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The place where the world comes together in honesty and mirth.
Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Daily Drift

Left Long Ago by artsyevie on Flickr.
Times, they ain't forgotten ...

Some of our readers today have been in:
Phuket, Thailand
Cape Town, South Africa
Sekudai, Malaysia
Westminister, England
Medan, Indonesia
Seri Kembangan, Malaysia
Johannesbueg, South Africa
Lodz, Poland
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Hanoi, Vietnam
Manama, Bahrain
Petaling Jaya, Malaysia
Bangkok, Thailand
Cairo, Egypt
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Kempton Park, South Africa
Muscat Oman
Quezon City, Philippines
Naples, Italy
Douala, Cameroon
Makati, Philippines
Bordeaux, France
Sofia, Bulgaria
Manila, Philippines
Berea, South Africa
Oxford, England
Davao, Philippines
Ankara, Turkey
Street, England
Sampaloc, Philippines
Istanbul, Turkey
Windsor, Canada

Today is Organize Your Home Day 

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Today in History

1236 Henry III marries Eleanor of Provence.
1526 Francis of France, held captive by Charles V for a year, signs the Treaty of Madrid, giving up most of his claims in France and Italy.
1797 Napoleon Bonaparte defeats Austrians at Rivoli in northern Italy.
1858 Emperor Napoleon and Empress Eugenie escape unhurt after an Italian assassin throws a bomb at their carriage as they travel to the Paris Opera.
1864 Confederate President Jefferson Davis writes to General Joseph E. Johnson, observing that troops may need to be sent to Alabama or Mississippi.
1911 The USS Arkansas, the largest U.S. battleship, is launched from the yards of the New York Shipbuilding Company.
1915 The French abandon five miles of trenches to the Germans near Soissons.
1916 British authorities seize German attaché Franz von Papen's financial records confirming espionage activities in the U.S.
1917 A Provisional Parliament is established in Poland.
1920 Berlin is placed under martial law as 40,000 radicals rush the Reichstag; 42 are dead and 105 are wounded.
1942 President Franklin D. Roosevelt orders all aliens in the U.S. to register with the government.
1943 Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Charles DeGaulle meet at Casablanca to discuss the direction of the war.
1943 Italian occupation authorities refuse to deport Jews living in their territories in France.
1969 A blast on the U.S. carrier Enterprise in the Pacific results in 24 dead and 85 injured.
1980 The United Nations votes 104-18 to deplore the Soviet aggression in Afghanistan.

Non Sequitur


France bombs Islamist stronghold in north Mali

French military prepares a Mirage 2000D fighter plane in N'Djamena, Chad, in this photo released by the French Army Communications Audiovisual office (ECPAD) on January 12, 2013. REUTERS/ECPAD/Adj. Nicolas Richard/Handout  
French fighter jets pounded an Islamist rebel stronghold in northern Mali on Sunday as Paris poured more troops into the capital Bamako, awaiting a West African force to dislodge al Qaeda-linked insurgents from the country's north. The attack on Gao, the largest city in the desert region controlled by the Islamist alliance, marked a decisive drive northwards on the third day of French air strikes, moving deep into the vast territory seized by rebels in April.
France is determined to end Islamist domination of north Mali, which many fear could act as a base for attacks on the West and for links with al Qaeda in Yemen, Somalia and North Africa.
France's Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said French intervention on Friday had prevented rebels driving southward to seize Bamako itself. He said air raids would continue in the coming days.
"The president is totally determined that we must eradicate these terrorists who threaten the security of Mali, our own country and Europe," he told French television.
In Gao, a dusty town on the banks of the Niger river where Islamists have imposed an extreme form of Sharia law, residents said French fighters and attack helicopters pounded the airport and rebel positions. A huge cloud of black smoke rose from the militants' camp in the north of the city.
"The planes are so fast you can only hear their sound in the sky," resident Soumaila Maiga said by telephone. "We are happy, even though it is frightening. Soon we will be delivered."
A Malian rebel spokesman said the French had also bombed targets in the towns of Lere and Douentza.
France has deployed about 550 soldiers to Mali, split between Bamako and the town of Mopti, 500 km (300 miles) north, Le Drian said. State-of-the-art Rafale fighter jets were also dispatched to reinforce "Operation Serval" - named after an African wildcat.
In Bamako, a Reuters cameraman saw more than 100 French troops disembark on Sunday from a military cargo plane at the international airport, on the outskirts of the capital.
The city itself was calm, with the sun streaking through the dust enveloping the city as the seasonal Harmattan wind blew from the Sahara. Some cars drove around with French flags draped from the windows to celebrate Paris's intervention.
More than two decades of peaceful elections had earned Mali a reputation as a bulwark of democracy, but that image unraveled in a matter of weeks after a military coup last March that left a power vacuum for the Islamist rebellion.
French President Francois Hollande's intervention in Mali has won plaudits from leaders in Europe, Africa and the United States, but it is not without risks.
It raised the risk level for eight French hostages held by al Qaeda allies in the Sahara and for the 30,000 French expatriates living in neighboring, mostly Muslim states.
Concerned about reprisals, France has tightened security at public buildings and on public transport. It advised its 6,000 citizens in Mali to leave as spokesmen for the Islamist groups have promised to exact revenge.
In its first casualty of the campaign, Paris said a French pilot was killed on Friday when rebels shot down his helicopter.
Hours earlier, a French intelligence officer held hostage in Somalia by al Shabaab extremists linked to al Qaeda was killed in a botched commando raid to free him.
President Hollande says France's aim is simply to support a mission by West African bloc ECOWAS to retake the north, as mandated by a U.N. Security Council resolution in December.
With Paris pressing West African nations to send their troops quickly, Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara, who holds the rotating ECOWAS chairmanship, kick-started the operation to deploy 3,300 African soldiers.
Ouattara, installed in power with French military backing in 2011, convened a summit of the 15-nation bloc for Saturday in Ivory Coast to discuss the mission.
"The troops will start arriving in Bamako today and tomorrow," said Ali Coulibaly, Ivory Coast's African Integration Minister. "They will be convoyed to the front."
Military analysts expressed doubt, however, that African nations would be able to mount a swift operation to retake north Mali - a harsh, sparsely populated terrain the size of France - as neither the equipment nor ground troops were prepared.
The United States is considering sending a small number of unarmed surveillance drones to Mali as well as providing logistics support, a U.S. official told Reuters. Britain and Canada have also promised logistical support.
Former French colonies Senegal, Niger and Burkina Faso have all pledged to deploy 500 troops within days. In contrast, regional powerhouse Nigeria, due to lead the ECOWAS force, has suggested it would take time to train and equip the troops.
France, however, appeared to have assumed control of the operation on the ground. Its airstrikes allowed Malian troops to drive the Islamists out of the town of Konna, which they had briefly seized this week in their southward advance.
Calm returned to the town on Sunday after three nights of combat as the Malian army mopped up any rebel fighters. A senior Malian army official said more than 100 rebels had been killed.
"Soldiers are patrolling the streets and have encircled the town," one resident, Madame Coulibaly, told Reuters by phone. "They are searching houses for arms or hidden Islamists."
Human Rights Watch said at least 11 civilians, including three children, had been killed in the fighting.
A spokesman for Doctors Without Borders in neighboring Mauritania said about 200 Malian refugees had already fled across the border to a camp at Fassala and more were on their way.
In Bamako, civilians tried to contribute to the war effort.
"We are very proud and relieved that the army was able to drive the jihadists out of Konna. We hope it will not end there, that is why I'm helping in my own way," said civil servant Ibrahima Kalossi, 32, one of over 40 people who queued to donate blood for wounded soldiers.

Colin Powell says the repugican cabal is having 'an identity problem'

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell says the repugican cabal is having "an identity problem."
The former Joints Chief of Staff chairman who twice endorsed Democrat Barack Obama for president tells NBC's "Meet the Press" that in recent years there's been "a significant shift to the right," and that's produced two losing presidential campaigns.
He says the repugican cabal needs to "take a very hard look at itself and understand that the country has changed" demographically, and that if the party doesn't change, "they're going to be in trouble."
He also bemoans what he calls "a dark vein of intolerance" in some elements of the cabal.

The truth be told

Debt ceiling debate

  The repugican House holding own budget hostage

Paul Krugman made an excellent point this morning on ABC’s THIS WEEK about the upcoming debt ceiling hostage crisis.Krugman asked why the repugicans were holding the debt ceiling increase hostage when the President was simply spending money that they, congress, had already appropriated?
The thing you have to understand is that the debt ceiling is a fundamentally stupid, but dangerous thing. We have congress that tells the president how much he must spend, tells him how much he’s allowed to collect in taxes. He says OK, there’s a difference there, I’ve got to borrow it. And they say, no, you can’t borrow them.
So the whole debt ceiling thing itself is a crazy thing. It actually forces the president to do something illegal, either to defy congress on what it told him to spend or to defy congress and borrow when it told him not to.
In other words, the President wasn’t asking to add to the US national debt.  Congress had already added to it when it passed the budget and appropriations bills.  The President was simply asking to spend the money Congress had already given him, and given him permission to spend.
Bribe corrupt politician debt ceiling

The appropriate time for the repugicans to fight against “deficits” is when they pass the budget and the appropriations bills. But they lost those fights – or rather, they’re always in favor of deficits when they’re in the budget and the appropriations bills (e.g., the repugicans were the ones who created most of the deficit, what with the shrub tax cuts and shrub’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq).
But it’s not just about taxes, Afghanistan and Iraq.  The repugicans have controlled the House for several years now.  They had their chance to go after the deficit, and they punted.  But now, with the fiscal cliff and the debt ceiling, suddenly they’re deficit hawks.
Senator Manchin
Senator Manchin 
One man’s deficit hawk is another’s deficit w*ore.  Far too many politicians in Washington aren’t in the game for sincerity’s-sake.  They’re there to do the bidding of the highest bidder, be it the banks, Big Pharma or the NRA.
So we shouldn’t be surprised when their positions on issues like the debt are internally inconsistent.  Their positions are consistent in the only way that matters to most in Washington – they’re consistently aligned with big-monied special interest groups (we’re talking about you, Senator Manchin (D-NRA)).

Did you know ...

That 1 in 4 profitable corporations in America pay 0 federal taxes

Coca Cola’s vitaminwater lawsuit defense: “reasonable people know we’re liars.”

"Coca-Cola is being sued by a non-profit public interest group, on the grounds that the company's vitaminwater products make unwarranted health claims… lawyers for Coca-Cola are defending the lawsuit by asserting that 'no consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking vitaminwater was a healthy beverage.'

Some just don't get it ...

Glenn Beck is planning a $2 billion libertarian commune in Texas

Popcorn time!
"On his program last night, Beck revealed that his intention to 'go Galt' is quite literal, unveiling grandiose plans to create an entirely self-sustaining community called Independence Park that will provide its own food and energy, produce television and film content, host research and development, serve as a marketplace for products and ideas, while also housing a theme park and serving as a residential community."

The truth hurts

Foods identified as ‘whole grain’ not always healthy

Current standards for classifying foods as “whole grain” are inconsistent and, in some cases, misleading, according to a new study ...
Continue Reading 

Random Photo



Executives see disconnect between violence and television

TV execs see disconnect between TV and violence
If there's any soul-searching among top television executives about onscreen violence contributing to real-life tragedies like the Connecticut school shooting, it isn't readily apparent.
All say the horrors of Newtown and Aurora, Colo., rocked them. But during a series of meetings with reporters here over the last 10 days, none offered concrete examples of how it is changing what they put on the air, or if that is necessary.
"I'm not a psychologist, so I'm not sure you can make the leap (that) a show about serial killers has caused the sort of problems with violence in our country," said Robert Greenblatt, who put "Dexter" on the air when he ran Showtime and is now overseeing development of a series on the notorious creep Hannibal Lecter for NBC. "There are many, many other factors, from mental illness to guns."
All of those points are being considered by Vice President Joe Biden as he prepares to make recommendations Tuesday to President Obama on ways to curb violence. When entertainment executives met with Biden in Washington on Friday, makers of blood-spurting video games like "Call of Duty" and "Mortal Kombat" dominated attention. In theaters, "Texas Chainsaw 3-D" dominated box office receipts during its first week.
Television's biggest influence is its omnipresence; the average American watches more than four hours of TV a day.
In recent days, only FX President John Landgraf said he was in favor of further study about any correlation between entertainment and real violence. Previous studies have been mixed.
Landgraf has sons aged 15, 12 and 9 and said he doesn't let them play video games in which the player is shooting.
Everything the entertainment industry does should be fair game in a discussion about violence, he said. But he pointed out that the zombie series "Walking Dead" and brutally violent "Sons of Anarchy" are both very popular in England and that country has far fewer gun murders than the United States. The availability of powerful assault weapons and ammunition are most responsible for the difference, he said.
The Newtown shooting was heartbreaking, said Paul Lee, ABC entertainment president. "We welcome the conversation as to how we as a culture can make sure that we don't let these events happen again," he said.
He said ABC has strong standards for what it broadcasts, stronger than its competitors.
"We talk about it all the time," he said. "We are storytellers. We have to tell stories that are vibrant and passionate, but we want to make sure that the stories that we tell are done with integrity, you know, there's no gratuitous action that goes out there, that it's driven through the stories and the characters, and that we have a moral compass in what we do."
The appetite for "Walking Dead" and "Texas Chainsaw 3-D" among young viewers is not lost on any TV executive, and bottom line pressure speaks most loudly to them. Broadcast networks feel a particular need to push the envelope when they see cable programs making noise with an ability to show more explicit scenes.
The same week that Lee talked about ABC's standards, the network's hit "Scandal" had a scene depicting waterboarding.
Fox has a highly anticipated series due later this month, "The Following," about a serial killer who recruits deadly disciples, and its gruesome scenes include a woman who commits suicide by gouging her eye and piercing her skull with an ice pick, and a man set on fire at a coffee stand.
Kevin Reilly, Fox entertainment chairman, said that given all of the media choices, the impact on real life is a broad and complex conversation. "It trivializes it to try and link it to television, or broadcast television in particular," he said.
"Part of entertainment, part of what we do on television, is to provide escapism," Reilly said. "Escapism comes in many forms. It could be laughter. It could be fantasy. It is also your worst nightmare come to life. And it makes our palms sweat and it moves us emotionally and puts us on the edge of the seat. We are engrossed in it and we forget ourselves for an hour."
When a network is putting a thriller on the air, it has to be able to compete on an intensity level, he said.
Being publicly questioned about the level of violence on the air clearly annoyed Reilly, however. Asked if Fox had made any changes to the promotion or content of "The Following" after the Newtown school shooting last month, he snapped, "No," and said he wouldn't address any more questions on the topic.
He was wrong, by the way: Fox later said it had replaced a billboard showing a woman with an ice pick with an image of series star Kevin Bacon, and combed its on-air promos to make sure there was no gunplay.
Reilly wasn't alone in his impatience. CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler also called a halt to questions on the topic Saturday after being asked several. Tassler was unhappy with NBC's Greenblatt, who said that CBS' "Criminal Minds" was worse than "Dexter" ever was in terms of content. She said it was a mistake to allow the discussion "devolve into my show versus your show."
CBS is on pace to be the nation's most-watched television network for the 10th time in 11 years, and has done so with a huge fictional body count. The network's prime-time schedule is dominated by procedurals that usually involve solving violent crimes. Tassler said CBS would begin promoting on the Super Bowl a summer series based on a Stephen King book about a town trapped under an invisible dome, the promo clip shown to reporters included drawings of body parts dropping from the sky, a pacemaker bursting out of a man's chest and a bloody hammer being cleaned in a sink.
NBC illustrated a similar disconnect. As its executives said NBC wasn't a "shoot `em up" network, a highlight reel of "Revolution" was shown that that included a swordfight, a standoff between two men with guns, a gunfight and a building blown up with a body flying through the air.
Tassler said CBS will show "awareness and sensitivity" as it moves the process of making pilots and selecting series that will run on the network in coming years.
"Nothing that is on the air is inappropriate," she said. "And our attention is always to continue to be a broadcaster that creates content for a vast, diverse audience."

North Carolina Deaf Man Stabbed After Sign Language Mistaken For Gang Signs

Jarell NealTwo North Carolina deaf men were in the middle of an altercation when a third man, Jarell Neal, approached and stabbed one of them, mistaking his sign language for gang signs, reports Hip-Hop Wired.
On Wednesday January 9, Terrance Ervin Daniels was arguing with another deaf man when the stabbing occurred. Neal stabbed Daniels multiple times and he collapsed on the grass where he was found and transported to the Alamance Regional Medical Center, where he remains listed in stable condition.
Hip-Hop Wired has more:
With the help of a witness, Cathy Sanford, who said that Neal was walking around the neighborhood after the attack, police were able to track him down. Sanford said she was at home when she heard her dog barking and looked in her back yard where she saw Neal running through it. He apparently came back to Sanford’s house later in the day and threatened her 12-year-old granddaughter.
A warrant was obtained for Neal’s arrest and the 22-year-old was apprehended a few hours later. As of yesterday, he was charged with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill, inflicting serious injury and felonious assault on a handicapped person.

The death of Meriwether Lewis

Some of the most interesting aspects of history are not routinely taught in schools.
Lewis got out his pistols. He loaded them and at some time during the early hours of October 11 shot himself in the head. The ball only grazed his skull.

He fell heavily to the floor. Mrs. Grinder heard him exclaim, "O Lord!"

Lewis rose, took up his other pistol, and shot himself in his breast. The ball entered and passed downward through his body, to emerge low down on his backbone.

He survived the second shot, staggered to the door of his room, and callled out, "O madam! Give me some water, and heal my wounds."

Lewis staggered outside, fell, crawled for some distance, raised himself by the side of a tree, then staggered back to his room. He scraped the bucket with a gourd for water, but the bucket was empty. He collapsed on his robes.

At first light, the terrified Mrs. Grinder sent her childern to fetch the servants. When they got to Lewis's room, they found him "busily engaged in cutting himself from head to foot" with his razor.

Lewis saw Pernier and said to him, "I have done the business my good Servant give me some water." Pernier did.

 Lewis uncovered his side and showed them the second wound. He said, "I am no coward; but I am so strong, [it is] so hard to die." He said he had tried to kill himself to deprive his enemies of the pleasure and honor of doing it.

He begged the servants to take his rifle and blow out his brains, telling them not to be afraid, for he would not hurt them, and they could have all the money in his trunk.

Shortly after sunrise, his great heart stopped beating. 
Text from p. 465 of Stephen Ambrose's Undaunted Courage, which includes a discussion of possible reasons why this remakable man ended his life in this fashion.  The background of his memorial is described as follows:
Lewis is buried today at the site of Grinder's Inn, along the Natchez Trace.  Alexander Wilson saw to preparing a proper plot and putting a fence around it.  A broken shaft, authorized by the Tennessee Legislature in 1849 as symbolic of "the violent and untimely end of a bright and glorious career," marks the spot.

TwentySomething & Living at Home

By Lauren Suval

20-Something & Living at HomeIt’s hardly breaking news that young adults are living at home longer.
Of course there are exceptions, but it appears that the idea of leaving the nest immediately following college graduation is long gone.
The current economy makes establishing financial independence a difficult feat. From a sociological perspective, extended mooching off Mom and Dad seems to be trending. Many young adults either are saving the money they do have, basking in domestic convenience, or simply waiting for the right living opportunity.
Overall, it seems they’re just not ready to take the next step.

A 2010 article in the New York Times Magazine features insight from Jeffrey Jensent Arnett, a psychology professor at Clark University. Arnett deems the 20s as a stage called “emerging adulthood.” He points to cultural shifts that led to the creation of this new phase of life: young people feeling less rushed to marry because of the acceptance of premarital sex; young women delaying pregnancy due to more career options and reproductive technology; the need for additional education in our information-based economy; and fewer entry-level jobs available after all those years of schooling.
“Approximately 51 million Americans live in multigenerational households,” stated a May 2012 article in Forbes.
“Twenty-nine percent of 25-34 year-olds have taken shelter Chez Mom and Dad during the Great Recession and with almost 80% satisfied with this arrangement, the impetus to get their own pad ASAP just isn’t there.”
According to the Forbes piece, moving out has become a phenomenon that needs to be approached with caution. Alice Karekezi, a writer for Salon, asserts that living at home longer is now viewed as a practical choice.
“Now to become a qualified professional, many middle-class American kids are going to have to spend many years in completely unpaid internships,” Karekezi said. “So they finish college, or in the course of going to college, they spend years upon years working in jobs that used to pay money and don’t anymore because this market is so crowded. You’ve got to live some place. So in households that can afford it, parents are making it possible for their kids to gather credentials that will allow them someday — they hope — to launch at the level they’re expecting.”
However, since 50 percent of college grads are unemployed or underemployed, a change may not be on the horizon in the near future.
A June 2012 article in the New York Post cites 20-somethings who are still living at home, even if they’re capable of striking out on their own. Jason Siegel graduated from LaFayette College a couple of years ago and was able to secure a job in Manhattan starting at $50,000. Although he’s well employed (and has a serious girlfriend, who could be a potential roommate), he still chooses to stay where he is. “I didn’t want to start a new job and move at the same time,” he said. “It was too much transition, two huge changes at once.”
Convenience appears to be an additional rationale for not running out the door as readily. Another “gainfully employed” 23-year-old told the Post that living at home simply spawned a higher quality of life. “I can travel without worrying about money. I can go out to not the cheapest dinners often. I don’t have to think, ‘Is this dinner next week’s rent?’”
Living at home longer seems to be a sociological trend within “emerging adulthood,” as well as a byproduct of our times and how the Gen Y’s are coping with its unpredictability. To put a positive spin on the pattern, I’ll even say this 20-something generation is patient. It takes patience to achieve financial independence and patience to create a well-thought-out plan before leaving.
In “Occupy Mom and Dad’s House,” personal trainer Amanda Shugar stated that she’s been mentally preparing herself for moving out. “It’s a scary thing,” she said.
It is indeed, especially when all the pieces haven’t fallen into place just yet.

Will longer school year help or hurt US students?

In this Friday, April 15, 2011 photo, U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan is questioned by student Trebor Goodall, right, as he's videotaped by fellow student Faith Brown during a tour of the Charles A. Tindley Accelerated School in Indianapolis. Duncan is a chief proponent of extended hours and a longer school year. The school in Indianapolis has extended hours. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Did your kids moan that winter break was way too short as you got them ready for the first day back in school? They might get their wish of more holiday time off under proposals catching on around the country to lengthen the school year.
But there's a catch: a much shorter summer vacation.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan, a chief proponent of the longer school year, says American students have fallen behind the world academically.
"Whether educators have more time to enrich instruction or students have more time to learn how to play an instrument and write computer code, adding meaningful in-school hours is a critical investment that better prepares children to be successful in the 21st century," he said in December when five states announced they would add at least 300 hours to the academic calendar in some schools beginning this year.
The three-year pilot project will affect about 20,000 students in 40 schools in Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Tennessee.
Proponents argue that too much knowledge is lost while American kids wile away the summer months apart from their lessons. The National Summer Learning Association cites decades of research that shows students' test scores are higher in the same subjects at the beginning of the summer than at the end.
"The research is very clear about that," said Charles Ballinger, executive director emeritus of the National Association for Year-Round School in San Diego. "The only ones who don't lose are the upper 10 to 15 percent of the student body. Those tend to be gifted, college-bound, they're natural learners who will learn wherever they are."
Supporters also say a longer school year would give poor children more access to school-provided healthy meals.
Yet the movement has plenty of detractors — so many that Ballinger sometimes feels like the Grinch trying to steal Christmas.
"I had a parent at one meeting say, 'I want my child to lie on his back in the grass watching the clouds in the sky during the day and the moon and stars at night,'" Ballinger recalled. "I thought, 'Oh, my. Most kids do that for two, three, maybe four days, then say, 'What's next?''"
But opponents aren't simply dreamy romantics.
Besides the outdoor opportunities for pent up youngsters, they say families already are beholden to the school calendar for three seasons out of four. Summer breaks, they say, are needed to provide an academic respite for students' overwrought minds, and to provide time with family and the flexibility to travel and study favorite subjects in more depth. They note that advocates of year-round school cannot point to any evidence that it brings appreciable academic benefits.
"I do believe that if children have not mastered a subject that, within a week, personally, I see a slide in my own child," said Tina Bruno, executive director of the Coalition for a Traditional School Calendar. "That's where the idea of parental involvement and parental responsibility in education comes in, because our children cannot and should not be in school seven days a week, 365 days a year."
Bruno is part of a "Save Our Summers" alliance of parents, grandparents, educational professionals and some summer-time recreation providers fighting year-round school. Local chapters carry names such as Georgians Need Summers, Texans for a Traditional School Year and Save Alabama Summers.
Camps, hotel operators and other summer-specific industries raise red flags about the potential economic effect.
The debate has divided parents and educators.
School days shorter than work days and summer breaks that extend to as many as 12 weeks in some areas run up against increasing political pressure from working households — 30 percent of which are headed by women. These families must fill the gaps with afterschool programs, day care, babysitters and camps.
"Particularly where there are single parents or where both parents are working, they prefer to provide care for three weeks at a time rather than three months at a time," Ballinger said.
The National Center on Time & Learning has estimated that about 1,000 districts have adopted longer school days or years.
Some places that have tried the year-round calendar, including Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and parts of California, have returned to the traditional approach. Strapped budgets and parental dissatisfaction were among reasons.
School years are extended based on three basic models:
—stretching the traditional 180 days of school across the whole calendar year by lengthening spring and winter breaks and shortening the one in the summer.
—adding 20 to 30 actual days of instruction to the 180-day calendar.
—dividing students and staff into groups, typically four, and rotating three through at a time, with one on vacation, throughout the calendar year.
At the heart of the debate is nothing less than the ability of America's workforce to compete globally.
The U.S. remains in the top dozen or so countries in all tested subjects. But even where U.S. student scores have improved, many other nations have improved much faster, leaving American students far behind peers in Asia and Europe.
Still, data are far from clear that more hours behind a desk can help.
A Center for Public Education review found that students in India and China — countries Duncan has pointed to as giving children more classroom time than the U.S. — don't actually spend more time in school than American kids, when disparate data are converted to apples-to-apples comparisons.
The center, an initiative of the National School Boards Association, found 42 U.S. states require more than 800 instructional hours a year for their youngest students, and that's more than India does.
Opponents of extended school point out that states such as Minnesota and Massachusetts steadily shine on standardized achievement tests while preserving their summer break with a post-Labor Day school start.
"It makes sense that more time is going to equate to more learning, but then you have to equate that to more professional development for teachers — will that get more bang for the buck?" said Patte Barth, the center's director. "I look at it, and teachers and instruction are still the most important factor more so than time."
The center's study also found that some nations that outperform the U.S. academically, such as Finland, require less school.
Many schools are experimenting with the less controversial, less costly interim step of lengthening the school day instead of adding days to the school year.
Chicago's public schools extended the school day from 5 hours and 45 minutes to 7 hours last year after a heated offensive by unionized teachers and some parents. Mayor Rahm Emanuel, former chief of staff to Duncan's boss, President Barack Obama, initially pushed an even longer school day — a major sticking point in this year's seven-day teachers' strike. He and other proponents argued that having the shortest school day among the nation's 50 largest districts and one of the shortest school years had put Chicago's children at a competitive disadvantage.
Wendy Katten, executive director of Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education, said opponents held back a push for a 7.5-hour school day, and got an extra staff person assigned to each school to handle the additional hour and 15 minutes of school time.
In San Diego, year-round school has been a reality since the 1970s.
District spokesman Jack Brandais said the concept was initially intended to relieve crowding, not improve performance test scores. The student body and staff were divided into four groups, with three attending school at any given time.
Through decades of fine-tuning, Brandais said the district now runs both traditional and year-round tracks simultaneously.
A 2007 study by Ohio State University sociologist Paul von Hippel found virtually no difference in the academic gains of students who followed a traditional nine-month school calendar and those educated the same number of days spread across the entire year.
Amid budget cuts and teacher layoffs, San Diego has cut five instructional days from both year-round and traditional schedules since last year.

Preview of Verizon's version of America's "six strikes" copyright enforcement scheme

America's largest ISPs took the chickenshit step of agreeing to voluntarily police copyright on behalf of the movie studios and record labels, with a "six strikes" system that involves a series of ever-more-dire warnings and punishments for unsubstantiated copyright complaints from Big Content. Here's a preview of the final stage of the punishment regime at Verizon:
“Redirect your browser to a special web page where you will be given several options. You can: Agree to an immediate temporary (2 or 3 day) reduction in the speed of your Internet access service to 256kbps (a little faster than typical dial-up speed); Agree to the same temporary (2 or 3 day) speed reduction but delay it for a period of 14 days; or Ask for a review of the validity of your alerts by the American Arbitration Association.”

Google's ultrafast Internet draws startups to Kansas City

Matthew Marcus works at his desk in the basement of Kansas City Startup Village in Kansas City, Kan., Friday, Jan. 11, 2013. Marcus started the Village which houses several startup companies and takes advantage of the high speed internet. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner) 
Inside a small bungalow on the street separating Kansas City, Kan., from its sister city in Missouri, a small group of entrepreneurs are working on their ideas for the next high-tech startup, tapping Google Inc.'s new superfast Internet connection that has turned the neighborhood into an unlikely settlement dubbed the "Silicon Prairie."
The home on State Line Road is one of several startup-friendly locations that have sprouted up in Kansas City in recent months. The catalyst is Google Fiber, the search-engine giant's fiber-optic network being tested in the Kansas City area that advertises speeds of up to a gigabyte per second — a rate that massively exceeds the average Internet speeds at homes hooked up with cable modems.
The advantage here for startups is simple: A fast Internet pipe makes it easier to handle large files and eliminates buffering problems that plague online video, live conferencing or other network-intensive tasks. Though the Kansas City location presents challenges for startups, including the ability to raise money outside the traditional Silicon Valley venture capital scene, entrepreneurs like Synthia Payne believe it's the place to be right now for up-and-coming tech companies.
Payne is one of those entrepreneurs hoping to launch her startup dream — an Internet subscription service for musicians who want to collaborate online — on the cheap. She shares the State Line Road house, known as the "Home for Hackers," with other startups under a deal that allows them to live rent-free while they develop their business plans.
Google's network was attractive, Payne said, because her business plan "is dependent upon really good, really fast Internet."
"Without this on-ramp here I probably would have found it very difficult to come here," said Payne, who in December moved from Denver to develop CyberJammer.
Residents here were thrilled when Google announced last year that Kansas City, Kan., and neighboring Kansas City, Mo., would be its test bed for Google Fiber. The Mountain View, Calif.-based company spent months and unknown sums installing optical fiber around the area. Google provides the full gigabit service for $70 a month and its own cable-TV like service for another $50. A slower Internet connection is free on a monthly basis after a $300 installation fee.
The first homes were installed with fiber optics in the fall, with more "fiberhoods" planned in stages over the next several months. Kansas City, Mo., and Kansas City, Kan., remain Google's only fiber market, though the company has said it plans additional roll-outs. Many in the tech industry believe Google's move could ultimately force broadband providers to accelerate their networks to compete. Making Internet access faster would give the company more opportunities to attract traffic and sell more advertising — the main way Google makes money.
The "Home for Hackers" and its unique business pitch is the brainchild of local web developer Ben Barreth, whose property was among the first wave of houses to be fiber-wired and is a block away from the Google Fiber offices. "Hackers" who pass Barreth's application process and show a real intention to work on a viable project can live there rent-free for three months. Since starting the home in October after cashing in his Roth IRA and putting a down payment on the $48,000 home, Barreth has gotten applications from nearly 60 people seeking a spot in the home.
"The whole startup thing in Kansas City is like this huge growing beast," he said. "It's got this crazy momentum."
The house has been full since mid-December with Payne and two others. One of the rooms also is reserved for fiber tourists who want a place for a day or two where they can download anything faster than they could elsewhere.
"The hope is that these startups will move their operations to Kansas City and this will really bless Kansas City, bring jobs and taxes and we'll build a really cool tech scene," Barreth said.
A few homes away from the "Home for Hackers" is the headquarters of the Kansas City Startup Village, which was started by local entrepreneur Matthew Marcus and where Mike Farmer, founder of mobile search app Leap2.com, has his offices. Farmer said Google Fiber brought attention to Kansas City's startup culture, "because it sort of ignites the imagination about what you can do with that sort of bandwidth capability."
"Most every week I meet one or two or three people that are looking to come in from out of town," he said.
Despite the growth, it remains a challenge for startups to raise money from Kansas City, Farmer said. Silicon Valley venture capital groups in particular want startup entrepreneurs to be nearby in California, he said.
"I've had some really incredible conversations with some big name VCs, and their first statement is that when you're in this early stage you have to be here, right next to us," he said. "That is a hurdle."
Andy Kallenbach recently launched FormZapper.com, an online forms management site, and also has offices near the "Home for Hackers." He said Kansas City has no aspirations to be the next Silicon Valley and may never have a "Facebook or a giant consumer-level company that takes over the world."
He said it may also be "better for us" that it's more difficult to raise money in Kansas City.
"The hardest thing about a startup is execution, OK? A lot of people can go out and raise money and get money for an idea or for some product or they can come up with some awesome presentation. But it doesn't matter if you can't build something that people will use," Kallenbach said. "I think here in Kansas City you have to at some point put your money where your mouth is. You have to 'do.'"

Smoke on the water

Ohio family’s tap water catches on fire after natural gas drilling

Surprise, surprise. They’re fracking in the neighborhood and now the methane levels in a family’s well have more than doubled, and what’s happening next?  Their tap water catches on fire. This is a common problem near fracking sites.NBC TODAY:
And near the Klines’ house, it just so happens a natural gas company was drilling.
Before they started, the company paid to test the family’s water. Methane levels were 9, just within safe limits.
But months into the drilling, tests show, the methane levels had skyrocketed — reaching 22 — more than twice the acceptable level.
“We’re wondering if this is all just coincidental,” said Jason.
fracking tap water fire
Here’s the video:
Remember, we’ve seen the same problem in Pennsylvania near fracking sites. Like other states wanting to get in on the fracking boom, Ohio has welcomed fracking businesses. A year ago, Youngstown, Ohio (also in the northeast of the state) purchased earthquake insurance following problems linked to fracking.
Why do so many states think that it’s acceptable to let fracking cause so many problems? It’s disappointing to see that New York is moving towards allowing fracking, when we already know what the results will be for locals.

The Classics

Act Now, Delay Climate Troubles

Jan 13, 2013 // Larry O'Hanlon
An ounce of policy prevention today could save a pound of cure in 2100, when climate change impacts could get severe, according to a new study by U.K. scientists.

Astronomical News

A galaxyGalaxy crash sparks large spiral

Astronomers peering near a known large galaxy are shocked to find that it is in fact much larger - five times wider than our Milky Way. 611

The Universe is a 'Giant Brain'

The idea of the universe as a 'giant brain' has been proposed by scientists - and science fiction writers - for decades.

But now physicists say there may be some evidence that it's actually true. In a sense.

According to a study published in Nature's Scientific Reports, the universe may be growing in the same way as a giant brain - with the electrical firing between brain cells 'mirrored' by the shape of expanding galaxies.

The results of a computer simulation suggest that "natural growth dynamics" - the way that systems evolve - are the same for different kinds of networks - whether its the internet, the human brain or the universe as a whole.

A co-author of the study, Dmitri Krioukov from the University of California San Diego, said that while such systems appear very different, they have evolved in very similar ways.

The result, they argue, is that the universe really does grow like a brain.

The study raises profound questions about how the universe works, Krioukov said.

"For a physicist it's an immediate signal that there is some missing understanding of how nature works," he told Space.com.

The team's simulation modelled the very early life of the universe, shortly after the big bang, by looking at how quantum units of space-time smaller than subatomic particles 'networked' with each other as the universe grew.

They found that the simulation mirrored that of other networks. Some links between similar nodes resulted in limited growth, while others acted as junctions for many different connections.

For instance, some connections are limited and similar - like a person who likes sports visiting many other sports websites - and some are major and connect to many other parts of the network, like Google and Yahoo.

No, it doesn't quite mean that the universe is 'thinking' - but as has been previously pointed out online, it might just mean there's more similarity between the very small and the very large than first appearances 

Awesome Pictures

Roundworm emerges from a dying spider

Succinctly described by the YouTuber as follows: "ok so i was just editing my latest montage and this huge spider came out, so i sprayed it and killed it, then this fricken alien worm came out of it!!!  haha thanks for watching! - baskwith"

It apparently is a parasitic roundworm.  I didn't know they infested creatures as small as spiders.  And I'm amazed that the spider could apparently function with so much of its body mass filled with the nematomorph .

You learn something every day.

First Land Animals Shuffled Like Seals

The first 3-D reconstruction of a four-legged animal backbone reveals that the first animals on land moved like seals

Animal Pictures

El Toro! by TumblingRun on Flickr.