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

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Daily Drift

Makes you wonder ...

Some of our readers today have been in:
Sofia, Bulgaria
Pretoria, South Africa
Abu Dahbi, United Arab Emirates
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Erbil, Iraq
Chisinau, Moldova
Caracas, Venezuela
Mykolayiv, Ukraine
Bordeaux, France
Panama, Panama
Shah Alam, Malaysia
Panevezys, Lithuania
San Jose, Costa Rica
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Johannesburg, South Africa
Leeds, England
Colombo, Sri Lanka
Belgrade, Serbia
Bangkok, Thailand
Riga, Latvia
Tawau, Malaysia
Manila, Philippines
Valdivia, Chile

Today is Mardi gras!

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Today in History

1294   Kublai Khan, the conqueror of Asia, dies at the age of 80.
1554   Lady Jane Grey, the Queen of England for thirteen days, is beheaded on Tower Hill. She was barely 17 years old.
1709   Alexander Selkirk, the Scottish seaman whose adventures inspired the creation of Daniel Dafoe's Robinson Crusoe, is taken off Juan Fernandez Island after more than four years of living there alone.
1793   The first fugitive slave law, requiring the return of escaped slaves, is passed.
1818   Chile gains independence from Spain.
1836   Mexican General Santa Anna crosses the Rio Grande en route to the Alamo.
1909   The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is formed.
1912   China becomes a republic following the overthrow of the Manchu dynasty.
1921   Winston Churchill of London is appointed colonial secretary.
1924   George Gershwin's groundbreaking symphonic jazz composition Rhapsody in Blue premieres with Gershwin himself playing the piano with Paul Whiteman's orchestra.
1929   Charles Lindbergh announces his engagement to Anne Morrow.
1931   Japan makes its first television broadcast–a baseball game.
1935   The Macon, the last U.S. Navy dirigible, crashes off the coast of California, killing two people.
1938   Japan refuses to reveal naval data requested by the U.S. and Britain.
1940   The Soviet Union signs a trade treaty with Germany to aid against the British blockade.
1944   Wendell Wilkie enters the American presidential race against Franklin D. Roosevelt.
1949   Moslem Brotherhood chief Hassan el Banna is shot to death in Cairo.
1953   The Soviets break off diplomatic relations with Israel after the bombing of Soviet legation.
1966   The South Vietnamese win two big battles in the Mekong Delta.
1972   Senator Edward Kennedy advocates amnesty for Vietnam draft resisters.
1974   The Symbionese Liberation Army asks the Hearst family for $230 million in food for the poor.
1980   The Lake Placid Winter Olympics open in New York.
1987   A Court in Texas upholds $8.5 billion of a fine imposed on Texaco for the illegal takeover of Getty Oil.
1999   The U.S. Senate fails to pass two articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton. He had been accused of perjury and obstruction of justice by the House of Representatives.

Non Sequitur


Rebels' raid poses Mali guerrilla war threat for French

Malian troops hunted house-to-house in Gao on Monday for Islamist insurgents whose attack inside the northern town at the weekend showed the risk that French forces might become entangled in a messy guerrilla war.Sneaking across the Niger River under cover of darkness, the al Qaeda-allied rebels fought Malian and French troops on Sunday in the streets of the ancient Saharan trading town, retaken from the Islamists two weeks ago.
Malian Defense Minister Yamoussa Camara said three of the Islamist raiders were killed and 11 taken prisoner, while some Malian soldiers were wounded in the street fighting.
The brazenness of the rebel raid, which followed successive blasts by two suicide bombers at a northern checkpoint, was a surprise to the French-led military operation in Mali which had so far faced little real resistance from the Islamists.
"They took advantage of the two suicide attacks on Saturday and Sunday to infiltrate the town," Camara told a news conference in Bamako. "With young people desperate over their future, it is possible to take them and indoctrine them to the point of sacrificing their own lives."
A doctor in Gao's hospital, Noulaye Djiteyi, said three civilians were killed and 11 wounded. The casualties were hit by stray bullets in the gun battle.
The attack indicated that the French forces, which number 4,000 soldiers on the ground, were vulnerable to hit-and-run attacks by the jihadists to the rear of their forward lines.
French and Malian officials in Gao said the risks of infiltration, shootings and bomb blasts remained high.
"The Malians are checking house-by-house, block-by-block," a French officer, who asked not to be named, told reporters.
French and Malian soldiers in armored vehicles reinforced locations and sandbagged road checkpoints at the entrances to the town, alert for further attacks from bands of Islamist insurgents reported hiding in the surrounding desert scrub.
France intervened in Mali last month as Islamist forces, who had seized control of the north in the confusion following a military coup in March 2012, advanced on the capital Bamako.
That had pushed Mali to the forefront of U.S. and European security concerns, with fears the Islamists would turn the country into a base for international attacks.
French leaders have said they intend to start pulling troops out of Mali in March, and want to hand over security operations to a larger, 8,000-strong African military force currently still being assembled and drawn mostly from West African states.
But this African contingent is still struggling to deploy in positions behind the French, raising the risk that Paris' forces could face "mission creep" and be obliged to stay on longer to guarantee security in the face of rebel guerrilla tactics.
"There is no doubt that the Islamists will find weak spots," Jakkie Cilliers, executive director of the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies, told Reuters.
"Now it becomes all complex and messy," he added.
President Francois Hollande acknowledged that France's military still had more work to do before it achieved its aim of ousting the al Qaeda-linked groups from all of northern Mali.
"We have not finished our task," Hollande said in Paris, after meeting with Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. "There is a risk of either attacks or guerilla tactics so we need to continue to securitize all of Mali's territory."
Gao's main market was bustling on Monday but crowds gathered to look at the wrecked police station building where the jihadist raiders, some on motorbikes, firing AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades, fought French and Malian troops.
Witnesses said bodies still lay in the dusty streets, some apparently rebels, others civilians caught by stray bullets.
"I passed by the police station and I saw shredded corpses inside. There are three victims from stray bullets," local resident Ibrahim Toure told Reuters.
After driving the bulk of the insurgents from northern towns such as Timbuktu and Gao, France has been focusing its operations on Mali's remote northeast mountains, where French special forces and Chadian troops are hunting rebel bases.
They believe the rebels are holding at least seven French hostages, previously seized in the Sahel, in hideouts in the Adrar des Ifoghas range that straddles the Mali-Algeria border.

Syria rebels seize dam, blast on Turkish border

A man walks past a damaged gate after an explosion at Cilvegozu border gate on the Turkish-Syrian border in Hatay province February 11, 2013, in this picture taken by Anadolu Agency. REUTERS/Cem Genco/Anadolu Agency 
Rebels have captured Syria's biggest hydro-electric dam and battled army tank units near the center of Damascus, activists said as the opposition renewed an offer on Monday to negotiate the departure of President Bashar al-Assad.
On the Turkish border, nine people were killed when a car arriving from rebel-held territory in northwestern Syria blew up at the Reyhanli frontier crossing; Turkish officials said it was unclear whether the blast was a suicide attack or an accident.
The rebel seizure of the Taqba dam, a prestige project on the Euphrates river completed by Assad's father in the 1970s, may have only limited impact on already patchy power supplies but along with the fighting in the capital it provided more evidence that the president is ever more beleaguered, if still tenacious.
Moaz Alkhatib, exile leader of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, said he had had no response to his offer to discuss a handover of power with the Assad government but said the invitation still stood, despite the passing of an initial deadline for a response on Sunday.
The president has given no sign of wanting to negotiate his own departure, despite military reverses over the past two years that have put half the country in rebel hands and left many in his Alawite minority fearing for the worst if the mainly Sunni Muslim revolt overturns their four decades of pre-eminence.
On Monday, after Alkhatib's latest remarks on talks, Syria's state news agency quoted Assad as saying: "Syria will not give up on its principles however great the pressure and the conspiracies, which do not target Syria alone but all Arabs."
While Assad, an ally of Shi'ite, non-Arab Iran, has accused Sunni Arab states including Saudi Arabia and Qatar of fomenting the rebellion, he has also blamed Western powers and Israel of conspiring to overthrow him.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and other opposition activists said Islamist fighters seized army positions on Sunday around the Taqba dam, near the town of Thawra, some 150 km (90 miles) southeast of Aleppo. It was unclear how far the electricity plant was still operating.
"The dam was protected by an artillery battery and many intelligence units. The rebels moved on them in a lightning offensive yesterday, overrunning their positions and capturing scores of personnel," said Abu Ziad Teif, an opposition activist in contact with rebels in the area.
Rami Abdulrahman of the Observatory called it one of Assad's biggest setbacks. However, the dam's generating capacity has long fallen short of early hopes and, with power already scarce in Aleppo, Syria's biggest city, it was unclear whether the change of control at Taqba would have a major technical impact.
The loss of the neighboring town, which Internet video showed included the burning of a statue of Assad's father Hafez was nonetheless symbolic. The large body of water formed by the dam on the Euphrates was named by the late leader Al-Assad Lake.
In Damascus, Assad's forces brought up tanks to defend an area just east of the city center on Monday, residents said.
Jobar, a Sunni district adjacent to the landmark Abbasid Square, has seen fighting in recent days. However, activists said Assad's forces remained well dug in in the city center.
"The main battle is taking place in Jobar," an opposition activist in Damascus named Amer said. "The rebels appear to be advancing in the eastern sector.
"But the center of Damascus is crisscrossed with concrete barriers and security is deployed everywhere; we cannot say that they (the rebels) have a real active presence in the center."
A woman who lives in the western neighborhood of Mezze added that residents there were also beginning to feel the war getting near: "The situation is getting very tough," she said. "For the first time we've been hearing mortars fall so close."
In the north, on the Turkish border, officials said 33 people had been wounded as well as the seven killed near the town of Reyhanli: "We don't know whether this was a suicide bomb or whether a car that was smuggling petrol across the border blew up," one Turkish official told Reuters.
Images from the scene showed severe damage to cars at the border checkpoint, where a gate was blown open and part of the roof collapsed. "There was an explosion in the no-man's zone. It was not a mortar attack. It was very strong," foreign ministry spokesman Levent Gumrukcu said.
Refugees cross back and forth and Turkish trucks also deliver goods across into the no-man's land between the checkpoints of the two countries. Rebels control the Syrian side and receive help from Turkey, a fierce critic of Assad.
In Cairo, the opposition Coalition's Alkhatib met the head of the Arab League and said Assad's government had not responded to his initiative to discuss a transition of power.
"The regime has not given a clear answer so far, clearly, frankly, that it accepts leaving to spare destruction and blood," he told reporters. "No meetings have been arranged, and no formal contact with any party has happened so far."
Pressed to say whether his offer was still open despite the Sunday deadline passing, he added: "We are still waiting for the government response and then we are going to study that."
Also in Cairo, Assad's former prime minister Riad Hijab met the Egyptian foreign minister. Quoted by Egyptian news agency MENA, Hijab, the most senior government defector from Damascus, said: "There is no solution to the Syrian crisis except by the departure of Bashar al-Assad."
Hijab also told reporters the coalition was seeking Syria's national seat at the Arab League. A League source said the group would consult its other members on the request.

Pope to resign Feb. 28, says he's too infirm

Oh, great the joy! May this be the end of the evil that is the catholic cult. The murderous tyranny of the catholic cult was foretold to last a certain number of 'Popes' and the current one is the last of that number.
In this photo provided by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Mons. Franco Comaldo, left, a pope aide, looks at Pope Benedict XVI as he reads a document in Latin where he announces his resignation, during a meeting of Vatican cardinals, at the Vatican, Monday, Feb. 11, 2013. Benedict XVI announced Monday that he would resign Feb. 28 - the first pontiff to do so in nearly 600 years. The decision sets the stage for a conclave to elect a new pope before the end of March. (AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano, ho)  
Pope Benedict XVI said Monday he lacks the strength to fulfill his duties and on Feb. 28 will become the first pontiff in 600 years to resign. The announcement sets the stage for a conclave in March to elect a new leader for world's 1 billion catholics. The 85-year-old pope announced the bombshell in Latin during a meeting of Vatican cardinals, surprising even his closest collaborators, even though Benedict had made clear in the past he would step down if he became too old or infirm to do the job. Benedict called his choice "a decision of great importance for the life of the cult."
Indeed, the move allows the Vatican to hold a conclave before Easter to elect a new pope, since the traditional mourning time that would follow the death of a pope doesn't have to be observed.
It will also allow Benedict to hold great sway over the choice of his successor. He has already hand-picked the bulk of the College of Cardinals — the princes of the cult who will elect the next pope — to guarantee his wingnut legacy and ensure an orthodox future for the cult.
There are several papal contenders in the wings, but no obvious front-runner — the same situation when Benedict was elected pontiff in 2005 after the death of Pope John Paul II.
The Vatican stressed that no specific medical condition prompted Benedict's decision, but in recent years, the pope has slowed down significantly, cutting back his foreign travel and limiting his audiences. He now goes to and from the altar in St. Peter's Basilica on a moving platform, to spare him the long walk down the aisle. Occasionally he uses a cane.
His 89-year-old brother, Georg Ratzinger, said doctors had recently advised the pope not to take any more trans-Atlantic trips.
"His age is weighing on him," Ratzinger told the dpa news agency. "At this age my brother wants more rest."
Benedict emphasized that carrying out the duties of being pope — the leader of more than a billion Roman catholics worldwide — requires "both strength of mind and body."
"After having repeatedly examined my conscience before god, I have come to the certainty that my strengths due to an advanced age are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry," he told the cardinals.
"In order to govern the bark of St. Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary — strengths which in the last few months, have deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me," he said.
Popes are allowed to resign; church law specifies only that the resignation be "freely made and properly manifested." But only a handful have done it.
The last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII, who stepped down in 1415 in a deal to end the Great Western Schism among competing papal claimants. The most famous resignation was Pope Celestine V in 1294; Dante placed him in hell for it.
When Benedict was elected at age 78, he was the oldest pope chosen in nearly 300 years. At the time, he has already been planning to retire as the Vatican's chief orthodoxy watchdog to spend his final years writing in the "peace and quiet" of his native Bavaria.
On Monday, Benedict said he would serve the church for the remainder of his days "through a life dedicated to prayer." The Vatican said immediately after his resignation, Benedict would go to Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer retreat south of Rome, and then would live in a cloistered monastery.
Contenders to be his successor include Cardinal Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, the archbishop of Vienna, and Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the Canadian head of the Vatican's office for bishops.
Longshots include Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York. Although Dolan is popular and backs the pope's wingnut line, the general thinking is that the Catholic Church doesn't need a pope from a "superpower."
Given half of the world's catholics live in the global south, there will once again be arguments for a pope to come from the developing world.
Cardinal Antonio Tagle, the archbishop of Manila, has impressed many Vatican watchers, but at 56 and having only been named a cardinal last year, he is considered too young.
Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson of Ghana is one of the highest-ranking African cardinals at the Vatican, currently heading the Vatican's office for justice and peace, but he's something of a wild card.
All cardinals under age 80 are allowed to vote in the conclave, the secret meeting held in the Sistine Chapel where cardinals cast ballots to elect a new pope. As per tradition, the ballots are burned after each voting round; black smoke that snakes out of the chimney means no pope has been chosen, while white smoke means a pope has been elected.
The pontiff had been due to attend World Youth Day in July in Rio de Janeiro; by then his successor will have been named and will presumably make the trip.
Benedict himself raised the possibility of resigning if he were simply too old or sick to continue on, when he was interviewed in 2010 for the book "Light of the World."
"If a pope clearly realizes that he is no longer physically, psychologically and spiritually capable of handling the duties of his office, then he has a right, and under some circumstances, also an obligation to resign," Benedict said.
The former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had an intimate view as Pope John Paul II, with whom he had worked closely for nearly a quarter-century, suffered through the debilitating end of his papacy.
The announcement took the Vatican — and the rest of the world — by surprise.
Several cardinals on Monday didn't even understand what Benedict had said during the consistory, said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman said. Others who did were stunned.
"All the cardinals remained shocked and were looking at each other," said Monsignor Oscar Sanchez of Mexico who was in the room when Benedict made his announcement.
Benedict was born April 16, 1927 in Marktl Am Inn, in Bavaria, but his father, a policeman, moved frequently and the family left when he was 2.
In his memoirs, Benedict dealt what could have been a source of controversy had it been kept secret — that he was enlisted in the Nazi youth movement against his will when he was 14 in 1941, when membership was compulsory. He said he was soon let out because of his studies for the priesthood. Two years later he was drafted into a Nazi anti-aircraft unit as a helper. He deserted the German army in April 1945, the waning days of the war.
He called it prophetic that a German followed a Polish pope — with both men coming from such different sides of World War II.
Benedict was ordained, along with his brother, in 1951. After spending several years teaching theology in Germany, he was appointed bishop of Munich in 1977 and elevated to cardinal three months later by Pope Paul VI.
John Paul named him leader of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 1981 and he took up his post a year later. Following John Paul's death in 2005, he was elected pope April 19 in one of the fastest conclaves in history, just about 24 hours after the voting began.

Nancy Pelosi Goes On Faux News and Obliterates The Video Games Cause Gun Violence Meme

Nancy Pelosi went on Faux News Sunday and absolutely destroyed the false premise that video games, not guns, are the main cause of gun violence.

Transcript from Faux News:
WALLACE: Gun control will be a big part of the president’s agenda in the State of the Union address Tuesday night. But I want to ask you about another part of the effort to stop these horrible, repeated acts of mass violence. As part of your plan, you call for more scientific research on the connection between popular culture and violence.
We don’t need another study, respectfully. I mean, we know that these video games, where people have their heads splattered, these movies, these TV shows, why don’t you go to your friends in Hollywood and challenge them, shame them, and say, “Knock it off”?
PELOSI: Well, I do think, whatever we do, because when you talk about evidence-based, we have that throughout our proposal. In other words, we don’t want to just anecdotally writing bills. We want to have the evidence to say –
WALLACE: Well, I’m not sure you want to write bills anyway. But don’t you — I mean, what would — you have a lot of friends in Hollywood. Why don’t you go to them and publicly say I think challenge you to stop the video games?
PELOSI: I do think — see, I understand what you’re saying. I’m a mother, I’m a grandmother. But, they tell — not they, not Hollywood, but the evidence says that, in Japan, for example, they have the most violent games and the rest, and the lowest — death, mortality from guns. I don’t know what the explanation is for that except they may have good gun laws.
But I think you took one piece of it. We are talking about — we are talking about stop — no further sales of assault weapons. What is the justification for an assault weapon? You know, no further sales of those.
No further sales of the increased capacity, 30 rounds in a gun. We are talking about background checks which is very popular, even among gun owners, and, hunters. We avow the First Amendment, we stand with that, and say that people have a right to have a gun to protect themselves in their homes and their jobs, whatever. And that they — and their workplace — and that they, for recreation and hunting and the rest.
But we are in the questioning their right to do that —
Doing an interview on Faux News must be a lot like talking to small child. Pelosi actually had to explain to Wallace why it is important to have evidence of a problem before a bill is written to address it. Wallace’s notion of “knowing” why a problem is occurring without research or study is a very repugican way of governing. It is just like how repugicans “know” that there is voter fraud, so they pass voter ID laws.
Pelosi ripped apart the NRA’s favorite excuse that guns don’t cause gun violence, but video games do. Pelosi asked a good question. If violent video games cause gun violence, then why isn’t the problem as severe around the world as it is in the United States? They play lots of violent video games in Canada, Europe, and Asia too, yet other parts of the developed world don’t have the same level of gun violence as the United States.
The difference, as Leader Pelosi pointed out, is the laws. The Japanese play lots of violent video games, but they have the lowest mortality rate from gun violence because of strict gun laws. The NRA has been trying to muddy the gun violence discussion by mixing it up with the discussion about the culture of violence in this country. They aren’t the same thing.
Conservatives and the NRA are trying to avoid the very common sense conclusion that the one thing every incident of gun violence has in common with the other is guns. If the goal is to reduce violence, video games belong in that discussion, but it is impossible to talk about gun violence without including the role of guns.
Nancy Pelosi showed Fox News and the NRA why the whole blame the violent video games excuse isn’t going to fly.

Here's how bad the money/Congress problem is

Excerpts from a StarTribune article about the experience of a Minnesota representative after his arrival in Washington:
Fresh off a $16 million congressional race, Nolan received a not-so-subtle reminder that he is expected to maintain the frenzied fundraising pace that helped him win his northern Minnesota seat.

During an orientation session, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee staff recommended that incoming members, as part of a 10-hour work day, spend four hours daily on the phone canvassing for campaign contributions during the congressional session.

That is twice as much time as the DCCC recommended spending on actual legislative work, such as attending committee meetings and voting...

When Nolan left Congress in 1981, members spent time on the House floor and in offices and cafeterias, chatting up colleagues and forging connections regardless of party ties. "It's a very different environment than when he was here" before, said Norman Ornstein, a congressional scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C.

Now, he said, as soon as a vote is taken on the House floor, a stream of representatives often can be seen bolting for Republican and Democratic party headquarters or party social clubs to begin dialing for dollars. "[Fundraising] literally takes them away from their jobs..."

Nolan said that the DCCC presentation to incoming members likely understated the time spent fundraising to avoid intimidating new members. He said that conventional wisdom dictates that "if you're smart, you're going to spend 30 hours per week" on the phone, at formal fundraisers and meeting with potential donors...

House members are expected to contribute to their party's campaign committees each election cycle, either directly or by donating to other candidates. In both parties, failure to deliver can carry severe consequences...

Nolan said that when he begins fundraising for 2014, he'll stick to weekends and evenings. He will not, he said, devote four hours a day during his work week. "If it means I'm a one-term congressman, so be it," he said.

Citigroup hasn’t paid taxes in 4 years, got $2.5 trillion from feds

From Senator Bernie Sanders, writing in the Huffington Post:
In 2010, Bank of America set up more than 200 subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands (which has a corporate tax rate of 0.0 percent) to avoid paying U.S. taxes. It worked. Not only did Bank of America pay nothing in federal income taxes, but it received a rebate from the IRS worth $1.9 billion that year. They are not alone. In 2010, JP Morgan Chase operated 83 subsidiaries incorporated in offshore tax havens to avoid paying some $4.9 billion in U.S. taxes. That same year Goldman Sachs operated 39 subsidiaries in offshore tax havens to avoid an estimated $3.3 billion in U.S. taxes. Citigroup has paid no federal income taxes for the last four years after receiving a total of $2.5 trillion in financial assistance from the Federal Reserve during the financial crisis.On and on it goes. Wall Street banks and large companies love America when they need corporate welfare. But when it comes to paying American taxes or American wages, they want nothing to do with this country. That has got to change.
Here’s the simple truth. You can’t be an American company only when you want a massive bailout from the American people. You have also got to be an American company, and pay your fair share of taxes, as we struggle with the deficit and adequate funding for the needs of the American people. If Wall Street and corporate America don’t agree, the next time they need a bailout let them go to the Cayman Islands, let them go to Bermuda, let them go to the Bahamas and let them ask those countries for corporate welfare.
As Reuters notes, Citigroup was one of 26 companies that paid its CEO more in 2011 than it paid in taxes that year:
* Citigroup, the financial services giant, with a tax refund of $144 million based on prior losses, paid CEO Vikram Pandit $14.9 million in 2011, despite an advisory vote against it by 55 percent of shareholders.
* Telecoms group AT&T paid CEO Randall Stephenson $18.7 million, but was entitled to a $420 million tax refund thanks to billions in tax savings from recent rules accelerating depreciation of assets.
* Drugmaker Abbott Laboratories paid CEO Miles White $19 million, while garnering a $586 million refund. Abbott has 64 subsidiaries in 16 countries considered by authorities to be tax havens, the institute said.
And who used to work at Citigroup?  Treasury Secretary nominee Jack Lew.  And what did he do to avoid taxes?  Lew had up to $100,000 invested in the Cayman Islands, in order to save on taxes.
Surprise! President Obama’s new Treasury Secretary nominee, Jack Lew, had up to $100,000 in investment in an offshore tax haven in the Cayman Islands.  The investment fund “home” was a PO Box.
As I said when President Obama first nominated Jack Lew for Treasury Secretary, Lew is part of the banking problem, not the solution. Jack Lew may not have dumped as much money into offshore locations as, say, Mitt Romney, but like many others from the banking world, he was using the tax-avoidance tools mostly available to only 1% types.
Lew didn’t create the offshore fund, but you have to love thatonce again, Citi – the bank that loves taxpayer money so much it’s practically addicted to it – offers easy ways for employees to once again avoid paying their fair share to the country that kept them alive to the tune of $336.1 billion.
Who did have to pay taxes the past four years?  You and me.  Who didn’t get a bailout?  You and me.

Did you know ...

That no austerity has helped any economy

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Indie rock, class, race, and culture in America

Martin Douglas's "The Only Black Guy at the Indie Rock Show" is a fascinating longread about race, culture and class, partly a memoir of Douglas's life as a young black kid in a North Carolina housing project who loved indie rock; partly a critique of the way we think about what blackness, whiteness and culture are.
The black kids of my generation and the ones before it were raised with the notion that it’s essential to hold onto one’s “blackness,” and that venturing outside of those boundaries meant you were trying to assimilate to white society, to “be more like one of them.” But essentially every African-American child growing up has an intimate knowledge of some version of the black experience, and the way we dress or the music we listen to still won’t hide the color of our skin. I never saw my interest in alternative culture as a way to obfuscate my racial identity. Aside from the annoyance of being typecast as a fan of a band purely based on superficial concerns, that conversation overlooked the one substantial reason why there are a lot of black people who relate to TV on the Radio’s music: They are a band primarily consisting of African-American men who often explore what it means to be African-American. For a generation of alternative music fans made to believe we were betraying “what it means” to be black, a band had finally come along that made that very idea a theme in its music.
But as TV on the Radio started to grow in notoriety, it still created a schism in my initial attraction to rock music; here was a band that was, for all intents and purposes, “socially acceptable” for black people to like. This falls into my earlier point about young children emulating people who look like them. I imagine if the band were around when I was younger — with their overtures to shoegaze, incisive and smart lyrics, steadfast commitment to experimentalism, and Kyp Malone’s beard — they probably would have been my favorite band throughout my entire childhood. At the very least, I wouldn’t have felt like such an outsider for loving alternative music.

The 10 Biggest Food Safety Scandals Ever

It's a scary thought, putting your health and wellbeing in the hands of complete strangers halfway around the world. And the number of high profile, and often deadly, food scandals that have made headlines over the years definitely doesn't ease troubled minds. There are various causes - from accidental contaminations to pure recklessness and even greed - but public outrage is universal.

When it comes to health and safety surrounding food products, consumers rightly insist on measures that ensure their safety. And whether it's criminal trials and bans, or bankruptcy and company closures, the public demands retribution as well. After all, health issues are no laughing matter. Here's a look at 10 of the biggest food safety scandals in recent history.




Geronimo (Goyaałé), a Chiricahua Apache; full-length, kneeling with rifle, 1887

Super interested in the life and stories of this incredible man.
Geronimo (Goyaałé), a Chiricahua Apache; full-length, kneeling with rifle, 1887

Five Obsessive Weirdos Who Made the World a Better Place

vCracked has another list of interesting historical figures who did some bizarre things that led to the world as we know it. For example, we assume that the food we eat doesn't have a lot of dangerous additives, but it wasn't so before chemist Harvey Wiley had a crazy idea about testing food.
In 1902, Department of Agriculture chief chemist Harvey Wiley got $5,000 from Congress to figure out what was up with the preservatives getting stuffed into food. Only a few years earlier, soldiers fighting in the Spanish-American War complained that their tinned beef tasted like embalming fluid and smelled like human cadavers -- and they would know, on both counts. Soldiers suspected that the meat was laced with boric acid to hide the fact that it was as putrid as the word "putrid" when you say it like this: "peeeeewtrid."

So Wiley gets his $5,000 and sets up a lab full of chimps to systematically study the effects of eating a diet of food filled with additives. WRONG. He asks a regular crew of volunteers from the Department of Agriculture to ingest poisoned food every day for five years -- just to see what happens. Despite having jobs, salaries, and access to regular not-poisoned food, a dozen otherwise sane men volunteered to eat meals laced with borax, salicylic acid, sulfuric acid, sodium benzoate, and formaldehyde. And the meals were just the beginning of the crazy: Each man also had his poop and pee tested daily to see what was coming out. And each volunteer promised not to hold the government liable, no matter what kind of sludge came out of his tear ducts when he cried himself to sleep at night.
He actions led to the birth of the FDA, which we depend on. Other stories tell of the crazy guys who gave us the our dictionary, rubber, and forensic psychology, with the expected hyperbole and language warning from Cracked.

The "sin-eater"

As described in Wikipedia:
The term sin-eater refers to a person who, through ritual means, would take on by means of food and drink the sins of a household, often because of a recent death, thus absolving the soul and allowing that person to rest in peace. In the study of folklore sin-eating is considered a form of religious magic.
This ritual is said to have been practiced in parts of England and Scotland, and allegedly survived until the late 19th or early 20th century in Wales ... as well as certain portions of Appalachia in America (documented in the Foxfire cultural history series).
Traditionally, it was performed by a beggar, and certain villages maintained their own sin-eaters. They would be brought to the dying person's bedside, where a relative would place a crust of bread on the breast of the dying and pass a bowl of ale to him over the corpse. After praying or reciting the ritual, he would then drink and remove the bread from the breast and eat it, the act of which would remove the sin from the dying person and take it into himself...

The 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica states in its article on "sin eaters":
"A symbolic survival of it (sin eating) was witnessed as recently as 1893 at Market Drayton, Shropshire. After a preliminary service had been held over the coffin in the house, a woman poured out a glass of wine for each bearer and handed it to him across the coffin with a 'funeral biscuit.' In Upper Bavaria sin-eating still survives: a corpse cake is placed on the breast of the dead and then eaten by the nearest relative, while in the Balkan peninsula a small bread image of the deceased is made and eaten by the survivors of the family. The Dutch doed-koecks or 'dead-cakes', marked with the initials of the deceased, introduced into America in the 17th century, were long given to the attendants at funerals in old New York. The 'burial-cakes' which are still made in parts of rural England, for example Lincolnshire and Cumberland, are almost certainly a relic of sin-eating".
I wonder if any of this custom morphed into the present-day custom of sharing food after a funeral?

Flapper slang

From a 1926 volume of Glamordaze, 10 sarcastic pieces of flapper slang:
The Top 10 most sarcastic Flapper slang words.
1- Umbrella- young man any girl can borrow for the evening.
2- Rock of Ages- any woman over 30 years of age.
3- Face stretcher- old maid who tries to look young.
4- Cellar Smeller- a young man who always turns up where there’s free liquor to be had.
5- Corn Shredder- young man who dances on a girl’s feet.
6- Being Edisoned- getting asked a lot of boring questions.
7- Finale Hopper- a young man who arrives after everything is paid for.
8- Mustard Plaster- unwelcome guy who sticks around.
9- Potato- a young man shy of brains.
10-Rug Hopper- young man who never takes a girl out. A parlor hound.

Out Of Place Artifacts

Out Of Place Artifacts... for you to consider...

1. Not so long ago in Russia a mechanical device was found in volcanic rock which was dated 400 million years before the current era

It was found on the remote Kamchatka Peninsula, 150 miles from the village of Tigil, by archaeologists at the University of St. Petersburg among found strange fossils. According to archaeologist Yuri Golubev the find amazed experts as it was some sort of a machine.

The most ancient vase on Earth was discovered in 1851 in Massachusetts when blasting in the quarry. It is a silver-zinc vase inlaid with fine silver in the form of the vine. The age of this vase, according to the the rock in which it was found, is 534 million years old.

2. Another strange artifact that was found in coal is the iron pot shown in the image. It was found in 1912 in Oklahoma in a piece of coal with an estimated age of 312 million years. In 1912, two employees who were shoveling coal in the Municipal Electric Plant in Thomas, Oklahoma, broke apart a larger chunk for the furnaces when, to the surprise of both men, an iron pot fell of the chunk. Several experts subsequently examined the iron pot and it was declared to be genuine. The imprint of the pot could also still be clearly seen in the broken chunks of coal that had encased it.

According to Robert O. Fay of the Oklahoma Geological Survey, the Wilburton mine coal in which the pot was found is about 312 million years old.

3. A metal detail found by a man in Russia has reportedly been studied and found to be 300 million years old. A resident of Vladivostok was lighting the fire during a cold winter evening when he found a rail-shaped metal detail which was pressed in one of the pieces of coal that the man used to heat his home. Mesmerized by his discovery, the responsible citizen decided to seek help from the scientists of Primorye region. After the metal object was studied by the leading experts the man was shocked to learn about the assumed age of his discovery. The metal detail was supposedly 300 million years old and yet the scientists suggest that it was not created by nature but was rather manufactured by someone. The question of who might have made an aluminum gear in the dawn of time remains unanswered.

The Voice of Russia reported a man from the Russian city of Vladivostok found a metal detail stuck to a piece of coal. The object comes in a "distinctive shape which was reminiscent of a modern tooth-wheel." Igor Okunev, a senior fellow at the St. Petersburg Institute of Nuclear Physics, is the scientist who reportedly confirmed the age of the metal detail.

"No more than seven centimeters long, the object was found to be composed of 98 percent aluminum and 2 per cent magnesium. On the one hand, such an alloy stalled the scientists because nearly pure aluminum is very rarely found in nature," reads The Voice of Russia report.

Retro Photo

Megadunes and Hoar Frost

Here are six fun facts about snow, from the idea that no two snowflakes are alike to the bizarre megadunes that blanket Antarctica.

The Secrets to World's Saltiest Pond Revealed

Antarctica's Don Juan Pond stays liquid in one of the unlikeliest places on Earth. 

The Eye Of The Earth

The Richat Structure
The Richat Structure, also known as the Eye of the Sahara and Guelb er Richat, is a prominent circular feature in the Sahara desert of west–central Mauritania near Ouadane. This structure is a deeply eroded, slightly elliptical, 40 kilometers (24.8 miles) in diameter, dome. The sedimentary rock exposed in this dome range in age from Late Proterozoic within the center of the dome to Ordovician sandstone around its edges.

The sedimentary rocks comprising this structure dip outward at 10°-20°. Differential erosion of resistant layers of quartzite has created high-relief circular cuestas.
The center of the Richat Structure consists of a siliceous breccia covering an area that is at least 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) in diameter.

Awesome Pictures

Asian Needle Ants Displacing Other Aggressive Invaders

Researchers from North Carolina State University have found that one of the most aggressive invasive ant species in the United ...
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How Birds Got Their UV Vision

Our feathered friends can see the world beyond purple.

Dogs 'understand minds of humans'

Springer spanielDogs 'understand minds of humans'

Dogs are more capable of understanding events from a human's point of view than had previously been recognized, according to researchers.

Water Bears

Nature's Great Survivors v
This may look like an origami creation, but it's a tiny animal called a tardigrade or water bear. Water bears are natures great survivors, having been found alive at high elevations, deep in the ocean, dried up and rehydrated, and in extreme heat and cold. They can even survive the vacuum of space! Read about tardigrades and see some awesome photographs at Dark Roasted Blend .

Squids That Can Fly 100 Feet through the Air

squidsFishermen claim to have seen oceanic squids jump out of the water for long distances, but only recently have biologists confirmed these sightings. Jun Yamamoto of Hokkaido University led a research team that tracked a group of them jumping great distances at 10.31 meters a second--faster than Usain Bolt can run:
Yamamoto and his team were tracking a shoal of around 100 oceanic squid in the northwest Pacific 600 kilometers (370 miles) east of Tokyo, in July 2011.
As their boat approached, the 20 centimeter (8-inch) creatures launched themselves into the air with a powerful jet of water that shot out from their funnel-like stems.
"Once they finish shooting out the water, they glide by spreading out their fins and arms," Yamamoto's team said in a report.
"As they land back in the water, the fins are all folded back into place to minimize the impact."
Why don't we have funnel-like stems for propulsion purposes? We humans were robbed by evolution.

Animal Pictures

Western Lowland Gorilla by Truus & Zoo on Flickr.