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

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Daily Drift

Well, what do you know ...

Some of our readers today have been in:
Gorzow Wielkopolski, Poland
Fethiye, Turkey
Lahore, Pakistan
Birmingham. England
Koprivinica, Croatia
Waterloo, Canada
Poznan, Poland
Kuching, Malaysia
Nicosia, Cyprus
Windsor, Canada
Hanoi, Vietnam
Ankara, Turkey
Bordeaux, France
Nanjing, China
Sialkot, Pakistan
Ipoh, Malaysia
Izmit, Turkey
Bangkok, Thailand
Yerevan, Armenia
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Cape Town, South Africa
San Jose, Costa Rica
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Istanbul, Turkey
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Cairo, Egypt
Sanitago, Chile
Jakarta, Indonesia
Quezon City, Philippines
Vienna, Austria
Puchong, Malaysia
Aguadilla, Puerto Rico
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Amman, Jordan
Jawa, Indonesia
Warsaw, Poland
Manchester, England
Luqa, Malta

Today is National Chocolate-Covered Cherry Day

Don't forget to visit our sister blog!

Today in History

1521 Martin Luther is excommunicated from the Catholic Church.
1777 General George Washington defeats the British led by British General Lord Charles Cornwallis, at Princeton, New Jersey.
1861 Delaware rejects a proposal that it join the South in seceding from the Union.
1903 The Bulgarian government renounces the Treaty of Commerce tying it to the Austro-Hungarian empire.
1910 The Social Democratic Congress in Germany demands universal suffrage.
1912 Plans are announced for a new $150,000 Brooklyn stadium for the Trolley Dodgers baseball team.
1916 Three armored Japanese cruisers are ordered to guard the Suez Canal.
1920 The last of the U.S. troops depart France.
1921 Italy halts the issuing of passports to those emigrating to the United States.
1924 King Tutankhamen's sarcophagus is uncovered near Luxor, Egypt.
1930 The second conference on Germany's war reparations begins at the Hague, in the Netherlands.
1931 Hundreds of farmers storm a small town in depression-plagued Arkansas demanding food.
1933 The Japanese take Shuangyashan, China, killing 500 Chinese.
1946 President Harry S. Truman calls on Americans to spur Congress to act on the on-going labor crisis.
1958 The British create the West Indies Federation with Lord Hailes as governor general.
1959 Alaska is admitted into the Union as the 49th and largest state.
1959 Fidel Castro takes command of the Cuban army.
1961 The United States breaks diplomatic relations with Cuba.
1966 Cambodia warns the United Nations of retaliation unless the United States and South Vietnam end intrusions.
1978 North Vietnamese troops reportedly occupy 400 square miles in Cambodia. North Vietnamese Army (NVA) troops were using Laos and Cambodia as staging areas for attacks against allied forces.
1985 President Ronald Reagan condemns a rash of arson attacks on abortion clinics.

Non Sequitur


Babies Start Learning Language Before Being Born

Little kids sure pick up languages fast - but what you probably don't know is that even newborn are linguistic whizzes from learning the sounds of their mother tongue while in utero:
Research led by Christine Moon, a professor of psychology at Pacific Lutheran University, shows that infants, only hours old showed marked interest for the vowels of a language that was not their mother tongue.
"We have known for over 30 years that we begin learning prenatally about voices by listening to the sound of our mother talking," Moon said. "This is the first study that shows we learn about the particular speech sounds of our mother's language before we are born."
Before the study, the general consensus was that infants learned about the small parts of speech, the vowels and the consonants, postnatally. Moon added. "This study moves the measurable result of experience with individual speech sounds from six months of age to before birth," she said. The findings will be published in Acta Paediatrica in late December.

With the new year, more than 400 weird laws go into effect in the US

A number of news organizations are running "oddly enough" items this week about the hundreds of weird laws that went into effect on January 1, 2013. Among them: Registered sex offenders in Illinois will no longer be allowed to dress up as Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny or give out candy on Halloween. And in California and Illinois, employers will no longer be permitted to demand that employees and job applicants cough up their social networking passwords or non-public online account info.  

New Jersey Governor Christie blasts fellow repugican Boehner

In this photo provided by the Office of the Governor of New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie speaks at a news conference at New Jersey's State House on Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013, in Trenton, N.J. Christie blasted fellow Republican John Boehner for the House Speaker's decision Tuesday to delay a vote on Superstorm Sandy relief and says the inaction is "inexcusable." Republican Rep. Peter King of New York on Wednesday said Boehner has promised votes to aid victims of Superstorm Sandy by Jan. 15. (AP Photo/New Jersey Governor's Office, Tim Larsen)  
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican who has praised President Barack Obama's handling of Superstorm Sandy, on Wednesday blasted U.S. House Speaker John Boehner for delaying a vote for federal storm relief.
In an emotional but measured State House news conference, Christie called the speaker's inaction "inexcusable," and said he can no longer believe information he's getting from congressional leaders who had assured him the bill would be brought to a vote.
He accused his party of paying too much attention to "palace intrigue" and said the delay in passing a $60 billion relief bill is hurting the people in his state. New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut suffered the most damage from Sandy.
"There's only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims, the House majority and their speaker, John Boehner," Christie said, reading from prepared remarks rather than giving one of his trademark impromptu takedowns of a critic. "This is not a Republican or a Democratic issue. National disasters happen in red states and blue states, states with Democratic governors and Republican governors."
The day's message once again cast Christie as someone willing to go against big-wigs in his party.
As he has since the storm ripped up parts of New Jersey's shore and other areas on Oct. 29, Christie said his mission is to help the people of his state recover, not to serve his party.
But once again, he's in an unusual political position for someone on the national stage, though he was right in line with New Jersey officials of both parties who expressed anger Wednesday over the House inaction.
Christie, a high-profile Republican who flirted in 2011 with running against Obama, a Democrat, was a top campaign attraction for Republican candidates this year and a headliner at the National Republican Convention. He publicly praised Obama for his post-storm leadership, and literally embraced him.
It became the stuff of "Saturday Night Live" satire. Some conservatives said Christie's tightness with the president, even as he endorsed Republican Mitt Romney, could have tilted the election.
Now, he is in a public battle with Boehner, the highest-ranking Republican in Congress. Christie's news conference came hours after a phone conversation he said he had with Boehner; he would not say what they told one another.
At the news conference, he directed a comment to Boehner: "Do your job and come through for the people of this country."
Even before word came out Wednesday afternoon that Boehner was planning a vote on the aid by Jan. 15, Christie said assurances like those don't mean anything to him now.
"There is no reason for me at the moment to believe anything they tell me because they've been telling me stuff for weeks and they haven't delivered," said Christie.
Christie said the House was playing politics with the aid and that it's hurting people in the three East Coast states who are relying on aid decisions to be able to repair their homes, reopen businesses and make decisions about how to rebuild after the storm of two months ago.
Should he decide to seek the presidency in 2016, Christie's stance — putting loyalty to his oath of office over party orthodoxy — could pay dividends with a general electorate that generally disdains Washington and anyone considered an insider.
Julian E. Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, said Christie's attack was emblematic of a division emerging in the Republican Party between the more conservative members who are calling for spending cuts wherever and whenever possible and "more pragmatic" members of the party who think that spending is needed in certain instances.
"This is an example of another moment of him separating himself from a section of the GOP that is not very well-liked right now," Zelizer said of Christie. "I don't think it's politics. I think it's general frustration."
But by taking on the Republican leadership and the tea party, Christie could be setting himself up for problems down the road if he tries to seek the nomination of a party that doesn't look kindly on those who break from its ranks.
Gigi Liaguno-Dorr, who lives in the devastated Union Beach, was furious with how little attention — and aid — her blue-collar community has received.
"Do they not want a bill because they don't understand how bad it is here?" she asked. "Is it out of sight, out of mind?"
She also criticized Christie for not visiting her town, though he did mention it Wednesday as a place where a delay in aid would have real effects.

Rep. King: “Anyone from NY & NJ who contributes one penny to repugican cabl is out of their mind”

As you may already know, the Republican party killed a multi-billion dollar Hurricane Sandy relief bill last night, to the shock of the entire northeast of the country, the media, and politicians of both political parties.  President Obama even urged this morning that the GOP House pass the legislation today (see his statement below).To add insult to injury, House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (r-KY) told CNN that there’s “no immediate needs” for the money. Tell that to the hundreds of thousands of families ravaged by Hurricane Sandy.
Remember that repugican presidential candidate Mitt Romney proposed dismantling FEMA in the middle of Hurricane Sandy (he proposed it during the repugican debates, then reaffirmed it during Sandy).
There’s video of King – a quite prominent repugican House member – losing it on CNN over this Hurricane Sandy debacle, below. Here’s a quick snippet in quote.
Rep. Peter King (r-NY):
“I’m saying right now, anyone from New York and New Jersey who contributes one penny to congressional repugicans is out of their mind. Because what they did last night was put a knife in the back of New Yorkers and New Jersyans. It was an absolute disgrace.”
“They wonder why they’re becoming a minority party, why we’re gonna be a party in a permanent minority. What they did last night was so immoral, so disgraceful, so irresponsible. They’re supposed to be the party of family values, and you have families that are starving, families that are suffering, families that are spread all over, living in sub standard housing. This was a disgrace. They are inexcusable and they’ve had it. As far as I’m concerned, I’m on my own, they’re gonna have to go a long way to get my vote on anything.”
President Obama weighed in this morning, urging the House to pass the Hurricane Sandy relief belief asap:
It has only been two months since Hurricane Sandy devastated communities across New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut as well as other eastern states. Our citizens are still trying to put their lives back together. Our states are still trying to rebuild vital infrastructure. And so, last month, working closely with the Governors of the affected states, I sent Congress an urgent request to support their efforts to rebuild and recover. The Senate passed this request with bipartisan support. But the House of Representatives has refused to act, even as there are families and communities who still need our help to rebuild in the months and years ahead, and who also still need immediate support with the bulk of winter still in front of us.
When tragedy strikes, Americans come together to support those in need. I urge Republicans in the House of Representatives to do the same, bring this important request to a vote today, and pass it without delay for our fellow Americans.

Boehner agrees to Sandy aid vote on Friday

FILE - In this Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, file photo, Robert Connolly, left, embraces his wife Laura as they survey the remains of the home owned by her parents that burned to the ground in the Breezy Point section of New York, during Superstorm Sandy. The current term of the U.S. Congress is set to end this week with no action on aid for the superstorm that left more than 100 dead and thousands homeless in three northeast states. Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York and Chris Christie of New Jersey said in a joint statement Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013 that the "continued inaction and indifference" by the House "'is inexcusable." (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
Under intense pressure from angry repugicans, House Speaker John Boehner agreed Wednesday to a vote this week on aid for Superstorm Sandy recovery.
The speaker will schedule a vote Friday for $9 billion for the national flood insurance program and another on Jan. 15 for a remaining $51 billion in the package, repugican Rep. Peter King of New York said after emerging from a meeting with Boehner and repugican lawmakers from New York and New Jersey. The votes will be taken by the new Congress that will be sworn in Thursday.
King left the session with Boehner without the anger that led him to rip into the speaker Tuesday night.
"It was a very positive meeting," King said, adding that Boehner, r-Ohio, assured the lawmakers present that the money from the two House votes would roughly equal the $60 billion package of aid that passed the Senate.
Since the votes will be taken in the new Congress, the Senate also will have to approve the legislation. If the House, as expected, approves the $9 billion flood insurance proposal, the Senate plans to move quickly in hopes of approving the aid on a voice vote Friday. The flood insurance money will help pay for claims by home and business owners with coverage.
Sandy was the most costly natural disaster since Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and one of the worst storms ever in the Northeast.
"Getting critical aid to the victims of Hurricane Sandy should be the first priority in the new Congress, and that was reaffirmed today with members of the New York and New Jersey delegations," Boehner said in a joint statement with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, r-Va.
Boehner's decision Tuesday night to cancel an expected vote on Sandy aid before Congress ends its current session provoked a firestorm of criticism from New York, New Jersey and adjacent states where the money will go, including many lawmakers in his own party.
According to King, Boehner explained that after the contentious vote to avoid major tax increases and spending cuts called the "fiscal cliff," Boehner didn't think it was the right time to schedule the vote before the current Congress went out of business.
"What's done is done. The end result will be New York, New Jersey and Connecticut will receive the funding they deserve. We made our position clear last night. That's in the past," King said.
Rep. Chris Smith, r-N.J., added, "We do believe we have an iron clad commitment."
The Senate approved a $60.4 billion measure Friday to help with recovery from the October storm that devastated parts of New York, New Jersey and nearby states. The House Appropriations Committee has drafted a smaller, $27 billion measure for immediate recovery needs and a second amendment for $33 billion to meet longer-term needs.
The $9 billion in flood insurance money to be voted on Friday was originally in the $27 billion measure. The votes on Jan. 15 will be for $18 billion in immediate assistance and $33 billion for longer-term projects, including projects to protect against future storms, King said.
Much of the money in the proposals is for immediate help for victims and other recovery and rebuilding efforts. The aid is intended to help states rebuild public infrastructure such as roads and tunnels and help thousands of people displaced from their homes.
Some $5.4 million is for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster relief fund, $5.4 billion is to help transit agencies in New York and New Jersey rebuild and another $3.9 billion is for the Housing and Urban Development Department's development fund to repair hospitals, utilities and small businesses.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a repugican, was among those sharply criticizing Boehner before the speaker changed course.
Christie said he was frustrated after Boehner withdrew the bill Tuesday night and tried to call him four times that night, but none of the calls were returned. Christie complained about the "toxic internal politics" of the House majority. Christie said he had worked hard to persuade House members to support Sandy aid, and was given assurances by repugican leaders that the bill would be voted on before Thursday.
"There is no reason for me at the moment to believe anything they tell me," Christie said before Boehner announced there would be votes this month.
King had branded Boehner's initial decision to pull the bill a "cruel knife in the back" to New York and New Jersey.
King was among an angry chorus of New York and New Jersey lawmakers from both parties who blasted Boehner, with some saying his move was a "betrayal."
In considering the Sandy aid package, the speaker was caught between conservative lawmakers who want to offset any increase in spending and Northeast and mid-Atlantic lawmakers determined to help their states recover more than two months after the storm hit.
The criticism of Boehner on the House floor was personal at times, and reflected in part the frustration among the rank-and-file over the decision to press ahead with a vote on the fiscal cliff deal engineered by the White House and Senate repugican leader Mitch McConnell. Boehner had been struggling with conservatives who complained that the economic package didn't include enough spending cuts.
Reps. Michael Grimm, a repugican, and Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat, said in angry House floor remarks that while they did not agree on much, Boehner's decision amounted to a "betrayal" and a crushing blow to states battered by the storm.
President Barack Obama also called for an immediate House vote. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., raised the political temperature even more. She said Boehner should come to Staten Island and the Rockaways to explain his decision to families whose homes and businesses were destroyed. "But I doubt he has the dignity nor the guts to do it," Gillibrand said.
Obama, meanwhile, called for House repugicans to vote on the Sandy aid "without delay for our fellow Americans." The president said in a written statement that many people in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are trying to recover from the storm and need "immediate support with the bulk of winter still in front of us."
The White House said Obama spoke Wednesday with Christie about the importance of the disaster aid bill, and that the president's staff was in touch with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's team too as Obama lobbied for House action.
Christie and Cuomo, a Democrat, issued a joint statement, saying, "The fact that days continue to go by while people suffer, families are out of their homes, and men and women remain jobless and struggling during these harsh winter months is a dereliction of duty."
Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., blamed tea party lawmakers and conservatives who were reluctant to approve new spending soon after the debate over the "fiscal cliff" budget issues for the sudden move by repugican leaders. He said the move was "deplorable."
More than $2 billion in federal funds has been spent so far on relief efforts for 11 states and the District of Columbia struck by the storm, one of the worst ever to hit the Northeast. The Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster relief fund still has about $4.3 billion, enough to pay for recovery efforts into early spring, according to officials. The unspent FEMA money can only be used for emergency services, said Pallone.
New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, District of Columbia, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, New Hampshire, Delaware, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts are receiving federal FEMA aid.
Sandy was blamed for at least 120 deaths and battered coastline areas from North Carolina to Maine. New York, New Jersey and Connecticut were the hardest hit states and suffered high winds, flooding and storm surges. The storm damaged or destroyed more than 72,000 homes and businesses in New Jersey. In New York, 305,000 housing units were damaged or destroyed and more than 265,000 businesses were affected.

New Hampshire to be first state with all-female congressional delegation

This is a really big deal and exciting news from New Hampshire.It has always bothered me that Congress is so under-represented with women, though 2012 showed real progress.
Even the new Senate will only include 20% women, while the House is a meager 18%.
In the case of New Hampshire, Democrats are doing an impressive job with putting women in a position to win. This is not a fake “binders full of women” that repugicans talk about, but something real.
Ann McLane Kuster
Ann McLane Kuster, Democrat, US House
Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat, US Senator
Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat, US Senator
Carol Shea-Porter, Democrat, US House
Carol Shea-Porter, Democrat, US House
Kelly Ayotte, Republican, US Senate
Kelly Ayotte, repugican, US Senate
The NYT reports that the governor, the speaker of the State House, and the chief justice of the state Supreme Court are all women as well.
We need a lot more of this.
Women won the state’s two Congressional seats. Women already held the state’s two Senate seats. When they are all sworn into office on Thursday, New Hampshire will become the first state in the nation’s history to send an all-female delegation to Washington.
And the matriarchy does not end there. New Hampshire’s new governor is a woman. So are the speaker of the State House and the chief justice of the State Supreme Court.
“Pink is the new power color in New Hampshire,” declared Ann McLane Kuster, one of the newly elected representatives, at a recent forum at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College in Manchester, where the women’s historic milestone was celebrated.

Al-Jazeera buys Current TV from Al Gore

FILE - In this Jan. 13, 2012 file photo, Former Vice President Al Gore, Current TV Chairman and Co-Founder, participates in the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour in Pasadena , Calif. Al-Jazeera, the Pan-Arab news channel that has struggled to win space on American cable television, has acquired Current TV, Gore confirmed Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok, File)Al-Jazeera, the Pan-Arab news channel that struggled to win space on American cable television, has acquired Current TV, boosting its reach in the U.S. nearly ninefold to about 40 million homes. With a focus on U.S. news, it plans to rebrand the left-leaning news network that cofounder Al Gore couldn't make relevant. The former vice president confirmed the sale Wednesday, saying in a statement that Al-Jazeera shares Current TV's mission "to give voice to those who are not typically heard; to speak truth to power; to provide independent and diverse points of view; and to tell the stories that no one else is telling."
The acquisition lifts Al-Jazeera's reach beyond a few large U.S. metropolitan areas including New York and Washington, where about 4.7 million homes can now watch Al-Jazeera English.
Al-Jazeera, owned by the government of Qatar, plans to gradually transform Current into a network called Al-Jazeera America by adding five to 10 new U.S. bureaus beyond the five it has now and hiring more journalists. More than half of the content will be U.S. news and the network will have its headquarters in New York, spokesman Stan Collender said.
Collender said there are no rules against foreign ownership of a cable channel — unlike the strict rules limiting foreign ownership of free-to-air TV stations. He said the move is based on demand, adding that 40 percent of viewing traffic on Al-Jazeera English's website is from the U.S.
"This is a pure business decision based on recognized demand," Collender said. "When people watch Al-Jazeera, they tend to like it a great deal."
Al-Jazeera has long struggled to get carriage in the U.S., and the deal suffered an immediate casualty as Time Warner Cable Inc., the nation's second-largest cable TV operator, announced it is dropping Current TV due to the deal.
"Our agreement with Current has been terminated and we will no longer be carrying the service. We are removing the service as quickly as possible," the company said in a statement.
Previous to Al-Jazeera's purchase, Current TV was in 60 million homes. It is carried by Comcast Corp., which owned less than a 10 percent stake in Current TV, as well as DirecTV. Neither company announced plans to drop the channel.
In 2010, Al-Jazeera English's managing director, Tony Burman, blamed a "very aggressive hostility" from the Bush administration for reluctance among cable and satellite companies to show the network.
Even so, Al-Jazeera has garnered respect for its ability to build a serious news product in a short time. In a statement announcing the deal, it touted numerous U.S. journalism awards it received in 2012, including the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award Grand Prize and the Scripps Howard Award for Television/Cable In-Depth Reporting.
But there may be a culture clash at the network. Dave Marash, a former "Nightline" reporter who worked for Al-Jazeera in Washington, said he left the network in 2008 in part because he sensed an anti-American bias there.
Current, meanwhile, began as a groundbreaking effort to promote user-generated content. But it has settled into a more conventional format of political talk television with a liberal bent. Gore worked on-air as an analyst during its recent election night coverage.
Its leading personalities are former New York Gov. Elliot Spitzer, former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Cenk Uygur, a former political commentator on MSNBC who hosts the show called "The Young Turks." Current signed Keith Olbermann to be its top host in 2011 but his tenure lasted less than a year before it ended in bad blood on both sides.
Current has largely been outflanked by MSNBC in its effort be a liberal alternative to the fake cable news network, Faux News Channel.
Current hired former CNN Washington bureau chief David Bohrman in 2011 to be its president. Bohrman pushed the network to innovate technologically, with election night coverage that emphasized a conversation over social media.
Current TV, founded in 2005 by former vice president Gore and Joel Hyatt, is expected to post $114 million in revenue in 2013, according to research firm SNL Kagan. The firm pegged the network's cash flow at nearly $24 million a year.

Anatomy of a patent troll who wants $1000 from every scanner user in America: patents are totally, utterly broken

Joe Mullin's Ars Technica piece, "Patent trolls want $1,000—for using scanners," is an excellent, blood-boiling piece detailing the ease with which the US patent system can be used for pure extortion. A company -- its identity is shrouded in mystery and hidden behind several layers of obfuscation -- has a series of junk-patents allegedly covering any time anyone scans a document over a network and attaches the scan to an email. That may not, in fact, be what the patents say, but they're written in such absolutely tortured fashion that it's impossible to say.
The company -- and its many alphnumerical subsidiaries -- send invoices to small and medium business, threatening to sue them if they don't pay a per-employee license fee. Any company that fights risks having to pay triple damages for "willful infringement," though the companies that do fight win -- the patents are garbage, there's tons of invalidating prior art. But they still have to pay thousands in legal fees for the privilege of fending off these creeps.
When patent-troll apologists tell you that the patent system is necessary to protect "invention," ask them why the acceptable cost for this protection is allowing any unscrupulous scumbag to use the court system to extract windfalls from productive companies on the basis of having claimed to invented commonplace, existing, obvious technologies.
Vicinanza was able to get in touch with several other Project Paperless targets, suggesting that Project Paperless lawyers were indeed targeting companies based on the list.
Reactions to the letters varied. “Without question, some people were livid,” said Vicinanza. “Some of the smaller ones were scared out of their wits, in addition to being livid.”
Some were ready to fight back, while others had no intention of doing so. One mid-sized Atlanta business in the process of being acquired by a major Silicon Valley tech company paid the Project Paperless demand, no questions asked. Some companies just ignored the letters; others talked to an attorney. It isn’t clear the companies that did speak to their lawyers about the situation actually fared better.
“The patent attorneys typically have a whole different set of objectives,” said Vicinanza. “Now they’re in settlement mode. If the company does end up getting sued and the lawyer said ‘ignore them,’ a company could find themselves paying treble damages. Even my attorneys told me, settle it, you’re crazy to fight.”


Connecticut paper runs gun show ad next to Newtown story

From the "Totally Classless" Department":
This handout photo shows an ad for a gun show adjacent to an article about the Newtown, Conn. school shooting in the Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013 edition of The Advocate of Stamford, Conn. A statement released Thursday by Hearst Connecticut Media Group's publisher Paul Farrell said the ad's placement was an oversight. (AP Photo)
The Hearst Connecticut Media Group apologized Thursday because one of its newspapers ran an ad for an antique gun show next to an article about the Newtown school shooting.
A statement released by Group Publisher Paul Farrell said the ad's placement in The Advocate of Stamford was the result of an oversight.
"Our newspapers should not be running gun ads — including ads for antique and collectible gun shows — next to stories about Sandy Hook. It's insensitive, and it shouldn't have happened," the group said in the statement referring to the Dec. 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School. "We have taken steps to make sure it doesn't happen again."
The ad for the East Coast Fine Arms Show appeared Thursday beside an article about students at the school. The promoter for the gun show, which is scheduled to begin Saturday in Stamford, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
The gunman, Adam Lanza, killed 20 first-graders and six adult staff members at Sandy Hook. He also killed his mother on the morning of the rampage and committed suicide as police arrived. Police have not offered a possible motive.
Adam's father, Peter Lanza, lives in Stamford. He issued a statement the day after the shooting expressing sympathy for the victims' families and saying the family was trying to make sense of what happened.

The truth be told

NRA Web site glorifies violent Hollywood movies after NRA chief criticizes violent Hollywood movies

The NRA has been caught glorifying gun violence in Hollywood movies a little more than a week after NRA head Wayne LaPierre blamed those same movies for helping cause the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre in Newtown, Connecticut in which twenty 6 and 7 year olds were murdered by a proud lover of the Second Amendment.Gosh, you mean the NRA might not have been sincere about trying to curb the real causes of out-of-control gun violence in America? Shocking.
You might recall that on December 21, the Friday after the young “sportsman” shot twenty children to their deaths – each child receiving three bullets in order to absolutely positively guarantee that they were dead a week before Christmas – NRA leader Wayne LaPierre held an infomercial in which he blasted violent Hollywood movies, among other things, for helping to cause the Sandy Hook massacre.
Here’s what La Pierre had to say at the time:
And here’s another dirty little truth that the media try their best to conceal. There exists in this country, sadly, a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and stows [sic] violence against its own people through vicious, violent video games … Add another hurricane, add another natural disaster, I mean, we have blood-soaked films out there like “American Psycho,” “Natural Born Killers.” They’re aired like propaganda loops on “Splatterdays” and every single day…And then they all have the nerve to call it entertainment. But is that what it really is? Isn’t fantasizing about killing people as a way to get your kicks really the filthiest form of pornography?
Apparently, there’s an even dirtier little truth.  The NRA proudly glorifies violent movies in its “National Firearms Museum” at its headquarters in Northern Virginia.
From a new report by Tom Diaz, who visited the NRA’s museum, which was still up and running after the NRA’s LaPierre excoriated those who glorify Hollywood violence.  (Embarrassing.)
For over a decade the NRA has glamorized the use of guns in violent movies. One prime vehicle for the NRA’s promotion of guns and violence has been a series of two exhibits in the National Firearms Museum at the NRA’s national headquarters, located in Fairfax, VA, a suburb of Washington, DC. Both exhibits featured guns used in movies that were described by critics as among the must brutally violent ever made, featuring the sort of grisly mayhem that NRA executive Wayne LaPierre piously denounced as “the filthiest form of pornography” in his December 21, 2012 attack on the movie industry.
As of December 29, 2012—more than a week after LaPierre’s accusatory rant—a personal visit to the museum by the author confirmed that the latter of the two exhibits (“Hollywood Guns”) was still going strong. The NRA was peddling the exhibit brochure in its museum shop.
And there’s even an NRA Web site extolling the museum:
NRA firearms museum
Oh but it gets better. Among the movies the NRA is touting in its exhibit, and showcasing on its Web site, are “Pulp Fiction” and “Reservoir Dogs,” two of the most violent movies ever made.
NRA touts Reservoir Dogs
Yeah, no violence in that image.
NRA touts Pulp Fiction
Here’s a nice clip from Pulp Fiction in which they’re washing a man’s brains and skull out of the inside of their car.
Now who’s the pornographer?

Eating Spaghetti with a Spoon

vThe New York Times sat down with the owners of three Manhattan Italian restaurants to discuss the correct way to eat pasta. They mostly agreed on a few rules: you don't put cheese on a seafood-based dish, you don't break pasta before cooking it, and you don't eat spaghetti with a spoon.
As to the use of a fork plus a spoon for eating pasta, all those at the table were adamant. Spoons are for children, amateurs and people with bad table manners in general.

Egi Maccioni recalled her childhood days of eating pasta. ''My grandparents spent hours teaching me how to eat pasta without using a spoon, how to twirl my fork so that not a strand of spaghetti would be hanging down as I lifted that fork to my mouth.''
Does anyone really ever eat spaghetti with a spoon? The article begins with 1975 advice from Elizabeth Post recommending it, but I'd never heard that before. How you do eat spaghetti? More

Color of Food Container Makes The Food and Drink Tastier

How delicious is that cup of hot chocolate? The answer may lie in the color of the cup as much as the drink itself:
"The colour of the container where food and drink are served can enhance some attributes like taste and aroma," as explained by Betina Piqueras-Fiszman, researcher at the Polytechnic University of Valencia (Spain). Along with her colleague Charles Spence, from the University of Oxford (UK), the scientist has come to the conclusion in the case of drinking chocolate.
Both conducted an experiment in which 57 participants had to evaluate samples of hot chocolate served in four different types of plastic cup. They were the same size but of different colors: white, cream, red and orange with white on the inside.
Published in the Journal of Sensory Studies, the results reveal that the flavor of chocolate served in orange or cream colored cups was better for the tasting volunteers.

The Surprisingly Manly History of Hot Cocoa

Before chocolate candy was developed, cocoa was almost always a drink. And far before chocolate milk became a kid's staple, cacao was a manly beverage, reserved for warriors.
Cacao was cultivated and consumed by the Olmecs and Mayans, but is most famously associated with the Aztec civilization. Montezuma the II, who kept a huge storehouse of cacao (supplied by conquered peoples from whom he demanded the beans as tribute) and drank 50 golden goblets of chocolate a day, decreed that only those men who went to war could imbibe cacao, even if they were his own sons. This limited chocolate consumption to royals and nobles who were willing to fight, merchants (their travels through hostile territory necessitated their taking up of arms), and warriors. For the latter, chocolate was a regular part of their military rations; ground cacao that had been pressed into wafers and could be mixed into water in the field were given to every solider on campaign. The drink provided long-lasting nourishment on the march; as one Spanish observer wrote, “This drink is the healthiest thing, and the greatest sustenance of anything you could drink in the world, because he who drinks a cup of this liquid, no matter how far he walks, can go a whole day without eating anything else.”

All Aztecs thought of both blood and chocolate as sacred liquids, and cacao seeds were used in their religious ceremonies to symbolize the human heart – harkening to their famous ritual in which this still-beating organ was torn from a sacrificial victim’s chest. The connection between blood and chocolate was especially strong for warriors, and it was served at the solemn initiation ceremony of new Eagle and Jaguar knights, who had to undergo a rigorous penance process before joining the most elite orders of the Aztec army.
As chocolate was carried around the world, it was changed considerably, but still made into a manly beverage as nutritious sustenance for Arctic explorers and soldiers at war. The Art of Manliness has an extensive history of hot cocoa and its use, including tips for making yours better.

The true story of the woman who performed mercy abortions at Auschwitz

Gisella Perl was Romanian and Jewish. She was a gynaecologist at a time and place where very few women went into the medical professions. In 1944, she and her entire family were shipped off to Auschwitz, where Perl was instructed to provide medical care for her fellow inmates — medical care that was supposed to happen without even the most basic medical supplies.
In this position, she was officially employed by Josef Mengele, and she saw what happened to women who entered Auschwitz while pregnant. The short answer was death. The long answer was that those deaths were often horrifying and drawn-out. So Gisella Perl gave herself a new job — protecting women by helping them hide evidence of pregnancy and by performing abortions with her bare hands.
I'd never heard Perl's story before. It's heartbreaking. And it's riveting. The Holocaust History Project has a long and well-cited version.

Old-fashioned Analog Film Editing

This contraption is a Steenbeck flatbed editor, used to edit motion picture film before it all went digital. The process was unwieldy compared to modern computer editing, but the old methods gave us a hundred years of art.
The table doesn't actually do any editing in and of itself. It merely controls playback. You would shuttle back and forth to the frame around which you wanted to make a cut, then you would place the film into a splicer which would cut the film with a blade and stamp a piece of tape over the seam. So primitive! We were told as film students that editing the old fashioned way at first would force a more sophisticated understanding of editing. Is that true? Does writing on paper force a greater understanding of the written word?
I can't speak to film editing, but as far as sound editing and writing go, I can say that learning it the old-fashioned way first gives a person a great respect for the individual elements of the art. It also helps one to appreciate the ease of more modern methods! Gizmodo has more, including a video of editing film by splicing.

Inside L.A.'s lost subway

I always forget that Los Angeles has a subway at all, let alone the fact that it used to have a much more extensive one.
Parts of that old subway have sat, abandoned, beneath streets and buildings for decades. They've become part of the stratigraphy of the city, as humans do what humans have always done — build the new on top of the old and forget about what we covered up under there. It's no different than the way Rome was built, with the columns of old buildings serving as the foundations of new ones.
Back in May, blogger Gelatobaby got to go on a tour of one part L.A.'s lost subway, exploring a secret world exposed by renovations on a building that was once the city's main subway terminal. Her photos — including the one posted above — are amazing. Go check out the whole thing.

Lost Cities Forgotten By Time

It's hard to imagine how an entire city can get lost but that's exactly what has happened to the cities on this list. There are actually many reasons why a city has to be abandoned. War, natural disasters, climate change and the loss of important trading partners to name a few. Whatever the cause, these 34 lost cities were forgotten in time until they were rediscovered centuries later.

The 2013 Smart Guide: Arctic melt will spark weird weather

by Fred Pearce for New Scientist
Melting, rather than warming, is likely to be the big climate issue of 2013.
Predictions that a major El Niño warming event - and the coming solar maximum - would help make next year the warmest on record now seem wide of the mark. All eyes will probably be on the Arctic instead. Some say the record loss of sea ice in summer 2012 was a one-off, others that it was the start of a runaway collapse. If the latter, summer sea ice could virtually disappear as early as 2016. What is certain is that the ice reforming now will be the thinnest on record, priming it for destruction next summer.
A new record melt would allow scary satellite images of an even bluer Arctic to coincide with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's next assessment, due in September (though a draft has been leaked - see "What leaked IPCC report really says on climate change"). Such pictures will be a sombre backdrop as the IPCC raises its previously cautious estimates of future polar melting and the speed of sea-level rise.
With warming of at least 2 °C now unstoppable, politicians at the recent Doha climate talks spent much time discussing how to adapt. What they need is predictions for individual countries. But the IPCC will admit that it still cannot say whether many regions will get wetter or drier. And it will quietly bury its confident predictions, made in 2007, of more frequent droughts, which turned out to rest largely on flawed analyses.
There is growing uncertainty, too, about the outlook for the northern hemisphere. Research in 2012 implicated the fast-warming Arctic in a slowing of the jet stream. This is bringing extreme weather to mid-latitudes, including prolonged cold spells in Europe, Russia's 2010 heatwave, and record droughts in the US in 2011 and 2012. Watch out for more weird weather in 2013.

Extraordinary snowfall needed to relieve drought

In this Dec. 28, 2012 photo, corn stalks stand in a snowy field near La Vista, Neb. Despite getting some big storms in December, much of the U.S. is still desperate for relief from the nation’s longest dry spell in decades. And experts say it will take an absurd amount of snow to ease the woes of farmers and ranchers. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
When his drought-stricken Nebraska farm was blanketed with several inches of snow, Tom Schwarz welcomed the moisture. But it wasn't nearly enough. He had hoped for a wet, snowy winter. Instead, he's watched with worry as the sky spits mostly flakes that don't stick.
"I just shudder to think what it's going to be if we don't get snow," Schwarz said. "A friend told me it would take 150 inches of snow to get us back to normal precipitation."
Despite getting some big storms last month, much of the U.S. is still desperate for relief from the nation's longest dry spell in decades. And experts say it will take an absurd amount of snow to ease the woes of farmers and ranchers.
The same fears haunt firefighters, water utilities and many communities across the country.
Winter storms have dropped more than 15 inches of snow on parts of the Midwest and East in recent weeks. Climatologists say it would take at least 8 feet of snow — and likely far more — to return the soil to its pre-drought condition in time for spring planting. A foot of snow is roughly equal to an inch of water, depending on density.
Many areas are begging for moisture after a summer that caused water levels to fall to near-record lows on lakes Michigan and Huron. The Mississippi River has declined so much that barge traffic south of St. Louis could soon come to a halt. Out West, firefighters worry that a lack of snow will leave forests and fields like tinder come spring, risking a repeat of the wildfires that burned some 9.2 million acres in 2012.
Scores of cities that have already enacted water restrictions are thinking about what they will do in 2013 if heavy snows and spring rains don't materialize.
For a while, it seemed no snow would come. Midwestern cities including Chicago, Milwaukee and Des Moines, Iowa, had their latest first snows on record. How much would it take to make things right?
"An amount nobody would wish on their worst enemy," said David Pearson, a National Weather Service hydrologist in Omaha, Neb. "It's so out of this world it wouldn't make much scientific sense (to guess). It would take a record-breaking snowfall for the season to get us back on track."
That's why Schwarz is worried about his 750 acres near Lexington in south-central Nebraska. To save his corn last summer, he pulled water from deep wells and other sources in his irrigation district, but the alfalfa he couldn't irrigate died, something he's never had happen before.
The soil was so dry he didn't even try to sow winter wheat, a crop that's planted in the fall and goes dormant over winter, relying on snow as a protective blanket.
"If we don't get snow, we'd better get rain this spring or we're done," Schwarz said.
The 150 inches — more than 12 feet — isn't likely to materialize. That would be about four times the average winter snowfall in Chicago, a city famous for its storms. Schwarz's area usually gets about 29.5 inches of snow during the winter. As of Dec. 27, it had just 6.5 inches.
Even if a massive storm developed, the temperature would have to be right for farmers to benefit. If snow melts on frozen ground, the water will run off into rivers and streams, instead of being absorbed into the soil.
Runoff would be welcome in Sioux Falls, S.D., which was among countless communities that clamped down on water use last summer as rivers and lakes that supply power plants and households grew shallower.
South Dakota's biggest city imposed its first water restrictions since 2003 as the Big Sioux River, which recharges its aquifers, dropped. Homeowners were limited to watering lawns once a week. Washing outdoor surfaces like sidewalks, driveways and parking lots was banned.
"This is the driest year in our town's history since the early 1950s," Mayor Mike Huether said as 2012 drew to a close.
With just 5 inches of snow and some rain so far this winter, the conservation efforts will be back in place for 2013 "unless we get one heck of a snowfall and bust this drought," Huether said.
Western states rely on snow and ice that accumulate in the mountains during the winter for as much as 80 percent of their freshwater for the year, according to the Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service. The melting snowpack replenishes streams, rivers and reservoirs and provides water for cities and crops.
A deep snowpack can also make the wildfire season more manageable by wetting forests and fields.
Tom O'Connor, the rural fire chief in Divide, Colo., would relish that after enduring what the governor called the state's worst wildfire season ever in 2012.
O'Connor's volunteer department responded to more than 80 calls in June, compared with the usual 30 calls. Three-fourths of the calls were related to wildfires.
The fires came after Colorado got one of its smallest snowpacks in years — by some accounts tying 2002 as the lowest snow buildup in the 45 years that records have been kept.
Still, climatologists caution that it's too early in the winter to give up hope.
"We could be singing a different tune this winter if a storm system cooperates," said Dave Robinson, a Rutgers University geography professor who's also the New Jersey state climatologist. "Sometimes you get what you wish for."

Feds say delay worsened Yellowstone River oil spill in

  Delays in Exxon Mobil Corp.'s response to a major pipeline break beneath Montana's Yellowstone River made an oil spill far worse than it otherwise would have been, federal regulators said in a new report.
The July 2011 rupture fouled 70 miles of riverbank along the scenic Yellowstone, killing fish and wildlife and prompting a massive, months-long cleanup.
The damage could have been significantly reduced if pipeline controllers had acted more quickly, according to Department of Transportation investigators.
Yellowstone Oil SpillThe report, provided to The Associated Press by the office of Montana U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, marks the first time federal regulators have highlighted specific actions by Exxon as contributing to the severity of the spill.
An Exxon spokeswoman said Wednesday the company was reviewing the findings.
The spill released about 63,000 gallons of crude into the river near the city of Laurel. That damage would have been reduced by about two-thirds if controllers in Houston isolated the rupture as soon as problems emerged, investigators said.
Instead, as Exxon personnel weighed the appropriate response, crude drained from the severed, 12-inch pipeline for another 46 minutes before a control valve was finally closed.
Exxon spent $135 million on its response to the spill, including cleanup and repair work.
Spokeswoman Rachael Moore said the company will continue to cooperate with Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and "is committed to learning from these events."
The report chalks up the immediate cause of the spill to floodwaters that damaged the pipeline and left it exposed. Debris washing downriver piled up on the line, increasing pressure until it ruptured.
The "volume would have been much less" and the location of spill "would have been identified far more quickly" if Exxon's emergency procedures had called for the immediate closure of upstream valves, investigators said.
The report also faulted Exxon for lacking a plan to notify pipeline controllers that the river was flooding.
Exxon workers were not blamed, however, for steps taken in the lead-up to the spill.
Exxon's field observations and "depth of cover survey took reasonable precautions to address the flooding of the Yellowstone River it the spring and early summer of 2011," the investigators wrote.
City officials in Laurel had warned Exxon that the riverbank was eroding. The company, however, continued to run crude beneath the Yellowstone after finding that a section of pipeline leading away from the river was still buried more than 6 feet deep.
The report did not address concerns raised by Baucus, a Democrat, and other lawmakers over whether existing pipeline regulations do enough to prevent spills at river crossings.
Under current rules, companies must bury pipelines 4 feet beneath a riverbed and inspect them periodically.
Those rules are being reviewed, and Baucus said Wednesday that "transparency and oversight are critical to making sure we never have to go through the devastation of the Yellowstone River oil spill again."
Landowners along the river have sued Exxon, saying the company didn't do enough to prevent the spill and should have shut down the line during flooding. Exxon is fighting the lawsuits.
The federal investigation into the spill remains open. Whether any citations will be issued is under review, said spokesman Damon Hill with the Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.
No timetable was available for any such decision, Hill added.

Rare San Francisco river otter stumps researchers

A river otter carries seaweed back to its nest Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, in San Francisco. For the first time in decades, a river otter has made San Francisco its home, taking up residence in the ruins of the Sutro baths, a 19th century seaside pond facing the Pacific Ocean. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
A rapt crowd followed a trail of bubbles that zipped over the surface of a seaside pond in the ruins of a 19th century bath in San Francisco.
San Francisco's newest star — the first river otter seen in the city in decades — surfaced its whiskery head furtively, a mouth full of sea grass. The crowd oohed as large waves pounded rocks just offshore, a briny smell and chill in the air.
The otter ducked back under water and took the sea grass underneath a concrete remnant of the historic baths, where the animal was building a nest.
"We came here to see the baths and this was just a bonus," said Eliza Durkin, who brought her son Jonathan to the site for a school project on historic places.
Beyond tourists, the otter has mystified and delighted conservationists, who are piecing together clues to figure out how he got there. The furry creature was first spotted by birdwatchers in September and has since settled into the City by the Bay.
River otters once thrived in the San Francisco Bay area, but development, hunting and environmental pollution in the 19th and 20th centuries has taken its toll on the once thriving local population.
The critters are a living barometer of water quality - if it's bad they cannot thrive. But new populations being seen north and east of San Francisco are giving hope to conservationists that years of environmental regulations and new technologies are making a difference.
"The fact that this otter is in San Francisco and doing so well in other regions of the Bay Area, it's a good message that there's hope for the watershed," said Megan Isadore, director of outreach and education for the River Otter Ecology Project, a group that studies otter populations further north and in the bay.
The group said until now it had no evidence the creatures had returned to San Francisco, and the last sighting was nearly a half-century ago as best they can tell.
The otter is nicknamed "Sutro Sam" after the old baths, which were named after former San Francisco Mayor Adolph Sutro, who built the building which at the time was an engineering marvel.
The facility opened in 1896 on a cliff facing the Pacific Ocean, its baths fed by the salty ocean tides and a freshwater seep. They were torn down and burned in a fire in 1966, and the building's carcass has long been a tourist draw on the city's rugged, western shoreline.
The aquatic mammal seems to have found the mix of the environment he needs to make a home, to the delight of tourists and local nature lovers.
"They do need freshwater to drink and keep their fur clean," Isadore said. "They are also happy in salt and brackish water — wherever there is food — and he is getting freshwater from seeps behind the baths."
River otters can be found in other regions of the San Francisco Bay area. To the north of the Golden Gate, the researchers are tracking a group in Marin County. They have also found river otters in shore-side San Francisco Bay area communities of Alameda, Richmond and Martinez.
"Habitat destruction had an impact on the river otters," said Dorren Gurrola, a science teacher at the Marine Mammal Center, which studies Sam's relatives, the sea otter. "So it's always exciting to see these animals return to their habitat."
Young males like Sam often are the ones that travel away from groups, looking for food. If they find a new, hospitable habitat, others including females may join and create the basis of a new colony, Gurrola said.
While there is no certain reason for Sam's appearance in San Francisco, Isadore and biologists working to unlock more clues have some leads to go on.
He could have swam across the bay's mouth from Marin County, and scat collected from Sam will be analyzed to see if there's a genetic link to that population. But now, Sam seems to be happy swimming around and munching on small fish, including goldfish discarded in the area.
"We're just trying to piece things together in a logical way," Isadore said. "River otters sometimes even stow away on boats, we just don't know."

Most Awesome Space Images Of 2012

Each year, we are simply stunned by the beautiful images of space shot from a growing myriad of eyes that stare toward the heavens. This year was no different.
From views out of the portholes of the International Space Station and landscapes of Vesta and Saturn to the faraway vistas from Hubble, Chandra and Spitzer, sit back and stare in awe at the vastness of the cosmos with this look back at the most awesome space images of 2012.

Eye of the furnace

Hubble captures close-up of spiral galaxy NGC 1097

From NASA's Image of the Day blog: "This face-on galaxy, lying 45 million light-years away from Earth in the southern constellation of Fornax (The Furnace), is particularly attractive for astronomers. NGC 1097 is a Seyfert galaxy. Lurking at the very center of the galaxy, a supermassive black hole 100 million times the mass of our sun is gradually sucking in the matter around it. The area immediately around the black hole shines powerfully with radiation coming from the material falling in."

Woman Sold Ex's Secret Fishing Spots

Selling jewelry or even naked photos of your ex after a bad breakup is understandable. But selling secret fishing spots? Now that's just low.
Read how one Angela Potter exacted revenge on her ex-boyfriend , an avid fisherman, by selling his most prized possession: his secret fishing spots.
Miss Potter was clearing out her garage when she found the GPS markings for fishing spots in the Bay of Plenty and many other areas of the North Island, so she auctioned them off on Trade Me last January and scored herself a whopping $3000. [...]
Miss Potter said she would never have sold the co-ordinates had it been an amicable breakup, however, the man packed his belongings into her suitcase, which had sentimental value, and fled the country.
"When he refused to return my suitcase that's when I sold his co-ordinates," she said. "I didn't list them to be vindictive. I listed them as a bit of a laugh."

Animal Pictures