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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.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Daily Drift

Skiers take note
Skiers, you are hereby given notice ... 

Some of our readers today have been in:
Muscat, Oman
Montana, Bulgaria
Klang, Malaysia
Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Worongary, Australia
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Cairo, Egypt
Ankara, Turkey
Katowice, Poland
Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Cape Town, South Africa
Karachi, Pakistan
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Rabat, Morocco
London, England
Hyderabad, Pakistan
Shah Alam, Malaysia
Monterrey, Mexico
Sampaloc, Philippines
Surabaya, Indonesia
Puchong, Malaysia
Hanoi, Vietnam
Cayenne, France
Cartago, Cost Rica
Muar, Malaysia
Islamabad, Pakistan
Kaunas, Lithuania
Zagreb, Croatia
Cheras, Malaysia
Baghdad, Iraq
Luqa, Malta
Szczecin, Pland
Abbottabad, Pakistan
San Salvador, El Salvador
Casablanca, Morocco
Salcedo, Philippines
Warsaw, Poland
Multan, Pakistan

Today is Thomas Crapper Day
(He invented the flush-toilet and yes his name was Crapper)

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Today in History

1695 Mustafa II becomes the Ottoman sultan in Istanbul on the death of Amhed II.
1825 Congress approves Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma), clearing the way for forced relocation of the Eastern Indians on the "Trail of Tears."
1862 President Abraham Lincoln issues General War Order No. 1, setting in motion the Union armies.
1900 Foreign diplomats in Peking fear revolt and demand that the Imperial Government discipline the Boxer Rebels.
1905 Russian General Kuropatkin takes the offensive in Manchuria. The Japanese under General Oyama suffer heavy casualties.
1916 President Woodrow Wilson opens preparedness program.
1918 Communists attempt to seize power in Finland.
1924 Lenin's body is laid in a marble tomb on Red Square near the Kremlin.
1935 A League of Nations majority favors depriving Japan of mandates.
1939 President Franklin D. Roosevelt approves the sale of U.S. war planes to France.
1941 The United States and Great Britain begin high-level military talks in Washington.
1943 The first U.S. raids on the Reich blast Wilhelmshaven base and Emden.
1959 NASA selects 110 candidates for the first U.S. space flight.
1965 Military leaders oust the civilian government of Tran Van Huong in Saigon.
1967 Three astronauts are killed in a flash fire that engulfed their Apollo 1 spacecraft.
1973 A cease fire in Vietnam is called as the Paris peace accords are signed by the United States and North Vietnam.
1978 The State Supreme Court rules that Nazis can display the Swastika in a march in Skokie, Illinois.
1985 Pope John Paul says mass to one million in Venezuela.

Non Sequitur


Democrats lack votes for assault weapons ban

Apparently it’s going to be a touch slog passing the assault weapons ban in the Senate.  To be fair to Democrats, there hasn’t been any mass shooting of school children in a few weeks, so it’s gotta be really hard finding a way to convince the American that guns are bad.The Democrats can be thankful at least that the repugican cabal, with all of its wacky out-of-touch political positions, is in chaos — otherwise the Democrats would have a problem on their hands. Since most Americans are in favor of an assault weapons ban (74%) it’s not even a radical position to take. The biggest problem facing Democrats is campaign money, and obviously too many Democrats are afraid of either losing it, or of having gun-nut money used against them.
Bloomberg on the chances of passing the assault weapons ban:
walmart gunAt least six of the 55 senators in the Democratic caucus have expressed skepticism or outright opposition to a ban, the review found. That means Democrats wouldn’t have a 51-vote majority to pass the measure, let alone the 60 needed to break a repugican filibuster to bring it to a floor vote.
A ban on the military-style weapons is among the legislative goals President Barack Obama outlined in his recommendations to Congress on curbing gun violence after the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School slaughter of 20 children and six educators in Newtown, Connecticut. Vice President Joe Biden said yesterday it will take “persuasion and information” to gain the necessary support to enact the White House package.
“We have an obligation to act — not wait,” Biden told reporters after a more than two-hour roundtable at Virginia Commonwealth University to discuss the administration’s push for new gun-safety measures.
It’s possible that Biden may be able to help in the Senate. He’s right that the political class does have an obligation to act. But will they?  And even if we don’t have the votes, let them vote to kill the assault weapons ban, only a month after Sandy Hook.  LET THEM.  It’s about time Democrats starting forcing blue dog Democrats, and their repugican brothers, to defend the indefensible in front of the American people.  If they want to support murder, let them do it proudly, loudly, and publicly on TV so all of America can see them.

The perversion of our political system

I don't know if we can call Rick Nolan of Minnesota a freshman congressman. Technically, he is one of the incoming congressmen of the 113th Congress, but Nolan's been there before. He was part of the 94th through 96th Congress as well. And he's noticed a whole lot of changes since the last time he walked the halls of Congress. One thing that sticks out like a sore thumb? The work hours:
"My first term, we worked 48 out of 52 weeks," Nolan said on Friday's edition of The Daily Rundown. "Most of those days were four and five day weeks. We were in committee virtually every morning, we were on the floor of the House throughout the afternoons and the evenings and we were working in the process of governing which is what we're elected to do."

He expressed his disappointment that Congress is only currently scheduled to work 34 out of 52 weeks and considers most of those days "not real."

"We went into session Monday, for example, we don't have any votes scheduled until 6:30 in the evening, we were also scheduled to work on Tuesday-which we did-and then we were scheduled to work on Wednesday and we took the day off," Nolan said.

Nolan quickly agreed with the public's sentiment "everybody's campaigning and nobody's governing," saying Congress isn't governing like they should especially with all the serious issues the country is facing. He told Todd that the time given for Congressional members to campaign and the money they use has become "toxic."

"I mean, we're told here two things," he said. "One is the one with the most money gets the most votes and number two - you should be spending 30 hours a week in fundraising and call time-dialing for dollars."

The repugicans Decide the Solution to Their Problems is to Fuck Over America with a Smile

Most people would be inclined to agree that being assaulted by a criminal with a smile on their face is still being assaulted, especially if the assailant has a history of attacking them at every opportunity. Whether an attacker is smiling or scowling, the damage they inflict is still painful, and even semi-intelligent human beings would avoid any situation that might give the assailant another chance to inflict harm on them or their loved ones. Politicians learn early on to smile regardless if they are proposing legislation that helps or harms their constituents, and it does not take long for the public to learn that it is the politician’s record and position on issues that matters and not whether they present themselves and their agenda in a friendly manner or with a smile on their face. The repugicans have not proposed one idea over the past decade, or longer, that benefits the population, and in fact have been purveyors of pain and suffering for Americans far removed from the wealthiest 1% of income earners and fundamentalist christian fanatics. After three days of meeting to plot strategies to continue inflicting damage on the American people, the repugican national committee decided that if they present detrimental legislation with a smile on the faces, their harmful agenda will be embraced by Americans.
The message coming from the 2013 rnc Winter meeting in Charlotte this week is that substantive policy changes are not the answer to garner support from voters because repugican leaders insist there was nothing wrong with their message that lost them the 2012 election, it was how and who delivered the messages of doom. The consensus among repugican leaders is that Americans want to be assaulted by repugicans; they just want them to smile as they implement Draconian spending cuts, lower taxes for the rich, anti-women legislation, and religious edicts straight out of the Old Testament. The repugican leadership is so out of touch with the American people, and so stuck on their ideologically backward agenda, that one member said “We can stand by our timeless principles and articulate them in ways that are modern, relevant to our time and relatable to the majority of voters.” They then unanimously approved a resolution by voice vote calling on Congress to defund Planned Parenthood despite a majority of Americans oppose defunding the organization.
There are myriad problems endemic to repugican policies, but primarily they do not comprehend that their agenda and policies are contrary to the will of the people, and they are only interested in serving voters who agree with their platform. New Hampshire chairman Wayne MacDonald said party leaders need to be firm and assertive without being mean-spirited, and asserted that no-one thinks the repugican cabal has to change any platform planks because “this party wants to serve everybody that believes in our principles,” and it informs what pundits and political observers have known for some time; repugicans do not want, or intend, to serve all Americans; only those who agree with their policies.
One of the rnc winter meetings’ attendees, who recently stole the North Carolina Governorship, Pat McCrory, believes the cabal must reorient itself away from Washington and focus on experimenting with new policy approaches in the states, and repugicans have gone beyond the experimental stage. In two states, Kansas and Louisiana, the repugican governors proposed raising taxes on the poor while cutting taxes for the rich that repugicans in Congress like Mitch McConnell and Eric Cantor have proposed over the course of the past year that certainly did not help repugicans in the last election. During the 2012 election, President Obama ran on raising taxes on the rich and giving 98% of Americans a tax cut, and yet according to repugicans, they “have the right policy but do a terrible job conveying it,” so their tactic to better transmit their “tax-the-poor” policy is implementing it in the states, with a smile, so the public will accept them with open arms.
One of the subjects discussed at the rnc meeting was reaching out to minorities and young people in a more “friendly” way, and rnc chairman, Reince Priebus said, “When it comes to young people, when it comes to African-Americans and Hispanics, we really have done an incredible job over the last few years,” and “actually our principles are more conducive to minorities than the Democrats.” However, the results of the election told a different story as African Americans, young people, and Hispanics overwhelmingly supported the President and Democrats, and to correct that, repugicans intend on “communicating with them in the proper forums, and explaining the values to them.” It may prove difficult to explain to minorities, young people, and any American that slashing safety nets, education funding, and raising their taxes to benefit corporations and the wealthy, is good for the people, and certainly not the values most Americans hold regardless if they are minorities, young, or old.
The repugicans in Congress and states did not need the rnc to confirm their dystopian policies and extremist agenda is “just fine” and what the people really want. The repugicans started off the 113th Congress with a personhood bill to ban contraception, competing bills to defund Planned Parenthood, and some of the harshest anti-abortion bills that are all the rage in repugican-controlled states in spite of a poll signifying support for keeping Roe v. Wade’s access to legal abortion in place; no amount of “smiling” will change public opinion.
If the rnc is dysfunctional enough to think Americans will embrace their extreme positions on raising taxes on the poor, slashing social safety nets, rigging elections, and assaulting Social Security and Medicare just because they smile as they wreak havoc on the people, they are in greater danger of self-annihilation than they could possibly imagine. That repugicans even entertain the notion that explaining their dangerous ideology with a friendly demeanor will sway voters to embrace fascism, theocracy, and Draconian austerity is another indication the repugican cabal will forge ahead at their peril, and smile their way into political oblivion.

ALEC’s Fingerprints Are All Over the Electoral College Rigging Efforts in Blue States

United States of ALEC
One of the benefits of living in a democracy is knowing, with relative certainty, that the people choose a representative to lead the country through the electoral process, and although not every voter is pleased with the results of an election, they can rest easy the leader was chosen by the people and not appointed by special interests. The repugicans hate democracy and fair elections, and to ensure future presidents are chosen by wingnut fascist committee, they have been on a two-and-a-half year crusade to rig the electoral process to guarantee a repugican will win the White House with fewer votes than their opponent. In the last election, although Democrats garnered 1.4 million more votes than repugicans, redistricting and gerrymandering enabled the repugican cabal to hang on to the House of Representatives. The repugicans are notorious for using revolting tactics to win elections, and the current coup d’état by electoral college rigging is a travesty, but like every dirty trick repugicans use to steal elections, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is behind Electoral College rigging efforts in repugican-controlled states that overwhelmingly voted for President Obama.
The current repugican assault on the democratic process began during the 2010 midterm elections when dark money groups helped repugicans pick up 675 legislative seats and gain complete control of 12 state legislatures, and the result was the repugican cabal redrawing lines for four times as many congressional districts as Democrats. In early 2010, Karl Rove laid out the repugican approach to redistricting in a Wall Street Journal article titled, “He who controls redistricting can control Congress” and his words were prophetic as repugicans held the House of Representatives despite earning 1.4 million fewer votes than Democrats. Once repugicans controlled state legislatures, they had free rein to begin redistricting to tilt elections in repugicans’ favor, and it was ALEC that provided repugican governors and state legislators with the redistricting tactic to rig Electoral College votes and guarantee a repugican will always be president.
The corporate-controlled ALEC was instrumental in pushing redistricting tactics spearheaded by a former national repugican Party lawyer, Mark Brayden, who gave a presentation on redistricting to members of ALEC’s Public Safety and Elections Task Force in December 2010.  Wisconsin Senate majority leader, Scott Fitzgerald, a member of that Task Force and former ALEC state chair, received an email invitation in January 2011 for an ALEC “special” conference call with other Wisconsin repugicans to discuss the legality of redistricting; Fitzgerald led the redistricting effort in Wisconsin, and no Democrats were invited to the secret ALEC conference call. Despite being sharply criticized by a court for developing redistricting maps in Wisconsin under a “veil of secrecy,” the new maps have taken effect and the majority of Congressional districts are now out-of-step with statewide voting patterns.
With new redistricting in place, repugicans plan to allocate electoral votes so that the lion’s share of the state’s electors would go, one by one, to the presidential candidate who won each individual congressional district, but only in blue states. For example, in Michigan where President Obama won by nearly 10 points in 2012, Willard Romney would have received 9 of the state’s 16 electoral votes because he received more votes than the President in nine of the state’s congressional districts. It is precisely how repugicans in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Virginia, and Wisconsin plan on handing a repugican the White House if the despicable electoral rigging is allowed to reach fruition.
ALEC has been directing repugican-controlled state legislatures in various schemes to sway elections in favor of ALEC’s candidates since the 2010 midterm elections, and repugican national ccabal chairman, Reince Priebus, made it clear he wants repugicans to use every dirty trick and bit of power they retain to rig the electoral process as part of a national strategy to hand repugicans victories even when they lose elections. Last week, Priebus urged repugican governors and legislators to rig the Electoral College by changing the rules for distributing Electoral College votes, and that is how democracy dies at the hands of ALEC and their repugican lackeys.
The repugicans have to cheat to seize control of the nation because in a democratic process, their policies will never garner support from the voters, and although the latest ploy to subvert the Electoral College is just now gaining steam, it is part of ALEC’s long term strategy to appoint leaders their corporate masters demand. ALEC’s redistricting push began in late 2010 after dirty money from Karl Rove-types swept repugicans into state legislatures and governor’s mansions, and it is from those states that elected President Obama where the repugican cabal’s coup d’état will have its greatest effect and ensure a permanent repugican president.
If any American thinks for a minute that there are limits to repugican fascists’ efforts to rig elections in their favor, they are blind, because ALEC and the repugican cabal are threatening more than Democratic Presidents, congressional seats, state legislatures and governors; they threaten the existence of democracy itself. Americans should be repulsed and mortified it is even possible for ALEC and repugicans to impede the will of the people in choosing their president, but that is the price Democrats pay for sitting out the 2010 midterm elections, because now they will learn the hard way that “elections have consequences” and democracy can die.

Judge Who Erroneously Ruled Obama Violated the Constitution Has a History Of Wingnut Judicial Agitation

The judge who ruled that Obama’s recess appointments violated the constitution is a Jesse Helms crony who overturned the convictions of Oliver and John Poindexter and sided with the shrub on indefinite detentions.
Judge David Bryan Sentelle was first appointed to the bench by Ronald Reagan. Sentelle history of  wingnut agitation from the bench was detailed by Will Stabley, “However, Sentelle was promoted to the United States Appeals Court shortly after, as a circuit court judge, he voted to overturn the convictions of Oliver North and John Poindexter – two key Reagan aides who had been found guilty in the Iran Contra scandal. This seeming tit for tat between Sentelle continued as he appointed Kenneth Starr to the role which Starr would go on to use in his overtly aggressive impeachment case against democrat Bill Clinton…Sentelle then went on to side with repugican the shrub on the issue of indefinite detention without the right to trial, in a controversial ruling which saw even a fellow judge on his own panel dissenting against him.”
Sentelle has been described as a crony of Jesse Helms. He is also a member of the Federalist Society a group that describes itself and its role as, “Law schools and the legal profession are currently strongly dominated by a form of orthodox liberal ideology which advocates a centralized and uniform society. While some members of the academic community have dissented from these views, by and large they are taught simultaneously with (and indeed as if they were) the law. The Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy Studies is a group of conservatives and libertarians interested in the current state of the legal order. It is founded on the principles that the state exists to preserve freedom, that the separation of governmental powers is central to our Constitution, and that it is emphatically the province and duty of the judiciary to say what the law is, not what it should be. The Society seeks both to promote an awareness of these principles and to further their application through its activities.”
In short, David Sentelle is the poster boy for wingnut judicial agitation.
Mainstream media reports of the story have quoted Sentelle’s ruling, but have failed to mention his wingnut agitation from the bench. The fact that Sentelle would rule in favor of Bush’s unprecedented expansion of executive powers on indefinite detentions, but would the rule against the precedent of 150 years of recess appointments illustrates the partisan nation of Sentelle’s judicial philosophy.
The wingnuts are celebrating this ruling because it feeds into their delusion that Obama is an illegitimate president who has no respect for the constitution. The reality, which the media is happily ignoring, is that a wingnut judicial hack ruled based on nothing more than partisan politics.
This ruling illustrates why the filibuster reform that was agreed to this week matters. President Obama has 33 judicial nominees that are being blocked by Senate repugicans. The filibuster reform will allow Harry Reid to finally push some of these appointments through the Senate. The wingnuts have turned the judicial system into a wingnut policy making establishment.
The real headline of this story should have read, “Hack Wingnut Judicial Agitators Rule Obama Violated the Constitution,” but the truth rarely makes for a sexy headline. Instead, the media has chosen to maintain their ignorance under the disguise of “objectivity.”
Instead of being a serious legal ruling this decision was yet another partisan attack on the legitimacy of Barack Obama’s presidency, but wingnut judicial agitation is a subject that the media refuses to discuss.

Did you know ...

About the right's dangerously bad history

That last year the rich got $17 trillion richer

The dangerous cult similarities in the mormon church, the branch davidians and jonestown

That Michael Dorn is developing a Worf spin-off

That it's time to impeach the shrub  retroactively

Why putting research behind a paywall is immoral

Are you making these 4 credit card mistakes?

That the West Point study on the 'violent right' finds 'dramatic increase' in attacks

Father Meth

Connecticut priest charged for selling drugs
Jury selection has been scheduled for March for a suspended Roman catholic priest in Connecticut charged in an alleged methamphetamine drug-selling operation.
He made $300K last year. But, Hey at least it's not pedophilia he's charged with ... yet!

Jobs You Didn't Hear About On Career Day

Back when we were in preschool, there were only a handful of sensible options for the career-minded 4-year-old: doctor, plumber, fireman and astronaut. Clearly, had we heard about 'sin-eating' or any of these other fine ways to make a living, we would have eaten more paste and focused a little less on our permanent records.

French, Malians secure Timbuktu in rebel-held north

A Malian soldier inspects a car at a checkpoint in Thy, 15 km (9.3 miles) from Sevare January 27, 2013. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard  
French and Malian troops were on Sunday restoring government control over the fabled Saharan trading town of Timbuktu, the latest gain in a fast-moving French-led offensive against al Qaeda-allied fighters occupying northern Mali. The Islamist militant rebels have pulled back northwards to avoid relentless French air strikes that have destroyed their bases, vehicles and weapons, allowing French and Malian troops to advance rapidly with air support and armored vehicles.
A Malian military source told Reuters the French and Malian forces reached "the gates of Timbuktu" late on Saturday without meeting resistance from the Islamist insurgents who had held the town since last year.
The advancing troops were working on securing the town, a UNESCO World Heritage site and labyrinth of ancient mosques and monuments and mud-brick homes, ready to flush out any Islamist fighters who might still be hiding among the population.
"Timbuktu is delicate, you can't just go in like that," the source, who asked not to be named, said.
On Saturday, the French-Malian offensive recaptured Gao, which along with Timbuktu was one of three major northern towns occupied last year by Tuareg and Islamist rebels who included fighters from al Qaeda's North Africa wing AQIM.
The third town, Kidal, remains in rebel hands.
The United States and Europe are backing the U.N.-mandated Mali operation as a counterstrike against the threat of radical Islamist jihadists using the West African state's inhospitable Sahara desert as a launching pad for international attacks.
One Timbuktu resident now outside the town said a friend inside had sent him SMS messages saying he had seen government troops on the streets, but gave no more details.
Fighters from the Islamist alliance in north Mali, which groups AQIM with Malian Islamist group Ansar Dine and AQIM splinter MUJWA, had destroyed ancient shrines sacred to moderate Sufi Moslems in Timbuktu, provoking international outrage.
They had also imposed severe sharia, Islamic law, including amputations for thieves and stoning of adulterers.
Malian government control was restored in Gao on Saturday, after French special forces backed by warplanes and helicopters seized the town's airport and a key bridge. Around a dozen "terrorists" were killed in the assault, while French forces suffered no losses or injuries, France's defense ministry said.
The Islamists seemed to be pulling back further north into the trackless desert wastes and mountain fastnesses of the Sahara, from where some military experts fear they could carry on a hit-and-run guerrilla war against the government.
Officials said the mayor of Gao, Sadou Diallo, who had taken refuge in Bamako during the Islamist occupation, had been reinstalled at the head of the local administration while French, Malian, Chadian and Nigerien troops secured the town and the surrounding area.
As the French and Malian troops push into northern Mali, African troops from a continental intervention force expected to number 7,700 are being flown into the country, despite delays due to logistical problems and the lack of airlift capacity.
The robust military action by France over the past two weeks in its former Sahel colony has left African leaders embarrassed about the continent's inability to quickly field its own force to restore the territorial integrity of an African state.
At an African Union summit in Addis Ababa, outgoing AU chairman Thomas Boni Yayi, president of Benin, criticized Africa's slow response to the Isla mist insurgency in Mali, and welcomed international support for the French-led operation.
"How could it be that when faced with a danger that threatens its very foundations, Africa, although it had the means to defend itself, continued to wait," Yayi told African leaders on Sunday after handing over the AU chair to Ethiopia.
France sent warplanes and 2,500 troops to Mali, formerly French Sudan, after its government appealed to Paris for help when Isla mist rebel columns early in January launched an offensive towards the southern capital Bamako. The rebels seized several towns, since recaptured by the French.
Around 1,900 African troops, including Chadian, have been deployed to Mali so far as part of the planned U.S.-based African intervention force, known as AFISMA.
Bur kina Fatso, Benin, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Niger and Chad are providing troops while Burundi and other African nations have pledged to contribute.
While the French and Malians thrust northeast in a two-pronged offensive through Goa and Timbuktu, Chadian and local forces in neighboring Niger are preparing a flanking thrust against the Isla mists coming up from the south.
Washington and European governments, while providing airlift and intelligence support to the anti-militant offensive in Mali, are not planning to send in any combat troops.
The AU is expected to seek hundreds of millions of dollars in logistical support and funding for the AFISMA force at a conference of donors for the Mali operation to be held in Addis Ababa on January 29.

French, Malian forces capture Gao rebel stronghold

The United States and Europe back the U.N.-mandated Mali operation as a counterstrike against the threat of radical Islamist jihadists using the West African state's inhospitable Sahara desert as a launching pad for international attacks.
In an overnight assault on Gao backed by French warplanes and helicopters, French special forces seized the town's airport and a key bridge over the River Niger, killing an estimated dozen Islamist fighters without suffering any losses or injuries, the French army said.
"The Malian army and the French control Gao today," Malian army spokesman Lieutenant Diaran Kone told Reuters.
The speed of the French action in a two-week-old campaign suggested French and Malian government troops intended to drive aggressively into the north of Mali in the next few days against other Islamist rebel strongholds, such as Timbuktu and Kidal.
There have been 30 French air strikes on militant targets around Gao and Timbuktu in the past 36 hours.
News that the French and Malian troops were at Gao, the largest northern town held by the Islamists, came as African states struggled to deploy their intervention force in Mali, known as AFISMA, under a U.N. mandate.
Regional army chiefs said on Saturday that a total of 7,700 African soldiers would be dispatched, up from 5,700.
Liberia, Guinea-Bissau, Burundi, Guinea and Uganda are due to join the mission but it was not clear if progress had been made at meetings in Abidjan or Addis Ababa to overcome gaps in transport, equipment and financing.
French army spokesman Colonel Thierry Burkhard said French forces had come under fire from rebel fighters inside Gao, but that both the bridge and airport runway were undamaged.
In Paris, the French defense ministry said Malian and French troop reinforcements were brought in and that soldiers from Chad and Niger, who have experience in desert warfare, were also flown in.
These Malian and regional troops would have the task of securing Gao and its surrounding area, the ministry said.
To the west, French forces recaptured Lere, on the road to Timbuktu, and were advancing, a Malian military source said, asking not be named.
For two weeks, French jets and helicopter gunships have been harrying the retreating Islamists, attacking their vehicles, command posts and weapons depots. The French action had stymied a sudden Islamist offensive launched in early January that had threatened Bamako, Mali's capital in the south of the country.
Reacting to the French-led offensive, one of the leaders of the alliance of Islamist groups occupying Mali's north promised resistance to what he called the "new Crusader aggression", in comments published by Al Jazeera's Arabic website.
Yahya Abu Al-Hamman, leader in the Sahel of al Qaeda's North African wing AQIM, which along with Malian militant group Ansar Dine and AQIM splinter MUJWA occupies Mali's north, said a "Jihadist Islamist emirate" would be created in the territory.
Washington and European governments, while providing airlift and intelligence support to the anti-militant offensive in Mali, are not planning to send in any combat troops.
At an African Union summit in Addis Ababa, AU leaders called on the United Nations to provide emergency logistics and funding to allow the African force for Mali to deploy.
AU officials say AFISMA is severely hampered by logistical shortages and needs airlift support, ammunition, telecoms equipment, field hospitals, food and water.
There appeared to be some embarrassment among African ministers and leaders that the continent was having to rely on a former colonial power, France, much criticized for past meddling in Africa, to take the lead in the military campaign in Mali.
Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said France's intervention was "justified".
"If Africa can't do it, somebody else should do it," Mushikiwabo told reporters on the sidelines of the summit.
France, which dispatched its military to Mali at the Bamako government's request, already has 2,500 soldiers on the ground in its former colony.
Around 1,900 African troops, including Chadians, have been deployed to Mali so far. Burkina Faso, Benin, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, Niger and Chad are providing troops while Burundi and other African nations have pledged to contribute.
While the French and Malians thrust northeast in a two-pronged offensive towards Gao and Timbuktu, Chadian and local forces in neighboring Niger are preparing a flanking thrust coming up from the south.
Malian army officers said the Islamist insurgents had pulled back to avoid deadly French air strikes.
"They are all hiding. They are leaving on foot and on motorcycles," Malian Army Captain Faran Keita told Reuters at Konna, about 500 km (310 miles) southeast of Gao.
Konna's capture by the Islamist insurgents on January 10 triggered the sudden French military intervention. Reporters there saw charred rebel pickup trucks that had been blasted by French air strikes. Munitions lay scattered about.
The question remained whether the Islamists would fight to hold Gao and Timbuktu or withdraw further north into the trackless desert wastes and mountain fastnesses of the Sahara.
"France can expel rebels from certain of the key towns but it cannot occupy and control the entire north Mali. North Mali is the size of France," Jakkie Cilliers, Executive Director of the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies, told Reuters.
On a visit to Chile, French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault admitted French forces in Mali still faced "a lot of work".
On Friday, the Islamists blew up a road bridge on the main road south from Gao to Niger, but military officials from Niger said the Chadian and Nigerien forces could still reach Gao by other routes when they advanced.
The AU is expected to seek hundreds of millions of dollars in logistical support and funding at a conference of donors for the Mali operation to be held in Addis Ababa on January 29.

Thousands hit the road as annual Chinese migration begins

Chinese travellers arrive to board trains as the annual Lunar New Year exodus begins at Beijing train station on Jan. 26, 2013. File photo via AFP.
The world’s largest annual migration began Saturday in China with tens of thousands in the capital boarding trains to journey home for next month’s Lunar New Year celebrations.
Passengers will log 220 million train rides during the 40-day travel season, the Ministry of Railways estimates, as they criss-cross the country to celebrate with their families on February 10.
Many spend weeks at home for the most important holiday of the Chinese calendar, with the travel period spanning about two weeks before and after the Lunar New Year, also known as Spring Festival.
Travelers streamed into Beijing Railway Station on Saturday afternoon carrying heavy bags and boxes, while one man had strapped to his back a sack twice as thick and nearly as tall as him.
Just as making the trip home can be laborious — often lasting one or two days — so can simply acquiring a seat on the train, and every year complaints arise about the inefficiency or unfairness of the system.
For the second year in a row, New Year’s travelers have been able to purchase tickets online and avoid long queues.
But those without Internet access were shut out while tech-savvy buyers used plug-ins and other software to facilitate purchases, leading some trips to sell out in minutes and prompting complaints.
One traveler heading home from Beijing to eastern Zhejiang province told AFP it took him seven days to book a ticket online, while a migrant worker said he did not even know how to use a computer.
But the thick queues at station counters commonplace in previous years were not seen on Saturday, and people mostly appeared to be picking up tickets before heading home.
Police, some armed with machine guns, kept watch over the massive flows of people. About 70,000 officers were deployed to train stations nationwide on Saturday, the Xinhua state news agency reported.

Woman Sues Match.com Over Her Attempted Murder, and Hers is Not the First Case

Match.com is facing a $10 million lawsuit.Nevada woman Mary Kay Beckman is suing Match.com for 10 million dollars for negligence after a man she met on the site and dated for 10 days tried to kill her after she broke up with him. She claims the site didn't do enough to warn her about the dangers of meeting "an individual whose intentions are not to find a mate, but to find victims to kill or rape."

After reading about Beckman's terrifying ordeal, our first thoughts were "we're surprised this doesn't happen more often." 40 million people in the U.S. have tried online dating, according to Statistic Brain. As it turns out, several women have been victims of violence at the hands of men they met through online dating sites.

In April 2011, Carol Markin filed suit against Match.com after a man she met on the site sexually assaulted her. She filed a civil suit against Match that would force them "to install a sex offender screening program that scans a members' background when they sign up for the site." She did not sue for monetary damages.

"While incidents like this one between individuals who meet on Match.com are extremely rare, it doesn't make them any less horrifying," the company said in response to the suit.

Eventually, as a result of Markin's suit, Match.com, eHarmony, and Spark Networks all agreed that they would screen their clients for any history of sexual assault, violence, or identity theft.

But some websites don't require a screening process. Last November, an Illinois woman was sexually assaulted by a man she met on a dating website. If the website had run a background check, they would have discovered that he had "a history of domestic violence and multiple felony convictions."

Illinois passed the Internet Dating Safety Act that "requires online dating websites to disclose whether they conduct background checks on members. Companies that violate the law face possible fines of up to $50,000."

But as Beckman's current case proves, the crime prevention that the screening process offers is limited, as some predators don't have a record. The dating websites argue that a screening process gives clients "a false sense of security," according to the Chicago Tribune.

Currently, Match.com has a list of safety tips, but the sad truth of the matter is that predators are everywhere, and online dating only makes it easier for them to find their victims. If you do decide to meet someone in person, make sure the first date is in public, and always take your own transportation. Be cautious and aware of the risks.

Nightclub fire kills 245 in southern Brazil

A fire in a nightclub killed at least 245 people in southern Brazil on Sunday when a band's pyrotechnics show set the building ablaze and fleeing patrons were unable to find the emergency exits in the ensuing panic, officials said.
The blaze in the southern city of Santa Maria was started when a band member or someone from its production team ignited a flare, which then set fire to the ceiling, said Luiza Sousa, a civil police official. The fire spread "in seconds," she said.
An estimated 500 people were in the Boate Kiss nightclub when the fire broke out early on Sunday, and many were unable to find the exits as dark smoke quickly filled the room. At least one exit was locked, trapping hundreds inside to die, many from asphyxiation as they inhaled smoke, police said.
"When I looked around, all I saw were dead bodies all around, lying on the floor. It was macabre," survivor Taynne Vendrusculo told GloboNews TV. "It all happened so fast. Both the panic and the fire spread rapidly, in seconds."
Television footage showed people sobbing outside the club, while shirtless firefighters used sledge hammers and axes to knock down an exterior wall to open up an exit.
By noon (1400 GMT), the death toll had risen to 245 and 48 people were being treated in local hospitals, said Major Cleberson Bastianello, head of the military police unit leading the rescue efforts. He said all of the bodies of the victims had been removed from the nightclub.
President Dilma Rousseff, who started her political career in the same state where the fire happened, cut short a visit to Chile to return to Brazil to visit the scene. Before departing, Rousseff gave a televised statement in which she broke out in tears as she pledged government help for the victims and their families.
"We are trying to mobilize all possible resources to help in the rescue efforts," she said. "All I can say at the moment is that my feelings are of deep sorrow."
The disaster recalls other incidents including a 2003 fire at a nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island, that killed 100, and a Buenos Aires nightclub blaze in 2004 that killed nearly 200. In both incidents, a band or members of the audience ignited fires that set the establishment ablaze.
Brazil's safety standards and emergency response capabilities are under particular scrutiny as it prepares to host the 2014 World Cup soccer tournament and the 2016 Olympics.
The Boate Kiss nightclub was a popular venue in Santa Maria, a university town of more than 275,000 people. The massive nightclub sometimes attracts up to 2,000 people on a given night, according to reviews on the Internet.
One of the club's owners had already surrendered to police in Santa Maria for questioning, GloboNews reported.
Rio Grande do Sul state Health Secretary Ciro Simoni said emergency medical supplies from all over the state were being sent to the scene.
Santa Maria is some 186 miles west of the state capital of Porto Alegre. "A sad Sunday!" tweeted Rio Grande do Sul Governor Tarso Genro. He said "all possible measures" were being taken in response.

The Classics

1937 Delage D8 120S Pourtout Aero Coupé

More than one brain behind E=mc²: Friedrich Hasenöhrl

A new study reveals the contribution of a little known Austrian physicist, Friedrich Hasenöhrl, to uncovering a precursor to Einstein ...
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Effects of yoga on major psychiatric disorders

Yoga has positive effects on mild depression and sleep complaints, even in the absence of drug treatments, and improves symptoms ...
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Mummies' Faces, Hairdos, Revealed in 3D

A woman with a slick hairdo and a man bearing some resemblance to Michael Jackson were among three mummies brought to life through 3-D facial reconstruction.

Random Photo

Torre Guinigi

The Tower with Oak Trees on Top Torre Guinigi
Rising high above Lucca, Italy stands the Torre Guinigi -- the Guinigi Tower. It was built in the Fourteenth Century by a wealthy family as a demonstration of power. Oak trees planted in the garden on the top provide a shaded view of the city. Read all about it and view more photos at Kuriositas.

Lake Kaindy

Kazakhstan's Sunken Forrest
Lake Kaindy is situated near the village of Saty in the Kungey Alatau Mountains (a range in the North Tien-Shan) in the central Asian country of Kazakhstan. There wasn't always a lake there: the trunks of pine trees jutting out of the water provide testimony to that.
So what happened here?

Betelgeuse to Rip Through Interstellar 'Wall'

The famous Betelgeuse is a star in serious trouble. Not only is it rapidly approaching the end of its life, it's also speeding toward a honking huge interstellar wall!

Dinosaur fossil challenges bird evolution theory

The discovery of a new bird-like dinosaur from the Jurassic period challenges widely accepted theories on the origin of flight.
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Tiger Automaton Plays Music While Mauling a Man to Death

Tipu TigerThe Tipu Sultan, ruler of Mysore from 1782-1799, adopted the tiger as his royal symbol. He fought many battles against the British throughout his reign. So after a particularly painful defeat against the British:
He ordered the walls of houses in Seringapatam to be painted with scenes of tigers mauling Europeans. Live tigers were kept in the city and there were stories of prisoners thrown into the tiger-pits.
Tipu must have been intrigued by a news item widely reported in India and Britain in 1793, only months after he had been compelled to sign the hated Treaty of Seringapatam. A young Englishman out shooting near Calcutta had been carried off by 'an immense riyal tiger...four and a half feet high and nine long', sustaining fatal injuries. The victim was the only son of General Sir Hector Munro, who had been concerned in a crushing defeat inflicted on Haidar and Tipu in the second Mysore War.
The death of young Munro delighted the Tipu Sultan, so he commissioned the creation of this macabre automaton. The Tipu Tiger, as it is known today, was damaged by a German air raid during World War II. But when it was fully functional, turning the crank would cause the tiger roar and the Munro's left arm to flail about.

The Terrible Threat Faced by Tasmanian Devils

The Tasmanian devil was once hunted to the brink of extinction. Unlike its cousin the Tasmanian tiger, it recovered, but it now faces a potentially even greater threat. More

Mice ate and nested in marijuana-filled evidence bags

Mice chewed into three bags of marijuana at a police evidence storage facility in Wichita, Kansas, police say. The critters managed to eat some of the stash, from a 2009 case, and even nested in the drug, they said.
Wichita police Lt. Doug Nolte said the occurrence is a common one. He said marijuana's strong odor apparently attracts the animals.

"We’ve got some mice that are stoners," Nolte said. Authorities originally thought it was a case of evidence tampering, but after an investigation, they were able to identify the four-legged suspects, which remain on the loose.

"We do have a sketch artist that came and did a rendering of who we believe is responsible for the marijuana heist, and so, we are currently looking for something that resembles a mouse like this," said Nolte. Authorities said an exterminator has been called and the bags of evidence resealed and reweighed.

Tortoise found alive in locked store room after thirty years

A family found their missing pet tortoise in a store room more than thirty years after they lost her. Manuela disappeared from her home in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1982 and despite a lengthy search was never seen again. Her owners, the Almeida family, assumed she had run away after builders working on the house left the front door open.

It was only after their father Leonel died earlier this month that the Almeida children began clearing out a second-floor room in the house that he had filled with broken electrical items and always kept locked. Leonel's son Leandro said he was astonished to find Manuela alive inside a box containing an old record player. He said: "I put the box on the pavement for the rubbish men to collect, and a neighbor said, "you're not throwing out the tortoise as well are you?"

"I looked and saw her. At that moment I turned white, I just couldn't believe what I was seeing." Leonel's daughter Lenita, who had been given the tortoise as a childhood pet, said : "Everything my father thought he could fix, he picked up and brought home. If he found an old television he thought he might be able to use a part of it to fix another one in the future, so he just kept accumulating things. We never dared go inside that room.

"We're all thrilled to have Manuela back. But no one can understand how she managed to survive for 30 years in there, it's just unbelievable." Rio de Janeiro vet Jeferson Pires explained that Manuela's red-footed species of tortoise, can go for long periods without eating. He said: "They are particularly resilient and can survive for two to three years without food. In the wild they eat fruit, leaves, dead animals, even feces." He said Manuela may have survived by eating termites from the wooden floor.

Animal Pictures


african crowned eagle