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

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Daily Drift

Yeah, what he said ...

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Today is (there is no special celebration today) Day 

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Today in History

1789   Robespierre, a deputy from Arras, France, decides to back the French Revolution.
1812   Great Britain signs the Treaty of Orebro, making peace with Russia and Sweden.
1830   Uruguay adopts a liberal constitution.
1861   Union and Confederate troops skirmish at Blackburn's Ford, Virginia, in a prelude to the Battle of Bull Run.
1877   Inventor Thomas Edison records the human voice for the first time.
1872   The Ballot Act is passed in Great Britain, providing for secret election ballots.
1935   Ethiopian King Haile Selassie urges his countrymen to fight to the last man against the invading Italian army.
1936   General Francisco Franco of Spain revolts against the Republican government, starting the Spanish Civil War.
1942   The German Me-262, the first jet-propelled aircraft to fly in combat, makes its first flight.
1971   New Zealand and Austrailia announce they will pull their troops out of Vietnam.
1994   In Buenos Aires, a massive car bomb kills 96 people.

Non Sequitur


To Rescue Local Economies, Cities Seize Underwater Mortgages Through Eminent Domain

In 2005, Rodney Conway and his wife, Vicki, paid $340,000 for their 950-square-foot two-bedroom home in Richmond, California, a blue-collar city in the Bay Area. Today the home is worth about $140,000. But the couple still owes $320,000 and makes monthly mortgage payments to the Bank of America. “We’re basically renting this house for $2,000 a month,” said the 52-year-old Conway, who was disabled while serving on a Navy ship in Lebanon in 1983.
Underwater mortgageWith her office job and his disability income, the Conways can barely make ends meet. “We don’t take trips or go to restaurants. We just went to a movie for the first time in a year,” said Conway, who spent twenty-six years as a letter carrier before being laid off in 2009. “I’d like to be able to give my wife a nice birthday present, but I can’t afford it.”
In almost every part of the country, entire neighborhoods—and in some cases, whole cities—are underwater. They are not victims of natural disasters like Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. Like the Conways, they are drowning in debt, victims of Wall Street’s reckless and predatory lending practices.
Since 2006, when the speculative housing bubble burst, home prices have plummeted; homeowners have lost more than $6 trillion in household wealth. Many now owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. Despite rising home prices in some parts of the country, more than 11 million American families—one-fifth of all homeowners with mortgages—are still underwater, through no fault of their own. If nothing is done, many will eventually join the more than 5 million American homeowners who have already lost their homes to foreclosure.
The nation’s worst underwater “hot spots”—disproportionately black and Latino areas—are places that banks targeted for predatory lending, often pushing borrowers into high-interest, risky loans, even when they were eligible for conventional mortgages. Many have lost their jobs or seen their incomes fall as a result of the recession and are having difficulty paying the bills.
Dallas, Las Vegas, Miami, Houston, San Bernardino, Tampa, Jacksonville, Phoenix, Atlanta, Orlando, Stockton, Reno, Modesto and Detroit are among the most troubled “hot spots,” but there are many other communities with huge inventories of underwater mortgages and where home prices are not participating in the recovery.
The problem is contagious. Communities with many underwater homes bring down the value of other houses in the area. Foreclosures alone have drained at $2 trillion in property values from surrounding neighborhoods, according to a Center for Responsible Lending study. The resulting decline in property tax revenues has plunged some cities into near-bankruptcy, lay-offs and cuts to vital public services.
Many economists, including Joseph Stiglitz and Mark Zandi, agree that the best solution is “principal reduction,” where banks lower the borrower’s mortgage principal. This is not an act of charity but a way to reverse the economy’s freefall. If underwater mortgages were reset to fair-market values of homes, it would help homeowners and communities alike, and pump about $102 billion into the economy annually, according to a Home Defenders League report.
But homeowners who have asked banks to modify their mortgages typically get a cold shoulder or a bureaucratic runaround. So far, the Obama administration and Congress have been unwilling to require intransigent banks to reset loans.
Faced with this quagmire, a growing number of cities—with the support of community groups and unions—are taking things into their own hands. Thanks to a legal strategy initially formulated by Cornell University law professor Robert Hockett, city officials have discovered that they can use their eminent domain power—which they routinely use to purchase property for sidewalks, infrastructure, school construction and other projects—to buy underwater mortgages at their current market value and resell them to homeowners at reduced price and mortgage payments.
Richmond is the first city to pursue this strategy. Its city council—with the support of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), which for years has organized homeowners against predatory banks—recently voted 6-0 (with one member absent) to make offers to buy underwater mortgages. If lenders refuse, the city will take them by eminent domain and work with a group of friendly investors (Mortgage Resolution Partners, or MRP) to refinance the loans with the Federal Housing Administration.
In this city of 103,000, dominated by a big Chevon oil refinery, home prices have plummeted by 58 percent since the 2007 peak. Homeowners lost over $264 million in wealth last year alone. Thousands of Richmond homeowners have lost their homes to foreclosure, and many others, like the Conways, are just hanging on. About 12,000 families—half of all homeowners with mortgages in the city—are underwater. The city government, which has lost millions of dollars in property tax revenues, has cut funds for road repairs and significantly reduced the number of municipal employees, including librarians. Meanwhile, it has had to spend scarce funds to deal with abandoned buildings, crime and drugs, and other problems caused by the foreclosure epidemic.
If banks reset Richmond’s underwater mortgages to fair market value, homeowners would save an average of over $1,000 per month on their payments. If those savings were spent on local goods and services, it would generate about $170 million in economic stimulus and create at least 2,500 jobs.
This situation is particularly bizarre for homeowners whose mortgages were sold by banks to pools of private investors—an industry gambit called “private label security” (PLS) mortgages. The trustees for these mortgages—owed by dozens or hundreds of distant investors as part of a pool—claim they lack the authority to modify them.
Richmond is initially targeting these PLS loans so they can get the homeowners into sustainable mortgages with reduced principal. MRP, Richmond’s funding partner, has agreed to a set of community-drafted principles to make sure that investors don’t exploit desperate cities and homeowners. It has pledged, for example, that the program won’t cost taxpayers a dime. MRP will earn a flat fee per mortgage. Homeowners can voluntarily opt out of the program.
Wall Street is up in arms. Since several cities began discussing this strategy last year, industry lobbyists have been fighting back. In a coordinated effort involving letters, phone calls and meetings, some of the nation’s most powerful lobby groups—including the National Association of Realtors, the American Bankers Association, the National Association of Home Builders, American Securitization Forum, and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA)—have tried to dissuade local officials from pursuing the eminent domain strategy.
In April, for example, SIFMA officials Kim Chamberlain and Tim Cameron traveled from New York to Richmond to persuade Mayor Gayle McLaughlin and her Council colleagues to back off.
“We’re not going to be intimidated by these Wall Street folks,” said McLaughlin, a former teacher who has been mayor since 2006. “It is pretty outrageous to hear them opposing this. They’re the ones who caused this crisis in the first place. And they don’t have a solution. The city has every right to do this.”
The Wall Street lobbyists have threatened to mire local governments in expensive lawsuits if they use eminent domain to take troubled mortgages. But MRP has agreed to cover the costs of any potential litigation, so most city officials recognize that this is mostly an empty threat.
The lobbyists have also warned local officials that if they go through with these plans, banks will increase the cost of future borrowing or even shut down credit entirely. They couch these warnings as if they were mere predictions. But they’re threats—part of a coordinated, industry-wide credit boycott. This is another form of “redlining” (lending discrimination), which violates the nation’s fair lending and antitrust laws.
recent editorial published by The Wall Street Journal echoed the industry line that the eminent domain strategy is both illegal and ill-advised.
To pre-empt local governments, three Republican congressmen from California last month sent a letter to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan on behalf of the industry, asking HUD to deny FHA financing from mortgages taken by eminent domain. Last year the financial, real estate and insurance industry topped the list of contributors to all three politicians—Gary Miller ($366,000), John Campbell ($484,000), and Ed Royce ($1 million)—according to OpenSecrets.org.
“We are concerned that the proposed use of eminent domain would slow the return of private capital to the housing finance system, and threaten our fragile housing recovery,” they wrote Donovan.
Sound familiar? Throughout the last century, business lobby groups have consistently warned that government action to protect consumers, communities and workers—mandatory seat belts, the minimum wage, consumer protection laws, workplace safety rules and others—are “job killers” and business destroyers. Their dire warnings were bogus, but they repeat them so often that they often sound convincing.
Like their predecessors, the bank, securities and real estate lobby groups are crying wolf. They can file nuisance lawsuits, hire lobbyists and get the occasional hired-gun economist from a conservative think tank to peddle their propaganda, but cities have a legal right to use eminent domain to restore community wealth stripped by reckless banks.
Even so, Wall Street’s intimidation ploy has worked in a few places. Earlier this year, elected officials in San Bernardino—where half of all homeowners are underwater—backed down after industry lobbyists swooped down on that troubled community an hour from Los Angeles. But in Richmond, Seattle, Newark and other cities—where community groups and unions have mobilized angry homeowners and their neighbors—local officials are determined to move forward, aware that they have the law and economics on their side.
“Wall Street is scared and using all its political muscle to stop us, “ said Amy Schur, campaign director for ACCE, which is working on this strategy with homeowners and local officials in several cities, “but we know that David beat Goliath.”
”We hope our city provides a model for other cities,” said Richmond Mayor McLaughlin, “and that this becomes a national movement.”

JFK on the evil of secrecy

This is an address President John F. Kennedy gave to the American Newspaper Publishers Association on April 27, 1961.What’s particularly interesting about the speech is that it’s about the communist threat, yet, it’s a speech about the evils of secrecy and the importance of a free press.
Rather than embrace the post-9/11 philosophy of greater paranoia, Kennedy embraced the opposite. And let no one tell suggest that the Soviets didn’t pose as great a threat as Al Qaeda.
John F. Kennedy meeting with Nikita Khrushchev in Vienna. (Photograph from the U. S. Department of State in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.)
John F. Kennedy meeting with Nikita Khrushchev in Vienna. 

 I’ve cut the first several paragraphs, as they’re not really relevant, though they’re included in the audio, and you can read them here at the JFK library.
My topic tonight is a more sober one of concern to publishers as well as editors.
I want to talk about our common responsibilities in the face of a common danger. The events of recent weeks may have helped to illuminate that challenge for some; but the dimensions of its threat have loomed large on the horizon for many years. Whatever our hopes may be for the future–for reducing this threat or living with it–there is no escaping either the gravity or the totality of its challenge to our survival and to our security–a challenge that confronts us in unaccustomed ways in every sphere of human activity.
This deadly challenge imposes upon our society two requirements of direct concern both to the press and to the President–two requirements that may seem almost contradictory in tone, but which must be reconciled and fulfilled if we are to meet this national peril. I refer, first, to the need for a far greater public information; and, second, to the need for far greater official secrecy.
The very word “secrecy” is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths, and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it.
Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions.
Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it.
President Kennedy and Vice President Johnson prior to ceremony for the Workmens' Compensation Commemorative Stamp, Washington, D. C., White House, South Lawn. (Photo taken by a Park Service employee on duty, August 1961.)
President Kennedy and Vice President Johnson prior to ceremony for the Workmens’ Compensation Commemorative Stamp, Washington, D. C., White House, South Lawn.
And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment — that I do not intend to permit to the extent that it is in my control. And no official of my Administration, whether his rank is high or low, civilian or military, should interpret my words here tonight as an excuse to censor the news, to stifle dissent, to cover up our mistakes, or to withhold from the press and the public the facts they deserve to know.
But I do ask every publisher, every editor, and every newsman in the nation to reexamine his own standards, and to recognize the nature of our country’s peril.
In time of war, the government and the press have customarily joined in an effort based largely on self-discipline, to prevent unauthorized disclosures to the enemy. In times of “clear and present danger”, the courts have held that even the privileged rights of the First Amendment must yield to the public’s need for national security.
Today no war has been declared — and however fierce the struggle may be, it may never be declared in the traditional fashion. Our way of life is under attack. Those who make themselves our enemy are advancing around the globe. The survival of our friends is in danger. And yet no war has been declared, no borders have been crossed by marching troops, no missiles have been fired.
Photo © by Jeff Dean - then a student at Lawrence College, Appleton, Wisconsin.
If the press is awaiting a declaration of war before it imposes the self-discipline of combat conditions, then I can only say that no war ever posed a greater threat to our security. If you are awaiting a finding of “clear and present danger,” then I can only say that the danger has never been more clear, and its presence has never been more imminent.
It requires a change in outlook, a change in tactics, a change in missions — by the government, by the people, by every businessman or labor leader, and by every newspaper.
For we are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence — on infiltration instead of invasion, on subversion instead of elections, on intimidation instead of free choice, on guerrillas by night instead of armies by day. It is a system which has conscripted vast human and material resources into the building of a tightly knit, highly efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific, and political operations.
Its preparations are concealed, not published. Its mistakes are buried, not headlined. Its dissenters are silenced, not praised. No expenditure is questioned, no rumor is printed, no secret is revealed. It conducts the Cold War, in short, with a war-time discipline no democracy would ever hope or wish to match.
Nevertheless, every democracy recognizes the necessary restraints of national security — and the question remains whether those restraints need to be more strictly observed if we are to oppose this kind of attack, as well as outright invasion.
For the facts of the matter are: that this nation’s foes have openly boasted of acquiring through our newspapers information they would otherwise hire agents to acquire through theft, bribery, or espionage; that details of this nation’s covert preparations to counter the enemy’s covert operations have been available to every newspaper reader, friend and foe alike; that the size, the strength, the location, and the nature of our forces and weapons, and our plans and strategy for their use, have all been pinpointed in the press and other news media to a degree sufficient to satisfy any foreign power; and that, in at least in one case, the publication of details concerning a secret mechanism whereby satellites were followed required its alteration at the expense of considerable time and money.
The newspapers which printed these stories were loyal, patriotic, responsible, and well-meaning. Had we been engaged in open warfare, they undoubtedly would not have published such items. But in the absence of open warfare, they recognized only the tests of journalism and not the tests of national security. And my question tonight is whether additional tests should not now be adopted.
JFK addresses the nation on civil rights, June 11, 1963. (Photo by federal employee Abbie Rowe.) 
 JFK addresses the nation on civil rights, June 11, 1963. 

 That question is for you alone to answer. No public official should answer it for you. No governmental plan should impose its restraints against your will. But I would be failing in my duty to the nation, in considering all of the responsibilities that we now bear and all of the means at hand to meet those responsibilities, if I did not commend this problem to your attention, and urge its thoughtful consideration.
On many earlier occasions, I have said — and your newspapers have constantly said — that these are times that appeal to every citizen’s sense of sacrifice and self-discipline. They call out to every citizen to weigh his rights and comforts against his obligations to the common good. I cannot now believe that those citizens who serve in the newspaper business consider themselves exempt from that appeal.
I have no intention of establishing a new Office of War Information to govern the flow of news. I am not suggesting any new forms of censorship or any new types of security classifications. I have no easy answer to the dilemma that I have posed, and would not seek to impose it if I had one.
But I am asking the members of the newspaper profession and the industry in this country to reexamine their own responsibilities, to consider the degree and the nature of the present danger, and to heed the duty of self-restraint which that danger imposes upon us all.
Every newspaper now asks itself, with respect to every story: “Is it news?” All I suggest is that you add the question: “Is it in the interest of the national security?” And I hope that every group in America — unions and businessmen and public officials at every level — will ask the same question of their endeavors, and subject their actions to the same exacting tests.
And should the press of America consider and recommend the voluntary assumption of specific new steps or machinery, I can assure you that we will cooperate whole-heartedly with those recommendations.
Perhaps there will be no recommendations. Perhaps there is no answer to the dilemma faced by a free and open society in a cold and secret war. In times of peace, any discussion of this subject, and any action that results, are both painful and without precedent. But this is a time of peace and peril which knows no precedent in history.
It is the unprecedented nature of this challenge that also gives rise to your second obligation — an obligation which I share.
And that is our obligation to inform and alert the American people — to make certain that they possess all the facts that they need, and understand them as well — the perils, the prospects, the purposes of our program and the choices that we face.
No President should fear public scrutiny of his program. For from that scrutiny comes understanding; and from that understanding comes support or opposition. And both are necessary.
I am not asking your newspapers to support the Administration, but I am asking your help in the tremendous task of informing and alerting the American people. For I have complete confidence in the response and dedication of our citizens whenever they are fully informed.
I not only could not stifle controversy among your readers — I welcome it. This Administration intends to be candid about its errors; for as a wise man once said: “An error doesn’t become a mistake until you refuse to correct it.” We intend to accept full responsibility for our errors; and we expect you to point them out when we miss them.
Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed — and no republic can survive. That is why the Athenian lawmaker Solon decreed it a crime for any citizen to shrink from controversy.
And that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment — the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution — not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and the sentimental, not to simply “give the public what it wants” — but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold, educate, and sometimes even anger public opinion.
This means greater coverage and analysis of international news — for it is no longer far away and foreign but close at hand and local. It means greater attention to improved understanding of the news as well as improved transmission.
And it means, finally, that government at all levels, must meet its obligation to provide you with the fullest possible information outside the narrowest limits of national security — and we intend to do it.
It was early in the Seventeenth Century that Francis Bacon remarked on three recent inventions already transforming the world: the compass, gunpowder, and the printing press. Now the links between the nations, first forged by the compass have made us all citizens of the world, the hopes and threats of one becoming the hopes and threats of us all. In that one world’s efforts to live together, the evolution of gunpowder to its ultimate limit has warned mankind of the terrible consequences of failure.
And so it is to the printing press — to the recorder of man’s deeds, the keeper of his conscience, the courier of his news — that we look for strength and assistance, confident that with your help man will be what he was born to be: free and independent.

Rep. Holt to introduce bill to repeal Patriot Act & 2008 FISA Act

While the rest of the country was celebrating our independence, House Dem. Rush Holt (NJ-12) was doing something about it — drafting legislation to repeal both the Patriot Act of 2001 and the FISA Amendments Act of 2008.
If you click, be sure to check the legislative history. This was Obama’s first major betrayal of an important campaign promise, and he was just a candidate at the time — a foretaste of many betrayals to come.
Rush Holt, writing in the Asbury Park Press in his native New Jersey, says this (my emphasis and some paragraphing):
Once again, our nation is grappling with a false choice being presented to us by the media and intelligence officials: In order to be safe, we must be willing — in President Barack Obama’s words — to accept “modest encroachments” on our civil liberties. These claims are being advanced in the wake of the most sensational revelations about intrusive, and potentially illegal, government surveillance activities at home since the Watergate era. …
NSA-signAccording to press reports, we are subject to the collection of phone call metadata from every American. The harvesting of To, From and Bcc data from the emails of Americans. The blanket targeting of encrypted emails or encrypted “cloud storage” data repositories of Americans. The targeting of anyone using Tor (an online anonymization capability). These are just the revelations made to date by the Guardian and The Washington Post, among others. …
Soon, I will introduce legislation that would repeal the laws that brought us our current “surveillance state”: the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act. My bill would restore the probable cause-based warrant requirement for any surveillance against an American citizen being proposed on the basis of an alleged threat to the nation. And it would, for the first time, provide genuine legal protections for the Thomas Drakes of the world.
See the rest of the article for the reference to Thomas Drake. It’s well worth a read.

Don't worry, we only spy on terrorists ...

  (worry, because everyone we don't like is a "terrorist")

Bruce Schneier has a great essay about the fact that NSA spying apologists say that dragnet surveillance is limited to cases of terrorism: but "terrorism" is now synonymous with "whatever it is people we want to spy on are doing."
Back in 2002, the Patriot Act greatly broadened the definition of terrorism to include all sorts of "normal" violent acts as well as non-violent protests. The term "terrorist" is surprisingly broad; since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, it has been applied to people you wouldn't normally consider terrorists.
The most egregious example of this are the three anti-nuclear pacifists, including an 82-year-old nun, who cut through a chain-link fence at the Oak Ridge nuclear-weapons-production facility in 2012. While they were originally arrested on a misdemeanor trespassing charge, the government kept increasing their charges as the facility's security lapses became more embarrassing. Now the protestors have been convicted of violent crimes of terrorism -- and remain in jail.
Meanwhile, a Tennessee government official claimed that complaining about water quality could be considered an act of terrorism. To the government's credit, he was subsequently demoted for those remarks.

The 1 Percent Committed Treason

A small group of extremely wealthy people are systematically destroying the US government.
Permit me an impertinent question (or three).
Suppose a small group of extremely wealthy people sought to systematically destroy the U.S. government by (1) finding and bankrolling new candidates pledged to shrinking and dismembering it; (2) intimidating or bribing many current senators and representatives to block all proposed legislation, prevent the appointment of presidential nominees, eliminate funds to implement and enforce laws, and threaten to default on the nation’s debt; (3) taking over state governments in order to redistrict, gerrymander, require voter IDs, purge voter rolls, and otherwise suppress the votes of the majority in federal elections; (4) running a vast PR campaign designed to convince the American public of certain big lies, such as climate change is a hoax, and (5) buying up the media so the public cannot know the truth.

Lush Dimbulb Dropped An N-Bomb On His Hate Show and Your Tax Dollars Paid For It

limbaugh white face
Lush Dimbulb entertained our troops around the world today on Armed Forces Radio by dropping N-bombs and spreading racism on the air, and worst of all your tax dollars paid for it.
First, Dimbulb warped CNN’s Rachel Jeantel interview in order to claim that using the N-word with an (a) at the end instead of an (er) meant the word wasn’t racist. He then used the word on the air.
Audio via Media Matters:
JEANTEL: People… The whole world say it’s a racist word. My… My you… Around 2000, that was not… They change it around, I think. It start spelling it n-i-g-g-a. Nigga!
MORGAN: What does that mean to you, that way of spelling it? What does that word mean to you?
JEANTEL: That mean a male.
MORGAN: A black male?
JEANTEL: No! Any kind of male.
MORGAN: Black or white?
JEANTEL: Any kind. Chinese could say, “Nigga!” “That’s my chino nigga.” They can say that.
LUSH: This was between nine and ten p.m. last night on CNN, who are in a quest to become the, again, most respected news organization in the country, perhaps even the world. So “nigga” with an A on the end… (interruption) Well, I think I can now. Isn’t that the point? ‘Cause it’s not racist. That’s the point. I could be talking about “a male.” I could be talking about a Chinese male, a guy at the Laundromat. You could be talking about a man.
That’s what she said it means. (interruption) Hey, new school! New school. (interruption) She IS the authority! This is the point, Snerdley: She is the authority. She was on CNN last night. She was presented as the authority, and the CNN commentators all day today have been wondering why this brilliant woman didn’t show up and say these things on the stand. They’re deeply troubled that they didn’t get this Rachel in the trial.
Dimbulb later had a caller on who used the word again, and argued that Paula Deen did nothing wrong.
Audio via Media Matters:

After his caller uses the n-word, Dimbulb essentially admitted that he knows that he is using a racial slur by telling the caller, “No matter how you translate it, I would strongly advise you not to try it on the street. I wouldn’t put this to the test anywhere. I wouldn’t go out there and utter the word n-ig-g-a, and see what happens.”
The Urban Dictionary describes nigga as, “A word a white person can NEVER say while a black person is present or they will be beat down. but they say it with fellow white people.”
I would argue that white people should never use that word in any context, because it is derived from the N-word. Jeantel was trying to describe a slang term that some African Americans use in reference to any kind of male. That doesn’t mean that it is okay for white people to use. Limbaugh knows that it is not okay, which is why he tried to walk it back with the caller.
In case anybody wants to argue that Dimbulb didn’t drop an N-bomb, here’s what the dictionary has to say, “Nigga is used mainly among African Americans, but also among other minorities and ethnicities, in a neutral or familiar way and as a friendly term of address. It is also common in rap music. However, nigga is taken to be extremely offensive when used by outsiders. Many people consider this word to be equally as offensive as nigg*r. The words nigg*r and nigga are pronounced alike in certain dialects, and so it has been claimed that they are one and the same word.”
A petition to get Dimbulb removed from Armed Forces Radio after his Sandra Fluke comments was rejected by the Department of Defense, ” AFN is charged with providing current information and entertainment programming to our Department of Defense audiences overseas, similar to what they could see and hear via the media in the United States. AFN acquires top-rated radio programs, as measured by audience ratings in the United States, and delivers them via satellite to our soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen stationed worldwide in 177 countries. AFN does not advertise on, provide any funding for, offer products for sale, or sponsor any of the programs (including the Lush Dimbulb Show) it relays to its audiences. AFN does not censor content, and we believe it is important that service members have access to a variety of viewpoints.
No one is suggesting that AFN censor Dimbulb. What is being suggested is that he doesn’t belong on a taxpayer funded radio network.
Here’s the problem, whether they are buying advertising or purchasing the show, the Armed Forces Network is giving Lush Dimbulb taxpayer dollars. Taxpayers are subsidizing Lush Dimbulb’s misogyny, racism, and partisan hate. Democrats have been trying for years to get Dimbulb taken off of Armed Forces Radio, but the Department of Defense refuses to drop him.
Racism and sexism didn’t get Limbaugh dropped from AFN, so maybe using the N-word finally will. Lush Dimbulb is spreading his racism and hate to the troops, and he is getting paid by us to do it.
Racism should not have a home on the Armed Forces Network, and taxpayers shouldn’t be paying for it. Before repugicans cut another dollar from the food stamps program, they need to vote in favor of dropping Dimbulb from AFN.

Harry Reid’s Deal Yields Fast Fruit as Filibuster Is Broken On Obama’s CFPB Nominee

Obama Nominates Richard Cordray To Head Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
Harry Reid cut a deal with John McCain to end the Senate showdown over filibusters that yielded an immediate victory for Democrats as 17 repugicans joined them to break the filibuster of Obama’s CFPB nominee.
After Reid and John McCain negotiated a deal to break the filibusters on several of President Obama’s nominees, results came quickly as the Senate voted 71-29 to move forward on the nomination of Richard Cordray to head the CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau). The president had to use a recess appointment to put Cordray in the job 18 months ago, because repugicans refused to confirm him. One massive, and very serious, threat from Harry Reid to take away their filibuster powers on Obama’s nominees away resulted in repugicans begging for mercy and quickly coming to the table to cut a deal.
The deal that Reid and McCain cut is expected to result in the confirmations of Gina McCarthy as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Thomas Perez as Secretary of Labor, and Fred Hochberg as chairman of the Export-Import Bank. The president is expected to pull two of his three NLRB nominees that repugicans have issues with, and replace them with people who will quickly be approved by the Senate.
It might look like Harry Reid caved, but he is getting exactly what Senate Democrats and the White House wanted all along. The quick vote on Cordray today illustrates that the repugican filibuster strategy was never about the nominees themselves. They know that the president has nominated competent people. It was a devious tactic designed to weaken the Obama presidency.
It’s great that Obama will finally get more of his people in place, but the problem of repugicans abusing the filibuster still remains. All in all, the damage has already been done. Reid should have taken these steps years ago to end repugican filibuster abuse of Obama’s executive branch nominees. It is nice that the Majority Leader finally did what needed to be done, but the problem of Obama’s filibustered judicial nominees remains.
For this reason, nobody should be surprised if this filibuster fight is revisited again in a matter of months.

Bernie Sanders Calls the repugicans Gutless For Hiding Behind ‘Filibusters’

In the polite language of the Senate, Bernie Sanders called Senate repugicans gutless for ‘filibustering’ via the 60 vote rule instead of voting and owning their unpopular positions.

Sen. Sanders called out repugicans who abuse Senate rules instead of using the talking filibuster, “In my view, if a senator or a group of senators are strenuously opposed to legislation they have the right and duty to come to the floor and, for as long as they want, engage in a talking filibuster by explaining to the American people the reasons for their objection. They should not, however, continue to have the right to abuse arcane Senate rules to block a majority of senators from acting on behalf of the American people.”
Later Sanders questioned the guts of repugicans who filibuster via the 60 vote rule, “If my repugicans are so confident in the points of view that they are advocating, bring them to the floor, let’s have an up or down vote. Let the American people know how I feel on the issue, how you feel on the issue, but let us not have issues decided because we couldn’t get 60 votes for a ‘motion to proceed.’ Nobody in America understands what that’s about. If you want to vote against the minimum wage, have the guts to come up here and vote against the minimum wage. You want to vote against women’s rights? Come on up here, make your say, vote against women’s rights. You want to vote against global warming? Vote against global warming. But let us at least have the debate that the American people are demanding.”
It would have been a violation of Senate decorum for Sen. Sanders to say that repugicans are gutless, so he went about it in a more round about way. He suggested that the repugicans need to have the guts to vote on their unpopular positions so that everybody knows where they stand. This was a suggestion that the repugican tactic of hiding behind the 60 vote rule shows a lack of guts and courage. In other words, repugicans refuse put their name on their positions by voting on the legislation.
Bernie Sanders know something about courageous filibusters. In December of 2010, he spent eight and a half hours talking to filibuster an extension of the shrub tax cuts. There is something ignoble about the way Senate repugicans are obstructing progress. The repugicans are going out of the way to hide their unpopular positions. When they take an unpopular vote to block progress, you won’t find it mentioned on their individual websites. Senate repugicans do their best to obstruct on a daily basis without actually putting their individual names on anything.
The repugicans should be held accountable for their obstruction, and all Bernie Sanders is asking them to do is to publicly own their positions. The refusal to own their unpopular positions is exactly why they are gutless cowards who have chosen to abuse Senate rules instead of being honest with the American people.
Bernie Sanders knows courage, and what the repugicans are doing is anything but courageous.

Bob Schieffer Slams repugicans for Giving Out Corporate Welfare Instead of Helping the Poor

While millions of poor and middle class Americans vote repugican, repugican cabal politicians make it clear where their allegiance lies—with the wealthy and big corporations.They don’t even attempt to hide this fact.  They constantly oppose programs that would help the poor, and build their entire economic ideology upon policies which always benefit the rich.
So it should come as no surprise that repugicans would choose to approve billions of dollars being given to giant farm owning corporations, while not approving a single dollar for the poor.
Bob Schieffer called out repugican Representative Mike Kelly this past weekend after the House of Representatives did exactly that.
See, earlier this month House repugicans passed a bill which removed funding for SNAP, but went ahead and gave billions of dollars in farm subsidies to big farm owning corporations.  The repugican defense of this is of course that they “couldn’t pass a bill which included both provisions, so they decided to separate the two.”
Funny, they had no problem quickly approving a bill which hands over billions of dollars to big business, but they chose to leave out the part which would fund food stamps for hungry, poor people (many of which are children).
As Schieffer told Kelly, “It’s almost like welfare for the wealthy, but you don’t include a dollar for hungry people for food stamps. What kind of message is that?”
And I couldn’t agree more.  While I don’t doubt a compromise couldn’t be reached to pass a bill which included both farm subsidies and food stamps, it’s laughable that once again repugicans made sure they took care of big business first and put off helping the poor.
But even as Kelly tried to claim that the food stamp bill was coming, he continued the tired rhetoric repugicans often use by saying, “What bothers me is that one in six Americans is on this program.  We’re wasting billions on a program that’s not lifting people from poverty, but keeping them in.”
Interesting, he doesn’t seem to feel that way about the billions he just voted in favor of giving to big corporations.  Maybe it’s time we stop giving them welfare and maybe they will no longer “need it”—as repugicans claim.
It seems repugicans feel that welfare “keeps people addicted to poverty” while believing corporate welfare is “vital for the health of our nation’s economy.”  Only in the delusional world Republicans live in can corporations worth billions of dollars need government assistance, while millions of people living on less than $15,000 per year to support their entire family are just looking for a free handout.
Democratic Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin responded to Kelly’s ridiculous accusations about Americans on welfare by saying, “It’s because their wages and incomes are so low.  They’re working but they can’t feed their children. It isn’t a matter of defrauding American taxpayers.”
It never fails that if a bill must be passed, repugicans make damn sure that their big corporate buddies, or the wealthy, get taken care of while everyone else can fend for themselves
Any time I think of the millions of Americans in this country, mostly poor and middle class, who continue to vote repugican (and essentially against their own self interests) it just blows my mind.
And this farm bill showed once again exactly where repugican allegiances lie.  And it’s not with 98% of Americans, it’s with the top 2% and big business.
Passing legislation which helps the rest of us just seems to get in the repugican cabal’s way.



Hunger Games, U.S.A.

by Paul Krugman 

Something terrible has happened to the soul of the repugican cabal. We’ve gone beyond bad economic doctrine. We’ve even gone beyond selfishness and special interests. At this point we’re talking about a state of mind that takes positive glee in inflicting further suffering on the already miserable.

The occasion for these observations is, as you may have guessed, the monstrous farm bill the House passed last week.
For decades, farm bills have had two major pieces. One piece offers subsidies to farmers; the other offers nutritional aid to Americans in distress, mainly in the form of food stamps (these days officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP).
Long ago, when subsidies helped many poor farmers, you could defend the whole package as a form of support for those in need. Over the years, however, the two pieces diverged. Farm subsidies became a fraud-ridden program that mainly benefits corporations and wealthy individuals. Meanwhile food stamps became a crucial part of the social safety net.
So House repugicans voted to maintain farm subsidies — at a higher level than either the Senate or the White House proposed — while completely eliminating food stamps from the bill.
To fully appreciate what just went down, listen to the rhetoric conservatives often use to justify eliminating safety-net programs. It goes something like this: “You’re personally free to help the poor. But the government has no right to take people’s money” — frequently, at this point, they add the words “at the point of a gun” — “and force them to give it to the poor.”
It is, however, apparently perfectly O.K. to take people’s money at the point of a gun and force them to give it to agribusinesses and the wealthy.
Now, some enemies of food stamps don’t quote libertarian philosophy; they quote the bible instead. (non)Representative Stephen Fincher of Tennessee, for example, cited the New Testament: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” Sure enough, it turns out that Mr. Fincher has personally received millions in farm subsidies.
Given this awesome double standard — I don’t think the word “hypocrisy” does it justice — it seems almost anti-climactic to talk about facts and figures. But I guess we must.
So: Food stamp usage has indeed soared in recent years, with the percentage of the population receiving stamps rising from 8.7 in 2007 to 15.2 in the most recent data. There is, however, no mystery here. SNAP is supposed to help families in distress, and lately a lot of families have been in distress.
In fact, SNAP usage tends to track broad measures of unemployment, like U6, which includes the underemployed and workers who have temporarily given up active job search. And U6 more than doubled in the crisis, from about 8 percent before the Great Recession to 17 percent in early 2010. It’s true that broad unemployment has since declined slightly, while food stamp numbers have continued to rise — but there’s normally some lag in the relationship, and it’s probably also true that some families have been forced to take food stamps by sharp cuts in unemployment benefits.
What about the theory, common on the right, that it’s the other way around — that we have so much unemployment thanks to government programs that, in effect, pay people not to work? (Soup kitchens caused the Great Depression!) The basic answer is, you have to be kidding. Do you really believe that Americans are living lives of leisure on $134 a month, the average SNAP benefit?
Still, let’s pretend to take this seriously. If employment is down because government aid is inducing people to stay home, reducing the labor force, then the law of supply and demand should apply: withdrawing all those workers should be causing labor shortages and rising wages, especially among the low-paid workers most likely to receive aid. In reality, of course, wages are stagnant or declining — and that’s especially true for the groups that benefit most from food stamps.
So what’s going on here? Is it just racism? No doubt the old racist canards — like Ronald Reagan’s image of the “strapping young buck” using food stamps to buy a T-bone steak — still have some traction. But these days almost half of food stamp recipients are non-Hispanic whites; in Tennessee, home of the Bible-quoting Mr. Fincher, the number is 63 percent. So it’s not all about race.
What is it about, then? Somehow, one of our nation’s two great parties has become infected by an almost pathological meanspiritedness, a contempt for what CNBC’s Rick Santelli, in the famous rant that launched the tea party, called “losers.” If you’re an American, and you’re down on your luck, these people don’t want to help; they want to give you an extra kick. I don’t fully understand it, but it’s a terrible thing to behold.

A Journey Into Our Food System's Refrigerated-Warehouse Archipelago

The vast majority of the food in your home depends upon a complicated, energy-dependent infrastructure called "the cold chain." Frozen, fresh, refrigerated, or preserved, at some point, getting that food from the point of origin to your table requires cold storage or transport. This is a system that people rarely see, and are barely aware of. An exhibit by Nicola Twilley on this invisible infrastructure called "Perishable: An Exploration of the Refrigerated Landscape of America" gives us a glimpse of the refrigerated landscape of the food-processing world. More

Oh, Shit!

Artwork of Neolithic villageAncient farmers used manure on crops

Europe's first farmers used livestock manure on their crops 8,000 years ago, new research shows.

Two ripe tomatoes offered as reward in hunt for doll abductor

Two dolls have been abducted from the side of the Stuart Highway in Australia's Northern Territory, prompting a reward of two ripe home-grown tomatoes for information leading to their recovery. Sixty wooden bollards at a lay-by outside Palmerston were dressed as peg dolls, with decorated paper-plate faces and individual stitched clothing, by guerrilla artists on Thursday night.

But "Ted" and "Amy" were noticed missing at 6pm that day. Guerrilla artist Peta Smith said the dolls were stolen. "The first thing one of our girls did was scream and say 'Ted and Amy are gone'," Ms Smith, from Howard Springs, said. "We took them down and next time we are going to have a security guard. Definitely there's someone out there who knows something and I'll give a reward."

And the reward will be rich. "They might be two tomatoes out of my garden," she said. "There's a really big reward because I haven't had tomatoes recently," she added. "As good-looking as Amy is, there have been suggestions they've eloped. But Ted's an important member of his family. He wouldn't leave the kids behind. His wife is an angel."

Ms Smith said the angels had very distinctive features. "Ted is obviously male with a good beard," she said. "Ted was in his pajamas. That would be awkward for him. Amy had long pink hair and wings, with an Australian gum nut frock." Ms Smith said the peg dolls were an interpretation of clothes-peg dolls she made as a child, and the wooden bollards had long been tempting her.

Doc Holliday's dental chair available at auction

What could be more terrifying than facing down one of the West's most legendary gunmen?Having him as your dentist. His uncomfortable looking chair and an assortment of his equipment are up for auction.

The oak and leather mounted dental chair of Doc Holliday and associated equipment. Accompanied by a framed letter on Baker Gulch Mining Co., Las Vegas, Nevada stationary dated Oct 20, 1908. Statement of Donation: "When I rented my office above the apothecary on the Plaza, I removed a dental chair to make room for my own furnishings.I later noticed the name John Holliday on this chair. .........I now have learned that this is the same John Holliday, the famous shootist of a few years prior....I have also been informed that this was the last location that he practiced dentistry. I give this chair to the city free of charge in hope that a display of archives or a museum may use this infamous artifact. To this I affix my signature and seal. "

The Supermassive Vacuum Cleaner At the Edge of the Known Universe

All we know about the universe is in what is called "the observable universe," because there's much beyond what even the most powerful modern telescopes and data-retrieval systems can detect. And something out there is exerting power over other things we can observe. We can't see it, and we don't know what it is, because it's so far away.
In recent years, scientists began noticing something a little bit off about the structure of the universe. By analyzing the light from distant galaxies, they were able to tell the relative speed and direction in which these objects were moving. The strange thing is that, rather than flying apart like most things in the universe, some of these distant galactic clusters appear to be caught up in a sort of current, speeding at unimaginable velocities (about two million miles per hour) along a specific path. Scientists have coined this phenomenon “dark flow” because, honestly, they really don’t know what’s causing it.

For gravity to be acting on these clusters the way that it seems to be, there would have to be something massive waiting at the end of the path. By massive, we mean something potentially much bigger than anything that we’ve ever observed in the known universe; something big enough to absolutely dwarf the galactic clusters being sucked towards it like dust to a vacuum cleaner.
Read more on what we know and what we don't, at Environmental Graffiti.

If The Sun Went Out, How Long Could Life On Earth Survive?

If you put a steamy cup of coffee in the refrigerator, it wouldn't immediately turn cold. Likewise, if the sun simply 'turned off' (which is actually physically impossible), the Earth would stay warm - at least compared with the space surrounding it - for a few million years. But we surface dwellers would feel the chill much sooner than that.

I Bet I Can Create A 25 Million-Year-Old False Alarm, Says Biologist E.O. Wilson

The world's most famous ant-scholar likes to daydream. "So much good science — and perhaps all of great science," he writes in his "has its roots in fantasy."Here's his.
After seeing Jurassic Park, where scientists clone dinosaurs from the blood of ancient dino-biting mosquitoes,Wilson thought: Hmmm, that's a little far-fetched, but I bet I can do a version that might be "really and truly possible."
He was having lunch with the author of the film, Michael Crichton, (who also wrote The Andromeda Strain and TV's ER) when he outlined his plan. I can imagine Crichton leaning in, itchy with expectation. Nobody knows ants like Wilson. And Wilson likes to live dangerously (especially in his head).
Here's Wilson's idea.
Ants in amber
For years, he'd worked at Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology, which houses one of the greatest ant collections in the world. In his younger days, he'd done field work in the Dominican Republic, where he found a bunch of ants in amber. He brought his discoveries back to Cambridge and learned they were 25 million years old.
Twenty-five million years doesn't get us back to the age of the dinosaurs, (that's 100 million years ago) but still, it's a big jump, and when Wilson cracked open those glistening amber droplets, he found a bunch of ancient little lady ants, new to science, that he called Azteca alpha.

He studied them, and found they most closely resembled a modern species found in Peru, southern Brazil, and perhaps Central America, called Azteca muelleri. This modern ant, Wilson told Crichton, appears "to be a direct evolutionary descendent or otherwise close relative of Azteca alpha," which means these modern ants may have a lot of behaviors in common with their great, great, great etc. grandmas.
And so ... ? (I imagine Crichton thinking ... )
Well, (I imagine Wilson answering), what if I could create a 25 million-year-old false alarm?
These modern ants are well known for their alarm signals when their nests are invaded. As soon as an attack begins Azteca muelleri soldiers give off a shout (kind of like Paul Revere's "The British are coming! The British are coming!") — which they do in antspeak, that is, with specific chemical smells. Their warning, Ed said, relies on "large quantities of pheromones, acrid-smelling terpenoids, which they release into the air to alarm nestmates."
Ed's Naughty Idea
Wilson's naughty idea assumed that the ancient ants stored the same pheromone in their bodies way back then. And he told Michael Crichton it might be possible to break into some of those still preserved amber droplets, surgically invade the ancient ant inside and "extract remnants of the [alarm] pheromone from Azteca alpha remains ... "
And then ... ?
Then he would take the extract to, say, southern Brazil, inject the smell into a modern nest and see if it set off the alarm, sending modern ants scurrying frantically to defend their nest ... the delicious part being, not only would it be amazing if the alarm still worked, but, as he told Crichton, "I could deliver a message from one ant colony to another across a span of 25 million years."
Cool idea, no?
Crichton wanted Wilson to do it. But Wilson said he didn't have the time, not then, but he might try later. Years passed. Crichton died in 2008. Wilson still hasn't found the time.
In his new book he says this experiment has a bit "too much of the circus trick and too little of real science" to be worth taking the trouble, but this is the same guy who, in the 1950s, having discovered the ant gland that produces odor trails, dabbed his finger with invisible ant attractant and wrote his name — in longhand — on his lab desk and then gleefully watched as thousands of ants rushed across his desk to spell "Ed Wilson" with their bodies.
Ed Wilson knows how to get silly. "Daydream a lot," he advises young scientists in his book. "Make it a practice to indulge in fantasy." So it'll happen. One day, one of his army of former students will say, "Oh, Ed, I'm going to Brazil," and Ed will close his eyes, and start smiling ...

The evolution of fins to limbs in the land invasion race

Why did animals with limbs win the race to invade land over those with fins? A new study comparing the forces acting on fins of mudskipper fish and on the forelimbs of tiger salamanders can now be used to analyze early fossils that spanned the water-to-land transition in tetrapod evolution, and further understand their capability to move on land.
The evolution of fins to limbs in the land invasion race
Mudskipper fish and tiger salamanders have similar characteristics to
early tetrapod ancestors [Credit: Sandy Kawano]
Research conducted by Sandy Kawano and Richard Blob at Clemson University compared terrestrial locomotion in tiger salamanders and mudskipper fish, which have similar characteristics to early tetrapod ancestors.

The evolution of fins to limbs in the land invasion race
Mudskippers' pectoral fins experience more medial forces than the limbs
of tiger salamanders [Credit: Sandy Kawano and Richard Blob]
The researchers filmed these organisms as they walked over a force platform which measures forces like a bathroom scale but separates them into three directions (upward, fore-aft, and side-to-side). They compared the forces experienced by the pectoral fins of the mudskipper fishes to the forelimbs and hind limbs of walking tiger salamanders. The results showed that that mudskippers' pectoral fins experience more medial forces than the limbs of salamanders, and that the forelimbs could have a played a similar weight-bearing role as the hind limbs.

The evolution of fins to limbs in the land invasion race
Salamanders' forelimbs experience more vertical forces than the fins
of mudskipper fish [Credit: Sandy Kawano and Richard Blob]
Sandy Kawano said: "The transition from fins to limbs marks the most dramatic change in orientation of the locomotor forces from contact with the ground. Using these data we can now evaluate the locomotor capabilities of numerous important fossil taxa that spanned the water-to-land transition in tetrapod evolution. We hypothesise that the medial orientation of the forces on pectoral fins would result in unreasonably high bone stresses in early amphibious fish with fins, which would explain why the evolutionary invasion of land by vertebrates was accomplished instead by tetrapods with limbs with digits."

Madagascar is no longer an evolutionary hotspot

Madagascar represents only one percent of the earth's area but is home to about three percent of all animal and plant species on the planet - it has long been known as a hotspot of biodiversity.
Madagascar no longer an evolutionary hotspot
Paroedura ground geckos illustrate species diversity on Madagascar [Credit: Daniel Scantlebury]
New research in Proceedings of the Royal Society B suggests the island's heyday of species development may be all but over. 

The study analyzed the evolutionary records of seven groups of reptiles and amphibians that are found across the island, including tiny leaf chameleons (which can rest comfortably on a matchstick), colorful and charismatic day geckos (of television insurance ad fame), and the bizarre leaf-tailed geckos (whose tails are flat and leaf-shaped). By constructing evolutionary tree diagrams to compare the relative ages of the species, it was determined that there has been a noticeable decrease in the rate of new species formation on Madagascar since the island became isolated following its split from the Gondwana super-continent some 90 million years ago.

This pattern is thought to result from adaptive radiation, the same process that produced Darwin's finches.

"A staggering number of species are found only on Madagascar," said Daniel Scantlebury, a Ph.D. student in biology at the University of Rochester, "but this research shows there are limits to the number of species the island can sustain, and Madagascar may currently be at those limits."

Madagascar no longer an evolutionary hotspot
A tree diagram of the Brookesia chameleons on Madagascar shows a decline in the rate of species formation within the clade. The horizontal lines represent individual species, with the lengths of the lines showing relative time. The nodes depict the points at which new species are formed. The relatively few nodes at the right of the diagram, as we approach the present day, illustrate a decline in species diversification [Credit: Daniel Scantlebury]
According to the principles of adaptive radiation, organisms develop rapidly into new species in order to take advantage of resources that exist in vacant environmental niches. When evolution fills those niches with new species, the rate of species diversification either slows or comes to an end.

Previous studies sampled species within clades—which are groups of species that share a common ancestor—but did not look at every species within those groups. Scantlebury analyzed every event that resulted in a new species within the clades and found that, since the origin of each clade, it has taken longer and longer for new species to develop—a result that's expected when species development reaches maximum capacity in a habitat.

"Some of the earlier research showed an early burst of diversification among groups located in rainforests, supporting the principles of adaptive radiation," said Scantlebury. "My study took the next step by looking at subsequent declines." 

Scantlebury hopes his paper will spur researchers to study the diversification records of other Malagasy species to determine whether those clades are also experiencing declines in diversification rates. "I am curious to know if this pattern holds for other iconic groups of Madagascan species, such as lemurs and the crown-of-thorn plants."

Scantlebury calls Madagascar "an ideal evolutionary laboratory" for studying species formation because it has long been isolated and geologically stable relative to other regions. "The fact that I observed independent declines in seven ecologically distinct groups of animals supports the view that rate declines are a general trend of species formation, not just on Madagascar, but everywhere else on Earth."

T. Rex Was Ferocious Predator, Not Scavenger

A T. rex tooth found in the tail of a plant-eating dinosaur confirms the fearsome dino was a deadly predator.

New research confirms that T-rex hunted hadrosaurs (file illustration).
There is new evidence that the T. rex hunted hadrosaurs such as the Anatosaurus seen in this illustration.
A fossil tooth found buried inside the healed tailbones of a duckbill dinosaur suggests the animal survived a close encounter with a Tyrannosaurus rex about 65 million years ago, according to a new study.
Scientists say the embedded tooth, discovered in the Hell Creek Formation in Montana, is the first conclusive proof that T. rex was not just a scavenger, but also a predator that hunted and killed prey. (Related: "Scarred Duckbill Dinosaur Escaped T. Rex Attack.")
"It's not just a smoking gun—we've actually found the bullet," said study co-author Peter Larson, a paleontologist at the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research in South Dakota.
But not everyone agrees. Jack Horner, a paleontologist at Montana State University who has long argued that T. rex was incapable of hunting healthy adult prey, remains unconvinced.
"It's one data point, and that's the least amount of data you can have," said Horner, who was not involved in the research.
Scavenger or Killer?
A long-running debate about T. rex concerns whether it was an "obligate scavenger"—surviving solely on the flesh of dead animals—or whether it was an active predator that hunted prey.
The fossil evidence has been inconclusive on this matter. That's because while dinosaur bones and even fossilized skin have been found with tooth marks linked to T. rex, it's impossible to conclusively prove whether an animal was alive or dead when it was bitten.
"If a T. rex bit a bone of an animal that was already dead, that mark looks identical to what would be made on an animal that it just killed," said lead author Robert DePalma, a paleontologist at Florida's Palm Beach Museum of Natural History.
So instead of relying solely on bite marks, some scientists have tried to determine T. rex's feeding style by analyzing its physical and sensory attributes.
Paleontologists such as Horner have concluded that T. rex was not only too slow to chase down prey, its arms were too puny and its eyesight was too poor for it to successfully attack or chase down a healthy adult animal. At best, T. rex could have chased down lame, young, or weak animals, but otherwise it lived on  carrion, Horner said.
"My argument has always been that T. rex is [an opportunist] like a hyena," he added.
End of Debate?
But DePalma and his team say the T. rex tooth, which measures about 1.5 inches (3.75 centimeters) long, solidly refutes that idea. "It puts the debate to rest," DePalma said.
The fact that the bitten duckbill dinosaur—also known as a hadrosaur—managed to escape suggests it was more than a match for its pursuer, he argued, and thus unlikely to have been young, weak, or handicapped.
"We can tell [the T. rex] bit a living animal because the two vertebrae were infected and then fused together," DePalma said. "So it's unmistakable that the tooth was in there before the animal died."
Also, the location of the injury—near the tip of the duckbill's tail—suggests T. rex was pursuing the animal when it was bitten. "The fact that the injury is on the hindquarters of the animal is actually not surprising," DePalma said. "If you examine Kalahari lions, for example, they will attack the hindquarters of their victims to immobilize them and then they'll go in for the kill."
To identify the animal the tooth belonged to, DePalma and his team extracted it from the tailbones and made detailed measurements. "The morphology is unmistakable for T. rex," DePalma said. "It could not be mistaken for any other carnivorous species."
The tooth's size and shape indicates it came from the T. rex's lower jaw, and its loss likely did not affect the creature in any significant way.
"Like sharks and lizards, T. rexes kept replacing their teeth throughout their entire lives," DePalma explained.
"That tooth would have been replaced in a matter of months, and it would have been sharper than ever." (Learn the latest on what scientists know about T. rex.)
How It Went Down
Using modern predators as a model, DePalma and his team have imagined a number of ways the failed hunt might have happened.
One possible scenario, DePalma said, is that the T. rex was prowling around a watering hole or food source where duckbills gathered, or perhaps it was hiding in nearby foliage and attempted to ambush the animals.
Hell Creek at the end of the Cretaceous era was not the dry, rocky desert it is today. It was a temperate forest environment crisscrossed by rivers filled with crocodiles and turtles.
The T. rex "would have probably gone after the closest hadrosaur it could get its mouth on, and in this case it proved too much of a match for it," DePalma said.
Larson, on the other hand, imagines a small pack of T. rexes joining forces to take down the duckbill. Multiple T. rex individuals have been found buried together, which suggests that they could have lived, and possibly hunted, together.
"A scenario might be a family of two or three related individuals that hunted together," he said. "One animal would distract the prey or perhaps send a herd of duckbills scattering, while the other Tyrannosaurs would lie in wait and eventually take up the chase for the weaker individual."
Had the T. rex managed to run down its prey, its next step would have been to use its weight to muscle the duckbill down to the ground.
It would have then "grabbed on with its arms in order to move its head forward to try to either clamp the muzzle to suffocate it or try to tear open the throat," Larson said.
No Evidence
Horner said such imagined scenarios are idle speculation not supported by the evidence.
This fossil only "shows that a T. rex bit a live duckbill dinosaur. There's no evidence that it was chasing it," he said.
Horner offered his own speculative scenario for what might have happened: "A T. rex could have walked up to a sleeping duckbill dinosaur and bit it, realized it was alive, and then backed away," he said. "That's just as plausible as saying that it's chasing it because there's no evidence for either one."
In addition to ending the debate about T. rex's predatory behavior, DePalma thinks the tailbones will help paleontologists reconstruct the ecology of the Hell Creek Formation 65 million years ago.
"When you have a giant carnivore that composes a significant portion of the ecosystem, identifying its role as either a predator or a scavenger is going to have significant implications for paleoecological reconstructions," DePalma said.
The research is detailed in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Actually like all predators T..rex was a scavenger as well.

Upping the Cute Factor

You wouldn't want poor little Kumba to have to hang out all alone, would you? Well, don't worry, she has plenty of friends who like to dangle around with her, even if they can't fly the way she can.

The Gelada

A Unique Primate From The Roof Of Africa

High up in the Ethiopian mountains lives the Gelada. It lives nowhere else and although its closest living relative is the baboon, with its hairless face and short muzzle the gelada looks more like a chimpanzee.

Isolated in these remote Ethiopian Highlands (often called The Roof of Africa) the Gelada has developed a way of existence (one might call it a culture) all of its own.

Animal control officer equipped with pieces of hotdog rescued dog from roof of house

A dog is now safely on the ground after straying onto the roof of a house in Vancouver, Washington, on Monday morning. Barry Klettke was backing out of his driveway on his way to his morning walk, with his Tibetan terrier Bella in the passenger seat, when he heard Bella growl. “I looked up to see what she was looking at and saw a dog was standing on top of my roof,” he said.

He called 911 to notify authorities of the strange situation. Clark County Animal Control Officer Patrick Higbie responded to the house, in the Sunnyside neighborhood, to bring the 15-pound Chihuahua mix down. “This is a first,” he said. Higbie has responded to calls where birds, such as chickens, were stuck on roofs, but never a dog. Higbie scaled a ladder and sat on the roof of the garage, staying quiet as he tried to coax the dog toward him by offering pieces of a hot dog.

It wasn’t long before Higbie slipped a rope snare over the dog’s head and brought him back down to the ground. “As long as the dog doesn’t just scoot and run away from you instantaneously, there’s always a good chance you’ll be able to sit down, relax, and show the dog that you’re not a threat,” Higbie said. “Then you can get within range to catch it in some way, shape or form.” Klettke was relieved. “I didn’t want him to jump off and break a leg,” he said. As for how the dog got onto the roof, Klettke can only guess.

The dog, which did not have a collar and was not registered, was taken to the Humane Society for Southwest Washington, where it will be held for three days to allow someone to claim it. After that, the agency will evaluate the dog for medical issues, neuter the animal if necessary and then offer him for adoption. Higbie stressed the importance of registering pets with Clark County so that if they do get away, animal control officers can reunite them with their owners. The real hero, Klettke said, is Bella.“That poor dog would have been up there on a 90-degree day,” he said.