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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, May 1, 2013

The Daily Drift

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Today in History

408   Theodosius II succeeds to the throne of Constantinople.
1308   King Albert is murdered by his nephew John, because he refused his share of the Habsburg lands.
1486   Christopher Columbus convinces Queen Isabella to fund expedition to the West Indies.
1805   The state of Virginia passes a law requiring all freed slaves to leave the state, or risk either imprisonment or deportation.
1863   The Battle of Chancellorsville begins as Union Gen. Joe Hooker starts his three-pronged attack against Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
1867   Reconstruction in the South begins with black voter registration.
1877   President Ruthoford B. Hayes withdraws all Federal troops from the South, ending Reconstruction.
1898   The U.S. Navy under Dewey defeats the Spanish fleet at the Battle of Manila Bay in the Philippines.
1915   The luxury liner Lusitania leaves New York Harbor for a voyage to Europe.
1927   Adolf Hitler holds his first Nazi meeting in Berlin.
1931   The Empire State Building opens in New York.
1934   The Philippine legislature accepts a U.S. proposal for independence.
1937   President Franklin Roosevelt signs an act of neutrality, keeping the United States out of World War II.
1941   The film Citizen Kane–directed and starring Orson Welles–opens in New York.
1944   The Messerschmitt Me 262, the first combat jet, makes its first flight.
1945   Martin Bormann, private secretary to Adolf Hitler, escapes the Fuehrerbunker as the Red Army advances on Berlin.
1948   North Korea is established.
1950   Gwendolyn Brooks becomes the first African American to win the Pulitzer Prize for her book of poetry called Annie Allen.
1960   Francis Gary Powers' U-2 spy plane is shot down over Russia.
1961   Fidel Castro announces there will be no more elections in Cuba.
1968   In the second day of battle, U.S. Marines, with the support of naval fire, continue their attack on a North Vietnamese Division at Dai Do.
1970   Students from Kent State University riot in downtown Kent, Ohio, in protest of the American invasion of Cambodia.
1986   The Tass News Agency reports the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident.
2011   Osama Bin Laden is killed in Abbottabad Pakistan by US Navy SEALS in Operation Neptune Spear.

Non Sequitur


You can count on a Marine

A Florida teen rescued a woman who was being attacked by a bull on Saturday.
Desiree Cicero was trampled and gored at the 64th annual Cracker Day Rodeo, and she said John Weideman-Beal, 19, saved her life.
John Weideman-Beal is a Marine and is being considered a hero after he rescued Cicero when she was knocked off her feet by the bull.
He said his instincts kicked in, and he used his body as a shield as the bull circled around and trampled both of them a second time.
"I wasn't thinking about it," Weideman-Beal said. "I was thinking about Desiree."
During the rodeo, spectators were invited to take a bow off of a bull for cash.
"I saw one of the handlers reach down in there, and I don't know if they cattle-prodded it or what, and it went from a little ornery to bucking, kicking and shewing, and I said, 'That is one crazy bull. Somebody is going to get hurt,'" Weideman-Beal said.
The bull tossed Cicero.
She spoke after being transported to the hospital for treatment.
"The horn went straight through to the bone," Cicero said. "It's weird. It just happened so fast, and I'm like, 'Oh my God. I am knocked out.'"
"She had a nasty hole in her arm," Weideman-Beal said. "I'm leaning over, trying to prevent her from going into shock because that is what the Marine Corps taught me to do."
Cicero suffered a broken rib, a staple under her arm and a bruised torso.
She said she never expected to walk away from the attack.

Did you know ...

That the police 'cleaning up' Detroit by kidnapping homeless and stranding them in other cities

Is capitalism dismantling America?

Here's some stupid tax tricks for people who think the world is flat

That a new species of porcupine discovered in Brazil's Atlantic forest

The Strange History Of Everyday Greetings And Phrases

Hello, what's up, OMG WTF, cool as a cucumber, flash in the pan. Where do these words and phrases come from?

Icelandic Pirate Party lands three seats in Icelandic parliament

The Icelandic Pirate Party has won three seats in its national Parliament in the Pirates' best-ever showing on the world stage. They form a small part of the opposition to the "center-right" Independence Party (Americans, please note that the Independence Party would be considered socialists by present US mainstream political standards). One of the new Pirate parliamentarians is Birgitta Jónsdóttir, the Icelandic MP who volunteered for, and campaigned for Wikileaks. The Icelanding Pirate Party is only five months old!
The three new Icelandic lawmakers include Jón Þór Ólafsson, a business administration student at the University of Iceland; Helgi Hrafn Gunnarsson, a computer programmer; and Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a well-known WikiLeaks volunteer and former member of parliament from 2009 to 2013.
Birgitta is also one of three activists involved in a WikiLeaks investigation currently underway in the United States. In November 2011, a district court judge found that prosecutors could compel Twitter to give up specific information on the three accounts, including IP addresses, direct messages, and other data. In January 2013, a federal appeals court in Virginia ruled (PDF) that Birgitta and the two others have no right to find out which other companies the government sought information from besides Twitter.
The trio, along with other members of Iceland’s digerati (including Smári McCarthy, who also is one of the organizers of the International Modern Media Initiative), founded the party just five months ago.

Taxes and Chemistry Make Unhealthy Food Cheap

High-calorie, low-cost processed foods, like those Ben Affleck will be eating this week, cost less at the check-out counter because they are cheaper to produce, transport and store -- and they're more highly subsidized.

Visiting Nurses ...

More Bang for the Buck v 
The biggest part of Medicare spending goes to patients who have several chronic illnesses common to old age. But an innovative program tried out in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, aims to help those patients stay out of the hospital. 
Health Quality Partners is all about going there. The program enrolls Medicare patients with at least one chronic illness and one hospitalization in the past year. It then sends a trained nurse to see them every week, or every month, whether they’re healthy or sick. It sounds simple and, in a way, it is. But simple things can be revolutionary.

Most care-management systems rely on nurses sitting in call centers, checking up on patients over the phone. That model has mostly been a failure. And while many health systems send a nurse regularly in the weeks or months after a serious hospitalization, few send one regularly to even seemingly healthy patients. This a radical redefinition of the health-care system’s role in the lives of the elderly. It redefines being old and chronically ill as a condition requiring professional medical management.

Health Quality Partners’ results have been extraordinary. According to an independent analysis by the consulting firm Mathematica, HQP has reduced hospitalizations by 33 percent and cut Medicare costs by 22 percent.
Keeping elderly people out of hospitals by preventing complications increases lifespan and quality of life, besides saving money. But due to complicated reasons, Medicare may scuttle HQP completely. For one thing, it's hard to get the medical establishment behind such a simple program, because it cuts into profits.
This, too, is a legacy of a health system built for acute care. Hospitals make money when they do more to patients. They lose money when their beds are empty. Put simply, Health Quality Partners makes hospitals lose money. “There’s no doubt that it’s a hit to the bottom line,” says Rich Reif, the former CEO of Doylestown Hospital, which worked with HQP.
Read more about HQP at the Washington Post.

Mom forced 14-year-old daughter to bear children

Jill Lawless, from NBC, writes about a woman who was so desperate to have more children that she forced her young daughter to bear them.
In a ruling reported for the first time Monday, High Court judge Peter Jackson said the mother had behaved in "a wicked and selfish way" that almost defied belief. The judge said the woman, an American divorcee living in Britain with three adopted children, hatched the plan after she was prevented from adopting a fourth.The scheme involved getting her oldest daughter to inseminate herself with syringes of sperm purchased over the Internet from a Denmark-based company, Cryos International.

Spanish village welcomes first baby since 1968

The first baby in 45 years has been born in a tiny village in the province of Almería with fewer than 100 inhabitants.
Young first-time parents Beatriz and Iker say they have lived all over Spain, but wanted their child to 'grow up close to nature' and near her maternal grandparents. Baby Ainara has caused a stir in Los Giles, given that nobody has been born to anyone living in the village since 1968.

The population has since declined as a result, and only around 60 people are on the census. Beatriz and Iker say they take the baby, who was born three weeks ago, out into the village every day so that the mostly-elderly residents can coo over her.

“Everyone's really pleased – this is a celebration,” said one of the residents. Nearly everyone in Los Giles has had a chance to hold Ainara at least once, and her parents constantly receive visits from their neighbors.

There's a short video report in Spanish here.

Woman launched into air during bungled gasoline theft

Police in Australia are seeking public assistance after a woman was thrown in the air and gas left gushing from a broken bowser in a daring drive-off at Mt Warren Park, on the outskirts of Brisbane in southeast Queensland, last week.


Surveillance video shows the scantily clad woman go flying after she tries to cling to a gas pump torn from its bowser as the car lurches forward.

Police said drivers were so determined to steal petrol they were now risking the lives of their family and friends.

Police said the incident occurred at the Mt Warren Park Caltex after an alert console operator approached the car to check the registration plates.

They are still searching for both offenders and want anyone recognizing the alleged offender to contact police.

There's a news video here.

Soccer referee viciously attacks player

As a Russian league reserve game in Grozny drew to a close, linesman Musa Kadyrov sprinted onto the field and "launched a vicious assault on one of the players." Reuters:
"The ref blew the final whistle and I started walking to our bench, when suddenly someone came from behind, pushed me to the ground and began kicking and punching me," the 18-year-old Amkar player told reporters.
Alexei Spirin, a match observer from FIFA, the sport's international governing body, rated the official 0/10 and said that he is "writing a special report." We rarely cover sports at Boing Boing, but I will take this opportunity to suggest to Mr. Spirin that Mr. Kadryov be assigned in perpetuity to exclusively referee Liverpool striker Luis Suarez.

Mexican official's daughter gets restaurant closed

A Mexican official's daughter has caused a scandal by sending inspectors to shut down a restaurant that didn't give her the table she wanted.
A Mexican official's daughter has caused a scandal by sending inspectors to shut down a restaurant that didn't give her the table she wanted.
It's the latest of several cases of seeming arrogance by the wealthy and well-connected that have caused anger recently in a country with deep class divisions.
Many people say string-pulling and influence-wielding are all too common in Mexico, where arguments with politicians' relatives often end with the threatening phrase, "You don't know who you're messing with." The difference now is that with social media, such incidents go viral and force immediate reaction.
"As a society, we are fed up with, disgusted with this," said writer Guadalupe Loaeza. "This is an attitude of the past; it doesn't fit with the times."
The government said Monday it has launched an investigation into the incident over the weekend at the Maximo Bistrot in Mexico City's trendy Roma Norte neighborhood.
Andrea Benitez, the daughter of the federal attorney general for consumer protection, Humberto Benitez Trevino, went to the restaurant and apparently didn't get the table she wanted or had been promised. Just hours after the incident, inspectors showed up with official "suspended" signs to punish the restaurant.
Benitez Trevino issued a statement apologizing for "the inappropriate behavior of my daughter Andrea." While he didn't explicitly say his daughter sicced the inspectors on the eatery, his apology implied she did.
"She exaggerated the situation and the officials of the Attorney General's Office for Consumer Protection, which I head, overreacted because it was my daughter," he wrote. "Immediately upon hearing of the situation, I ordered the raid (on the restaurant) suspended, to avoid any excesses."
The Economy Department, which oversees Benitez Trevino's office, said President Enrique Pena Nieto had ordered the federal comptroller's office to open an investigation into the case.
The restaurant was able to open for business on Sunday, and Benitez Trevino's office said the inspectors had suspended only two of the bistro's permits: one governing reservations and one covering liquor sales, because volume contents of bottles were not appropriately listed.
Pena Nieto has to be particularly careful about such incidents since his Institutional Revolutionary Party, which regained power last year after 12 years out of the presidency, had become infamous during its 1929-2000 rule for breeding an extended clan of arrogant, inexplicably wealthy politicians known as the "Revolutionary Family."
Pena Nieto's own daughter Paulina was involved in an embarrassing incident in late 2011. Reacting to social media critiques of her father, the teenager re-tweeted a comment that described people gloating over his gaffes as "the bunch of idiots who form part of the proletariat and only criticize those they envy."
Pena Nieto quickly apologized on his own Twitter account, and the daughter later wrote, "I apologize with all my heart ... I recognize what I did was wrong and I am sorry."
In 2012, the daughter of the head of Mexico's oil workers union, Carlos Romero Deschamps, posted Facebook photos of her trips to Europe aboard private jets and yachts. The photos showed her designer handbags and her three bulldogs sleeping in luxury hotels rooms.
While somewhat more muted, politicians' families continued to pull strings under the conservative National Action Party, which governed from 2000 to 2012.
"It never went away. If we recall, there were incidents like this under National Action," said Jose Antonio Crespo, a historian at the Center for Economic Research and Teaching in Mexico City, referring to government contracts handed out to the sons of former first lady Martha Sahagun in the early 2000s. "There is nepotism and political privilege in all the political parties."
Loaeza said she is confident the times are changing, in part because social media are capable of focusing a huge amount of attention, instantly, on such bad behavior.
In the latest case, diners at the restaurant photographed the inspectors' raid and posted comments on social media sites. Andrea Benitez found herself a trending topic on Twitter with her own hashtag and thousands of negative tweets.
"Just look at Pena Nieto's daughters, and what a low profile they keep. They're not out in public anymore," Loaeza noted. "Mexican society is not going to put up with this anymore. Now people complain, now it becomes a scandal."

Odds and Ends

Hitler’s food-taster: "Every day we feared it would be our last meal" 

"Margot Woelk was one of fifteen girls who spent two-and-a-half years testing Adolf Hitler’s all-veggie diet to make sure it wasn’t poisoned." When the Russians captured her (and the rest of the surviving food-taster girls), they raped her for two weeks.

Proposal would fine tech companies for not obeying FBI's wiretap demands

Ellen Nakashima in the Washington Post: "A government task force is preparing legislation that would pressure companies such as Face­book and Google to enable law enforcement officials to intercept online communications as they occur, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with the effort." Companies that fail to obey wiretap orders would be penalized.

C.I.A. regularly delivers "wads of American dollars" to Afghan president

Seems legit: "For more than a decade, wads of American dollars packed into suitcases, backpacks and, on occasion, plastic shopping bags have been dropped off every month or so at the offices of Afghanistan’s president — courtesy of the Central Intelligence Agency." Tens of millions of American taxpayers' dollars, off the books, referred to by those who received it as "ghost money." 

US-aided electronic spying in Mexico’s drug war

In the Washington Post, an extensive report by Dana Priest on the changing role of the U.S. in Mexico’s intelligence war on drug cartels. The article includes extensive details on how closely intertwined the CIA and other US agencies have become with Mexican law enforcement entities:
The administration of former president Felipe Calderon had granted high-flying U.S. spy planes access to Mexican airspace for the purpose of gathering intelligence. Unarmed Customs and Border Protection drones had flown from bases in the United States in support of Mexican military and federal police raids against drug targets and to track movements that would establish suspects’ “patterns of life.” The United States had also provided electronic signals technology, ground sensors, voice-recognition gear, cellphone-tracking devices, data analysis tools, computer hacking kits and airborne cameras that could read license plates from three miles away.

What ouija boards and military contractors have in common 

The power of suggestion, your own expectations, and even your emotions can cause your body to move without you actively telling it to. This weird phenomenon is called the ideomotor effect. It's what makes ouija boards work and it's the mechanism behind $60,000 bomb-detecting devices that an American company was recently caught selling to the Iraqi government. Needless to say, the devices did not actually detect bombs. 

The world's first website

Back up at its original URL courtesy of CERN: "Twenty years of a free, open web.

The Red Rose of Saturn

Carolyn Porco, Cassini Imaging Team Leader and CICLOPS director, writes:
One of the most gorgeous sights we have been privileged to see at Saturn, as the arrival of spring to the northern hemisphere has peeled away the darkness of winter, has been the enormous swirling vortex capping its north pole and ringed by Saturn's famed hexagonal jet stream. Today, the Cassini Imaging Team is proud to present to you a set of special views of this phenomenal structure, including a carefully prepared movie showing its circumpolar winds that clock at 330 miles per hour, and false color images that are at once spectacular and informative.

Crystals and Brinicles

The crystal structure of a mineral called vaterite, which has eluded scientists for nearly a century, has been solved with the help of a sea squirt.

When salt-rich water leaks out of sea ice, it can occasionally create an eerie finger of ice called a brinicle, a prime environment in which life may have evolved.

Random Photo

Buildings built by bacteria

NewImage Over at Fast Company, our pal Chris Arkenberg wrote about how advances in synthetic biology and biomimicry could someday transform how we build our built environments:
Innovations emerging across the disciplines of additive manufacturing, synthetic biology, swarm robotics, and architecture suggest a future scenario when buildings may be designed using libraries of biological templates and constructed with biosynthetic materials able to sense and adapt to their conditions. Construction itself may be handled by bacterial printers and swarms of mechanical assemblers.
Tools like Project Cyborg make possible a deeper exploration of biomimicry through the precise manipulation of matter. David Benjamin and his Columbia Living Architecture Lab explore ways to integrate biology into architecture. Their recent work investigates bacterial manufacturing--the genetic modification of bacteria to create durable materials. Envisioning a future where bacterial colonies are designed to print novel materials at scale, they see buildings wrapped in seamless, responsive, bio-electronic envelopes.

The Top 10 Haunted Hotels

There are few places in the world that have absorbed as much emotion as hotels. They see the unbridled joy of honeymoon couples and families on vacation. The workaday despair of businessmen living out of suitcases.

Druggies and prostitutes and schizophrenic geniuses, murders, suicides, heart attacks, arguments, trysts, a revolving cast of thousands playing out their own individual drama each night. If any place on earth is likely to be haunted, it's a hotel. Here are ten of the world's spookiest hotels.

Legend and Fact

Legend: Blackbeard would light his hair on fire before battle:

Fact: Sort of. Blackbeard wore his black beard and hair very long, but he never actually lit them on fire. He would put little candles or pieces of fuse in his hair and light those. They would give off smoke, giving the pirate a fearsome, demonic appearance. 

The Lovers of Valdaro.

Archaeological News

Hundreds of spheres suggest rituals were performed beneath an ancient pyramid in Mexico.
Archaeologists puzzle over hundreds of spheres found beneath the Temple of Quetzalcoatl.

Out of Africa?

New research shows that the ancestors of both dinosaurs and humans are from Africa. Does Africa possess a special power for evolving consequential species?
Ten million years after the largest mass extinction, a lineage of animals thought to have led to dinosaurs took hold in Tanzania and Zambia.

Microbe feast clue to smell of ancient earth

Tiny 1,900 million-year-old fossils from rocks around Lake Superior, Canada, give the first ever snapshot of organisms eating each other and suggest what the ancient Earth would have smelled like. The fossils, preserved in Gunflint [...]

How to ...

Figure out what color dinosaurs really were

Color is just a happy side effect of physics. So Canadian scientists are turning to The Canadian Light Source synchrotron, a particle accelerator in Saskatchewan, to help them figure out what color extinct duck-billed dinosaurs actually were. By putting a 70-million-year-old skull into the accelerator, they'll be able to figure out what molecules — from pigments to melanin-producing cells — are still present in the fossil. Francie Diep explains how it works at Popular Science.

Are Horses 'Lazy' Or Just Bored?

Since the dawn of time, they have seemed man's hardest working animal companion - performing stoically as a method of transport, a weapon of war and a beast of burden, as well as a variety of sporting and recreational roles. But new research suggests that the humble horse might not be quite such a willing worker as it often appears.

A scientific study entitled 'Are Horses Lazy?' has found strong evidence which indicates the answer is 'yes' - or at least that they have little appetite for such research.

Cicadas get a jump on cleaning

As cicadas on the East Coast begin emerging from their 17-year slumber, a spritz of dew drops is all they need to keep their wings fresh and clean. Researchers at Duke University and James Cook [...]

Fish Use 'Sign Language' to Help Out Hunting Buddies

The fish helpers also collaborate with eels and octopuses.

Animal Pictures