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

Friday, May 31, 2013

The Daily Drift

Damn shame we have, too.

Carolina Naturally is read in 191 countries around the world daily.

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Today is What You Think Upon Grows Day 
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Today in History

1433   Sigismund is crowned emperor of Rome.  
1678   The Godiva procession, commemorating Lady Godiva's legendary ride while naked, becomes part of the Coventry Fair.  
1862   At the Battle of Fair Oaks, Union General George B. McClellan defeats Confederates outside of Richmond.  
1879   New York's Madison Square Garden opens its doors for the first time.  
1889   Johnstown, Pennsylvania is destroyed by a massive flood.  
1900   U.S. troops arrive in Peking to help put down the Boxer Rebellion.  
1902   The Boer War ends with the Treaty of Vereeniging.  
1909   The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) holds its first conference.  
1913   The 17th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, providing for direct election of senators, is ratified. 1915   A German zeppelin makes an air raid on London.  
1916   British and German fleets fight in the Battle of Jutland.  
1928   The first flight over the Pacific takes off from Oakland.  
1941   An armistice is arranged between the British and the Iraqis.  
1955   The Supreme Court orders that states must end racial segregation "with all deliberate speed."  
1962   Adolf Eichmann, the former SS commander, is hanged near Tel Aviv, Israel.  
1969   John Lennon and Yoko Ono record "Give Peace a Chance."  
1974   Israel and Syria sign an agreement on the Golan Heights.  
1979   Zimbabwe proclaims its independence.  
1988   President Ronald Reagan arrives in Moscow, the first American president to do so in 14 years.

Non Sequitur


Meet The Latest Thing That Can Kill Humanity ...

... MERS-CoV

Time to panic! A new SARS-like virus found in human has all the potential to cause a global pandemic. Meet the novel Coronavirus (nCOV or MERS-CoV) - and yes, it's transmissible from human to human:
A new SARS-like virus recently found in humans is "a threat to the entire world," according to the director-general of the United Nations' World Health Organization.
The so-called novel coronavirus "is not a problem that any single affected country can keep to itself or manage all by itself," Margaret Chan said Monday in her closing remarks at the 66th World Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.
"We do not know where the virus hides in nature. We do not know how people are getting infected. Until we answer these questions, we are empty-handed when it comes to prevention. These are alarm bells. And we must respond," she said.
CNN has more: Here.

Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman's Daughter!

What's life like when your father is "The Smartest Man in the World" and has a Nobel Prize to prove it? Michelle Feynman, daughter of the famous physicist Richard Feyman, tells us:
When I was very young, I thought my father knew everything. Indeed, a prominent magazine once declared him “The Smartest Man in the World.” Upon hearing this, his mother threw up her hands and exclaimed, “If Richard is the smartest man in the world, God help the world!” My father was the first one to laugh. [...]
Despite his success, my father encouraged an irreverent attitude toward himself. Our dinner conversations were full of tales about mistakes he made during the day: losing his sweater, having conversations with people and not remembering their names. On Sunday mornings, he would often forgo reading the newspaper in favor of a wild hour of loud, often discordant music, drumming, and storytelling with my brother and me. When it was his turn to drive the car pool to elementary school, he would pretend to get lost. “No, not that way!” all the kids would scream. “Oh, all right. Is it this way?” and he would turn the wrong way again. “Nooooooo!” we would yell in utter panic.
Read the rest over at Discover Magazine.

Great News: Michelle Bachmann to leave congress

Thursday, May 30

Max Read at Gawker watched the announcement so no-one else has to: "an interminable video posted to her websiteeight fucking minutes, of just her talking, the vibe somewhere between airplane safety video and personal-injury lawyer ad."

Thursday, May 30


Tom the Dancing Bug


Texas to pass landmark email privacy law

Texas is on the verge of passing legislation that patches a hole in federal privacy law. Under the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, no warrant is needed to spy on email once it has been opened, or if it is unopened on a server for more than six months. The Feds have fought efforts to reform this antiquated law, which the DHS and its affiliated snoops rely upon to conduct mass-scale, warrantless surveillance. The Texas law is somewhat symbolic (since it won't stop Fed snooping), but it's still an important step toward establishing a better norm in privacy standards for files on cloud-based services:
On Tuesday, the Texas bill (HB 2268) was sent to Gov. Perry’s desk, and he has until June 16, 2013 to sign it or veto it. If he does neither, it will pass automatically and take effect on September 1, 2013. The bill would give Texans more privacy over their inbox to shield against state-level snooping, but the bill would not protect against federal investigations. The bill passed both houses of the state legislature earlier this year without a single "nay" vote.
This new bill, if signed, will make Texas law more privacy-conscious than the much-maligned (but frustratingly still in effect) 1986-era Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). With the ECPA, federal law enforcement agencies are only required to get a warrant to access recent e-mails before they are opened by the recipient.
As we've noted many times before, there are no such provisions in federal law once the e-mail has been opened or if it has been sitting in an inbox, unopened, for 180 days. In March 2013, the Department of Justice acknowledged in a Congressional hearing that this distinction no longer makes sense and the DOJ would support revisions to ECPA.

How to get out of your AT&T contract early without an early termination fee

This month AT&T started charging a monthly "Mobility Administrative Fee" of $0.61 to mobile customers. If you want to get out of your contract early, you can use this fee increase to cancel the contract without paying an early termination fee.
This fee offers a rare chance to fight back against a corporate giant. You can use the administrative fee as a loophole to break your contract, without having to pay any costly early termination fees.
Even if the monthly fee isn't a big deal to you, upgrading your phone early probably is. By canceling your contract, you can get a new Samsung Galaxy S4 or HTC One with AT&T or another wireless carrier at the cheaper subsidized pricing.

IRS targets medical marijuana businesses in government's war on weed

Ariel Shearer in HuffPost: "For the past several years, the Internal Revenue Service has been systematically targeting medical marijuana establishments, relying on an obscure statute that gives the taxing agency unintended power. The IRS has been functioning as an arm of justice, employing the U.S. tax code as a weapon in the federal government's ongoing war against legal cannabis." 

Newly-opened café charges customers for the amount of time spent there

A newly-opened café in Wiesbaden in western Germany is charging customers for the amount of time they spend there, rather than for what they order. The concept comes from Russia, where it is has proven to be a success. 24-year-old Daria Volkova, who moved to Germany from Russia in 2008, opened the Slow Time Das Zeitcafé in the middle of April. For now her goal is to make enough money from the café to support herself and her six-year-old son.

"I hope to capture the spirit of the times," Volkova said. Customers are charged €0.05 per minute, amounting to €3.00 an hour. When they come in the door, Volkova gives them a wristband with the time marked on it. When they leave they hand it back and their bill is calculated to the minute. The concept of time is turned on its head, with several clocks purposely showing different times. The intention is for people to forget about time and focus on those around them.

"It's easier - and cheaper - to meet people here than in a bar, where you have to buy expensive drinks," Volkova said. Customers are allowed to have as much coffee as they want, and they can even bring their own food. The entire space is supposed to feel like a living room, with books, board games and slippers provided. The 75 square-meter room has space for about 25 customers and to make money, Volkova needs eleven people to come in an hour. So far, she hasn't been able to break even.

However, she is confident that things will take off in the coming months. She has few expenses and only needs one other member of staff to run the café. She attributes the teething problems to the novelty of the concept in Germany and to the fact that she hasn't yet set up regular events at the venue. When she's not running the coffee shop, Volkova can be found in a lecture hall in Mainz, where she is studying music. It costs €2.00 to enter the 'Slow Time' café and that price covers the first 30 minutes. After that, customers are charged €0.05 per minute.

UK film industry requisitions cops for massive raid on suspected pirate, get to question him at police station

In the UK, the movie industry's lobby group gets to requisition huge numbers of police officers to raid peoples' houses, solely on their say-so. Here's the story of one man who was raided by ten cops, who arrived in five cars, along with representatives from FACT (the horribly named Federation Against Copyright Theft). The FACT agents directed the arrest of a 24-year-old man, along with the seizure of all his computers and storage media, on the basis of an "emergency" search-warrant. The FACT agents conducted the bulk of his questioning at the police station, with the cops acting as stenographers. When the man was bailed, the bail sheet specified that he had been arrested for a "miscellaneous offense." He has been banned from entering any cinemas in England or Wales as a condition of bail.
As TorrentFreak notes, FACT offers cash bounties to cinema workers who disrupt people thought to be "cammers" who are recording movies in cinemas. They paid more than a dozen such bounties last year, but did not have a single successful prosecution.
“This morning I was arrested at my home under suspicion of recording and distributing Fast and Furious 6 and a few other titles,” the arrested man told TorrentFreak. Mp> After seizing numerous items including three servers, a desktop computer, blank hard drives and blank media, police detained the 24-year-old and transported him to a nearby police station. Despite the ‘emergency’ nature of the raid, no movie recording equipment was found.
“At the police station I was interviewed by the police together with FACT (Federation Against Copyright and Theft). During questioning they asked me about Fast and Furious 6, where I obtained a copy from and if I was the one who went and recorded it at the cinema.”
Despite police involvement, as in previous cases it appears they were only present in order to gain access to the victim’s property, sit on the sidelines taking notes, and for their powers when it comes to presenting crimes for prosecution.
“I was detained for 3 hrs 12 minutes, out of that I was questioned for approximately 40 minutes. One police officer and two FACT officers conducted the interview. The police officer sat back and let FACT do all the questioning, so FACT were running the show,” the man reports.

Ten Of The World's Most Unique Movie Theaters

Ten of the most unusual and unique movie theaters from around the world.

Coffee Vs. Beer

Which Drink Makes You More Creative?

From a scientific perspective, creativity is your ability to think of something original from connections made between pre-existing ideas in your brain. Which one would actually help you be more creative and get work done, coffee or beer?

Indian police officers attacked each other with bamboo canes while on duty

Two officers from Uttar Pradesh’s Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC), a state police unit that is controversial for its handling of communal riots, assaulted each other with lathis while on duty in Lucknow at a function attended by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav.

The two policemen, head constable Mukund Chandra Yadav and constable Sunil Dixit of the 10th battalion of the force, bled profusely following their clash in the presence of the media outside the Indira Gandhi Pratishtan where the Chief Minister was meeting industrialists.

The policemen, now suspended, suffered serious head injuries and were taken to the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital. An FIR has been lodged against the duo and they are likely to be arrested after they are released from hospital.

According to the police, it all started when Yadav alleged Dixit was missing at his duty point during the Chief Minister’s visit. After a heated argument over the issue, they were asked to go to their duty points by their seniors. The clash ended after the intervention of PAC company commander Keshav Nath.

Boy who wanted to see what inside of garbage truck looked like almost killed after hiding in garbage can

A young boy's fascination with garbage trucks almost turned deadly when he came close to being crushed after hiding in a garbage can in northern Victoria, Australia. Nine-year-old Connor, of Yarrawonga, was curious to see what the inside of a dump truck looked like and hid inside a garbage can and waited to be picked up. A short time later, the garbage can, containing Connor, was dumped into the hopper at the back of the truck.

In a fortunate twist of fate, the keen-eyed truck driver checked his safety camera and spotted the young boy clinging to the side of the vehicle. Had the driver not seen him, the truck's hydraulic system would have almost certainly crushed Connor to death. "There's a big paddle in the back that crushes all the rubbish up and compacts it all," the truck driver said. "If he got caught under that, it could have been really, really bad."

Connor had previously been warned not to play near the garbage cans because of the dangers, but curiosity got the better of him. "I just wanted to know what it looked like inside the dump truck," Connor said. "I hid in the bin hoping to hold on to the ledge and I slipped. He (truck driver) didn't know I was in there. My shoe got stuck and I started to get dragged by my shoe.

"He saw my hands in the mirror so he pushed the stop button and helped me get out. He was nice enough to help me get my shoe and sock out of there too." A frightening close call, the truck driver had almost completed his final round of pick ups and was about to turn on the trash compactor. Amazingly, Connor escaped the frightening ordeal with a only a few cuts and bruises. "I felt grateful that I was out and that I'm still alive," he said.

Rescuers save baby lodged in sewage pipe in China

Firefighters in China have rescued a newborn baby boy lodged inside a sewage pipe leading off a toilet. Residents of an apartment building in Jinhua city, Zhejiang province, called rescuers on Saturday after they heard the infant's cries.

Rescuers tried to pull the baby out of the pipe but failed and ended up sawing through a section of the pipe instead. They took the pipe to hospital, where it was carefully pulled apart to release the infant.

The baby, thought to be just a few days old, was found inside a pipe 10cm (4 inches) in diameter. Firefighters and doctors worked together using pliers to cut the pipe apart to get to the baby. The baby is now in stable condition.

Police are said to be treating the case as attempted murder and are searching for the parents. The baby was named Baby No 59 - after the number of his hospital incubator.

Teen Built DIY Submarine out of Drainage Pipe

Give me a ping, Beckerman. One ping only, please.
Many high school students are planning to lounge around the lake this summer, but not Mendham High School, New Jersey, student Justin Beckerman. The 18-year old teen will be doing the final testing of his one-man DIY submarine, made from drainage pipe:
Co-existing with Jet Skis and fishing boats in the picturesque West Jersey lake is Justin’s latest invention — complete with lights, paddles, ballasts, air compressors, 2,000 feet of wire and a Plexiglas dome top that looks like the head of Star Wars robot R2-D2.
Justin, who turned 18 last weekend, spent a month designing and five months building his 9-foot-long submarine, into which he can fit.
Mike Frassinelli of The Star-Ledger has the story: Here.

NewImage High school student Justin Beckerman made his own single-person submarine to explore a lake near his New Jersey home, he says, and "see fish and hopefully find a bit of history, like the cannons from my neighbors' historic house" dumped in the lake long ago. The project took him six months and cost $2,000. The window is an old skylight, the regulators and gauges are from a trashed soda fountain. From CNN:
The submarine has ballast tanks to maintain its depth and equilibrium; air vents that bring oxygen down from the surface; a functioning PA and a range of emergency systems including back-up batteries, a siren, strobe lights, a breathing apparatus and a pump to fight leaks. The vessel can remain submerged for up to two hours and travels beneath the waves at one and a half miles per hour.

Turning Cement into Metal

Forget the sleek aluminum case of the iPhone or the magnesium alloy used in HTC's smartphone. The new hot thing is metal made out of cement. That's right, cement:
In a move that would make the Alchemists of King Arthur's time green with envy, scientists have unraveled the formula for turning liquid cement into liquid metal. This makes cement a semi-conductor and opens up its use in the profitable consumer electronics marketplace for thin films, protective coatings, and computer chips. [...]
This change demonstrates a unique way to make metallic-, which has positive attributes including better resistance to corrosion than traditional metal, less brittleness than traditional glass, conductivity, low energy loss in magnetic fields, and fluidity for ease of processing and molding. Previously only metals have been able to transition to a  form. Cement does this by a process called electron trapping, a phenomena only previously seen in ammonia solutions. Understanding how cement joined this exclusive club opens the possibility of turning other solid normally insulating materials into room-temperature semiconductors. [...]
The team of scientists studied mayenite, a component of alumina cement made of calcium and aluminum oxides. They melted it at temperatures of 2,000 degrees Celsius using an aerodynamic levitator with carbon dioxide laser beam heating. The material was processed in different atmospheres to control the way that oxygen bonds in the resulting glass.

The Mortsafe

  ... Or How To Protect Your Loved Ones From The Bodysnatchers

Medical students in the United Kingdom of the eighteenth century faced a quandary. They had been accustomed to using the corpses of executed criminals to study anatomy. However, the annual demand for bodies to dissect by the growing medical profession surpassed ten times that number.

A thriving and historically infamous bodysnatching trade arose. Those mourning the loss of a loved one soon developed a weapon against this: the mortsafe.

Ladder to be Installed at Mount Everest

Well, climbing Mount Everest ain't what it used to be. Sixty years after Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay reached the summit of Sir George's mountain, there are so many people waiting in line to reach the top that there's now a plan to install a ladder there:
"We are now discussing putting a ladder on the Hillary Step but it is obviously controversial," said Dawa Steven Sherpa, who runs commercial expeditions on Everest and is a senior member of the Expedition Operators Association in Nepal.
This year, 520 climbers have reached the summit of Everest. On 19 May, around 150 climbed the last 3,000ft of the peak from Camp IV within hours of each other, causing lengthy delays as mountaineers queued to descend or ascend harder sections.
"Most of the traffic jams are at the Hillary Step because only one person can go up or down. If you have people waiting two, three or even four hours that means lots of exposure [to risk]. To make the climbing easier, that would be wrong. But this is a safety feature," said Sherpa ...
I think I'll wait till they install an escalator.
Jason Burke of The Guardian has the story: Here.

The Living Root Bridges Of India

India has a population of over a billion and our ideas about the country are often informed by that statistic. Yet there are places on the sub-continent which are still almost inaccessible.

Meghalaya in the north east of the country is home to mountainous subtropical forests. In order to get around, local people have come up with an ingenious form of natural engineering - the living root bridge.

A soil atlas of Africa

A group of international experts has created a Soil Atlas of Africa, which maps the earth to "help farmers, land managers and policymakers understand the diversity and importance of soil, and the need to manage it through sustainable use." More at the Guardian.

Twelve Examples Of Guttation

Guttation is the exudation of drops of sap on the tips or edges of leaves of some vascular plants, such as grasses. Guttation is not to be confused with dew, which condenses from the atmosphere onto the plant surface. When there is a high soil moisture level, water will enter plant roots, because the water potential of the roots is lower than in the soil solution.

The water will accumulate in the plant, creating a slight root pressure. The root pressure forces some water to exude through special leaf tip or edge structures, hydathodes or water glands, forming drops. Here is a beautiful gallery that shows examples of guttation.

Sierra Club magazine list of "Earth's Weirdest Landscapes"

NewImage Sierra Magazine posted their picks of "Earth's Weirdest Landscapes." Some I was familiar with, like the Fly Geyser in Nevada's Black Rock Desert, California's Mono Lake, and Hawaii's Kilauea volcano. But others are new-to-me strange spots that I would be delighted to explore. For example, above is Lake Hillier in Western Australia's Recherche Archipelago. Yes, it really is pink. According too Sierra, "some believe (the hue) comes from a dye produced by two microorganisms called Halobacteria and Dunaliella salina, while others suspect the red halophilic bacteria that thrive in the lake's salt deposits." Earth's Weirdest Landscapes 

Spider Silk Dress

Stylish and bullet proof! What's not to like?
This new blue dress by Japanese company Spiber is woven from synthetic spider silk, which is five times stronger than steel, more flexible than nylon, and is extremely lightweight.
The electric-blue dress was created from a material Spiber calls Qmonos (from kumonosu, or "spider web," in Japanese). [...]
The high-collared cocktail dress, on display at the Roppongi Hills complex in Tokyo, was created to demonstrate the technology behind Qmonos.
The territorial nature of spiders makes them difficult to farm like silkworms. So instead, Spiber developed a technology that uses synthesized genes and coaxes bacteria to produce fibroin, the structural protein in spider silk. Spiber then uses technology it developed to culture the microbes efficiently and weave the fibroin into fabric.
Apart from clothing, Qmonos could potentially be be used to make film, gels, sponges, artificial blood vessels, and nanofibers.
Tim Hornyak of CNET has the scoop: Here.

Police called after pony pooed on liquor store floor

Police were called to a liquor store in Warren, Rhode Island, on Monday night after reports of property damage. The owner of a Shetland pony took it into the store, allowed the pony to defecate on a rug and failed to properly clean up after it.

The store owner was prepared to press charges and called police. But police were able to calm the incident by taking the pony's owner, William Saviano, back to the store to clean up after the pony.

Saviano, 51, said before entering the liquor store he was at a children's pony show down the street. He said he stopped by to pick up wine on the way home.

Police said Saviano has an extensive criminal history dating back to 1988. He's been charged with domestic assault, disorderly conduct, malicious destruction of property and driving under the influence of alcohol, among other things. No charges were filed in this incident.

Pregnant elephant does prenatal Pilates

Rozie the pregnant Asian elephant at Albuquerque Zoo is doing Pilates to build strength and flexibility. She and the rest of the herd are part of a well-developed exercise and enrichment program that keeps the pachyderms healthy and happy.

Zookeepers are paying extra close attention to Rozie's routine to keep her fit for a healthy pregnancy and to prepare for a successful birth. "We have exercise sessions twice a day with leg lifts, squats and other calisthenics," said Rhonda Saiers, Elephant Manager.

"The exercises are especially important for Rozie. When she is strong and at ideal weight, we know chances are much better that she'll have an uncomplicated and successful birth. Just as in humans, birth carries risks, but we're doing all we can to minimize those."

Elephant calves have the longest gestation period of any mammal at around 21 months. "Due dates" are difficult to predict, so zookeepers use a birth window for planning. In this case, Rozie could give birth anytime between August and November.

Penguin joined guests in viewing area at new exhibit

A penguin jumped out of an exhibit at SeaWorld's new 'Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin' attraction in Orlando, Florida, on Saturday, joining guests in the viewing area.

SeaWorld staff ushered guests out of the area and surrounded the penguin while waiting for a handler. The penguin was returned to the water unharmed.

Animal Pictures


IMG_5956 by !STORAX on Flickr.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Daily Drift

Revere the stones

Carolina Naturally is read in 191 countries around the world daily.

All right then! ...

Today is (no special celebration) Day

Don't forget to visit our sister blog!

Today in History

1416   Jerome of Prague is burned as a heretic by the Church.  
1431   Joan of Arc is burned at the stake by the English.  
1527   The University of Marburg is founded in Germany.  
1539   Hernando de Soto lands in Florida with 600 soldiers in search of gold.  
1783   The first American daily newspaper, The Pennsylvania Evening Post, begins publishing in Philadelphia.  
1814   The First Treaty of Paris is declared, returning France to its 1792 borders.  
1848   William Young patents the ice cream freezer.  
1854   The Kansas-Nebraska Act repeals the Missouri Compromise.  
1859   The Piedmontese army crosses the Sesia River and defeats the Austrians at Palestro.  
1862   Union General Henry Halleck enters Corinth, Mississippi.  
1868   Memorial Day begins when two women place flowers on both Confederate and Union graves.
1889   The brassiere is invented.  
1912   U.S. Marines are sent to Nicaragua to protect American interests.  
1913   The First Balkan War ends.  
1921   The U.S. Navy transfers the Teapot Dome oil reserves to the Department of the Interior.  
1942   The Royal Air Force launches the first 1,000 plane raid over Germany.  
1971   NASA launches Mariner 9, the first satellite to orbit Mars.

Non Sequitur


Did you know ...

So say Forbes: economically, could Obama be our best president?

That researchers have established a link between racism and stupidity

The Monsanto protection act may be repealed thanks to activism

15 bizarre facts about cats that are totally true

Obamacare Sabotage: repugicans Putting American’s Health At Risk

by Egberto Willies

Republican Sabotage Obamacare Health ExchangesIt is fact that the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare is the law of the land. It is fact that Obamacare implements healthcare reform based on a Heritage Foundation, a wingnut think tank, policy using private insurance instead of the much less expensive Medicare for All (Single Payer) model that most liberals want.  It is fact that the Congressional repugicans have voted to repeal Obamacare 37 times and counting. It is fact that even as repugicans attempt to repeal Obamacare they have no plausible alternative to solve the key healthcare problems solved by Obamacare.
Obamacare includes exchanges that provide affordable healthcare insurance to all, secure healthcare insurance that cannot be rescinded, provide healthcare insurance that cannot be denied for pre-existing conditions, and provide healthcare insurance that includes early screening for diseases. If Americans understood the facts about Obamacare as opposed to the lies and misinformation maliciously being promoted by repugicans and their cohorts, most would be clamoring for it. This is not a game. It is a life and death issue for many.
Many repugican governors have seen the light and have done the moral thing. Inasmuch as they claim to not like Obamacare, they have decided to implement it fully by accepting Medicaid expansion.
Now that repugicans have failed at every turn, they are now intent on launching two specific campaigns. The first is a push to have Congress use the debt ceiling debate to attempt to defund the exchanges. The second is a massive and immoral sabotage effort, a misinformation campaign on the health exchanges where the uninsured can go to purchase affordable insurance.
Bloomberg reports this as follows.
Heritage Action for America, the advocacy arm of the Heritage Foundation, and the tea party-aligned group FreedomWorks will push Congress to cut off funding for the exchanges in the debate later this year over raising the debt ceiling, the Washington-based groups said. The chairman of the advocacy group Restore America’s Voice, Ken Hoagland, said he plans to warn people through advertising about the “dysfunctional” exchanges.
While opposition to the health-care program is nothing new, the tactics are changing. Rather than focusing on repealing the law in Congress and the courts, two avenues that have failed so far, the groups are aiming to prevent the cornerstone of the legislation, the insurance exchanges, from succeeding. Their goal is to limit enrollments, drive up costs, and make it easier to roll back all or part of the law later.
“If you’re committed to making sure Obamacare doesn’t go into effect, you have to focus on the expansion and on the exchanges,” said Dan Holler, a spokesman for Heritage Action. “Once you have people under a program, it’s really hard to change that system no matter how badly it needs change.”
Democratic supporters of the health-care law said critics are afraid that the measure will be a success and are out to prevent it.
The repugicans are playing a dangerous game. They know if healthy people are scared off from joining the exchanges, then the cost of insurance on the exchanges would skyrocket and likely fail under its own weight. Ironically, under said eventuality Americans are either taken care of by the taxpayers, increased premiums for everyone else, and yes, many will simply die.
The repugicans biggest fear however is the eventual success of Obamacare. Putting obstacles at every turn slows the process down even as many Americans are systematically hurt by their actions.
Because of the lack of funding from the repugicans’ intransigence in Congress, secretary of the Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius has had to resort to raising private funds (e.g., Enroll America) to aid in real truthful education on Obamacare and options for every American citizen.
Maybe repugicans should read this. They would learn that government can play a role in making lives better for all without damaging the country’s productivity or work ethic.

The repugicans Are Using the 'IRS Scandal' to Hide Their Koch Fueled Shady Activities

From the beginning of the IRS “scandal”, it seemed obvious to me that with wingnut nonprofit groups outspending liberals by 34-1, their activities would be more prone to scrutiny. Add into that mix the fact that after Citizens United, these dark money groups sprang up in order to avoid disclosure of donors, the fact that many of these “tea party” groups were actually violating the rules of nonprofits by engaging in political activities, and this scandal looked more like preemptive pushback than a “targeting” scandal.
It seems some election lawyers agree. Over the holiday weekend, when almost no one was reading politics, the New York Times published an article based on their review of IRS agency planning documents. It turns out that “The I.R.S. is already separately reviewing roughly 300 tax-exempt groups that may have engaged in improper campaign activity in past years.”
Thus, “Some election lawyers said they believed a wave of lawsuits against the I.R.S. and intensifying Congressional criticism of its handling of applications were intended in part to derail those audits, giving political nonprofit organizations a freer hand during the 2014 campaign.”
The Times examined more than a dozen of the organizations seeking nonprofit status, and they appear to have earned this scrutiny the hard way, “… a close examination of these groups and others reveals an array of election activities that tax experts and former I.R.S. officials said would provide a legitimate basis for flagging them for closer review.”
Of course, the very lawmakers in Congress who are leading the “investigation” against the IRS are the people who stand to benefit from intimidating the IRS into stopping their investigations into the dark money groups. That would be repugican lawmakers.
Donald B. Tobin, a former lawyer with the Justice Department’s tax division, explained to the NYT, “Money is not the only thing that matters. While some of the I.R.S. questions may have been overbroad, you can look at some of these groups and understand why these questions were being asked.”
I pointed out last week that Karl Rove’s “Crossroads” was still awaiting IRS approval as tax exempt: “Rove’s Crossroads is the biggest spender, reporting spending more than $87.9 million since 2010, but it’s still waiting to be officially approved as tax exempt. Gee, do you think the IRS will be able to be objective when it comes to Crossroads’ overtly political purpose, or will they feel pressured to rubber stamp Karl so as not to cause offense?”
It seems that the IRS is indeed being pressured into granting dark money status to wingnut groups, to the benefit of Congressional repugicans in the 2014 elections.
The Times detailed the partisan activities of some of these groups, from the Ohio Liberty Coalition canvassing for Romney to an Alabama Wetumpka tea party group sponsoring training dedicated to the “‘defeat of President Barack Obama’ while the I.R.S. was weighing its application.” Over a week ago, it was revealed that the True the Vote tea party group was ruled by a judge to have engaged in illegal activities by supporting repugicans in Texas. This group was quoted in many articles as an example of conservatives being “targeted”. In other words, many of these groups were blatantly flaunting the laws governing social welfare and nonprofit groups.
You can see why the IRS used words like “tea party” in sifting through the huge onslaught of new applications post Citizens United. This, however, was “inappropriate”. The understaffed and underfunded agency of the IRS was supposed to pretend they didn’t know who was gaming the system, because nothing benefits repugicans more than killing the agency’s ability to provide oversight into the illegal activities of alleged nonprofits acting in illegal ways to benefit their cabal.
Adding more fuel to the speculation that wingnuts/repugicans hope to use their claims of persecution to game the ref is the fact that this entire narrative was dropped on the press at a time when a repugican was also leaking edited Benghazi emails to the press in an attempt to make the Obama White House and State Department look bad.
It turned out that the real emails proved the White House and State Department had not asked for the talking points to be changed in order to protect themselves, as repugicans had claimed. The press reported repugican claims as fact, just as they reported these claims of persecution by the IRS as fact. The IRS story was buttressed in the press by the interpretation of IRS briefings by “repugican congressional aides” (seriously), and these conclusions were backed up by reporting the wild cries of persecution by True the Vote — the group a federal judge ruled had illegally acted more as a repugican PAC than a nonprofit.
Behind the witch hunts into alleged “targeting” of wingnut groups, many of these groups were/are engaging in highly partisan activities directly impacting elections. So the real questions are:
Will the Obama administration once again stab the innocent-until-proven-guilty in the back in order to appease the agenda-laden screams of repugicans, who are eyeing up juicy free-for-alls in 2014, or will they stand tall for justice and let the facts play out. Will the press do its job, after being played by “congressional repugicans” multiple times in one week? Or, will they continue to operate as stenographers for the latest repugican claims, just as they did when the shrub was in office.
What we have here are repugican lawmakers who stand to benefit from the IRS witch hunt in charge of the said witch hunt.
The press might wish to make note of Jonathan Karl’s embarrassing fall from grace, and consider not taking repugican congressional aides’ word for the meaning of a briefing or email. Just a thought.

FAUX News Reporters Fired For Reporting the Truth About Monsanto’s Milk

FAUX News reporters Steve Wilson & Jane Akre uncovered the shocking truth that most of the milk in the United States is unfit for human consumption due to Monsanto’s cancer causing growth hormone, Posilac, known in short as “BGH” “BST” or “rBGH”.
They were both fired shortly thereafter.

Those protesting Monsanto ...

YES, YOU'RE BEING HEARD: The livestock industry is increasing its demand for non-GMO crops to meet growing demand among consumers for eggs and meats sourced from animals that have never eaten genetically modified feeds. Meanwhile, more and more food processors are calling suppliers wanting to know if they can arrange for non-GMO supplies.

Read the full article: Here

Wal-Mart dumps haz-mat, must pay $82 million in fines

Matthew says: "Wal-Mart has pleaded guilty in San Francisco federal court to charges of dumping hazardous waste into California sanitation drains. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will pay $82 million in fines." The Walton family, which has a combined net worth of $115.7 billion, must be very distraught to see 0.07% of their wealth vanish. On the other hand, it might have been cheaper to dump the waste illegally and pay the fine than to dispose of the waste legally. 

The Happiest Nation on Earth

Woman with Australian flag
With cute animals like koalas and rockin' economy, it's no wonder that Australia is a happy place. In fact, it has just been ranked as the world's happiest nation three years running by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD):
Australia has been named the world's happiest industrialized nation for the third year running, based on criteria including satisfaction, work-life balance, income and housing, a survey released Tuesday has found.
The so-called "lucky country" beat Sweden and Canada to take the top spot in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) Better Life Index.
Australia has remained largely immune from the global financial crisis, with its economy growing on average 3.5% over the last 20 years to 2012, according to the CIA Factbook.
CNN's Irene Chapple reports: Here.

Chinese teen scrawls graffitti in Egypt's 3,500 year old Luxor Temple, Egyptians and Chinese netizens outraged

 A 15-year-old vandal carved the words 'Ding Jinhao was here' in Chinese in the 3,500 year old Luxor Temple in Egypt. Back home in China, his fellow countrymen replied online: "christ, what an asshole." 

Chinese hackers compromised U.S. weapons system designs

Ellen Nakashima in the Washington Post: "Designs for many of the nation’s most sensitive advanced weapons systems have been compromised by Chinese hackers, according to a report prepared for the Pentagon and to officials from government and the defense industry."

Does Canada's $100 Bill Smell Like Maple Syrup?

Canada's $100 bill. Some think it smells sweet.
Canada's $100 bill. Some think it smells sweet.
This much is true: Many Canadians apparently think their government has embedded a maple-scented scratch-and-sniff patch in the nation's $100 bills.
, "dozens of people" contacted the Bank of Canada after the polymer bills were introduced in 2011 to say they were sure there was something fishy ... or perhaps we should say sweet ... about the money.
But alas, this is also true: "Bank official Jeremy Harrison says no scent has been added to any of the new bank notes," CTV says.
Now, made us wonder:
— Who smells their money?
— What might be a good scent for U.S. bills? Maybe pizza? Apple pie? Bacon?

Bank of Canada kills editorial cartoon, calls it "counterfeiting"

Canadian wingnut senator Mike Duffy is in disgrace over the news that he submitted fraudulent expense claims totalling $90,000 and secretly borrowed a like sum from the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff to pay it (and kill an auditor's investigation into his conduct). So Dan Murphy drew an editorial cartoon depicting a notional Canadian $90,000 bill bearing Senator Duffy's leering face. But the toon only ran briefly, because the Bank of Canada threatened Canadian newspapers with criminal prosecution for counterfeiting if they ran it.
That gets to the crux of the matter. Laws that fight counterfeiting are fine (though really, any forger gifted enough to back-engineer a single-sided cartoon of a $90,000 bill that bears the image of Mike Duffy and a hologram of Nigel Wright deserves a medal, not jail time) but the Bank of Canada has no business playing Thought Police.
Parodies of bank notes are nothing new. In 1819, British cartoonist George Cruikshank, angered after seeing a woman hanged for passing a forged note, drew a Bank of England note that featured 11 men and women dangling from nooses. During the currency panic of 1837, a series of “shin plasters” — typically five- and six-cent bills — poked fun at U.S. economic policy.

Canada's business groups wants to hack your computer even more than the creeps at the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property

Michael Geist writes,
The Internet is buzzing over a new report from the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property that recommends using spyware and ransomware to combat online infringement. The recommendations are shocking as they represent next-generation digital locks that could lock down computers and even "retrieve" files from personal computers:
"Software can be written that will allow only authorized users to open files containing valuable information. If an unauthorized person accesses the information, a range of actions might then occur. For example, the file could be rendered inaccessible and the unauthorized user's computer could be locked down, with instructions on how to contact law enforcement to get the password needed to unlock the account."
While many of the recommendations sound outrageous, it is worth noting that earlier this year Canadian business groups led by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce recommended that the Canadian government introduce a regulation that would permit the use of spyware for these kinds of purposes.
The proposed regulation would remove the need for express consent for:
"a program that is installed by or on behalf of a person to prevent, detect, investigate, or terminate activities that the person reasonably believes (i) present a risk or threatens the security, privacy, or unauthorized or fraudulent use, of a computer system, telecommunications facility, or network, or (ii) involves the contravention of any law of Canada, of a province or municipality of Canada or of a foreign state;"
This provision would effectively legalize spyware in Canada on behalf of these industry groups. The potential scope of coverage is breathtaking: a software program secretly installed by an entertainment software company designed to detect or investigate alleged copyright infringement would be covered by this exception. This exception could potentially cover programs designed to block access to certain websites (preventing the contravention of a law as would have been the case with SOPA), attempts to access wireless networks without authorization, or even keylogger programs tracking unsuspecting users (detection and investigation).

Toronto cops hospitalize hotel guest who recorded them arresting another guest

A man staying at Toronto's Sheraton Center Hotel used his Blackberry to video-record police who were arresting another guest. The police objected and several of them piled onto him, beating him savagely while screaming "Stop resisting! Stop resisting!" They broke two of his ribs. The whole thing was captured on the man's phone and on hotel CCTV. He's suing.
After being notified this month of the arrest and injuries by Andrus’s lawyer Barry Swadron, the province’s Special Investigations Unit is also now looking into the arrest. The unit probes police incidents that result in serious injury or death.
With smartphones everywhere, police should be getting used to the fact that citizens are going to record police operations, says Swadron.
“On the one hand, the police are frequently seeking images from surveillance cameras and personal recording devices in an effort to uncover illegal activities,” Swadron said in an emailed statement to the Star. “On the other hand, the police do not seem to look kindly when someone is recording the conduct of police officers.
St. Catharines resident Karl Andrus is arrested on Aug. 29, 2012, by Toronto police while filming arrests of fellow Sheraton Centre Hotel guests. Andrus, 35, is suing police, alleging his rights were breached. Andrus begins filming at the 1:10 mark.
In an interview with the Star, Andrus, a 35-year-old dispatcher for an IT company with no criminal record, said he had been out for a couple of drinks at a bar across the street from the hotel late on the night of Aug. 29, 2012.

Toronto mayoral car-crash: homicide detectives search mayor's office after tip on crack-smoking video; top staffers quit

More drama from the world of Toronto Mayor "Laughable Bumblefuck" Ford -- first, reporters from two rival news entities independently verified the existence of a video showing the mayor smoking what appeared to be crack cocaine and passing racist remarks about the kids on the football team he coached.
The mayor was told by the Catholic high school where he coached football that he was no longer welcome around their boys. The mayor's chief of staff, Mark Towhey, was escorted out of the building by security after the mayor fired him, allegedly after he told the mayor to go into rehab, and insisted that it would be a bad idea to take back the athletic equipment he'd given to the school that had just canned him.
Then, after the mayor and his brother, Councillor Doug Ford, pursued an approach of near-total silence (apart from some perfunctory denials), the Globe and Mail finally ran an investigative piece on the mayor's family that it had been working on for 18 months, detailing extensive familial connections to unsavory criminal drug-dealers (and the KKK!) and alleging that Councillor Doug Ford had been one of the top hash dealers in Toronto's western suburb of Etobicoke. This prompted the Ford brothers to finally break their media silence and go on a mini press-tour, calling reporters "a bunch of maggots" and Globe editor-in-chief John Stackhouse "a disgusting human being," denying everything. They especially denied that there was a video smoking crack, leading some to speculate that the wealthy Ford family had bought off the video from the drug dealers who'd been shopping it around.
Then Toronto homicide detectives raided the mayor's office, following a tip that the mayor's staff knew the where the video was.
And now, finally, the mayor's press secretary George Christopoulos and his assistant, Isaac Ransom, have both quit.
Mr. Ford told a scrum of journalists outside his office that the pair had “decided to go … down a different avenue.” He said he was told of their departures around noon.
“I wish them the best of luck in their future endeavors and I want to thank them for working hard in this office,” he said, flanked by his brother Councillor Doug Ford.
Mr. Ford declined to say why Mr. Christopoulos and Mr. Ransom had quit, but said he never wants to “hold anyone back from moving on for future endeavors or opportunities that they may have.”
Mr. Ford announced that Amin Massoudi, Doug’s executive assistant, had agreed to become his new communications director. An earlier statement said Sunny Petrujkic would be interim press secretary.
The mayor also responded to a Globe and Mail report that a senior member of his office was interviewed by police last week about a tip linking the alleged crack video to a recent Toronto homicide.
“Everything’s fine. I have no idea what the police are investigating,” Mr. Ford said.

The Laughable Bumblefuckery of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford

If you've been finding it hard to get your head around all the scandals, awfulness and pure shitshowery of Toronto mayor Rob "Laughable Bumblefuck" Ford, look no futher: Hilary Sargent has composed a handy reference in infographic form.

UK Ministry of Justice denies that the court system is to be sold to hedge funds

The UK Ministry of Justice has denied a report in The Times that claimed the courts were to be privatised and paid for henceforth through hedge fund investments made in anticipation of high court fees extracted from wealthy litigants.
While confirming that civil servants are looking at ways of improving the efficiency of the HM Courts & Tribunal Service (HMCTS), the MoJ denied that it planned to outsource all court buildings to a private contractor.
Responding late on Monday night to claims that a sale was actively being considered, an MoJ spokesperson stated: "We have always said we are determined to deliver a courts system that is more effective and efficient and provides improved services for victims and witnesses. The proposals being considered are not the wholesale privatization of the courts service.
"We are committed to the firm, fair and independent administration of justice."

How a Mexican drug-lord dines out

When Joaquín Guzmán Loera, leader of Mexico's notorious Sinaloa Cartel, wants to dine out, he engages some rather extreme security measures:
In 2005 on a Saturday evening, Guzmán reportedly strolled into a restaurant in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, with several of his bodyguards. After he took his seat, his henchmen locked the doors of the restaurant, collected the cell phones of approximately 30 diners and instructed them to not be alarmed.[26] The gangsters then ate their meal and left – paying for everyone else in the restaurant.[27]
Culiacán appearance
Later that year, Guzmán was reportedly seen in Culiacán, Sinaloa, repeating the same exploit at a restaurant.[28] According to a witness, in November 2005 Guzmán entered the restaurant in Culiacán with 15 of his bodyguards, all of them carrying AK-47s.[29] The restaurant was known as "Las Palmas", a lime-green eatery with an ersatz tile roof on a busy street.[30] A man in the restaurant told those present the following:
"Gentlemen, please. Give me a moment of your time. A man is going to come in, the boss. We will ask you to remain in your seats; the doors will be closed and nobody is allowed to leave. You will also not be allowed to use your cellulars. Do not worry; if you do everything that is asked of you, nothing will happen. Continue eating and don't ask for your check. The boss will pay. Thank you."[29]

Son Born in Prison Bailed Out Mom After 19 Years

Vijay Kumari was granted bail, but the poor Indian woman couldn't pay the $180 needed to secure her release, so she sat in jail, forgotten by the system and everybody else. For 19 long years. But someone remembered her.
She thought she was going to die in jail, but then one day, her son who was born while in jail, managed to scrape enough money working as a seamstress to get her out.
Sanjoy Mujamder reports from Kanpur, India, for the BBC about the state of the Indian justice system in the 21st century: More

Science News

Some people seem to pick up a second language with relative ease, while others have a much more difficult time. Now, a new study suggests that learning to understand and read a second language may [...]
Lawrence Livermore scientists have discovered and demonstrated a new technique to remove and store atmospheric carbon dioxide while generating carbon-negative hydrogen and producing alkalinity, which can be used to offset ocean acidification. The team demonstrated, [...]
The widespread disappearance of stromatolites, the earliest visible manifestation of life on Earth, may have been driven by single-celled organisms called foraminifera. The findings, by scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI); Massachusetts Institute of [...]

Know your chemical weapons

These know-your-chemical-weapon posters were produced by the Medical Training Replacement Center at Camp Barkeley near Abilene, Texas as training materials for soldiers being sent to fight in WWII. They're a weird mix of cheerfulness and atrocity:
Of the four chemicals mentioned here—phosgene, lewisite, mustard gas, and chlorpicrin—three were used in World War I. (Lewisite was produced beginning in 1918, but the war ended before it could be used.) Phosgene, which irritates the lungs and mucus membranes and causes a person to choke to death, caused the largest number of deaths among people killed by chemical weapons in the First World War. (Elsewhere on Slate: A firsthand account of what it felt like to be hit by mustard gas.)
The smells that these posters warn soldiers-in-training to be wary of are the everyday scents of home: flypaper, musty hay, green corn, geraniums, garlic. The choice of analogies seems particularly appropriate for soldiers raised on farms­—a population that would become increasingly small in every war to follow.

The Color of Bach

Play a Bach concerto, close your eyes, then envision a color. What color do you see? Stephen Palmer, a vision scientists from UC Berkeley, can predict what sort of colors you'd pick from the music you're listening to:
“We can predict with 95 percent accuracy how happy or sad the colors people pick will be, based on how happy or sad the music is that they’re listening to,” said Stephen Palmer, a University of California, Berkeley vision scientist, in a statement.
Palmer and a team of researchers at Berkeley asked nearly 100 people to listen to 18 pieces of classical music that varied in key and tempo. The participants —half from San Francisco and half from Guadalajara, Mexico—were then asked to choose five colors that they most associated with each piece, selecting from a 37-color palette.
The results, published May 13 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that people in both countries picked bright, warmer colors when they heard faster, more upbeat music and darker, cooler colors for pieces in minor keys.
Those connections, he says, are largely based on emotional connections our brains make. In other words, if a classical music piece is happy and lively, people are more likely to pick colors that are also happy and lively because they feel happy and lively when listening to the music. 
Melody Kramer of National Geographic's Pop Omnivore has the post: Here.

The strange history of the high five

Over at ESPN, Jon Mooallem tries his damnedest to push through hoaxes, misinformation, and egos to suss out the story of the high five.
The low five had been a fixture of African-American culture since at least World War II. It might seem impossible to pinpoint when the low five ratcheted itself upright and evolved into the high five, but there are countless creation myths in circulation. Magic Johnson once suggested that he invented the high five at Michigan State. Others trace it to the women's volleyball circuit in the 1960s…

Antique Guillotine Toy from the French Revolution

guillotineA toy guillotine could be morbidly funny in modern times, but this toy dates back to 1794, during the Reign of Terror phase of the French Revolution. 50 Watts quotes Karl Grober's book Children's Toys of Bygone Days: A History of Playthings of All Peoples from Prehistoric Times to the XIXth Century:
The worst monstrosity of the kind was the outcome of the French Revolution, which indeed was over-rich in aberrations of taste. The toy shops put on the market little guillotines with which little patriots could behead figures of aristocrats. There still survive some specimens of this pretty and diverting machine, of which one bears the date 1794 [above]. These were not models but pure toys; and in proof of this we have king's evidence from one whom we should never suspect of wishing to give so bloodthirsty a toy to his little son. This was no other than Goethe. In December, 1793, he asks his mother in Frankfurt to get him such a toy guillotine for his son August; and in her reply he certainly got some home-truths. In her decisive manner she wrote to him by return post: 'Dear Son, Anything I can do to please you is gladly done and gives me joy;--but to buy such an infamous implement of murder--that I will not do at any price. If I had authority, the maker should be put in the stocks and I would have the machine publicly burnt by the common executioner. What! Let the young play with anything so horrible,--place in their hands for their diversion murder and blood-shedding? No, that will never do!"

Evolution Driven by Humans' Unnatural Selections

In the film After Earth, the main characters return to Earth after the planet has evolved natural defenses against humans. In real life, plants and animals are evolving in response to human action as well.

Our Foot is Home to 200 Species of Fungus

There's a fungus among us - actually, scratch that - there are many more fungi living on our body. More then 200 different species in our feet alone:
In the first study of its kind, a US team cataloged the different groups of fungi living on the body in healthy adults.
A team led by the National Human Genome Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, sequenced the DNA of fungi living on the skin at 14 different body areas in 10 healthy adults.
Samples were taken from the ear canal, between the eyebrows, the back of the head, behind the ear, the heel, toenails, between the toes, forearm, back, groin, nostrils, chest, palm, and the crook of the elbow.
The data reveal that fungal richness varies across the body. The most complex fungal habitat is the heel, home to about 80 types of fungi. The researchers found about 60 types in toenail clippings and 40 types in swabs between the toes.