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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.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Daily Drift

Yeah, it's like that ...

Some of our readers today have been in:
Johannesburg, South Africa
San Jose, Costa Rica
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Cairo, Egypt
Birmingham, England
Puchong, Malaysia
Casablanca, Morocco
Monterrey, Mexico
Cape Town, South Africa
Katowice, Poland
Hyderabad, Pakistan
Muar, Malaysia
Multan, Pakistan
Quezon City, Philippines
Cheras, Malaysia
Islamabad, Pakistan
Alberton, South Africa
Shah Alam, Malaysia
Sarajevo,  Bosnia and Herzegovina
Makati, Philippines
London, England
Karachi, Pakistan
Port-Of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
Sampaloc, Philippines
Luqa, Malta
Lahore, Pakistan
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Rabat, Morocco
Sofia, Bulgaria
Subang Jaya, Malaysia
Kaunas, Lithuania
Exeter, England
Al Jizah, Egypt
Cayenne, France
Gdansk, Poland
George Town, Malaysia
Nswam, Ghana
Lima, Peru
Petaling Jaya, Malaysia
Warsaw, Poland
Manila, Philippines
Makassar, Indonesia
Bordeaux, France
Ankara, Turkey
Poznan, Poland
Seremban, Malaysia
Vancouver, Canada
Sao Paolo, Brazil
Johor Bahru, Malaysia

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Obama Puts the Middle Class First

(Surprise: So Do Economists)
"We believe that America's prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class," President Barack Obama said in his second inaugural address Monday in Washington, D.C. It sounds like a remarkable, even wishy-washy, bromide. In fact, it's the backbone of a bold and somewhat revolutionary new economic policy.
Many people suspect there is a trade-off between what is good for profitability and what is good for workers. It's the underlying narrative for today's economy: Business and government leaders have to make tough choices--choices that sometimes mean a business cannot afford to pay workers a living wage or that our government cannot afford to provide services to the poor or income support to the elderly.

Today in History

1533 Henry VIII marries Anne Boleyn.
1787 Small farmers in Springfield, Massachusetts led by Daniel Shays, revolt against tax laws. Federal troops break up the protesters of what becomes known as Shay's Rebellion.
1846 The dreaded Corn Laws, which taxed imported oats, wheat and barley, are repealed by the British Parliament.
1904 Two-hundred coal miners are trapped in their Pennsylvania mine after an explosion.
1915 Alexander Graham Bell in New York and Thomas Watson in San Francisco make a record telephone transmission.
1918 Austria and Germany reject U.S. peace proposals.
1919 The League of Nations plan is adopted by the Allies.
1929 Members of the New York Stock Exchange ask for an additional 275 seats.
1930 New York police rout a Communist rally at the Town Hall.
1943 The last German airfield in Stalingrad is captured by the Red Army.
1949 Axis Sally, who broadcasted Nazi propaganda to U.S. troops in Europe, stands trial in the United States for war crimes.
1951 The U.S. Eighth Army in Korea launches Operation Thunderbolt, a counter attack to push the Chinese Army north of the Han River.
1955 Columbia University scientists develop an atomic clock that is accurate to within one second in 300 years.
1956 Khrushchev says that he believes that Eisenhower is sincere in his efforts to abolish war.
1959 American Airlines begins its first coast-to-coast flight service on a Boeing 707.
1972 Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to U.S. Congress, announces candidacy for president.
1972 Nixon airs the eight-point peace plan for Vietnam, asking for POW release in return for withdrawal.
1984 President Reagan endorses the development of the first U.S. permanently-manned space station.

Non Sequitur


Filibuster Reform Deal Shows the Senate Isn’t Ready to Admit It has a Problem

The problem with the Senate’s new filibuster rules isn’t that they won’t be effective, but that the bipartisan agreement suggests that senators don’t even understand the problem.
Make no mistake about it, the filibuster rules as laid out in the proposal will help the Senate move. Many progressive activists are disappointed by the agreement, but they shouldn’t sell short what these new rules will mean for Obama’s judicial nominees. Earlier this month, President Obama renominated all 33 unconfirmed judicial nominees. Twenty five of Obama’s judicial nominees are women or people of color. The nominees include, “seven the circuit court, 24 district court, and two Court of International Trade nominees. Fully half of these highly qualified jurists have already had hearings before the Judiciary Committee, and eleven of them were pending on the Senate floor and would have been confirmed already, but for Republican insistence on blocking every effort to schedule simple yes-or-no votes.”
Some of the left will be upset over not getting the 51 vote rule, but the biggest problem with the agreement is that the people serving in the Senate don’t seem to be aware that there is even a problem. Many senators didn’t want to dump the 60 vote rule because of the Senate’s tradition of protecting the minority’s rights. Majority Leader Harry Reid summed up this point of view, “I’m not personally, at this stage, ready to get rid of the 60-vote threshold. With the history of the Senate, we have to understand the Senate isn’t and shouldn’t be like the House.”
Reid isn’t alone. Democratic and Republican senators alike get queasy at the mention of any change that would make them more like the House. The problem is that the Senate is already becoming more like the House. After losing his primary, Republican Sen. Dick Lugar wrote, “Unfortunately, we have an increasing number of legislators in both parties who have adopted an unrelenting partisan viewpoint. This shows up in countless vote studies that find diminishing intersections between Democrat and Republican positions. Partisans at both ends of the political spectrum are dominating the political debate in our country. And partisan groups, including outside groups that spent millions against me in this race, are determined to see that this continues. They have worked to make it as difficult as possible for a legislator of either party to hold independent views or engage in constructive compromise. If that attitude prevails in American politics, our government will remain mired in the dysfunction we have witnessed during the last several years.”
Lugar was right. The Senate hasn’t been the high minded deliberative body built on compromise that the framers intended for a very long time. Partisanship had been on the rise, and it went into overdrive after Barack Obama was elected president. The Republican strategy of unrelenting obstruction of Obama has caused both parties to dig in. Like the House, there is a left, a right, and virtually no middle in the Senate.
This is not an argument for the 51 vote rule. The idea that today’s majority can easily be tomorrow’s minority shouldn’t be forgotten, but too many of those who are serving in the Senate are holding on to an illusion of legislative function that doesn’t exist anymore. The Senate is no longer a place for moderation and compromise. The Senate should run more efficiently now, but the worst part of the filibuster agreement is that the Senate isn’t ready yet to admit that it has a problem.

The Citadel: Doomsday Prepper Paradise

Some people stock up on Doomsday Beans or buy luxury Doomsday condo to prepare for the coming apocalypse, but that's not enough for hardcore preppers: for these people, nothing short of a planned Doomsday Prepper Paradise would suffice.
Behold, The Citadel:
The Citadel, as envisioned and advertised by its creators, is to be a walled community of 3,500 to 7,000 “patriotic American families” who are ready for when The Shit Hits The Fan (TSHTF), i.e. the myriad potential society-collapsing disasters, either natural or man made, anticipated by preppers, survivalists, along with other fringe and breakaway strands of -ers and -ists. The Citadel is to be a place for people who want to be “removed and protected from peril in order to preserve ourselves, our posterity, and Liberty in the event of a national economic implosion.” And in whatever time is to be had before grid-down, economic collapse, The Citadel will provide a place to live “a free/freer life in Idaho (or elsewhere in the American Redoubt) amongst the current strong, self-reliant and Liberty-loving residents of the region.”
According to the project’s blog, The Citadel, if completed, will feature the following: the III Arms Factory, a curtain wall and towers, a main gate, a town green named after the Battle of Lexington leader John Parker, a town hall, a community armory, a firearms museum, a farmers’ market, a medical center, a retirement facility, schools including a boarding school, a library, a tourist visitor center, a town center featuring retail and commercial spaces, houses, canals, a lake, ponds, firearms ranges, an archery range, sports fields, a hotel, a bank (III Bank), churches, a power plant, underground shelters, a post office, a fire house, a stockade/jail, a biomass plant, walking trails, orchards, gardens, parks, an outdoor pavilions, a large amphitheater, something called a “command and control center,” a media center, an airstrip, a helipad, a shuttle system, and a parking center. A bird’s-eye artist’s rendering of the project gives off a strong medieval vibe.
Eric Lach of The Talking Points Memo Muckracker has the full story: Here.

Gun nuts think Obama is like Hitler because they don’t like America

It’s a common theme among repugicans, but especially among their radical base – be it the religious base or the gun-nut base (or both).  Namely, that America is heading towards dictatorship, and only their guns (and their god) will stop a Democratic Hitler from turning our country into another Soviet Union or Nazi Germany.Now I’m for “eternal vigilance” and all that.  And I get the concept of being aware of creeping infringements on our freedom, lest they end up being rather large infringements over time.  But I have to say, anyone who thinks America is in danger of becoming the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany has a really fucked up view of what this country is, and is all about.
It’s one thing to object to actual legislation that actually impinges on our rights.  I don’t agree with the anti-health-reform types, but I can understand why someone who is principled might find the principle of the government telling you what to buy distasteful.  I don’t agree that they’re correct, in the construct of health care reform, but I get the objection in principle.
What I don’t get is people who then say that Obamacare is how the Jews got gassed.  Because it’s really not.  The Jews in Europe didn’t die because Hitler wanted to give them more affordable health care.  (They also didn’t die because of gun control.)
And I think this is what bothers me most about the “Obama is a socialist” crowd (and Mitt Romney, Reince Priebus, Sarah Palin and a lot more of their ilk who run the repugican cabal ran with this message), and the “gun control is like Hitler“ loons.  These are people who simply don’t think very highly of America.
The repugicans’ attitudes towards Obama in general, and gun control in particular, remind me of a pre-nuptial agreement gone seriously wrong.  They’re dealing with a partner they seriously do not trust.  We must stop Obama because he’s going to turn the country into a communist state and/or Nazi Germany, they keep telling us.  Which begs an important question: Why did 51% of America vote for a guy who wants to turn us into the USSR and Hitler’s Germany?  Unless of course we’re in cahoots with him.  And thus is born the 47% argument, though Romney was off by 4%.  By their accounts, more than half the county is un-American (which by definition can’t be true).
This is, at its core, the gun nuts’ central tenet.  Not that governments generically shouldn’t be trusted.  But that our government in particular is evil and must be stopped at all costs.  It’s philosophical terrorism that far too often leads to the real thing, whether it’s a shot-up movie theater by a guy dressed like Rambo, or a blown up federal building.  It far too often comes down to the individual in question thinking they are the last defense against tyranny.
The problem we face as a nation is that the men who control today’s Republican party neither trust, nor particularly like, most of America, or Americans.  If you truly see a commie and a Nazi around every corner, then you’re obviously not very thrilled with where you live.
The repugicans don’t have a problem with Obama, they have a problem with America.

Fascism Has Taken Up Residence In the repugican cabal

Warning signs of GOP Fascism
Warning signs of repugican Fascism 

Most scholars agree that a fascist regime is foremost an authoritarian form of government, and as a political ideology, it referred to a political movement linked to Corporatism that existed in and ruled a single country (Italy) for less than 30 years. Early influences of fascist ideology date back to ancient Greece in the city state of Sparta that emphasized rule by a minority of elites and racial purity that was admired and embraced by the Nazis, and to preserve power in the hands of a few, it was necessary to deny equal rights to the population. According to most scholars of fascism, once in power, it historically attacked parliamentary liberalism, and attracted support primarily from the “far right” or “extreme right,” and in America fascism is the repugican cabal.
When President Obama delivered his Inauguration speech on Monday, his message of equality for every citizen characterized America and the original intent of the Founding Fathers. Equality for all cannot be attributed to, or claimed as unique by, any particular political ideology, and it should be universally embraced by all Americans regardless their political or religious inclinations if they are indeed Americans. It is prescient then, that repugicans immediately assailed the President’s Inaugural Address for laying out a “liberal agenda,” and it informs that their perpetual war against liberalism is really a war against the Constitution and equal rights for all Americans. Even though repugicans portrayed the President’s inaugural speech as “far left” and out of the mainstream, the truth is the President was expressing the will of a majority of the American people who affirmed his American agenda in the last election that repugicans refuse to accept and will use any means to reverse.
A pair of polls revealed that Americans agree with the President that, intrinsically related to equality for all, taking care of the infirm, elderly, the poor, and victims of severe weather, and protecting the rights of gays, immigrants, and Americans exercising their right to vote is the agenda they expect as Americans. The repugicans, however, oppose those basic rights as a matter of course and, regardless they are in the minority, to impose their Fascist agenda on the people, including attacking equal rights, they will rig elections and attempt to sway public opinion in their favor by attacking the President’s American agenda by labeling it “far left”  and extremist. It is the first time in memory that a political party has openly assailed equal rights as extremist, even though repugicans have spent decades opposing equal rights for all but white christians and the wealthy, and to continue the practice, they will subvert the election process.
The news that Virginia repugicans secretly passed measures to rig elections in favor of repugican candidates for state and federal offices is a typically fascist ploy to seize power, but the practice is being repeated in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Florida; all repugican-controlled states that went Democratic in 2012. As Americans increasingly view the repugican cabal negatively, and with even repugicans holding a dim view of repugicans in Congress, the repugican cabal is attempting to take control of the government through any means necessary to implement their corporatist agenda and perpetuate the inequality Americans overwhelmingly reject as un-American.
To say the repugican cabal is out of touch with the American people’s wishes, or are deliberately preventing equality for all Americans, is an understatement of epic proportion. They are against gay rights, women’s right to choose, maintaining worker-funded retirement and healthcare programs, and assistance for Veterans, the poor, elderly, and children that is contrary to the will of the voters and what it means to be American. Since they cannot legislate inequality from the halls of Congress and White House, they have enlisted the assistance of religious extremists and gun-fanatics with fear-mongering and claims President Obama is “shredding the Constitution” and give more than tacit approval to calls for a revolution.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that in giving the Inaugural Address, President Obama acted like America is a far left, liberal population instead of center-right leaning, but when in America’s history was the idea of equality ever a far left ideal? McConnell, and other repugicans, revealed that in their John Birch libertarian mindset, equality is anathema to what it means to be American and to seize power to impose their brand of fascism on the nation, they will rig elections, provoke outrage against the legally elected President, and enlist malcontents through fear-mongering to enact corporatist policies regardless the will of the voters.
The repugicans have fallen out of favor with the electorate because of their preference for the wealthy and their far-right extremist positions on issues meant to deprive every American of their constitutionally guaranteed equal rights. As they continue losing support from the people and become irrelevant as a political party, they are becoming more extreme and not unlike a dictator losing power striking out at their enemies and the population. Yesterday Speaker of the House John Boehner told an audience the President wants to “annihilate” the repugican cabal, but the repugican cabal is annihilating itself with one extremist position after another and none as despicable as rigging elections and working to prevent every American from “most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal,” because part and parcel of fascism is reserving equality for a privileged few elite; a particularly fascist repugican tenet of authoritarian rule.

The repugicans Turn Victims of Rape and Incest into Felons and Forced Incubators

handmaids tale
In New Mexico yesterday, repugicans treated us to “Exhibit A” legislation, introduced as House Bill 206. It criminalizes the ending of a pregnancy resulting from rape or incest in some cases, declaring the fetus to be evidence in a criminal trial.
I’ve been pointing out for a while now that House repugicans were going out of their way to give rapists more access to victims (via the repugican’s version of the Violence Against Women Act) and forcing a rape victim to carry her rapist’s baby to term, while also granting the rapist access to the child, inadvertently (?) incentivizing rape. The repugicans have also been working on redefining rape and trying to pass laws so that victims would be renamed “accusers”. But now, they have finally found a way to just come out and say it.
If you get raped or molested, you are the criminal. If you don’t carry the fetus to term, you may face up to three years in prison.
New Mexico repugicans got one of their token females, repugican State Representative Cathrynn Brown, to introduce HB206 in the New Mexico Legislature — new legislation that would force a rape victim to carry the fetus to term in order to preserve evidence (since when do repugicans care about rape evidence?).
The bill reads, “Tampering with evidence shall include procuring or facilitating an abortion, or compelling or coercing another to obtain an abortion, of a fetus that is the result or criminal sexual penetration or incest with the intent to destroy evidence of the crime.”
The only good news I can potentially see here is that repugicans are claiming to care about rape evidence, and so in a world in which their values were consistent, House repugicans would pass the new bipartisan Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act. The new verion of the VAWA seeks to address the epidemic of untested rape kits. If repugicans want evidence, a rape kit might be a bit easier than forcing a woman to carry a fetus to term.
But if they really wanted evidence in order to prosecute rape, then they wouldn’t need to force a woman to carry a rapist’s fetus to term — they could simply test the aborted fetus, or better yet, process the rape kit. While science and the female body are proving to be too complicated for your modern day repugican cabal, this bill isn’t about evidence. This is about finally finding a way to criminalize victims of rape and incest, so as to protect the perpetrators of those crimes, as all patriarchal systems do (Penn State, the Catholic Church, the Stuebenville football culture, etc). Money and power versus the rape/incest victim.
How many women will be reporting a rape if they know they’ll be forced to carry the fetus to term? Even less than report it right now.
“In addition to being blatantly un-Constitutional, the bill turns victims of rape and incest into felons and forces them to become incubators of evidence for the state,” said Pat Davis of ProgressNow New Mexico in a statement. “According to repugican philosophy, victims who are ‘legitimately raped’ will now have to carry the fetus to term in order to prove their case.”
Incubators of evidence and felons? It’s called punishment for reporting a rape.
While hopefully this bill has little chance of passing, it’s important in the sense that it reveals the intentions behind repugican policies relating to women. Taken in context with their refusal to pass the Violence Against Women Act and their many egregious comments about rape and rape victims, it appears as if the intention behind this bill is to protect rapists by inhibiting the reporting of rape.

Immigration fallout from saying no to 'Obamacare'

FILE - This Jan. 10, 2013 file photo show Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer in her office at the Capitol in Phoenix. Governors who reject health insurance for the poor under the federal health care overhaul could wind up in a politically awkward position on immigration: A quirk in the law means some U.S. citizens would be forced to go without coverage, while legal immigrants residing in the same state could still get it. Arizona officials called attention to the problem last week, when Brewer announced she would accept the expansion of Medicaid offered under Obama’s law. Brewer had been a leading opponent of the overhaul, and her decision got widespread attention. Budget documents cited the immigration glitch as one of her reasons. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)   
Governors who reject health insurance for the poor under the federal health care overhaul could wind up in a politically awkward position on immigration: A quirk in the law means some U.S. citizens would be forced to go without coverage, while legal immigrants residing in the same state could still get it. It's an unintended consequence of how last year's Supreme Court decision changed the Medicaid provisions of President Barack Obama's health care law. The overhaul expanded the federal-state program for low-income and disabled people. The Supreme Court made the Medicaid expansion optional for states, which complicated things.
Arizona officials called attention to the problem last week, when Republican Gov. Jan Brewer opted to accept the Medicaid expansion.
Brewer had been a leading opponent of the overhaul, and her decision got widespread attention. State budget documents cited the immigration glitch as one of her reasons.
"If Arizona does not expand, for poor Arizonans below (the federal poverty line), only legal immigrants, but not citizens, would be eligible for subsidies," the documents said.
That's because the immigrants would be eligible for government-subsidized private insurance, while low-income citizens would not. The Obama administration confirmed Arizona's interpretation.
The gist of what Brewer was saying is that "by rejecting the expansion, you are essentially rewarding the immigrant population at the expense of full citizens," said Matt Salo, executive director of the National Association of Medicaid Directors, a nonpartisan group that represents the states in Washington.
"The political optics of that could be crushing," he added.
It could take some explaining for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, steadfastly opposed to what foes dismiss as "Obamacare," and for Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who is reassessing his position. Both states have large numbers of uninsured citizens and legal immigrants.
"I think politicians will be under a lot of pressure not to create these sorts of inequities," said Jennifer Ng'andu, a health policy expert with the National Council of La Raza, one of the major Latino advocacy groups. Her group supports the health care law and is urging every state to accept the Medicaid expansion.
The quirk in the Affordable Care Act was not planned. It came about on the twisting route that laws follow from Congress to the president's desk and to the courts.
To be sure, no one is talking about the government buying health insurance for illegal immigrants. That's not allowed under Medicaid or Obama's law. Instead, the issue here is between U.S. citizens and legal immigrants, those who are lawfully present in the country.
Here's the convoluted background:
Starting Jan. 1, 2014, the health care law will offer health insurance to millions of people now uninsured. Middle-class uninsured people will be able to get taxpayer-subsidized private policies through new markets called exchanges. Low-income uninsured people will be steered to Medicaid, a government program jointly funded by Washington and the states.
Under previous laws, legal immigrants have to wait five years to qualify for Medicaid. Ng'andu said Hispanic advocacy groups wanted to lift that restriction during the 2009 congressional health care debate, but couldn't get political support. The Medicaid waiting period remained in place, but a compromise was reached that would allow low-income legal immigrants to get subsidized private coverage in the new health insurance exchanges.
The health care law expanded Medicaid to cover millions of low-income adults who are ineligible under current rules. As written, the law assumed that every state would accept the Medicaid expansion, with Washington paying for most of it. So the law stipulated that people below the federal poverty line — $11, 170 for a single person, $23,050 for a family of four— could not get subsidies for private coverage in the exchanges. Medicaid was to be their only option.
Legal immigrants here for less than five years remained an exception.
Along came the Supreme Court. It upheld Obama's law, but ruled that states were free to accept or reject the Medicaid expansion. The court did not touch the issue of coverage for legal immigrants in the health insurance exchanges. That provision remained in place.
And that's how the immigration glitch came to be. Poor people in a state that turns down Obama's Medicaid expansion can only get government subsidized coverage if they are legal immigrants. U.S. citizens are out of luck.
So far 11 states have said they're not interested in the Medicaid expansion. Meanwhile, while 17 states and Washington, DC, say they are taking it. The rest are weighing their options. The immigration glitch is now one of those considerations.

Inflation Hawks Are Waging War Against Their Own Hallucinations

Earlier this week the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its monthly inflation report. The numbers came in at 1.7 percent a year for all items. Excluding the ever-volatile food and energy, it was 1.9 percent. That's about as low as inflation has been in the last 50 years. Only 1986 (1.1 percent), 1998 and 2001 (1.6 percent), 2008 (0.1 percent) and 2010 (1.5 percent) have come in lower, and a few years in the mid-2000s registered the same.
The disappearance of inflation over the past 20 years, however, has barely dented the pervasive belief that inflation remains one of the greatest threats to economic stability.

Telcos' six-strikes plan could kill public WiFi

As America's phone and cable companies roll out their "six strikes" plans (which they voluntarily adopted in cooperation with the big film companies), it's becoming clear that operating a public Internet hotspot is going to be nearly impossible. Anyone operating a hotspot will quickly find that it can no longer access popular sites like YouTube and Facebook, because random users have attracted unsubstantiated copyright complaints from the entertainment industry. Verizon (and possibly others) have made it clear that this will apply to businesses as well as individuals, meaning that firms will have to spy on all the traffic of all their users, all the time, and heavily censor their use of the Internet in order to prevent them from attracting these complaints.
It's not much of a stretch to see why the carriers would like this: every time you use a hotspot instead of using your phone or device's metered data-plan, they lose revenue.
Also, as the strikes get higher, there are two things to be aware of: ISPs are then more likely to hand over info to the copyright holders, meaning that it could still lead to copyright holders directly suing. That is, the "mitigation" factors are not, in any way, the sum total of the possible consequences for those accused. On top of that, we still fully expect that at least some copyright holders are planning to insist that ISPs who are aware of subscribers with multiple "strikes" are required under law to terminate their accounts. At least the RIAA has indicated that this is its interpretation of the DMCA's clause that requires service providers to have a "termination policy" for "repeat infringers." So it's quite likely that even if the ISPs have no official plan to kick people off the internet entirely under the plan, some copyright holders will still push for exactly that kind of end result.

Tom the Dancing Bug


Sexy computer art, circa 1956

Sageeeee Sometime between 1956-1958 an unknown IBM employee wrote a punchcard program that displayed the above pin-up girl on the screens of the US military's two billion dollar Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) computers. Some say that the program was a diagnostic tool that showed the pin-up as a data transfer test. Others contend that it was just geek fun. The Atlantic's Benj Edwards tells the story of what was one of the first pieces of figurative computer art. "The Never-Before-Told Story of the World's First Computer Art (It's a Sexy Dame)"

Air Force general calls sex assaults a 'cancer'

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III, left, and Air Force Gen. Edward Rice, Jr., testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, before a House Armed Services Committee hearing on sexual misconduct by basic training instructors at Lackland Air Force Base. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)  
Sexual misconduct within the Air Force's ranks is a "cancer" that the service is committed to eradicating, the Air Force's top officer said Wednesday at the first congressional hearing into a sex scandal at a training headquarters in Texas.
"I will never stop attacking this problem," said Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff, told the House Armed Services Committee.
But underscoring the challenge that the Air Force faces, Welsh said the service recorded a disturbing number of reports of sexual assault last year. The preliminary figures show there were 796 reports of cases, ranging from inappropriate touching to rape, according to Welsh's testimony.
The 2012 figure would be a nearly 30 percent increase from 2011, when 614 cases were reported. The number could be much greater, Welsh said, because many cases are never reported.
"Calling these numbers unacceptable does not do the victims justice," Welsh said. "The truth is, these numbers are appalling."
The 2012 figures are being audited and reviewed before being included in a report the Defense Department will submit to Congress in April, according to Welsh.
Even more disturbing than the number of reports of sexual assault is the fact that most of the offenses are committed by fellow airmen, Welsh said.
The scandal at Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio continues to unfold nearly two years after the first victim came forward. All U.S. airmen report to Lackland for basic training. The base has about 500 military training instructors for about 35,000 airmen who graduate every year. About 1 in 5 recruits is a woman; most instructors are men.
The preliminary results of Air Force investigation released in November described abuses of power by instructors who took advantage of a weak oversight system to prey on young recruits.
The investigation has found that 32 military training instructors allegedly engaged in inappropriate or coercive sexual relationships with 59 recruits and airmen at Lackland, according to the Air Force. Six instructors have been convicted in courts-martial on charges ranging from adultery, rape and conducting unprofessional relationships. Nine more instructors are awaiting courts-martial. Two more received nonjudicial punishments. Fifteen 15 instructors remain under investigation.
The Air Force has changed the way it selects officers and instructors who train new recruits and created a special unit of lawyers and investigators to assist victims of sexual assault.
Welsh said he has stressed to the Air Force's officer corps and senior enlisted ranks the importance of eliminating sexual misconduct. As part of that effort, Welsh issued a "Letter to Airmen" this month that said images, songs and stories that are obscene or vulgar are not part of the Air Force heritage.
Not everyone who commits sexual assault is a predator, but there are predators in the ranks and they have to be found before they act, Welsh said.
The Air Force also has to identify and stop the activities that can lead to inappropriate actions.
"A young man who routinely binge drinks and loses control of himself is going to conduct bad behavior," Welsh said. "That bad behavior could result in sexual assault. Let's stop the binge drinking."
An Air Force veteran who pressed Congress to hold hearings on the misconduct at Lackland said in her statement to the committee there is a sexual assault epidemic in the military. Jennifer Norris said she medically retired in 2010 and was sexually assaulted while serving in the Air Force but not at Lackland. She told the committee she frequently has seen well-intentioned reforms fall short.
Fundamental reforms are needed "to change a military culture and fix the broken military justice system," said Norris, who serves as an advocacy board member of the group Protect Our Defenders.

Anne of Green Gables had herpes

(and you probably do, too)

Anne sneezed. She began to be afraid she was taking a cold in the head. How ghastly it would be to sniffle all through dinner under the eyes of Mrs. Andrew Dawson, nee Christine Stuart! A spot on her lip stung . . . probably a horrible cold-sore was coming on it. Did Juliet ever sneeze? Fancy Portia with chilblains! Or Argive Helen hiccoughing! Or Cleopatra with corns!
Yes, Anne of Green Gables, by the time she reached middle-age, had apparently joined the majority of adults who test positive for the virus herpes simplex type 1 — the cause of the painful, little mouth blisters known colloquially as "cold sores". Estimates vary when it comes to how many of us are HSV-1 carriers. A 2006 study found evidence of HSV-1 infection in 57.7 percent of American adults, ages 14 to 49.* Bryan Cullen, a virologist at Duke University, told me he's seen studies showing that closer to 70 percent of adults are infected — although only something like 1/3rd of those will ever get cold sores.
Don't judge Anne of Green Gables. Chances are good that you're in the same boat.
But why is this virus so common?
Unlike herpes simplex type 2 — the virus you probably think of when you think "herpes" — HSV-1 isn't necessarily a sexually transmitted disease. Most people are infected when they're still little kids. And they're infected by really common behaviors that nobody wants to stop anytime soon — namely, the practice of adults kissing little kids because they're just so darn kissable. (There are several scenes in Anne of Ingleside where Anne probably passes HSV-1 on to her own offspring.)
Lots of people get it as kids. Lots more get it as teenagers when they start kissing the people who caught it in childhood. There's not an easy way to stop that spread. At least, not any way that doesn't make you look sort of stern, unaffectionate, and anti-social. With HSV-2, there are increasingly social influences in place that discourage the spread of the disease. For HSV-1, it's exactly the opposite. Our societal norms make the spread of the virus almost inevitable.
Worse, the virus has some quirks that allow it to really take advantage of those social norms. Young Anne might not have been willing to kiss Marilla right on a gross, weeping blister. But Marilla didn't need a blister to spread the virus.
In fact, the symptoms described in Anne of Ingleside — feeling a tingling pain in the lip where the sore would eventually appear — are a hallmark of herpes blisters. That's because, when it's not hard at work making obvious blisters, the herpes virus can live, silently, in your nerve cells. The virus bunkers down and releases a type of RNA that prevents the host cell from dying. Nobody is entirely sure what causes relapses to happen, but the appearance of new blisters has been associated with any number of things — from other illnesses to stress. (It's worth noting that, in this passage, Anne is on the way to have dinner with her husband's old girlfriend and has, in general, been feeling pretty emotionally distraught about the state of her and Gilbert's relationship.)
Whatever the cause, when a new outbreak happens, the virus begins replicating itself and travels along nerve fibers called axons to reach the epithelial cells — the cells that make up your skin. This is where the showdown happens between the herpes and your immune system, and it's kind of a messy battle. The pain Anne is experiencing is a byproduct of the inflammatory immune response, Cullen told me.
Anne would be most contagious when she has a cold sore on her lip. But that doesn't mean she wouldn't be contagious the rest of the time. The virus is always there. Even if you can't tell a person has HSV-1, they could still be shedding viruses and infecting you.
Which brings me to one final point. I don't want to speculate on Anne and Gilbert's sex life, or yours. But everybody should be aware that "oral herpes" isn't confined to the mouth. Truth is, HSV-1 can pass from one host to another via any mucus membrane, and that includes the ones on your genitals. If somebody with oral herpes goes down on you, there's a possibility that they could give you oral herpes in a place that is most definitely not your mouth. And cases of this happening are one the rise. The virus is common, but the social side-effects can be pretty awkward. So this is a reason to at least consider condoms and dental dams for oral sex.
There is one bit of silver lining to the bummer that is orally transmitted herpes on your genitals. It's possible that someone infected this way wouldn't have recurrent outbreaks on their junk. "Some studies have reported that genital HSV1, and oral HSV2, cause fewer lesions in the non-traditional location," Cullen told me. "But again," he added, "fewer is not always none."
*And, yes, I know Anne of Green Gables was Canadian. The rates seem to be similar up there.

Everything Was Fake but Her Wealth

vIda Wood had been living in relative peace as a recluse on a New York hotel for 24 years when her sister died in 1931 and everything changed. One of her lawyers, who was unfamiliar with Ms. Wood, worked to figure out who this 93-year-old woman really was. For one thing, he discovered that despite her miserly lifestyle, she was quite wealthy.
A representative from Union Pacific revealed that the sisters owned about $175,000 worth of stock and had not cashed their dividends for a dozen years. Examining the sale of the New York Daily News, O’Brien learned that Ida had sold the paper in 1901 to the publisher of the New York Sun for more than $250,000. An old acquaintance reported that she sold all of the valuable possessions she’d acquired over the years—furniture, sculptures, tapestries, oil paintings. An officer at the Guaranty Trust Company remembered Ida coming to the bank in 1907, at the height of the financial panic, demanding the balance of her account in cash and stuffing all of it, nearly $1 million, into a netted bag. Declaring she was “tired of everything,” she checked into the Herald Square Hotel and disappeared, effectively removing herself from her own life.
As word got out, dozens of Wood's "relatives" came forward hoping to inherit her wealth, going so far as to have her declared incompetent so they could search her belongings. Yes, they found plenty, but it was only after Ida Wood finally died that the strangest part of her story came to light. And that's the story you'll find at Past Imperfect.

Bitcoin casinos report large profits

Bitcoin-based casinos are reporting pretty serious, six-figure profits on a series of games wherein players' apopheniac tendencies cause them to hallucinate non-randomness in the performance of a pseudorandom-number generator. The casinos claim that their financial numbers can be trusted because of BitCoin's shared logfile, which can be parsed to show their earnings.
SatoshiDice, which has servers based in Ireland, is a pseudo-random number generator game where players choose a number and then bet on the likelihood that a “rolled number” is greater than the one they’ve selected. If the rolled number is greater, then they win. The house has a 1.9 percent edge—which is where the profit comes in.
The online dice game has returned profits to the tune of ฿33,310 ($596,231) during 2012—an average actual profit of ฿135.96 ($2,416) per day from May through December 2012. During that period, players put down a total of 2,349,882 bets. That’s still minuscule by Las Vegas standards, but respectable.
bitZino, by contrast, released its figures in early January and seems to be doing a decent pace of business too (bitZino's bookkeeping only measures June 9 to December 31, 2012). The online casino—hosted in the US, offering online poker, blackjack, craps, and roulette—did not publish a profit and loss statement. bitZino did say it had paid out ฿28,986 ($495,000)—and that 3.2 million wagers were made during H2 2012.

The Greatest Diners In Television History And Their Yelp Reviews

Many scenes from our favorite television shows would often unfold at their eating establishment. Whether the actors are sitting comfortably in their favorite booth, or actually work there, the restaurant setting gives the viewer a feeling of comfort - as if we're actually sitting with, or being waited on by members of the cast.

Although they mostly exist in the alternate reality of television, it begs the question of whether we would frequent them if they were real. Also worth noting, is that if we pretend for a second that these diners did exist, then Yelp would certainly have something to say about them.

Bathroom Break? You've Got Exactly Two Minutes!

Need to go to the bathroom? Better be quick, the clock is ticking. You've got exactly two minutes, or you'll be fined. Late again, and you'll be fired.
No wonder hundreds of Chinese factory workers got angry and held their managers hostage for a day and a half over the ridiculously strict rules:
About 1,000 workers at Shanghai Shinmei Electric Company held the 10 Japanese nationals and eight Chinese managers inside the factory in Shanghai starting Friday morning until 11.50 p.m. Saturday, said a statement from the parent company, Shinmei Electric Co., released Monday. It said the managers were released uninjured after 300 police officers were called to the factory.
A security guard at the Shanghai plant said Tuesday that workers had gone on strike to protest the company's issuing of new work rules, including time limits on bathroom breaks and fines for being late.
"The workers demanded the scrapping of the ridiculously strict requirements stipulating that workers only have two minutes to go to the toilet and workers will be fined 50 yuan ($8) if they are late once and fired if they are late twice," said the security guard, surnamed Feng. "The managers were later freed when police intervened and when they agreed to reconsider the rules."

Random Photo


(via Historical / Ziegfeld girl, Marion Benda c. 1920’s)
( Ziegfeld girl, Marion Benda c. 1920’s)

Human Migration Around The World

Almost 216 million people, or 3.15% of the world population, live outside their countries. Designer Carlo Zapponi created a visualization showing the migration flows across the world. Click on a country box to know more about migration flow to/from that country.

Massive melting of Andes glaciers

 Peru glacier  
The tropical glaciers are melting at their fastest rate in 300 years

Glaciers in the tropical Andes have shrunk by 30-50% since the 1970s, according to a study.
The glaciers, which provide fresh water for tens of millions in South America, are retreating at their fastest rate in the past 300 years.
The study included data on about half of all Andean glaciers and blamed the melting on an average temperature rise of 0.7C from 1950-1994.
Details appear in the academic journal Cryosphere.
The authors report that glaciers are retreating everywhere in the tropical Andes, but the melting is more pronounced for small glaciers at low altitudes.
Glaciers at altitudes below 5,400m have lost about 1.35m in ice thickness per year since the late 1970s, twice the rate of the larger, high-altitude glaciers.
"Because the maximum thickness of these small, low-altitude glaciers rarely exceeds 40 metres, with such an annual loss they will probably completely disappear within the coming decades," said lead author Antoine Rabatel, from the Laboratory for Glaciology and Environmental Geophysics in Grenoble, France.
Water shortages The researchers also say there was little change in the amount of rainfall in the region over the last few decades and so could not account for changes in glacier retreat.
Without changes in rainfall, the region could face water shortages in the future, the scientists say.
The Santa River valley in Peru could be most affected; its hundreds of thousands of inhabitants rely heavily on glacier water for agriculture, domestic consumption, and hydropower.
Large cities, such as La Paz in Bolivia, could also face problems. "Glaciers provide about 15% of the La Paz water supply throughout the year, increasing to about 27% during the dry season," said co-author Alvaro Soruco from the Institute of Geological and Environmental Investigations in Bolivia.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has pointed to the importance of mountain glaciers as sensitive indicators of climate change.
Globally, glaciers have been retreating since the early 20th Century, with a few exceptions. Himalayan glaciers are relatively poorly studied and there are suggestions that some are actually putting on mass.
Some scientists say the Chacaltaya glacier in Bolivia, which used to be the world's highest ski run, has already nearly disappeared.

Soap Bubble Nebula

Pop goes the supernova! Actually, that's planetary nebula PN G75.5+1.7, or better known as the Soap Bubble Nebula, which was discovered by amateur astronomer Dave Jurasevich back in 2008.
Just look at it and wonder what other marvels does the Universe have in stock? More

The Mechanic


Auto mechanic.

Microbes 10 to 1

Microbes in your body outnumber your cells by ten to one and can weigh as much as or more than your brain.

Photographed here with a microscope, the human mouth hosts an array of microbes. 

Take a look here.

Can I Have a Pet Fox?

Post a video of a fox on the internet, and someone will always express an interest in having one for a pet. Is that really feasible? First, it depends on the laws in your state or country, which vary widely. Next understand that almost all foxes are wild animals. A wild animal can be "tamed," in that it can get used to being around people, but it will still be genetically a wild animal. In order to get a fox to love you and cuddle with you, it must be "domesticated," which is a process of breeding over generations to select for pet-like qualities instead of wild animal qualities.

Soviet geneticist Dmitry K. Belyaev has been breeding foxes in Siberia for over 50 years, to study the genetic differences between wild and domesticated animals. This led to a trade in domesticated foxes, true pets which are the results of 30-35 generations of breeding. You can buy one, thanks to Kay Fedewa, the exclusive U.S. importer of domesticated foxes. She has her own domesticated fox named Anya.
So what's it like to have a domesticated fox as a pet? Not quite like a dog, says Fedewa--a fox isn't a cool-looking dog, it's a different animal with different behavioral quirks. "Foxes are highly intelligent," says Fedewa, "and because of that they're ridiculously curious." Fedewa's fox, Anya, is not very big--only about 10 pounds, the weight of a mid-sized cat, though with her fluffy winter fur, she appears much larger. Anya is prone to digging up potted plants and chewing on them; foxes have a much stronger digging impulse than domesticated dogs. They also need an outdoor enclosure. Fedewa's cost a few thousand dollars to build and is filled with sand so Anya can dig. And fox urine is a major problem: Fedewa says you should "imagine cat pee, but a million times worse. It smells like skunk, it's the most pungent thing in the universe. If it gets in your carpet, you need a special enzyme to break it down, so if your fox marks [your home], that's pretty destructive." Some foxes can be house-trained to use a litter box, but they will still sometime mark their environment.
Oh, and importing one will run you around $8,000. Read about domesticated foxes, tame foxes, and the history and legality of owning wild species at PopSci .


Born on the island of Molokai, Hawaii, USA, Zoe is the only known captive white (golden) Zebra in existence. Gorgeous !!!

Animal Pictures