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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 15, 2013

The Daily Drift

People are strange ...

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Today in History

756   Abd-al-Rahman is proclaimed emir of Cordoba, Spain.  
1213   King John submits to the Pope, offering to make England and Ireland papal fiefs. Pope Innocent III lifts the interdict of 1208.  
1602   English navigator Bartholomew Gosnold discovers Cape Cod.  
1614   An aristocratic uprising in France ends with treaty of St. Menehould.  
1618   Johannes Kepler discovers his harmonics law.  
1702   The War of Spanish Succession begins.  
1730   Following the resignation of Lord Townshend, Robert Walpole becomes the sole minister in the English cabinet.  
1768   By the Treaty of Versailles, France purchases Corsica from Genoa.  
1795   Napoleon enters the Lombardian capital of Milan in triumph.  
1820   The U.S. Congress designates the slave trade a form of piracy.  
1849   Neapolitan troops enter Palermo, Sicily.  
1862   The Union ironclad Monitor and the gunboat Galena fire on Confederate troops at the Battle of Drewry's Bluff, Virginia.  
1864   At the Battle of New Market, Virginia Military Institute cadets repel a Union attack.  
1886   Emily Dickinson dies in Amherst, Mass., where she had lived in seclusion for the previous 24 years. 1916   U.S. Marines land in Santo Domingo to quell civil disorder.  
1918   Pfc. Henry Johnson and Pfc. Needham Roberts receive the Croix de Guerre for their services in World War I. They are the first Americans to win France's highest military medal.  
1930   Ellen Church becomes the first airline stewardess.  
1942   The United States begins rationing gasoline.  
1958   Sputnik III is launched by the Soviet Union.  
1963   The last Project Mercury space flight, carrying Gordon Cooper, is launched.  
1968   U.S. Marines relieve army troops in Nhi Ha, South Vietnam after a fourteen-day battle.  
1972   George Wallace is shot by Arthur Bremer in Laurel, Maryland.  
1975   The merchant ship Mayaguez is recaptured from Cambodia's Khmer Rouge.  
1988   Soviets forces begin their withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Non Sequitur


The Internet is Destroying the Middle Class

My dream is to cut all ties with civilization but still be on the InternetWhere have all the jobs gone? Computer scientist, and many people say, visionary, Jaron Lanier (he supposedly coined the term "virtual reality" when he helped pioneer the field), has found the culprit: the Internet.
In his new book Who Owns the Future? Jaron explains why the Internet is destroying the middle class by killing jobs, wealth (except for the lucky few) and even - gasp - democracy itself:
“Here’s a current example of the challenge we face,” he writes in the book’s prelude: “At the height of its power, the photography company Kodak employed more than 14,000 people and was worth $28 billion. They even invented the first digital camera. But today Kodak is bankrupt, and the new face of digital photography has become Instagram. When Instagram was sold to Facebook for a billion dollars in 2012, it employed only 13 people. Where did all those jobs disappear? And what happened to the wealth that all those middle-class jobs created?” [...]
So Kodak has 140,000 really good middle-class employees, and Instagram has 13 employees, period. You have this intense concentration of the formal benefits, and that winner-take-all feeling is not just for the people who are on the computers but also from the people who are using them. So there’s this tiny token number of people who will get by from using YouTube or Kickstarter, and everybody else lives on hope. There’s not a middle-class hump. It’s an all-or-nothing society.
Read more in this interview with Scott Timberg of Salon: Here.

Dick Cheney Whose Lies Killed Hundreds of Thousands of People Says Benghazi is Worse

Dick Cheney whose lies are directly responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths went on Faux News to claim that Benghazi is the worst scandal that he has ever seen.
Cheney appeared on Sean Handjob’s propaganda hour, and said, “I watched Benghazi with great interest, Sean, and I think it is one of worst incidents frankly, that I can recall in my career. It put the whole the capability claiming that the terrorist problem solved once we got Bin Laden. That al-Qaeda was over with. If they would have told the truth about Benghazi that it was a terrorist attack by an al-Qaeda affiliated group, it would have destroyed the false image of competence that was the basis of his campaign for reelection. They lied. They claimed that it was because of a demonstration video, so they wouldn’t have to admit that it was really all about their incompetence. The State Department, and the White House, and the NSC ignored repeated warnings from the CIA about the threat. They ignored messages from their own people on the ground that they needed more security. Indeed, they reduced what was already there. The administration either had no forces ready to respond to an attack, which should have been anticipated on the anniversary of 9/11, or they refused to deploy them when our people asked for help.”
Cheney also claimed that the cover up is ongoing. Most of what Dick Cheney told Sean Handjob was a lie, but it is amazing that the former vice president tried to take credit for the killing of Bin Laden. (Notice that he said, “we” when referring to the operation that killed Bin Laden.) It is also not surprising that Cheney still doesn’t understand how military operations work. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates called the idea that we could have sent forces into Benghazi, “cartoonish,” and blasted his fellow Republicans for thinking that the president could have just sent the military into Benghazi.
The great irony here is that Dick Cheney is claiming that the events in Benghazi are worse than the fact that he and the rest of the shrub junta made 935 false statements about Iraq in the two years after 9/11. Those false statements, and Cheney’s doctoring of intelligence reports led to an invasion that killed anywhere between 100,000- and 1 million people.
Dick Cheney’s lies cost at least 4,488 Americans their lives in Iraq, but Benghazi, where no criminal activity occurred is worse. Over 320,000 Americans suffered brain injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan, but according to Cheney, Benghazi was worse. The epidemic of veterans’ suicides rages on, but Cheney wants us to believe that Benghazi was worse. Dick Cheney can’t travel outside of the United States, because of the backlash he inspires, but Benghazi was worse.
Former Vice President Cheney is trying to unjustly convict President Obama for his own crimes. Dick Cheney lied and millions died. repugicans can scream Benghazi until the end of time, but it will never wash away Dick Cheney’s crimes.

The truth be told

American private universities use poor kids' tuition to subsidize rich kids' degrees

In The Atlantic, Jordan Weissmann does a very good job of summing up the New America Foundation's important new report, Undermining Pell: How Colleges Compete for Wealthy Students and Leave the Low-Income Behind [PDF], by Stephen Burd. The report documents how private universities in America have raised the cost of tuition to incredible heights, and reserve their "merit scholarships" (paid for with government grants) for wealthy students whose parents can pay the rest in cash, while poor students have to take out punishing loans, effectively subsidizing the rich students' education and career opportunities.
Sometimes, colleges (and states) really are just competing to outbid each other on star students. But there are also economic incentives at play, particularly for small, endowment-poor institutions. "After all," Burd writes, "it's more profitable for schools to provide four scholarships of $5,000 each to induce affluent students who will be able to pay the balance than it is to provide a single $20,000 grant to one low-income student." The study notes that, according to the Department of Education's most recent study, 19 percent of undergrads at four-year colleges received merit aid despite scoring under 700 on the SAT. Their only merit, in some cases, might well have been mom and dad's bank account.
There's nothing inherently wrong with handing out tuition breaks to the middle class, or even the rich. The problem is that it seems to be happening at the expense of the poor. At 89 percent of the 479 private colleges Burd examined, students from families earning less than $30,000 a year were charged an average "net price" of more than $10,000 annually -- "net price" being the full annual cost of attendance minus all institutional and government aid. Less technically, it's what students can actually expect to pay. At 60 percent of private colleges, that net price was more than $15,000.
In other words, low-income families are routinely being asked to fork over more than half of their annual income for the privilege of sending their child off to campus for a year.

Insanity is ...

How Anonymous got involved in fighting for justice for rape victims

Mother Jones's Josh Harkinson has an excellent piece on the history of KnightSec, an Anonymous offshoot that publicized the Steubenville and Halifax rape cases, galvanizing both the public and police responses to both. The piece includes an interview with Michelle McKee, who is credited with swaying a critical mass of Anons to participation in KnightSec. The whole story is pretty incredible, especially where it spills over into the real world:
The video went viral, and the next Occupy Steubenville rally drew 2,000 people to the courthouse steps. Because MC brought the sound system, he ended up serving as the de facto master of ceremonies (which is how he ended up with his Twitter handle). As he played excerpts of the Nodianos video over the loudspeakers, he told me, people in the crowd grew so angry that he started to worry that they would riot.
When the Steubenville sheriff showed up, MC invited him up and grilled him about the case. In the end, he diffused the tension by giving the cop a hug. "I'm going to take this negative energy and turn it into a positive thing," he remembers thinking. "You've got to let the crowd vent."
And vent they did. For four hours, there was a catharsis of personal pain and grief that nobody in the small town could have imagined. Women who had been raped stood in front of the crowd, clad in Guy Fawkes masks, to share their stories. Some of them unmasked at the end of their testimonies as they burst into tears. Rapes at parties, date rapes, rapes by friends and relatives—their pent-up secrets came pouring out. "It turned into this women's liberation movement, in a way," MC recalls. "And it just changed everything. There was nothing anybody could do against us at that point because it was so real and so true."

Buy a pressure cooker, get a free visit from the FBI!

Talal Al-Rouqi, a Saudi student in Michigan, brought a pressure cooker filled with meat and rice to his friend's house for dinner.

The next day, he was interrogated by FBI agents, who warned him not to venture outside again with the pressure cooker.

Bakersfield cops and CHP beat man to death while he begs for his life, then confiscate witnesses' footage

Kern County deputies are accused of savagely beating a man to death while he begged for his life and then intimidating witnesses into giving up their cameras and phones in a coverup. The victim, David Sal Silva, was a 33-year-old father of four, and is alleged to have been publicly intoxicated in Bakersfield, CA, when Kern County deputies and California Highway Patrol officers began to beat him. After he was dead, the officers are said to have then systematically intimidated all witnesses into giving up their cameras and phones:
John Tello, a criminal law attorney, is representing two witnesses who took video footage and five other witnesses to the incident. He said his clients are still shaken by what they saw.
"When I arrived to the home of one of the witnesses that had video footage, she was with her family sitting down on the couch, surrounded by three deputies," Tello said.
Tello said the witness was not allowed to go anywhere with her phone and was being quarantined inside her home.
When Tello tried to talk to the witness in private and with the phone, one of the deputies stopped him and told him he couldn't take the phone anywhere because it was evidence to the investigation, the attorney said.
"This was not a crime scene where the evidence was going to be destroyed," Tello said. "These were concerned citizens who were basically doing a civic duty of preserving the evidence, not destroying it as they (sheriff deputies) tried to make it seem."
A search warrant wasn't presented to either of the witnesses until after Tello arrived, he said, adding that one phone was seized before the warrant was produced.
Tello said the phone of the first witness was taken after the deputies told him he was either going to give up the phone the easy way or the hard way.
"They basically told him they were either going to keep him at this house all night until they could find a judge to sign a search warrant or he could just turn over his phone," he said.

Man run down in dispute over duck

A pensioner in Australia's Northern Territory with a "vendetta" against a former tenant posted wanted signs all over rural Darwin seeking information about a stolen duck before his obsession turned violent. Geoffrey Allan Thomson, 50, will be sentenced in the NT Supreme Court later this month after being found guilty of recklessly driving a car at his rival, Daniel Eaton, at a Bees Creek property in January last year.
The court was told: "Thomson had a vendetta against Daniel Eaton that extended to starting a poster campaign in the rural area. "It was an obsession of his to bring Mr Eaton to justice for a grievance he had in his mind about the loss of a bike and a duck." Prosecutor Steven Ledek told the jury that Thomson "linked" the two thefts to Mr Eaton, 28, because he believed his short-term tenant had done wrong by him.

The alleged thefts happened six months after Mr Eaton had moved off Thomson's property. But Mr Ledek said the pensioner started putting wanted signs all over the tight-knit community seeking details of Mr Eaton's location. The court was told the signs read: "Wanted Daniel Eaton, son of Robin and Bernadette Eaton of Eaton Builders. $100 reward for information in relation to a stolen motorbike and duck." The Crime Stoppers number was posted at the bottom of the poster.

Mr Ledek said Thomson found Mr Eaton at his parent's home before driving straight at him as he ran down the driveway, clipping him in the leg. But Thomson denied the allegations. Thomson also told the court he had two rules at his property - no police and no noise. He claimed Mr Eaton had broken both and had left his demountable damaged when he vacated after only living there three months.

Monaco to push back sea for luxury development

Tiny, densely populated Monaco plans to push back the sea to make way for luxury apartment blocks and businesses. The wealthy principality in the south of France has invited bids for the six-hectare (14-acre) development project.

The competing bids will have to be submitted by 23 July, and the plan is to complete the new district by 2024. Reclaiming the area from the sea is expected to cost 1bn euros (£842m). The rocky tax haven has hardly any space onshore for new construction.

A similar project was abandoned in 2008 because of environmental concerns and the global financial crisis. This time there will be a thorough environmental impact assessment, as the new site lies between two protected marine conservation areas. The new development will be near Grimaldi Forum, site of a seaside concert hall and huge conference center.

The Monaco government says the new district will have to meet the highest environmental standards. Sustainable urban design will be a feature - so for example there will be access for vehicles, but the district will favor pedestrians and cyclists. The apartment blocks will be from six to 10 stories high and have private gardens.

Paris Under Your Feet

The underground water reservoir tank of Mountsouris was built in 1874.Today it still supplies 1/5 of the Parisian population with water in the south and the center of Paris. The Montsouris tank is said to have a better taste than all the other sources in the capital. I lived there for a time in the 1970s and the water was better there than any other place in the city.

A History Of The Oval Office

The Oval Office, located in the West Wing of the White House, is the official office of the President of the United States. Over the decades, Americans developed a sentimental attachment to the Oval Office through memorable images.

In 1909, President William Howard Taft had the West Wing expanded and extensively remodeled. He relocated the chief executive's office in the middle of the south side - taking over the secretary's round-ended office - and changed its shape to a full oval.

The Romanov's

The last Russian tzar helps his daughter enjoy a smoke in one of the newly revealed photographs from the slain family's final days.
Photos of the last Russian tzar and his family were recently rediscovered in a small museum.

Stunning Byzantine Mosaic Uncovered

The giant mosaic would have been the floor of a public building

Did a volcanic eruption nearly kill off ancient humans?

Did a volcanic eruption nearly kill off ancient humans?

Short answer: We don't know. What makes this story by Erin Wayman interesting is the way it carefully breaks down an almost Hollywood-ready narrative and finds the fascinating uncertainty lurking underneath. The truth is, uncertainty is cool. Because it means there's more stuff left to discover.

Random Celebrity Photo

Has your doctor taken money from drug companies?

Has your doctor taken money from drug companies? 

Mine hasn't. At least, he hasn't taken money from any of the 15 companies that have been forced to disclose information about gifts and cash they give to doctors. Pro Publica has put that information into an easily searchable database. It's not total transparency — the drug companies whose payouts are included here only represent 47% of the total market — but it's a good place to start if you want to know whether your doctor has any conflicts of interest that could affect your health.

A 93-year-old neuroscientist explains how memory works

At an age when some people are struggling with their own memories (and many others are just plain dead) neuroscientist Brenda Milner does an amazing job of explaining her contributions to our understanding of how memory works. Milner is one of the researchers who worked with H.M., the famous patient who lost his ability to form new memories after undergoing brain surgery.
This is a long talk — almost an hour — but it's a fascinating look at the career of a scientist who changed the way we think about the mind, told in her own words.

Health News

Feather emerges from baby's neck

"No one knew what was bothering 7-month-old Mya Whittington. Her discomfort stumped her parents and doctors. She was finally hospitalized - and a 2-inch feather eventually poked its way out of her neck, shocking everyone." 

What happens when a drug works — but only for one person?

Really, really intriguing piece at Nature News by Heidi Ledford. It's all about a class of patients called "exceptional responders" — aka, the people who got a benefit (sometimes a big one) from a medication or treatment that otherwise failed the clinical trial process. When we do clinical trials, we're looking at group averages. We want to know whether a drug performed better than placebo when administered to lots of people. Sometimes, though, drugs that can't do that do seem to have a positive effect for a few lucky individuals. Now, scientists are trying to figure out why that is. What makes those people special? And how should this change the way we do research? 

Random Photo

Science News

New York University physicists have uncovered how energy is released and dispersed in magnetic materials in a process akin to the spread of forest fires, a finding that has the potential to deepen our understanding [...]
Some parts of the body, like the liver, can regenerate themselves after damage. But others, such as our nervous system, are considered either irreparable or slow to recover, leaving thousands with a lifetime of pain, [...]
A global-scale case of indigestion eats away at the organisms of the Earth's oceans, but delicious Chesapeake Bay oysters may be just the marine medicine people need to fight the devastating effects of ocean acidification.
Nestled behind a waterfall in western New York state is an eternal flame whose beauty is only surpassed by its mystery.
So-called junk DNA, the vast majority of the genome that doesn't code for proteins, really isn't needed for a healthy organism.

The man who discovered ozone hole dies

Total Ozone Mapping SpectrometerMan who discovered ozone hole dies

Joe Farman, the man who helped identify the "hole" in the ozone layer over Antarctica, dies after a short illness aged 82.

X Rated New Method

Detecting alien worlds presents a significant challenge since they are small, faint, and close to their stars. The two most prolific techniques for finding exoplanets are radial velocity (looking for wobbling stars) and transits (looking [...]

In the early hours Monday morning, the sun exploded to life with an X1.7 flare -- the biggest of the year, so far.

Awesome Pictures


Animal News

The fin whale is the second-largest animal ever to live on Earth. It is also, paradoxically, one of the least understood. The animal’s huge size and global range make its movements and behavior hard to [...]

American alligators could help to revolutionize tooth replacement in humans.

Hourglass tree frogDecline fear for plants and animals

More than half of common plant species and a third of animals could see a serious decline in their habitat range because of climate change, a study suggests.

Meet the Potoo

This bird is Nyctibius griseus, or the common Potoo. The nocturnal bird of Central and South America is a master of camouflage, but you'd never know it by looking at those crazy eyes. See more pictures of this funny-looking bird at imgur.

Animal Pictures