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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.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Daily Drift

Smiles of a Summer Night, 1955
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Today in History

483 St. Felix begins his reign as catholic Pope.
607 The 12th recorded passage of Halley's Comet occurs.
1519 Hernando Cortez lands in what will become Mexico.
1660 A statute is passed limiting the sale of slaves in the colony of Virginia.
1777 Congress orders its European envoys to appeal to high-ranking foreign officers to send troops to reinforce the American army.
1781 Astronomer William Herschel discovers the planet Uranus, which he names 'Georgium Sidus,' in honor of King George III.
1793 Eli Whitney patents the cotton gin.
1861 Jefferson Davis signs a bill authorizing slaves to be used as soldiers for the Confederacy.
1868 The U.S. Senate begins the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson.
1881 Czar Alexander II is assassinated when a bomb is thrown at him near his palace.
1915 The Germans repel a British Expeditionary Force attack at the battle of Neuve Chapelle in France.
1918 Women are scheduled to march in the St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York due to a shortage of men.
1935 A three-thousand-year-old archive is found in Jerusalem confirming biblical history.
1940 Finland capitulates conditionally to Soviet terms, but maintains its independence.
1941 Hitler issues an edict calling for an invasion of the Soviet Union.
1942 Julia Flikke of the Nurse Corps becomes the first woman colonel in the U.S. Army.
1943 Japanese forces end their attack on the American troops on Hill 700 in Bougainville.
1951 Israel demands $1.5 billion in German reparations for the cost of caring for war refugees.
1957 The FBI arrests Jimmy Hoffa on bribery charges.
1963 China invites Soviet Premiere Nikita Khrushchev to visit Beijing.
1970 Cambodia orders Hanoi and Viet Cong troops to get out.
1974 The U.S. Senate votes 54-33 to restore the death penalty.
1974 Arab nations decide to end the oil embargo on the United States.
1981 The United States plans to send 15 Green Berets to El Salvador as military advisors.
1985 Upon the death of Konstantin Chernenko, Mikhail Gorbachev becomes the new leader of the Soviet Union.
1991 Exxon pays $1 billion in fines and costs for the clean-up of the Alaskan oil spill.

Non Sequitur


Zombies seem to be everywhere these days

Researcher: Zombie fads peak when society unhappy  
 In the popular TV series "The Walking Dead," humans struggle to escape from a pack of zombies hungry for flesh. Prank alerts have warned of a zombie apocalypse on radio stations in a handful of states. And across the country, zombie wannabes in tattered clothes occasionally fill local parks, gurgling moans of the undead.
FILE - Costumed actors, promoting the Halloween premiere of the AMC television series "The Walking Dead", shamble along the Brooklyn Bridge while posing for pictures in New York, in this Oct. 26, 2010 file photo. Clemson University English professor Sarah Lauro says people are more interested in zombies when they're dissatisfied with society as a whole. As of last year, Lauro said, zombie walks had been documented in 20 countries. The largest gathering drew more than 4,000 participants at the New Jersey Zombie Walk in Asbury Park, N.J., in October 2010, according to the Guinness World Records. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)Are these just unhealthy obsessions with death and decay? To Clemson University professor Sarah Lauro, the phenomenon isn't harmful or a random fad, but part of a historical trend that mirrors a level of cultural dissatisfaction and economic upheaval.
Lauro, who teaches English at Clemson, studied zombies while working on her doctoral degree at the University of California at Davis. Lauro said she keeps track of zombie movies, television shows and video games, but her research focuses primarily on the concept of the "zombie walk," a mass gathering of people who, dressed in the clothes and makeup of the undead, stagger about and dance.
It's a fascination that, for Lauro, a self-described "chicken," seems unnatural. Disinterested in violent movies or games, Lauro said she finds herself now taking part in both in an attempt to further understand what makes zombie-lovers tick.
"I hate violence," she said. "I can't stand gore. So it's a labor, but I do it."
The zombie mob originated in 2003 in Toronto, Lauro said, and popularity escalated dramatically in the United States in 2005, alongside a rise in dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq.
"It was a way that the population was getting to exercise the fact that they felt like they hadn't been listened to by the Bush administration," Lauro said. "Nobody really wanted that war, and yet we were going to war anyway."
The mid- to late 2000s also saw an uptick in overall zombie popularity, perhaps prompted in part by the release of post-apocalyptic movies including "Dawn of the Dead" and "28 Days Later."
As of last year, Lauro said, zombie walks had been documented in 20 countries. The largest gathering drew more than 4,000 participants at the New Jersey Zombie Walk in Asbury Park, N.J., in October 2010, according to Guinness World Records.
"We are more interested in the zombie at times when as a culture we feel disempowered," Lauro said. "And the facts are there that, when we are experiencing economic crises, the vast population is feeling disempowered. ... Either playing dead themselves ... or watching a show like 'Walking Dead' provides a great variety of outlets for people."
But, Lauro pointed out, the display of dissatisfaction isn't always a conscious expression of that feeling of frustration.
"If you were to ask the participants, I don't think that all of them are very cognizant of what they're saying when they put on the zombie makeup and participate," she said. "To me, it's such an obvious allegory. We feel like, in one way, we're dead."

You Have the Right To Not Remain Silent

Pagans/Wiccans Face Alot of Discrimination over the years
From Jobs to schools to Military to family/ Friends even in the news we are Ridiculed for our beliefs
we have been attacked and killed for our beliefs which is why many Pagans and Wiccans Remain in the Broom Closet. They Fear What will my family, friends and loved ones think of me? What repercussions will I have at my place of work? Will I be attacked or harassed for my beliefs.
In history Pagans Suffered Greatly
Forced conversions to christianity, torture and death of resisters, destruction of Pagan property, sacred sites, symbols, wealth, art, literature, Liberia etc. - as well as christianizations (christian claiming of Pagan property, symbols, celebrations Turning Pagan Gods and Goddess into Saints and Angels etc ) -- are some of the persecutions that Pagans have suffered at the hands of the christian cult.

The Inquisition in particular targeted Witches and those accused of Witchcraft with such vehemence that the term "Witch Hunt" has become synonymous with both religious and political persecution.

Anti-Pagan and anti-Witchcraft propaganda produced by the Inquisition continues to negatively influence how Pagans and Witches are perceived by the public today.

Even Today Witches are still Burned in some countries

If you are a Victim of Discrimination Speak up do not be Silenced
or know someone who has been
Speak Up Speak Out Say Something!

There is many Pagan and Wiccan Organisations that will help you.

Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.
History has shown us one person can change the course of the future.

The purpose of Paganism is to remind us all that we are not alone -- that we are important, integral parts of the universe. The Divine is within all living things, including ourselves.

We need to unite together and work together to end the Fear and end the Silence

Speak up Speak out Say Something

Did you know ...

10 celebs you didn't know were atheists

Fear: the cycle that drives assault weapon sales

That a repugican decries yacht clubs as elitist, while being on the board of a yacht club

That kids love the Facebook, right? maybe not so much...

And guess what? Paul Ryan still wants to kill medicare

That silicon valley full of stoners

An ex-model sues for unauthorized mad men appearance in title sequence

That if people talked about 'Seinfeld' the way they talk about 'girls'

America's new love: Water

In this Tuesday, March 5, 2013 photo, a selection of bottled waters stands on a kitchen counter in East Derry, N.H. Soda's reign as America's most popular drink could be entering its twilight years, with plain old bottled water making a run for the top spot. Already, bottled water has surged past juice, milk and beer in terms of per capita consumption. The result is that bottled water is slowly closing the gap for the No. 1 spot. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) 
 It wasn't too long ago that America had a love affair with soda. Now, an old flame has the country's heart.
As New York City's ban on the sale of large cups of soda and other sugary drinks at some businesses starts on Tuesday, one thing is clear: soda's run as the nation's beverage of choice has fizzled.
In its place? A favorite for much of history: Plain old H2O.
For more than two decades, soda was the No. 1 drink in the U.S. with consumption peaking in 1998 at 54 gallons a year, according industry tracker Beverage Digest. Americans drank just 42 gallons a year of water at the time.
But over the years, as soda increasingly came under fire for fueling the nation's rising obesity rates, water quietly rose to knock it off the top spot.
Americans now drink an average of 44 gallons of soda a year, a 17 percent drop from the peak in 1998. Over the same time, the average amount of water people drink has increased 38 percent to about 58 gallons a year. Bottled water has led that growth, with consumption nearly doubling to 21 gallons a year.
Stephen Ngo, a civil defense attorney, quit drinking soda a year ago when he started running triathlons, and wanted a healthier way to quench his thirst.
Ngo, 34, has a Brita filter for tap water and also keeps his pantry stocked with cases of bottled water.
"It might just be the placebo effect or marketing, but it tastes crisper," said Ngo, who lives in Miami.
The trend reflects Americans' ever-changing tastes; it wasn't too far back in history that tap water was the top drink.
But in the 1980s, carbonated soft drinks overtook tap as the most popular drink, with Coca-Cola and PepsiCo putting their marketing muscle behind their colas with celebrity endorsements from the likes of pop star Michael Jackson and comedian Bill Cosby.
Americans kept drinking more of the carbonated, sugary drink for about a decade. Then, soda's magic started to fade: Everyone from doctors to health advocates to government officials were blaming soft drinks for making people fat. Consumption started declining after hitting a high in the late 1990s.
At the same time, people started turning to bottled water as an alternative. Its popularity was helped by the emergence of single-serve bottles that were easy to carry around.
Until then, bottled water had mainly been sold in "big jugs and coolers" for people who didn't trust their water supply, said John Sicher, publisher of Beverage Digest.
The new soft drink-like packaging helped fast-track bottled water's growth past milk and beer. In fact, the amount of bottled water Americans drink has risen nearly every year for more than two decades, while the estimates of how much tap water people drink has fluctuated up and down during that time. When taken together, water finally overtook soda in 2008, according to Beverage Digest. (It's difficult to track how much tap water people drink and how much is used for other things like washing dishes, so experts estimate consumption.)
Analysts expect water to hold onto to its top spot for years to come. But whether people will drink from the tap or a bottle is uncertain.
Based on current trajectories, Michael Bellas, the CEO of the industry tracker Beverage Marketing Corp., predicts that bottled water alone could overtake soda within the next decade. That's not counting enhanced and flavored waters, which are growing quickly but remain a small part of the bottled water industry.
Currently, people drink 21 gallons of bottled water a year. That compares with 37 gallons of other water, which includes tap, sparkling, flavored and enhanced waters such as Coca-Cola's vitaminwater.
But there are numerous factors that could tilt the scales in favor of tap water.
Because of concerns that plastic bottles create too much waste, experts say bottled water could be hit by a public backlash similar to the one that has whipsawed the soda industry with pushes for bans and taxes.
It's already starting to happen. The town of Concord, Mass. earlier this year banned the sale of water bottles that are less than a liter. And the University of Vermont became the first public university to ban the sale of bottled water last year.
Meanwhile, other cities are waging campaigns to promote tap water. New York City, which touts the high quality of its tap water, offers portable fountains at events around the city.
"Good old marketing has convinced people that they should spend a lot of money on bottled water," says Salome Freud, chief of New York City's distribution water quality operations.
Although companies such as Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc. would rather have people buy bottled waters, they're even more invested in getting people to drink more soda again.
That's because soda and other drinks that the companies make, such as sports drinks and juices, are more profitable than bottled water. With bottled water, people tend to buy whatever is cheapest. That's a habit that forces companies to keep prices relatively low, which eats into profits.
It's why companies are investing so heavily in developing nations such as China and India, where the appetite for soda continues to grow.
In the U.S., annual soda sales are more than five times as big as bottled water at $75.7 billion a year, according to Beverage Digest. In terms of volume, soda is only twice as big as bottled water.
At Coca-Cola, the No. 1 soda maker, three-quarters of its volume in gallons comes from soft drinks, compared with 8 percent for its bottled waters including Dasani. PepsiCo, the No. 2 soda maker, gets 64 percent of its volume from soft drinks and only 7 percent from its Aquafina bottled water.
It's why Coca-Cola, which holds 13 percent of the bottled water market compared with PepsiCo's 10 percent, doesn't seem to think bottled water will ever overtake soda. In an emailed statement, the Atlanta-based company noted that soft drinks remain a far larger category than bottled water and that it sees "upside" for sodas over the next several years.
However, the company added that it saw "great potential" for bottled water. Like its competitors, Coca-Cola said it's focusing on growing its portfolio of bottled waters profitably by offering brands such as Smartwater and its flavored vitaminwater, which fetch higher prices.
In the meantime, the chairman and former CEO of Nestle Waters North America, Kim Jeffery, is waiting for bottled water's moment in the spotlight. Nestle, the Swiss company that makes Poland Spring, Nestle Pure Life, Deer Park and other brands, has nearly half of the share of the bottled water market.
At a beverage industry conference late last year, Jeffery noted that bottled water is "the elephant in the room."
And given the growing warnings over drinking too many calories — including from juice, milk and other sugary drinks — Jeffery said he's confident that water will continue to grow in popularity.
"For thousands of years, water was beverage of choice for human beings," he said. "Now we're reverting back to that."

Costco Proves repugicans Wrong By Paying a Living Wage and Watching Profits Soar

Costco is proving repugicans and the Wal-Mart wrong by paying workers a living wage while also earning record profits.
While Wal-Mart experienced February sales that were considered, “total disaster,” Costco’s earnings for the second quarter of the year climbed 39%. The New York Times reported, “Costco Wholesale’s net income for its second quarter climbed 39 percent as it pulled in more money from membership fees, sales improved and it recorded a large tax benefit.”
Costco CEO Craig Jelinek openly supports raising the minimum wage to $11.50 an hour, “At Costco, we know that paying employees good wages makes good sense for business. We pay a starting hourly wage of $11.50 in all states where we do business, and we are still able to keep our overhead costs low. An important reason for the success of Costco’s business model is the attraction and retention of great employees. Instead of minimizing wages, we know it’s a lot more profitable in the long term to minimize employee turnover and maximize employee productivity, commitment and loyalty. We support efforts to increase the federal minimum wage.”
Costco is proof that the repugican idea that labor must be stomped on in order for our economy to prosper is wrong. It is possible for companies to earn record profits while respecting their workers and paying them a living wage. Wal-Mart is embodiment of the conservative ideology that the country functions best when wealth is concentrated at the top. To match the Walton family’s fortune, an average Wal-Mart employee would have to work for the company for 7 million years. This model is what repugicans are advocating for the entire country, and it is failing to lead to prosperity.
Given Costco’s record profits, Wal-Mart’s blaming of the payroll tax and gas prices for their decline in sales doesn’t wash. Costco’s customers also faced higher gas prices and payroll taxes, but their sales were up six percent during the first quarter of the year.
Despite what both Wal-Mart and repugicans have been saying, companies can prosper and still have a conscience. When companies pay a living wage, workers benefit. When workers make more money, they spend more money. When people spend more money, the economy is stronger. When the economy is stronger, the nation as a whole benefits.
The economic virtuous circle that repugicans and their corporate benefactors thought they killed is alive, well, and living at Costco.

Universal healthcare is a right for Iraqis

But not for Americans...said the repugicans in 2004.
Fresh from a two-day weekend visit to Iraq, the bush administration's top health-care official defended the $950 million that will be spent to help Iraq establish universal health care. Congressional Democrats have criticized the administration for helping Iraq to establish universal health care without doing the same for u.s. citizens - More

It's repugican Logic Folks

Health Care Mandates are Evil but Gun Mandates are Necessary girl with gun
No matter how you parse it, most Americans want reasonable solutions to gun violence.  Most Americans (88% according to Quinnipac’s  latest poll support universal background checks.
By a smaller margin of 54% a different Quinnipiac poll  shows that the majority of Americans support an assault weapon ban and limits on high capacity ammunition magazines.
That’s because most Americans understand that a policy to keep guns away from convicted felons, people we don’t trust to go on an airplane and people with certain mental health problems makes sense.  Most people recognize the difference between restrictions on assault weapons and high capacity ammunition magazines and the universal ban that was never on the table.
Most Americans recognize that  keeping guns away from people who are more likely to be a danger to society is not the same thing as keeping guns away from all people.
Still, there are some special people in America. In the name of opposing this imaginary ban, they are passing gun ownership and gun training mandates.  Somehow compelling people to have guns is “necessary” for people who decry healthcare mandates as the end of freedom.  Granted, for the most part, the gun mandate enthusiasts acknowledge that their ordinances are symbolic.
In Nelson City, Georgia Councilman Duane Cronic  argues his gun mandate is necessary because people don’t have enough protection during the sixteen hours each night there is no officer patrolling the community. This is a deterrent ordinance and nothing more,” councilman Duane Cronic, who proposed the law, told POLITICO. “I liken it to putting a security sign up in your yard.”
Right, forcing people to own a gun is exactly like putting a security sign in your yard.
Under Cronic’s mandate, ”heads of households” who suffer from physical or mental disability” are exempt.  Also exempt are “heads of households” who are “paupers”, a convicted felon or oppose gun ownership on religious grounds or belief.
The three members of Byron, Maine’s Board of Selectman voted for mandatory gun ownership, which is subject to approval at a town hall meeting scheduled for March 11. The stated intent behind this ordinance is to “pre-emptively block gun-control laws” despite the fact that Maine has a law barring municipalities from adopting firearms regulations. Moreover, the ordinance exempts the same people from mandatory gun ownership who wouldn’t be allowed to own a gun under existing and proposed  federal laws.  The exception is people who oppose gun ownership for religious or other reasons. It’s also likely that this, like a similar proposal  in Sabattus,   will be struck down.
Even if these ordinances pass, the mandate enthusiasts acknowledge that they are unenforceable.
Some communities like Spring City, Virgin in Utah and Cherry Tree, Pennsylvania aren’t calling it a mandate – but rather are using the language “strongly recommend” or something similar.  Greenleaf, Idaho “encourages”  residents who “don’t objection on religious or other reasons” to keep a gun and seek firearms training.
Others have a different approach, like forcing first graders to undergo gun training in school because gosh darn it, mandated gun ownership and gun training is necessary as the good Senator explained:
“I hate mandates as much as anyone, but some concerns and conditions rise to the level of needing a mandate.”
Besides, the NRA is willing to fund school programs to teach kids how to use a gun. Granted, the NRA isn’t willing to fund the mandatory training for teachers (also proposed in Brown’s law.)  Since forcing teachers to take gun training is much more important than books, or school lunch programs, Republicans will find a way to pay for this all important mandate.
The irony lies in the fact that the gun mandaters acknowledge that certain people shouldn’t have guns. As noted above, the proposed ordinances exempt the very people that would be precluded from owning or buying a gun under the President’s universal background check proposal that an overwhelming majority of Americans support.  Even if the ordinances do pass, they also acknowledge that gun ownership mandates are unenforceable.
At best, the ordinances that can pass are unenforceable and, in reality, recognize the validity of Federal laws that in some cases, they are “preemptively” trying to block. At worst, programs to mandate gun training for six-year- olds seems odd in a state that is simultaneously seeking to cut its education budget.
For people who claim to be so concerned about wasting tax payers’ money, these lawmakers have a funny way of showing it by spending time (and money)  passing symbolic ordinances that can’t be enforced and coincide with the idea that certain people shouldn’t have guns
Welcome to repugican “logic!”

House repugicans Can’t Explain How Obama’s Policies Got Into Paul Ryan’s Budget

House repugicans overwhelmingly voted against the fiscal cliff deal, and they got busted today for trying to take credit for it, by using the $600 billion in new revenue in Paul Ryan’s budget.
Tea Partier Rep. Jason Chaffetz (r-UT) and his party got busted by Ryan Lizza on CNN’s Starting Point this morning for hypocritically trying to use the fiscal cliff tax increase on the wealthy to make Paul Ryan’s magic budget work.
Transcript from CNN:
RYAN LIZZA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think it’s fine as a statement of priorities for Republicans to say we disagree with Obamacare and our budget repeals it. I think that’s reasonable. Did you vote against the fiscal cliff deal?
CHAFFETZ: Yes, I did.
LIZZA: Is this budget going to assume the $600 billion in new revenues in that fiscal cliff deal?
CHAFFETZ: Well, we haven’t gotten to the final product. Paul has not yet released it. The Budget Committee – well, it potentially will.
LIZZA: It potentially would?
CHAFFETZ: Well, I want to look at it, in totality. When you do a budget, I’m not trying to punt, I’m trying to say you have to look at all of the things – I was a kicker in college. But look, at the end of the day you’ve got to put numbers on a piece of paper and achieve balance. So I think there’s a mix there -
LIZZA: Speaking to America’s frustration, Republicans voted overwhelmingly against a deal that raised $600 billion in revenue, and now it sounds like they’re going to put out a budget that pockets that $600 billion and put that up for a vote. So I think that paradox is – is a little difficult to understand.
CHAFFETZ: We have won some things and we’ve lost a lot of things, OK
Ryan’s budget assumes the repeal of Obamacare, but includes the additional $600 billion in revenue that will be generated by the fiscal cliff deal. When asked why they are using a tax hike on the wealthy that they fought against for nearly two years to their own advantage, Chaffetz was at a loss for words.
Why is it fine for Ryan’s budget to assume that one thing that was upheld by the Supreme Court (Obamacare) will be repealed, while another thing that repugicans have desperately fought against will be the law of the land?More importantly, repugicans can’t explain how Barack Obama’s tax policies made it into their budget.
The Ryan budget will essentially endorse President Obama’s balanced approach to increasing revenue. The truth is that House repugicans know that they can’t balance the budget without more revenue. Their cut and never raise taxes mantra makes for a great campaign slogan, but it doesn’t work in the real world. As President Obama consistently stressed during the 2012 campaign, the numbers don’t add up when a cuts only approach is used.
House repugicans will continue to fight to the death against raising more revenue, while quietly constructing a budget that only works if more revenue is added.
The Ryan budget is providing the best argument for why President Obama’s balanced approach is the only way to go.
Just don’t tell House repugicans that the budget they are about to loudly champion is based on Obama’s policies.

The repugican Imposed Budget Cuts Led to Keystone XL Being Deemed Environmentally Sound

KXL TarSand
An alternative or extrinsic reason for doing something, especially when concealed or when differing from the stated or apparent reason, is an ulterior motive and they are usually the purview of devious operators. America has suffered from repugicans’ hidden agendas for at least a decade, and buried in their persistent attempts to shrink the government under the guise of debt and deficit reduction lies untold damage to departments that are crucial to Americans even if they are unaware of their importance. Last week, the long-awaited State Department report on the environmental impact of building the KeystoneXL pipeline was released and its results are a direct effect of spending cuts, and a repugican ploy.
When funding is cut from important Departments, they prioritize which aspects of their operations must be downsized, and one of the first areas to go is analysis for any number of issues. A proper investigation requires independent research by experts with no stake in the outcome, but a ten-year trend of contracting studies to private groups has led to conflicts of interest when studies are commissioned for lack of Department personnel due to budget cuts. It is no secret repugicans beholden to the oil industry panted for President Obama to give his blessing to the Canadian project, but he was waiting the State Department’s report on whether the pipeline would adversely affect the nation’s air, water, and soil before giving Canada the right to build Keystone across America on its way to the Gulf Coast.
The State Department’s assessment said Keystone was “environmentally sound” and would have no effect on the environment, but the report flies in the face of mountains of empirical data that proves every aspect of gathering, transporting, and refining Canada’s tar sand would decimate the environment. However, it turns out that the State Department did not conduct the assessment because their budget made it more economically feasible to pay private firms to do the research and study. The reason the environmental impact report gave the pipeline a “clean” bill of health was that it was written by two consulting firms paid by the pipeline’s owner, TransCanada. The groups that conducted the studies work for TransCanada, ExxonMobil, BP, and Koch Industries which all own oil sands production facilities and refineries that process heavy Canadian crude oil.
One aspect of the report was whether or not building KeystoneXL would aid in the development of Canadian tar sands, and the conclusion disputed environmentalists’ contention that the pipeline would spur additional production in the oil sands which produce more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional crude oil (23 percent according to a report commissioned by the European Union). In April 2012, during an interview with Rolling Stone, President Obama acknowledged that Canada would exploit the oil in its vast tar sands reserves “regardless of what we do,” so the push by John Boehner, the Kochs, and American refineries makes sense because Canada would rather ship the tar sands across America than endanger its own frontier after TransCanada’s tar sand pipelines’ high frequency of ruptures.
The biased report obviously benefits TransCanada and American oil refineries who will export gas and oil to Europe and South America; American consumers would not see any of the refined oil products. In fact, diesel taken from America’s reserves along the pipeline route will increase farmers’ fuel prices by at least 20-cents a gallon, but repugicans pushing the pipeline never reveal that fact to the public. However, TransCanada, refineries, and tar sand investor John Boehner would see benefits of the pipeline’s construction as would the Koch brothers who already import and refine 25% of oil sands crude reaching the U.S. and stand to profit from an increased flow of tar sands from Canada. It is not surprising a firm working for the Kochs would hand in a favorable report to the State Department in a clear case of conflict of interest, but the real damage is the devastation to not only America’s environment, but the entire planet according to one of the world’s leading climatologists.
NASA scientist James Hansen said that building KeystoneXL will hasten the deleterious effects to the environment including: irreversible effects on biodiversity and the natural environment, reduced water quality, destruction of fragile pristine Boreal forest and associated wetlands, aquatic and watershed mismanagement, habitat fragmentation, habitat loss, disruption to life cycles of endemic wildlife particularly bird and caribou migration, fish deformities and negative impacts on the human health in downstream communities, and that is just from processing raw tar sand before it hits a pipeline. The record of frequent spills inherent in tar sands pipelines threatens the water supply for 20% of America’s prime agriculture land, drinking water for millions of Americans, and the increased CO2 emissions from Canada means “game over for the Earth’s environment” according to Hansen.
The report by oil industry cohorts was soundly criticized by the EPA and environmental groups as “insufficient” and “superficial,” and the good news is there will be a third EPA State Department study conducted and one hopes it is in-house and not commissioned to the oil industry. The State Department study and report did not address the corrosion problem inherent in transporting tar sands and it is the focus of new analysis because when tar sand spills, it is nearly impossible to contain, capture, and clean up. It is one of the reasons Canada is inclined to promote the pipeline across American land to preserve its vast natural resources. Hopefully, the next round of analysis is unbiased and not beholden to TransCanada, Koch Industries, or ExxonMobil. However, with the State Department and EPA budget facing more cuts from repugicans’ sequestration, it is likely any analysis will be conducted by other independent contractors with ties to the oil industry.
Americans are not aware that when repugicans slash government, it is more than just laying off public sector workers, cutting food assistance to the poorest Americans, and slashing health programs for seniors. Most government agencies have been ravaged by repugican cuts and the State Department is not immune, but even a small reduction in funding means that something as critical as a potential environmental disaster will be covered up when the oil industry conducts its own study, and whether repugicans were aware of their budget cutting handiwork or not, with the oil industry and Koch brothers standing to reap the benefits, one cannot help but be suspicious.

Faux News Viewers Threaten Woman for Challenging Their Beloved Rape Culture

I love how those freedom fighters on the far right attack free speech when it’s a woman doing the speaking. When a women dares to suggest that maybe instead of telling women what they should do to prevent rape, the time has come to tell men why they shouldn’t rape.
That was the central point of Zerlina Maxwell’s comments during an appearance on Faux News.  The subsequent reaction by the great minds of the far right illustrates the central attitude problem that they have when it comes to women who comment on something other than recipes, shopping and make-up.
Following Zerlina’s Faux News appearance, some of those classy he man who tune in to FNC for their daily dose of wingnut propaganda behaved as one might expect.  Zerlina was subjected to racist comments and death threats.
She discussed the threats on The Ed Show:
Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Gee, I wonder what provoked these hotshots.  Were they threatened because Zerlina made a valid point and did so effectively? Were they threatened by the fact that a woman made a point at all?  Maybe it was the prospect that the land of the free might place blame for rape on the rapist instead of calling it a blessing or suggesting that the victim must have done something, like leave the house unescorted, to deserve it.
I thought conservatives believed in personal responsibility.  Why doesn’t the right wing’s definition of personal responsibility include telling men that no means no and if they refuse to accept that, they will be held accountable under the law?
If we shift the responsibility for rape from the victim to the rapist that would mean recognizing that rape violates a woman’s autonomy over her body.  It would involve recognizing that rape is about the rapist wanting power over his prey, rather than about the woman’s behavior or sexuality.  It would mean understanding that rape is not about what a women wears, whether she has an alcoholic beverage or goes out in public on her own.
If the onus is on women to protect themselves from rape, rather than on men learning why they shouldn’t do it, why was rape considered a “fringe benefit” of war for most of history?
Starhawk [Digest #7] has shown that throughout history, rape has been an omnipresent aspect of militarism, and  to this day, basic military training establishes women as targets for sexual conquer. This endemic
sexual violence against women in conflict zones reflects an ingrained misogyny which views women as the “spoils of war”,  whether for satisfying the sexual appetites of the troops, destroying the community pride of the
vanquished, punishing women who have resisted their conquerors, or as part of an overall strategy of  genocide.
Gaining recognition that rape is a war crime because it was used as a weapon against women was a long struggle. In fact, it wasn’t until the Genocidal wars in Bosnia  and Rwanda, that international law reflected the reality that rape during war was used as the ultimate weapon against women. In other words, women were raped to dehumanize and objectify them.  It had nothing to do with what they were wearing or what they were drinking.
If rape is strictly about sex it begs the question why did the ICTR recognize in the Akeyesu case,  that it is a: a war crime b: it has several elements in common with torture c: it can be an act of genocide.
like torture, rape is used for such purposes as intimidation, degradation, humiliation, discrimination, punishment, control or destruction of the person.”  Like torture, rape is a violation of personal dignity, and … in fact constitutes torture when it is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.
I realize that we are not literally at war.  My point is that war illustrates the true nature of rape.  It’s a crime that is about disempowering a woman or punishing her for having the audacity to believe she has a right to personal autonomy.
This is about an attitude that has been nurtured by ignoramus conservatives who see women as incubators that should be controlled by the state. The racial epithets and death threats Zerlina Maxwell experienced after her appearance on Faux confirmed that rape is not about a woman’s behavior.  It’s about those men who think it’s their right to have power over women.
Whether we’re wearing potato sacks or attractive clothing when we say no, it still means no.  Whether a woman drinks wine or milk, when she says no she means no. Racial epithets and death threats will never change a no to a yes nor will the repugican cabal’s war on women. And Real men don’t rape.

Theoretical Particle Physicist is Dope Of the Week Candidate

You all remember the Manti Te'o story, right? Of course you do. We all remember because we all thought the story of a college football star falling in love with a girl online, only to be duped into thinking she died and then finding out she wasn't real in the first place, was ludicrous.

We all thought nobody could be that stupid. But it turns out, many people are that stupid, including a college professor who also happens to be a theoretical particle physicist. His story, however, is even worse.

As reported by The New York Times, University of North Carolina professor Paul Frampton was conned into believing that he was communicating with world famous Czech bikini model Denise Milani [pictured].

He had met her on an online dating site in November 2011, and the 68-year-old physicist was convinced that the person he was chatting with was Milani, and not only that, but that she wanted to quit her glamour model life and marry him.

So, the poor, lonely and recently-divorced Frampton was hooked by the Milani impostor, and after failed attempts to talk to her on the phone, was finally told to come to Bolivia, where she was doing a photo shoot, to meet her. The plot is rather simple. Obviously, the "woman" online was not Milani, and when Frampton showed up in Bolivia, she was not there.

However, she contacted him and told him that she had to leave quickly to go to another shoot in Brussels, and he could just meet her there. All he had to do before he came was pick up a bag she left behind and bring it to her, which he agreed to do. That would turn out to be a huge mistake.

As you should have already figured out, that bag left behind was lined with cocaine. The scam artist pretending to be Milani was simply doing it to find a desperate man like Frampton and use him as a drug mule.

Frampton, although a brilliant physicist, was not wise enough to abort his mission to connect with Milani, his potential future wife with incredible DDD natural breasts (despite warnings from his close friend).

The story goes on to inform us that Frampton was arrested and thrown in jail in Buenos Aires. And while it is believed that he was honestly duped by a person online into thinking he was in Bolivia to meet Denise Milani, his lawyers could not convince the court that he had no idea he was being used as a drug smuggler once he arrived and got roped into the scheme (there were some very condemning texts sent from him to the person he understood to be Milani).

Frampton was sentenced to 4 years 8 months for drug smuggling. He is not expected to be released until May 2014.

The lesson learned here fellas, once again, is to be very, very, very careful when dating online. Do not do ANYTHING for a girl who you have never met in person, and especially don't do anything that could possibly be illegal. If bad stuff can happen to a star linebacker and a world-renowned physicist, well, it can probably happen to just about any of us.

Online Tracking

The Things You Didn't Know

When you are browsing the Internet, do you really know what information you are sharing? Most people don't have a clue that everything they do online could be being tracked. This includes what websites you visit, what you are interested in, and even who you really are.

Most people stay unaware of their own footprints on the Internet, and how online tracking is affecting their experience. By knowing more about your online footprint, you have a chance to enhance your own browsing experience.


The World's Tallest Tower
The Skytree broadcast tower in Tokyo is the world's tallest tower. It was carefully designed to withstand Japan's earthquakes and other natural disasters, and it gives a whole new look to the city's skyline.
It towers above the surrounding buildings, more than double the height of its neighbors. In fact, there’s only one structure on Earth taller: Dubai’s Burj Khalifa. Completed on February 29, 2012 and opened to the public in May that year, the Tokyo Skytree broadcasting tower soars 2,080 feet (634 meters) into the sky, with the top sometimes obscured by clouds. Although it misses out on being the tallest structure in the world, the Tokyo Skytree can take comfort in the fact that it is the world’s tallest tower.
Get a closeup look at this wonder of the modern world at Tech Graffiti.

Denied the chance to cheat or steal, people turn to violent video games

A new study suggests that people get frustrated when they are offered the opportunity to cheat or steal and that chance is then taken away from them. Other studies have shown that blocking people from ...

Is Sending a One-Liner "Thank You" Email or Text Rude?

I've done it, and I suspect that many of us have done the same thing: sending one-word "thanks!" emails as a reply. But is it a rude thing to do?
Nick Bilton of the New York Times' Bit Blog asks whether sending a short email or text to say thank you is a rude gesture, as that essentially wastes the readers' time:
Don’t these people realize that they’re wasting your time?
Of course, some people might think me the rude one for not appreciating life’s little courtesies. But many social norms just don’t make sense to people drowning in digital communication.
Take the “thank you” message. Daniel Post Senning, a great-great-grandson of Emily Post and a co-author of the 18th edition of “Emily Post’s Etiquette,” asked: “At what point does appreciation and showing appreciation outweigh the cost?”
That said, he added, “it gives the impression that digital natives can’t be bothered to nurture relationships, and there’s balance to be found.”
A study finds gum-chewers finish tasks more quickly and with better accuracy.

Why Humans Get Lost

Humans get lost because we ignore external cues, but we also have less specialized navigational tools than other animals.

Historical Photos


A photo believed to be Billy the kid, Doc Holliday, Jesse James & Charlie Bowdre, possibly mexico, ca. 1879
A photo believed to be Billy the kid, Doc Holliday, Jesse James & Charlie Bowdre, possibly Mexico, ca. 1879

What happy mutants did for fun in 1820

How can you not love a book of projects with instructions that begin with lines like this: "Provide a bladder, into the orifice of which is inserted a metal tube?"

First Viking settlement in North Wales

The first firm evidence of Viking settlement in North Wales has been found on Anglesey. The settlement consists of two large Viking-type halls and a third building, dating from the 9th or 10th centuries, together with a number of unusual high-status artefacts and evidence of farming, craftwork, and trade.

The site lies close to Red Wharf Bay, a large natural harbour that would have been a convenient stop-over point on the route between the Viking centres of Dublin and York. Little is known of Viking activity in the area, but historical sources refer to Viking raiding from c 840, and the attempted settlement of a certain Ingimund in 902-903, who had previously been expelled from Dublin. There is no evidence to link the new site with Ingimund, but late 8th and 9th century coins, and radiocarbon-dated charcoal from the site place it in roughly the same period (the carbon is dated to 760-1035 at 95 per cent probability).

The three buildings were found within a D-shaped ditched enclosure. Little has been found of the third building, but the other two seem to measure more than 12m by 8m, and have central hearths and possible evidence of benching. Their presence is marked by low stone footings for timber walls, but one of the buildings had been rebuilt - a line of post-holes marks its first phase - suggesting the site was occupied for at least two generations.

The most unusual find at the site was a large whetstone, with a bronze ferrule at one end in the shape of a pointed Viking helmet, attached to a suspension ring. According to the excavator, Mark Redknap of the National Museum of Wales, the whetstone appears to have been little used, and to have been more a symbol of rank than a functional object. Also found were a 10th century copper alloy ringed pin, and a small ornamental bronze bell perhaps worn as part of a woman's dress.

Evidence of craft activity at the site includes iron forging and bronze and antler working. Quernstone fragments and animal bones suggest a working farm; and there is also evidence of trade, represented by six weights and by quantities of hacksilver - fragments of silver cut up for use in exchange. Dr Redknap said: `For years we have been looking for a site like this. It is clearly a high-status site, and it should prove extremely important in illuminating the Viking Age in the Irish Sea.'

The Cause of Odd Arctic Ozone 'Hole' Found

Cold temperatures, chlorine and a stagnant atmosphere caused a thinning in the ozone layer over the Arctic in 2011.

A Lightning Strike during Volcanic Eruption

Begin planetary evacuation immediately. This is not a drill. Proceed to your designated evacuation points and await dropship liftoff.
At least, that's how I'm responding to this scene shot by Martin Rietze at the Sakurajima volcano in Japan. Why are these two events taking place in the same location? Physicists Robert Nemiroff and Jerry Bonnell write:
Why lightning occurs even in common thunderstorms remains a topic of research, and the cause of volcanic lightning is even less clear. Surely, lightning bolts help quench areas of opposite but separated electric charges. One hypothesis holds that catapulting magma bubbles or volcanic ash are themselves electrically charged, and by their motion create these separated areas. Other volcanic lightning episodes may be facilitated by charge-inducing collisions in volcanic dust.

Random Photo

Space Algae Invasion?

Forget hunting for organic chemistry inside rocks on Mars or complex organisms in Europa's sub-surface oceans, the Cosmos has just FedEx'd some extraterrestrials direct to our door! Or not. 

The Essence of a Sniff

The following is an article from The Annals of Improbable Research.
by Marc Abrahams
Our most ancient, most reliable sense -- the sense of smell -- may be more simple, more complicated, and more intriguing than most scientists realize.
Several researchers have spent forty years and more learning how to measure exactly what a frog's nose tells the frog's brain. They want to understand how the frog's brain knows what the nose is saying.
They have found things that are different from what anyone expected. And different from what most biologists believe about how noses talk to brains.

Do Frogs and People Smell Differently?

Why a frog? Because it's been easier (and most, but these days not all, would say more palatable) to experiment with a frog's nose in a frog than with a person's in a person.
The only way to tell what's really going on in the system -- the olfactory system -- is to measure what's happening there while a creature is smelling a smell. (You can learn a lot by removing pieces and studying them outside the body. But each piece is in there for a reason -- and can behave differently when it's been yanked out.)
It is possible to monitor individual cells in the business end of a nose, in the frog. People have gotten detailed information about how those cells -- the sensory neurons -- actually behave when they get a whiff of something.
Frogs were the first to reveal their nasal secrets, because they were the easiest to work with. Now rats and other animals are being studied this way, too. How much does the frog nose-and-brain tell us about the human nose-and-brain? Probably quite a lot. The olfactory system seems organized pretty much the same way in amphibia (frogs, salamanders, newts), in mammals (rats, mice, probably humans, too) and even in some of the simplest eukaryotes (a eukaryote, remember, is any creature whose cells each have a nucleus.)

A Little Background About How We Smell

The sensory neurons are the business end of the nose/brain system. Any smell information that reaches the brain comes, directly or indirectly, from them and them alone.
The olfactory system is the only one of the senses in which the sensory nerve cells come directly in contact with chemicals from the outside world, without any other cells physically shielding them from harm. (Even in the taste system, the sensory nerve cells have some safety layer of protection from the things that stimulate them.)
The olfactory sensory neurons are distinct among sensory nerve cells. They have very, very long, very thin axons, with no heavy wrapping of the myelin coat that insulates the thicker nerve fibers. It proved rather difficult to measure their internal electrical activity. The pulsations there are a monologue, by the neuron, about what it is and isn't smelling.
(By the way: of all the neurons, sensory or non, in the vertebrate body, only a tiny percentage have a thick, myelin-wrapping -- yet myelinated neurons are almost the only ones that have been studied. The activity of more than nine tenths of the nervous system is largely a mystery to most scientists.)

"How Does It Work?" vs. "What Are the Parts?"

In the late 1950s and early 1960s a small group at MIT became adept at measuring electrical signals from small nerve cells, first of the eye and then of the olfactory system. They were, and in many respects still are, pioneers at this.
It was a peculiar group of people, electrical engineers who became interested in biology and then turned their unusual skills and much of their lives to poking, measuring, and trying to make sense of nature's most complex electrical system: the brain and the nervous system connected to it.
Robert Gesteland, who is now a professor of neurobiology at the University of Cincinnati, became the guru of olfactory system measurement, developing ways to reliably measure the activity of individual sensory neurons in living, smelling frogs. It is even now just a small community of scientists who do this kind of research.
Other scientists, far more numerous, have been investigating the individual nuts and bolts of the olfactory system. They concentrate on the smell-related genes and on the odor receptors, the specific parts of the sensory neuron surface that respond to particular odor molecules.
The two lines of approach have unfortunately been somewhat disconnected. One measures and describes the workaday activities inside the olfactory system. The other examines the system's design and structure: its DNA blueprints and chemical components.
Gesteland and the rest of the "let's look at how it works" gang have discovered some puzzling activities in the olfactory system. The DNA/biochemical research groups, which are dominant both in size and in funding, have generally dismissed those activities as being puzzling, irrelevant, or apocryphal.
Certainly, these things are puzzling. They are also well documented.

Why Are These Cells Different From All Other Cells?

Here's some of what Gesteland, and his colleagues and competitors around the world, have discovered.
In the frog, olfactory sensory neurons behave differently from all other nerve cells. Here are some peculiar things about them:
<> On average, each olfactory receptor cell lives for only a few weeks, and is then replaced by a new cell. (All other neurons in the olfactory system -- and in the rest of the nervous system -- last for years, in many cases for the lifetime of the animal. Replacement of those dead cells is sluggish, if it occurs at all.)
<> In the frog's nose, every sensory neuron responds to a large number of different stimulus substances, typically to a quarter or a half of all the odors presented to it. (This is very unlike the nerve cells in the eye. The eye has several different kinds of sensory cells, and each kind responds only to some particular, limited range of stimuli -- a certain range of color, for example.)
<> No two of these cells behave the same way. Expose twenty different olfactory sensory neurons to the same odor, and each neuron will produce a different electrical signal. It's as if each nerve cell looks at the world from a different point of view. (This, too, is unlike the visual system.)
<> They are also not very reliable, in the sense that any particular cell does not always react to the same odor in the same way.
By the way: all this variability is not necessarily a bad thing, considering what a nose is expected to do. In general it has to notify the creature when it's smelled something new (something putrid, for example), but not so much when that smell has been lingering ("still smells putrid!"). And because these sensory neurons come in contact with chemicals -- virtually any kind -- from the outside world, they are more at risk than any other nerve cells in the body, and so more often in need of replacement.

The Big Question

There's a big question lurking in the background -- a tantalizing, juicy question that no one seems close to answering.
In a system where the sensing parts are all different from each other, where every one of them gets replaced frequently, and where every replacement part behaves differently from its predecessor, how do smells get remembered and recognized?
To put this another way: now that we know what information the sensory cells are picking up, and we know that the pickup system is composed of varying, ever-changing parts, how is the information processed and used so reliably?
Smell memory is the most permanent and strongest kind of memory, yet it depends on the greatest variation. The solution to this puzzle could open many interesting doors.

Where to Start

Perhaps you could be the person who figures this out. If you want to dig into it, here are some good places to start:
For the basic early work on frog olfactory receptor neurons, see "Speculations on Smell," Jerome Y. Lettvin and Robert C. Gesteland, Cold Spring Harbor Symposium, vol. 30, 1965, pp. 217-25. (For a more technically detailed version of it, see "Chemical Transmission in the Nose of the Frog," Robert C. Gesteland, Jerome Y. Lettvin, andWalter H. Pitts, Journal of Physiology, vol. 181, 1965, pp. 525-9.)
For a summary of recent single receptor neuron physiological studies, see "Peripheral Odor Coding in the Rat and Frog: Quality and Intensity Specification," P. Duchamp-Viret, A. Duchamp and M.A. Chaput, Journal of Neuroscience, vol. 20, 2000, pp. 2383-90.
To see a very different, contrasting view, from one of the leaders of the molecular genetics approach, read "The Molecular Architecture of Odor and Pheromone Sensing in Mammals," L.B. Buck, Cell, vol. 100, 2000, pp. 611-18.

'Bubble-Pop' Bird May Be Rarest in U.S.

The Gunnison sage-grouse courts females by inflating its chest and making a popping sound -- but experts say this unusual U.S. bird is at the brink of extinction.

Animal Pictures