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

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Daily Drift


Mercedes-Benz 1928
Mercedes-Benz 1928

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Today in History

1327 King Edward II of England is deposed.
1558 The French, under the Duke of Guise, finally take the port of Calais from the English.
1785 Frenchman Jean-Pierre Blanchard and American Dr. John Jeffries make the first crossing of the English Channel in a hydrogen balloon.
1807 Responding to Napoleon Bonaparte's attempted blockade of the British Isles, the British blockade Continental Europe.
1865 Cheyenne and Sioux warriors attack Julesburg, Colo., in retaliation for the Sand Creek Massacre.
1901 New York stock exchange trading exceeds two million shares for the first time in history.
1902 Imperial Court of China returns to Peking. The Empress Dowager resumes her reign.
1918 The Germans move 75,000 troops from the Eastern Front to the Western Front.
1934 Six thousand pastors in Berlin defy the Nazis insisting that they will not be silenced.
1944 The U.S. Air Force announces the production of the first jet-fighter, Bell P-59 Airacomet.
1945 U.S. air ace Major Thomas B. McGuire, Jr. is killed in the Pacific.
1952 French forces in Indochina launch Operation Violette in an effort to push Viet Minh forces away from the town of Ba Vi.
1955 Marian Anderson becomes the first African American to sing at the Metropolitan Opera House.
1975 Vietnamese troops take Phuoc Binh in new full-scale offensive.
1979 Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge are overthrown when Vietnamese troops seize the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh.
1985 Vietnam seizes the Khmer National Liberation Front headquarters near the Thai border.

Non Sequitur


And I Quote

They've promised that dreams can come true - but forgot to mention that nightmares are dreams, too.
~ Oscar Wilde

That is correct.

Did you know ...

About the unregulated gun sales website owned by mormon cult

About the four business gangs that run the U.S.

That Hannity's ratings fell by 50% after the election

That David Attenborough was the first to capture on film the rare Galapagos pink iguana

The truth be told

Here's what Congress actually does

"24% of all laws passed by the 110th Congress were for renaming post offices." From the Reddit discussion thread:
Creator of that chart here. Yes, it's true. If you don't believe me, check this page, it's a list of the first 150 Public Laws from the 110th Congress:

You'll notice that the phrase "post office" occurs 47 times out of 150 laws, and if you skim them you'll see that most are for renaming them. If the chart included renaming federal courthouses and other buildings, the numbers would be even higher.

I should note that I didn't mean this chart as a political statement - I don't think that Congress renaming lots of post offices, or passing relatively few laws, is per se bad or good (it depends what laws they're passing or not passing!). I just thought it was an interesting trend that made me wonder what was going on.

There may be any number of factors: partisan gridlock or Congressional fecklessness might be one, but there are also things like the fact that we have recently been involved in two wars that produced a lot of casualties and many of the post offices seem to have been named after Iraq/Afghanistan war dead.
And this:
[If you're surprised by this...] It's because you're unfamiliar with the activities of Congress (I don't mean that derogatorily, most people don't follow every little thing). There's a ton of little bills like this that get passed into law with very little fanfare. It's almost always by voice vote or unanimous consent. Rarely is there any debate though I recall one bill not actually coming up for vote because people found out the person involved had some sort of unsavory past (I forget the details).
In any case, 25% or so is pretty accurate for most recent Congresses. You're not going to see much variation by who's controlling things. They also name the occasional federal court house and other random things. No one else can do it so you'll see batches of these bills pass into law in groups of five to ten at a time.

You'll also find a lot of bills that are for mundane things like land parcel exchange with cities, extending expiration dates on small pieces of legislation, and technical corrections to existing law. I'd say actually the vast majority of bills signed into law are less than 5 pages in length and don't get much in the way of press.

What you don't see anymore that used to be extremely prevalent are Private Laws. There was a single one in 112th Congress for example. If you go look back in the 1960s and earlier there were hundreds that were passed.
More at the Reddit thread.

The truth hurts

Supreme Court won't hear challenge over PAC disclosures

The Supreme Court on Monday refused to review a challenge to federal regulators' method for determining which political groups need to register as political action committees and reveal their donors.
Without comment, the court declined to hear the appeal of The Real Truth About Abortion, an anti-abortion group that had sued in 2008 to challenge numerous Federal Election Commission rules that govern disclosures of political spending.
The case is one of several challenging the disclosure and reporting requirements for political groups in the wake of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a 2010 Supreme Court case that removed limits on what companies and unions can spend to support or oppose political candidates.
Previously known as The Real Truth About Obama, Real Truth About Abortion said that it planned to educate voters in 2008 about the policy positions of then-U.S. Senator Barack Obama, a supporter of abortion rights.
But the non-profit group refrained, under the risk of being deemed a political action committee (PAC) by regulators and subject to a federal investigation, according to the lawsuit.
It said the FEC's multi-part test to assess whether a group's "major purpose" is to engage in federal campaign activity, qualifying it as a PAC, was too vague and chilled more political speech than necessary.
A federal judge in 2011 rejected the challenge, and a unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that decision in June. It called the commission's methods "a sensible approach to determining whether an organization qualifies for PAC status."
James Bopp, who represents the Real Truth About Abortion, is the same lawyer who brought the Citizens United case.
The case is The Real Truth About Abortion Inc. v. Federal Election Commission, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 12-311.

High court will not review federal embryonic stem cell funds

 The Supreme Court on Monday refused to review a challenge to federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research brought by two researchers who said the U.S. National Institutes of Health rules on such studies violate federal law.
U.S. law prohibits the NIH from funding the creation of human embryos for research or research in which human embryos are destroyed, but leaves room for debate over whether that includes work with human embryonic stem cells.
Opponents of such research, including many religio-wingnuts, have argued that it is unacceptable because it destroys human embryos.
Scientists hope to be able to use stem cells to find treatments for spinal cord injuries, cancer, diabetes and diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Shortly after taking office in 2009, President Barack Obama issued an executive order that expanded federal funding for research involving human embryonic stem cells in hopes it would lead to cures for diseases.
Two researchers who work with adult stem cells, James Sherley, a biological engineer at Boston Biomedical Research Institute, and Theresa Deisher, of Washington-based AVM Biotechnology, sued in 2009 to block such research. They argued that they were at risk of being squeezed out of federal grants for their own work with adult stem cells, which does not involve the destruction of embryos.
A federal judge in 2010 blocked the NIH from funding embryonic stem cell research, but a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned that decision last year.
The appeals court recognized that the law was ambiguous but deferred to NIH's interpretation that it could fund research using stem cells from embryos that were not actually destroyed in the course of that research.
Asking the Supreme Court to review the case, the researchers said that the NIH had a duty to respond to over 30,000 public comments on the proposed guidelines before adopting them.
The case is Sherley v. Sebelius, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 12-454.

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Six Habits of Remarkably Likeable People

Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela are both very likeable  
When you meet someone, after, "What do you do?" you're out of things to say. You suck at small talk, and those first five minutes are tough because you're a little shy and a little insecure.

But you want to make a good impression. You want people to genuinely like you.

Here's how remarkably likeable people do it:

They lose the power pose.

I know: Your parents taught you to stand tall, square your shoulders, stride purposefully forward, drop your voice a couple of registers, and shake hands with a firm grip.

It's great to display nonverbal self-confidence, but go too far and it seems like you're trying to establish your importance. That makes the "meeting" seem like it's more about you than it is the other person--and no one likes that.

No matter how big a deal you are you pale in comparison to say, oh, Nelson Mandela. So take a cue from him. Watch how he greets Bill Clinton, no slouch at this either.

Clinton takes a step forward (avoiding the "you must come to me" power move); Mandela steps forward with a smile and bends slightly forward as if, ever so slightly, to bow (a clear sign of deference and respect in nearly every culture); Clinton does the same. What you have are two important people who put aside all sense of self-importance or status. They're genuine.

Next time you meet someone, relax, step forward, tilt your head towards them slightly, smile, and show that you're the one who is honored by the introduction--not them.

We all like people who like us. If I show you I'm genuinely happy to meet you, you'll instantly start to like me. (And you'll show that you do, which will help calm my nerves and let me be myself.)

They embrace the power of touch.

Nonsexual touch can be very powerful. (Yes, I'm aware that sexual touch can be powerful too.) Touch can influence behavior, increase the chances of compliance, make the person doing the touching seem more attractive and friendly.

Go easy, of course: Pat the other person lightly on the upper arm or shoulder. Make it casual and nonthreatening.

Check out Clinton's right-hand-shakes-hands-left-hand-touches-Mandela's-forearm-a-second-later handshake in the link above and tell me, combined with his posture and smile, that it doesn't come across as genuine and sincere.

Think the same won't work for you? Try this: The next time you walk up behind a person you know, touch them lightly on the shoulder as you go by. I guarantee you'll feel like a more genuine greeting was exchanged.

Touch breaks down natural barriers and decreases the real and perceived distance between you and the other person--a key component in liking and in being liked.

They whip out their social jiu-jitsu.

You meet someone. You talk for 15 minutes. You walk away thinking, "Wow, we just had a great conversation. She is awesome."

Then, when you think about it later, you realize you didn't learn a thing about the other person.

Remarkably likeable people are masters at Social Jiu-Jitsu, the ancient art of getting you to talk about yourself without you ever knowing it happened. SJJ masters are fascinated by every step you took in creating a particularly clever pivot table, by every decision you made when you transformed a 200-slide PowerPoint into a TED Talk-worthy presentation, if you do say so yourself...

SJJ masters use their interest, their politeness, and their social graces to cast an immediate spell on you.

And you like them for it.

Social jiu-jitsu is easy. Just ask the right questions. Stay open-ended and allow room for description and introspection. Ask how, or why, or who.

As soon as you learn a little about someone, ask how they did it. Or why they did it. Or what they liked about it, or what they learned from it, or what you should do if you're in a similar situation.

No one gets too much recognition. Asking the right questions implicitly shows you respect another person's opinion--and, by extension, the person.

We all like people who respect us, if only because it shows they display great judgment.

(Kidding. Sort of.)

They whip out something genuine.

Everyone is better than you at something. (Yes, that's true even for you.) Let them be better than you.

Too many people when they first meet engage in some form of penis-measuring contest. Crude reference but one that instantly calls to mind a time you saw two alpha male master-of-the business-universe types whip out their figurative rulers. (Not literally, of course. I hope you haven't seen that.)

Don't try to win the "getting to know someone" competition. Try to lose. Be complimentary. Be impressed. Admit a failing or a weakness.

You don't have to disclose your darkest secrets. If the other person says, "We just purchased a larger facility," say, "That's awesome. I have to admit I'm jealous. We've wanted to move for a couple years but haven't been able to put together the financing. How did you pull it off?"

Don't be afraid to show a little vulnerability. People may be (momentarily) impressed by the artificial, but people sincerely like the genuine.

Be the real you. People will like the real you.

They ask for nothing.

You know the moment: You're having a great conversation, you're finding things in common... and then bam! Someone plays the networking card.

And everything about your interaction changes.

Put away the hard-charging, goal-oriented, always-on kinda persona. If you have to ask for something, find a way to help the other person, then ask if you can.

Remarkably likeable people focus on what they can do for you--not for themselves.

They "close" genuinely.

"Nice to meet you," you say, nodding once as you part. That's the standard move, one that is instantly forgettable.

Instead go back to the beginning. Shake hands again. Use your free hand to gently touch the other person's forearm or shoulder. Say, "I am really glad I met you." Or say, "You know, I really enjoyed talking with you." Smile: Not that insincere salesperson smile that goes with, "Have a nice day!" but a genuine, appreciative smile.

Making a great first impression is important, but so is making a great last impression.

And they accept it isn't easy.

All this sounds simple, right? It is. But it's not easy, especially if you're shy. The standard, power pose, "Hello, how are you, good to meet you, good seeing you," shuffle feels a lot safer.

But it won't make people like you.

So accept it's hard. Accept that being a little more deferential, a little more genuine, a little more complimentary and a little more vulnerable means putting yourself out there. Accept that at first it will feel risky.

But don't worry: When you help people feel a little better about themselves--which is reason enough--they'll like you for it.

And you'll like yourself a little more, too.

What we can learn from psychopaths

Scientific American excerpts a chapter from Kevin Dutton's book The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success, describing a visit to a high-security ward at Broadmoor Hospital in England, seeking insight into the positive aspect of a psychopathic mindset:
Leslie's pragmatic endorsement of the principles and practices of what might otherwise be described as mindfulness is typical of the psychopath. A psychopath's rapacious proclivity to live in the moment, to “give tomorrow the slip and take today on a joyride” (as Larry, rather whimsically, puts it), is well documented—and at times can be stupendously beneficial. In fact, anchoring your thoughts unswervingly in the present is a discipline that psychopathy and spiritual enlightenment have in common. Clinical psychologist Mark Williams of the University of Oxford, for example, incorporates this principle of centering in his mindfulness-based cognitive-behavior therapy program for sufferers of anxiety and depression.
“Feeling good is an emergency for me,” Danny had commented as he'd slammed in his fourth goal for Chelsea on the Wii. Living in the moment, for him and many psychopaths, takes on a kind of urgency. “I like to ride the roller coaster of life, spin the roulette wheel of fortune, to terminal possibility.”
A desire to feel good in the here and now, shrugging off the future, can be taken to an extreme, of course. But it's a goal we could all perhaps do with taking onboard just a little bit more in our lives.

Activists wary as India rushes to justice after gang rape

Demonstrators shout slogans as they are surrounded by the police during a protest rally in New Delhi in this December 27, 2012 file photo. It's no surprise the Indian street wants faster, harsher justice for sexual crimes after a horrific gang rape that rocked the nation, but some activists worry the government will trample fundamental rights in its rush to be in tune with popular rage. Last month's rape of a physiotherapy student on a moving bus and her death on December 28, 2012 in hospital triggered a national debate about how to better protect women in India, where official data shows one rape is reported on average every 20 minutes. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/Files 
It's no surprise the Indian street wants faster, harsher justice for sexual crimes after a horrific gang rape that rocked the nation, but some activists worry the government will trample fundamental rights in its rush to be in tune with popular rage.
Last month's rape of a physiotherapy student on a moving bus and her death on December 28 in hospital triggered a national debate about how to better protect women in India, where official data shows one rape is reported on average every 20 minutes.
Many women's rights groups are cautiously hopeful the protests and outrage that followed the crime can be channeled into real change - fast-track courts for sexual offences and a plan to hire 2,500 new women police in Delhi are measures already in the works.
But legal experts and some feminists are worried that calls to make rape punishable with death and other draconian penalties will cramp civil liberties and are unconstitutional. They say India needs better policing and prosecutions, not new laws.
"If there are not enough convictions, it is not because of an insufficiency of law, but it is the insufficiency of material to base the conviction on," said retired Delhi High Court judge R.S. Sodhi.
Five men have been charged with the student's rape and murder and will appear before a New Delhi court later on Monday. They are due to be tried in a newly formed fast-track court in the next few weeks. A teenager also accused will likely be tried in a juvenile court.
Ahead of Monday's court appearance the five still had no defense lawyers - despite extensive interrogations by the police, who have said they have recorded confessions - after members of the bar association in the South Delhi district where the case is being heard vowed not to represent them.
The men will be assigned lawyers by the court before the trial begins, but their lack of representation so far could give grounds for appeal later should they be found guilty - similar cases have resulted in acquittals years after convictions.
"The accused has a right to a lawyer from point of arrest - the investigations are going on, statements being taken, it is totally illegal," said Colin Gonsalves, a senior Supreme Court advocate and director of Delhi's Human Rights Law Network.
Senior leaders of most states on Friday came out in support of a plan to lower to 16 the age that minors can be tried as adults - in response to fury that the maximum penalty the accused youth could face is three years detention.
A government panel is considering suggestions to make the death penalty mandatory for rape and introducing forms of chemical castration for the guilty. It is due to make its recommendations by January 23.
"The more you strengthen the powers of the state against the people, the more the possibility you create a draconian regime," said Sehjo Singh, Programme and Policy Director with ActionAid in India and an expert on Indian women's social movements.
"We want to raise the bar of human rights in India, we want to raise the standards, not lower them."
The Indian Express newspaper warned against "knee-jerk" reaction and said any change to the juvenile law "must come after rigorous and considered debate. It cannot be a reaction to a fraught moment".
Courts are swamped with a backlog of cases in the country of 1.2 billion people and trials often take more than five years to complete, so the launch by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir of six fast-track courts in the capital to deal with sexual offences was widely greeted as a welcome move.
Several other states including Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra are now looking at following Delhi's example.
But Gonsalves says while the courts are a good idea on paper, similar tribunals in the past delivered dubious verdicts and put financial pressure on the rest of the justice system.
India set up 1,700 fast-track courts in 2004, but stopped funding them last year because they turned out to be costly. The courts typically work six days a week and try to reduce adjournments that lead to long delays in cases.
"The record of the fast-track courts is mixed," Gonsalves said. Conviction rates rose, he said, but due process was sometimes rushed, leading to convictions being overturned.
"Fast-track courts were in many ways were fast-track injustice," he said.
The real problem lie with bad policing and a shortage of judges, Gonsalves said. India has about a fifth of the number of judges per capita that the United States has.
Indian police are often poorly trained and underpaid, and have sometimes been implicated in organized crime. Rights groups complain the mostly male officers are insensitive to victims of sexual crimes.
Resources for, and expertise in, forensic science is limited in most of the country's police forces and confessions are often extracted under duress. The judiciary complains it is hard to convict offenders because of faulty evidence.
Human Rights Watch said reforms to laws and procedures covering rape and other sexual crimes should focus on protection of witnesses and modernizing support for victims at police stations and hospitals.
The rights organization has documented the continued use of archaic practices such as the "finger test" used by some doctors on rape victims to allegedly determine if they had regular sex.
"Reforms in the rape laws - these are needed. But not in terms of enhancing punishment," said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia Director of Human Rights Watch.
"Why they are not investigated, why there are not enough convictions, those are the things that need to be addressed."

Five accused of rape in India appear in court for charges

Five men accused of the rape and murder of an Indian student appeared in court today to hear charges against them after two of them offered evidence possibly in return for a lighter sentence in the case that has provoked widespread anger.
The five men, along with a teenager, are accused of raping the 23-year-old physiotherapy student after she boarded their bus on the way home from a movie in New Delhi on December 16. She died two weeks later in a Singapore hospital.
The attack on the student has ignited protests against the government and anger towards the police for their perceived failure to protect women. It has also provoked a rare national debate about rising violence against women.
A police guard said the men had their faces covered when they entered the courtroom, which had been closed to the public minutes earlier.
The five had already been charged with murder, rape and abduction along with other offences and the magistrate gave them copies of the charges, a prosecutor in the case told Reuters.
The court has yet to assign them defense lawyers or legal aid, said public prosecutor Rajiv Mohan. Most lawyers are unwilling to defend them because of the brutality of the crime.
Reuters video images showed the men stepping out of a blue police van that brought them from Tihar jail, and walking through a metal detector into the South Delhi court, across the street from the cinema where the victim watched a film before boarding the bus with a male friend on December 16.
Following shouting and angry scenes in the packed court, the magistrate, Namrita Aggarwal, closed the hearing to the media and the public. The court was cleared and police were posted at its doors before the accused were brought in.
"Keeping in view the sensitivity of this case that has risen, the proceedings including the inquiry and trial are to be held in camera," Aggarwal said, before ordering people not connected with the case out of the courtroom.
Aggarwal said the next hearing would be on January 10. She did not say when the case would go to trial in a separate, fast-track court, set up after the attack on the woman.
Two of the accused, Vinay Sharma and Pawan Gupta, moved an application on Saturday requesting they be made "approvers", or informers, against the other accused, Mukesh Kumar, Ram Singh and Akshay Thakura, prosecutor Mohan said.
Mohan said he was seeking the death sentence given the "heinous" crime.
"The five accused persons deserve not less than the death penalty," he said, echoing public sentiment and calls from the victim's family.
Most members of the bar association in Saket district, where the case is being heard, have vowed not to represent the accused.
But on Monday, lawyers Manohar Lal Sharma and V. K. Anand stood up to offer representation to the men. They were heckled by other lawyers who said the accused did not deserve representation.
"We are living in a modern society. We all are educated. Every accused, including those in brutal offences like this, has the legal right to represent his or her case to defend themselves," Lal Sharma said.
The court asked Anand to get the approval of the accused to represent them. If the men, most of them from a slum neighborhood, cannot arrange their own lawyers, the court will offer them legal aid before the trial begins.
Police have conducted extensive interrogations and say they have recorded confessions, even though the five have no lawyers.
Legal experts say their lack of representation could give grounds for appeal should they be found guilty. Similar cases have resulted in acquittals years after convictions.
Last week, chief justice Altamas Kabir inaugurated six fast-track courts to help reduce a backlog of sex crime cases in Delhi.
But some legal experts have warned that previous attempts to fast-track justice in India in some cases led to imperfect convictions that were later challenged.
The sixth member of the gang that lured the student and a male friend into the private bus is under 18 and will be tried in a separate juvenile court.
The government is aiming to lower the age teenagers can be tried as an adult, given widespread public anger that the boy will face a maximum three-year sentence.
The victim, who died on December 29 in hospital in Singapore, where she had been taken for treatment, was identified by a British newspaper on the weekend but Reuters has opted not to name her.
Indian law generally prohibits the identification of victims of sex crimes. The law is intended to protect victims' privacy and keep them from the media glare in a country where the social stigma associated with rape can be devastating.
But her father repeated on Monday his wish that she be identified and said he would be happy to release a photograph of her.
"We don't want to hide her identity, there is no reason for that. The only condition is it should not be misused," he told Reuters.
He said he was confident the trial would be quick and reiterated a call that those responsible be hanged.

Woman seen dragging her mother back into burning home

A woman accused of trying to kill her 74-year-old mother by pushing her back into their burning Lakeside, San Diego, home after setting fire to the residence on New Year's Day pleaded not guilty on Friday to attempted murder, arson, elder abuse, dissuading a witness and other charges. Neomi Lynn Rodriguez, 41, was ordered held on $1.5 million bail over the objection of prosecutor C.J. Mody, who urged that no bail be set. Mody said the defendant, who faces 12 1/2 years in prison if convicted, was arrested two days prior to the Jan. 1 fire after she called the Sheriff's Department to say she was having hallucinations from being under the influence of methamphetamine.

Rodriguez was released from custody 10 to 12 hours later, and authorities were again called to the home at about 4 pm on Tuesday. "This is obviously a sad and tragic case where a 74-year-old mother lost her house - her house was burned down - she could have been seriously hurt or injured," Mody said. Mody said the victim - identified as Kazuko Martinez - was in bed on Tuesday afternoon when she got up and noticed her daughter's bedroom was on fire.

As the mother tried to leave, her daughter grabbed her and tried to push her into the burning bedroom, but she was able to resist and proceeded toward the front door, the prosecutor said. Mody alleged that the defendant tackled her mother and said, "You're not getting out of here." Rodriguez used a tablecloth to try to bind her mother to a dining room table, but the older woman was able to break free, the prosecutor alleged. Rodriguez also ripped the phone out of her mother's hand when she tried to call 911, according to Mody, who said neighbors heard the victim's screams and were able to get her away from the burning house.

The defendant tried to stop the neighbors from using garden hoses to put out the fire, the prosecutor alleged. Both mother and daughter were treated for smoke inhalation. Judge Charles Ervin said Rodriguez was on misdemeanor probation and had previously failed to appear in court on six occasions Rodriguez faces misdemeanor charges of resisting arrest and being under the influence of a controlled substance stemming from the Dec. 30 incident. She will be back in court Jan. 10 for a readiness conference and Jan. 17 for a preliminary hearing.

Ghost sightings soar in Wales

There's something strange going on in Wales – Welsh ghosts are on the increase. Welsh police forces received 13 reports of supernatural spirits spooking homes last year, up from only two Welsh ghost incidents in 2010. Ghosts have been spotted in bedrooms and gardens, peeping through curtains, and moving objects around homes.
One frightened caller in Pembroke told police they saw a ghost’s face in a pile of cushions. A person from Denbigh told police they were assaulted by a ghost, while another caller reported being “grabbed” by a ghastly spirit. In one spine-chilling report to Dyfed Powys Police, a Haverfordwest caller reported seeing their dad as a ghost. And one caller’s son in Llandrindod Wells had a touch of the sixth sense after seeing a ghost in their garden.

The spooky sightings were among a total of 34 ghost sightings reported to police forces in Wales since 2002. The paranormal activity has been revealed through Freedom of Information requests to Wales’ police forces. Gwent Police did not respond to the request for information. North Wales Police received the largest number of ghost sighting reports in Wales, with a total of 17 calls between 2006 and this year.

Officers at South Wales Police were called out to deal with 10 sightings of ghostly paranormal activity between 2007 and 2011, including three reports made to police in Cardiff, four in Swansea, one in Bridgend and one in Rhondda Cynon Taf. Dyfed Powys Police received seven reports of ghost sightings between 2002 and 2011. Last year South Wales Police revealed the force had received three reports of zombies and two of werewolves being spotted in neighbourhoods. There were also two sightings of vampires and six sightings of witches.

Famed Roman Shipwreck Could Be Two

A wreck site famous for an artifact used to calculate astronomical positions and maybe even the Olympic Games, is likely not one, but two ships sunken off the Greek island of Antikythera.  
  Famed Roman Shipwreck Could Be Two

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from la-voleur-de-beaut tumblr.

As Bio-fuel demand grows, so do Guatemala hunger pangs

With its corn-based diet and proximity to the United States, Central America has long been vulnerable to economic riptides related to the United States’ corn policy.  
Now that the United States is using 40 percent of its crop to make Bio-fuel, it is not surprising that tortilla prices have doubled in Guatemala, which imports nearly half of its corn

Scientists seek foolproof signal to predict earthquakes

The dream is to be able to forecast earthquakes like we now predict the weather. 
Even a few minutes' warning would be enough for people to move away from walls or ceilings that might collapse or for nuclear plants and other critical facilities to be shut down safely in advance of the temblor. - More

Mt. Vesuvius from Space

You recall why Mt. Vesuvius is famous -we've posted about the eruption of 79AD before. Now consider this photograph of the volcano taken on January 1 from the ISS.
The volcano has erupted many times since then, including in the 20th century. Got that? It’s still active. Now take another look at that photo, and let the volcano’s surroundings settle in to your mind. It sits just a few kilometers from Naples, and more than half a million people live in the volcano’s red zone—where destruction from a big eruption would be swift and brutal.

Ten Places to Enjoy the Night Sky

Winter evenings make for great stargazing. Visit these spots around NC for an ideal view.
10 places feature image 
We asked skilled stargazers around the state where they like to enjoy the night sky. Pick a location from the list below and plan a late night trip of your own.

1. MacRae Meadows–Linville, NC
MacRae Meadows is closed in the winter, but you can still park at the gate & walk inside.
Directions: From the the stop light in Linville, take Rt. 221 towards Blowing Rock for 1.8 miles. Take the third entrance for MacRaeMeadows/Campground on the left. If you come to the entrance for Grandfather Mountain Park, you’ve gone too far.
Blue Ridge Parkway
Most overlooks along the Parkway offer spots for parking & enough space to sit and enjoy the view. Some recommended overlooks include Craggy Dome Overlook (milepost 364.1), Tanbark Ridge Overlook (milepost 376.7) & Stoney Bald Overlook (milepost 402.6).
3. Stone Mountain State Park–Roaring Gap, NC
A one night reservation for one of Stone Mountain’s many campsites starts at $17. Visit its website for more information.
Address: Stone Mountain State Park, 3042 Frank Parkway, Roaring Gap NC 28668. Telephone: (336)957-8185
4. Pilot Mountain State Park–Pinnacle, NC
A one night reservation for a campground in Pilot Mountain State Park starts at $10. Visit its website for directions and more information.
Address: 1792 Pilot Knob Park Road, Pinnacle, NC 27043. Telephone: (336) 325-2355
5. Town Creek Indian Mound–Mount Gilead, NC
This historic site closes at 5 pm, but it occasionally stays open late for seasonal stargazing. Visit its website to stay updated about these events.
Address: 509 Town Creek Mound Rd., Mt. Gilead, NC 27306. Telephone: (910) 439-6802
6. Jordan Lake–Apex, NC
Jordan Lake offers a number of camping areas that are open year-round. Visit its website for directions and more information.
Address: 280 State Park Rd, Apex, NC. Telephone: (919) 362-0586
7. Bladen Lakes State Forest–Elizabethtown, NC
The lack of lights near this state forest makes it a prime place to look up at the night sky. Camping is permitted in designated areas. Call ahead for more information.
Address: 4470 Hwy 242N, Elizabethtown, NC. Telephone: (910) 588-4964.
8. Bald Head Island
This remote island is only accessible by ferry from the town of Southport and does not allow cars. Visit its website for more information.
Telephone: (910) 457-9700
9. Ocracoke Island
Ocracoke Island offers 13 miles of undeveloped oceanfront land. Although the campgrounds are closed during the winter, you can take a night stroll along the beach to catch crystal clear views of the stars. Visit its website for more information.
Telephone: (252) 928-6711
10. Lake Mattamuskeet–Hyde County, NC
Lake Mattamuskeet is the largest natural lake in North Carolina and it’s home to the Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge. Enjoy its natural serenity late at night. Visit its website for more information.
Telephone: (252) 746-4221 

Bad Astronomy Facts Archive

  •  It would take almost nine years to walk to the Moon. If there were a road 400,000 km long.
  •  On the surface of a neutron star, the gravity is so strong you’d weigh several *billion* tons.
  •  Mars is red due to the presence of large amounts of iron oxide: rust!
  •  Astronomers have seen a star eaten by a black hole. 
  •  All the iron in your blood and all the calcium in your bones were created in exploding stars.
  •  Jupiter's moon Io is more geologically active than Earth. Volcanoes constantly erupt there. 
  •  The Earth is hit by about 100 tons of meteoric dust per day.
These factoids are from Phil Plait's archived 2012 Bad Astronomy Facts. He started the feature, consisting of daily astronomy facts in fewer than 140 characters, on January 4, 2012.
See the entire archive at Bad Astronomy.

Funny Pictures

Squirrel pizza
Everyone Loves Pizza

What Do Breast Implants and a Python Have in Common?

Breast implants, a python, a winning lottery ticket, a bucket of live crabs and a set of four Power Rangers costumes — all are bizarre items left behind in rooms at British locations of the Travelodge hotel chain. Apparently, working in housekeeping at a hotel is not only drudgery. It could be life threatening.

Read about other unusual objects that hotel guests forgot to take with them at the Telegraph.

Odd, Ancient Bird Had Sharp Teeth

The Cretaceous-Era bird had specialized teeth for cracking open hard foods such as insects or snails. Read more
  Odd, Ancient Bird Had Sharp Teeth

Animal Pictures