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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.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Daily Drift

What he said ...

Carolina Naturally is read in 192 countries around the world daily.

Shuckin' Time! ...

Today is Corn On The Cob Day 

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Today in History

1346   Charles IV of Luxembourg is elected Holy Roman Emperor.  
1509   Henry VIII of England marries Catherine of Aragon. 1770   Captain James Cook runs aground on the Great Barrier Reef.  
1798   Napoleon Bonaparte takes the island of Malta.  
1861   Union forces under General George B. McClellen repulse a Confederate force at Rich Mountain in western Virginia.  
1865   Major General Henry W. Halleck finds documents and archives of the Confederate government in Richmond, Virginia. This discovery will lead to the publication of the official war records.  
1895   Charles E. Duryea receives the first U.S. patent granted to an American inventor for a gasoline-driven automobile.  
1903   King Alexander and Queen Draga of Belgrade are assassinated by members of the Serbia army. 1915   British troops take Cameroon in Africa.  
1930   William Beebe, of the New York Zoological Society, dives to a record-setting depth of 1,426 feet off the coast of Bermuda, in a diving chamber called a bathysphere.  
1934   The Disarmament Conference in Geneva ends in failure.  
1940   The Italian Air Force bombs the British fortress at Malta in the Mediterranean.  
1943   The Italian island of Pantelleria surrenders after a heavy air bombardment.  
1944   U.S. carrier-based planes attack Japanese airfields on Guam , Rota, Saipan and Tinian islands, preparing for the invasion of Saipan.  
1963   Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is arrested in Florida for trying to integrate restaurants.  
1967   Israel and Syria accept a U. N. cease-fire.  
1987   Margaret Thatcher wins her third consecutive term as Prime Minister. 

Non Sequitur


Chewbacca vs TSA

It's not wise to upset a wookiee, as the TSA learned the hard way.
Peter Mayhew, the actor who played Chewbacca in Star Wars, was upset that the TSA detained his lightsaber-shaped cane while traveling after attending Denver Comic Con. But instead of using the Force, Mayhew used something even more effective: Twitter.
The 69-year-old actor tweeted about the incident through his account @TheWookieRoars, posting the picture you see above.
"Won't allow me through the airport with me cane!" he said. "Giant man need giant cane. Small cane snap like toothpick. Besides, my lightsaber is just cool. I'd miss it."

Did you know ...

That Monsanto concedes defeat to Europe's opposition to GMO

About attacking the social safety net

Aboutt the world's oldest torah found in Italy

Colonoscopy, A Justification For Obamacare But Single Payer Is Still Best

Last week I read the New York Times article “The $2.7 Trillion Medical Bill” by Elisabeth Rosenthal. The article started with the following chart.
Obamacare Affordable Care Act ACA Colonoscopy
Suffice it to say that anyone reading the above chart should be appalled. The chart above shows that Americans are paying much more for the same procedures, at times by several orders of magnitude higher. Sadly within the US, pricing from one hospital to the next can have even larger variations.
A Colonoscopy is a case in point. It is a perfect illustration of what is wrong with the American form of administering healthcare. First let me relay a short form of my personal story.
As a small business owner I purchased health insurance for the family after my wife stopped working. She stopped while pregnant with my 22 year old daughter. I have had continuous health insurance for the family for those 22 years through an engineer’s group plan. After the cost reached near $20,000 per year a few years back, I bailed into a catastrophic health plan for my daughter and me, and a high risk plan for my wife (she has Lupus and could not be insured otherwise). When my daughter started college, I added the college’s health insurance policy for my daughter. Yes, I have three policies.
In those 22 years I have never had a colonoscopy for screening. I knew it was time but since no one in my family that I knew had colon cancer, I figured it was a calculated risk. Because under the old health insurance paradigm, I knew if I had polyps, health insurance going forward could be rescinded or denied in the future. With the advent of Obamacare (Affordable Care Act), those fears were no longer there.
First, the cost of the colonoscopy was covered by my insurance policy, and no matter what was found, I would still maintain my policy and going forward I could still shop for any other policy like anyone else. Suffice it to say, two polyps were removed and it was the type that over the years could have turned cancerous. I think it is safe to say Obamacare saved me at least money and maybe my life.
Decisions like mine are made by millions of Americans every year because of a failed healthcare system. The major culprit is treating the entire healthcare system like a market where goods and services are traded and priced based on supply and demand. That has been one of the most immoral practices of our country. If one doubts this the following excerpt from the above mentioned article is probative.
Colonoscopies offer a compelling case study. They are the most expensive screening test that healthy Americans routinely undergo — and often cost more than childbirth or an appendectomy in most other developed countries. Their numbers have increased many fold over the last 15 years, with data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggesting that more than 10 million people get them each year, adding up to more than $10 billion in annual costs.
Largely an office procedure when widespread screening was first recommended, colonoscopies have moved into surgery centers — which were created as a step down from costly hospital care but are now often a lucrative step up from doctors’ examining rooms — where they are billed like a quasi-operation. They are often prescribed and performed more frequently than medical just guidelines recommend.
The high price paid for colonoscopies mostly results not from top-notch patient care, according to interviews with health care experts and economists, but from business plans seeking to maximize revenue; haggling between hospitals and insurers that have no relation to the actual costs of performing the procedure; and lobbying, marketing and turf battles among specialists that increase patient fees. [source].
The same colonoscopy procedures can range from just over $1,000.00 to over $9,000.00 dollars. If you are self-employed with no insurance you pay the higher rate. If you have the muscle of an insurance group you may pay much less. If you have the muscle of ‘we the people’, your government, you would pay a price where theoretically gouging would not be allowed.
Markets are good in some areas and immoral in others. The identity of a nation should be defined by the education, upward mobility, and health of its citizens. The acceleration towards privatization is increasingly putting the vast majority of the nation on the losing side of all three. It is reflected in citizens’ aggregate education slippage relative to the rest of the world, diminished upward mobility, and aggregate poor healthcare outcomes.
Obamacare is a fair compromise in a misinformed country where socialized medicine is still a feared and bad word. A single payer system with cost controls is best. Notwithstanding all countries with better health outcome that follow that sensible model, Americans will eventually be forced to grow up. Americans will be forced to disregard the misinformation from the American Plutocracy that profits from their ignorance.

The truth be told

Darrell Issa Won’t Release IRS Transcripts Because They Prove Him Wrong

Darrell Issa
Darrell Issa (r-CA) is going to ignore facts once again, and forge ahead, even though he was called out Sunday by Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the top Democrat on the House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Cummings released a partial official interview transcript to Candy Crowley on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday, and it was revealed that the IRS manager behind the extra review of Tea Party groups described himself as a wingnut repugican during the interviews.
This fact kills Darrell Issa’s entire premise that there was a political agenda behind the reviews. But Issa said in a statement released to the press that the IRS manager’s comments “did not provide anything enlightening or contradict other witness accounts.” No? They sure contradict Issa’s accounts to the press.
Issa’s office released a statement in which Issa danced quickly to avoid commenting on the actual fact that a wingnut repugican was behind the “targeting”, “I strongly disagree with Ranking Member Cummings’ assertion that we know everything we need to know about inappropriate targeting of tea party groups by the IRS and the case is, in his word, ‘solved,’. His extreme and reckless assertions are a signal that his true motivation is stopping needed Congressional oversight and he has no genuine interest in working, on a bipartisan basis, to expose the full truth.
“The American public wants to know why targeting occurred and who was involved. The testimony excerpts Ranking Member Cummings revealed today did not provide anything enlightening or contradict other witness accounts. The only thing Ranking Member Cummings left clear in his comments today is that if it were up to him the investigation would be closed. Fortunately, the decision to close the investigation is not his to make. Both House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp and I are committed to leading a fact based investigation that fully exposes all relevant facts about IRS efforts to target Americans for their political beliefs.”
Issa does not say that the IRS manager is not a wingnut repugican.
Darrell Issa is great at spin, but here’s the thing. If he really is committed to exposing all of the facts, why doesn’t he release the full transcripts for the public? This is very similar to his insistence that testimony that contradicted the repugican version of Benghazi gate be relegated to behind closed doors, when the cameras were no longer rolling.
Cummings demanded that Darrell Issa release all of the transcripts from the IRS hearings, and was so confident that the full transcripts would prove his point that he threatened to release them himself if Issa won’t by the end of this week.
Cummings got to the bottom of Issa’s giant fib on Sunday:
Cummings: Listen up now. He was a 21-year veteran of the IRS. And he was — he described himself in the interviews in response to a repugican attorney’s question as a wingnut repugican. Very significant. He is a wingnut repugican working for the IRS. I think this interview and these statements go a long way to what’s showing that the White House was not involved in this. We knew that — and this is the guy by the way, this wingnut 21-year veteran of IRS is the same one who sent the initial case, the Tea Party case, up to the Washington technical office.
Darrell Issa should be forced to release the full transcripts, instead of only the pieces that reinforce his Heritage-induced 2014 politicking for the repugican cabal on our dime. If the manager did not identify himself as a wingnut repugican, let us all hear the truth.
Let the public decide for themselves, based on all of the facts. But if it turns out that Issa knew he was wrong when he accused the White House of being behind the IRS review of tea party groups, perhaps the press might consider no longer taking Darrell Issa’s clown show so seriously. It’s not as if he has any credibility to carry him through his inability to back up his claims.
Darrell Issa won’t release the full transcripts because they prove him wrong. If they had an ounce of White House scandal in them, they’d have been gussied up, exaggerated, sold and devoured by the Issa-fawning press by now. Issa just can’t bear to see yet another scandal die due to reality not coinciding with his claims.

When Fascism Comes to America, It Will Be Cloaked In Patriotism

There is a quote (often misattributed to Sinclair Lewis) that states, “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” While the actual quote seems to be a condensed meme of a collection of prognostications from the 1930′s as Hitler came to power, it is very true of where  we find ourselves headed in the 21st century here in the United States.
The word “fascist” is thrown around a lot these days and it’s usually by people who have no clue what it really means. They bleat about “Big Brother” and an authoritarian government, even as they ironically vote for the politicians who support the very same things. Even though we won the war against fascism in Germany, it seems as if we brought that back with us like a parasite that would lay dormant for a few decades.
In a nutshell, fascism is basically an authoritarian government for corporations, by corporations. Extreme nationalism, the loss of individual liberties, and collectivism that benefits corporations rather than people. Basically, corporate protection and welfare. This is where the dollar is placed above the individual, where human beings are just cogs in the wheel. Have you ever heard your boss say “you’re an asset to the company”? That’s it, you are an asset just like the office printer — and just like that printer, you’ll be thrown away once your usefulness has run its course.
Working class people have been voting against their own self-interests for a long time now, especially here in the South since the beginning of Nixon’s “Southern Strategy.” They’ve been convinced that minorities and liberals will take their rights and jobs away, so they turn around and vote for the people who actually do take their rights and jobs away.
Fascism draws strength through the public’s need for patriotism and religion, hence the flag and cross reference in the misattributed Sinclair Lewis quote. Wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross, many of us have been duped by “patriotic” legislation like “Right To Work,” “Citizens United” and ”The Patriot Act” which has received a lot of attention lately with the NSA leak.
We see it everywhere when politicians try to peddle their snake oil — they just wrap it in the flag and give it a pretty name designed to lull the public into buying it. Just look at Bush’s “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” Or look through some of the details of Paul Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity” budget, which would have cut billions from social safety net programs in favor of tax cuts for millionaires, while adding a trillion dollars to the deficit by 2023. But it’s the “Path to Prosperity,” so it must be good for us, right?
It’s the “Patriot Act,” and I’m a patriot — it must be good for me!
It’s the “Right To Work,” and I want to work — it must be good for me!
It’s “Citizens United” and I want unity among my fellow patriots — it must be good for me!
Patriotism! Freedom! Prosperity for all!
Fascism depends on a “my country, right or wrong” mentality. It thrives on a twisted version of the words of a Jewish rebel 2 millenniums ago. Finally, fascism relies on the very people it suppresses to continue to support it and to be the storm troopers in the fight for the “Evil Empire” of corporate interests. As long as a good portion of the country continues to let the wool be pulled over their eyes, this strategy isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.” – 1984

The truth hurts

Monday, June 10

Bernie Sanders Proposes Youth Jobs Act That Would Create Hundreds of Thousands of Jobs

Sen. Bernie Sanders announced today that he will be proposing a youth jobs bill in the Senate that will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs for the nation’s young unemployed.
In a statement Sen. Sanders said, “At a time when the youth unemployment rate is over 16 percent, and the teen unemployment rate is over 24 percent, we have got to do everything we can to make sure that young Americans have the jobs they need to pay for a college education and to move up the economic ladder.”
Sanders’ bill is modeled after the stimulus, and President Obama’s American Jobs Act. The Youth Jobs Act would provide $3 billion to create hundreds of thousands of jobs for the country’s low income and economically disadvantaged young people. The legislation would also provide skills and job training. The Department of Labor would provide $1.5 billion in grants to states to provide job opportunities. States could also use the money to identify employment opportunities in emerging occupations, or occupations that will help their own communities through the public or non-profit sector. Another $1.5 billion in grants would be given to state and local communities to provide job training and apprenticeship programs. All states would receive a minimum of $15 million for summer and year round jobs. The rest of the funding would be used to target areas of high youth unemployment and poverty.
By making the program a grant instead of a mandate, Sen. Sanders’ plan should appeal to some red states, because they can use the funding as they wish to create programs that will lower youth unemployment. The problem will be the wingnut extremists in the Senate who will do their best to kill the legislation with claims that the nation can’t afford it. (The same repugicans who killed a jobs program for veterans that was already paid for will likely oppose the Youth Jobs Act for the exact same reason.)
Unlike the repugican plan of growing the economy through tax cuts, Sen. Sanders’ plan is based on things that have been proven to work. Sanders isn’t giving unemployed young people a government job, or a check. He is handing the states the resources that they need to innovate and create new opportunities for the future.
His plan is a great idea, but repugicans have made killing great ideas their top priority.
Congressional repugicans don’t want to do anything to help the economy, and the people suffering through it. Any program that would create jobs is viewed through the partisan prism of giving President Obama a victory, and Obama success is something that repugicans have sworn to block at every turn. Sen. Sanders has given Democrats and the left something to fight for. A weapon to use against the mindless automated obstruction championed by the repugican cabal.
Bernie Sanders is providing a ray of hope that there are still people in Washington who want to do the right thing for us. Sen. Sanders is fighting for the nation’s tomorrow. He is giving a voice to our hope for the future, and battling those who rejoice in the economic darkness of the recent past.

The Wealthy Aren’t Job Creators, Middle-Class Workers Are

Nick Hanauer
On Thursday, entrepreneur and self-described one percenter Nick Hanauer warned Congress that rich people like him aren’t the engines of the economy. In a testimony before the Senate Banking Committee, he explained why, in fact, middle-class workers are the economy’s real job creators:
In the same way that it’s a fact that the sun, not earth is the center of the solar system, it’s also a fact that the middle class, not rich business people like me are the center of America’s economy. […]
As an entrepreneur and investor, I have started or helped start, dozens of businesses and initially hired lots of people. But if no one could have afforded to buy what we had to sell, my businesses would all would have failed and all those jobs would have evaporated.
He described what he calls a “virtuous cycle” in which middle class consumers have money to buy goods, which increases demand and therefore hiring. The rich, on the other hand, don’t fuel the economy with their consumption in the same way. “I earn 1,000 times the median wage, but I do not buy 1,000 times as much stuff,” he noted.
But the country’s policies pretend otherwise. He included facts that display how skewed America’s policy priorities really are:
  • Corporate profits and unemployment are simultaneously at 50-year highs.
  • The share of income for the richest 1 percent has tripled since 1980 while their taxes have only risen by 50 percent.
  • The rich enjoy a 15-20 percent tax rate on capital gains, dividends, and carried interest while the top marginal rate on middle class Americans is 39 percent.
He concludes, “Tax the wealthy and corporations – as we once did in this country – and invest that money in the middle class-as we once did in this country.”
Facts back up his proposal that taxing the rest and investing the revenues can spur economic growth. The years following the Bush tax cuts were the worst for job creation since record keeping began. Meanwhile, job growth in the post-war period has been stronger when the top income tax rate is higher.
Yet wages just fell to an all-time low. Corporate profits, on the other hand, have outpaced wages by 20 percent since 2008.

Daily Comic Relief


Rent-a-Tire businessA new kind of enterprise has joined the long list of businesses that take advantage of the poor. Joining the cadre of payday lenders, pawn shops, unscrupulous used-car dealers is rent-a-tire places, from which consumers pay up to four times the cost of buying:
When the tires on their Dodge Caravan had worn so thin that the steel belts were showing through, Don and Florence Cherry couldn't afford to buy a new set.
So they decided to rent instead.
The Rich Square, N.C., couple last September agreed to pay Rent-N-Roll $54.60 a month for 18 months in exchange for four basic Hankook tires. Over the life of the deal, that works out to $982, almost triple what the radials would have cost at Wal-Mart.
"I know you have to pay a lot more this way," said Florence Cherry, a 57-year-old nurse who drives the 15-year-old van when her husband, a Vietnam veteran, isn't using it to get to his job as a prison guard. "But we didn't really have a choice."
Ken Bensinger of the Los Angeles Times reports: Here.

BBC slams conspiracy-monger Alex Jones

  “We have an idiot on the show”

American conspiracy-monger Alex Jones went on the BBC today, and ran into a problem a lot of Americans on the right (or in the crazy) have when they do British television: smart people.
You might remember we wrote about Jones a few weeks ago when he was  informing his viewers that the Moore, Oklahoma tornadoes might have been created by the US government.
In this case, Jones was allowed to rant for several minutes on Andrew Neil’s Sunday Politics Shows on the BBC, alongside Times columnist David Aaronovitch.  Ostensibly Jones was there to talk about the Bilderberg Group, but as you might expect from a conspiracy theorist, the conversation went a bit off-kilter.
Most of it is boring gibberish, but perhaps you should start watching at around the 8 minute mark, because shortly after that is when the fun begins.  Jones keeps interrupting Aaronovitch, and finally the host tells him to “stop it.”  That’s when Jones absolutely loses it.  And to his credit, the host, Neil, does a good job of putting Jones in his place.  At one point, Neil tells the audience, “we have an idiot on the show tonight.”  Then Neil turns to the camera and does the crazy sign by twirling his finger at the side of his head:
It’s funny, but it’s also sad.  I don’t know if Jones is considered left or right, but he’s a good example of the crazy shock jock style that infests much of right-wing talk radio and talk TV in this country. And it is embarrassing to have him go on a show abroad and “the American.”

Famous Frame-Ups

Being framed for a crime you didn't commit can be a nightmare that the whole world has to wake up from before you're free.

McDonald's vs. Public Library

There are 14,000 McDonald's and 11,000 Starbucks around the country, but you know who's got them trumped? Libraries. There are more public libraries (about 17,000) in the United States than the largest fast-food franchise.
It may surprise you, but libraries reach 96.4 percent of the US population, as evident in this map by Justin Grimes (@justgrimes) over at The Atlantic Cities:
“There’s always that joke that there’s a Starbucks on every corner," says Justin Grimes, a statistician with the Institute of Museum and Library Services in Washington. "But when you really think about it, there’s a public library wherever you go, whether it’s in New York City or some place in rural Montana. Very few communities are not touched by a public library.”
And to make things better, there are 35,000 museums, zoos, arboretums, historical societies, art galleries, and aquariums to feed your brain. So take heart, Americans, our society isn't going to hell in a handbasket just yet (though think of how much more popular libraries could be if we can just have Starbucks inside them!)
Emily Badger of The Atlantic Cities has more: Here | Interactive map over at CartoDB

Pendulum swings back on 350-year-old mathematical mystery

A 350-year-old mathematical mystery could lead toward a better understanding of medical conditions like epilepsy or even the behavior of predator-prey systems in the wild, University of Pittsburgh researchers report. The mystery dates back to [...]

Erin Brockovich arrested for drunk boating

Environmental activist Erin Brockovich, portrayed by Julia Roberts in a 2000 movie about her fight over the pollution of a California town, has been arrested on suspicion of boating while intoxicated at Lake Mead near Las Vegas.
Nevada Department of Wildlife spokesman Edwin Lyngar says Brockovich was arrested late Friday night after breath tests showed her blood-alcohol level was just over twice the legal limit of .08.
A game warden noticed she was struggling and needed assistance while trying to moor her motor boat at the Las Vegas Boat Harbor near Boulder City.
Lyngar says she had been out on the boat with a male companion but was alone when she tried to dock the boat.
The 52-year-old Brockovich didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. She was released from the Clark County jail after posting $1,000 bail.
We see this a lot here at CN - our front yard is a lake and the 'boaters' on it are soused year round.

The Japanese 'Invade' Califorina

Japanese troops head to Calif. beach for training

Japanese troops will converge on California's southern coast in the next two weeks as part of a military exercise with U.S. troops aimed at improving that country's amphibious attack abilities.
U.S. and Japanese military officials said the unprecedented training, led by U.S. Marines and sailors, will help Japan's Self-Defense Force operate in stronger coordination with the United States, its main ally, and better respond to crises such as natural disasters.
China may see it differently, however, given the tensions between Tokyo and Beijing over a long-running dispute concerning islands claimed by both in the East China Sea.
"It's another dot that the Chinese will connect to show this significant expanding military cooperation," said Tai Ming Cheung, an analyst of Chinese and East Asian security affairs and director of the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation at the University of California, San Diego.
China asked the United States and Japan to cancel the drill, scheduled to begin Tuesday, Japan's Kyodo News service reported, citing unnamed Japanese government sources. The Japanese Defense and Foreign Ministries would not confirm whether China had made any request but said they are going ahead with the exercises.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry did not respond to The Associated Press for comment on whether China requested a cancellation. In regard to the drill itself, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said: "We hope the relevant sides can focus on peace and stability in this region, and do more to contribute to mutual trust and regional peace and stability."
U.S. military officials said strengthening Japan's amphibious capabilities is vital as the U.S. focuses more attention on developing an Asia-Pacific strategy amid ongoing U.S. Defense Department budget cuts. The region has been roiled by tensions due to North Korean long-range rocket and nuclear tests and maritime territorial disputes between China and its neighbors.
"If the 20th century taught us anything, it is that when democracies are able and willing to defend themselves it preserves peace and stability," said Col. Grant Newsham, Marine liaison to the Japanese military. "Most Asian countries welcome — even if quietly stated — a more capable (Japanese force) that is also closely allied to U.S. forces."
The drill comes just days after Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit with President Barack Obama at an estate in the nearby California desert, at which the two discussed topics including the Pacific region's mounting tensions.
China recently asserted its dominance over what they call Diaoyutai, and Japan calls the Senkaku Islands, by sending government ships into Japanese territorial waters in April. China has said it is only safeguarding its sovereignty.
The uninhabited islands are controlled by Japan but also claimed by China. Japan's nationalization of the islands in September triggered violent protests across China. Beijing has increasingly patrolled the area, prompting Japan to dispatch fighter jets to monitor Chinese aircraft, raising the risk of missteps that could trigger a clash.
Japan's navy is among the world's best-equipped and best-trained, but its skills at storming beaches and other amphibious capabilities have been weak since its national defense force formed in the 1950s.
Largely in response to China's growing military might — including the acquisition of its first aircraft carrier last year — Japan has been buying amphibious landing craft and beefing up training for potential conflicts in or around small islands. Japan is also repositioning its troops to better monitor and defend its southern borders and sea lanes.
In September, a small group of Japanese soldiers practiced bombing maneuvers and joint command training with U.S. Marines and sailors in Guam.
The San Diego exercise marks the first time the country's troops will travel aboard warships so far from home, and members of Japanese air, sea and ground forces will train together with the U.S. military, said Cmdr. Takashi Inoue, spokesman for the Japanese Self-Defense Force.
The drill, which ends June 28, will train Japanese troops "on truly necessary" skills to help them deploy swiftly, whether to defend territory or provide disaster relief, Inoue said. With limited landing craft, Japan needed help from U.S. Marines to rescue people along its tsunami-devastated coast following the 2011 earthquake.
Japan is sending three warships, about 1,000 service members and about four combat helicopters to the so-called Dawn Blitz exercise, Inoue said. Forces from New Zealand and Canada also will take part.
The troops will practice an amphibious assault on San Clemente Island, a naval training ground off San Diego's coast, and also conduct a mock beach invasion at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.
Tokyo's move to boost its amphibious training is "hugely significant" since the United States is obligated to defend Japanese territory under a post-World War II security pact, said Kerry Gershaneck of the Pacific Forum-Center for Strategic & International Studies.
"We cannot ask young American Marines to fight and die doing a job that Japanese forces cannot, or will not, do," he said. "The U.S. Marines will help, but they must have a capable partner."

The Shield Of Superman

The famous 'S' shield - the focal point of Supermans's costume - has evolved significantly since the Man of Steel made his first appearance 75 years ago. See how the emblem has transformed from Action Comics #1 to Man of Steel.

A Celtic Woman's Song

by Heather Rose Jones

My Mother’s Mother drew a sword,
My Mother bore a spear,
And I have learned to bend the bow.
But time brings changes, fast or slow
To all that we hold dear.

From far across the sea have come
Strange priests with stranger ways,
Who say we must be chaste and meek;
A man’s protection we must seek,
And serve him all our days.

I’ve served the Lady and my folk
And never known defeat,
And shall my freedom fall from place
Like weapons of a conquered race
To lie at some man’s feet?

No! First I’ll leave my folk behind
And seek the Lady’s glade;
I’ll drink her cauldron dregs and see
The secrets of eternity
And always stay a Maid.


POULLAN-SUR-MER lies at the very western brink of Gaul, in the land of the Osismi tribe the hindmost and westernmost of the tribes of Gaul.

The House Built In The Middle Of A River

Have you ever dreamed of having a home in the middle of nowhere to escape to every now and then? I have. And this house built straight in the middle of the Drina River in Serbia fits the bill perfectly.

In Serbia, the precariously placed house has been a popular tourist destination for decades, and a symbol of the picturesque Basta region. It was even nominated as one of the Seven Wonders of Serbia.

Mysterious monument found beneath the Sea of Galilee

The shores of the Sea of Galilee, located in the North of Israel, are home to a number of significant archaeological sites. Now researchers from Tel Aviv University have found an ancient structure deep beneath [...]

Science news

Astronomical News

Hydrogen gas produced in a water-rock chemical reaction may be able to sustain life -- on both Earth and Mars.
Some of the most inspiring, beautiful and down-right stunning photos from our adventures in space from the past week.
Scientists using NASA’s long-lived Mars rover Opportunity have found strong evidence that water suitable for the assembly of life’s building blocks flowed through an ancient rock, leaving telltale clay minerals behind.

Phoenix Zoo keepers work hard to satisfy feral foodies

At 6 a.m., lights flicker on in the kitchen, illuminating long stainless steel prep tables, sinks, a refrigerator and rows of wheeled carts, the shelves stacked with bins and plastic containers.
This could be a kitchen for a school cafeteria or a restaurant, a first impression not undone when the early crew hauls out the carrots and yams and cauliflower, and a wide, glinting bowl filled with tasty-looking fruit salad.
What changes the scene are the labels on the bins: Baboon. Spider monkey. Elephant. Wallaby. Bear.
Then there are the mealworms, the boxes of live crickets and the tray of raw meat garnished with frozen rat and ... is that a frozen chick?
Yes, it is and it is marked for delivery to a bobcat. It and nearly 1,000 other animals are about to be served breakfast from the commissary at the Phoenix Zoo - all before the first visitors arrive.
Melinda Stelling, the zoo's manager of nutrition services, moves from one station to another, checking with diet technicians arranging food containers on the carts. Each meal - they're known as "diets" in zoo lingo - is placed on a shelf where an animal's keeper can find it.
Feeding a zoo full of animals daily is a highly orchestrated routine, yet it is almost never the same. Diets change when an animal falls ill or gains weight or simply refuses to eat. Fruits and vegetables vary with the seasons. The zoo brought in a new cooler to accommodate visiting koalas three years ago. And starting this month, most of the animals will have to adjust to the zoo's summertime hours, when the gates open at 7 a.m., two hours earlier than before.
"Primates are the pickiest eaters and we have some picky cats, too," Stelling says. "We have to adjust the mix when one of them won't eat. We work to make it a balanced diet. It's just year after year after year of trying things over and over."
A little after 7 a.m., the keepers start to arrive, rolling up to the commissary in electric carts. They pause at the door to clean their shoes in a basin of disinfectant, then scan the shelves and find the right bins or trays. The keepers get in and out quickly. The zoo opens to members in an hour.
Within a few minutes, the keepers empty the shelves on the wheeled carts. Outside, feeding time begins.
Tailored diets
Inside the rhinoceros barn, Half-Ear, a 42-year-old white rhino, digs into a mixture of hay and food pellets infused with vitamin supplements. As an older rhino, Half-Ear has a hard time keeping the weight on sometimes, says Paige McNickle, one of the keepers who works with the lumbering animal.
In a night house up the Africa Trail, Heather Vetter sets out pans of ground meat for the zoo's two Sumatran tigers. She holds back some of the meat and a few trout for later. Hadiah, the 6-year-old female tiger, will retrieve the food in the outdoor exhibit, a way of stimulating her senses. Jai, the 9-year-old male, will remain inside on this day.
At the base of one of the buttes on the zoo's edge, the herd of bighorn sheep crowd around hay tossed onto concrete platforms. In a typical month, the zoo's herbivores - the sheep, giraffes, elephants, zebras - munch through more than 22,000 pounds of hay.
The elephants eat as much as 150 pounds of food a day each, a mix of carrots, apples, melons, grain and hay. Like many of the animals, the elephants eat some of their diets in a barn, where they spend nights. Feeding animals in a barn or a night house removes potential for conflict and allows keepers to do health exams or administer medications.
In one of the tropical-bird enclosures, Bryan Mac Aulay, a senior bird keeper, holds up small trays of a sort of fruit salad for a pair of rhinoceros hornbills. The two birds sit on tree branches near the top of the enclosure. The male grabs a grape in his beak, the morning sun catching the orange-colored horn that gives the birds their unusual name.
"Grapes are a favorite," Mac Aulay says. "They also like steamed yams and bananas during breeding season."
Every animal gets fed
If feeding time so far seems civilized, with individual portions and isolated stalls and special diets, the pelicans happily inject a little chaos.
"There's only one way to feed the pelicans and this is it," says John Sills, manager of birds, as keepers prepare to deliver their fish breakfast.
The six American white pelicans, refugees from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, gather each morning on the far side of the zoo's wetland exhibit and wait for a keeper to start throwing fish. A great blue heron and a giant egret try to blend in, hoping to swipe a few morsels for themselves.
Peggy Trantham rings a bell and then starts to toss fish toward the pelicans. Stephanie Sanchez stands nearby, the designated recorder.
As a pelican snags the fish, Trantham calls out the color of the leg band each bird wears and Sanchez keeps the count. Some of the fish are doctored with nutritional supplements, another detail Sanchez records. The system, though it looks chaotic, is calculated to ensure that not just the fittest survive.
The pelican fish bucket is one of more than 600 meals, or diets, the zoo's commissary prepares each day. A staff of four to six people weighs, slices, mixes and divvies up food for species whose paths would never cross except at the zoo.
Feeding nearly 1,000 animals requires tons of food, $500,000 worth every year. In a month, the zoo doles out 1,100 pounds of rainbow trout for the pelicans, along with 2,200 pounds of bones and 2,700 pounds of raw meat for the carnivores, 6,480 monkey chow biscuits for baboons and mandrills, 1,200 heads of romaine lettuce, 2,500 pounds of carrots, 8,700 frozen mice and 70,000 live crickets for various reptiles.
When Debbie Evers started working in the commissary 30 years ago, it was a one-person operation and the job was a stop along the way to becoming an animal keeper.
"I worked alone, 10 hours a day," Evers says. "On Wednesdays, we made our own bird-of-prey meat. The birds got pans of fruit cut in half. We grew our own grass for the rhinos. We got donated bags of cat and dog food. We were a young zoo then."
Today, the zoo develops diets with the help of nutritional consultants. Food is weighed and prepared so that the animals receive 2 to 4 percent of their body weight daily. Food preparers work from loose-leaf binders full of recipes and diet instructions.
At the carnivore table, Denise Metcalf measures out ground meat for the big cats and adds frozen rats or birds to some trays. Mary Yost mixes grapes, blueberries, papaya, apples and other fruits for some of the birds. Evers chops yams, cucumbers, carrots and zucchini for other herbivores. Bins of nutritional biscuits sit nearby, to be added to the final meal.
"It's just like being at home in the kitchen," Evers says. "You have to follow a recipe."
Keeping instincts sharp
Sometime after 8 a.m., the baboons lope out of their night house and into the exhibit area. The five females emerge first, sniffing at romaine, kale, cucumbers, green beans and chickpeas stashed around the enclosure. Then Moja, the 12-year-old male, bounds through the door and barks at the others as he starts searching for food.
Bob Keesecker works with amother primate, the Bornean orangutans. Like the baboons, the orangutans are fed in the night house, then let out into their exhibit area, where Keesecker has hidden kale and romaine, sometimes smeared with molasses or honey.
"Nobody eats kale," Keesecker says as he places greens around the enclosure. He stuffs some high up on a fence and more on the perch of a concrete climbing structure. "I want them to have a little exercise in the morning, so I make them climb."
Feeding routines are often devised as a way to keep animals alert and active. Living in captivity means they never go hungry, but if they never search for food, they can become bored or lazy - and less interesting for visitors.
Food for the next day
As the day nears an end, some of the animals are fed for a second time. The lions and tigers get more meat, and many of the birds get fresh trays of fruit. In the commissary, the staff is finishing prep work for the next day's diets. As each bin is filled, it goes into the cooler or another storage area.
Stelling, the commissary manager, goes over diet-change requests. Each day, the keepers report any changes in eating habits or any health issues. Stelling, the veterinary staff and other managers consult and sometimes decide to alter a diet, adding or subtracting food, changing the mix.
Devising the right diet is a collaborative effort, Stelling says. The zoo looks at what the animals ate in the wild, what they might have eaten at another zoo and consider special needs. A pair of koalas on loan from the San Diego Zoo in 2010 required Phoenix managers to arrange for a twice-a-week delivery of eucalyptus leaves, which were stored in a special cooler. The commissary also has to account for special zoo events where the public is allowed to feed animals.
During the day, the commissary receives deliveries to keep the food stores stocked, from a load of hay (500 bales every other month) to a shipment of live crickets or live mice for the black-footed ferrets to the big bones used as weekly treats for lions, tigers and other carnivores.
"We have to find a balance between ensuring the right diet and getting something they'll eat willingly," Stelling says. "Usually, that's something sugary, which we don't want them to eat."
A little before 6:30 p.m., the commissary crew stows the last of the next day's meals in the walk-in cooler. The kitchen is as clean as as any restaurant's would be at closing time, the smell of food erased by disinfectants.
Outside, many of the animals are already in their night houses. Breakfast is only 12 hours away.

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