Welcome to ...

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.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Daily Drift

the wages of…
It's been one of those weeks ..redeux

Carolina Naturally is read in 191 countries around the world daily.

An entire dress made out of zippers!  ...
Today is Zipper Day

Don't forget to visit our sister blog!

Today in History

1289   Qala'un, the Sultan of Egypt, captures Tripoli.
1429   Joan of Arc leads French forces to victory over English at Orleans.
1624   Louis XIII appoints Cardinal Richelieu chief minister of the Royal Council of France.
1661   The Chinese Ming dynasty occupies Taiwan.
1672   King Louis XIV of France invades the Netherlands.
1813   Rubber is patented.
1852   The first edition of Peter Roget's Thesaurus is published.
1856   Yokut Indians repel a second attack by the 'Petticoat Rangers,' a band of civilian Indian fighters at Four Creeks, California.
1858   Austrian troops invade Piedmont.
1859   As the French army races to support them and the Austrian army mobilizes to oppose them, 150,000 Piedmontese troops invade Piedmontese territory.
1861   The Maryland House of Delegates votes against seceding from Union.
1862   Forts Philip and Jackson surrender to Admiral Farragut outside New Orleans.
1913   Gideon Sundback of Hoboken patents all-purpose zipper.
1916   Irish nationalists surrender to the British in Dublin.
1918   America's WWI Ace of Aces, Eddie Rickenbacker, scores his first victory with the help of Captain James Norman Hall.
1924   Open revolt breaks out in Santa Clara, Cuba.
1927   Construction of the Spirit of St. Louis is completed.
1930   The film All Quiet on the Western Front, based on Erich Maria Remarque's novel Im Western Nichts Neues, premiers.
1945   The German Army in Italy surrenders unconditionally to the Allies.
1945   The Nazi concentration camp of Dachau is liberated by Allied troops.
1946   Former Japanese leaders are indicted in Tokyo as war criminals.
1975   The U.S. embassy in Vietnam is evacuated as North Vietnamese forces fight their way into Saigon.
1983   Harold Washington is sworn in as Chicago's first black mayor.
1992   Four Los Angeles police offices are acquitted of charges stemming from the beating of Rodney King. Rioting ensues.

Non Sequitur


McCrory replaces State Board of Elections as inquiry into contributions begins

Gov. Pat McCrory on Friday evening announced he was replacing all members of the State Board of Elections. The appointments take effect Wednesday – just as an investigation into political contributions made to McCrory and other top repugicans’ officeholders’ campaigns is getting underway.
Three repugicans and two Democrats will replace the current three-Democrat, two-repugican board. The board’s majority represents the governor’s party.
The move puts the progress of the board’s investigation into campaign contributions from an indicted sweepstakes software company owner in question.
Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy North Carolina, last week asked the board to investigate more than 60 campaign contributions totaling more than $230,000. Some of the contributions went to McCrory, House Speaker Thom Tillis and Senate leader Phil Berger.
A majority of sitting board members said they were interested in investigating, according to an Associated Press story. But on Friday night, Chairman Larry Leake said it would be inappropriate for members on their last day in office to talk about the investigation or give staff any direction. The board has a meeting scheduled for Tuesday.
“It might be presumptuous for us to attempt to do anything with a new board coming on May 1,” Leake said. “It makes no sense for our board to attempt to direct the conduct of our office when we are in fact exiting out the door.”
Gary Bartlett, the current executive director whose term ends May 15, said he supports Leake’s position. “I think that’s the right call because they are a lame-duck board,” he said.
As for the current inquiry led by staff, Bartlett said he expects the new board to allow it to continue. “I think that everyone would want due diligence done to determine what may or may not be right regarding that situation,” he said.
But Bartlett acknowledged the new board could provide its own direction and even quash the investigation. “Certainly the board controls,” he said.
Bartlett said he didn’t expect to be reappointed by the new board, but Leake said that would be “a great tragedy. ... He’s recognized nationally as a leading authority in the area of elections.”
McCrory spokeswoman Kim Genardo said the timing of the appointments had nothing to do with the investigation. All five members’ terms expire April 30, and McCrory’s office wants new appointments to be made on time. The governor selects members from a list of five candidates submitted by each party. McCrory selected the top two Democrats, Genardo said.
Leake, who has been on the board for 20 years and chair for 16, said that he and current member Robert Cordle were on the list submitted by the state Democratic chair.
But Leake also dismissed the idea that the timing was motivated by the investigation.
“I don’t believe that to be the case, no,” he said. “I believe that we would all have been replaced regardless.”
Two of the governor’s repugican appointees said they didn’t know how the board would proceed with the sweepstakes inquiry.
“Right now, it’s too early to say,” said Josh Howard, 39, a current member of the Wake County Board of Elections.
The appointees
Howard, an attorney who handles federal and criminal law at a Raleigh firm, enters with extensive experience in the area of ethics and elections. He was a junior counsel in the Independent Counsel’s Office in Washington during the investigations of President Bill Clinton, including the inquiry into his affair with Monica Lewinsky. He also served at the Department of Justice and assisted in the confirmations of John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The state repugican cabal recommended Howard to fill a vacancy on the Board of Elections in 2011, but Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue refused to seat him and asked for more names.
Despite his GOP roots, Howard emphasized his bipartisan work on the Wake County board. “I would love to see that spirit on the state board,” he said.
Bipartisan spirit took a holiday last November, when the Wake board was deciding which provisional ballots to count in the close race for lieutenant governor. Howard disagreed with his Democratic counterparts several times in a tense meeting.
Another new repugican appointee is Paul Foley, a 35-year-old lawyer from Winston-Salem. He is the general counsel at the state repugican cabal, an unpaid position elected by repugican agitators at the party’s state convention. He served as an at-large alternative delegate to the 2012 repugican national coven.
Foley said his party experience gives him a good handle on election and campaign finance law.
Dispelling concerns about his partisan ties, Foley said, “I think it would hard to be more partisan than the current board.”
The third repugican nominee is Rhonda Amoroso, the New Hanover County repugican cabal chair.
The three repugican appointees donated at least $16,000 to repugican candidates and causes in recent elections, according to state and federal campaign finance records. Howard gave McCrory $2,500 in the 2012 campaign and Foley donated $1,606 to host an event for the Grepugican candidate in October, records show. Amoroso gave McCrory’s campaign $135.
The Democratic board members or their families gave minimal amounts to their party candidates.
One of those Democrats, Maya Kricker, the current chair of the Chatham County Board of Elections, said
a review of the sweepstakes donations is “absolutely” the responsibility of the elections board.
The other Democratic appointee is Joshua Malcolm, the current chair of the Robeson County Board of Elections.
‘Nervous’ about turnover
Charles Winfree, a repugican who has served on the board for 12 years, said he would encourage the new members to pursue the investigation. “Based on what I’ve been told by the staff, it appears to me that there is enough to warrant an investigation,” he said. “Certainly the practice of the contributors needs to be examined.”
Hall said he was “nervous” about the 100 percent turnover on the elections board, but hoped the new members would approach the questions objectively.
“I think there were veterans, both repugicans and Democrats, on the Board of Elections that have been objective in reviewing complaints against both parties and I’ve admired their ability to get the facts even when they don’t agree with my personal opinions,” he said. “I hope the new group will also be very professional and fulfill the responsibilities to be above partisan biases and search for the truth.”
Hall asked the board to investigate three issues related to contributions from Chase Burns, the Oklahoma-based owner of International Internet Technologies, as well as other donations connected to the sweepstakes industry. Burns’ company supplies the software that Internet sweepstakes cafes use to run their games.
Checks for Burns’ contributions were written from a trust account that Florida investigators said received millions in illegal proceeds from Burns’ business customers. Hall wants to know whether Burns used a business account or an account that was part of an illegal business operation to make campaign contributions.
Campaign disclosure reports erroneously list Burns as an attorney with Moore & Van Allen, according to Hall’s complaint. Moore & Van Allen is a legal and lobbying firm that represented Burns’ company and also employed McCrory until days before he took office.
The five-member State Board of Elections, which for years has had three Democrats and two repugicans, has been aggressive in recent years in investigating campaign finance law violations. It investigated former House Speaker Jim Black, and former state Agriculture Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps, among others. Both were Democrats who ended up sentenced to federal prison. But repugicans were critical of the board for limiting the inquiry into Perdue’s undisclosed campaign flights.

Well, what do you know ...

Did you know ...

That suicides among military and veterans jumps to 22 a day

What happened to working class new york?

That Stonehenge is 5000 older than previously thought

About the world's most pot-friendly CEO's

Our Pledge of Allegiance and the Myth of “one nation under god”

by Allen Clifton 
You often hear many of the wingnuts claim that our country was founded on christianity.  They’ll use our Pledge of Allegiance as “proof” that this nation was founded as a christian nation.  Many of them put bumper stickers on their vehicles that say “one nation under god” or emphasize the word “god”  when they recite our nation’s pledge.
It all sounds great, except—our pledge wasn’t written until until 1892.  Yes, you read that correctly, our Pledge of Allegiance was written a full 116 years after the Revolutionary War and Declaration of Independence.
Not just that, the phrase “under god” wasn’t even in the original text of our pledge:
“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
And it gets better.  The author of our pledge was Francis Bellamy—a christian socialist.  He stood for workers rights and believed in an equal distribution of economic resources.  He believed in the nationalization of certain industries, because he feared their manipulation and corruption in the hands of a private sector which would put profits before people.
So a christian, a minister at that, wrote the pledge—yet didn’t  include the word “god” or “christian” and  he was a socialist.  I’m sure by now most wingnuts reading this will have already decided I’m making all of this up.  But oh, there’s more.
In 1923, more text was added to our pledge:
“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
So, 31 years after its origination, our pledge still  didn’t contain the phrase “under god.”
In fact, it wasn’t until 1954 that the phrase “under god” was actually added to our pledge, in a response to the threat of communism.
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
So it wasn’t until 62 years after its creation did our pledge include the words “under god.”
I can already hear some now, “But—our currency has “in god we trust” written on it!  It’s our nation’s motto!”
That’s true, it does and it is.  But “in god we trust” didn’t appear on any currency until 1864.  In fact the motto “in god we trust” wasn’t even adopted into this country officially until 1956 and didn’t appear on our paper currency until 1957.  It was only on our coins up to that point.
Then let’s not forget that the only  reference to religion in our Bill of Rights is in our First Amendment, which states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
The word christianity doesn’t appear even once in our Constitution.
So when these lunatics proudly boast about our nation being a “christian nation” or that we were a nation founded “under god,” remind them of these facts.
Because the more they press the issue, the more they think you’re simply making all of this up, the more they continue to insist this country was founded on christianity and use our currency or pledge as proof…
The more they display their ignorance of our history, of reality and prove that they would rather believe a lie than know the truth.

WWII Vet Who Provided Flag On Iwo Jima Has Died

(Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)A World War II veteran who provided the flag in the famous flag-raising on Iwo Jima has died. Alan Wood was 90. Wood’s son, Steven, says his father died April 18 of natural causes at his Sierra Madre home.
Wood was in charge of communications on a landing ship on Iwo Jima’s shores when a Marine asked him for the biggest flag that he could find. Wood handed him a flag he had found in Pearl Harbor.
Five Marines and a Navy Corpsman later raised the flag on Mount Suribachi as Allied forces struggled to capture the Japanese-held island. The stirring moment was captured in an iconic image by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal.
Steven Wood says his father was always humbled by his small role in the historic moment.

Army says no to more tanks, but Congress insists

Lawmakers from both parties have devoted nearly half a billion dollars in taxpayer money over the past two years to build improved versions of the 70-ton Abrams, which the Army refers to with a moniker that befits their heft: the M1A2SEPv2. The upgraded tanks cost about $7.5 million each, according to the Army, and service officials say they have plenty of them.
 Built to dominate the enemy in combat, the Army’s hulking Abrams tank is proving equally hard to beat in a budget battle.
Lawmakers from both parties have devoted nearly half a billion dollars in taxpayer money over the past two years to build improved versions of the 70-ton Abrams.
But senior Army officials have said repeatedly, “No thanks.”
It’s the inverse of the federal budget world these days, in which automatic spending cuts are leaving sought-after pet programs struggling or unpaid altogether. The repugicans and Democrats for years have fought so bitterly that lawmaking in Washington ground to a near-halt.
Yet in the case of the Abrams tank, there’s a bipartisan push to spend an extra $436 million on a weapon the experts explicitly say is not needed.
“If we had our choice, we would use that money in a different way,” Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army’s chief of staff, said this past week.
Why are the tank dollars still flowing? Politics.
Keeping the Abrams production line rolling protects businesses and good paying jobs in congressional districts where the tank’s many suppliers are located.
If there’s a home of the Abrams, it’s politically important Ohio. The nation’s only tank plant is in Lima. So it’s no coincidence that the champions for more tanks are Rep. Jim Jordan and Sen. Rob Portman, two of Capitol’s Hill most prominent deficit hawks, as well as Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown. They said their support is rooted in protecting national security, not in pork-barrel politics.
“The one area where we are supposed to spend taxpayer money is in defense of the country,” said Jordan, whose district in the northwest part of the state includes the tank plant.
The Abrams dilemma underscores the challenge that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel faces as he seeks to purge programs that the military considers unnecessary or too expensive in order to ensure there’s enough money for essential operations, training and equipment.
Hagel, a former repugican senator from Nebraska, faces a daunting task in persuading members of Congress to eliminate or scale back projects favored by constituents.
Federal budgets are always peppered with money for pet projects. What sets the Abrams example apart is the certainty of the Army’s position.
Sean Kennedy, director of research for the nonpartisan Citizens Against Government Waste, said Congress should listen when one of the military services says no to more equipment.
“When an institution as risk averse as the Defense Department says they have enough tanks, we can probably believe them,” Kennedy said.
Congressional backers of the Abrams upgrades view the vast network of companies, many of them small businesses, that manufacture the tanks’ materials and parts as a critical asset that has to be preserved. The money, they say, is a modest investment that will keep important tooling and manufacturing skills from being lost if the Abrams line were to be shut down.
The Lima plant is a study in how federal dollars affect local communities, which in turn hold tight to the federal dollars. The facility is owned by the federal government but operated by the land systems division of General Dynamics, a major defense contractor that spent close to $11 million last year on lobbying, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
The plant is Lima’s fifth-largest employer with close to 700 employees, down from about 1,100 just a few years ago, according to Mayor David Berger. But the facility is still crucial to the local economy. “All of those jobs and their spending activity in the community and the company’s spending probably have about a $100 million impact annually,” Berger said.
Jordan, a House conservative leader who has pushed for deep reductions in federal spending, supported the automatic cuts known as the sequester that require $42 billion to be shaved from the Pentagon’s budget by the end of September. The military also has to absorb a $487 billion reduction in defense spending over the next 10 years, as required by the Budget Control Act passed in 2011.
Still, said Jordan, it would be a big mistake to stop producing tanks.
“Look, (the plant) is in the 4th Congressional District and my job is to represent the 4th Congressional District, so I understand that,” he said. “But the fact remains, if it was not in the best interests of the national defense for the United States of America, then you would not see me supporting it like we do.”
The tanks that Congress is requiring the Army to buy aren’t brand new. Earlier models are being outfitted with a sophisticated suite of electronics that gives the vehicles better microprocessors, color flat panel displays, a more capable communications system, and other improvements. The upgraded tanks cost about $7.5 million each, according to the Army.
Out of a fleet of nearly 2,400 tanks, roughly two-thirds are the improved versions, which the Army refers to with a moniker that befits their heft: the M1A2SEPv2, and service officials said they have plenty of them. “The Army is on record saying we do not require any additional M1A2s,” Davis Welch, deputy director of the Army budget office, said this month.
The tank fleet, on average, is less than 3 years old. The Abrams is named after Gen. Creighton Abrams, one of the top tank commanders during World War II and a former Army chief of staff.
The Army’s plan was to stop buying tanks until 2017, when production of a newly designed Abrams would begin. Orders for Abrams tanks from U.S. allies help fill the gap created by the loss of tanks for the Army, according to service officials, but congressional proponents of the program feared there would not be enough international business to keep the Abrams line going.
This pause in tank production for the U.S. would allow the Army to spend its money on research and development work for the new and improved model, said Ashley Givens, a spokeswoman for the Army’s Ground Combat Systems office.
The first editions of the Abrams tank were fielded in the early 1980s. Over the decades, the Abrams supply chain has become embedded in communities across the country.
General Dynamics estimated in 2011 that there were more than 560 subcontractors throughout the country involved in the Abrams program and that they employed as many as 18,000 people. More than 40 of the companies are in Pennsylvania, according to Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., also a staunch backer of continued tank production.
A letter signed by 173 Democratic and repugican members of the House last year and sent to then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta demonstrated the depth of bipartisan support for the Abrams program on Capitol Hill. They chided the Obama administration for neglecting the industrial base and proposing to terminate tank production in the United States for the first time since World War II.
Portman, who served as the shrub’s budget director before being elected to the Senate, said allowing the line to wither and close would create a financial mess.
“People can’t sit around for three years on unemployment insurance and wait for the government to come back,” Portman said. “That supply chain is going to be much more costly and much more inefficient to create if you mothball the plant.”
Pete Keating, a General Dynamics spokesman, said the money from Congress is allowing for a stable base of production for the Army, which receives about four tanks a month. With the line open, Lima also can fill international orders, bringing more work to Lima and preserving American jobs, he said.
Current foreign customers are Saudi Arabia, which is getting about five tanks a month, and Egypt, which is getting four. Each country pays all of their own costs. That’s a “success story during a period of economic pain,” Keating said.
Still, far fewer tanks are coming out of the Lima plant than in years past. The drop-off has affected companies such as Verhoff Machine and Welding in Continental, Ohio, which makes seats and other parts for the Abrams. Ed Verhoff, the company’s president, said his sales have dropped from $20 million to $7 million over the past two years. He’s also had to lay off about 25 skilled employees and he expects to be issuing more pink slips in the future.
“When we start to lose this base of people, what are we going to do? Buy our tanks from China?” Verhoff said.
Steven Grundman, a defense expert at the Atlantic Council in Washington, said the difficulty of reviving defense industrial capabilities tends to be overstated.
“From the fairly insular world in which the defense industry operates, these capabilities seem to be unique and in many cases extraordinarily high art,” said Grundman, a former deputy undersecretary of defense for industrial affairs and installations during the Clinton administration. “But in the greater scope of the economy, they tend not to be.”

The truth hurts

Still more on the Sentate gun control debate

From Crooks and Liars

Richard Daley Wants His Contribution Back From Sen. Heitkamp
[View a related video by clicking on the link.]

Bill Daley was not only Obama's chief of staff and a former secretary of commerce, he's a major Democratic bundler. He's really ticked off that Heidi Heitkamp, who ran for the Senate as a progressive, punked out when it came to voting for gun control. He's urging contributors to cut off the Democrats who helped the repugicans filibuster the bill:

    I want my money back.

    Last October, I gave $2,500 to support Heidi Heitkamp's campaign to become North Dakota's junior senator. A few weeks later, she won a surprise victory.

    I have had a long career in government and politics, but I don't donate heavily to political campaigns. When I contribute, it's because I know the candidate well or am really impressed with the person. Heidi Heitkamp was one of the latter: She struck me as strong-willed, principled and an independent thinker.

    But this week, Heitkamp betrayed those hopes.

    She voted to block legislation to make gun background checks more comprehensive. Her vote - along with those of 41 repugicans and three other Democrats - was a key reason the measure fell short of the 60 votes needed for passage.

    Polling has shown that nine in 10 Americans and eight in 10 gun owners support a law to require every buyer to go through a background check on every gun sale. In North Dakota, the support was even higher: 94 percent. Yet in explaining her vote, Heitkamp had the gall to say that she "heard overwhelmingly from the people of North Dakota" and had to listen to them and vote no. It seems more likely that she heard from the gun lobby and chose to listen to it instead.

    Here in Chicago, we know how serious a problem gun violence is. Over Easter weekend, 25 people were shot in Chicago. Last year, more than 400 young people were shot in our city. Our mayor and police are working tirelessly to fight gun crime; over the past decade, the Chicago Police Department has taken 50,000 guns off the streets. But illegal gun traffickers don't respect state lines, and easy access to firearms in other states helps fuel gun violence in Chicago.

    Instead of getting help from Washington, 45 senators seem determined to make it easy for criminals to get guns, no questions asked.

    And the truth is that gun violence is not just some big-city, blue-state problem. Which state has the country's highest rate of death by gun? Alaska.

    Yet both Alaska senators - Democrat Mark Begich and repugican Lisa Murkowski - voted against expanding background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and those so mentally ill that they are a danger to themselves or others.

    The other two Democrats who voted against background checks are Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Max Baucus of Montana. Like Begich, they will be running for reelection next year. And no doubt they'll come to Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and other cities looking for money to fuel their campaigns. These cities, of course, are also too often the destination for illegal guns flowing in from out of state.

    So I'll have some advice for my friends in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles: Just say no to the Democrats who said no on background checks.

The truth be told

MPAA executive admits to tampering with key evidence in Finnish topsite trial

In Finland, a long-running prosecution of six men who were accused of running a piracy "topsite" ended with disappointment for the big rightsholder groups when two men were acquitted and the remaining four got comparatively mild sentences. Now, TorrentFreak sheds some light on the situation with the revelation that the prosecution was forced to admit, at sentencing time, that a senior MPAA executive had tampered with the logfiles that formed a key piece of evidence in the case, and had not disclosed that to the defense or the judge. The MPAA exec made changes to ten files, apparently in a bid to hide the identity of a spy it had employed to infiltrate the group.
The video, a screencast of the investigation, showed a particular username accessing an Angel Falls FTP server. However, the corresponding text log for the same event showed a completely different username.
“When the IFPI investigator was asked about this he acknowledged that the names did not match. He said that the Finnish anti-piracy people and IFPI had collected the information together, but there was also an MPAA executive in the room while the evidence gathering took place,” Hietanen explains.
The IFPI investigator was then asked to reveal the name of the MPAA executive. He declined, but did offer an explanation for the inconsistencies in the evidence.
In an apparent attempt to hide the identity of one of their spies, the MPAA executive edited the evidence gathered during the session.


Sunday, April 28

The First She And She Wedding In Kazakhstan

It's not a theatrical performance, it's the first she and she wedding in the city of Karaganda. And in whole Kazakhstan. Two pretty girls - Carolina (to the right) and Christina (to the left) - decided to take the vows. It's a real wedding. With limousines, friends and champagne. What about the law? Love does not follow any laws. That's why the wedding finally took place. But without registration - same-sex marriages are prohibited in the country. More

Czech communist whiskey matures to excellence

In this Thursday, April 25, 2013 photo Petr Nemy, an whisky expert, tastes the single malt "Hammer Head" whisky in a bar in Prague, Czech Republic. The "Hammer Head" whisky made in communist Czechoslovakia matured in oak barrels for more than twenty years to reach surprisingly good quality before hitting the market. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek) 
The Scottish peat was put on trucks and trains. The destination was Communist-era Czechoslovakia. The recipient: apparatchiks desperate for a decent whiskey.
The journey beyond the Iron Curtain during the Cold War turned out to be the easy part. When the batch arrived, the Czech distillers had only a faint idea how to make whisky — and it took years to get things right.
"It was one thing to read about it in books, but reality is something different," recalled Vaclav Sitner, a member of the team tasked with creating a premium whisky.
Now, almost 40 years on, the last batches of "Hammer Head" are winning rave reviews. And, in a historical twist, they are owned by a U.S. hedge fund that bought the beverage company that Sitner worked for.
Sitner, whose name still appears on the label, recalls the "alchemy" and "joy" as they concocted the whiskey. It sold well despite its relatively high price in a communist economy.
In Czechoslovakia, living standards were higher than in most other communist nations, but only a limited variety of Western products were available at special stores for those privileged enough to have access to foreign currency. In common stores, there was a significant shortage of Western goods, from bananas to electronics.
"There were no means to import foreign whiskey," Sitner said. Communist states' currencies were not convertible and the struggling command economies failed to produce enough decent goods to sell in exchange for hard currency.
The original plan was to source all the ingredients and equipment locally — but met no luck.
"The problem was with the peat, because it didn't work," said Sitner. "The peat we had was from South Bohemia and in combination with oak shavings it created all sorts of problems."
"It was the most expensive peat in Europe. The (Scottish) peat didn't actually cost that much but the transport cost a fortune. We placed it on trucks and a train carriage. One carriage was enough for us for 5-6 years."
Sitner and his colleagues had to rely completely on their own skills since they had no chance to travel to Scotland to visit distilleries. They needed a good barley supplier and knowledge of how to grind it, a source of suitable water and new oak barrels where the product could mature for at least three years.
A small distillery in Pradlo, in the west of the country, coincidentally had a hammer mill of the kind used in Scottish distilleries. Dating from the 1920s, it was the only one in the entire country. Work started in 1976; three years of tests were needed before trial production could start — and mass production started eight years later.
Communist apparatchiks liked it so much that the bottles became a favored present.
"The comrades liked to drink whiskey, despite the fact that people (in those days) were obligated to drink vodka," Sitner said. "But comrades still liked the whiskey."
The 1989 Velvet Revolution toppled the regime and the Czech whiskey also vanished from sight as the market was flooded by whiskeys from all over the world. Then whiskey ceased to be made for good. What left had time to mature in the original oak barrels for years to improve gradually into its current level of excellence.
The liquor company that the distillery belonged to, Stock Plzen-Bozkov, was privatized. The new owners felt the drink had no future. They sold some 250 barrels for a ridiculously low price — "barbarism," recalled Sitner.
In 2007, U.S. hedge fund Oaktree Capital Management acquired the company.
When officials from London-based Stock Spirits Group that controls the company for the fund were presented the local whiskey, their first response was "impossible it was made here," Sitner remembered. After it passed a test in a tasting with some other single malt whiskeys that followed, the company decided to put it on the market.
"Look at the gold," Sitner said with pride during a recent visit to Pradlo cellar where hundreds the original oak barrels are still in place. "It's a beautiful color," he said, holding a glass just taken from a barrel.
Demand for Hammer Head has been solid around the globe, but Sitner would not reveal how much was made and how much is still available. He would only said if the current sales remain at the same level of 10,000 - 15,000 bottles a year, it is expected to be sold out in five to seven years. The whiskey sells for about €45 ($59) a bottle.
Since 2011, Hammer Head has been listed in Jim Murray's Whiskey Bible, an annual international whiskey guide, where it scored 88.5 points out of 100 — putting it among "very good to excellent whiskeys definitely worth buying."
"This is one of Europe's maltiest drams ... if not the maltiest," the guide said.
In 2011, it won a Masters award at the 2011 Whiskeys of the World Masters.
Petr Nemy, an organizer of whiskey tastings from the Scottish Club in Prague said that after more than 20 years of aging, Hammer Head "is beautifully matured. It's delicately malty and smoky with a taste of nuts and maybe, vanilla. It has a beautifully rounded taste. It's a joy to taste it."

It's BBQ Time

And you know this is exactly what happens, too

Man lived with decomposing corpse of 72-year-old woman on his sofa for several months

A 64-year-old Michigan man has been charged with living with the dead body of a woman in his Redford Township trailer for several months. Court officers serving an eviction notice on Monday saw the body of Ann Marquis, 72, on a sofa. Although investigators said they believe she died of natural causes, they arrested her roommate of three years, Dennis McCauley, who they believed lived with her decomposing body for several months.
McCauley was arraigned on Friday in District Court in Redford Township on nine felony charges, including one count each of possessing a dead body, identity theft, conducting an illegal financial transaction, concealing the death of an individual, larceny between $1,000 and $20,000 and illegally possessing a credit card.

Prosecutors claim he failed to report Marquis' death, allowed her body to decay, used her credit card, stole her personal property and cashed her Social Security checks. "I think it's terrible, living with a corpse," said neighbor Connie Laesch, 92, who knew Marquis for 10 years.  Laesch said she last saw Marquis in November, when Marquis complained about pain in her abdomen.

For weeks, Laesch had been asking others whether they knew what happened to Marquis. "I kept asking people, 'Have you seen Ann? Have you seen Ann? Nobody's seen Annie?' " Laesch said. She said she asked McCauley about three weeks ago. "I called him over and asked him where's Annie, and he told me she moved out three months ago," Laesch said. When she told the complex manager, she was told the complex was in the process of evicting Marquis for not paying rent.

Can Facebook Guess Your Weight?

Your social-media habits and interests say a lot about your health, researchers find.

Plant Particles Slow Global Warming

The fresh piney forest scent is getting stronger as the climate warms, and it's helping to seed clouds and mask global warming.

Speed of Light May Not Be Constant

Is it possible that the cosmic speed limit varies? Some physicists think so.

High performance semiconductor spray paint could be a game changer

Researchers at Wake Forest University’s Organic Electronics group say they have come up with a novel solution to one of the biggest technological barriers facing the organic semiconductor industry today. Oana Jurchescu, an assistant professor [...]

Strange Deep-Sea Diving Suits

Suits designed for deep sea divers have gone through a lot of designs, and the modern ones look as strange at the first ones. Dark Roasted Blend has illustrations and photographs from the entire history of deep sea diving. Shown is a French diving suit from the 19th century, although it might easily be mistaken for an alien from outer space. More

Yoda and Friends

The Yoda we recall from the original Star Wars trilogy was infinitely more realistic than the CGI Yoda in the prequels, even though we knew he was a Muppet, controlled by the masterful Frank Oz. This photo is one of 66 behind-the-scenes snapshots from the set of The Empire Strikes Back, in which we get to see George Lucas skinny, Darth Vader's stuntman, and Carrie Fisher flirting with the entire cast. More

That's Not Fair!

You know how it felt when you found out your boss was paying a co-worker more money than you for doing the same job? In this excerpt from a TED Talk, Frans de Waal presents a classic experiment in which capuchin monkeys were confronted with such unfairness. You'll get a kick out of the way the monkey reacts. You can see the full talk called Moral Behavior in Animals, which covers empathy, reciprocity, and cooperation, as well as fairness, at the TED site.

Random Photo

Three-legged alligator attempted to speed up play at golf tournament

During first round play the Zurich Classic golf tournament in Louisiana a three-legged alligator got bored sunning itself on the bank of a course water hazard and decided to become a hazard of its own by wandering out onto the course amidst the players and officials.

Golf channel analyst Nick Faldo jokingly said the reptile was being used as a tool by PGA officials to try and curb the growing problem of slow play on the course.

If that were the case they probably would have chosen an alligator with four fully functioning limbs. Sending one out with only three legs is like a warning shot across the bow.

Luckily for everyone involved the gator, estimated to be around 12 feet in length, was “Tripod,” a three-legged beast that has become somewhat of a regular at the course only seemed interested in meandering across the fairway, keeping to himself and minding his own business.

A mammal and bug food co-op in the High Arctic

University of Alberta researchers were certainly surprised when they discovered the unusual response of pikas to patches of vegetation that had previously been grazed on by caterpillars from a species normally found in the high [...]

Man bitten by snake goes for a run, dies

Snake photo The guy was cleaning up around the field hockey facility when he saw a snake that he thought was non venomous.
He picked up the animal to move it and was bitten on the hand.
Thinking it was not anything to worry about he went about his business and then went for a training run.
It was then that 26 year old Karl Berry began to have problems and collapsed.
By the time Darwin, Australia paramedics arrived Berry was unconscious and was rushed to the hospital where he later died.
It turns out the snake he picked up was a western brown, one of the most venomous in the country.
Doctors confirmed the exercise caused the venom to circulate much more quickly through Berry’s system and caused him to be sick much more quickly.

Animal Pictures

Atlas moths are considered the largest moths in the world in terms of total wing surface area . Their wingspans are also amongst the largest, reaching over 25 cm . Females are appreciably larger and heavier