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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.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Daily Drift

 Enough said ...

Some of our readers today have been in:
Kiev, Ukraine
Cheras, Malaysia
Waterloo, Canada
Karachi, Pakistan
Cape Town, South Africa
Bordeaux, France
Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia
Jawa, Indonesia
Batikent, Turkey
Windsor, Canada
Luqa, Malta
Kulim, Malaysia
Jakarta, Indonesia
Rabat, Morocco
Ankara, Turkey
Kherson, Ukraine
Subaya Jaya, Malaysia
Wroclaw, Poland
Lahore, Pakistan
Agadir, Morocco
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Kota Kinabalu
Poznan, Poland
Istanbul, Turkey
Bangkok, Thailand
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Shah Alam, Malaysia 
Gorzow Wielopolski, Poland
Quetta, Pakistan
Nanjing, China
Algiers, Algeria
Kuching, Malaysia
Yerevan, Armenia
Santiago, Chile
San Juan, Puerto Rico
London, England
Puchong, Malaysia
Berlin, Germany
Tokyo, Japan
Sydney, Australia
Vienna, Austria
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Aguadilla, Puerto Rico

Today is Bird Day 

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Today in History

1477   Swiss troops defeat the forces under Charles the Bold of Burgundy at the Battle of Nancy.
1815   Federalists from all over New England, angered over the War of 1812, draw up the Hartford Convention, demanding several important changes in the U.S. Constitution.
1861   The merchant vessel Star of the West sets sail from New York to Fort Sumter, in response to rebel attack, carrying supplies and 250 troops.
1904   American Marines arrive in Seoul, Korea, to guard the U.S. legation there.
1914   Henry Ford astounds the world as he announces that he will pay a minimum wage of $5 a day and will share with employees $10 million in the previous year's profits.
1917   Bulgarian and German troops occupy the Port of Braila.
1919   British ships shell the Bolshevik headquarters in Riga.
1920   GOP women demand equal representation at the Republican National Convention in June.
1921   Wagner's "Die Walkyrie" opens in Paris. This is the first German opera performed in Paris since the beginning of World War I.
1923   The U.S. Senate debates the benefits of Peyote for the American Indian.
1925   Nellie Tayloe Ross of Wyoming is sworn in as the first woman governor in the United States.
1936   Daggha Bur, Ethiopia, is bombed by the Italians.
1942   U.S. and Filipino troops complete their withdrawal to a new defensive line along the base of the Bataan peninsula.
1947   Great Britain nationalizes its coal mines.
1951   Inchon, South Korea, the sight of General Douglas MacArthur's amphibious flanking maneuver, is abandoned by United Nations force to the advancing Chinese Army.
1952   Prime Minister Winston Churchill arrives in Washington to confer with President Harry S. Truman.
1968   U.S. forces in Vietnam launch Operation Niagara I to locate enemy units around the Marine base at Khe Sanh.
1969   President Richard M. Nixon appoints Henry Cabot Lodge as negotiator at the Paris Peace Talks.
1971   President Richard M. Nixon names Robert Dole as chairman of the Republican National Party.
1982   A Federal judge voids a state law requiring balanced classroom treatment of evolution and creationism.

Non Sequitur


The truth be told

Debt ceiling: Welcome to Fight Club

Right after the House passed the fiscal cliff compromise, President Obama said, "I will not have another debate with this Congress over whether or not they should pay the bills that they've already racked up through the laws that they passed." But Republicans continue to insist that any increase in the debt ceiling must be exceeded by spending cuts ...

Meet the 113th Congress

More diverse than ever
The newly sworn-in 113th Congress is the most diverse group of representatives in history, reflecting changing demographics and changing public attitudes.

The truth hurts

The repugican cabal is as divided and angry as ever

In this Jan. 3, 2013, photo, House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, leaves after a three hour photo session with members of the new 113th Congress that convened earlier in the day. The Republican Party seems as divided and angry as ever. Infighting has penetrated the highest levels of the House GOP leadership. Long-standing geographic tensions have increased, pitting endangered Northeastern Republicans against their colleagues from other parts of the country. Enraged tea party leaders are threatening to knock off dozens of Republicans who supported a measure that raised taxes on the nation's highest earners. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
The repugican cabal is as divided and angry as ever.
Infighting has penetrated the highest levels of the House repugican leadership. Long-standing geographic tensions have increased, pitting endangered Northeastern repugicans against their colleagues from other parts of the country. Enraged tea party leaders are threatening to knock off dozens of repugicans who supported a measure that raised taxes on the nation's highest earners.
"People are mad as hell. I'm right there with them," Amy Kremer, chairman of the tea party express, said late last week, declaring that she has "no confidence" in the party her members typically support. Her remarks came after repugican lawmakers agreed to higher taxes but no broad spending cuts as part of a deal to avert the "fiscal cliff."
"Anybody that voted 'yes' in the House should be concerned" about primary challenges in 2014, she said.
At the same time, one of the repugican cabal's most popular voices, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, blasted his cabal's "toxic internal politics" after House repugicans initially declined to approve disaster relief for victims of Superstorm Sandy. He said it was "disgusting to watch" their actions and he faulted the repugican cabal's most powerful elected official, House Speaker John Boehner, r-Ohio.
The repugican cabal's internal struggles to figure out what it wants to be were painfully exposed after Mitt Romney's loss to President Barack Obama on Nov. 6, but they have exploded in recent days. The fallout could extend well beyond the party's ability to win policy battles on Capitol Hill. It could hamper repugicans as they examine how to regroup and attract new voters after a disheartening election season.
To a greater degree than the Democrats, the repugican cabal has struggled with internal divisions for the past few years. But these latest clashes have seemed especially public and vicious.
"It's disappointing to see infighting in the cabal," said Ryan Williams, a repugican agitator and former Romney aide. "It doesn't make us look like we're in a position to challenge the president and hold him accountable to the promises he made."
What's largely causing the dissension? A lack of a clear repugican leader with a single vision for the party.
The repugicans haven't had a consistent standard-bearer since the shrub slunk out of office in 2008 with the nation on the edge of a financial collapse. His ouster, along with widespread economic concerns, gave rise to a tea party movement that infused the repugican cabal's lunatic wingnut base with energy. The tea party is credited with broad repugican gains in the 2010 congressional elections, but it's also blamed for the rising tension between the pragmatic and ideological wings of the cabal — discord that festers still.
It was much the same for Democrats in the late 1980s before Bill Clinton emerged to win the White House and shift his party to the political center.
2012 presidential nominee Romney never fully captured the hearts of his party's most passionate voters. But his tenure atop the party was short-lived; since Election Day, he's disappeared from the political world.
Those repugican leaders who remain engaged — Christie, Boehner, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and repugican national cabal talking head Reince Priebus — are showing little sign of coming together.
Those on the repugican cabal's deep bench of potential 2016 presidential contenders, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, have begun staking out their own, sometimes conflicting ideas for the party.
Over the short term at least, the cabal's divisions probably will continue to be exposed.
Obama has outlined a second-term agenda focused on immigration and gun control; those are issues that would test repugican solidarity even in good times. Deep splits already exist between repugican pragmatists and the lunatic wingnut base, who oppose any restrictions on guns or allowances for illegal immigrants.
It's unclear whether Obama can exploit the repugican fissures or whether the repugican dysfunction will hamper him. With Boehner unable to control his fractured caucus, the White House is left wondering how to deal with the House on any divisive issue.
Fiscal issues aren't going away, with lawmakers were agree on a broad deficit-reduction package. The federal government reached its borrowing limit last week, so Congress has about two months or three months to raise the debt ceiling or risk a default on federal debt. Massive defense and domestic spending cuts are set to take effect in late February. By late March, the current spending plan will end, raising the possibility of a government shutdown.
Frustrated lunatic wingnut agitators and repugican cabal insiders hope that the continued focus on fiscal matters will help unite the factions as the cabal pushes for deep spending cuts. That fight also may highlight Democratic divisions because the party's liberal wing vehemently opposes any changes to Social Security or Medicare
"Whenever you lose the White House, the party's going to have ups and downs," said Republican strategist Ron Kaufman. "My guess is when the spending issues come up again, the Democrats' warts will start to show as well."
The repugican cabal's fissures go beyond positions on issues. They also are geographical.
Once a strong voice in the party, moderate repugicans across the Northeast are nearly extinct. Many of those who remain were frustrated in recent days when Boehner temporarily blocked a vote on a disaster relief bill.
Rep. Peter King, r-N.Y., said campaign donors in the Northeast who give the repugican cabal after the slight "should have their head examined."
Boehner, who just won a second term as speaker, quickly scheduled a vote on a narrower measure for Friday after the new Congress convened, and it rushed out a $9.7 billion measure to help pay flood insurance claims.
Weary repugican terrorists are trying to be hopeful about the repugican cabal's path ahead, and liken the current situation to party's struggles after Obama's 2008 election. At the time, some pundits questioned the viability of the repugican cabal. But it came roaring back two years later, thanks largely to the tea party.
"If we have learned anything from the fiscal cliff fiasco, conservatives discovered we need to stand firm, and stand together, on our principles from beginning to end," said repugican terrorist Alice Stewart. "It's frustrating to see the repugican cabal drop the ball and turn a position of true compromise into total surrender. The Democrats succeeded in their strategy of divide and conquer."

Did you know ...

That chained CPI is not an adjustment, it's a benefits cut

That congress will only get worse from here

There has been an average of 18 gun deaths a day since Newtown

That an Amazon spider creates decoys of itself to fool predators

That home is where the union is

How to keep organized for tax season

The repugicans fighting science have blood on their hands

Mark Mckinnon, aide to the shrub and John McCain: "the repugican cabal is shrinking daily before our eyes

FDA proposes sweeping new food safety rules

FILE - This Sept. 28, 2011 file photo shows the sign leading to the Jensen Farms near Holly, Colo. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday proposed the most sweeping food safety rules in decades, requiring farmers and food companies to be more vigilant in the wake of deadly outbreaks in peanuts, cantaloupe and leafy greens. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski, File)
The Food and Drug Administration on Friday proposed the most sweeping food safety rules in decades, requiring farmers and food companies to be more vigilant in the wake of deadly outbreaks in peanuts, cantaloupe and leafy greens.
The long-overdue regulations could cost businesses close to half a billion dollars a year to implement, but are expected to reduce the estimated 3,000 deaths a year from foodborne illness. Just since last summer, outbreaks of listeria in cheese and salmonella in peanut butter, mangoes and cantaloupe have been linked to more than 400 illnesses and as many as seven deaths, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The actual number of those sickened is likely much higher.
The FDA's proposed rules would require farmers to take new precautions against contamination, to include making sure workers' hands are washed, irrigation water is clean, and that animals stay out of fields. Food manufacturers will have to submit food safety plans to the government to show they are keeping their operations clean.
Many responsible food companies and farmers are already following the steps that the FDA would now require them to take. But officials say the requirements could have saved lives and prevented illnesses in several of the large-scale outbreaks that have hit the country in recent years.
In a 2011 outbreak of listeria in cantaloupe that claimed 33 lives, for example, FDA inspectors found pools of dirty water on the floor and old, dirty processing equipment at Jensen Farms in Colorado where the cantaloupes were grown. In a peanut butter outbreak this year linked to 42 salmonella illnesses, inspectors found samples of salmonella throughout Sunland Inc.'s peanut processing plant in New Mexico and multiple obvious safety problems, such as birds flying over uncovered trailers of peanuts and employees not washing their hands.
Under the new rules, companies would have to lay out plans for preventing those sorts of problems, monitor their own progress and explain to the FDA how they would correct them.
"The rules go very directly to preventing the types of outbreaks we have seen," said Michael Taylor, FDA's deputy commissioner for foods.
The FDA estimates the new rules could prevent almost 2 million illnesses annually, but it could be several years before the rules are actually preventing outbreaks. Taylor said it could take the agency another year to craft the rules after a four-month comment period, and farms would have at least two years to comply — meaning the farm rules are at least three years away from taking effect. Smaller farms would have even longer to comply.
The new rules, which come exactly two years to the day President Barack Obama's signed food safety legislation passed by Congress, were already delayed. The 2011 law required the agency to propose a first installment of the rules a year ago, but the Obama administration held them until after the election. Food safety advocates sued the administration to win their release.
The produce rule would mark the first time the FDA has had real authority to regulate food on farms. In an effort to stave off protests from farmers, the farm rules are tailored to apply only to certain fruits and vegetables that pose the greatest risk, like berries, melons, leafy greens and other foods that are usually eaten raw. A farm that produces green beans that will be canned and cooked, for example, would not be regulated.
Such flexibility, along with the growing realization that outbreaks are bad for business, has brought the produce industry and much of the rest of the food industry on board as Congress and FDA has worked to make food safer.
In a statement Friday, Pamela Bailey, president of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which represents the country's biggest food companies, said the food safety law "can serve as a role model for what can be achieved when the private and public sectors work together to achieve a common goal."
The new rules could cost large farms $30,000 a year, according to the FDA. The agency did not break down the costs for individual processing plants, but said the rules could cost manufacturers up to $475 million annually.
FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said the success of the rules will also depend on how much money Congress gives the chronically underfunded agency to put them in place. "Resources remain an ongoing concern," she said.
The farm and manufacturing rules are only one part of the food safety law. The bill also authorized more surprise inspections by the FDA and gave the agency additional powers to shut down food facilities. In addition, the law required stricter standards on imported foods. The agency said it will soon propose other overdue rules to ensure that importers verify overseas food is safe and to improve food safety audits overseas.
Food safety advocates frustrated over the last year as the rules stalled praised the proposed action.
"The new law should transform the FDA from an agency that tracks down outbreaks after the fact, to an agency focused on preventing food contamination in the first place," said Caroline Smith DeWaal of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Obesity's a crisis but we want our junk food

This Jan. 17, 2012, photo shows vegetables left over by students on their cafeteria trays at the Roosevelt High School in Los Angeles.

Double Helix Cloud

On Christmas Eve, residents in Moscow, Russia, saw a strange sight in the sky: a cloud shaped like a DNA double helix. Is it contrail or a divine sign from the Flying Spaghetti Monster?
Twisted Sifter has got more pics: here.

Father Hires In-Game Assassins To Kill His Lazy Son's Video Game Characters

online game
23-year old Xiao Feng doesn't want to get a job. He'd rather spend his time playing video games. To discourage this activity, Feng's father hired players to hunt down and slay his son's characters:
Unhappy with his son not finding a job, Feng decided to hire players in his son's favorite online games to hunt down Xiao Feng. It is unknown where or how Feng found the in-game assassins—every one of the players he hired were stronger and higher leveled than Xiao Feng. Feng's idea was that his son would get bored of playing games if he was killed every time he logged on, and that he would start putting more effort into getting a job.
Now that's creative parenting!

Ohio sheriff confronts protesters in football rape case

Protesters gathered in front of the of the Jefferson County Courthouse in Steubenville, Ohio, January 5, 2013. A county sheriff under fire for how he has handled a high school rape investigation faced down a raucous crowd of protesters on Saturday, telling critics no further suspects would be charged in a case that has rattled Ohio football country. REUTERS/Drew Singer 
A county sheriff under fire for how he has handled a high school rape investigation faced down a raucous crowd of protesters on Saturday and said no further suspects would be charged in a case that has rattled Ohio football country.
Ma'lik Richmond and Trenton Mays, both 16 and members of the Steubenville High School football team, are charged with raping a 16-year-old fellow student at a party last August, according to statements from their attorneys.
Jefferson County Sheriff Fred Abdalla, accused of shielding the popular football program from a more rigorous investigation, told reporters no one else would be charged in the case, just moments after he addressed about 1,000 protesters gathered in front of the Jefferson County Courthouse.
"I'm not going to stand here and try to convince you that I'm not the bad guy," he said to a chorus of boos. "You've already made your minds up."
The "Occupy Steubenville" rally was organized by the online activist group Anonymous.
Abdalla declined to take the investigation over from Steubenville police, sparking more public outrage. Anonymous and community leaders say police are avoiding charging more of those involved to protect the school's beloved football program.
The two students will be tried as juveniles in February in Steubenville, a close-knit city of 19,000 about 40 miles west of Pittsburgh.
The case shot to national prominence this week when Anonymous made public a picture of the purported rape victim being carried by her wrists and ankles by two young men. Anonymous also released a video that showed several other young men joking about an assault.
Abdalla, who said he first saw the video three days ago, said on Saturday that it provided no new evidence of any crimes.
"It's a disgusting video," he said. "It's stupidity. But you can't arrest somebody for being stupid."
The protest's masked leader, standing atop a set of stairs outside the courthouse doors, invited up to the makeshift stage anyone who was a victim of sexual assault. Protesters immediately flooded the platform, which was slightly smaller than a boxing ring.
Victims passed around a microphone, taking turns telling their stories. Some called for Abdalla and other local officials to step down from office for not charging more of the people and for what they called a cover-up by athletes, coaches and local officials.
Abdalla then climbed the stairs himself and addressed the protest over a microphone.
Abdalla said he had dedicated his 28-year career to combating sexual assault, overseeing the arrest of more than 200 suspects.
Clad in a teal ribbon symbolizing support for sexual assault victims, Abdalla later told Reuters that he stood by his decision to leave the investigation with local police. He would have had to question all 59 people that the Steubenville Police Department had already interviewed in its original investigation, he said.
"People have got their minds made up," he said. "A case like this, who would want to cover any of it up?"

Group wants man's eye blinks barred as testimony

The national Innocence Project is backing a murder suspect's efforts to exclude from his trial a videotape of a dying man's eye blinks, which prosecutors say identify him as the gunman.
Ricardo Woods is scheduled to go on trial Monday in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court in the fatal shooting of David Chandler. Chandler, 35, was shot in the head and neck as he was sitting in his car in Cincinnati on Oct. 28, 2010. He was paralyzed from his injuries and could only communicate with his eyes when police interviewed him a few days after the shooting.
Ricardo Woods, shown in this undated photo provided by the Hamilton County Sheriff's Deptartment, is charged with murdering David Chandler, who identified Woods by blinking to authorities while he was being interviewed while paralyzed after being shot in the head and neck. Chandler died about two weeks later. Woods is set to go on trial Monday, Jan. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Hamilton County Sheriff's Dept.)Chandler was hooked up to a ventilator in the hospital when police questioned him about the person who shot him. They showed him Woods' photo and instructed him to blink three times for yes and twice for no as they videotaped his responses. Chandler didn't respond with blinks to every question in the 17-minute video and sometimes blinked one time, but triple blinks came in response to repeated questions asking if he knew the shooter and whether the person in the photo was the culprit. Chandler died 10 days after the interview.
Prosecutors say Chandler clearly identified Woods as the shooter, and Judge Beth Myers found that the blinks were reliable and were made by pronounced eye movements and not by involuntary blinking. She ruled in 2011 that jurors will be allowed to see the videotape. But the defense insists the identification wasn't reliable and has asked the judge to reconsider.
The Innocence Project, a criminal justice organization which has succeeded in freeing wrongfully convicted prisoners through DNA evidence and also works to prevent wrongful convictions, last week filed a motion supporting the defense request. The motion asks the court to consider evidence not previously presented, including scientific research on eyewitness identification.
Among other factors, the motion says that the use of one photo rather than a photographic lineup was "unduly suggestive." Also, the two people in the car with Chandler that night did not identify Woods as the shooter when shown photographic lineups, according to the motion.
Prosecutors are still reviewing the recently filed motion, but "we are ready for trial on Monday," said spokeswoman Julie Wilson.
Woods' attorney, Kory Jackson, also maintains that Chandler's condition and drugs used to treat him could have affected his ability to understand and respond.
A neurologist with University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland says while he can't comment specifically on the Cincinnati case, instances of people being able to communicate with their eyes after sustaining brain injuries that leave other parts of their bodies paralyzed are not uncommon.
Dr. Michael Devereaux said communication has been possible with patients suffering an injury to the brain stem that prevents most communication with the body.
"Patients can be wide awake, alert and responsive through things such as eye-blink communication," even though the brain itself is disconnected from being able to control most of the body's other systems, he said.
But Jackson says he will present testimony from medical experts questioning the reliability factor.
"All the experts that we have would say that they wouldn't have relied on Mr. Chandler to make a will, to do anything that would be legally binding," Jackson said.
Prosecutors have declined to comment on a motive, although authorities have suggested the men knew each other through drug deals.
Woods, 34, could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted.

Grand jury indicts New York couple as bomb suspects

Aaron Greene (R) appears in Manhattan Criminal Court with his lawyer Lisa Pelosi in New York January 4, 2013. REUTERS/Steven Hirsch/Pool 
A grand jury indicted a New York man and his girlfriend following their arrest on Saturday after police found an explosive compound, bomb-making manuals and weapons in their Greenwich Village apartment.
Aaron Greene, 31, appeared briefly in a New York courtroom on Friday, and was informed of the indictment by a judge. He was returned to jail without bail.
Formal charges against Greene were set to be announced at a January 29 court appearance, when he is expected to enter a plea, prosecutors said.
Greene's girlfriend, Morgan Gliedman, who was nine months pregnant when she was arrested, gave birth over the weekend to a baby girl and remained hospitalized in police custody, a law enforcement source said.
The grand jury also indicted Gliedman, according to a law enforcement source. It was unclear when she would be formally arraigned.
Police received a tip about the weapons and potential explosives from someone who had been in the couple's apartment, a police official said. Gliedman was wanted on suspicion of credit card theft, the official said.
Authorities, executing a search warrant of the couple's apartment, found bomb-making instructions, including a manual called "The Terrorist Encyclopedia", high-capacity rifle magazines, a flare launcher, two shotguns, and a plastic bottle containing seven grams of hexamethylene triperoxide diamine, or HMTD, court documents said.
The discovery of the HMTD, commonly used in homemade bombs, prompted an evacuation of nearby buildings, a law enforcement source said.
Interest in the case has been driven by the couple's privileged background. Gliedman's father, Paul Gliedman, is director of radiation oncology at Beth Israel Hospital in Brooklyn, according to a second law enforcement source.
Gliedman studied creative writing at The School of The Art Institute of Chicago, according to her Facebook page.
Greene's lawyer declined to comment on Friday, as did Greene's parents, who were in court for their son's appearance.

Third time not a charm for would-be jewellery thieves as they burrow into KFC

Two would-be jewel thieves found fried chicken instead of fine jewellery when they burrowed through a wall into the wrong store at Beaudesert, southwest of Brisbane, Australia. The pair, from Woodridge, broke into a toilet block at the rear of the connected shops and used an iron bar to hack into a fibro wall. They expected to arrive in Wrights Jewellers, but instead landed in the local KFC, where they surprised junior staff. Undeterred, the pair staged an impromptu hold-up and escaped with $2600.
Peter Welsh, 32, and Dwayne Doolan, 31, were arrested and charged with the New Year's Eve robbery on Wednesday after a police raid on Welsh's Woodridge home. The Southport Magistrates Court was told the toilet block tunnel marked the pair's third unsuccessful attempt to rob the independent jewellery store that day. Police prosecutor Sergeant Damian Summerfield said they began throwing spark plugs at the store, on the corner of Brisbane and William streets, at 7.35 am in an attempt to smash the front window.

When "plan A" failed, they allegedly tried to break in through the rear doors, but instead found themselves in the neighbouring Animal Welfare League Opportunity Shop. Sgt Summerfield said the men stole a charity box from the front counter containing $50, before trying again to break into the jewellery store. Police allege the men broke into a general-use toilet block attached to the back of the group of shops and hacked a hole in the wall, which they crawled through.

Once inside, they allegedly threatened staff with the bar and demanded cash. "One female staffer opened the safe (for them) and they grabbed lots of cash," Sgt Summerfield said. He said Welsh made "full and frank" admissions when questioned by police. Welsh is charged with armed robbery, stealing, burglary and attempted burglary. Doolan is charged with robbery and stealing. Magistrate Michael O'Driscoll refused Welsh bail, but police did not oppose bail for Doolan. Both men will return to court on March 5.

Facebook Boast of Drunk Hit-and-Run Lands Teen in Jail

From the "Young and Dumb" Department:
Jacob Cox-Brown, 18, of Astoria, Ore., was arrested after he apparently posted a Facebook status update about a drunken hit-and-run he allegedly committed Wednesday.

Man Asks Mom For Ride Home After Foiled Robbery Attempt

From the "There's one born every minute" Department:
A Florida man called his mother for a ride home after the store he attempted to rob had an empty cash register, according to The Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office.

Chinese tourists say crooked NZ tour-operator took them to a "buffet" that was really a church soup-kitchen

Chinese tourists say a crooked tour-operator who'd promised them the best sightseeing in New Zealand and a buffet dinner instead took them to a bunch of public parks and then dumped them in the line at a soup-kitchen:
"I thought it was a real bargain, but the main reason we decided to go with him was because we thought it would be handy to have a local guide who spoke Mandarin," he said.
"I was shocked to find out later from media reports that the Christmas lunch was a charity lunch for the poor and homeless, and that most of the places we had been taken to were free and were not meant for tourists."
A TVNZ Christmas Day news report said Chinese tourists on organized tours were among the 2800 people at the Viaduct Events Center for the annual charity lunch.

John Wilkes Booth Dressed as Marc Antony

John Wilkes Booth and his brothers
A year before he assassinated President Abraham Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth (left) played Marc Antony in a production of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. His brother Junius (right) played Caesar and his other brother Edwin (center), played the traitor Brutus. This production on November 25, 1864 was the only time all three acting brothers starred together in a play.

Isaac Newton’s Secret Sins

vEven great minds have teen angst. The more intelligent teenagers just know how to hide them better! Which is a good ting, because when you become famous, someone will want to dig up that dirt, even 300 years later.
In 1662, a 19-year-old Isaac Newton started carrying a leather-bound journal, which he used to track finances and work out math problems. But he also used it to hide something secret. On two pages, Newton scribbled a cryptic code, a code that went unsolved for over 300 years. In 1964, historians finally solved the script. They discovered a list of sins: 57 of Newton’s wrongdoings. The journal—today called the Fitzwilliam notebook—paints the Enlightenment icon as a mood-swinging, sweet-toothed, spiritually confused teenager. Here are some of Newton’s sinful gems.
The list of sins reads like a confessional, and you can see some of them here .

Five Historical Manias That Gripped Societies, Then Disappeared

'Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.' Charles Mackay may have written those words in 1841 in his social science classic, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, but what he has to say about mass manias and the behavior of crowds remains absolutely relevant today - as anyone who's ever gone to a midnight sale of one of the Twilight books could tell you.

Mob mentality also goes some of the way - but not all the way - in explaining these real manias and outbreaks of strange behavior that came on disturbingly fast and disappeared just as rapidly.

The Best Table Ever

A farmer in Cambridgeshire, England, discovered a massive 44-foot-long oak log in a peat bog last February. The wood had been perfectly preserved for 5,000 years! Cabinet makers Adamson and Low specialize in processing bog wood, and recognized that this one is special, and made special plans for it.
Besides, bog oak is beautiful and historical, but it’s first and foremost a carpentry wood, prized for centuries as England’s only native black timber. (The tannins in the oak react to iron in the subsoil to turn the wood dark brown or black.) Because the giant oaks were so much larger than they are today, bog oak wood has medullary rays far wider than in modern oak. That makes for a thick stripe grain that looks particularly gorgeous on quarter-sawn boards. Traditional drying methods couldn’t preserve it in thick pieces, so its main use was as inlay wood or in the making of smaller decorative or furniture items. It’s only in the past 20 years that drying technology has advanced enough to allow the preservation of substantial hunks of ancient wood.Hamish Low had the ambitious idea to preserve the majesty of this trunk while still tying it into the hundreds of years of British carpentry tradition. He could go ahead and plank the trunk, but instead of dividing the planks into more easily dried boards, they would be kept in their 44-foot lengths. Once dried the planks would shrink, but they’d still be massive and could be used to make a giant table. That huge tabletop could then be exhibited as an example of and tribute to the arboreal giants that once dominated the English landscape. There isn’t a single piece of bog oak as such on public display in the UK. Here was the perfect opportunity to rectify that oversight.
The log became known as the Fenland Black Oak as the plans fell into place. A special kiln was built big enough to dry the wood, and the log was removed from its peat bog in September. The table is expected to be ready in the summer of 2013. Its final destination is undetermined, but it will be available for the public to see. More | Project blog

Random Photo

Berlin elephants feast on tasty Christmas trees

Elephants at the Berlin Zoo finally got a chance to tuck into their Christmas dinner: A feast of donated pine trees.

Half Dome cables will remain, hikers still limited

FILE - In this June 6, 2004 file photo, Thea Roberts, of Oakland, Calif., pulls herself up the cable route on the way to the summit of Half Dome, in Yosemite National Park. A long-awaited plan that officials say will make safer the iconic climb up Half Dome in Yosemite National Park has been approved. The hand-rail cables that some environmental groups argued don’t belong in a wilderness will stay, as will a lottery that will limit the number of hikers to roughly 400 a day. Over the past decade the route has been inundated with up to 1,200 nature lovers, causing traffic jams and a surge in calls for rescue. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
The hike up the granite monolith Half Dome in Yosemite National Park is one of the most iconic in the nationwide system, but on Friday officials announced approval of a plan that permanently limits how many can do it.
National Park Service authorities will issue permits to limit the number of hikers to 300 a day, the target number since an interim plan was approved in 2010 to reduce congestion in a wilderness area and make the hike safer.
In a blow to environmental groups, the park also decided to keep in place the heavy metal cables drilled into the monolith that hikers use to steady themselves on the 45-degree final climb up slick granite. Some groups had argued that handrails do not belong in a federally designated wilderness area.
"With a place like Yosemite that is so dear and important to millions of people, everyone has ideas about what wilderness protection is. We tried to find a balance that allows people to still experience Yosemite while protecting Yosemite," said spokeswoman Kari Cobb.
Over the past decade the route had been inundated with up to 1,200 nature lovers a day seeking to experience the iconic mountain that is stamped on the California quarter, stitched on a line of outdoor clothing and painted on the side of the park's vehicles.
Congestion on the dome made it difficult for hikers to descend when inclement weather struck, as it often does on summer afternoons.
At least five people have died on the cables since 2006, nearly all with rain as a factor. Park officials want visitors to be able to descend the slick granite in 45 minutes if they have to escape the fast-forming storms, and limiting numbers is the only way to do that, they say.
As calls for rescues increased, park officials began looking for solutions in 2008.
Two years later an interim plan was introduced to allow 400 permits through a lottery system that takes place in March in an effort to keep the number on the trail to 300. Authorities have tweaked the system since then to account for no-shows and to allow a secondary lottery two days in advance for those who travel more spontaneously.
"It was a really good tool that we used to provide no-show and cancellation permits to people who made last-minute plans," Cobb said.
In 1874 the slick dome that rises 5,000 feet above the valley floor was described as "perfectly inaccessible." But in 1919 the Sierra Club installed the first cables along the 400-foot final ascent so that visitors without rock climbing experience could hoist themselves to the summit —the size of 17 football fields— to drink views of Little Yosemite Valley, El Capitan, endless Sierra and the Valley floor.
There is no doubt that if the decision were made today, there would be no braided steel cables and stanchions drilled into Half Dome. Congress passed the Wilderness Act in 1964, and 20 years later designated 95 percent of Yosemite, including Half Dome, as land that should not be altered by man.
The eight-mile round trip hike is the busiest by far of any in the National Park's designated wilderness areas. Over the decades the number of visitors to the park has steadily climbed, topping 4 million — in part because the park is an easy drive from Los Angeles and the Bay Area.
Now scaling Half Dome is a measure of personal fortitude for some who had worried that without cables access would be lost.
"At this point I'm happy that the plan was selected to keep the cables up," said Rick Deutsch, a Bay Area hiker who has written a book about the trek. "I'd say that based on the situation that exists with overcrowding, they have come up with a plan that looks like it should work."

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