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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.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Daily Drift

Yeah, it's like that ...

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

Reason!  ...

Today is National Day Of Reason 

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Today in History

1670   The Hudson Bay Company is founded.
1598   Henry IV signs Treaty of Vervins, ending Spain's interference in France.
1668   Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle ends the War of Devolution in France.
1776   France and Spain agree to donate arms to American rebels fighting the British.
1797   A mutiny in the British navy spreads from Spithead to the rest of the fleet.
1798   The black General Toussaint L'ouverture forces British troops to agree to evacuate the port of Santo Domingo.
1808   The citizens of Madrid rise up against Napoleon.
1813   Napoleon defeats a Russian and Prussian army at Grossgorschen.
1863   Stonewall Jackson smashes Hooker's flank at Chancellorsville, Virginia.
1865   President Andrew Johnson offers a $100,000 reward for the capture of Confederate President
1885   King Leopold II of Belgium establishes the Congo Free State.
1890   The Territory of Oklahoma is created.
1919   The first U.S. air passenger service starts.
1923   Lieutenants Okaley Kelly and John Macready take off from New York for the West Coast on what will become the first successful nonstop transcontinental flight.
1941   Hostilities break out between British forces in Iraq and that country's pro-German faction.
1942   Admiral Chester J. Nimitz, convinced that the Japanese will attack Midway Island, visits the island to review its readiness.
1945   Russian forces take Berlin after 12 days of fierce house-to-house fighting.
1946   Prisoners revolt at California's Alcatraz prison.
1968   The U.S. Army attacks Nhi Ha in South Vietnam and begins a fourteen-day battle to wrestle it away from Vietnamese Communists.
1970   Student anti-war protesters at Ohio's Kent State University burn down the campus ROTC building. The National Guard takes control of campus.

Non Sequitur


This Is How Easy it Is to Find a Gun-Buying Felon Online

From Gawker

As the Senate prepared this morning to chicken out of tougher background checks on gun buyers, the New York Times plumbed the depths of Armslist, an online "firearms marketplace," and without much trouble turned up felons, fugitives, and random dudes hawking hundreds of guns at a time:

Over the past three months, The Times identified more than 170,000 gun ads on Armslist. Some were for the same guns, making it difficult to calculate just how many guns were actually for sale. Even so, with more than 20,000 ads posted every week, the number is probably in the tens of thousands.

Notably, 94 percent of the ads were posted by "private parties," who, unlike licensed dealers, are not required to conduct background checks.

Armslist makes its agenda clear, leading its front page with quick-links to sales listings for what it calls "Feinstein's Favorites": assault weapons targeted for regulation like AKs, AR-15s, Uzis, and MAC-10s.

The would-be purchasers included Omar Roman-Martinez, a double-felon and convicted domestic abuser who in several posts over more than a week sought a handgun and 9mm ammunition, even offering "to trade a tablet computer or a vintage Pepsi machine for firearms." (When contacted by the paper, he said he'd decided not to buy a piece.)

Then there's the Rhode Island fugitive with two felony warrants who wanted an AK-47; the domestic batterer selling his SKS; and the South Carolinian who's put 80 guns up for sale since February, and told the paper he doesn't do background checks or keep any sales records. The reason: "I can just sort of read people."

The truth hurts


Reporter Almost Gets Hit by a Baseball While Taking a Selfie

Kelly Nash
While watching the batting practice before an Astros-Red Sox game in Boston, reporter Kelly Nash took a photo of herself. It was a lucky shot, but it was almost a very unlucky shot:
"Producer Art Dryce had called out 'heads up!' a few times while I was taking pictures around the left field section, but none of those balls actually fell close to me, so I took my chances turning my back on batting practice for a picture.
"My whole family is from Massachusetts, and I knew they would be so excited to see me working at Fenway Park, and when I went to text them the picture I noticed the baseball by my head!

Random Photo

How Congress flies

You know how aviation is a spiraling horror-show of discomfort and bad service? Well, not if you're in Congress:
At Washington’s Reagan National Airport, they have their own special parking spaces—right up close to the terminal—that they don’t even have to pay for. As Bloomberg Television’s Hans Nichols reports, this perk costs the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority $738,760 in foregone revenue. (The best part of this clip, though, is seeing Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky haul ass to get away from Bloomberg’s cameraman.)
Being a member of Congress also means never having to rush to catch a flight. The airlines allow lawmakers the special privilege of simultaneously booking themselves on multiple flights, so that if they are late or their flight is canceled, they’re guaranteed a spot on the next one. A few years ago, a prominent senator paused in the middle of a conversation with me to bark at an aide, “Book me on the 6, 7, and 8 p.m. shuttles!”
To members of our fly-in-Tuesday-fly-home-Thursday Congress, these perks are a big deal. Most fly a lot, and many fly first class

Days after fatal explosion, Rick Perry tries to lure businesses to Texas for its weak regulations


From Daily Kos

Not only does Texas Gov. Rick Perry reject the idea that the massive fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, points to a need for more inspections and oversight of sites that store dangerous chemicals, he's spent this week arguing that Texas' lack of regulation is a reason companies should move their business there from other states. Perry paired a trip to the Bio International Convention in Chicago, Illinois, with a lot of big claims about why Texas is better for business than Illinois:

Perry, in his media campaign which cost some $80,000, said, "I have a word of advice for employers frustrated by Illinois' short-sighted approach to business: you need to get out while there's still time. The escape route leads straight to Texas, where limited government, low taxes and a pro-business environment are creating more jobs than any other state."

Factory Workers Walk Off Job in Massive Protest

Think we don't need unions? How about in West, Texas, where unions could have saved lives by fighting for safer working conditions? We need unions as much as other nations do.

From Crooks and Liars.

Hey, America - this is why you support unions!

Hundreds of thousands of garment workers walked out of their factories in Bangladesh Thursday, police said, to protest the deaths of 200 people in a building collapse, in the latest tragedy to hit the sector.

Grief turned to anger as the workers, some carrying sticks, blockaded key highways in at least three industrial areas just outside the capital Dhaka, forcing factory owners to declare a day's holiday.

"There were hundreds of thousands of them," said Abdul Baten, police chief of Gazipur district, where hundreds of large garment factories are based. "They occupied roads for a while and then dispersed."

Police inspector Kamrul Islam said the workers had attacked several factories whose bosses had refused to give employees the day off.

The rich get richer, the poor get poorer

From The Political Carnival

In one of the worst economic downturns since the Great Depression, the billionaire Koch brothers who habitually rail against government's unfair burden on the wealthy, have almost doubled their net worth to a combined $64 billion [...]

    During that same time period, some of the bleakest economic news has been reported for the rest of America. Just yesterday, the Pew Research Center released a study showing that between 2009 to 2011 the richest 7 percent of Americans increased their wealth by 28 percent while the remaining 93 percent of households lost 4 percent of their net worth. The study analyzed Census Bureau data for the period.

Homeless man's A/B test of generosity based on faith

Redditor Ventachinkway caught a photo of a homeless man conducting a clever exercise in behavioral economics disguised as an inquiry into the levels of spontaneous generosity as determined by religious creed or lack thereof.

The truth be told

North Atlantic seaweed is safe to eat

Seaweed has been eaten for thousands of years by people all over the world, and it can be considered a tasty and healthy food item. This is the conclusion from professor Ole G. Mouritsen, Department [...]

The Dimbulb Effect

When it comes to deciding which light bulb to buy, a label touting the product’s environmental benefit may actually discourage wingnut shoppers. Dena Gromet and Howard Kunreuther at The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School [...]

Hospital profits go up when complications occur

A surgical complication increases a procedure’s average contribution margin by 330 percent for the privately insured and 190 percent for Medicare patients, according to a study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The study underscores how ludicrous the incentives are in the American health care system, generally paying doctors for each medical service they provide, even if some of that care is the result of a surgery gone wrong...

The study does not imply that hospitals intentionally complicate surgeries to bring in more revenue. Most surgeries, about 95 percent, go off without a hitch. What it does suggest to the surgeon, writer and Harvard professor Atul Gawande is that hospitals now see little reason to invest in technologies that would reduce complications when the only prize at the end would be lower income...

"Oxyana," new doc on how Oxycontin addiction is destroying Appalachian communities

"Nothing here but Oxy and coal," says one of the subjects of Sean Dunne's new documentary Oxyana, which just won Special Jury Mention at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival. From Capital New York's review: "The 'here' is Oceana, a once-bustling mining town in West Virginia, now decimated by Oxycontin addiction to the point where the media have rebranded it 'Oxyana.'" More at Indiewire and Cinema Blend. Dunne is the same director behind the Insane Clown Posse doc "American Juggalo."

Your Brain on Drugs

Almost 10 percent of Americans suffer from addiction to alcohol or other drugs. The infographic below offers this and other startling and enlightening info fixes. More

Health News

sad yearn lonely depressed
Americans are over-diagnosed and over-treated for depression, according to a new study conducted at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The study examines adults with clinician-identified depression and individuals who experienced major depressive [...]
Efforts to lower health care costs in the United States have focused at times on demands to reform the medical malpractice system, with some researchers asserting that large, headline-grabbing and “frivolous” payouts are among the [...]

A new use for compounds related in composition to the active ingredient in marijuana may be on the horizon: a new research report published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology shows that compounds that stimulate [...]

Brace yourselves, tick season is coming

At Outside magazine, Carl Zimmer has a great long read on why the tick population in the United States is increasing — and why scientists are having so much trouble controlling both ticks, and the diseases they spread.

Why Do We Behave So Oddly In Elevators?

Many of us use them several times a day without really noticing. And yet the way we behave in elevators reveals a hidden anxiety. Most of us sort of shut down. We walk in. We press the button. We stand perfectly still.

Taking the lift could be the least memorable part of your journey to work, but Dr Lee Gray of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte has made it his business to scrutinise this overlooked form of public transportation.

Crazy Fan Theories About Children's Television Shows

Will in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air died on that basketball court in West Philadelphia. Alien and Blade Runner take place in the same universe. Batman Forever and Batman and Robin are actually movies made within the Batman universe after Bruce Wayne's secret identity was revealed.

These are theories that fans have developed about adult television programs and movies. But inventive and somewhat crazy fans have also spun out hidden connections and explanations for children's television programs. Here are eight good ones.

Rumored Statue of Liberty face-recognition supplier harasses and threatens journalist

Slate's Ryan Gallagher caught wind of a new face recognition software being rolled out at the Statue of Liberty. He interviewed a rep from Total Recall, who were reported to be representing Cognitec, the German company whose product, FaceVACS was going in on Liberty Island. Halfway through the interview, Total Recall's director of business development Peter Millius terminated the call, saying that the project was on hold, or possibly cancelled, "vetoed" by the Park Police.
Then it got weird. Cognitec and its lawyers began to barrage Gallagher with emails and letters warning him that if he wrote about this, they'd sue him. When he asked Total Recall for clarification, they threatened to sue him, personally, for harassment. The National Park Service didn't have much to say about the bid, saying "I'm not going to show my hand as far as what security technologies we have." Go, security-through-obscurity! Hurrah for spending tax dollars without any transparency!
Gallagher reported the whole story, including the threats. Whatever merits or demerits Total Recall and Cognitec have as companies, turning into weird, opaque legal-threat-generating machines in the middle of an interview and harassing and intimidating journalists sounds like the kind of thing that should disqualify them from getting any of the American public's money.
“We do work with Cognitec, but right now because of what happened with Sandy it put a lot of different pilots that we are doing on hold,” Peter Millius, Total Recall’s director of business development, said in a phone call. “It’s still months away, and the facial recognition right now is not going to be part of this phase.” Then, he put me hold and came back a few minutes later with a different position—insisting that the face-recognition project had in fact been “vetoed” by the Park Police and adding that I was “not authorized” to write about it.
That was weird, but it soon got weirder. About an hour after I spoke with Total Recall, an email from Cognitec landed in my inbox. It was from the company’s marketing manager, Elke Oberg, who had just one day earlier told me in a phone interview that “yes, they are going to try out our technology there” in response to questions about a face-recognition pilot at the statue. Now, Oberg had sent a letter ordering me to “refrain from publishing any information about the use of face recognition at the Statue of Liberty.” It said that I had “false information,” that the project had been “cancelled,” and that if I wrote about it, there would be “legal action.” Total Recall then separately sent me an almost identical letter—warning me not to write “any information about Total Recall and the Statue of Liberty or the use of face recognition at the Statue of Liberty.” Both companies declined further requests for comment, and Millius at Total Recall even threatened to take legal action against me personally if I continued to “harass” him with additional questions.

EFF challenges bogus 3D printing patents

Earlier this month, the Electronic Frontier Foundation asked the US Patent and Trademark Office to turn down six broad, bogus patents on 3D printing that could pave the way for even more patent-trolling on the emerging field of 3D printing. They worked with the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society and Ask Patents, as well as with its own supporters to gather evidence on the prior art that invalidates these applications. It's part of a larger project to systematically challenge patents in emerging fields -- next up is mesh networks -- providing a layer of vigilance and common sense atop the reckless and indifferent patent office.

Here are copies of what we submitted to the Patent Office. The good news is that so far, the Patent Office has accepted our submissions (because of that, if you're thinking of making your own preissuance submissions, you might want to use these as a model). Now we wait to see whether our input influences the examiners.
* Fabrication of Non-Homogeneous Articles Via Additive Manufacturing Using Three-Dimensional Voxel-Based Models
* Build Materials and Applications Thereof
* Method for Generating and Building Support Structures With Deposition-Based Digital Manufacturing Systems
* Process for Producing Three-Dimensionally Shaped Object and Device for Producing Same (Ask Patents request for prior art)
* Additive Manufacturing System and Method for Printing Customized Chocolate Confections (Ask Patents request for prior art)
* Ribbon Filament and Assembly for Use in Extrusion-based Digital Manufacturing Systems (Ask Patents request for prior art)
Our work doesn’t stop here. Next we’re going to investigate a number of pending applications that impact mesh networking technology—another area with an extremely active open development community and with tremendous potential. We’ll be asking you to help us again soon. Stay tuned!
Just one more way that EFF is making the future a better one.

SOPA's daddy is now in charge of government science funding, and he hates peer-review

Lamar Smith (r-TX) is the goon who brought SOPA to the nation. Now he's in charge of science funding in the House, and he's got some spectacularly stupid ideas for science as a whole.
Stuart says, "The new chair of the House of Representatives science committee has drafted a bill that, in effect, would replace peer review at the National Science Foundation (NSF) with a set of funding criteria chosen by Congress. For good measure, it would also set in motion a process to determine whether the same criteria should be adopted by every other federal science agency."
Smith's request to NSF didn't sit well with the top Democrat on the science committee, Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX). On Friday, she sent a blistering missive to Smith questioning his judgment and his motives.
"In the history of this committee, no chairman has ever put themselves forward as an expert in the science that underlies specific grant proposals funded by NSF," Johnson wrote in a letter obtained by ScienceInsider. "I have never seen a chairman decide to go after specific grants simply because the chairman does not believe them to be of high value."
In her letter, Johnson warns Smith that "the moment you compromise both the merit review process and the basic research mission of NSF is the moment you undo everything that has enabled NSF to contribute so profoundly to our national health, prosperity, and welfare." She asks him to "withdraw" his letter and offers to work with him "to identify a less destructive, but more effective, effort" to make sure NSF is meeting that mission.

Time Crystal

Perpetual motion has a special place in the annals of pseudoscience, but when Physics Nobel Laureate Frank Wilczek suggested that such thing can exist, the world has no choice but to perk up and listen:
In February 2012, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Frank Wilczek decided to go public with a strange and, he worried, somewhat embarrassing idea. Impossible as it seemed, Wilczek had developed an apparent proof of “time crystals” — physical structures that move in a repeating pattern, like minute hands rounding clocks, without expending energy or ever winding down. Unlike clocks or any other known objects, time crystals derive their movement not from stored energy but from a break in the symmetry of time, enabling a special form of perpetual motion. [...]
Now, a technological advance has made it possible for physicists to test the idea. They plan to build a time crystal, not in the hope that this perpetuum mobile will generate an endless supply of energy (as inventors have striven in vain to do for more than a thousand years) but that it will yield a better theory of time itself.
Natalie Wolchover and Simons Science News has the article: Here.

Chernobyl, 27 Years On

Last Friday was the anniversary of the worst nuclear power plant accident in history. On April 26, 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine, an explosion and fire released large quantities of radioactive particles into the atmosphere, which spread over much of the western USSR and Europe.

The Painted Landscapes Of China Danxia

China Danxia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the name given in China to landscapes developed on continental red terrigenous sedimentary beds influenced by endogenous forces and exogenous forces. They are characterized by spectacular red cliffs and a range of erosional landforms, including dramatic natural pillars, towers, ravines, valleys and waterfalls.

These rugged landscapes have helped to conserve sub-tropical broad-leaved evergreen forests, and host many species of flora and fauna, about 400 of which are considered rare or threatened.

Deep, detailed image of distant universe

Staring at a small patch of sky for more than 50 hours with the ultra-sensitive Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA), astronomers have for the first time identified discrete sources that account for nearly [...]

Snakes in a Car

Angie Guerrero was driving on the freeway when she felt something slithering between her legs. When she looked down, she saw a snake:
She says she was so startled she nearly hit the car in the next lane.
Guerrero calmly found a spot to pull over, grabbed her dogs, jumped out and called 911.
It took the CHP about an hour to commandeer the snake, which was hiding in the dashboard.
CBS Los Angeles has the story: Here.

Animal Pictures