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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.

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Daily Drift

Editor's Note: We have reached 1.8 million readers for the year (the actual count was 1,848,119 when we counted the totals for publication). Thank you.
So, true ...

Carolina Naturally is read in 193 countries around the world daily.
Tell all those weak-minded religio-nuts to go fornicate with themselves today  ... !

Today is Blasphemy Day  

Don't forget to visit our sister blog: It Is What It Is

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Today in History

1399 Richard II is deposed.
1568 Eric XIV, king of Sweden, is deposed after showing signs of madness.
1630 John Billington, one of the original pilgrims who sailed to the New World on the Mayflower, becomes the first man executed in the English colonies. He is hanged for having shot another man during a quarrel
1703 The French, at Hochstadt in the War of the Spanish Succession, suffer only 1,000 casualties to the 11,000 of their opponents, the Austrians of Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I.
1791 Mozart's opera The Magic Flute is performed for the first time in Vienna
1846 The first anesthetized tooth extraction is performed by Dr. William Morton in Charleston, Massachusetts.
1864 Confederate troops fail to retake Fort Harrison from the Union forces during the siege of Petersburg.
1911 Italy declares war on Turkey over control of Tripoli.
1918 Bulgaria pulls out of World War I.
1927 Babe Ruth hits his 60th homerun of the season off Tom Zachary in Yankee Stadium, New York City.
1935 George Gershwin's opera Porgy and Bess opens at the Colonial Theatre in Boston.
1938 Under German threats of war, Britain, France, Germany and Italy sign an accord permitting Germany to take control of Sudetenland–a region of Czechoslovakia inhabited by a German-speaking minority.
1939 The French Army is called back into France from its invasion of Germany. The attack, code named Operation Saar, only penetrated five miles.
1943 The Women's Army Auxiliary Corps becomes the Women's Army Corps, a regular contingent of the U.S. Army with the same status as other army service corps.
1949 The Berlin Airlift is officially halted after 277,264 flights.
1950 U.N. forces cross the 38th parallel separating North and South Korea as they pursue the retreating North Korean Army.
1954 The first atomic-powered submarine, the Nautilus, is commissioned in Groton, Connecticut.
1954 NATO nations agree to arm and admit West Germany.
1955 Actor and teen idol James Dean is killed in a car crash while driving his Porsche on his way to enter it into a race in Salinas, California.
1960 Fifteen African nations are admitted to the United Nations.
1962 U.S. Marshals escort James H. Meredith into the University of Mississippi; two die in the mob violence that follows.
1965 President Lyndon Johnson signs legislation that establishes the National Foundation for the Arts and the Humanities.
1965 The 30 September Movement unsuccessfully attempts coup against Indonesian government; an anti-communist purge in the aftermath results in over 500,000 deaths.
1966 Bechuanaland ceases to be a British protectorate and becomes the independent Republic of Botswana.
1972 Pro baseball great Roberto Clemente hits his 3,000th—and final—hit of his career.
1975 The AH-64 Apache attack helicopter makes its first flight.
1994 Aldwych tube station (originally Strand Station) of the London Underground transit system closes after 88 years.
1999 Japan's second-worst nuclear accident occurs at a uranium processing facility in Tokai-mura, killing two technicians.
2009 Earthquakes in Sumatra kill more than 1,115 people.

Non Sequitur


Pakistani girl shot by Taliban honored at Harvard

Malala Yousafzai, waves to onlookers after speaking at a news conference on the Harvard University campus in Cambridge, Mass. on Friday, Sept. 27, 2013. The Pakistani teenager, an advocate for education for girls, survived a Taliban assassination attempt in 2012 on her way home from school. (AP Photo/Jessica Rinaldi) 
The Pakistani girl who survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban has been honored as Harvard University's humanitarian of the year.
Malala Yousafzai, an outspoken proponent for girls' education, was at Harvard on Friday to accept the 2013 Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian Award. Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust said she was pleased to welcome Malala because of their shared interest in education.
Malala was shot in the head last October. Militants said she was attacked because she criticized the Taliban, not because of her views on education.
The 16-year-old Malala said she hopes to become a politician because politicians can have influence on a broad scale.
She spoke nostalgically about her home region, the Swat Valley, and said she hopes to return someday. She called it a "paradise" but described a dangerous area where militants blew up dozens of schools and sought to discourage girls from going to school by snatching pens from their hands. Students, she said, reacted by hiding their books under their shawls so people wouldn't know they were going to school.
"The so-called Taliban were afraid of women's power and were afraid of the power of education," she told hundreds of students, faculty members and well-wishers who packed Harvard's ornate Sanders Theater for the award ceremony.
Malala highlighted the fact that very few people spoke out against what was happening in her home region.
"Although few people spoke, but the voice for peace and education was powerful," she said.
Malala also described waking up in a United Kingdom hospital, where she was taken for emergency treatment following the assassination attempt in Pakistan.
"And when I was in Birmingham, I didn't know where I was, I didn't know where my parents are, I didn't know who has shot me and I had no idea what was happening," she said. "But I thank God that I'm alive."
The chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize Committee, Thorbjorn Jagland, paid a special tribute to Malala in a message read publicly during her award ceremony.
"Your courage," Jagland said in the tribute, "is sending a strong message to women to stand up for their rights, which constitutes a precondition for peace."

Why Do Leaves Change Color in the Fall

One of the hallmarks of autumn is the beautiful array of leaves changing color. But why do leaves change from green into reds, oranges, yellows, and browns in the first place? Trace has all the answers.

Meatless in Munich

Oktoberfest Introduces Vegan Food Options

by Friederike Heine
 Meatless in Munich: Oktoberfest Introduces Vegan Food Options
For some 200 years, Oktoberfest has been all about copious amounts of beer and meat. But, this year, organizers are breaking with tradition and reaching out to visitors with dietary restrictions by offering vegan dishes and even vegan wine. More
Say it ain't so!

Did you know ...

About these 4 ways the repugican cabal is attempting to murder democracy

That pretty much nobody wants to defund Obamacare

Damn that online dating, making America politically polarized

Harry Reid Tells Pointless House repugicans, ‘We will not be extorted by tea party anarchists.’

Harry Reid 
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid responded to the news the House repugicans are going to vote against Obamacare for a 43rd time by saying, “The American people will not be extorted by tea party anarchists.”
After House repugicans came out of their brainstorming session with the bright idea to keep trying to get rid of Obamacare, Reid said in a statement:
To be absolutely clear, the Senate will reject both the one-year delay of the Affordable Care Act and the repeal of the medical device tax. After weeks of futile political games from repugicans, we are still at square one: repugicans must decide whether to pass the Senate’s clean CR, or force a Republican government shutdown. Senate Democrats have shown that we are willing to debate and vote on a wide range of issues, including efforts to improve the Affordable Care Act. We continue to be willing to debate these issues in a calm and rational atmosphere. But the American people will not be extorted by tea party anarchists.
Using the exact same language that the president used about being willing to debate anything was a nice touch, but Reid’s message is the same as it was yesterday, last week, last month, and last year. The ACA isn’t going anywhere.
Some Democrats have complained about the lack of leadership at the top of the party, but those complaints never had much merit. If you want to see what a party without leadership really looks like, check out what’s happening over on the repugican side of the street. Democrats aren’t going to give in. The entire House repugican premise is that if they just keep saying no, eventually Democrats will give in and give them what they want.
It seems lost on them that this approach has never worked. What happened each time that House repugicans have done this is that Democrats tell them to grow up, the pressure from the corporate interests and billionaires who fund repugican campaigns gets to be too much, and Boehner manages to cobble together just enough repugican support for Nancy Pelosi to pass a bill in the House that saves us all from disaster.
That’s how it always goes. So far, House repugicans are sticking to the script. They are going to continue to talk tough and pass something that won’t even be considered by the Senate. Democrats are saying no, and now we all will sit around and wait for the House repugicans to cave and pass a clean CR.
Democrats are unified. They have all the leadership, and they hold all of the cards. Once again, the country will be injured because House repugicans want no part of reality. Reid and Obama are leading, and Democrats should be proud to hear their leaders just say no.

The truth be told


NSA has, as the paranoids warned us, been studying the social ties of Americans through our data

Gen. Keith Alexander, National Security Agency director
James Risen and Laura Poitras, two journalists who have experienced first-hand the consequences of pissing off the federal government in the course of performing uncompromising investigative journalism, have a story in the New York Times revealing a new layer of the NSA's domestic surveillance activities. Edward Snowden's leaked documents are the source of the report, which shows that since November 2010, NSA has been mining its vast data collections to "create sophisticated graphs of some Americans’ social connections that can identify their associates, their locations at certain times, their traveling companions and other personal information."
The policy shift was intended to help the agency “discover and track” connections between intelligence targets overseas and people in the United States, according to an N.S.A. memorandum from January 2011. The agency was authorized to conduct “large-scale graph analysis on very large sets of communications metadata without having to check foreignness” of every e-mail address, phone number or other identifier, the document said. Because of concerns about infringing on the privacy of American citizens, the computer analysis of such data had previously been permitted only for foreigners. The agency can augment the communications data with material from public, commercial and other sources, including bank codes, insurance information, Facebook profiles, passenger manifests, voter registration rolls and GPS location information, as well as property records and unspecified tax data, according to the documents. They do not indicate any restrictions on the use of such “enrichment” data, and several former senior Obama administration officials said the agency drew on it for both Americans and foreigners.
N.S.A. officials declined to say how many Americans have been caught up in the effort, including people involved in no wrongdoing. The documents do not describe what has resulted from the scrutiny, which links phone numbers and e-mails in a “contact chain” tied directly or indirectly to a person or organization overseas that is of foreign intelligence interest.

DiFi admits that the NSA is wiretapping the Internet's backbone

Ever since whistleblower Mark Klein revealed that he'd build a secret wiretapping room for the NSA at AT&T's San Francisco switching center, we've known that the NSA was illegally wiretapping the Internet's backbone. But the government has steadfastly denied it. However, as Bruce Schneier documents, Senator Diane Feinstein has let slip that the NSA is tapping the backbone on several occasions, though president Obama continues to deny it. 

FBI: We know you're innocent, but you're not getting off the No-Fly list unless you rat out your friends

An ACLU report on the FBI called Unleashed and Unaccountable details how three ACLU clients were added to the no-fly list, and were told by FBI agents that though they were understood to be innocent of any wrongdoing, they would not be taken off the list unless they agreed to inform on their friends. In one case, the FBI waiting until their victim was in Yemen before sticking him on the no-fly list; they told him he would be stranded there until he agreed to act as an informant.
FBI agents put this pressure on ACLU clients Abe Mashal, a Marine veteran; Amir Meshal; and Nagib Ali Ghaleb. Each of these Americans spoke to FBI agents to learn why they were suddenly banned from flying and to clear up the errors that led to that decision. Instead of providing that explanation or opportunity, FBI agents offered to help them get off the No-Fly List—but only in exchange for serving as informants in their communities.Our clients refused.
The ACLU's report,Unleashed and Unaccountable: The FBI's Unchecked Abuse of Authority, explains what happened to Nagib Ali Ghaleb. Nagib was denied boarding when trying to fly home to San Francisco after a trip to visit family in Yemen. Stranded abroad and desperate to return home, Nagib sought help from the U.S. embassy in Yemen and was asked to submit to an FBI interview. FBI agents offered to arrange for Nagib to fly back immediately to the United States if he would agree to tell the agents who the "bad guys" were in Yemen and San Francisco. The agents insisted that Nagib could provide the names of people from his mosque and the San Francisco Yemeni community. The agents said they would have Nagib arrested and jailed in Yemen if he did not cooperate, and that Nagib should "think about it." Nagib, however, did not know any "bad guys" and therefore refused to spy on innocent people in exchange for a flight home.
Nagib's experience is far from unique. After Abe Mashal was denied boarding at Chicago's Midway Airport, FBI agents questioned him about his religious beliefs and practices.The agents told Abe that if he would serve as an informant for the FBI, his name would be removed from the No-Fly List and he would receive compensation. When Abe refused, the FBI promptly ended the meeting.
Neither Nagib nor Abe present a threat to aviation security. But FBI agents sought to exploit their fear, desperation, and confusion when they were most vulnerable, and to coerce them into working as informants. Moreover, the very fact that FBI agents asked Nagib and Abe to spy on people for the government is yet another indication that the FBI doesn't actually think either man is a suspected terrorist. This abusive use of a government watch list underscores the serious need for regulation, oversight, and public accountability of an FBI that has become unleashed and unaccountable.

The Teflon Man

Teflon man three times charged with murder, three times freed

Three times since 2004, Jackson County prosecutors have charged Marlyn Standifer with murder.
Marlyn Standifer 
And three times he has gone free.
In the one murder case in which a jury found him guilty, the 25-year-old Kansas City man won a new trial after accomplice Marlawn Chaney, who had testified against Standifer, recanted. Chaney said he was the one who shot James Atkinson Sr. to death in January 2007.
In a letter to Standifer’s attorney, Chaney wrote that he needed to “get myself right with God.”
It turned out to be a timely move.
Before Standifer’s second trial in Atkinson’s killing, Chaney was found shot to death on the front porch of a Kansas City house. Without his testimony, a jury acquitted Standifer.
Now Standifer is back in custody, charged in a southeast Kansas City home invasion and attempted robbery that left a victim with multiple gunshot wounds.
That crime earlier this month occurred 15 days after Standifer was released after serving eight months of what was supposed to be a 24-month sentence for probation violations in a federal gun case.
“I wanted to throw up,” Atkinson’s sister Tonia Reid said of hearing that Standifer had been arrested once again.
In two of Standifer’s murder cases, and a handful of others involving nonfatal shootings, court records are no longer available. Records of criminal court cases that end with a dismissal or acquittal are closed to the public.
But attorneys who handled those cases say they were dismissed because witnesses and victims either did not cooperate or could not be found to testify.
Standifer’s first murder charge was filed when he was 16. In January 2005, he was certified to stand trial as an adult in the June 21, 2004, killing of Ronald Taylor and assault of two other people.
Taylor was shot to death during an apparent attempted robbery near 29th Street and Flora Avenue, and Standifer was charged with second-degree murder along with another man, Gemayel Martin.
Martin, whose fingerprint was recovered from the car Taylor was in when he was killed, later entered a plea to a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter.
But the case against Standifer was dismissed because the only witness disappeared, according to Dan Miller, an attorney in private practice who handled the case while he was an assistant Jackson County prosecutor.
“When it was all said and done there were no witnesses,” Miller said.
In January 2007, Atkinson, the father of three young sons, was found shot to death at 30th Street and Lister Avenue.
Standifer, Chaney and another man were implicated as suspects. The night before Atkinson was found dead, surveillance video showed him and Standifer entering a hospital together. According to court documents, Standifer was wearing a sweatshirt with the words: “Felons with guns. One will get you five. None will get you killed.”
He was wearing the same shirt when detectives questioned him a few days later.
Standifer remained free while detectives built their case. Within months, he was charged in federal court with being an illegal drug user in possession of a firearm during a March 2007 shooting and with participating in an April 2007 kidnapping scheme that ended with one of his accomplices shot dead by the would-be victim.
Standifer and three others were charged with murder for the death of their companion, Keith Wooden, because it occurred during the commission of a dangerous crime.
By then, prosecutors also had charged him with first-degree murder in the death of Atkinson after Chaney gave a statement to police. Chaney said Standifer shot Atkinson because he didn’t pay for drugs.
In June 2007, Standifer pleaded guilty to the federal gun charge, and in March 2008, he was sentenced to the five years in prison presaged by his “felons with guns” sweatshirt.
For the two murder cases pending in Jackson County, Chase Higinbotham, an attorney in private practice, was appointed as a special prosecutor. Higinbotham also was assigned to handle two assault-robbery cases involving Chaney.
In October 2009, a jury found Standifer guilty of first-degree murder in Atkinson’s death. In December of that year, he was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Efforts to prosecute Standifer for the assault-robbery cases and the kidnapping-murder case, however, were thwarted by witness and victim noncooperation, Higinbotham said.
“Not one person came forward to testify,” he said, so those cases had to be dismissed.
Standifer remained in custody for the Atkinson murder conviction, which he appealed to the Missouri Court of Appeals. The appeal was pending when Chaney sent his confession letter to Standifer’s attorney in July 2010.
“I was high that night, but I can’t let my friend go down for something I did,” Chaney wrote.
Based on that letter, the appeals court sent Standifer’s case back to Jackson County for a hearing to determine whether he should get a new trial. Chaney, who was in custody on an unrelated robbery, testified at that hearing and a judge granted Standifer’s request for a new trial.
Shortly after that, Chaney was released from custody. In September 2011, he was found shot to death on the front porch of a vacant house in the 1800 block of Newton Avenue.
“He was shot execution-style,” Higinbotham recalled.
That killing remains unsolved.
Because Chaney was no longer available to testify, the judge ruled that none of his statements could be used at the second trial. Without that testimony, Higinbotham said, no evidence supported the premeditated murder charge.
Higinbotham amended the charge to second-degree murder, but in August 2012, jurors found Standifer not guilty.
He was released from state custody and taken into federal custody to serve the sentence in the gun case. However, Higinbotham said, federal prison authorities gave Standifer credit for some of the time he had already served and he was almost immediately released.
In November 2012, he was cited for violating conditions of his release, and in January a federal judge sentenced him to an additional 24 months.
But once again, federal prison officials calculated that he should receive credit for some of the time he had previously served, and Standifer was released on Sept. 5.
On the morning of Sept. 20, Standifer allegedly accosted a man taking out trash in the 7100 block of East 111th Terrace and ordered him at gunpoint to knock on the door of a neighbor’s house, according to court documents.
He knocked, and when the neighbor looked out and saw what was going on, he ran to a bedroom and grabbed a gun of his own. According to court documents, Standifer allegedly forced the man he had originally accosted inside, and yelled at the homeowner, “You got 10 seconds before this turns into a murder scene.”
The homeowner said that when he came out of the bedroom, Standifer fired at him and the homeowner fired back, according to court documents. The man who had been accosted outside was struck by several shots but survived.
Standifer and several co-defendants fled in a vehicle but were arrested after a chase, according to court documents. He is charged with attempted robbery, kidnapping, burglary and armed criminal action and is being held on a $250,000 cash bond.
Court records do not list a current attorney for Standifer, and police and prosecutors declined to discuss his criminal history because of the pending case.
But members of Atkinson’s family said they are still angry about what happened in their case, and hope Standifer will be convicted of the charges he faces.
“He needs to be off the streets and off the streets for a long time,” said Atkinson’s father, Harold Atkinson

Setting blurred images in motion improves perception

Blurred images that are unidentifiable as still pictures become understandable once the images are set in motion. That’s because of a phenomenon called “optic flow”—which may be especially relevant as a source of visual information […]

Oxytocin could make us more accepting of others

Oxytocin – often referred to as the ‘love hormone’ because of its ability to promote mother-infant attachment and romantic bonding in adults – could also make us more accepting of other people, as found in […]

New intravaginal ring guards against HIV infection

It’s often said that the HIV/AIDS epidemic has a woman’s face. The proportion of women infected with HIV has been on the rise for a decade; in sub-Saharan Africa, women constitute 60 percent of people […]

Believe it or not


Polanski Rape Case 'I Don't Feel I Was a Victim'

Polanski Rape Case: 'I Don't Feel I Was a Victim'
When she was 13, Samantha Geimer was raped by Roman Polanski at Jack Nicholson's home in Los Angeles. She has written a new book about that night in 1977 and its aftermath. In an interview she tells why she still doesn't hate the director. More

A bleak future for the wife of a rapist

Excerpts from a grim story in the Wall Street Journal:
Akshay Kumar Singh and three other men were convicted this month of a crime that focused the world's attention on violence against women in India: the gang rape and killing of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student on a bus in December.

For the parents of the woman who died, the sentencing brought a measure of closure. For Ms. Devi, who is in her 20s, and her 2-year-old son, her husband's crime and punishment have opened up a chapter of profound uncertainty.

Ms. Devi expects to be cast out by her in-laws and face ostracism and destitution here in India's conservative hinterland—not because she is married to a convicted murderer, but because she is a woman without a husband. "As a widow, my honor will be lost forever," she says.

Her husband's relatives say they can't afford to feed her. Her parents say they are too poor to take her back. The customs of purdah practiced in the region make it almost impossible for her to work outside the home.

"I am not educated. Our traditions are such that I cannot even step out of the house," Ms. Devi said. "Who will earn money to feed me and my son?"...

Ms. Devi says she can write her name and a few Hindi words, and read a bit. She knew from an early age, she says, what was expected of a woman: to raise children and take care of household tasks...

Since Mr. Singh's December arrest, his family has been thrown into upheaval. His brothers, Vinay and Abhay, who had also been working around Delhi, left their jobs for three months to help out at home, straining household finances. The family's reputation has been damaged.

"They treat us as untouchables," says Abhay Singh, who works in a paint factory in a Delhi suburb...

Ms. Devi doesn't know where to turn. "Is there anyone who is thinking of me?" she asked, crying after learning of the death sentence. "I am alive and I have a small child who is still breathing."

The States Where Women Make the Most (and Least) Compared to Men

The wage gap is a complicated issue, but here's a simple chart showing where it's most severe. 

At some point or another, you've heard the stat that American women earn just 77 cents for every dollar that men make. But what about state to state? Is it as bad in New York as, say, Ohio or Wyoming? In a new report, the Center for American Progress offers up this coast-to-coast breakdown. The pay gap ranges all the way from a low of 15 cents in places like Vermont and Nevada up to 36 cents in Wyoming. (More story after the chart. Also note: CAP tracks what women earn compared to white men specifically, though that doesn't seem to have changed the average disparity).  
So what does this tell us? Before getting to that, we need to talk a little bit about the raw wage gap as a statistic. Because it has problems. Enough problems that my editor Derek Thompson and I strongly diverge on whether it's even a useful measure. (I think it is, he thinks it isn't.) When someone says women earn 84 cents on the dollar compared to men in New York or 70 cents on the dollar compared to men in Utah, they're comparing all female workers and all male workers at once. As a result, you sort of end up comparing apples and oranges, or in this case, software engineers and elementary school teachers. As a rule, women tend to work in lower-paying careers. They also tend to work fewer hours, thanks largely to family obligations, and often take breaks in their career to take care of children, both of which bring down their pay. When you compare women and men who work in the same kinds of jobs for similar hours and similar years, most (though not all) of the gap disappears. So the graph up above isn't really showing us the states where women face the most discrimination, in the sense of not being paid equally for equal work.*

All of that said, I do think that on a very basic level, it shows us the states where women are having the most luck matching up financially with men, whether it's because public policy gives them a leg up in the labor force, or because the local mix of industries happens to favor women (I don't think it's an accident that hospitality-heavy Florida has a relatively small gap). Though it's not an airtight relationship, for instance, states where women hold a greater percentage of management jobs seem to have a smaller pay gap.
Now, back to that first chart. I think there are two particularly interesting things about it. First, in almost half of all states, the pay gap is within 2 cents of the national average. It's within 4 cents in all but 16. The problem really is similarly severe in most corners of the country, regardless of how the state is governed, or what industries dominate.
And what about the exceptions? Well, it's hard to tell what links them together. I don't know exactly what Alabama, Utah, Louisiana, West Virginia, and have in common that they'd all end up together on the low end of the graph, except maybe religious and cultural conservatism (but then, how do you explain Texas having a smaller than average pay gap?). I'm even less clear what threads together the ten states where women make at least 82 cents for every dollar men earn. It's hard to think of two economies that have less in common than New York and Nevada, yet they're ranked beside one another. All of which I think just goes to reinforce what a tricky issue the wage gap really is.

*Now, I would argue that the way young women are steered away from certain subjects in school, the way they're nudged out and passed over in alpha-male centric industries like finance and tech, and the entrenched social expectation that they handle the bulk child care all impact things like career choice and work hours and could be grouped under the headline of systemic discrimination. And those factors might well vary state to state. But let's not digress too far.

Random Celebrity Photos

Marilyn photographed by Andre De Dienes, 1949
Marilyn photographed by Andre De Dienes, 1949

UN '95% sure' humans cause warming

UN '95% sure' humans cause warmingArctic ice

Scientists are 95% certain that humans are the "dominant cause" of global warming since the 1950s, a landmark report says. 2158
Even though cartographers have a shorter height evaluation for Mount McKinley, the mountain is still growing.

Measuring 'Quake Island'

Quake islandSatellite measures 'quake island'

The "quake island" that rose from the sea off Pakistan this week is pictured clearly in a new satellite image.

Awesome Pictures


Really want to visit here

Water on Mars

Mars RoverWater surprise in Curiosity samples

The Curiosity rover finds a surprising amount of water bound up in Martian soil - a potential resource for future astronaut explorers.

Diet of Easter Islanders Revealed

A surprising lack of seafood found in the peoples' diet.

Mammals threatened by fragmentation

Mammals threatened by fragmentation

Small mammals affected by rainforest fragmentation are likely to be wiped out more quickly than previously thought, scientists warn.

Colonizing Songbirds Lost Sense of Syntax

As one species of European songbird island-hopped to colonize mid-Atlantic archipelagoes over the course of a half million years, their songs lost their sense of syntax. Chaffinches (Fringilla coelebs) on the furthest island of their […]

Animal Pictures


Paul Hancock Photographer

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Daily Drift

The truth be told ...

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Thiruvananthapuram, Mumbai, Guntur, Amedabad, New Delhi, Bhubaneshwar, Aligarh, Shillong, Chennai, Chetput, Kottayam, Ranchi, Bangalore and Udaipur, India
Antanavarivo, Madagascar
Tehran and Karaj, Iran
Colombo and Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka
Bejing, China
Doha, Qatar
Dhaka, Bangladesh
Jakarta, Indonesia
Tokyo, Japan
Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Lagos, Nigeria
Nairobi, Kenya
Manila, Philippines
Woolloongabba, Australia
Lower Hutt, New Zealand

Today in History

1197 Emperor Henry VI dies in Messina, Sicily.
1399 Richard II of England is deposed. His cousin, Henry of Lancaster, declares himself king under the name Henry IV.
1493 Christopher Columbus leaves Cadiz, Spain, on his second voyage to the new world.
1513 Spanish explorer Vasco Nunez de Balboa discovers the Pacific Ocean.
1789 Congress votes to create a U.S. army.
1833 A civil war breaks out in Spain between Carlisists, who believe Don Carlos deserves the throne, and supporters of Queen Isabella.
1850 Mormon leader Brigham Young is named the first governor of the Utah Territory.
1864 Union troops capture the Confederate Fort Harrison, outside Petersburg, Virginia.
1879 Dissatisfied Ute Indians kill Agent Nathan Meeker and nine others in the "Meeker Massacre."
1932 A five-day work week is established for General Motors workers.
1939 Germany and the Soviet Union reach an agreement on the division of Poland.
1941 30,000 Jews are gunned down in Kiev when Henrich Himmler sends four strike squads to exterminate Soviet Jewish civilians and other "undesirables."
1943 Adolf Hitler's book Mein Kampf is published in the United States.
1950 Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev repeatedly disrupts a UN General Assembly meeting with his violent outbursts over intervention in the Belgian Congo, US U2 spy planes, and arms control.
1960 General Douglas MacArthur officially returns Seoul, South Korea, to President Syngman Rhee.
1962 Canada launches its first satellite, Alouette 1.
1962 The popular Argentinian comic strip Mafalda beings publication, in the weekly Primera Plana; focusing on a six-year-old girl (Mafalda) and her friends, it has been called the Argentinian Peanuts.
1966 Chevrolet introduces the Camaro, which will become an iconic car.
1971 Oman joins the Arab League.
1979 John Paul II becomes the first pope ever to visit Ireland.
1990 The YF-22, later named F-22 Raptor, flies for the first time.
1992 Brazilian President Fernando Collor de Mello impeached for corruptions; he was the youngest president in the nation's history, taking office at age 40 in 1990.
2008 Dow Jones Industrial Average plummets 777.68 points in the wake of Lehman Brothers and Washington Mutual bankruptcies, the largest single-day point loss in Wall Street history.
2009 An 8.1 earthquake causes a tidal wave that claims 189 lives in Samoa, American Samoa, and Tonga.

Non Sequitur


Students defeat iPad restrictions, LA school officials have a cow

The Los Angeles Unified School District has decided not to award 300 students for cleverness after the students figured out how to access YouTube and Facebook on the locked-down iPads the district gave them. Instead, the district "put an end to home use of the devices, and district sources say the misbehavior may delay the rollout of the full program."

Keith Alexander affirms his intention to collect all Americans' data

At Thursday's Senate Intelligence Committee hearings, NSA boss Keith Alexander and top spy James Clapper evaded, blocked, and dodged questions from elected reps, making a mockery of the idea that there's any adult supervision of America's spooks. A telling moment came when Mark Udall asked if they ended to collect the records of all Americans, and Alexander said, "I believe it is in the nation's best interest to put all the phone records into a lockbox – yes."
Wyden and his fellow Democrat Mark Udall used the public hearing to press the intelligence chiefs on aspects of the top-secret surveillance infrastructure.
Asked by Udall whether it was the NSA's aim to collect the records of all Americans, Alexander replied: "I believe it is in the nation's best interest to put all the phone records into a lockbox – yes."
He would not be drawn on any past attempts or plans to store cell site data for security reasons. The NSA director evaded repeated questions from Wyden over whether the NSA had either collection of cell site phone data, or planned to do so. Alexander eventually replied: "What I don't want to do senator is put out in an unclassified form anything that is classified."

Did you know ...

That Afghan policewomen say sexual harassment is the norm

That more Americans define themselves as "lower class"

That the rich are getting richer even faster than you think

speaking of rich, the elder shrub was a witness for a gay wedding in Kennebunkport, Maine

The Forgetful Elephant

The Forgetful Elephant:  A Quick History Lesson for Today’s GOP

A Quick History Lesson for Today’s repugican cabal

Today's repugican cabal reminds us of another political party in our nation's history. The repugicans should be cognizant of this history.…

Boner - The Dick In A Box

Lawmakers face a midnight Monday deadline to complete a stopgap spending bill to avoid a partial government shutdown that would keep hundreds of thousands of federal workers off the job, close national parks and generate damaging headlines for repugicans.

The timeline is daunting since House repugican cabal leaders appear all but certain to reject the Senate's attempt at a simple, straightforward stopgap spending bill like those routinely passed since the 1995-96 government shutdowns that screwed repugicans sideways and strengthened the once-at-39% President Bill Clinton.

A 21-hour talkathon by Sen. Ted Cruz, our next president, whipped up the repugican cabal's teabaggers even as it complicated efforts by House repugican cabal leaders to assemble rank-and-file support for a
temporary spending measure.

Cruz wants to derail the spending bill to deny Democrats the ability to strip out the anti-Obamacare provision, a strategy that has put him at odds with sane repugicans who say the move won't work and fear it would spark a shutdown and repugican cabal backlash.

This is one of the slowest moving trainwrecks in recent memory.

can see what's about to happen, but the repugican cabal is still going to crash.

Can you say "Democratic House?" 

The repugican Fascists Will Stop at Nothing Less Than Ending Our Representative Democracy

The threat of a government shutdown and credit default repugicans promise are not about spending, debt and deficit, or even the ACA; it is about ending the…
America’s government is far from perfect, but it worked relatively well until 2009 when repugicans’ raison d’être became neutering the legally elected government at all costs to punish the electorate for choosing an African American man as President. Throughout the President’s tenure, repugicans fabricated one phony debt crisis after another to cripple the government’s ability to operate and keep the economy stagnating regardless the damage to the people. In fact, it is safe to say obstructing governance has been the repugicans’ only goal for four straight years.
Now that the government is due to run out of operating funds and hit its debt limit, repugicans have created another crisis over funding the government, paying the nation’s debt, and a three year-old health law they claim is an existential threat to the nation. However, the looming threat of a government shutdown and credit default repugicans promise are not about spending, debt and deficit, or even the Affordable Care Act; it is about ending the nation’s representative democracy and ushering in fascism and rule by oligarchy.
After the 2008 election repugicans acted as if they won control of Congress and the White House, and attempted to thwart President Obama and Democrats attempt to govern the nation. They have persisted in that vein throughout the President’s tenure and it drove credit rating agency S&P to downgrade America’s credit because “repugican political brinkmanship had shown evidence of America’s governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable.” When repugicans revealed their ransom demands to raise the debt ceiling on Wednesday, they exposed their disregard for democracy and revealed their only goal is fundamentally transforming the way America is governed; even if they have to decimate the economy to achieve their goal.
It is obvious that repugicans reject the results of the last election or they would not threaten to rule by destroying the nation’s economy. Americans should not underestimate the repugicans’ threat because there is just enough support for a default that analysts including Chris Krueger from Guggenheim Partners,  warned on Wednesday that “there is a 40% chance of a credit default scenario as a result of the looming fight over raising the debt ceiling.” Krueger did not inspire confidence that repugicans will pull back their threat because he continued that “the path forward on the debt ceiling remains a total mystery and our 60% probability that the U.S. will not enter into default is based on nothing more than blind faith.” Krueger’s blind faith aside, there are an overwhelming number of repugican and teabag voters supporting a default, and enough congressional repugicans willing to vote against raising the debt limit that the 40% figure is a serious threat to the nation’s economy. Crashing the economy may seem risky for demanding enactment of their agenda, but repugicans are intent on satisfying their wealth donors’ vision for America.
The repugican list of demands for raising the debt ceiling has nothing to do with the nation’s debt, and everything to do with implementing every single repugican legislative proposal for the past two years and the rnc platform voters rejected last November. Whether it is eliminating the EPA’s regulatory oversight, “repealing Obamacare,” eliminating the financial reform law, tax reform according to the Ryan budget, raiding federal employee’s pensions, or approving the Keystone XL pipeline, the ransom demands are a reiteration of Willard Romney’s first day to-do list had he won the presidency. The ransom demands represent the nation’s agenda if repugicans ran the government, but since they are not in charge they have made blowing up the economy a “valid legislative strategy” to rule unchallenged and contrary to the will of the voters.
What Americans are witnessing from repugicans and Koch teabagger extremists is an attempted bloodless (for now) coup d’état with the full faith and credit of the United States the price to pay for adhering to the Constitution’s mandate for running the government. The repugicans are mesmerized by nihilists in the extremist wingnut movement who believe that America’s form of government, and its Constitution, are worthless and so detestable that they have to be destroyed to give wealthy oligarchs power to dictate which laws are enacted according to their fascist vision. Boehner said as much a couple of months ago when he told an interviewer that repugicans primary goal is repealing laws their corporate donors oppose, and the list of ransom demands represent policies Wall Street and the Koch fascists lust for in their “fundamentally transformed” vision of  America.
The Koch brothers, ALEC, and libertarian wing of the cabal have long plotted to dismantle the government departments they regard as standing in their way of controlling the course of the nation, and they found willing assistance from ignorant racists in the teabagger movement to support the fascist takeover. In 1944, Henry A. Wallace defined an American fascist as one who puts money and power ahead of human beings and uses demagogues and stooges as fronts for the power behind the scenes. In 2013, stooges and demagogues are the likes of Sarah Palin, Ted Cruz, and Mike Lee who are fronts for Wall Street and the Koch brothers who are calling the shots behind the scenes.
The repugicans, Wall Street, and the Koch brothers lost the last two Presidential elections, and for the President’s first term they behaved like petulant little brats who took their basketball and stopped the game because they were losing. Now, repugicans and their wealthy backers are willing to puncture the ball, blow up the basketball court, and gun down innocent bystanders on their way home to pout if they lose the debt limit game. It is not governance; it is a group of angry losers willing to destroy the nation’s economy because the other side won the last election and the voters retained the President who demands the nation be governed according to the Constitution and not the libertarian vision of a transformed America controlled by a fascist regime.
The current debt limit and funding crisis are about subverting democracy and ushering in fascism under cover of “protecting Americans from Obamacare” and “reforming successful government programs,” and have nothing to do with governing according to the Constitution. the repugicans, or the Koch brothers, are not running the government, but one would not know it based on their threat to enact their platform or cause a devastating credit default. America has functioned as a representative democracy for 226 years, but repugicans refuse to accept the voters will and appear ready to crash the economy unless their party platform is enacted under duress. President Obama said, “If we continue to set a precedent in which a president —  a Democratic president — where the opposing party controls the House of Representatives, if that president is in a situation in which each time the United States is called upon to pay its bills the other party can simply sit there and say, ‘Well, we’re not gonna pay the bills unless you give us what we want,’ that changes the constitutional structure of this government entirely.”
The President is right, and hopefully he understands that repugicans and their fascist supporters want to change the structure of this government from the constitutionally mandated representative democracy to fascism by oligarchs. With a 40% chance of repugicans following through on their threat of a credit default, one hopes the President has a plan to save the economy because with only a 60% chance America resolves its debt obligation unscathed, it will take more than blind faith to hope America survives.

House repugican: Huge farm subsidies for me, no food stamps for you

by Laura Clawson

By now, anti-food stamp crusader Rep. Stephen Fincher is notorious for raking in millions in farm subsidies while misquoting the Bible in favor of deep cuts to SNAP. But let's not forget that he's far from alone among House repugicans in voting to take food from the poor while happily taking farm subsidies for himself.

Another repugican congresswoman who voted to make cuts to the food stamp program was Vicky Hartzler of Missouri. Her farm received more than $800,000 in Department of Agriculture subsidies from 1995-2012. In 2001, her farm received $135,482 in subsidies.

Kristi Noem of South Dakota, who also voted to make cuts to the program, was a partner in Racota Valley Ranch, her family’s farm and previously had nearly a 17% stake through 2008.
The farm received $3.4 million in subsidies from 1995-2012. The Environmental Working Group, which analyzes subsidy data, says the “estimated amount of subsidies attributed to Noem from 1995-2012 is $503,751.”

JPMorgan may pay $11B Fine

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon met with Eric Holder as the nation's biggest bank attempts to end federal and state investigations into its liability for swindling billions of dollars out of millions of people by selling shoddy mortgage securities.

JPMorgan is hoping to ease some of the pressure that regulators have been putting on the bank for more than a year.

The bank avoided the worst losses in the financial crisis, but it has been under intense scrutiny since May 2012, when it said it was losing money on derivatives bets that became known as the "London Whale" trades.

Those trades ended up costing the bank more than $6.2 billion before taxes, and subsequent probes into how the losses happened revealed that Dimon had a dysfunctional relationship with regulators.

The meeting between Dimon and Holder, the worst negotiator in American history, marks another step in the nation's attempts to sort out responsibility for the financial crisis that hit five years ago.

The meeting follows negotiations this week between JPMorgan and federal and state authorities over the bank paying as much as $7 billion in cash and $4 billion in consumer for their crimes.

Is Eric Holder too stupid to learn or is he getting a cut?

If nobody goes to jail, I guarantee the banksters will continue swingling us.

If nobody goes to jail, the only thing that will happen is JPMorgan's stock will go UP
because  with this "pressure" off their backs, they can get back to swindling poor folks out of their homes.

If nobody goes to jail, why stop?

Judge requires patent troll to explain its "Mr Sham" business

Patent trolls are mushrooming all over the world, thriving on the billions that they're able to extract from productive companies with their absurd patents and transparent extortion attempts. One of the only defenses society has against these parasites is the rare, clueful judge. Enter Judge William Alsup, who made history in the Oracle v Google shitshow, when his experience actually writing code let him see through Oracle's bizarre arguments and cut to the heart of the argument.
Now Alsup is back in the saddle, hearing a case involving "Network Protection Sciences," a troll who tried to engineer a hearing in the notorious East Texas courtroom that is the most favorable venue for trolling litigation, by renting out a closet in the area as its "offices" and naming the building's real-estate broker as the company's "director of business development." Alsup saw right through this, and required the trolls to explain, in fine detail, the workings of their "Mr. Sham" operation.
THE COURT: You're on the verge of losing this entire motion, and going to the Federal Circuit, with a lot of money against you. So if you want this to live to fight another day, you ought to listen to me for a moment. The best you can hope for is that the jury's going to decide this; but for the jury to decide the sham nature of this closet in Texas, they're going to have to understand why somebody would want to do this. So an expert is somebody you need to have explain it. This is going to be part of your case.
[COUNSEL]: No, Your Honor, it's not.
THE COURT: Well, then, it will be part of their case.
[COUNSEL]: Why is that relevant to the issue of patent infringement?
THE COURT: If we're going to try ownership here, and all of these issues about whether or not this guy was a sham, or not, the jury's got to understand the background of why it was or was not a sham.
[COUNSEL]: Well, Your Honor --
THE COURT: You're not going to be able to skate by, with -- beat this motion, and then get it somehow excluded at trial. For goodness' sakes.
[COUNSEL]: Well, how is it relevant to the issues that are at trial?
THE COURT: You've got to prove ownership. It's your burden.
[COUNSEL]: And you prove ownership by an assignment; not by -- not by showing --
THE COURT: It may not be valid, Counsel.
[COUNSEL]: But that will be resolved.
THE COURT: No, it's not going to be resolved. You're asking that it be resolved by the jury. I heard you say it a moment ago.
[COUNSEL]: No, Your Honor. I'm sorry.
THE COURT: Well, maybe now you're taking it back. It's on the record. I heard it. So on appeal you can make that point; but this jury is going to hear all of this stuff about the closet. And you're going to have to explain why "Mr. Sham" was signing these documents.

Poker cheats used infra-red contact lenses and cards marked with invisible ink

An Italian man has been sentenced to two years in prison after using infra-red contact lenses to count cards marked with invisible ink, in a poker scam. The self-styled "player and cheat of international renown" impressed even the presiding judge for his sophisticated use of "old techniques and high-end technology" to win thousands of pounds at a casino in the French Côte d'Azur resort of Cannes. The court in Grasse heard how Stefano Ampollini, 56 – code name Parmesan – turned up to "Les Princes" casino in the Mediterranean resort in August 2011, wearing a set of infra-red contact lenses purchased online from China for 2,000 euros.
Opposite him on the other side of the stud poker table was a discreet accomplice, code name "The Israeli", who sniffed or snorted to help Ampollini choose the right cards. Two corrupt casino staff members had already marked the cards with invisible ink. Thanks to his special contact lenses, the card shark was then able to keep track of the game, racking up 70,000 euros between them without being caught.

"Casino security found his behavior rather strange as he won very easily and, above all, because he folded twice when he had an excellent hand, suggesting he knew the croupier's cards," said Marc Concas, lawyer for the Groupe Lucien Barrière, which owns the casino. They called the betting police, who launched an investigation. Thanks to telephone surveillance, they worked out that staff members had handed cards over to the Italians who had marked them with invisible ink. They were then placed under cellophane and returned to the casino cupboard, ready for use. When the Italian returned alone two months later, he won 21,000 euros for himself, but was then arrested by police as he left the casino.
Ampollini reportedly smiled as presiding judge Marc Joando marvelled at his sophisticated exploits. That did no stop the court on Wednesday slapping Ampollini with a two-year prison sentence, and 100,000-euro fine. Two other Italians were also convicted. Gianfranco Tirrito, 55, described as an elegant "professional cheat" and "probably the mastermind", was handed down a three-year prison term and 100,000-euro fine. Rocco Grassanno, 57, who claimed to have come to the Côte d'Azur "for tourism and to meet beautiful women", received a 30-month sentence and a 50,000 euro-fine.