickle down. Unfortunately this has been the manner in which the U.S. Government has conducted it's business since the Ronald Reagan junta. And we have been on a downhill slide ever since.

Middle class wages have languished, the rich have taken an ever increasing slice of America's wealth and plowed it into speculative investments instead of into jobs and businesses because demand for goods and services is dwindling. The very notion that businesses will create jobs just to create jobs is foolish - if there are no customers, why would they hire more people?

The U.S. is in dire need of improving its infrastructure - improved roads, high speed rail, upgraded energy delivery systems, etc. Obama knows this, but can't get legislation through Congress that would invest money in construction and in the middle class. THIS would create middle class wealth - THIS would create jobs - THIS would create more demand and lead to growing businesses.

But too many morons are in too many positions of power and so our great nation languishes. Will this lead to the end of the great American story? Or will there be a resurgence of intellectualism that will lead to more enlightened leadership in the next few years? We are probably on the cusp.

Correcting the flaws in America.

Kinder children are more popular

Children in a playgroundKinder children are more popular

Performing “random acts of kindness" makes pre-teen children more popular with their peer group, researchers discover.


The World's Hottest Burger

A super-spicy burger so hot it must be eaten wearing protective gloves has gone on sale - but only to over-18s who sign a disclaimer. The mega-hot Atomic Fallout burger, which contains two of the world's hottest chillies, contains a sauce registering a volcanic 1million on the Scoville scale.

Chefs at Atomic Burger, Bristol, used two of the world's hottest chillies to create it, the Naga Bhut Jolokia, also known as the Ghost Chilli, and the Scotch Bonnet. And the burger's size is almost as daunting as its spiciness, with the usual bun replaced by two deep fried pizza slices. The Atomic Fallout also contains 18oz of minced beef as well as 18oz of cheese and is served up with a triple portion of chilli fries.

A "real-life" Quasimodo

In August 2010 Adrian Glew, a Tate archivist, announced evidence for a real-life Quasimodo, a "humpbacked [stone] carver" who worked at Notre Dame during the 1820s. The evidence is contained in the memoirs of Henry Sibson, a 19th-century British sculptor who worked at Notre Dame at around the same time Hugo wrote the novel.

Sibson describes a humpbacked stonemason working there: "He was the carver under the Government sculptor whose name I forget as I had no interaction with him, all that I know is that he was humpbacked and he did not like to mix with carvers."

Because Victor Hugo had close links with the restoration of the cathedral it is likely he was aware of the unnamed "humpbacked carver" nicknamed "Le Bossu", who oversaw "Monsieur Trajin".

Adrian Glew also uncovered that both the hunchback and Hugo were living in the same town of Saint Germain-des-Pres in 1833, and in early drafts of Les Misérables, Hugo named the main character "Jean Trajin" (the same name as the unnamed hunchback carver's employee), but later changed it to "Jean Valjean".

Top 20 Strangest Stories of 2012

Doomsday, cannibals, robotic butts and more. 2012 sure was a weird year. Read more Doomsday

Twisted Sifter's Top 100 Pictures of 2012

This shot of an outdoor Jacuzzi near the Matterhorn at a resort in Zermatt, Switzerland is one of 100 photographs selected by Twisted Sifter as the best of their 2012 "Picture of the Day" features. From sleeping whales to knitted Mexican buses to meteor showers, this collection of spectacular photos challenges anyone who says life is mundane.

See the top 100 at Twisted Sifter.

Ten Spectacular Underground Homes Around The World

Even though it's uncommon, some people prefer to live underground. It's an interesting alternative to regular homes and whether it's a decision based on style, personal preferences and the wish to recreate an image from a movie, living in any of these homes must be unique. You will be surprised to see how similar these homes are to those almost everyone has gotten used with.

Abandoned In Iceland

It is the most sparsely populated country in Europe. Iceland, warmed by the Gulf Stream, has a temperate climate and has been settled for more than a millennium.

Yet despite having a population of only just over three hundred thousand, the majestic countryside of Iceland is dotted with the ruins of houses and other buildings abandoned when they were no longer needed or their inhabitants were forced to move on. Take a look at some of the abandoned buildings of Iceland with some imposing views thrown in for good measure.

Women of The Twilight Zone

Women of The Twilight Zone … Susan Harrison

Einstein: In His Own Voice

On Being has a nice little archive of rare audio clips from Albert Einstein, speaking on various subjects, including what it means to be American, E=MC^2, Gandhi, and "The common language of science."

Hidden Chinese Emperors Tomb May Be Too Deadly To Explore

After discovering a secret palace hidden in the massive burial complex of China's first emperor, Chinese technicians are nervous. Not because Qin Shi Huang's tomb is the most important archeological discovery since Tutankhamun, but because they believe his burial place is full of deadly traps that will kill any trespassers. Not to talk about deadly quantities of mercury.

Archeologists working at the excavation said that 'it's like having a present all wrapped at home, knowing that inside is what you always wanted, and not being able to open it.' But, at the same time, nobody wants to be the first to get inside because of the mausoleum's dangerous traps. But it's not clear if the traps are really there, even while many texts describe them.

What Makes A Halo Around The Sun Or Moon?

A ring or circle of light around the sun or moon is called a halo. Solar and lunar haloes are pretty common, but they're so mysterious-looking that people often express amazement upon seeing them. They want to know: what causes a halo around the sun or moon?

Random Photo

Can You Find The Hidden Animals In These 20 Wildlife Photos?

Hunting down the animals in each of these wildlife photos by Art Wolfe is no easy task, they've blended into their surroundings so well that even a trained eye will have trouble spotting them.
And don't let the giraffe pic above fool you, the rest of the hidden critters are much harder to find!

Hope for Nicky the blind baby rhino

Nicky is just like any other baby rhino. He likes to play and is curious about the world around him. Only the world doesn't look the same to this little black rhino because he was born blind. With his lack of vision, Nicky is particularly vulnerable and at risk from predators in the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya.

To keep him safe from harm, Nicky has been living at the family home of Mike Watson, Lewa's CEO, since he was one month old. He has his own boma (enclosure) with a padded play area and a straw-lined room for sleeping. His best animal friend is a yellow Labrador, one of the Watsons' family dogs.

The Watson family and two experienced handlers, Yusuf and Tonga, care for Nicky around-the-clock. He is never left alone for a minute and there is always someone on hand to look after his needs and show him the way. He spends his days running around, taking afternoon naps and wallowing in his mud bath.

By early next year, Mike and the Lewa staff are hoping to raise enough funds to fly in a specialist to perform cataract surgery to restore Nicky's eyesight.

Full story with more photos here.

Vultures pick at visitors cars in Florida

Visitors to parts of Everglades National Park are getting tarps and bungee cords to make their vehicles less delectable to vultures.

Animal Pictures