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Windmills Tilted, Scared Cows Butchered, Lies Skewered on the Lance of Reality ... or something to that effect.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Daily Drift

Another sad commentary ...

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Today in History

451   Roman and barbarian warriors halt Attila's army at the Catalaunian Plains in eastern France.  
1397   The Union of Kalmar unites Denmark, Sweden, and Norway under one monarch.  
1756   Nearly 150 British soldiers are imprisoned in the 'Black Hole' cell of Calcutta. Most die.  
1793   Eli Whitney applies for a cotton gin patent.
1819   The paddle-wheel steamship Savannah arrives in Liverpool, England, after a voyage of 27 days and 11 hours–the first steamship to successfully cross the Atlantic.  
1837   18-year-old Victoria is crowned Queen of England.  
1863   President Abraham Lincoln admits West Virginia into the Union as the 35th state.  
1898   On the way to the Philippines to fight the Spanish, the U.S. Navy seizes the island of Guam.  
1901   Charlotte M. Manye of South Africa becomes the first native African to graduate from an American University.  
1910   Mexican President Porfirio Diaz proclaims martial law and arrests hundreds.
 1920   Race riots in Chicago, Illinois leave two dead and many wounded.  
1923   France announces it will seize the Rhineland to assist Germany in paying her war debts.  
1941   The U.S. Army Air Force is established, replacing the Army Air Corps.  
1955   The AFL and CIO agree to combine names for a merged group.  
1963   The United States and the Soviet Union agree to establish a hot line between Washington and Moscow.  
1964   General William Westmoreland succeeds General Paul Harkins as head of the U.S. forces in Vietnam.  
1967   Boxing champion Muhammad Ali is convicted of refusing induction into the American armed services. 1972   President Richard Nixon names General Creigton Abrams as Chief of Staff of the United States Army.  
1999  NATO declares an official end to its bombing campaign of Yugoslavia.

Non Sequitur


Gun nut tasered after assaulting cops and heckling dad of girl shot to death

If you want to understand why American has a violence problem, you need go no further than this video of Daniel Musso, a proud defender of the Second Amendment bullying and heckling the father of a girl shot to death by her husband, then assaulting the police and being tasered in response.
This took place in Concorde, New Hampshire.
It may come as little surprise that shortly after, police went to question the man, he “struggled” with the police for a minute and a half, according to the local news, and the police ended up having  to taser the man to subdue him.  I’m not usually a fan of tasering, but in this case I’m happy to make an exception.
Here’s the video of the heckling and bullying:
Here’s a short background on the story, then the video:
Yesterday afternoon [June 18, 2013] a group of hecklers and bullies try to shout down the father of a gun violence victim. John Cantin’s daughter Melissa was shot and killed by her estranged husband in Manchester, NH in 2009. John was also shot, but he survived. John refused to be silenced. Instead, he bravely continued to share his daughter’s story and call for common-sense legislation to reduce gun violence.
Here’s what the local news reported on the incident:
After numerous interjections, Musso [the heckler] decided to walk away, but Concord police had been called. When officers began talking to him, Musso initiated physical contact with police, [local reporter] Sexton said.
Officers struggled to subdue Musso for about a minute and a half, Sexton said, before they had to use a stun gun on him.
The Manchester Union Leader backs up to the cops’ story:
Witnesses said Daniel Musso, 52, of Brentwood was asked by police to move. He placed his hand on an officer, was tasered and arrested.
Police said Musso was charged with disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and two counts of simple assault.
There's a video of the gun-lover being arrested, and more from Raw Story:

The truth be told

Wednesday, June 19

Did you know ...

That hundreds of  leaders have been arrested for protesting wingnut policies in North Carolina

That the world's largest study of same-sex parenting finds the children are thriving

That for the first time, white deaths outnumber white births

Was there a real mad hatter?

The tea party: A hidden agenda of Obama’s opposition?

Is the tea party movement a racial backlash against President Obama? A new study by Angie Maxwell from the University of Arkansas, and Wayne Parent from Louisiana State University, assesses whether racial attitudes are [...]

Full Transcript Reveals That Darrell Issa Lied About Obama Involvement In IRS Scandal

From the "No surprise, there" Department:
By releasing the full transcript of interview with the IRS Screening Group manager, Rep. Elijah Cummings has proven that Rep. Darrell Issa lied about Obama’s involvement in the IRS scandal.
Rep. Cummings absolutely destroyed Issa’s conspiratorial claims that Obama was masterminding the IRS scandal:

This interview transcript provides a detailed first-hand account of how these practices first originated, and it debunks conspiracy theories about how the IRS first started reviewing these cases. Answering questions from Committee staff for more than five hours, this official—who identified himself as a “wingnut repugican”—denied that he or anyone on his team was directed by the White House to take these actions or that they were politically motivated.
Instead, the Screening Group Manager explained that the very first case at issue in this investigation was initially flagged by one of his own screeners in February 2010. He told us he agreed that this case should be elevated to IRS employees in Washington because it was a “high profile” application in which the organization indicated that it would be engaging in political activity. He explained that he initiated the first effort to gather similar cases in order to ensure their consistent treatment, and that he took this action on his own, without any direction from his superiors, and without any political motivation. He also confirmed that one of his screeners developed terms subsequently identified by the Inspector General as “inappropriate,” such as “Patriot” and “9/12 project,” but that he did not become aware that his screener was using these terms until more than a year later.
These statements from the Screening Group Manager directly contradict several serious and unsubstantiated accusations made by you and several other repugican cabal talking heads over the past month. For example:

• On May 14, 2013, you stated: “This was the targeting of the president’s political enemies effectively and lies about it during the election year, so that it wasn’t discovered until afterwards.”
• On June 3, 2013, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers stated: “Of course, the enemies list out of the White House that IRS was engaged in shutting down or trying to shut down the conservative political viewpoint across the country—an enemies list that rivals that of another president some time ago.”
• On June 12, 2013, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp stated: “We know it didn’t originate in Cincinnati.”
These facts are a far cry from accusations of a conspiracy orchestrated by the White House to target the President’s political enemies. At this point in the investigation, not one witness who has appeared before the Committee has identified any involvement by any White House officials in the identification or screening of tea party applicants for tax exempt status, and the Committee has obtained no documents indicating any such involvement.
The full transcript of the interview with the screening group manager reveals that Darrell Issa and his fellow House repugicans blatantly and knowingly lied about President Obama and the White House being behind the “targeting of conservative groups.” The targeting of conservative groups is another lie, because only 1/3 of the groups targeted were wingnut.
Rep. Issa has been refusing to release complete transcripts because he knew that he would be exposed as the liar that he is.

It would be nice if the media would learn their lesson from this episode, and stopped giving Issa airtime. Since the mainstream media doesn’t care about truth and facts, it is doubtful that Issa’s lies will have any impact on them at all. Rep. Cummings did a great service for his country by releasing these transcripts.
Darrell Issa is a man with no credibility, and Democrats aren’t going to stand around and let him lie any longer.

The repugican Quest to Privatize All Government Has Jeopardized National Security

Private Eyes It is certainly no revelation that repugicans have a significant enough amount of hate for the federal government that they will take nearly any means necessary to guarantee its failure. Maybe they are not praying for America to fail, but they do want government to fail to give private enterprise operational control over government to relieve the people of their rights, assets, and benefits as citizens. Since the shrub junta, there appears to be no end to repugican machinations to privatize every aspect of government regardless the risk and danger to the nation. Over the past two weeks, Americans have witnessed just one aspect of government that repugicans handed over to privatization, and it is a clear and present danger to the security of the people of the United States.
The repugican strategy in giving the impression that government agencies are failures is starving them of resources, or creating impossible to meet standards that give the appearance programs to serve the people are disasters and better served by the private sector. The repugicans have had a measure of success portraying the United States Postal Service (USPS), Social Security Administration, and Medicare as failures by starving them of funding through devious means they would never impose on the private sector. For example, allowing the wealthy to avoid paying into Social Security and Medicare at the same rate and on all their income as other working Americans contributes to shortfalls repugicans claim contribute to debt and deficit, or requiring the USPS to bank 75 years’ worth of retirement benefits for future employees not yet born gives the appearance the agency is hemorrhaging money and costing taxpayers precious dollars. According to repugican ideology, government exists to profit the private sector, and they fabricate any reason to hand government operations to for-profit private enterprise to enrich their campaign donors.
The current outrage over the decade-old story the National Security Agency monitors communications to track terror suspects and protect the nation from another 9/11 attack, and the emergence of a private contractor-turned martyr, exposes another privatization scheme-gone wrong that most Americans are unaware of, and it is the result of repugican unwillingness to spend money on the one government agency tasked with protecting America. If there is any part of the government that should not be outsourced it is the intelligence-gathering community responsible for keeping Americans and this nation safe, and yet since 2001, to give Americans’ tax dollars to the private sector, the NSA transferred an alarming amount of its operations to civilian contractors in what may be the most absurd outsourcing endeavor in America’s history.
Instead of investing money in technological advancements to keep national intelligence operations under the purview of the United States government, NSA was forced to shift operations to private contractors whose primary regard is not national security or allegiance to America, but to private industry’s bottom line. Last week, the director of national intelligence testified that in 2001, the NSA outsourced its I.T. infrastructure “to push more of our work to contractors” such as Booz Allen, the company Edward Snowden was a systems administrator for and the reason a civilian had access to “highly classified programs” he leaked to the media. Last week, Senator Diane Feinstein said “I’m very concerned that we have government contractors doing what are essentially governmental jobs,” and House minority leader Nancy Pelosi added that “maybe we should bring some of that more in-house.” As it is now, a little over 70% of the nation’s intelligence spending goes directly to the private sector, and out of the $80 billion budget for this year, $56 billion will flow directly to civilian contractors whose allegiance is not to national security, but their profit margin. It is why self-aggrandizing Snowden’s primary concern was not national security, but trumpeting his “heroic” action evidenced in his boasts he had access and ability to spy on any American’s communications that many citizens are up in arms over.
There are serious issues inherent with outsourcing critical intelligence gathering operations to private contractors, and regardless civilians have top-secret security clearances, Americans should be distressed that their tax dollars provide civilians access to their private communications. There is alleged to be a half-a-million private contractors with top-secret security clearances conducting the nation’s most secret and sensitive operations, and because they are not part of the NSA chain of command, or any other security agency, they do not fall under the aegis of Congressional oversight like a government national security agency employee and brings into question where contractors’ loyalties really lie; with the intelligence service, America’s national security, or their company’s shareholders.
There are also NSA civilian contractors working in league with covert CIA operatives, and after Blackwater’s disreputable performance throughout the Iraq War, one would think unaccountable civilians working with the CIA, or gathering top-secret intelligence information for profit, would dissuade the government from using private contractors in security-sensitive positions. Then there is the issue of private contractors providing advice on how to spend billions of dollars of government money in procurement and to manage large projects that should belong to intelligent agencies to prevent the potential for corruption and conflict of interest. Last April, the Pentagon’s Inspector General discovered that out of 28 tasks in a $231-million contract, nine were awarded to civilian contractors involved in “secret and highly sensitive operations” that “included inherently governmental duties” that are “by law reserved for government operatives;” not civilian contractors.
The lesson America should learn is that there are very few times that taxpayer dollars should be spent on government programs run by civilians for the sake of accountability; especially on something as critical as national security. The repugicans certainly spent billions and billions on national security after 9/11, but it went to the private sector instead of equipping the NSA with the latest technology to protect America and its people. It is another case of repugicans enriching their campaign donors in the corporate and private world with taxpayer dollars, and in the NSA case, taxpayer dollars hired a civilian with top-secret clearance and a penchant for attention that led him to leak a 12 year old story to the media.
America’s intelligence agencies are beholden to proper oversight, but the private sector is not regardless they have security clearances reserved for the CIA and NSA, and it is high-time America’s national security is taken out of the hands of private, for profit, civilians. The government already appropriates funding for national security, and there is no reason those tax dollars should not be spent on government agencies instead of private contractors. The repugicans love spending money, but only if it flows directly to their donors in the private sector regardless the consequences to national security or the safety and well-being of the American people. Giving any civilian access to top-secret national security information is foolhardy, and one could hardly imagine a government employee with top-secret clearance leaking crucial information that could jeopardize the nation’s security, unless it was war criminal Dick Cheney leaking the name of an active CIA field agent.

The repugicans Are Passing ALEC Written Laws Banning Paid Sick Leave

It is fairly well-known among Americans paying the least bit of attention to wingnuts and repugicans that their primary concern is enriching corporations and promoting their so-called “free-market capitalism” meme as the be all, end all solution to America’s economic woes. Part and parcel of free-market capitalism is removing all constraints from businesses whether it is environmental regulations or workplace protections for employees who drive corporate profits with their cheap labor and purchasing their cheap Chinese-made products.  What is less well-known is that for 80 years repugicans have panted to eliminate New Deal provisions that protect workers and provide them with reasonably-safe working conditions including a 40-hour work week, safety inspections, and what repugican’s consider luxuries; bathroom and lunch breaks, overtime pay, and a woefully inadequate minimum wage. For the richest country in the history of the world, America offers its labor force some of the most meager benefits that the majority of develop countries consider downright pathetic, and if repugicans have their way, what few provisions American workers have now will be eliminated under the guise of advancing free market capitalism to put American labor on par with cheap peasant workers countries like China are renowned for.
The latest assault on American workers, like most assaults on the labor force, is courtesy of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and it is occurring in Florida where ALEC controls the governor and state legislature. At the urging of large corporate employers, and ALEC members, the Florida legislature passed and Governor Rick Scott signed, a pre-emptive law making it illegal to pass legislation to provide paid sick leave to employees. That’s right, a state law banning local governments from implementing paid sick leave legislation to protect corporate employers such as Disney World, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, and perennial enemies of labor, the Florida chapter of the Chamber of Commerce who all whole-heartedly supported the Draconian measure.
The law is one of ALEC’s fill-in template bills being introduced across the nation and an effort to pass “preemption bills” that will block any prospective paid sick leave legislation as part of the corporate drive to keep measures helping workers off the books before they can be proposed or voted on by legislatures or the public. In Florida, more than 50,000 voters attempted to get a required paid sick leave measure on the 2012 ballot, but it was thrown off by repugicans on the county commission and it took a three-judge panel to have it included on the 2014 ballot. Now, regardless the voters’ wishes, the measure is moot and it is down to the state’s repugican House Majority Leader, Steve Precourt (r-ALEC), who pressed the measure through the legislature and it is no surprise Precourt is an active ALEC member.
The idea of passing laws in repugican-controlled states preemptively banning worker-friendly labor laws is not unique to Florida and nothing new coming from ALEC that is on a tear to destroy the democratic process for years. Since 2011, 67 similar ALEC-template bills have been introduced in states to weaken labor provisions and wages, and Scott is the twelfth governor to sign similar measures into law banning future laws that benefit workers and preventing voters from having a voice in how workers are treated. Other preemption bills have emerged in Wisconsin, Mississippi, and Michigan as part of repugicans’ efforts to create a slave-labor force rivaling Civil War-era plantations to give businesses, particularly big corporate businesses, a competitive edge over Chinese businesses’ slave labor force.
It is worth noting that claims by corporate-run businesses and ALEC member Precourt that Florida’s paid sick leave bill would drive up costs, like every corporate assertion regarding labor laws, is a lie. In fact, an oft-cited study of San Francisco that enacted a paid sick leave policy in 2007 revealed the “majority of businesses saw either no impact or a positive one on profitability,” and other research showed “such policies were both good for business and job growth.” However, decent benefits for workers contradict free market capitalist’s business model, and facts contradicting their phony excuse to create a slave-labor force are of no consequence. What is of consequence to American workers is an increase in the number of repugican measures being introduced and promoted to remove all labor laws regardless the industry or the deleterious effect on the workforce or the economy.
In Wisconsin, an ALEC member and state Sen. Glenn Grothman supported Scott Walker in repealing equal pay laws because “money is more important to men,” and “attributing everything to so-called bias in the workplace is just not true” even though women still earn 77-cents on the dollar compared to men performing the same job. In Washington State, three ALEC members are challenging an already passed paid sick leave law, and in Portland, Oregon and Philadelphia city councils considering paid sick leave ordinances are being challenged by ALEC members who have yet to preemptively ban legislation before it is enacted or voted on. It is not just repugican states assailing labor laws either and it is an ongoing attempt by repugican cabal legislators’ effort to legislate workers into poverty.
Eric Cantor’s bill eliminating overtime pay passed the repugican House in May, and to assist poor people, repugicans want to abolish the minimum wage instead of raising it to lift the working poor out of poverty. There has been recurring suggestions that child labor laws be abolished, and repugicans have created hazardous workplace conditions by starving OSHA of much needed funding. The recent deadly chemical plant explosions in Texas and two in Louisiana, and West Virginia mine explosion may have been prevented if OSHA had inspected them, but the agency is so under-funded and under-staffed that they were not inspected for years. Some repugicans and the Koch brother CATO Institute promote abolishing OSHA altogether to create a more dangerous workplace for all industries and increase corporate profits, and it informs their disregard for American workers that goes beyond banning paid sick leave.
American workers are the some of the most productive in the world, and yet they are also the most underpaid and overworked for their level of productivity and it is getting worse. In most developed countries, workers get mandatory paid vacations, sick leave, healthcare, retirement pensions, and maternity leave without restrictions based on how long the employee is with a company. The repugicans are dissatisfied with the pitiful conditions American workers are subjected to and have yearned for eighty years to abolish all of the New Deal’s protection whether it is overtime pay, a 40-hour workweek, safety measures, lunch breaks, or a living wage. Now, with ALEC’s templates in hand, repugicans are passing laws preemptively banning legislation to give workers paid sick leave and it will not be long before they pass laws prohibiting giving workers a minimum wage. The repugicans and ALEC understand the American people support and demand pro-labor legislation, and will do anything to keep Americans working for poverty wages even if it means passing preemption bills banning future legislation. One wonders how long before ALEC creates a template to ban any and all future legislation, and based on their perpetual assault on democracy, it cannot be long in coming.

The repugicans have their priorities ...

Bank of America rewarded staff for pushing people into foreclosure

Bank of America is facing a class-action suit from homeowners for allegedly attempting to force people into foreclosure, on purpose.  The suit alleges that Bank of America employees were actually rewarded for finding ways to push homeowners into foreclosure.Pro Publica has done an extensive investigation of the problem, and it’s really quite amazing.  Apparently the controversy surrounding the administration’s HAMP problem whereby some homeowners could seek help getting their mortgages modified so that they could lower their monthly payments.
Homeowners were reportedly denied HAMP modifications en masse, while employees would create fictitious reasons for the denial.  Pro Publica also reports that Bank of America employees were allegedly told to lie to customers about not having received their documents, in an effort to stall movement on the modifications.
Sadly this isn’t the first time we’ve read some bad news about Bank of America.  They seem to be a recurring problem.

Banknotes Featuring Scientists And Mathematicians

Scans of banknotes featuring scientists and mathematicians. From the collection of Jacob Lewis Bourjaily, a theoretical physicist at Harvard University.

Supreme Court: 'pay to delay' generic drugs can be illegal

Supreme Court: 'pay to delay' generic drugs can be illegal
 The Supreme Court ruled Monday that deals between pharmaceutical corporations and their generic drug competitors, which government officials say keep cheaper forms of medicine off the market, can be sometimes be illegal and therefore challenged by federal officials in court.

The justices voted 5-3 to allow the government to inspect and challenge what it calls "pay-for-delay" deals or "reverse settlements."

"This court's precedents make clear that patent-related settlement agreements can sometimes violate anti-trust law," said Justice Stephen Breyer, who wrote the court's opinion.

Reverse settlements arise when generic companies file a challenge at the Food and Drug Administration to the patents that give brand-name drugs a 20-year monopoly. The generic drugmakers aim to prove the patent is flawed or otherwise invalid, so they can launch a generic version well before the patent ends.

Brand-name drugmakers then usually sue the generic companies, which sets up what could be years of expensive litigation. When the two sides aren't certain who will win, they often reach a compromise deal that allows the generic company to sell its cheaper copycat drug in a few years - but years before the drug's patent would expire. Often, that settlement comes with a sizable payment from the brand-name company to the generic drugmaker.

Drugmakers say the settlements protect their interests but also benefit consumers by bringing inexpensive copycat medicines to market years earlier than they would arrive in any case generic drugmakers took to trial and lost. But federal officials counter that such deals add billions to the drug bills of American patients and taxpayers, compared with what would happen if the generic companies won the lawsuits and could begin marketing right away.

Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the dissent for himself and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, said ordinarily the high court would say that any deal that would end costly and time-consuming litigation would be thought of as a good thing.

"The majority's rule will discourage settlement of patent litigation," Roberts said. "Simply put, there would be no incentive to settle if, immediately after setting, the parties would have to litigate the same issue - the question of patent validity - as part of a defense against an antitrust suit."

The Justice Department asked the court to rule that all reverse settlements were illegal, but Breyer said that was going too far. The deals' "complexities lead us to conclude that the FTC must prove its case," he said.

Justice Samuel Alito did not take part in the case.

The case is Federal Trade Commission vs. Actavis, Inc., 12-416.

In the News

NSA leaks forcing more official transparency

Trevor Timm wrote a piece for Freedom of the Press Foundation about how much more we're learning not just from the NSA leaks themselves, but from the response to those leaks. "Both companies and the government have been forced into a corner where their only move is to release more information they previously fought to keep secret," Trevor says

Dolphins on acid (and other bad ideas)

How dosing dolphins with LSD (and giving dolphins hand jobs) helped shape our modern pop culture beliefs about dolphins as sources of healing — beliefs that, according to neuroscientist Lori Marino, can endanger both dolphins and the humans who come to them for help. 

The chemical composition of "old book smell" 

It starts with lignin — a compound that makes up the cell walls of plants. Turns out, it's also closely related (chemical-structure-wise) to vanillin, the stuff that makes vanilla smell so vanilla-y. Given that books are full of the broken-down cell walls of trees, a big part of what we think of as "old book smell" is actually a scent similar to vanilla. 

New hybrid Australian language discovered

A new language has been discovered in a remote Indigenous community in northern Australia that is generated from a unique combination of elements from other languages. Light Warlpiri has been documented by University of Michigan [...]

Aspirin may fight cancer by slowing DNA damage

Aspirin is known to lower risk for some cancers, and a new study led by a UC San Francisco scientist points to a possible explanation, with the discovery that aspirin slows the accumulation of DNA [...]

Geek Versus Nerd

To many people, geek and nerd are synonyms, but in fact they are a little different. Both are dedicated to their subjects, and sometimes socially awkward. The distinction is that geeks are fans of their subjects, and nerds are practitioners of them.

A computer geek might read Wired and tap the Silicon Valley rumor-mill for leads on the next hot-new-thing, while a computer nerd might read CLRS and keep an eye out for clever new ways of applying Dijkstra's algorithm. On Geek vs Nerd.

Leave to the Japanese ...

Hakone: Japan's Amazing Open Air Museum

The small town of Hakone in Japan holds something of a revelation. However, unless you are from Japan, you may well not have heard of it. The town plays host to a large open air museum where the works of many famous artists are held - outdoors.

It is an attempt to balance art and nature in harmony. The artworks, combined with the beautiful views of the surrounding mountains give the visitor an unforgettable experience.

Japan's Automated Underground Bike Storage

Bicycles are a popular form of transportation in Japan. However, when parked they can take up a lot of public space that could otherwise be used by pedestrian foot traffic, small storefronts, etc.

Rather than take up valuable real estate above ground, they store them safely underground where they are protected from the weather and would-be thieves, while freeing up valuable public space.

The TSA is now the Belly-Button Police

Following on the heels of our story about an LAX TSA agent reportedly berating a 15 year old girl for wearing clothing that the agent deemed too provocative, a friend contacted me about a similar TSA incident that happened to her last year.Casey Taylor, someone I’ve known for years, tells me that last year at a major American airport she was scolded by a female TSA agent because Casey’s belly button inadvertently showed while she was putting her belt back on after passing through the X-ray machine.
I was once chastised by a female muslim TSA agent (mentioned only to indicate she was fully covered, including wearing a head covering), for my stomach showing when I was putting my belt back on. I was taken aback and angry at the inappropriateness, and the judgment — and for god’s sake, I was just putting my belt back on!
I left Casey’s mention of the agent’s Islamic dress in because it potentially goes to agent’s motivation, i.e., a TSA agent imposing their religio-wingnut views on a passenger.  And that’s just as relevant in this case as it would be if a religious right TSA agent chastised someone for violating their biblical views (and you know we’d be all over them if they did).
I asked Casey at which airport, and when, this happened.  She said it was definitely last year, but doesn’t recall which airport, though it was definitely a major American city.  More from Casey:
She gave me a judge-y look and then said something along the lines of “cover up,” and pointed at my waist where I was re-dressing myself after un-belting for the X-ray thing. I asked her to repeat it, and she did (vs. backing down from it). It was exceptionally strange and disconcerting. I didn’t respond because I was in shock about what had just happened, and couldn’t think of what to do in the moment.
If we can see your belly button, the terrorists win. (Belly button via Shutterstock)
If we can see your belly button, the terrorists win. 
Mind you, the only reason Casey wasn’t “covered up”  is because TSA made her take her belt off.
The TSA is a huge organization – one report said there were 58,000 employees – and personally, I’ve had really good experiences with the TSA when I fly.  They’re nothing but courteous with me, especially when I fly with my dog (and only people traveling alone with a baby can fully appreciate just how nerve-wracking it is to go through airport security with a wriggling dog).  And, in my experience, the TSA is far better than the crew we had working airport security before.
But as I noted in the other post, they’re in a position of power, and are a quasi-police entity, so it’s important that abuses be highlighted and corrected.

India Will Send the World's Last Telegram on July 14

144 years after the invention of electric telegraphy, the last telegram service in the world will shut down. This technology is still used in India, where about 5,000 telegrams are sent down the wires daily. But on July 14, it will...stop.
The BSNL board, after dilly-dallying for two years, decided to shut down the service as it was no longer commercially viable.
"We were incurring losses of over $23 million a year because SMS and smartphones have rendered this service redundant," Shamim Akhtar, general manager of BSNL's telegraph services, told the Monitor. 
What do you think the last telegram should say?

J is for Jail

Sesame Street Muppet with Dad in Jail

The creators of Sesame Street have always kept up with modern issues facing today's children. They've tackled hunger, divorce, military deployment, and even loss of a friend. Now, the lesson turns to incarceration.
Meet Alex, the muppet whose dad is in jail:
According to a Pew Charitable Trusts report, one in 28 children in the United States now has a parent behind bars -- more than the number of kids with a parent who is deployed -- so it’s a real issue, but it’s talked about far less because of the stigma.
That’s why the Sesame Workshop says it created the “Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration” initiative, an online tool kit intended to help kids with a parent in prison find support and comfort, and provide families with strategies and tips to talk to their children about incarceration.
Alex is blue-haired and green-nosed and he wears a hoodie – you might think he’s just another carefree inhabitant of Sesame Street. But there’s sorrow in Alex’s voice when he talks about his father.
“I just miss him so much,” he tells a friend. “I usually don’t want people to know about my Dad.”
It’s easier for kids to hear such things from a Muppet than an adult, creators of the initiative noted.
A. Pawlowski of TODAY has more: Here.

Guess who's not asleep

Seattle Woman Decides She Needs Food After All

A Seattle woman who believes humans don't need to eat (and tried to prove it) has changed her mind.

Parasites affect the food web more than you think

Parasites are ubiquitous. They feed on virtually every animal and even on each other. Yet, for all the parasites’ collective contributions to biomass and biodiversity, conventional food webs don’t account for the presence of these [...]

Ancient Toilet Reveals Parasites in Crusader Poop

Intestinal parasites have been found lurking in ancient poop in the toilet of a medieval castle in western Cyprus.

Sheep-eating killer plant is ready to bloom

A sheep-eating plant is set to bloom over the next few days in a Surrey garden. In its natural habitat of the Andes, the 3m-tall Puya chilensis snares the animals in its razor-sharp spines, leaving them to perish and decay at its base – like a bag of fertilizer.
Very few specimens have been known to flower in the UK, causing much excitement over the enormous neon bright, greeny-yellow flowers that it produces, with giant blooms containing enough nectar for a person to drink.

The plant is also increasingly rare in its native Chile, where shepherds set them alight to protect their flocks.

Cara Smith, from the Royal Horticultural Society’s Wisley Garden, where the plant is growing, said: “We keep it well fed with liquid fertilizer, as feeding it on its natural diet might prove a bit problematic.”

Horses Sweat Detergent and More Smelly Secrets

Hippo sweat is red, horse sweat works like detergent, plus more details on sweat that you probably never knew.

Snakes on a plane

Texan takes smuggled serpents on aircraft, pleads guilty

Samuel L. Jackson would have been cursing up a storm.
An East Texas man has pleaded guilty to smuggling snakes on several planes from South America to the United States.
During a court hearing Wednesday in Tyler, William Lamar pleaded guilty to importing wildlife taken in violation of foreign law.
Prosecutors say the 63-year-old eco-tourism guide bought the seven live snakes in August 2012 in a market in Lima, Peru, and smuggled them in his jacket on flights from Lima to Miami and then to Dallas.
Game wardens seized the snakes from Lamar's home in Tyler.
Peruvian law prohibits the exportation of wild live animals coming from the forest or jungle unless the exporter has the proper paperwork.
Lamar faces up to five years in prison.

Outbreak of deadly piglet virus spreads to 13 states

by P.J. Huffstutter

A swine virus deadly to young pigs, one never before seen in North America, is spreading rapidly across the United States and proving harder to control than previously believed.
The virus now has spread to 13 states - with more than 100 positive cases to date - since it was first diagnosed in the United States last month, said Montserrat Torremorell, the Allen D. Leman Chair in Swine Health and Productivity at the University of Minnesota's College of Veterinary Medicine.
While the virus has not tended to kill older pigs, mortality among very young pigs infected in U.S. farms is commonly 50 percent, and can be as high at 100 percent, say veterinarians and scientists who are studying the outbreak.
The strain of the virus, known as Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus, that is making its way across the nation's hog farms and slaughterhouses is 99.4 percent similar in genetic structure to the PEDV that hit China's herds last year, the researchers say. After it was first diagnosed in China in 2010, PEDV overran southern China and killed more than 1 million piglets, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal.
The virus does not pose any health risk to humans or other animals. The meat from PEDV-infected pigs is safe for people to eat, according to federal officials and livestock economists.
No direct connection has been found between the U.S. outbreak and previously identified outbreaks in Asia and Europe, say scientists and researchers.
The U.S. pork industry had hoped the virus' spread would slow - or at least plateau - as summer approached and the weather grew warm. But Tom Burkgren, executive director of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, said PEDV has proven far more tolerant of heat than a more common malady, transmissible gastroenteritis.
PEDV was diagnosed earlier this month for the first time in Arkansas, Kansas and Pennsylvania. Previously, the virus had been found in barns in Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma and South Dakota.
It has been found in baby pigs, adult sows and in other hogs being fattened for slaughter in the United States, say researchers and veterinarians who are investigating the outbreak. No known cases have been reported in Canada or Mexico.
When and how PEDV arrived in the United States remains a mystery. The total number of pig deaths from the outbreak is not known, and the uncertainty is fueling fears among traders, meat processors and farmers about the potential impact on pork supplies later in the year.
The outbreak comes as U.S. hog and wholesale pork prices in the large hog-raising states of Iowa and Minnesota have surged to nearly two-year highs. Supermarkets are racing to fill meat cases for the summer grilling season even as supplies tighten, analysts said. Hogs supplies were already tight after last summer's historic drought drove up feed-grain costs, which prompted a higher-than-normal slaughter rate last summer.
The first U.S. case of PEDV was reported on May 17. But researchers at the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, and other diagnostic labs have since discovered that PEDV arrived as early as April 16, according to the American Association of Swine Veterinarians. The labs have begun testing older samples taken from seemingly unrelated cases in an effort to track the virus' first appearance in the U.S.
Investigators with the U.S. Agriculture Department and others are hunting for clues to the widening outbreak and focusing on the nation's livestock transportation system.
PEDV is spread most commonly by pigs ingesting contaminated feces. Investigators are focused on physical transmission, perhaps equipment marred with feces, or a person wearing dirty boots or with dirty nails.
"It could happen at the slaughterhouse, where you have a trailer unloading a truck of pigs that was positive," said Torremorell, who noted that diagnostic researchers at the University of Minnesota and elsewhere have tested hundreds of samples in recent weeks.
"If the person doesn't clean the trailer correctly, and then goes to load up another load of pigs that were negative for PEDV, that person could end up delivering a truck of pigs to an uninfected farm," she said.

Tiger's whiskers are pulse detectors

Sierra Club magazine discusses "4 Ordinary Animals with Superhero Abilities." (Flight is not included.) My favorite tidbit is about a tiger's whiskers:
NewImageThey are filled with sensitive nerve endings, which help them detect distances and changes in their surroundings. When tigers hunt, they go for the kill shot: the carotid artery located in the neck. After the tiger’s canines have pierced the artery, the whiskers move forward, encircling the prey’s neck, and determine if the prey’s pulse is gone.

Animal Pictures