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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, July 10, 2013

The Daily Drift

Monday, July 8
Eighteen days of rain and flood ... and counting

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

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Today in History

1520   The Spanish explorer Cortes is driven from Tenochtitlan and retreats to Tlaxcala.
1609   The Catholic states in Germany set up a league under the leadership of Maximillian of Bavaria.
1679   The British crown claims New Hampshire as a royal colony.
1747   Persian ruler Nadir Shah is assassinated at Fathabad.
1776   The statue of King George III is pulled down in New York City.
1778   In support of the American Revolution, Louis XVI declares war on England.
1850   Millard Fillmore is sworn in as the 13th president of the United States following the death of Zachary Taylor.
1890   Wyoming becomes the 44th state.
1893   Dr. Daniel Hale Williams performs the first successful open-heart surgery, without anesthesia.
1925   The trial of Tennessee teacher John T. Scopes opens, with Clarence Darrow appearing for the defense and William Jennings Bryan for the prosecution.
1940   Germany begins the bombing of England.
1942   General Carl Spaatz becomes the head of the U.S. Air Force in Europe.
1943   American and British forces complete their amphibious landing of Sicily.
1945   U.S. carrier-based aircraft begin airstrikes against Japan in preparation for invasion.
1951   Armistice talks between the United Nations and North Korea begin at Kaesong.
1962   The satellite Telstar is launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, beaming live television from Europe to the United States.
1993   Kenyan runner Yobes Ondieki becomes the first man to run 10,000 meters in less than 27 minutes.

Non Sequitur

Wednesday, July 10

Five lesser-known benefits of having a beard

From sprouting a little scruff to going straight-up Zach Galifianakis, there's good reason to take a break from your razor this summer—and not just because it can speed up your morning routine. Research shows that growing a beard is actually the key to keeping you younger-looking, naturally moisturized, and cancer-free.
Here, five doctor-approved reasons to let your beard grow.

1. Sun Protection

According to recent research from the University of Southern Queensland, beards block up to 95 percent of the sun's UV rays, which can play a huge role in preventing basal-cell carcinomas (the most common form of all cancers). Key stats to know: Four out of five cases in men appear on the face, head, or neck and the sun is to blame for up to 90 percent of the visible signs of aging. So while facial hair won't keep your forehead from developing Jack Nicholsonesque creases, it will keep the bottom half of your face looking young.

2. Blemish-Free Skin

Forgoing the razor doesn't just hide blemishes—it actually prevents them. "Razor rash, acne, and folliculitis [hair-follicle inflammation] are often the result of shaving," said Dr. Shannon C. Trotter, a fellow of the Osteopathic College of Dermatology and a dermatologist at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center. "Razors can irritate the skin or even spread bacteria, causing an infection of the hair follicle."

3. More Masculinity

There's a reason you'd never steal a lumberjack's lady: The more facial hair a man has, the more masculine both men and women perceive him to be, according to research published in Evolution and Human Behavior. If pure, unadulterated masculinity is what you're going for, let your beard hang low. If you're looking to impress the opposite sex, skip the razor for 10 glorious days in a row; the study found that's the length women find the most attractive.

4. Natural Moisture

You probably didn't know your face has its own built-in moisturizing regimen—it's called your sebaceous glands (oil glands for short) and, according to Trotter, it secretes a natural oil that keeps skin moisturized. A thick beard not only prevents you from rubbing it off of your face, it also protects the face from wind exposure, which leads to redness and dryness (just in case you were planning your next high-altitude climb).

5. Trapped Allergens

Your nose hairs trap more than you think they do. In addition to what you see in a tissue, nose hairs trap pollutants that could actually cause your body harm. So the more hair you have under your airways (read: the bigger your beard), the more pollutants you're snaring every day, according to Dr. Clifford W. Bassett, Allergy and Asthma Care of NY medical director. Just be sure to treat your beard like any other filter and wash it regularly.


Bigger storms ahead

For the past 40 years — as far back as satellite records show — the frequency and intensity of tropical cyclones has remained relatively stable: About 90 of these storms spin through the world each [...]

The Summer Jobs Of 14 Future U.S. Presidents

Did you know that Barack Obama was once an ice cream scooper and sandwich maker? Or that Bill Clinton was a comic book salesman? And that Richard Nixon was a chicken plucker? Before landing the nation's top job, some U.S. presidents held less-than-glamorous gigs.

Daniel Ellsberg: NSA leaker Snowden was right to flee the US

"Many people compare Edward Snowden to me unfavorably for leaving the country and seeking asylum, rather than facing trial as I did. I don’t agree. The country I stayed in was a different America, a long time ago." —Daniel Ellsberg in a Washington Post op-ed. 


Did you know ...

This essay - "I spent 8 years as a liberal working for faux news"

About ALEC - screwing you one paycheck at a time

About the 21 most endangered rivers in America

About the lost Mayan city found in Mexican jungle

Five ways religio-wungnut-fundies are trying to sneak creationism into public schools

Urging teachers to conflate Darwinism with other controversies is just one of their most popular tactics
5 ways fundamentalists are trying to sneak creationism into public schools
Evolution is the linchpin of modern biology. Young people who don’t understand it are missing out on an entire range of educational and career opportunities. Certain professional fields can be closed off to them.
Despite this, some public schools in America do all they can to avoid teaching evolution. Thanks to constant pressure from the religious right, many public schools are battlegrounds in a culture war that does great damage to our nation’s scientific credibility as creationists work overtime to slip their ideas into the curriculum.
Federal courts have been clear: creationism is theology grounded in a literal reading of the bible, not science. It has no place in public school science classes, and inserting it into the schools is unconstitutional.
But despite a string of courtroom defeats, the creationists will not be stopped. They keep repackaging their ideas and trying again. Ironically, their strategies seem to evolve.
Here is a roundup of the latest ploys creationists are using to replace sound science with biblical fundamentalism.
1. Pretending to teach kids “critical thinking” skills: A spate of bills appeared in states this year that purported to help guide public school teachers in helping students apply “critical thinking” to select “controversies.” Not surprisingly, the controversies singled out always included evolution.
Legislation in Colorado would have directed teachers to “create an environment that encourages students to intelligently and respectfully explore scientific questions and learn about scientific evidence related to biological and chemical evolution, global warming, and human cloning.”
An Indiana bill would have compelled teachers to “help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the strengths and weaknesses of conclusions and theories being presented in a course being taught by the teacher.”
In Montana, a bill mandated that schools to encourage “critical thinking regarding controversial scientific theories” such as “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, random mutation, natural selection, DNA, and fossil discoveries.”
Oklahoma legislation would have required Sooner State teachers to “help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught.” Covered topics included “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.”
The similar language of these bills (which all failed, thankfully) is strong evidence that they come from a central source. The National Center for Science Education, a California-based group that supports good science instruction in public schools, has traced them to the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based group that promotes “intelligent design.”
Critical thinking is great. We’re all for it. But that’s not what these bills are about. They are about warping the concept of critical thinking and using it as vehicle to introduce religious concepts into the classroom.
2. Lumping it in with other controversies: Arizona lawmakers this year deliberated a bill that identified a series of “controversial” subjects and signaled them out for special classroom treatment. These included “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.”
Louisiana already has a law on the books permitting public school teachers to use “supplemental” material when discussing certain controversial issues, evolution among them. No one knows for sure what these supplemental materials are, but given that state’s constant efforts to undermine evolution, it’s safe bet On the Origin of Species is not on the list.
A school board in Springboro, Ohio, is considering a similar ruse, only its list is even longer. Once again, the idea here is to attempt to seize some type of moral high ground as proponents claim they are only trying to teach “both sides.”
Unfortunately for the board, that only works when there are two sides of equal validity.
The “teach the controversy” movement gives the far right an additional bonus: They can use it as a vehicle to undermine climate change, which they also reject.
3. Calling it academic freedom: Academic freedom is an important concept at colleges and universities. It has not been extended to public secondary schools because those institutions teach impressionable youngsters. Thus, school officials and democratically elected boards have the power to rein in teachers who start acting like preachers or who stray too far from the accepted curriculum.
A common creationist ruse is to assert that teachers have the right, under academic freedom, to introduce material that undercuts evolution. They do not. Over the years, several public school teachers have made this argument in court. All have failed.
Imagine if this argument were taken to its logical extent. What’s to stop a teacher from espousing 9/11 conspiracy theories, Holocaust denial, claims that we never landed on the moon, etc.?
4. Urging teachers to “go rogue”: Even though there is no academic freedom right to teach creationism, some public school teachers behave as if there is. They simply don’t teach evolution or teach it in such a way as to instill doubts in students’ minds.
A recent survey of public school high school science teachers in Pennsylvania found 19 percent backing some variant of creationism. One biology teacher in Altoona said he believes Earth is 10,000 years old and that the methods used to date it at 5 billion years are faulty.
“Sometimes students honestly look me in the eye and ask what do I think?” wrote this teacher in response to a newspaper survey. “I tell them that I personally hold the Bible as the source of truth. I tell them that I don’t think [radiocarbon dating] is as valid as the textbook says it is, noting other scientific problems with the dating method. Kids ask all kinds of personal questions and that’s one I don’t shy away from. It doesn’t in any way disrupt the educational process. I’m entitled to my beliefs as much as the evolutionist is.”
An anonymous teacher in Indiana County, Pa., reported, “Most parents and officials do not want evolution ‘crammed’ into their children. They have serious philosophical/religious issues with public schools dictating to their students how to interpret the origin of life.”
Courts can strike down creationism repeatedly. That won’t matter if teachers refuse to offer proper instruction about evolution or are afraid to do so due to pressure from their superiors or the community.
5. Calling creationism something else. Back in the 1980s, “creation science” was all the rage among fundamentalists. They seemed to believe that all you had to do was tack the word “science” onto something and presto, it was science. (“Flat Earth Science,” anyone?)
That stunt failed when the Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law mandating “balanced treatment” between evolution and creation science in 1987. The term “creationism” became more popular, even though it was the same old thing. When courts failed to fall for it, some advocates began using the term “the theory of abrupt appearance.”
Still others glommed on to “evidence against evolution.” Again, these name changes failed to fool anyone. It was the same old creationism in a new dress.
Most recently, “intelligent design” has become all the rage. Sometimes known by the acronym ID, intelligent design tries to cover up some of the more outlandish claims of standard creationism (6,000-year-old Earth, dinosaurs and humans living at the same time, Noah’s Ark was real, etc.) and instead posits that humans and other life forms are so complex that they must have been designed by some intelligent force. If this force just happens to be the Christian god, then so be it.
But at the end of the day, ID proponents are left to fall back on religious explanations. Just exactly who is this designer? Other than space aliens – and they aren’t really serious about that – ID backers have no candidates other than the god of their choice.
Evolution is no longer considered controversial by the scientific community. To biologists, it is as well established as the theory of gravity or the germ theory of disease. When religo-wingnut agitators succeed in removing it from the classroom or watering down the instruction to the point of uselessness, they don’t just violate the separation of cult and state, they undermine our nation’s leadership in science.

A fear of Koch

The Koch brothers are paying big bucks to spread fear of the new healthcare law. they want to kill the Affordable Healthcare Act. They want to Americans to die.
The wingnut agitator group Americans for prosperity, bankrolled by the billionaire Koch brothers, is spending more than $1 million in an ad blitz aimed at undermining confidence in the law. in a new television spot that will first air in Ohio and Virginia before expanding to other states, the group suggests that the Affordable Healthcare Act will limit Americans' health care choices while raising their insurance premiums.

...In addition to this ad, Americans for prosperity has also launched a companion website, obamacareriskfactors.com, that contains ominous warnings about how the law could alter people's existing health insurance.

The repugicans Around The Country Are On A Law breaking Rampage

The concept of law lacks a universally accepted definition, but it is safe to say that in the construct of society it is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior and maintain order. Obviously there are members of any society that find fault with specific laws for a variety of reasons, but because laws are for the common good, most people are inclined to follow them as responsible citizens; unless they are wingnuts and specifically repugicans. The past four-and-a-half years have demonstrated that Republicans have no respect for the law on myriad levels, and it is in part based on the premise they are destined by god to rule America, and in part because they believe they are fundamentally above the law like common criminals. It is not a new development for repugicans, and wingnuts in general, to disregard laws that are contrary to their ideological bent they have spent decades ignoring, circumventing, and blatantly subverting to impose their despotic ideology and rule America.
There is a definite pattern among repugicans of finding some means to ignore, break, and subvert laws by spending millions of dollars to fear-monger, pose legal challenges, change terminology, or insert unrelated, and constitutionally aberrant items into legislation unrelated to their original intent. Unsurprisingly, many laws repugicans undermine have been settled time and again in the courts, and yet they blatantly violate even decades-old Supreme Court rulings with impunity. Even though repugicans’ practice of undermining the law has been going on for decades, they ramped up their efforts since Barack Obama has been President to take advantage of racial animus permeating American society. What makes their efforts all the more despicable is that nearly all the laws of the land they are undermining or violating have little to no effect on their existence or rights as Americans; it is all about control.
For example, the Supreme Court ruled forty years ago that it is a woman’s Constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy up until the time a fetus is viable outside the womb, and for forty years repugicans and the religio-wingnuts have used every means possible to violate the Court’s ruling. In just the past two weeks, repugicans redefined pregnancy with a personhood law in Ohio’s budget, inserted abortion bans into anti-Sharia legislation in North Carolina, devised disgraceful means to prevent physicians from having access to medical facilities in Texas, and mandated forced transvaginal ultrasounds to dissuade women for exercising their Constitutional rights. The Roe v. Wade decision has no impact on any woman, or man, who is not making a personal reproductive health choice, but repugicans are violating the law with impunity to force their ideology on every woman in America.
Wingnut groups could not comport a campaign law requiring them to reveal their donors, so they illegally used social welfare designation to conceal dark money in campaigns, and to circumvent the law they committed perjury and then had the temerity to complain when the IRS followed the letter of the law governing tax exempt organizations. Religious tax-exempt organizations cannot tolerate a law that prohibits them from campaigning from the pulpit and still keep their tax-exempt status, so they videotape themselves violating the law daring the IRS to revoke their tax-exempt status. Their goal is overturning the Separation Clause in the Constitution’s First Amendment they have been violating for the past three decades.
There have been myriad court rulings prohibiting public schools from teaching the bible’s Genesis story as science because it is religious dogma that violates the first Amendment, and yet in nearly every state in the Union religious groups, school districts, and evangelicals violate the Constitution and teach creationism by renaming it, citing academic freedom, and in many cases encouraging teachers to violate the Separation Clause. It is another case of long-established Constitutional law wingnuts refuse to abide under any circumstances, and it puts them in the same class as any other criminal who believes the law does not apply to them.
Despite the Supreme Court ruled the ACA is constitutional and John Boehner admitted it is the law of the land, repugicans have used every means at their disposal to thwart the law’s implementation. It was revealed this week that the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity belief-tank is spending over a million dollars to cast doubt on the law despite the millionaires and billionaires AFP and the Kochs represent are unaffected by it. There are still repugicans in states that claim the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional, and with their criminal cohort in Congress, ALEC, and Americans for Prosperity they are resorting to fear-mongering to delegitimize the law of the land.
Former Confederate states are still angry African Americans were given the right to vote in the 15th Amendment in 1870, and even though the Voting Rights Act has been in effect for 58 years, they spent the past two years passing unconstitutional laws restricting the right to vote to white middle class Southerners. When the Justice Department prohibited them from violating the law by suppressing minority votes under the Voting Rights Act, repugicans appealed to racists on the wingnut Supreme Court to give them permission to legally suppress minority voting rights. The VRA had no effect on any repugican’s right to vote, but their racist ideology drove them to violate other Americans Constitutional rights; specifically African Americans with blessings from racist on the High Court.
The list of laws, regulations, Supreme Court rulings, and Constitutional rights repugicans and wingnuts circumvent, subvert, and violate is endless, but it demonstrates one simple premise; they believe they are not beholden to follow the law of the land under any circumstance. They specifically target laws that guarantee Americans the right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness and no group is immune from their blatant disregard for the law save their precious corporations, the rich, and the fanatically religious. They have ratcheted up their assault on legally passed legislation since extremist teabaggers helped them gain control of state legislatures and the House of Representatives in the 2010 midterm elections, but they began their crusade 80 years ago with the New Deal and escalated their assault on regulations thirty years ago when a b-movie actor became president.
The level of repugican abhorrence for the law has reached a point that government is at a standstill and it is exactly what they have worked for during the past four years. The repugicans in Congress and states have made eliminating laws protecting the people their prime objective and no demographic has been left untouched by their crusade to erase regulations off the books while passing laws restricting democracy and personal liberty. America is alleged to be a nation of laws to maintain order and protect the rights of all the people, but when one party’s primary goal is destroying the laws, the result will either be government by dictatorial fiat, or open anarchy and it is apparent that repugicans are working diligently to establish either one.

Indiana repugican cabal passes law making it a crime for clergy to perform gay weddings

In what appears to be a rather massive violation of the freedom of religion, the repugican cabal in Indiana appears to have amended the state criminal code to either make it a crime, or confirm that it remain a crime, for clergy to conduct weddings for gay couples.While it is not widely known, numerous mainstream American religions permit gay nuptials. The faiths include reform Judaism, Evangelical Lutherans, Episcopalians, and the United Church of Christ, among others.
The amendment to the criminal code, which will go into effect on July 1, 2014, makes it a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of $1,000 for clergy “solemnize” a marriage of two men or two women.
IC 31-11-11-7
Solemnization of marriage between persons prohibited from marrying
Sec. 7. A person who knowingly solemnizes a marriage of individuals who are prohibited from marrying by IC 31-11-1 commits a Class B misdemeanor.
As added by P.L.1-1997, SEC.3.
The tricky part is coming up with a definition of what “solemnizing” is.  Is solemnizing conducting the marriage service, providing the married couple with a document attesting to their marriage, and/or submitting that document to the state?   Depending on what exact definition of solemnizing Indiana uses, preachers might be thrown in jail for practicing their faith.
One answer to this question appears to be in this section of the Indiana code, which makes clear that solemnization is something that happens before the marriage certificate is filed with the clerk:
IC 31-11-11-8
Failure to timely file marriage license and duplicate marriage certificate
Sec. 8. A person who:
(1) solemnizes a marriage; and
(2) fails to file the marriage license and a duplicate marriage certificate with the clerk of the circuit court not later than ninety (90) days after the date the marriage was solemnized;
Note how solemnization is mentioned as something other than filing the marriage license.  Solemnization is looking more and more like conducting a solemn wedding service.  And that’s what priests and preachers and rabbis do.  And it’s no business of the government telling them what they can and cannot do in their own church, synagogue or mosque.
Catholic priest in handcuffs pedophilia sex abuse child

A successful effort by the Indiana repugican cabal, which controls the state House and Senate, to legislate the permitted, and banned, practices of Jews, Lutherans, Episcopalians, and other mainstream faiths would appear to fly smack in the face of ongoing religious right efforts to brand the civil rights of gays as a threat to religion.  In fact, it is anti-gay bigots who are now threatening to throw mainstream clergy in jail for simply practicing their faith.
The amended criminal code also addresses gay couples that apply for a marriage license at the county clerk.  But, contrary to some reports that are saying the legislature made it a felony to apply for a “gay” marriage license, at least one Indiana newspaper is claiming that the legislature actually decreased the existing penalty for gay couples attempting to marry from a maximum of three years to 18 months.
What the amended law does is change the “crime” of applying for a “gay” marriage license from a Class D felony to a Level 6 felony – Class D was the lowest rung in the old system, Level 6 is the lowest rung in the new system.  And with at least one Indiana press outlet claiming that the new Level 6 penalty is actually less than the old Class D, it’s not clear whether this might actually be a change for the better.
Along those same lines, it would be interesting to know whether it was illegal under the old criminal code for clergy to “solemnize” same-sex nuptials, or whether this is a new crime.  Regardless, the state repugican cabal either made it a crime, or intentionally kept it a crime, in the amended criminal code they just enacted into law.  And it’s creepy as hell that the state of Indiana thinks it can tell mainstream American religions how to practice their faith.
It’s one thing for repugicans to be anti-gay (and anti-black, anti-women, anti-Latino…), but I never thought I’d see the day they’d throw clergy in jail.  That day just arrived in repugican cabal-controlled Indiana.

Lush Dimbulb Claims That Feeding the Unemployed Has Made Them Lazy

While sitting in his multimillion dollar home, Lush Dimbulb claimed that unemployed people are lazy and have no incentive to work because they still have food to eat.
Audio via Media Matters:
Dimbulb said, “Some people have said that I sound like I’m a little cold hearted about this. I’m not. Unemployment in America. You’ve got your car. The way to put this. The unemployed are still eating, and so what’s the problem? The unemployed have their cell phones. They have their cars. They’ve got their flat screens and food. Being unemployed is not what it used to be. When you were out of work, you were in dire circumstances. And your unemployment compensation didn’t come close to substituting what you lost when you lost your job. No, I am talking about incentives. What’s the incentive to work? There isn’t near enough the necessity, and I am telling you, you take away the notion of careers from the American jobs experience, or universe whatever you want to call it. This is massive massive change that is not, in this case, good.”
Lush Dimbulb thinks that the reason why the unemployed don’t have jobs is that we have made life to easy for them by making sure that they can eat. Dimbulb’s thoughts are the mainstream opinion within the repugican cabal when it comes to unemployment. The repugicans have repeatedly tried to cut food stamps in 2012 and 2013. Dimbulb’s thoughts on how to deal with the unemployed reflect the Ryan budget, and in the repugican plan to deal with the debt ceiling deadline later this year. Dimbulb’s comments about the unemployed still having a car echo the Farm Bill amendment that Paul Ryan proposed that would have disqualified people from food assistance eligibility if their car was worth more than $5,000.
The idea that the unemployed somehow have it easy is a repugican myth that goes back to Ronald Reagan’s imaginary Cadillac driving Chicago welfare queen. Only one state provides 50% of lost wages as an unemployment benefit (Hawaii). Unemployment benefits average about $300 a week, but they vary from state to state, and can be closer to $200 a week in some places.
Unemployment benefits provide enough money for people to barely subsist on. The idea that unemployment benefits kill the motivation to work is a right wing fairy tale that is used to justify taking resources away from the people who need them most.
Lush Dimbulb gets paid to say extreme things, but in this case, he was echoing the beliefs of his cabal. The repugican cabal really believes that they can solve the unemployment problem by starving the unemployed. The repugicans don’t see the unemployed as the victims of greedy system that crashed the economy. They view the unemployed as lazy people who think they are entitled to food. The repugicans believe that the unemployed are part of Mitt Romney’s 47%. They are moochers who would give off the couch if the government would stop giving them things.
Welcome to repugican world. They crashed the economy and caused you to lose your job, but don’t expect them to give you anything to eat.

The Washington Post Is Now Publishing repugican Press Releases As News

corporate-mediaIs the Washington Post publishing repugican press releases as news now, without factchecking? Monday evening, Jenna Johnson published a blog post on the student loan crisis that read eerily like the statement John Boehner’s office put out today. It opened in a similar fashion, “House repugican leaders gathered with dozens of well-dressed college students on the steps of the U.S. Capitol Monday afternoon to blast Senate Democrats for not yet passing a student loan bill, allowing the interest rate on one type of federal loan to double last week.”
No, it wasn’t plagiarized; it just managed to follow Boehner’s narrative and pass it off as news, with a bit of extra detail thrown in for substance. Boehner’s press release today read:
House Speaker John Boehner (r-OH) and repugican leaders joined college students from across the nation today in a rally at the U.S. Capitol urging Senate Democrats to follow the House’s lead and take action on student loan interest rates, which doubled one week ago.
Then we got Boehner’s statements, which translate into the entire arc of the WaPo article.
“You know, repugicans have acted to stop student loan interest rates from doubling and to make college more affordable for students across the country, including these students that are right here behind me. The White House and Senate Democrats have let these students down. And frankly, I think they deserve better. It’s time for the president to lead, it’s time for him to bring Senate Democrat leaders together and develop a solution.
“The House has done its job, it’s time for the Senate and the White House to do its job. And if you look at what the House passed, it’s very close to what the president offered in his own budget earlier this year.
From the Post:
The repugican-led House passed a bill in late May that establishes a variable interest rate for Stafford loans that’s tied to the government’s cost of borrowing, a concept that President Obama has supported. For the coming school year, that would likely mean a rate of less than 5 percent. In future years, the rate could go as high as 8.5 percent.
Also, there were the usual tells of a repugican talking: “Democrat-led Senate” instead of “Democratic-led Senate”, and then the writer informs us inaccurately that President Obama supported the concept behind the House repugicans’ student loan bill. That, of course, is not true, because while there was some cross over, there were huge differences that caused Obama to threaten to veto the House bill, but Boehner suggests the same thing in his press release.
And then Ms. Johnson informs us that Boehner blasted the President for not doing enough to make Senate Democrats pass something. Where was the “other side” on that? No quotes from Democrats. No fact checking. No “balance” with even presenting the alternative argument. Oh, repugican spin world, how pretty things are in your teeny tiny corner of the propaganda world!
On May 31, President Obama stood up for students when he threatened to VETO the House repugicans’ attempt to stick students with paying down the deficit through the variable rate Ms. Johnson tells us Obama supported. So, Obama supported it except when he threatened to veto it on May 31.
He explained that while he’s glad House repugicans did something, their plan is not smart or fair, “I’m glad that they took action, but their bill does not meet that test. It fails to lock in low rates for students next year. The House bill isn’t smart, and it’s not fair. I’m glad that the House is paying attention to it, but they didn’t do it in the right way.” The President is saying that it’s not fair to force students to pay down the deficit, especially when repugicans won’t even close tax loopholes for the wealthy.
So that’s a big fat public NO to Obama supporting the House plan.
Boehner’s statement today suggesting that the President can’t lead:
“Listen, the failure to lead on student loans is part of the president’s larger issue, and that is the failure to lead on the biggest issues facing our country: jobs and the economy. Every American deserves better than this new normal of slow economic growth, not enough jobs, and no increase in wages.”
Ms. Johnson writes, “Speaker John A. Boehner (r-Ohio) criticized Obama for not pushing the Democrat-led Senate to take action before July 1. Stafford loans have annual borrowing limits and account for only a portion of all student loan debt, which currently totals more than $1 trillion.” Well, okay, but Obama’s May 31 speech is but one of many times Obama used the bully pulpit to try to get this historically lazy Congress to do SOMETHING for the people of this country, specifically to pass a student loan bill that would continue allowing students and their families to have some assurance that their rates would not spike in the future to unsustainable levels.
Obama can’t be blamed by rational people for Boehner’s record setting failure of a House of Representatives, but it’s sweet that he has such advocates in the political world.
Ms. Johnson then repeated Boehner’s criticism, noting that other repugicans joined in (shocking!). And she closed with this, “The hashtag again came to life, with both parties using it to push their ideas for finding funds to continue a lower interest rate.” Um, no, actually, repugicans have argued that we can’t afford to subsidize low student loan rates. That is the premise behind their argument, though not one they share with the public readily, I’ll grant.
Just in case it’s not clear yet, on July 1, Speaker Boehner issued a statement claiming inaccurately, “repugicans have passed common-sense legislation mirroring the president’s plan to stop student loans from doubling and make college more affordable.” Mirroring? You mean, if only the President had been willing to stick students with the higher rates of the repugican cabal plan that he said he would VETO.
On June 28th, the Speaker’s office was desperately trying to establish the narrative that the House’s bill was bipartisan (as if — nothing bipartisan comes out of the House unless Pelosi gets it done for Boehner), “But rather than take up a bipartisan solution supported by President Obama and House repugicans, Senate Democrats are going to go ahead and let student loan interest rates double on Monday.”
Ironically, it was the Washington Post (in a link that now goes to page not found) that pointed out that the repugican plan would cause the interest rate on a Stafford Loan to double, “Students who max out their subsidized Stafford loans over four years would pay $8,331 in interest payments under the repugican bill, and $3,450 if rates were kept at 3.4 percent. If rates were allowed to double in July, that amount would be $7,284 over the typical 10-year window to repay the maximum $19,000.”
The repugican version is variable rate scheme where a student’s loan rate would be reset every year in order to enable the banks to make a profit off of students and force students to pay down the deficit of their elders.
The Post’s own earlier reporting confirms my take on things, “The proposal cleared the repugican cabal-led House on a largely party-line vote of 221 to 198, but it faces opposition in the Democratic-controlled Senate and a veto threat from President Obama.” Yes, see, it wasn’t bipartisan, Obama did not support it, and he did threaten to veto it.
That same WaPo article noted that while there were some similarities, a key difference between Obama’s and the House repugicans’ plans is that under Obama’s plan, rates “would be fixed after students take out a loan. The repugican bill would let rates for individual loans float.” You can see what damage floating rates could do.
You might expect a writer to at least do a cursory search before passing a press release off as fact, but we got the entire inaccurate repugican cabal narrative neatly painted for us and passed off as news. Buyer beware, because while not all press releases are full of lies, Speaker Boehner’s are by necessity inaccurate and misleading.

Random Photos

Link Dump

Data from the Mars Rover mission indicates that the radiation dose received by future astronauts is a challenging obstacle to overcome.

A proof-of-concept demonstration shows that your iPhone could be hacked by using someone else's charger.

A sequence of still photos shows what happened when a car drove over a steel rod (no gore, but the positioning of the rod is suggestive).

"Heat bursts" are local weather phenomena that result in surface temperatures suddenly rising 20 degrees in a matter of hours (with links to NOAA and to a video).

The "Number of the Beast" may not be 666.  It might instead be 616.

The ancient Egyptians obtained workable iron by harvesting fallen meteorites.

The odds of heads vs. tails on a coin flip may not necessarily be exactly 50:50. "it’s closer to 51/49, biased toward whatever side was up when the coin was thrown into the air."  And the difference is reported to be more dramatic with a coin spin rather than a flip.

Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev did leave a note explaining why he did it.  He said the bombings were "retribution for U.S. military action in Afghanistan and Iraq, and called the Boston victims "collateral damage" in the same way Muslims have been in the American-led wars. "When you attack one Muslim, you attack all Muslims," Tsarnaev wrote."

The gender gap in Congress illustrated.

An Angkor Wat-type lost city has been discovered in the Cambodian jungle.

The movie "Groundhog Day" can be viewed as a "Buddhist classic."

The FBI is still looking for the remains of Jimmy Hoffa.  It's been 38 years.  Why don't they give up?  What's the point?

"The federal government will intervene in the sugar market for the first time in more than a decade, spending up to $38 million in an effort to forestall a later bailout of sugar producers... “Record-breaking yields of sugar crops and a global surplus have driven down U.S. sugar prices, and USDA is required to act to stabilize the domestic market,” the USDA said in a statement."

A week from today, someone in India will transmit the world's last telegram.

The city of Detroit continues to implode. "40% of its street lights are out of order, and it has 78,000 abandoned and blighted structures, of which 38,000 are considered dangerous buildings. Those buildings account for a large proportion of the 12,000 fires Detroit has every year."

"Chetham’s Library, UK’s oldest public library, was built in 1421 as a college (it was a library from 1653). One of the original doors from that school, seen here, holds a round (and charming) secret: a cat flap! Mice were unwelcome, of course, in a library..."

A French title designer has created a video tribute to the films of Alfred Hitchcock.

Video footage of an 8-foot long oarfish, filmed by an ROV.

Ten videos of flights of starlings.

What does billion-year-old water taste like? "What jumps out at you first is the saltiness. Because of the reactions between the water and the rock, it is extremely salty. It is more viscous than tap water. It has the consistency of a very light maple syrup. It doesn't have color when it comes out, but as soon as it comes into contact with oxygen it turns an orangy color because the minerals in it begin to form — especially the iron."  It reportedly tastes terrible.

Why Thor's Hammer is on military headstones

John Brownlee on how the U.S. military's epic journey into religious tolerance reached Odinism.
Mjölnir is a weapon of honor and virtue, and a fitting symbol for any noble warrior. So it’s appropriate that American soldiers can now request the symbol for Thor’s Hammer be placed on their headstone if they die in the line of duty. But Mjölnir’s path toward becoming an acceptable headstone option wasn’t easy. It practically took the power of Thor to get it there.

"Dead" patient woke up as surgeons prepared to remove her organs

A depressed woman who overdosed on drugs was mistakenly pronounced dead and placed on the operating table for organ removal, because she was marked as an organ donor. Just one problem. Colleen S. Burns wasn't dead. New York's state Health Department fined St. Joseph's Hospital $22,000 for almost harvesting the organs from a living patient. The Syracuse hospital has been penalized for other medical catastrophes, but the state "could not find another case similar to the Burns case after reviewing the past 10 years of inspection records," according to a spokesman.
The day before her organs were to be removed, a nurse had performed a reflex test on Burns, scraping a finger on the bottom of her foot. The toes curled downward - not the expected reaction of someone who's supposed to be dead. There were other indications that Burns had not suffered irreversible brain damage, as doctors had determined. Her nostrils flared in the prep area outside the OR. She seemed to be breathing independently from the respirator she was attached to. Her lips and tongue moved.
The incident happened in 2009; 16 months later, the woman killed herself. How often do horrific near-accidents like this happen? Hard to say, say the medical experts quoted in the article. It's not like the victims can tell us.

A Punctuated Name Will Cost You

P!nk. Ke$ha. Hootie & the Blowfish (don't forget the ampersand, thank you very much). William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White are rolling - or is that rock 'n rolling - in their graves with all the weird capitalization and punctuation marks.
Well, one man is trying to bring order to all that chaos. Meet Bill Wilson, the music industry's digital grammarian, who has released a new rule book for spelling, grammar, and description for music.
Why does all this matter? Hannah Karp of the Wall Street Journal explains:
As the music business has become more democratic, with artists increasingly releasing their music straight onto the Internet, the data that would-be buyers need to navigate all the music has become a free-for-all.
Now data-entry experts—once the nerds of the music universe—are calling for an end to the funny business. And they are finally being taken seriously as the struggling industry scrounges around for new sources of income. With fans unable to find the music they are searching for—or buying the wrong songs—and performers and songwriters struggling to collect royalties from misidentified tracks, the industry is probably losing revenue, these experts say. Mr. Wilson said the losses are difficult to quantify and he doesn't know anyone who has tried. But some publishers who specialize in royalty recovery claim that cleaning up metadata can boost client revenue by up to 30%.
Read the rest over at WSJ.

What Is The Most Dangerous Piece Of Laboratory Equipment?

Consider the autoclave, which scientists use to sterilize tools and which issues scalding steam to do so. Or consider the heat gun, which is used to dry glassware and to warm distillation devices. It can also ignite anything flammable that gets too close.

Glass containers in a vacuum can implode, spraying shards everywhere. Centrifuge rotors can fail, causing explosions that throw shock waves throughout a lab filled with chemicals. Yet none of these instruments is nearly as dangerous as the only thing found in every single laboratory on earth: us.

The German language now officially includes "shitstorm"

"Shitstorm" has been inducted into Duden, the official German dictionary. It was a favorite among linguists, who admired its applicability to the plagiarism scandal that led to the resignation of Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg. Strangely, an equivalent German word was not created by stringing together 75 other German words.

Police helicopter blew couple stranded in broken down boat away from waterfall

A Norwegian police helicopter pilot averted a catastrophe on Friday night as a couple in a fishing boat with a broken engine drifted towards a dangerous waterfall. June Kristiansen from Auli and Michael Walton from Raelingen were out fishing in Glomma at about 6pm when the engine on their boat suddenly broke down.

The propeller and engine had been damaged in a collision with a stone. The subsequent engine failure caused the boat, which had no oars onboard, to drift down river towards a waterfall. "It went very quickly. I was reasonably stressed," said June. "Michael considered jumping into the water and swimming, but I made it clear that it was not such a good idea.

"I know what kind of underwater currents that are in the river. I did not think we would manage to swim ashore," she continued. As the boat neared the waterfall the couple called police, who happened to have a helicopter in the vicinity. "Luckily they had a helicopter nearby. It was in place within two minutes. Thank goodness for that," said June.

The crew of the helicopter acted quickly. They flew the helicopter down to the water and used the rotor blades to blow the boat to shore. "I've been thinking about what could have happened if the police helicopter had not been near. But I try not to think about it," said June.

Hong Kong's Kai Tak Airport

Kai Tak Airport was the international airport in Hong Kong from 1925 until 1998. The city had little available space, so the runway was built on reclaimed land out over Kowloon Bay. As Hong Kong grew during the 20th century, tall buildings went up dangerously close to the airport, and air traffic grew exponentially. In later years, Kai Tak was ranked as the sixth most dangerous airport in the world. It has since been replaced by the new and bigger Hong Kong International Airport to the west of the city.  

I flew in and out of Kai Tak airport (twice) in June of 1998, just days before the airport closed for good. No one prepared me for the terrifying landing. I went from pure excitement over being in Hong Kong to HOLY SH…. as the plane appeared to weave between skyscrapers and then land on a runway that looked to be inches from the sea on either side.

The Daily Mail has a collection of scary photographs of Kai Tak landings, taken by English teacher Daryl Scott Chapman, who lives in Hong Kong. More

The Laxey Wheel

Built in 1854 to pump water from mineshafts on the Isle of Man, the Laxey Wheel is the largest operating waterwheel in the world.  It still turns, but is not used for pumping water from the mines nowadays - brief un-narrated video here
The Triskelion is visible on the front of the wheel. However it is backwards; this happened by accident when transferring the image on to the wall, they forgot to reverse the image so it is actually a mirror image of the authentic Three Legs of Mann.
Image from Photochrom, an interesting tumblr of Europe in the 1890s and early 1900s, as depicted in photochrome prints.

Flight attendant suing airline over allegations she hid pet rats in her underwear

A Long Island flight attendant was accused of hiding pet rats in her pantyhose and panties in order to sneak them onto planes, according to a lawsuit. But veteran American Airlines stewardess Louann Giambattista, 55, says allegations made by three colleagues were “absurd” and “patently false” - and they have turned her life upside-down. The purported “Willard” witnesses included a pilot who helped her out of a van at the airport during a layover on Feb. 26, 2012. The aviator claimed “he saw a bulge in [her] pocket” and saw “what he thought was a live pet,” according to papers filed in Brooklyn federal court.

Later, during the flight from St. Martin to Miami, a fellow flight attendant “believed [Giambattista] fed her pet rats,” court papers said. Giambattista, an admitted animal lover, said the co-worker assumed she was feeding her furry friends because she saw her “eating a dinner roll out of a cup.” But Giambattista claims the roll was for her - and that she hid it in a cup to avoid looking unprofessional in front of passengers. When the co-workers ratted on Giambattista upon landing in Florida, a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent questioned her and searched her belongings for an hour, she alleges.

A lawyer for the Long Beach woman called the claims of flying rodents preposterous. “Everybody has pets - she has her pets at home, not at work,” attorney Stephen Morelli said. “She’s not a nut. They’re making her out to be a nut.” In response to the reported rats on a plane, the airline put a flag on her passport, according to the lawsuit Giambattista filed last week. Though no rats were ever found, Giambattista said she remained blacklisted for more than a year, with federal agents subjecting her to stops and searches every time she passed through customs, “making it nearly impossible for [her] to report to work.”

ICE agents bullied her and threatened her with a strip search, she charges in court papers. She claims she was put “on display” during one interrogation in an employee break room, as other airline employees filtered in and out “purely to observe.” The situation left her with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, including “debilitating anxiety,” Giambattista claims. But American Airlines refused to transfer her to domestic flights so she could avoid customs, the 33-year industry veteran maintains. Giambattista is seeking unspecified damages. American Airlines said it would respond to the claims in court.

Indonesian men rescued after five days trapped in trees surrounded by angry Sumatran tigers

Five men have been rescued in an Indonesian national park after spending five days trapped in trees surrounded by Sumatran tigers, officials say. Dozens of rescuers, including police, arrived at the Mount Leuser National Park on Sumatra Island to help the men. They moved in after tamers managed to drive the tigers away, reports say.

Several tigers attacked the group on Thursday after they accidentally killed a tiger cub. A sixth man died in the initial incident. Andi Basrul, head of the national park, said the survivors were being transported to the nearest village, which normally takes six hours on foot. Jamal Gayo, from the conservation group Leuser International Foundation, said the five were weak after not having had food for three days.

The men had initially alerted nearby villagers using mobile phones. Villagers tried to rescue the men on Thursday, but retreated when they saw at least four large Sumatran tigers circling the base of the tree. Officials had said it took time before they could get to the park, which covers nearly 7,930 sq km (3,060 sq miles) along the border of North Sumatra and Aceh provinces.

Earlier reports said the group, all from Simpang Kiri village in Aceh Tamiang district, had set up deer traps for food, but accidentally caught a tiger cub. The injured animal drew nearby tigers, who then pounced on the men and killed a 28-year-old only identified as David. The smallest of all tigers, Sumatran tigers are a critically endangered species only found on the Indonesian island. As few as 350 remain in the wild due to forest destruction and poaching, of which the largest population lives in the Gunung Leuser national park.

Primeval Underwater Forest Found in Gulf of Mexico

Scuba divers have discovered a primeval underwater forest off the coast of Alabama.


Animal News

Researchers have found that the amphibious mangrove rivulus performs higher force jumps on land than some other fishes that end up on land. This new study shows that unlike the largemouth bass, which makes very [...]

Bats are uniquely able to stretch and store energy in their bicep and tricep tendons during take-off and climbing flight, giving them an extra power boost. A new study on fruitbats, to be presented at [...]

The Snow Monkeys Of Japan

Snow monkeys - known as the Japanese macaque - are a terrestrial Old World monkey species native to Japan that are utterly stunning and inspiring. And photographer Ron Gessel is someone who has captured their true beauty.

No primate, with the exception of humans, is more northern-living, nor lives in a colder climate than these creatures. Here are some of them, bathing in hot springs near Nagano, Japan. With their human traits and their beautiful, soulful eyes.

Animal Pictures


Black wolf walks along a ridge in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone National Park
By Andrew Bennett