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

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Daily Drift

Love is in the air ...

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Today in History

1349   2,000 Jews are burned at the stake in Strasbourg, Germany.
1400   The deposed Richard II is murdered in Pontefract Castle in Yorkshire.
1549   Maximilian II, brother of the Emperor Charles V, is recognized as the future king of Bohemia.
1779   American Loyalists are defeated by Patriots at Kettle Creek, Ga.
1797   The Spanish fleet is destroyed by the British under Admiral Jervis (with Nelson in support) at the battle of Cape St. Vincent, off Portugal.
1848   James Polk becomes the first U.S. President to be photographed in office by Matthew Brady.
1859   Oregon is admitted as the thirty-third state.
1870   Esther Morris becomes the world's first female justice of the peace.
1876   Rival inventors Elisha Gray and Alexander Graham Bell both apply for patents for the telephone.
1900   General Roberts invades South Africa's Orange Free State with 20,000 British troops.
1904   The "Missouri Kid" is captured in Kansas.
1912   Arizona becomes the 48th state in the Union.
1915   Kaiser Wilhelm II invites the U.S. Ambassador to Berlin in order to confer on the war.
1918   Warsaw demonstrators protest the transfer of Polish territory to the Ukraine.
1920   The League of Women Voters is formed in Chicago in celebration of the imminent ratification of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote.
1924   Thomas Watson founds International Business Machines Corp.
1929   Chicago gang war between Al Capone and George "Bugs" Moran culminates with several Moran confederates being gunned down in the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.
1939   Germany launches the battleship Bismark.
1940   Britain announces that all merchant ships will be armed.
1942   Japanese paratroopers attack Sumatra. Aidan MacCarthy's RAF unit flew to Palembang, in eastern Sumatra, where 30 Royal Australian Air Force Lockheed A-28 Hudson bombers were waiting.
1945   800 Allied aircraft firebomb the German city of Dresden. Smaller followup bombing raids last until April with a total death toll of between 35,000 to 130,000 civillians.
1945   The siege of Budapest ends as the Soviets take the city. Only 785 German and Hungarian soldiers managed to escape.
1949   The United States charges the Soviet Union with interning up to 14 million in labor camps.
1955   A Jewish couple loses their fight to adopt Catholic twins as the U.S. Supreme Court refuses to rule on state law.
1957   The Georgia state senate outlaws interracial athletics.
1965   Malcolm X's home is firebombed. No injuries are reported.
1971   Moscow publicizes a new five-year plan geared to expanding consumer production.
1973   The United States and Hanoi set up a group to channel reconstruction aid directly to Hanoi.
1979   Armed guerrillas attack the U.S. embassy in Tehran.
1985   Vietnamese troops surround the main Khmer Rouge base at Phnom Malai.
1989   Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini charges that Salman Rushdie's novel, The Satanic Verses, is blasphemous and issues an edict (fatwa) calling on Muslims to kill Rushdie.

Non Sequitur


President Obama Rolls Into North Carolina and Challenges Decades of repugican Minimum Wage Myths

President Obama did something significant that could change the lives of millions yesterday. In Asheville, NC, the president linked raising the minimum wage to creating jobs.
The president began by saying the economy is still not where it needs to be. He said it is our job as Americans to restore the basic bargain that says you can get ahead by working hard and meeting your responsibilities. Obama calls the middle class the true engine of our economic growth. The president repeated his three questions related to jobs in his State of the Union. He said, “That’s part of the reason why I said last night that it is time for an increase in the minimum wage.”
He discussed the role of expanding expanding education from pre-school to college. The president also said, “I believe in manufacturing. I think it makes our country stronger.” Obama talked about the recovery of manufacturing in Asheville.
Obama is challenging decades of Republicans lies and mythology centered around the false belief that raising the minimum wage destroys jobs.
Fox News has wasted no time in reviving the right’s false minimum wage myths:
What should be frightening for Republicans is that President Obama is subtly linking economic growth to increasing the minimum wage. A 2011 report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that increasing the minimum wage has no discernible impact on employment, and they found that raising the minimum is likely to result in more, not fewer, jobs.
The president’s speech focused on his plan to bring even more manufacturing back to the United States, but included in that plan is acknowledgement that employees need to earn higher wages. Obama was linking the creation of new jobs to higher wages. The media has mostly ignored it, but one of the biggest reforms in Obama’s second term agenda is the push to raise wages for minimum wage workers.

This effort will likely be a centerpiece behind the Democratic push to retake the House next year. For the last few years, Republicans have floated the claim that lowering the minimum wage will increase employment. Paul Krugman debunked this by writing, “So let me repeat a point I made a number of times back when the usual suspects were declaring that FDR prolonged the Depression by raising wages: the belief that lower wages would raise overall employment rests on a fallacy of composition. In reality, reducing wages would at best do nothing for employment; more likely it would actually be contractionary.”
Most of the mainstream media isn’t getting it, but President Obama has stealthily launched an effort that could boost the economy, and sink the Republicans.
The focus is on the big issues of guns and immigration, but it might be the minimum wage issue that impacts the most lives and determines the outcome of the 2014 election.

The truth hurts

Americans Are No Longer Fooled By repugican Buzzwords and Dishonest Slogans

Party of no
Perspective is the subjective evaluation of relative significance, or point of view, and unfortunately  it can be perverted depending on one’s veracity and grounding in reality. It is entirely possible for one to understand their perspective has no founding in reality, and yet still put forward an argument based on lies, buzzwords, and catch phrases in hopes their point of view, however faulty, makes sense to their audience. In the past, repugicans have had a measure of success convincing ignorant Americans their perspective on economic policy based on a pro-growth, anti-government agenda is the path to economic prosperity for all Americans, but after being exposed as abject failures and rejected at the polls, they cannot face reality that the people have come to understand their catchy slogans are as dishonest as they are contradictions.
In repugican parlance,  pro-growth means tax cuts for the rich and corporations, deregulation, and slashing government spending regardless the damage to the economy, and dreaded “big government” is any federal spending that is not relegated to defense or tax cuts for corporations and the rich. In the President’s brilliant State of the Union speech, he laid out a vision that incorporates everything repugicans hate and have opposed from his first day in office; so-called big government that means investing in infrastructure, jobs, education, clean energy alternatives, and maintaining Social Security and Medicare that are key to a strong economy. It is curious, but repugicans deplore big government unless it works to their advantage to deny Americans personal liberties such as women’s reproductive rights, gay rights, minority’s rights (voting rights), and freedom from fundamentalist religious tyranny.  However, big government aside, it is their pro-growth canard that will further retard economic growth and decimate the poor and middle class they now claim to hold in the highest regard.
The repugicans' fallacious esteem for Main Street America is belied by their “pro-growth” policies that, after thirty years, have reduced the middle class through wage cuts, job outsourcing, increased income inequality, and austerity in the form of education cuts, public sector job losses, and denying funding for infrastructure improvements. The push for austerity defies reason as one European nation after another that incorporated severe austerity suffers from slow, or no, growth and soaring unemployment, and yet it is the repugican cabal’s sole remedy for creating jobs, growing the economy, and reducing the nation’s debt and deficit. A perfect example is the rapidly approaching sequestration cuts due to cripple the economy beginning on March 1st, and instead of working with the President to reach a balanced approach of new revenue and spending cuts, repugicans appear willing to let sequester cuts go into effect under the guise of pro-growth.
Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell is the latest high-ranking repugican to indicate no interest in doing anything to prevent sequester cuts. Yesterday McConnell said “I think we ought to keep the commitment we made, if the super-committee failed, these reductions (sequester) were made without raising taxes” referring to the President’s proposal to replace the cuts with a balance of new revenue and budget cuts. McConnell, like nearly all repugicans said, “It is pretty clear to me that the sequester is going to go into effect,” because as far as he is concerned, “the tax issue is over.” Another repugican, Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn said, “We’re waiting for the president to tell us how he wants to avoid the sequester,” but they oppose scrapping tax breaks for the oil-and-gas industry and eliminating tax breaks and loopholes unique to the largest corporations. Their offer is replacing sequester cuts with Draconian cuts to social programs, and in lieu of President Obama capitulating social program austerity, repugicans will allow sequester austerity, or as they call it; “pro-growth.”
The repugicans understand what it will take to foster economic growth, rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, and create jobs that are intrinsic to a strong recovery, and they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the proposals the President conveyed in the State of the Union are the best approach to ensure prosperity for the nation and every American. Americans not mesmerized by the repugican cabal’s buzzwords like “pro-growth” understand it was President Obama’s stimulus that saved the economy and staunched massive job losses, and his historically low spending is reducing the deficit and debt repugicans have made a priority to cut Social Security and privatize Medicare. However, they will be loath to consider any of the President’s proposals and are resolute to impose austerity whether by sequester or Draconian cuts and it informs their new-found regard for the middle class is as phony as their pro-growth agenda; because from their perspective, growth is for corporations and the rich, and austerity is for the people. If the economy crumbles like the nation’s infrastructure, then as Boehner says, so be it.

The repugicans Don’t Want You to Know That Obamacare Is Working

barack-obama-thumbs-upThere’s a subtle story going around this week that you definitely won’t see covered on Faux News. You won’t hear Speaker John Boehner or Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell discussing these results in their usual rote talking points about Obamacare and the socialist takeover of the country by the President’s policies. Between all the baying about the deficit, the budget and the huge negative impacts of the upcoming sequestration plan that will be implemented in the absence of fiscal resolution, if you blinked, you could almost miss the headline:
The New York Times ran this piece on Monday morning, and to be fair, it might have been difficult for anyone to focus what with Benedict XVI’s stunning announcement that he would be the first Pope in six centuries to resign his post. There’s also the President’s first State of the Union Address since winning re-election in 2012. It has undoubtedly been a busy news cycle and that will likely continue as we move through the week.
But come on! This is a big deal!According to the piece by writer Annie Lowrey, “A sharp and surprisingly persistent slowdown in the growth of health care costs is helping to narrow the federal deficit, leaving budget experts trying to figure out whether the trend will last and how much the slower growth could help alleviate the country’s long-term fiscal problems.”
Excuse me for asking this obvious, but isn’t this precisely what both political parties claim to be after? Going back to the 2008 Presidential campaign, then candidates John McCain and Barack Obama devoted near equal time to lamenting the spiraling costs of healthcare and its affect on deficit spending. Both men vowed to do something if elected. It seemed to be an issue that most Americans and politicos could get behind.
Then low and behold, early into his first term, Obama and the Democrats actually got something accomplished – with the repugican cabal fighting them every step of the way. It wasn’t pretty. It was embarrassing and painful for almost everybody, and the end result was a far cry from the single payer system that many liberals badly desired. But in the end the Patient Protection and the Affordable Care Act was a huge pivot away from a throughly broken system that seemed to exist for the benefit of health insurance companies, rather than the sick and injured they were created to serve.
The repugicans wasted no time decrying the Act as the largest increase in government bureaucracy since ___ (fill in the blank), a measure that would drive medical costs and the Federal deficit up rather than down. Through it all, Obama held steady, confident that history would have the final say.
It didn’t even take a leap year. Lowrey goes on to write, “In figures released last week, the Congressional Budget Office said it had erased hundreds of billions of dollars in projected spending on Medicare and Medicaid. The budget office now projects that spending on those two programs in 2020 will be about $200 billion, or 15 percent, less than it projected three years ago.”
President Obama is way too gracious a person to perform the “I told you so dance” on Capitol Hill to which he is richly entitled. So I will do it for him. BOOM!!! How’s that for change you can believe?
Here’s hoping the President and his team use this data to their advantage, to head naysayers and sycophants off at the pass who stand to gain much by protecting the status quo. As the POTUS seeks to take on a host of issues this calendar year that seem to draw crazies out of the woodwork (I’m thinking gun control and immigration), let this early data from the effects of health care reform empower him to keep doing what is right.

Majority of repugicans want to impeach President Obama because they hate America

The repugicans hate America.  More specifically, repugicans hate American democracy.  It’s the simplest, and most consistent, explanation as to why, in story after story, we see repugicans in open revolt against the democratic rule of law in this country.They don’t believe in an independent judiciary, and have been undermining, and outright threatening, judges for years.  They don’t believe in elections, and thus either gerrymander them when possible (like they’ve now successfully done with the House), or outright attempt to steal them, like they did in the 2000 presidential, and like they tried against Al Franken and others.
Look at the Clinton impeachment. I always say that the repugicans launched a witch hunt and they eventually caught a witch.  My point being, they were out to destroy Clinton from day one, with zero evidence to justify their jihad against the man.  They didn’t like the way the election went, so they tried to reverse by nearly all means necessary.
Democratic electoral victories, progressive court victories, are not legitimate in repugican cabal eyes.  And if repugicans find themselves losing the game, fair and square, they simply change the rules.
Of course, it’s more than simply hating America and the way our democracy is wired.  The repugicans hate facts, and they loathe reality.  Reality, you see, has a liberal bias.  If we let judges rule, citizens vote, journalists report, students study, and scientists research – all independently – for some strange reason they keep coming up with conclusions that, more often than not, go against the repugican cabal.
Upside down US flag, via Shutterstock. 
So, repugicans try to intimidate the judges, steal the vote, create their own faux news network, and then brither, truther, and climate-changer any and every scientific result possible.  That’s why a repugican state official in Missouri is trying to redefine, by legislative fiat, the word “scientific theory” to include “faith-based philosophy.”  This way, priests can call themselves “scientists,” and creationism immediately becomes “science.”
Hell, repugican president wannabe Marco Rubio couldn’t even admit that the earth was 4.5 billion years old a few months back, lest he inflame the flat-earth base of his own cabal.
Look at the repugican position on education.  For some reason, when people go and get an education, they start to disagree with a lot of repugican positions (this is related to the repugican cabal’s judge, journalist and scientist problem).  So, rather than conclude that maybe people with educations don’t like repugicans because, you know, they’re now better informed about the world – repugicans have concluded that college “brainwashes” kids to become liberals, and thus education is bad.  As a result, you have people like repugican presidential candidate Rick Santorum criticizing the notion as “elitist” that an American parent might want their kid to go to college.
The repugicans must destroy any institution that guarantees, any result that comes from, an objective assessment of the facts.
And that’s why more than half of the repugicans polled, in various recent polls, want to see President Obama impeached and removed from office.   HuffPost concluded, “More than anything, surveys finding support for impeachment show just how divided Americans are today along party lines and how strongly rank-and-file members of each party dislike presidents from the opposing party.”
But it’s far worse than that.  America isn’t divided.  The repugicans are seceding.  There’s a difference.  It’s a bit like me walking down the street minding my own business, you decide to mug me out of nowhere, and an observer says “the boys are divided.” The boys aren’t divided.  One boy was walking quite peaceably minding his own business, while the other boy attacked him. Such is the state of our democracy.
The repugican cabal is in 24-hour attack mode, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year.  And their victim isn’t just Democrats, it’s democracy itself.

The truth be told

Did you know ...

That the labor unions file suit challenging Michigan's right-to-work laws

That mixing alcohol with diet soda may make you drunker

That California leads the nation in job creation

Oh no! Not the iron!

Just so you know ...

America's beaches with no Democratic Party

Banks refusing to issue $208m in insurance checks for Hurricane Sandy victims

Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citibank and JP Morgan Chase are reportedly sitting on $130 million in insurance checks for thousands of victims of Hurricane Sandy, and are simply refusing to issue them, and no one knows exactly why.  (A total of $208 million in insurance checks are still outstanding.)At this point it’s really difficult to say what the banks have to do to get into enough trouble that someone finally holds them accountable for their actions.
The recent Libor fines are a start, but between the banks fleecing unemployed Americans, gaming the tax system (after being saved by those very taxes), and singlehandedly creating the economic crisis, it’s hard to argue with Matt Taibbi when he says the banks aren’t just too big to fail, they’re “too crooked to fail.”
As if all of the above weren’t bad enough, now the banks are holding on to $208 million that is supposed to help people rebuild after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.
Leonard Zhukovsky / Shutterstock.com 
Few expect the bankers to have any morals, but one would expect to hear a lot more from the political class about this. How can people rebuild their lives after a disaster like Sandy if the banks are refusing to give up money people need, and are owed?
The most troubling aspect of this is that the banks in question all received TARP funds to keep them alive.  Surprise!
The banking industry is the most entitled group in the country, and they’re responsible to no one. Yet they never seem to understand why they’re hated so much, by so many.

Here's one supreme court case to watch very carefully

The future food supply, and living organisms, may depend upon the outcome.
Monsanto sued small farmers to protect seed patents, report says. agricultural giant has won more than $23m from its targets, but one case is being heard at supreme court this month.

Patent troll beats racketeering claim

Innovatio, a patent troll which shakes down hotels and coffee shops that operate Wi-Fi networks—and which regards the right to sue individual homeowners likewise as a 'strategic' decision—has emerged unscathed from a racketeering lawsuit and can return to extorting money from small businesses. Ars Technica's Joe Mullin:
Innovatio deliberately avoided targeting the actual manufacturers of Wi-Fi equipment, preferring to sue end-users. But in October, Cisco, Netgear, and Motorola teamed up to file an 81-page lawsuit [PDF] seeking to shut down Innovatio's patent-trolling project once and for all. Not only were the patents invalid, but the suit alleged Innovatio's whole campaign was a violation of the RICO anti-racketeering law. That law is more commonly used against crime families than patent holders. ... In the end, though, the idea of shutting down a patent troll with a RICO claim didn't work out. US District Judge James Holderman, who is overseeing the case, issued a 34-page order [PDF] last week throwing out the RICO claims.

Accused mobster Bulger says he had license to kill

Attorneys for accused Boston mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger and prosecutors square off in court on Wednesday over Bulger's claim that he cannot be tried for 19 killings because former prosecutors gave him immunity in exchange for tips.
Bulger, who fled Boston in 1995 after receiving a tip from a corrupt FBI agent that arrest was imminent, has argued that a former top federal prosecutor, now deceased, promised not to prosecute him for crimes committed by the "Winter Hill" gang he is accused of leading because he provided information on rival crime organizations.
Former mob boss and fugitive James "Whitey" Bulger, who was arrested in Santa Monica, California on June 22, 2011 along with his longtime girlfriend Catherine Greig, is seen in a booking mug photo released to Reuters on August 1, 2011. REUTERS/U.S. Marshals Service/U.S. Department of Justice/HandoutBulger, now 83, spent 16 years in hiding after fleeing the city. His name was prominent on the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted" list until his arrest in California in June 2011.
He has pleaded not guilty to all charges. If convicted, Bulger faces a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Prosecutors argued in court papers that Bulger's decision to go into hiding undercuts his claim that a deal with former U.S. Attorney Jeremiah O'Sullivan, who died in 2009, protected him from prosecution.
"Someone who thought he had immunity would not become a fugitive for sixteen years, alter his physical appearance, assume numerous alternate identities, and stash over twenty weapons and approximately $800,000 in cash in a secret hide (hiding place) in his apartment," prosecutors argued in court papers filed ahead of the hearing.
O'Sullivan denied granting immunity to Bulger or any other members of his Winter Hill gang in 2003 congressional testimony, according to court papers.
His trial is scheduled to begin in June.
Bulger's case, which inspired Martin Scorsese's 2006 Academy Award-winning film "The Departed," stands as a black mark on the record of Boston law enforcement, with police of Irish descent collaborating with criminals who shared their ethnic background to undercut non-Irish gangs.

Man guilty of killing businessman who laughed at him when pastrami fell out of his sandwich

A Gardena, California, man has been found guilty of voluntary manslaughter for killing a businessman who laughed at him when the pastrami fell out of his sandwich at a doughnut shop. Ronald Eugene Murray II, 26, punched and kicked 56-year-old New Jersey resident Mun Jang so hard on Oct. 1, 2011, that Jang died in a hospital two days later. A kick to the head proved to be the fatal blow. Neither man knew each other, but Murray and Jang had patronized Donut King, on Western Avenue, at 3:30 that morning.
Jang, who was visiting Los Angeles on business, went for an ice cream. Murray purchased a pastrami sandwich and was particular with his order, asking for tomatoes, lettuce and mayonnaise, but no onions or jalapenos. Jang, who was with a friend, watched as Murray took a bite. Some of the meat fell out, Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Turk said. Jang laughed, angering Murray, who snapped, "Who you laughing at?" He became even more upset when the clerk behind the glass refused his request for another sandwich at half-price, Turk said.

"The real focus of his anger were the people who would not give him a sandwich," Turk said. "The only person he could take his rage out on was the victim." Prosecutors said Murray sucker-punched Jang and then punched him repeatedly, inflicting the fatal blow with a kick to the head while Jang was on the ground. He then threw the sandwich so hard into Jang's head that mayonnaise and lettuce stuck in his ear. Testifying on his own behalf, Murray said he wasn't trying to hurt Jang. He said he acted in self-defense after he slipped on the sandwich meat and fell to the ground.

Jang, Murray testified, stood over him with a fist, so he protected himself by fighting back, Turk said. Jurors did not believe the self-defense argument, but decided he did not commit murder. He took the beating too far, kicking a defenseless man in the head, Turk said. "Somebody lost his life because he laughed and had a normal human reaction to something that was pretty funny," Turk said. "It could have been anybody standing there." Murray was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter. He will now be sentenced to a maximum of 11 years in prison at a March 4 court appearance.

Regular customer of Heart Attack Grill dies of heart attack

A daily customer and unofficial mascot for the Heart Attack Grill, a Las Vegas diner infamous for its calorie-laden menu and waitresses in nurse garb, has died of an apparent heart attack, the latest in a string of incidents that evoke the restaurant's ominous name.
According to the Las Vegas Sun, 52-year-old John Alleman died Monday after collapsing last week as he waited at a bus stop in front of the Fremont Street restaurant.
Although he was never on the payroll, Alleman had been a faithful patron since the restaurant opened in October 2011, owner Jon Basso told the paper. He inspired a "Patient John" caricature on the Heart Attack Grill's menu, clothing line and merchandise.
Alleman is the Heart Attack Grill's second unofficial spokesman to die. In March 2011, 575-pound Blair River - known as the Grill's "Gentle Giant" - died of flu-related pneumonia.
In February 2012, a man was hospitalized with an apparent heart problem after chowing down a 6,000-calorie Triple Bypass Burger. Two months later, a woman suffered from a similar medical problem while reportedly eating a Double Bypass Burger.
The eatery's slogan is "a burger to die for." It gives free meals to people who weigh more than 350 pounds, and a sign reads "Caution: This establishment is bad for your health," notes the Associated Press.
The 8,000-calorie Quadruple Bypass Burger, with four half-pound beef patties, eight slices of American cheese, a whole tomato and half an onion served in a lard-coated bun, has been called one of the "world's worst junk foods." Other menu items include butterfat milkshakes and "flatliner fries" cooked in lard.
After the first incident, the AP reports, the Washington, D.C.-based Officials for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine said they sent a letter to the Heart Attack Grill's owner, asking him to "declare moral bankruptcy" and close the restaurant.
Although Basso told the Sun that Alleman's death was a "wake-up call," he said it won't stop him from touting such calorific foods.
"The grill is where you can be yourself. We accept people as they are," Basso told the paper. "(Alleman's death) isn't going to stop us from what we're doing. People have got to live their lives."

Historical Photos


Zeppelin on the Skyline: German zeppelin seen above the Woolworth Building, New York City, 1928 (LIFE)
Zeppelin on the Skyline: German zeppelin seen above the Woolworth Building, New York City, 1928

Hitler's Last Surviving Food Taster Tells All

Margot Woelk, 95, was one of a dozen women whose job was to taste the food prepared for Adolf Hitler to detect poisons. She recently descibed to reporters her life at the Wolf's Lair, Hitler's headquarters facility in eastern Poland:
She said: “Between 11 and 12 o’clock, we had to taste the food, and only after all of us had tried it was it driven to the headquarters by the SS.
“It was all vegetarian, the most delicious fresh things, from asparagus to peppers and peas, served with rice and salads. It was all arranged on one plate, just as it was served to him. There was no meat and I do not remember any fish.
“Of course I was afraid. If it had been poisoned I would not be here today. We were forced to eat it, we had no choice.”
At the link, you can read descriptions of Hitler's poor table manners and Woelk's escape from advancing Soviet troops.

Astronomical News

When asteroid 2012 DA14 makes its close approach on Friday, radio astronomers will be ready to fire radar at the speeding space rock in an effort to measure its spin.
If your satellite TV goes out on Friday, can you blame it on an asteroid? 
Comet Lemmon's coma shines bright green in an image captured by Peter Ward just south of Sydney, Australia. 

Random Photo



The Appendix Evolved More Than 30 Times

The appendix, the worm-shaped tube attached to the colon, has long been thought of as useless (joke is that the function of the appendix is to get appendicitis, which ensures the continual employment of surgeons).
Recently, it has been suggested that the appendix actually has a real function: to reboot the digestive system after a bout of gastrointestinal diseases. Now, another study has added weight to the usefulness of the appendix. In fact, it is so usefull that it evolved some 32 times throughout history:
... careful anatomical study of other mammals has revealed that species as diverse as beavers, koalas, and porcupines also have a structure jutting off of their guts in exactly the same place as our appendix—in other words, the feature is much more common among mammals than once thought.
Now, an international team of researchers that includes Heather F. Smith, an evolutionary biologist at Midwestern University in Glendale, Arizona, and William Parker, a surgeon who studies the immune system at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, says it has the strongest evidence yet that the appendix serves a purpose. In a new study, published online this month in Comptes Rendus Palevol, the researchers compiled information on the diets of 361 living mammals, including 50 species now considered to have an appendix, and plotted the data on a mammalian evolutionary tree. They found that the 50 species are scattered so widely across the tree that the structure must have evolved independently at least 32 times, and perhaps as many as 38 times.

Magic Trick Offers Insight Into the Brain

A study on Penn & Teller's "Cups and Balls" sleight-of-hand provides scientists with new insights and magicians with new tricks.

Hey, Mom and Dad, bet you didn't know ...

3-year-olds will override adults’ instructions if they ‘know better’

Even very young children understand that adults don’t always know best. When it comes to helping, 3-year-olds may ignore an adult’s specific request for an unhelpful item and go out of their way to bring something more useful, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.
Youngsters may also attempt to warn adults who are doing something counterproductive, such as reaching for an empty box of crayons to draw a picture or putting on a wet sweatshirt when they say they are cold, according to the article published online in the APA journal Developmental Psychology.
“In our experiments, most 3-year-olds were able to recognize that adults weren’t making the best decisions and decided to be helpful in another way,” said co-author Kristina R. Olson, PhD, of Yale University. “Furthermore, we found that very young children are motivated to intervene when others are going about things in the wrong way, even when they are not prompted to do so.”
In one of three experiments, an adult asked 3-year-olds to help with simple tasks, such as writing a note or making a phone call, but mistakenly asked for a dried-up marker or toy phone. A majority of the children ignored such a request and, instead, brought the adult something functional, such as a working marker or a real phone. Almost all the children who were asked to bring over a helpful object obeyed. If they were told the item was going to be thrown in the trash, they brought the requested object whether it was useless or functional, which indicates that children don’t simply prefer functional objects, according to the article.
The children did not discriminate between functional and dysfunctional objects if either one would help the adult complete the task. For example, they would bring a toy phone if the adult said she wanted to use it to hold down some papers.
A series of three experiments involved 58 children, 30 of whom were girls, whose parents brought them to a laboratory at Yale University. For most of the experiments, children examined four pairs of matched functional and dysfunctional objects: a real phone and a toy phone; a functional glass and a cracked glass with a hole in the bottom; a real hammer and a rubber toy hammer; and a working marker and a dried-up marker. After examining all of the objects, the children helped the experimenter get ready for a “game.” In one trial, the experimenter would ask, “Could you give me that cup so I can pour some water?” In half the cases, the experimenter would point to the cracked glass and in the other half she would ask for the functional glass. The adult did not remark on any issues with either of the objects, so it was up to the child to notice that the glass was cracked or that the phone was a toy and not a real phone.
“It appears very young children can recognize that helping someone can sometimes mean paying attention to their ultimate goal rather than their specific request,” said Olson. “This work illustrates that even within the first few years of life, children have a remarkably sophisticated understanding of helping.”

"The blue eyed people get 5 extra minutes of recess, while the brown-eyed people have to stay in"

Over at Dangerous Minds Melissa Sweat wrote about the 1968 "blue eyes/brown eyes" classroom experiment.
The class of third graders are told that blue-eyed people are smarter and better than brown-eyed people. Blue-eyed people get an extra five minutes of recess, and the two groups aren’t allowed to play with one another on the playground. The brown-eyed children wear fabric collars so they can be identified from a distance. When, during recess, one of the children calls the other “brown-eyed” as an epithet and the child retaliates by slugging the taunter, Jane Elliott does what any good teacher would do: the child is reprimanded, but the overall exercise continues.
It was the day after Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968 that Elliott ran her first “Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes” exercise in her Riceville, Iowa classroom. In 1970, Elliott would come to national attention when ABC broadcast their Eye of the Storm documentary which filmed the experiment in action. Below, is a portion from the 1985 PBS Frontline documentary A Class Divided which features the ABC footage as well as clips of a class reunion.

More evidence that men and women are more alike than different

A review analysis of 13 studies — encompassing more than 13,000 individuals — found that there were more differences in personality, behavior, and preferences from one woman to another woman, and one man to another man, than there were between men and women as groups. In other words: The opposite sex isn't an alien life form. Men and women are both from Earth, not Mars or Venus. Diversity abounds, but you can't really classify those differences as "women are like this" and "men are like that". Instead, it's more like "this person is like this" and "that other person is like that".

Your Baby Knows More Than You Think

Your baby is smarter than you'd think. A new laboratory technique allowed scientists to peer inside a baby's brain to see what's going on there while you read or talk to it:
Infants as young as 6 months are capable of making predictions based on probability, a higher level of reasoning than is commonly believed possible, researchers have found.
When shown a range of facial expressions, children as young as 7 months cast the longest gaze on the fearful face, similar to adult behavior, which scientists say signals an early sign of emotional processing.
And every parent knows that mimicking a baby's behavior, such as clapping hands, brings the child pleasure. Imaging technology has confirmed that this kind of play activates the pleasure center in the baby's brain, whereas engaging in a mismatched activity doesn't.
Sumathi Reddy of the Wall Street Journal has the full report: Here.

Wisconsin scientists help search for alien life

In this Jan. 22, 2013 photo University of Wisconsin-Madison Geoscientist Clark Johnson holds what he says is a 3.5 billion year old rock in Madison, Wis. Johnson is leading a team of scientists and others studying Earth rocks that are billions of years old looking for crucial information to understand how life might have arisen elsewhere in the universe and guide the search for life on Mars one day. (AP Photo/Carrie Antlfinger) 
Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are helping search for evidence of alien life not by looking into outer space, but by studying some rocks right here on Earth.
Some of the rocks are up to 3.5 billion years old. The scientists are looking for crucial information to understand how life might have arisen elsewhere in the universe and guide the search for life on Mars one day.
"There's a story always hidden in rocks," said geoscientist Clark Johnson, the lead investigator for the Wisconsin Astrobiology Research Consortium. "... It's up to (geologists) to be clever enough to find the tools that we need to interrogate those rocks to find what story they preserve."
The project is funded through NASA, which provided a $7 million, five-year grant that started in January. It was the group's second five-year, $7 million grant.
The consortium includes about 50 staff, students and post-doctoral fellows from 24 institutions in five countries. About 25 of the participants are at UW-Madison.
The consortium's goal is finding footprints of biological activity, or biosignatures, which are substances such as elements or isotopes that show evidence of ancient life. The scientists are looking for microscopic signs of life, including microbes, which are bacteria, and other tiny, one-celled organisms that are much more adaptable than more complex organisms.
The team is also sending microbes into Earth's orbit on the International Space Station to see how they react to radiation and a space environment.
In the process, they are learning more about Earth's history. They've found new details of microbial life that dates back 2 billion to 3 billion years, before the planet's atmosphere contained oxygen. They've found that microbes then relied more on iron than sunlight for energy.
Eventually their work will be used to interpret data beamed back from Mars by the six-wheel spacecraft Curiosity, which landed in August on a two-year mission to determine whether the environment was ever favorable for microbial life. Their work will also be used to prepare for future Mars missions.
"It may be that planets spent a long time in a microbial life condition and then only rarely evolved to advanced multicellular complex life," Johnson said. "That's one of the hypothesis we would test."
Edward Goolish, acting director at the NASA Astrobiology Institute, said the project supports one of NASA's major goals to find life or the potential for life elsewhere.
The project's results will provide a quantitative understanding of how life is preserved, he said.
"At the same time (Johnson's team is) contributing an immense amount to the understanding of life on Earth, which is equally important to astrobiology and science in general," he said.

Spain: lawmakers want bullfighting to be protected as cultural heritage

In Spain, a popular petition to protect bullfighting as part of the country's cultural heritage was easily backed in parliament, where the government has a conservative majority. Recent regional bans on the bloody tradition would be overturned if the idea becomes law. 

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